Survival Situation Essential Gear

Not if but when the time comes, you should have a few essential items on hand that could be the difference between life and death in a survival situation.

The below list contains only the most vital – or, if you will – necessary ones. You can add to it if you’re willing to carry around more. But remember – the less your backpack weights, the better. No matter how strong you are, and no matter how great your stamina is –  you should definitely minimize your energy expenditure during a survival situation.


The most versatile tool you could possibly take with you. You’re going to use it all the time, trust me. And it’s reasonably light and small to boot (or at least should be).

My choice is the Marttiini Full Tang Knife, made of the ultra-reliable stainless Finnish steel:


Folding shovel

The next most important tool. Takes up very little space and will enable you to keep yourself dry in your temporary encampment (by digging a circle around it), handle the campfire and do tons of other useful things.

Plus, you could hardly do this with a knife:


My choice is the German Army contract folding shovel:



A strong parachute cord is something you do want to have in a survival situation. Possible applications are countless.

My choice is the 7 string OD olive parachute cord, which hold up to 250 kg (~550 lbs):



To save up on daylight, you should carry a flint to light your fires – you won’t have to start kindling so early. It definitely won’t take up space or slow you down, too…

My choice is the standard army flint:



A very small, waterproof flashlight is also something you should consider. Gives you an upper hand in case of any night-time intruders and also enables you to travel faster during the night in difficult terrain.

My choice is the Fenix E01 pocket flashlight:


Water storage

Having access to fresh water is crucial. That’s why, upon encountering a fresh water source, you’ll want to store some of it for later, just in case. Water container can also serve as a portable shower solution.

You can learn more about water treatment in the wild here.

My choice is a regular camp shower, which can also be heated by exposure to the Sun:


Waterproof fabric

Some waterproof fabric in a form of e.g. a slicker, to keep your gear, food and clothing dry – is definitely crucial. Getting soaked in the wild can be a real threat and you want to avoid that whenever possible. Get a big one, preferably, as it can serve as a shelter during sleep as well.

My choice is the old Swiss Army slicker, considerably heavier but way more reliable that the newer versions:


Sleeping bag

I realize that some people believe finding a shelter warm enough for a nap is easy. Well, it isn’t. Sometimes it’s downright impossible, and having something to warm you up through the night will make a huge difference the next day.

My choice is the Hannah Golite Cypress 195P, weighting just over 1 kg and suitable for temperatures below freezing:



Inflated backpacker’s mattresses take up less space than a 0,5 l water bottle and can weight as little as 0,2 kg while keeping you warm and comfortable during sleep, which is of paramount importance.

My choice is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite mattress:


First Aid Kit

Don’t buy prepackaged First Aid Kits. Build your own instead. Not only will you have better knowledge of what’s actually in it, it will most probably contain more of the necessary things that are too scarce in the prepackaged Kits and less of the useless ones.

My First Aid Kit contains:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 5 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 2 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 2 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 1 packet of aspirin (81 mg)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • small scissors
  • tweezers
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 2 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 2 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)


Naturally something to put all your gear, clothing and emergency food in is of equal importance as the things listed above. Take time to choose you backpack wisely, according to your physique and capabilities, as well as its expected application – as in, how much stuff will you put inside…

My choice is the old German Army contract backpack, extremely durable and almost completely waterproof even after years of usage:


Something I stressed here before is the fact that no matter how well thought-out your survival gear is, what matters even more – in all situations, always – is your know-how and your physical preparedness. You can’t ever replace that with even the most ingenious of inventions and the most useful of gadgets.

A lot of fitness or gym instructors would tell you that you should fix your diet first, before you even begin training. And they’d be right. Similarly, you should first learn basic survival skills and ready your body for whatever might come, and only then worry about the aforementioned list.

That being said, however, once you find yourself forced into survival, having a well-chosen gear packed and ready can be a real difference.


6 thoughts on “Survival Situation Essential Gear

  1. Excellent topic, that should be interesting to most people.

    Personally I have been into preparedness and survivalism for some 8 years now, and have gotten to a point of quite extensive disaster preparations for my family and myself. We have implemented the 12 principles of survivalism in our lives and benefit from it every day.

    Now, one central piece of preparations for us all, is the socalled 72 hour bag for all members of the household, dog included. Contents of our bags are based on many years of military experience as well as years of active living outdoors. Most things can be made in the field ( like our ancestors did), but we have found that some things take so much time, skills, or rescources to make in the field, that it makes sense to have this in your kit. You have them all covered in your setup, but I would do it a little different.

    My priorities for the 72 hour bag follow the rule of 3:
    The body can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours exposed to the weather, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food.

    Your knife is an excellent, robust knife for a cutting tool, but personally I would go for a carbon steel blade instead of a stainless one. The reason for this is that the carbon blade can be used to make sparks on a hard stone as an emergency fire lighter, as well as being easier to sharpen without proper tools and has a sharper edge than a stainless blade. Cost of this is a blade that has to be sharpened more often, as well as more maintenence. After many years of practice, I have found that a cheap Mora knife, even though its not full tang, will do the job in most cases.

    Now, as a water container, I would chose something from stainless steel, as it is robust, but first and foremost, because I can boil water in it. Water quality is not to be trusted, especially in our day with industrial agriculture and pollution, so boiling it is safest before drinking.

    I too have a regular firesteel as a combustion tool. But in addition to that, I also have my carbon steel knife for emergencies.

    For a cover, I have invested quite a bit more. In my years in the military, we used a product called the “Jerven tarp”, wich is a tarp that doubles as a tent, poncho, and a sleeping bag. They are quite pricy, but you get the absolutely best for your money. No arctic expedition ever leaves without one, and houndreds of thousands have been sold to hunters and outdoorsmen. The insulated one will keep you alive down to minus 40 degrees with no problem.

    Cordage is also important. I normally carry a few meters of paracord, but I have found that “corlene thread” is a better line to carry. It has half the strenght of paracord, is much thinner, but better to use for lashing and such as it is tarred. Its the thread that fishermen use to mend their nets, and it comes in many sizes. A roll of it has at least 100 meters, wich should be more than enough for most things. Also its an excellent makeshift bowstring.

    These five items are essential IMO, as they are very difficult and time consuming to reproduce in the field. However, I would suggest that you try do do so when out in the field for recreation. Some day that skill can save your life. Besides, its fun to try to make a stone or bone knife, use nettle fibre for cordage, or making a wooden pot to cook with hot stones. As long as we have the luxury of recreation and practice, we should put it to good use..

    Thanks again for a great site. :)

    • A thousand thanks for your insightful comment – it’s most valuable. I can tell that as far as survival is concerned, you’re quite experienced.

      I believe you’re right about the water container – I was quite lucky so far, you see, and even during my 3 month backpacking trip across Norway, where I used nothing else but mountain streams and the such – hardly ever boiling the water – I never got sick. I also gather that you can put the water in some bark and heat it to over 70 degrees Celsius in order to kill roughly 90% of the bacteria in it. Still, like I said, I do believe you’re right and boiling it for 1-2 minutes is a precaution one should take whenever possible – I already mentioned this bit in a post linked to from this one, too.

      I like what you said about the “luxury of recreation and practice” and I totally agree – there is still some time for trial and error, so we better make the most of it!

      And thank you for the tip about the Jerven tarp! I looked it up and shall definitely be getting at least 2-3 in the near future :)

      I wonder, do you keep a lot of backup inventory for stationary use, e.g. folding beds, spare boots, clothing, food supplies, batteries, gas etc. just in case, or do you rather prepare for a bug-out situation only?

      • I have several contingency plans, but prefer to stay at home if that is possible.

        As I have said before, we regard prepping/survivalism as a lifestyle and state of mind. It is a way of life where we as a family, take nothing in life for granted, and prepare for any development in life. So we have extensive home storage of food stuff, tools, repair materials and clothing, as well as the skills to make all these things. We have pre stored food and essentials for about a year, maybe longer if we stretch our supplies.
        Now, food storage is a finite rescource, once its gone, its gone. Our goal is not to sit out a disaster and expect it to pass before we run out of supplies. Before that we will produce our own. However, getting more food once you have some food, is 10000 times easier than chasing after food when you have nothing.
        So, we have a permaculture kitchen garden, everyone can hunt and forage, and we have “seeded” our local forests with a number of food plants that the average people will just pass and not take notice of. By having several locations, we will allways have something to fall back on if something is lost.

        A second solution is our “bug out” vehicle with trailer. We have a 4×4 car with two tanks of extra diesel ready and a trailer that can be packed to go in a short while. The trailer is loaded with equipment that in the worst case, will make it possible for us to start all over another place. Its also a great recreational vehicle for camping and family trips where we can be 100% self sustained for longer periods of time. Our emphasis on equipment is low tech, so that power or fuel loss wont kill us. However, we have some power tools that can be charged with a generator, solar panels or a small wind turbine. But they are considered luxuries and can be dropped in favor of more important stuff.

        Our third and last resort is the bugout on foot scenario. It will be rough and lack all luxuries, but we believe we have the skills to sustain ourselves for quite some time, even then. For this scenario we have preseeded forest locations with access to waterways and the sea, as well as prestored caches of essentials.

        Well, thats a few inputs on what we do.. Key is to enjoy life and not panic if something goes wrong. Because if one thing is certain, it is that SOMETHING will go wrong at one point or another. If you are prepared and have the right mindset, it is a challenge you will come through, and most likely grow as a human being from.

      • In other words you’re well prepared for a number of scenarios, from mild to more extreme ones.

        I think that’s great and we would definitely like to see more of our readers do the same as you, according to the means available to them.

        Thank you very much for that elaboration.

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