The Ultimate Survival Gear Guide of 2017
Welcome to the ultimate survival gear guide, a resource that we’ve put together for a number of reasons. The first reason is because there needed to be a place for practical advice about this type of thing, and secondly because we wanted to be able to cover all of the following topics in an in-depth enough way that you’ll not only know what to do in tough situations, but also why. Sometimes, plan A doesn’t work, and if all you’ve done is learned to memorize bullet-points on a checklist called “How to Survive”, but without really understanding why or how things work, you could find yourself in trouble.
Our Various Wilderness Tool Buying Guides
Please note: Do not limit yourself based on the categories we decided to put these items under. Every item reviewed can be applied to a variety of situations. A camper may not need a BOB, but a survivalist may need a folding shovel. Like everything in this world, it’s all perception, be creative.
Knowledge and understanding of your survival gear is crucially important. This gear is only as good as the person using it. You’re better off being resourceful and clever with sub-par gear than being completely inept at survival but having the absolute best gear. That said, when you have an understanding of survival along with excellent survival gear, you’re ready to face any challenges that may come your way.
There’s a misconception that “preparing for the worst-case scenario” means you’re going totally overkill with your gear, packing way too heavy, etc. In fact, a big part of that is MENTALLY preparing for the worst, and then knowing you’ve got the gear to back you up. It’s important to have the confidence in yourself, knowing that you aren’t strictly relying on your gear – but also knowing that you could, if you had to.
We’ll be going over some essential items that you should have in your bug-out bag, along with strategies on how to use them correctly and what to avoid. We’ll also be discussing how your survival instincts are like muscles that you can work out, grow, and develop over time – and how it’s relevant to your everyday life.
A brief introduction to bug-out bags
Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of a bug out bag, but we’ll cover the basics very quickly for the uninitiated, before diving into suggestions of specific items that your bag must include, along with some optional products for your consideration. First of all, here are a few different names for bug-out bags that you’ll hear:
- BOB (Bug-Out Bag)
- INCH Bag (I’m never coming home)
- GOOD Bag (Get out of dodge)
- 72-hour bag
- PERK (Personal emergency relocation kits)
- Battle Box
The idea is that you have all of the essentials for survival, right there in one bag, that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice should you need to make a run for it, regardless of why. Since you’ll likely be keeping it in your home, your garage, or your vehicle (Many people have different bags for each location, just in case), it’s also useful should you need to bunker-up inside your home, perhaps during a terrible snow storm where there’s feet and feet of snow and emergency vehicles can’t get anywhere because all the roads are blocked.
From the absolute bare-minimum level of basic items that every bug-out bag should contain, to some more advanced items, let’s go over ideas for things to include in your bag. We’ll be covering items in categories such as…
- Food and water,
- Basic camping essentials,
- First-aid items,
- and more.
Now, let’s go more in-depth into each of the above-mentioned items and a lot more. You may not need everything on this list, or you may have alternatives for some of these items that you prefer. That’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s your bag, and you’ll put it together exactly how you’d like. Our job is just to make sure that you don’t forget about anything that could end up being absolutely essential.
Water: This is one of the most important things to sustain yourself. You’ll want a decent amount of water, the more – the better. Just in terms of being prepared in your own home, you should have as much bottled water as you can. For your bug-out bag, you’ll want a minimum of a liter or a liter and a half, per person, per day. So, if you’re making a 72-hour bag for yourself, you’ll want 3-5L.
For longer-term survival, consider various types of water filtration systems and portable water filters, like the kind you might take camping, you know those straws that let you drink out of the lake? There are a ton of different types to choose from, and they all have their own pros and cons.
Another item to consider adding to your bag is a collapsible water bottle. They’re re-useable and take up a lot less space than stainless steel or regular plastic water bottles, since they collapse to become much smaller when they’re empty. (https://www.amazon.com/Nomader-Collapsible-Sports-Water-Bottle/dp/B016AX6PI6/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1476163214&sr=8-5&keywords=collapsible+water+bottle)
Food: Food for a 72-hour bag is fairly simple, you can live off of energy bars and such for a few days. They’re calorically dense, and ideally they’ll have a good balance of nutrients to keep you going. Longer periods of time start to get trickier and trickier, but there are a lot of options, especially if you still have access to running water and a way to heat it up. In such a case, that opens the door to all sorts of calorically-dense foods like beans, rice, pasta, and de-hydrated foods as well.
Now, in terms of keeping food in your home, there’s really no limit in weight or storage, so stock up on stuff that’s non-perishable, or stuff that has a really long shelf life. Let’s say, for example, you have a dozen cans of beans that have a shelf life of about two years. Whenever you’d normally use a can, replace it with a new one from the store, and you’ll be able to cycle through to ensure that you’re never stuck sitting on a cache of food that’s filled with expired goods.
Cooking: Along with the food, you’ll need to figure out how you plan to prepare it. It really depends on what types of food you’re storing, whether they need to be heated, and how long you may end up living off the land, should things reach that point.
A little camping stove will only weigh a couple pounds, along with small pots and pan sets, some of them even fold up with the stove itself to save a ton of space. These little kits are very worthwhile. Granted, enough small things will eventually start to add up, but these are the types of things that can come in very handy, and serve multiple purposes.
However, some will still choose foods that don’t need to be heated on a small stove to avoid having to bring one altogether. Bear in mind that it’s not recommended to cook canned goods inside of the can itself, as there are coatings on the inside that are bad for your body when they’re heated up because they’ll leech into your foods.
Clothing: When it comes to clothing, it’s not a bad idea to have something stashed away for bad weather. If you live in a place with cold winters, you’ll want a hat, some gloves, and a warm sweater at the very least. This is often overlooked by people who pack their bags in the summer, maybe during camping season, and then don’t realize they’ll need winter gear, too. A poncho is another essential, it’s very light, takes up barely any space, and can come in very handy to keep you, and your stuff, dry in the rain. It’s not a bad idea to keep a few garbage bags in your bug out bag, so those can also be made into a rain-jacket in a pinch.
Don’t forget about some type of footwear. If you don’t want to lug around a pair of hiking boots in your PERK, it’s not the end of the world, consider a pair of flip-flops at the very least. You’ll probably have a chance to toss some shoes on, but maybe not.
A bandana is a very versatile piece of clothing that can have dozens of uses and definitely belongs on your survival checklist.
Tools: When it comes to choosing survival tools, it’s a good idea to find things that can handle multiple duties. Multi-tools are great so that you can kill numerous birds with one stone, so to speak, especially when their additional functions don’t add a lot of extra size or weight. A solid survival knife is something that you can use for clearing a spot to rest, for building shelter, for preparing your food, for hunting, and for self-defense should it come down to that.
A survival shovel is also a very useful tool, and there are some decent ones out there that have a number of added functions and features, be sure to visit our buyer’s guide to learn about some of the best options. A machete for clearing brush is something else you can consider.
Basic camping gear: Making fire is crucial. If you have a little camping stove, you’ll also need some fuel for it. A water bottle or two filled with fuel should last you a while, and get you through plenty of meals, just make sure you label it differently than your drinking water to avoid a costly mix-up. Water proof matches or lighters are great to have, in fact why not take both? For the importance of fire, it’s worth carrying an extra lighter or two even if you have matches. You’ll want multiple ways to create a fire, just in case, because it’s so catastrophic to not be able to do so. Firesteel is a great item to keep in your bag, it’s less susceptible to the rain or the cold than a lighter or matches. When you need those sparks, you’ll get them.
A reliable flashlight will be essential, too. Quite simply, you need to see your way around in the dark, especially if the power goes out. Even if you’re still in your own home, do you want to be fumbling around in the dark looking for a flashlight, batteries, etc? Or would you rather go directly to your bag of survival tools and voila? A headlamp is a good choice, too, because you’ll have an extra free-hand as opposed to carrying around a flashlight. The downside is that the battery probably won’t last as long as a flashlight’s, and it might not be as bright. This is one instance where it’s not a bad idea to have two different tools that serve the same purpose.
Wilderness equipment is foreign to people who don’t get outdoors a lot, but that’s no reason to not familiarize yourself with it, from camping stoves to survival knives and shovels, try using these things, and try starting a fire, before the worse comes to worst, if these are things you don’t normally do. You don’t want your first time trying to operate a camping stove to be when you’re absolutely starving and not in a safe environment.
A warm blanket is something that you should definitely keep around, especially for a bag that doesn’t have limited space (Like the one you’d grab as you run out the door, for example, won’t be as large as one that you keep in the garage or in your trunk.) This serves a similar purpose as having additional clothing, which is to keep you warm. You can pack both, and use the clothing as a pillow.
550lb parachute cord (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004ULPCO4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B004ULPCO4&linkCode=as2&tag=sh09b2-20&th=1) is another great thing to have on hand, for a variety of different uses. Your bag is probably starting to get a bit crowded now, so here’s something crucial that barely takes up any space at all.
Money: Here’s one that is often overlooked. Keep some cash in your bag. If credit card machines are down, your credit and debit cards are absolutely worthless, but cash will still spend just fine. Keep some silver bullion in there too, if you really want to, and you’ll be prepared to barter no matter what happens. It’s like a lifeline, an extension, and if nothing else it’ll buy you some more time and sometimes that’s all you need. It could be argued that money won’t have any value when things get too bleak, but in that case, at least you’ll be able to trade it to someone else who doesn’t know any better yet.
Money can help you in all sorts of situations. From last-minute shopping on your way out of town, to carrying some coins for vending machines for drinks (water, in particular) or snacks. Also, it can help you buy a ride should you not have your vehicle in working order, and can even be used for a well-placed bribe if things really get nasty out there. You can hire people to help you out, you can buy gas if there are any problems with the machines for paying with plastic, and you can avoid leaving a paper trail (Should that type of thing be important to you.)
Shelter: The more knowledge and experience you have, the lighter you can pack when it comes to shelter since you’ll be able to do a lot more with a lot less. However, for most people, it’s a good idea to include at least some of these items. In other cases, you can use things from other categories (Like the garbage bags, the extra clothing) to help make your shelter and bedding.
If you have room for it, a good camping mattress or ground pad will go a long way. Getting a better sleep means you can be more alert, focused, and have more energy the next day, which can be crucial for survival in some cases. A small tent, or at least a tarp, can also be useful. While it may not be entirely necessary, they can both help to keep your stuff dry, at the very least. A small tent won’t take up a ton of space, especially if you shop for one based on weight and portability. Some people will fill up a garbage bag with grass and leaves and use it as a sleeping pad, however there’s always the option to purchase a foam pad that rolls up very compactly, or even an inflatable one.
Clothing: We’ve touched on the topic of clothing already, but it deserves its own category. For starters, you’ll have whatever is on your back. There’s a company called Unbound who recently ran a crowd-funding campaign that was 994% funded beyond their original goal. They make clothing out of Merino wool, and can replace an entire suitcase wardrobe with a few items. Merino wool is a great choice for your bug-out bag because it won’t get smelly (it’s naturally antibacterial and odor resistant), it dries very quickly, and it does a great job of helping to regulate your body temperature.
Wool socks, extra underwear, and climate-suiting clothing are all essential items in your bug-out bag. If you opt for something like Merino wool, you won’t need as much clothing since you can wear it many more times before having to wash it, compared to regular cotton clothing.
If you don’t plan on updating your bag as seasons change, make sure you have something appropriate for both the hottest days in your climate, and the coldest. Alternatively, you can make a note to go into your bag occasionally to make sure everything suits the season, but at least this way if you forget, you aren’t going to have to worry about freezing to death.
First Aid: This is a tricky one, because there are so many possibilities. Survival Cache ( http://survivalcache.com/bug-out-bag/ ) has a great tip that we absolutely agree with – you should build your own first aid kit instead of buying one of those pre-made kids. By making your own, you’ll ensure that you’ve got the correct balance of things. Those kits can come with all sorts of stuff that you’ll rarely, if ever, need – and not enough of things that you’ll need more frequently. Also, certain items in the kit could be lower quality than you’d normally accept, but if you put it together with individual items, you can make sure you’re getting the best of everything.
On top of that, building the kit with individual items yourself means that you’ll have a better awareness of everything that’s in there, and how to use it, and when, and why. This knowledge comes back to what we were talking about earlier. You’re better off with a smaller first aid kit that’s been built in a smart way, and having a thorough knowledge of everything in side of it, than having some giant pre-made kit that you don’t know very well.
Hygiene: If might seem like the last thing you’d care about in a survival situation is basic hygiene, but it’s not just about comfort – it’s about staying healthy, too. The goal here isn’t to feel fresh, it’s to avoid infections and other illnesses that may attack. You can keep all of this in a smaller pack inside your bag, and here are some items you’ll want to consider: camping soap, a small towel, toilet paper (take out the cardboard roll if you’d like you save space, or find something you can pack inside the roll), toothbrush and toothpaste (you can make your own with baking soda, too).
Also, pack some tampons. Even if you aren’t a lady. If you’re a lady, you’ll be packing these for a very specific reason, but they also have many applications for survival. You can use them to help start a fire, as a makeshift bandage to stop other types of bleeding, and a lot more. Art of Manliness (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/06/05/survival-tampon/ ) has an article with 10 different makeshift survival uses for tampons, so this is definitely something to consider, even if it’s a bit unorthodox.
Communications and alerts: There are power banks that you can buy which are powered by cranks, so that instead of carrying around a lot of extra batteries for your cellphone, you can generate your own power off the grid, which is much more useful in a survival type of scenario. An emergency radio can be a useful addition, again, ideally powered by crank so that you don’t have to worry about finding an electricity source, or worrying about your battery dying.
This can be a controversial category, some say it’s not worth it, others say you’ll be glad to have it if you need it. At the end of the day, it really just depends on what you’re preparing for.
Weapons and Self-Defense: This is most people’s favorite category, but there are some honest self-assessments you’ll need to make first. Do you know how to use a weapon, or are you just going to be arming your attacker? Also, this can certainly escalate a situation much more quickly, especially in a desperate survival scenario.
On the other hand, if you have to defend your home, your campsite, your gear and supplies, it can be a matter of life and death. You could lose your life in a fight, or you could lose your life by having all of your supplies taken by someone else. In this case, we’re obviously talking about a very dire world where people are looting and stealing from one another, desperate to survive, but if it comes to that, you’ll be glad you have a way to defend yourself.
We’re not going to suggest that you carry specific weapons, that’s something that requires a lot more research and training than you’d get from an article. There are certain tools, however, that can double as a weapon should things hit the fan.
The bag itself: When it comes to actually choosing the bag you’re going to keep everything in, there are a couple different ways to go about that. First of all, you can start by buying a bag that is the exact size you want, and then decide what to pack in it based on how much room you have. This method gives you a constrict from the get-go that you’ve got to follow.
Alternatively, you could figure out exactly what you want to have in the bag, then buy a bag that’s the correct size. It’s coming at the same problem, but in the opposite way. There are pros and cons to both ways of doing it, but ultimately you can only carry so much. The larger and heavier your bag is, the less practical it may become to carry around. So, if it’s going to be sitting at home or in your car, that’s a different story than if you’re a hiker who is going to carry all of their survival gear with them on their back.