There is something to be said for the minimalist movement. While not all of us want to sell our homes and move into a one-room apartment in Bangkok with nothing but a fixed-speed bike and a typewriter to occupy our time with, there is a certain pioneer-like charm to getting back to the basics. In a survival situation, having the right gear can mean the difference between life and death. Below, you will find a curated list of 11 essentials to take with you on your next outing — even in case of emergency — no fluff or filler allowed
There are few tools as versatile as a simple knife. A knife can help you cut strips of cloth or bark for tinder, saw off tree branches for shelter and a multitude of other things. Both fixed blade and folding knives are worth considering; one great fixed-blade option is the Morakniv Bushcraft serrated knife; this is a great option for the money if you like the sturdiness of fixed-blade knives and a good, ergonomic handle is important to you. However, it is always a good idea to have more than one knife in your kit; a great complement to the Morakniv Bushcraft is the Kershaw Thermite folding knife. This knife has an assisted opening feature, which means less fumbling around when the cold has numbed your hands.
2. Flashlight or Headlamp
Being able to see in the dark should rank pretty high on any survivalist’s list of emergency essentials. Because of this, a durable flashlight or headlamp should always be included in your survival gear kit. Flashlights have the benefit of allowing you to spot things in the dark without having to constantly turn your head, while headlamps are generally more lightweight and allow you to be hands-free. Because both are relatively small items and it is always worth having a backup, it may be worth buying both.The Petzl Tikka headlamp is a great option if you are looking for a balance of helpful features with a reasonable price; it comes with a red light option which allows you to remain undetected by nocturnal critters. If you want a flashlight that is easily stowed in a small pack, the J5 Hyper V is only 4 ounces and puts out an impressive 400 lumens. An important factor to consider here is power; battery-operated lights are fine as long as you pack enough spare batteries, but there are many decent solar-powered flashlights and headlamps worth considering.
3. Water Purifier
One of the very first things survival experts recommend if you find yourself lost in the wilderness is to look for a source of water. Once you find a good water source, it is imperative that you make sure the water you’re drinking isn’t contaminated. The last thing you need in a survival situation is a serious illness to deal with. Water purifiers add the benefit of taking away the task of boiling water, which is crucial for saving time or in situations when you can’t build a fire. A highly portable option is the LifeStraw, a small, straw-shaped filter that allows the user to drink directly out of a freshwater source. LifeStraw also makes a drinking bottle version of their product.
4. Sleeping Bag
Humans can only survive for about 3 hours under their core body temperature. Hypothermia is a real danger that should never be neglected; a good sleeping bag can mitigate this danger and make surviving in the wild much easier. There are certain sleeping bags that are made specifically for survival applications, such as the Leberna Mylar Thermal sleeping bag. This bag is waterproof and windproof and weighs only about 3 ounces. This particular bag is extremely durable, which is always a desirable quality for a survival kit. Mylar is an extremely thin material (it was designed by NASA for space exploration) so it folds up nicely inside a backpack.
Ideally, you would be able to use your phone’s built-in GPS to aid in navigation. The reality is that if you find yourself in a survival situation, you probably don’t have access to a cell phone. There are companies that make survival GPS devices, but these can be costly and you may not have access to one in an emergency situation. A good compass is small enough to carry with you anywhere and can help you find your way back to safety when you don’t have cell service. Many compasses come with extremely helpful features like built-in mirrors for sighting and signaling for help, such as the Suunto MC-2.
How to use a compass
While there are a handful of good methods for starting a fire without matches or a lighter, having quick and easy access to a flame is an invaluable resource. Of course, even with a lighter, starting a fire can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, so make sure you educate yourself before trying to start a proper fire. Several companies now make fuel-less, USB chargeable lighters, such as the UST Floating Lighter. This electric lighter has the added benefit of being wind-resistant (the electric arc is much more stable than a flame) and fully waterproof when the lid is closed. If you find yourself getting frustrated with the finicky nature of traditional lighters, this could be a solid choice to include in your emergency essentials kit.
7. Hunting Rifle
There is an overwhelming amount of hunting rifles to choose from, each with their own unique set of advantages. A good hunting rifle used for survival purposes should be lightweight enough to carry across your shoulder or in a bag for long periods of time, and powerful enough to take down small game. A good survival rifle doesn’t need to be able to do everything; remember, the goal here is efficiency and practicality. Ideally, it should come apart (without the use of tools) like the Aero Survival Rifle can. The Aero Survival Rifle takes pistol-caliber ammunition, which means ammunition is much easier to come by than with other firearms.
The shemagh (pronounced “scha-may”) is a profoundly useful piece of survival clothing. You may recognize it as the traditional headscarf worn in many Arab nations. This unique piece of bandanna-like woven cloth can be used to protect your face from dust, as a source of protection from the sun, or as a sling for your arm. The ever-practical shemagh is currently issued to US Special forces troops in certain climates. Rothco’s Tactical Desert Scarf is an unassuming, durable option in this category.
How to use a shemagh
9. First Aid Kit
A first aid kit can turn a potentially deadly situation into a non-issue. Often the circumstances of a survival situation in which stress, fatigue, and confusion are all running high are a perfect storm for potential injuries. You should look for a first aid kit that is small enough to store in a backpack and includes items like painkillers, antiseptic wipes, alcohol pads, and plenty of bandages. Some first aid kits include other useful items like tourniquets and emergency blankets, like Delta Provision Co’s military-quality first aid kit.
10. Survival Shelter
In a survival situation, you should know how to build several different types of shelters using the natural elements around you. However, energy is a valuable commodity that should be preserved as much as possible, especially when hiking long distances is a real possibility. For this reason, a simple shelter that can be set up, broken down, and re-used in a different location is a smart addition to a survival kit. UST makes an ultra-lightweight survival tarp shelter that is much less expensive than other lightweight options in this category and can be folded up and stored easily.
11. Bug Out Bag
What you store your survival equipment in is just as important as the gear itself. You should look for a bag that is, above all, durable enough to carry with you for long periods of time and withstand a lot of abuse. Comfort is always worth considering as well. If you are not as particular about selecting your survival gear, Prepper’s Favorite makes a pre-packed tactical bug out bag with many of the items on this list. This can be a cost-effective and convenient option for those who value simplicity, or as a secondary survival kit to store in your car. Of course, the downside to going with a pre-packed bug out bag is that you have no say in what is included.
The best survival kits maximize efficiency by including plenty of items that serve multiple purposes. A knife, compass, and firestarter are more than adequate as a survival kit in the right hands. In a crisis situation, excess equipment can be more of a hindrance than a help. You should think like a true survivalist; you don’t need fancy gadgets and ultra-expensive equipment. Stick with the essentials that have been proven to be useful.