The Survival Kit – What You Need


There’s a false idea out there, that you can survive with nothing, just scrounging the things you need. That may be true in some situations, especially in the city, where there is plenty to scavenge. But that’s not something to count on. Even if you are in a place where there are things you can scrounge, that takes time; time that you need for other survival tasks.

Having the right equipment can make a huge difference, giving you the basic tools you need, in order to survive. You’ll need to know what to do with those tools, but at least you’ll have something to work with. That will increase your chances of survival greatly.

Don’t get fooled by the miniature “survival kits” you see out there; the “survival grenades” or survival kits built into an Altoids mint can. Watch out for survival gimmicks too, which promise a whole slew of survival tools in one handy item, but mostly consist of tools that you’ll never use. If you’re going to go for compact, then make sure that the tools you select will provide the key functions you need, not something that you might need sometime… maybe.

Good survival kits vary considerably in size and configuration. But they all provide means to meet all of your basic survival needs. Whatever they are housed in, will be something that is compact and easy to carry, either in a fanny pack, an over-the-shoulder bag or something that can hang on your belt. There are a number of “tactical bags” on the market which are ideal for this. Kits that aren’t truly portable in this manner (i.e. “coffee can survival kits) are fine for the car; but they’re a pain in the neck if you need to leave your car and take them with you for any reason.

How big a bag you start out with will make a big difference in what you can put inside, so think it though. Get something that’s big enough, but not so big that you’ll end up leaving it behind, when you should have it with you.

I have two survival kits, if you don’t count my bug out bag as one. The main kit, which I keep in my car, is an over-the-shoulder bag, designed by Condor to be an “EDC bag. It’s quite spacious, with a lot of pockets, but not so heavy when full, that it’s hard to work with. I also have a small kit, about the size of a thick paperback book, which mounts on my belt. That’s what I use when I’m fishing or involved in other activities where the larger survival kit would get in the way.

So, what needs to go into that kit?


  • Rain poncho – can double as a tent, if necessary
  • Emergency blankets – to keep you warm, build a shelter or use as a wind break, it can even be turned into a makeshift water capture system
  • Paracord – for making shelter
  • Duct tape – also useful for making shelter
  • Elastic hair bands – really great for holding sticks together and making the framework of a shelter


  • Water filter – Lifestraw or other straw-type water filtration system
  • Metal water bottle or canteen – a metal one can be put in the fire to purify water
  • Quart size plastic bags – good emergency canteens
  • Water purification tablets
  • 4-way Hose bib key – for opening external faucets on commercial buildings


  • Esbit stove – for those times when there’s no wood to start a fire
  • Spork or backpacking utensils
  • Collapsible metal cup
  • Military P-38 can opener
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil – for cooking with
  • Fishing kit – line, bobbers, weights and hooks
  • Snare wire – guitar strings work great


  • Primary fire starter – stormproof lighter
  • Secondary fire starters – Metal Match, BlastMatch or other easy to use fire starter
  • Fire accelerant – either homemade or commercial


  • Kleenex – useful as toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Larger bandages
  • Stretchy gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Pain relievers
  • Antihistamine
  • Insect repellant
  • Personal prescription medications


  • Good knife
  • Multitool (optional)
  • Knife sharpener
  • Wire saw or folding pruning saw
  • Compass
  • Flashlight with spare batteries


  • List of important phone numbers, laminated
  • Solar phone charger
  • Signaling mirror
  • Whistle

That may seem like a lot to have with you, just on the off chance that you might suddenly find yourself in a survival situation. But in reality, it’s not much. You can fit it all into a fairly small kit, if you pack carefully. I didn’t even bother mentioning the day-to-day things I carry in my larger kit, such as a car phone adapter and a toothbrush. Nor did I say anything about the granola bars and jerky I keep in there too. Those aren’t technically “survival kit” items, even though I keep them in there.

I’m a big believer in the KISS principle. If you’re not familiar with it that stands for “keep it simple stupid.” Now, I’m not calling you stupid, but if you find yourself coming down with hypothermia, you might feel stupid. At that time, you’re really going to want something simple, so that you can get a fire started, before you reach the point where you can’t think clearly enough to start it. That’s why it’s so important to have things which are simple to use, such as a stormproof lighter or stormproof matches, which will work to start a fire, even when it’s windy and raining.

The other thing you want to consider when building any survival kit is your own personal situation. I mentioned personal medications up there as a necessity. If you’re on blood pressure medication or something else for a chronic condition, you may need those meds to survive. I keep a spare pair of glasses in my survival kit, because I’m so nearsighted I might not recognize a bear from 50 feet away.

Make sure that you’re comfortable using everything in your kit; a survival situation isn’t a good time to learn. When that time comes, you’re going to have to know how to start a fire without really thinking about it or build a shelter in the dark. The more you know how to do, the greater your chances of survival.