Make It Out Alive: 20 Survival Essentials

Truly, it’s hard to be ready for anything. And prepping for every possible disaster or emergency scenario could take up more of your life than a full-time job. Still, letting everything come as it may is equally – if not more – foolish. So, it’s best to situate yourself somewhere squarely in the middle.

The good news is, that’s probably the best spot to be; it means you’ve taken the time to consider possible outcomes and have taken at least a few steps in mental preparation for a wide variety of survival situations. But getting your head straight is only the first step. Step number two is getting yourself geared up, at least in part, for those outcomes. And, though we acknowledge that it’s nigh-impossible to get ready for everything, you can still be reasonably equipped for most situations. To help you prep, we’ve put together the following list of 20 survival essentials to help you make it out alive.

The Criteria

Before we get started, it’s important to outline specifically what we are looking for in survival gear. Typically, survival gear can be broken down into a number of smaller categories. These include navigation, insulation, illumination, hydration, shelter, and more. But, we should be clear that you may actually need more than one piece of gear per category. For instance, to keep yourself hydrated, you’ll need both a water purifier and a container in which you can store clean water for later.

Similarly, there’s no perfect kit of emergency gear for everyone. Most people will find that a custom kit specific to your place of residence or travels will do you much better than a generic grouping of items. And that should be taken into consideration when going through our list, as well. We believe that these are the best essentials to help you get on the right track to survival, but that doesn’t mean that this list is the end-all-be-all. That being said, it’s certainly a whole lot better than nothing and it’s intended to at least get you in the right mindset when it comes to putting together your own kit of survival gear.

Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper

While it might seem a bit odd, toilet paper can make a tremendous difference in regards to your overall comfort during a survival situation. But, since rolls are a bit cumbersome and awkward, we suggest you opt for Coleman’s Camper’s Toilet Paper. It’s compact, easy to use, and is even biodegradable – so you can leave it in the woods without feeling too guilty.

Purchase: $5

T-REX Duct Tape

Never underestimate the versatility of duct tape. It truly is one of the greatest inventions mankind has ever created. Even better, T-Rex duct tape isn’t your ordinary variety – it’s far stronger, stickier, and has a UV protective layer to keep the sun from weakening the adhesive. And that makes it a superb on-the-spot maintenance tool, whether you need to patch your tent, clothes, make a bandage, or even build some tools.

Purchase: $5

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

If you’re stuck out in the wilderness and you’re going to remain stuck overnight, the second most important thing you will need (next to water) is fire. Not only will a flame keep you warm and provide you with illumination, but it can act as a signal for rescuers, can cook your food, and can even be used to defend yourself. The UCO Stormproof match kit has everything you need to make fire no matter what kind of weather you’re stuck in.

Purchase: $8

Zippo Windproof Lighter

Smaller and easier to carry and operate than a match kit, bow drill, or just about any other fire starting method, this Zippo windproof lighter is an excellent and unimposing contingency plan whether you’re trekking through a city or are way outside civilization’s boundaries. Keep one of these bad boys on you and you can make fire just about anywhere.

Purchase: $10

MECO Emergency Flashlight

It’s possible that you’ll never get stuck away from civilization overnight. And hopefully the power grid never fails us. But hope can’t help you if it does. Be ready for it by getting yourself some portable illumination that isn’t tied down by plugs or battery power, like this hand-crank and solar-powered emergency flashlight from MECO. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, this device also has a carabiner clip, so you can attach it to your pants or pack for hands-free use.

Purchase: $10

The Ultimate Paracord Survival Kit Bracelet

Carrying around paracord with you in some form or another is an excellent means by which you can be ready for a good deal of contingencies, as it can be used to bind wounds, build shelters, craft animal traps, and more. But this paracord bracelet from The Last Man is even better because it hides away a multitude of different survival tools, from fish hooks to fire starters, that can be accessed and used in a pinch.

Purchase: $10+

SE Military Sighting Compass

If you don’t already know, you should learn how to read a compass. Then, stash the SE Military Sighting Compass in your bug-out bag. You’ll find navigating unfamiliar terrain so much easier and increase your chances of survival exponentially. It also comes with a handy water-resistant nylon pouch, so you don’t have to awkwardly carry it around with you everywhere.

Purchase: $11

Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Blankets

There are a lot of brands that make “adventure blankets.” And while those are great for camping and picnics, they’re a lot less useful in an emergency. These mylar emergency blankets from Swiss Safe, by contrast, serve a world of functions. They can be turned into shelter, be used to cook food with solar energy, they’ll keep you surprisingly warm at night, and they can even be used as a tourniquet or sling. And that’s not even the half of it.

Purchase: $15

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

In any survival situation, access to drinkable water should be considered priority number one. And you could certainly take your chances with a river or stream, but you’d be a lot better off using the LifeStraw. This unobtrusive device is small enough to fit in even the most tightly packed bags, but it can also filter up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water, killing up to 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and parasites, and make it drinkable.

Purchase: $17

Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle

If you’ve got a water filter, you’ll still need a place in which to store drinkable water for future use – in case you can’t find more. And it’s hard to do better than a Hydro Flask vacuum insulated water bottle. It’s made from super tough stainless steel, is BPA-free, and can keep water cold for up to 24 hours straight.

Purchase: $22+

Estwing Sportsman’s Axe

Though sometimes a bit difficult to carry, a woodcutting axe is an indispensable tool when it comes to gathering firewood and building a temporary shelter out in the wilds. It can even be used as a self-defense tool in a pinch. This one, from Estwing, features a hand-forged one-piece construction of American steel, has a leather-wrapped handle, and comes with a ballistic nylon sheath. It’s also made right here in the USA.

Purchase: $36

Sven Folding Saw

For precision cutting, a hatchet simply won’t do. The 15-inch Sven folding saw, however, works wonders in that department. And, since it’s collapsible, you can just fold it up and pack it away when you’re not using it. It also features a blade made from Swedish steel and an aluminum handle crafted in the USA.

Purchase: $37

Kaito Voyager Emergency Radio

If you’re even remotely within reach of civilization, an emergency radio can be the difference between failure and survival – as, in the unlikely event of a severe natural catastrophe, information and evacuation instructions will most certainly be broadcast over the radio. This one features a hand crank, so you can get a signal even without power, and can double as a cell phone charger – which also operates by hand crank.

Purchase: $55

Ka-Bar USMC Fighting Knife

A good knife is something you should always have by your side. And that goes double when it comes to survival situations. This one, which is actually used by the United States Marine Corps, is made from incredibly durable 1095 Cro-van steel, has a leather handle, and is made in the US of A. If you have to choose just one tool to keep by your side, you could do a whole lot worse than this fixed-blade knife.

Purchase: $65

Leatherman Skeletool RX

A folding multi-tool can be an unbelievably useful tool to have by your side whether you’re in an emergency survival situation or just going about your day. This one is especially helpful in a pinch, as it was designed specifically to be used by first responders and emergency personnel. It’s equipped with 7 built-in tools that range from several blades, to pliers, to a screwdriver, to a bottle opener, and more.

Purchase: $85

MyMedic MYFAK First Aid Kit

If you don’t already have an emergency first aid kit in your home, bug-out bag, and car, you might be making a big mistake. Time to correct it. And you can’t really get a better first aid kit than this one from My Medic. Stashed in a 1000D ballistic nylon bag (with a MOLLE webbing system for additional attachments), this kit features everything you might need to dress a number of different kinds of wounds, including multiple bandages and gauze, burn gel, a CPR shield, medication, and a bevy of other emergency tools.

Purchase: $100

PDX Odyssey Cargo Pants

You should always keep a stash of extra clothing in case of an emergency. But, in a survival situation, you’ll also want pants that can help keep you warm, dry, and serve some alternative functions. The Odyssey Cargo Pants from Prometheus Design Werx are built for the most extreme adventures and should do just as well in a disaster situation. They’re made in the USA from ripstop fabric, have a complement of pockets and storage solutions for all your gear, and they look pretty great, too.

Purchase: $149

Rab Survival Zone Lite Bivi

Weighing in at just under 8.5 ounces and incredibly collapsible, this tear-resistant emergency bivi sack is an excellent outdoor survival sleeping solution, even if you don’t have a sleeping bag to put in it. It should keep you protected and safe in an unfortunate night spent outside and it’ll keep you from rolling around in the dirt.

Purchase: $150

TAD Fast Pack EDC

One of the greatest backpacks of all time, TAD’s Fast Pack EDC is an excellent contender when it comes to bug-out bags as well. It’s made from super tough Cordura nylon, features a webbing system for expandable carrying, has a volume of 32.77 liters, and was literally made to last a lifetime. Pick up this bag and stash your gear in it and you will not regret it.

Purchase: $340+

Fjallraven Ovik Eco-Shell Jacket

If the key to survival clothing is layers, your outermost layer should absolutely be a waterproof jacket. And you can’t go wrong with Fjallraven’s Ovik 3-layer shell jacket. This handsome adventure coat will keep you warm and dry in the worst weather, has plenty of pockets for any excess gear (might we suggest a pair of gloves and/or socks?), and will last through all your endeavors.

Purchase: $475

Survival Skills Every Man Should Know

Even if you’re geared to the teeth, you won’t make it very far without some knowledge and practice. Get a head start with our list of the survival skills every man should know.