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The Best Survival Essentials For Braving the Backcountry

Best Survival Gear Essentials 0 Hero

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 the best survival essentials to help you make it out alive.

The Best Survival Gear Rundown

Reflection On Selection

The Criteria We Used For Making Our Picks

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.

When Quality Matters Most

Buying Survival Gear You Can Trust With Your Life

It can be annoying if a piece of EDC gear breaks or fails during your commute, however, this is, at worst, just an inconvenience. If a piece of survival gear breaks or fails while far off-grid, it can be downright life-threatening. As a result, quality and durability matters more in this segment than almost any other, as you’re quite literally trusting your life with these pieces of gear. Unsurprisingly, this often means paying a premium for higher-quality kit, though for the reasons outlined above, we’d argue it’s very much worth making the extra investment. 

Survival Gear Shopping 101

The Main Areas To Consider When Buying Off-Grid Survival Gear

From garments to gadgets to gear, different types of outdoor survival kit items will massively differ from each other, though there are still some common traits that one should look for across the board when shopping around for a new survival gear loadout. Below, we’ll briefly outline the most pivotal areas to take into consideration when shopping for new survival gear

Utility, Purpose, & Function: For starters, all of these items should assist with one of the aforementioned key survival needs (navigation, insulation, illumination, hydration, shelter, etc). In addition to bolstering any of these areas, these pieces of gear also need to be incredibly durable, with the ability to stand up to bumps, scrapes, impacts, and other forces and abuse, as well as water and extreme temperatures. What’s more, we also recommend looking for items that can serve more than one function or purpose, as this will greatly increase utility while minimizing your loadout. 

Power Or Fuel Source: All of these items are also intended for off-grid use, and as such don’t rely on fuel, batteries, or other elements needed to be operated that are only available in civilization. There are some electronics and gadgets in this space, though they tend to be powered using solar arrays or hand cranks — albeit some do accept store-bought batteries as well. 

Design Simplicity: The vast majority of today’s latest and greatest survival gear essentials are also fairly simple in terms of their designs, with an aim to minimize the number of components and moving parts in a bid to reduce the number of ways the item could break or fail. 

Materials: No matter what genre of gear, the materials used to craft any item will play an enormous role in its overall quality and durability. As such, it’s beyond imperative to review this aspect when shopping, no matter what type of survival gear you’re looking at. And, while this holds true with pretty much any piece offer, this is especially important with survival gear, as your literal survival may be dependent on this very kit. 

Durability: Because these pieces of gear are made to be used outdoors, it’s imperative that they be able to stand up to dust, dirt, mud, and other grime, as well as rain, sleet, and snow. Additionally, it’s also worth reviewing the construction technique that was used to piece an item’s primary material(s) together, as this too will play a major role in an item’s overall quality and level of durability. What’s more, finding products that come backed by lifetime warranties can be a great way to ensure that you’re getting a quality product that’s been built-to-last. 

Size & Weight: Whether done recreationally or out of necessity, the vast majority of survival scenarios see individuals taking on the wilderness while on foot. As such, this means only being able to bring what you can carry — making the size and weight of your gear wildly important. As a result, we recommend reviewing the dimensions and weight of any piece of survival gear that you’re considering. 

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

UCO Stormproof Match Kit
Photo: REI
Why It Made The Cut
  • A waterproof & stormproof match kit with 24x 2.75” matches each w/ a 15-second burn time.

Best 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.

Included Matches: 25
Included Strikers: 3
Weight: 1.7oz

LAST MAN Ultimate Paracord Survival Kit Bracelet

LAST MAN Ultimate Paracord Survival Kit Bracelet
Photo: Rooster Global
Why It Made The Cut
  • A survival bracelet that’s comprised of 12’ of Paracord & loaded w/ over a dozen survival essentials.

Best Survival 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.

Paracord Length: 12’
Included items: 16

Sona Enterprises Military Compass

Sona Enterprises Military Compass
Photo: Amazon
Why It Made The Cut
  • A lensatic & prismatic sighting lens compass with an adjustable diopter, rotating bezel ring, & tripod connection.

Best 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.

Body Construction: Die-Cast Steel
Capsule: Thermo-Elastic
Weight: 3.68oz

MECO Emergency Flashlight

MECO Emergency Flashlight
Photo: Amazon
Why It Made The Cut
  • A rugged emergency flashlight that can be powered via an onboard battery, a solar panel, or hand crank.

Best Hand-Crank 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.

Power Source: Hand-Crank, Onboard Battery, Or Solar Panel
Weight: 3.03oz

LifeStraw Peak Series Straw

LifeStraw Peak Series Straw
Photo: LifeStraw
Why It Made The Cut
  • A survival filtration straw capable of eliminating nearly 100% of bacteria, parasites, & micro-plastics up to 1,000 gallons of water.

Best Survival Filter: Representing the leading brand’s latest and greatest survival filter, the LifeStraw Peak Series Straw allows its user to drink directly from almost any water source. Weighing in at only 2.3oz, the Peak Series Straw features an enhanced membrane micro-filter that eliminates 99.999% of micro-plastics, silt, sand, parasites, and bacteria from water, and can do so for a whopping 1,000 gallons before needing its filter replaced. As a point of reference, the average person drinks about 182.5 gallons of water annually — meaning this filter provides more than half a decade of clean drinking water. 

Lifetime: 1,000 Gallons
Pore Size: 0.2 Micron
Weight: 2.3 oz

Sven Folding Saw

Sven Folding Saw
Photo: REI
Why It Made The Cut
  • A collapsible American-made outdoor saw with a 21” Swedish steel blade.

Best Saw: For precision cutting, a hatchet simply won’t do. The 21-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.

Handle Construction: Aluminum
Blade Construction: Swedish Steel
Blade Length: 21”

Kaito KA500

Kaito KA500
Photo: Amazon
Why It Made The Cut
  • A five-way rechargeable emergency radio with a built-in power bank & LED flashlight.

Best 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.

Coverage: AM, FM, 2-Band Shortwave, & NOAA Weather Channels
Power Source: USB, AC/DC, AA Battery, Solar, Or Hand Crank

Gerber Stake Out

Gerber Stake Out
Photo: Gerber
Why It Made The Cut
  • An 11-in-1 multi-tool loaded with tools & functions aimed at outdoor & off-grid use.

Best Multi-Tool: Constructed around a stainless steel chassis with an integrated carabiner, the Gerber Stake Out is an 11-in-1 multi-tool that was designed specifically for outdoor use and comes loaded with off-grid-specific amenities. This wealth of outdoor-specific features includes a tent stake pulling hook, a wood saw, a Ferro rod striker, a pair of folding scissors, an awl, a file, tweezers, a ruler, a bottle opener, and a frame-locking 2.20” modified Wharncliffe blade with a plain-edge Scandi grind — a type of edge that’s pretty much universally recognized as the best type of grind for survival and bushcraft applications.

Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Tools/Functions: 11

Rab Survival Zone Lite Bivi

Rab Survival Zone Lite Bivi
Photo: Scandinavian Outdoor
Why It Made The Cut
  • A super lightweight & super minimalistic emergency bivi sack with a 30D Pertex Quantum Pro Nylon construction & welded seams.

Best Shelter: 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. The bivi is made from 30-denier Pertex Quantum Pro Nylon and is pieced together using waterproof welded seams. It should keep you protected and safe in an unfortunate night spent outside and it’ll keep you from rolling around in the dirt. 

Primary Construction: 30D Pertex Quantum Pro Nylon
Weight: 8.35oz

My Medic MyFAK

My Medic MyFAK
Photo: My Medic
Why It Made The Cut
  • A compact yet robust first aid kit sold in a 1,000D ballistic nylon pouch w/ a Hypalon MOLLE webbing system.

Best 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 1,000-denier 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.

Type: Universal
Group Size: 1-2
Weight: 2.1LBs

Prometheus Design Werx SPD Edition S.H.A.D.O. Pack 24L 3.0

Prometheus Design Werx SHADO Pack 24L 3
Photo: Prometheus Design Werx
Why It Made The Cut
  • A 3rd-gen, 24-liter tactical daypack engineered from the ground up for use in the wilderness.

Best Backpack: Short for “Suspension, Haul, Access, Durability, Organized,” the Prometheus Design Werx S.H.A.D.O. Pack 24L is an award-winning outdoor-specific daypack that’s now on its third generation. Made from a combination of 500-denier CORDURA and a custom-milled 500-denier nylon-Spandex blend, the bag boasts an enormous wealth of features aimed specifically at outdoor use. In addition to sporting PDW’s usual top-notch construction and fit and finish, the SPD Edition S.H.A.D.O. Pack 24L 3.0 also features an outstanding harness system with a removable and reversible Gear Trap, EDCO Admin Panel, MOLLE compatible array, three-stage modular ToF belt, lumbar pad, 2″ webbing belt, and fully-padded belt wings.

Primary Construction: 500D CORDURA & 500D Nylon-Spandex
Volume: 24 Liters

Fjällräven Övik Hydratic Jacket

Fjallraven Ovik Hydratic Jacket
Photo: Fjällräven
Why It Made The Cut
  • A premium technical two-layer jacket made for year-round outdoor use.

Best Jacket: The Fjällräven Övik Hydratic Jacket is a high-end technical jacket that’s made for year-round outdoor use. Waterproof and windproof, the Övik Hydratic Jacket features a two-layer construction with a poly shell fitted with a PU membrane and poly liner. On top of its outstanding build quality, this jacket’s immense versatility is a major part of what makes it so special. And, as well as it lends itself to hardcore outdoor use, this jacket is just as conducive to use in the city as it is on expeditions. 

Primary Construction: Polyester
Membrane: Polyurethane

Chris Reeve Knives Pacific

Chris Reeve Knives Pacific
Photo: Chris Reeve Knives
Why It Made The Cut
  • A top-shelf tactically-inspired survival knife with a full-tang MagnaCut construction & Micarta scales.

Best Knife: Born out of a collaboration between Chris Reeve and legendary knife designer Bill Harsey Jr, the Chris Reeve Knives Green Beret is a hardcore bushcraft and survival knife with an unmistakable tactical influence. Measuring 12.375” overall, the Green Beret sports a full-tang CPM MagnaCut construction with a 62 HRC rating and an ultra-beefy 0.22” thickness that allows it to stand up to chopping and other hard-use tasks. This fixed blade’s handle design and Micarta scales together afford the knife stellar ergonomics and grip, as well. 

Blade Construction: CPM MagnaCut
Overall Length: 12.375”
Blade Length: 7.0”
Handle Material: Micarta

Montana Knife Company The Hellgate Hatchet

Montana Knife Company The Hellgate Hatchet
Photo: Montana Knife Company
Why It Made The Cut
  • A super rugged American-made hatchet engineered for hardcore outdoor & survival use.

Best Hatchet: Spanning 10.167” overall and weighing in at 14.9oz, the Montana Knife Company Hellgate Hatchet is a compact and premium USA-made pack-axe that’s aptly-described as being able to “swing like a hammer and cut like a knife.” Boasting a level of quality that’s only possible through meticulous small-batch manufacturing, the axe features a cryogenically treated 52100 high-carbon ball-bearing steel construction with a razor-sharp 4.875” head and a set of ultra-hardwearing G-10 scales. In addition to its immense durability, the fact that this axe is also useful for digging, breaking up ice, hammering tent stakes, breaking up ice, makes it even more ideal for outdoor and survival applications. 

Primary Construction: 52100HC Ball-Bearing Steel
Overall Length: 10.167”
Handle Material: G-10

Vollebak Off Grid Pants

Vollebak Off Grid Pants
Photo: Vollebak
Why It Made The Cut
  • An insanely-tough pair of outdoor-specific pants made from super-densely-woven cotton canvas using heavily-reinforced seams throughout.

Best Pants: Engineered from the ground up specifically for extended off-grid use, the Vollebak Off-Grid Pants are an incredibly rugged, low-maintenance pair of outdoor-specific trousers that are cut from a super-densely-woven Italian cotton canvas and constructed using reinforced stitching throughout. What’s more, both the waistband and cuffs feature rope adjusters finished with macramé knots. Half a dozen pockets, a pair of gadget loops, a reinforced two-layer seat, and four Italian mesh-lined hip vents round out these ultra-rugged outdoor and hiking pants

Construction: Italian Cotton Canvas
Pockets: 6
Weight: 24.7oz

The Best Survival Kits For At-Home & Off-Grid Emergencies

Best Survival Kits 0 Hero
Photo: Uncharted Supply Co. The Seventy2 Pro Survival System Backpack

Don’t want to piece together your survival gear loadout item by item? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best survival kits for at-home and off-grid emergencies for a hand-selected list of pre-assembled hunker-down or bug-out bags loaded with must-have gear and rations.