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Gear for Survival: 18 Items That Will Keep You Alive

Buyer's Guide 12 min read

If you are planning to spend some time in the great outdoors testing your skills, think twice before jumping straight to the wilderness—your equipment can make or break your challenge. Even more dramatically, it can be the difference between life and death.

Human ingenuity is what helped us evolve, and the use of tools sets us apart when far from civilization. However, not all survival gear is made equal, and there are certain items you need to look out for.

For starters, the ideal wilderness survival kit items must provide three major requirements—durable, affordable, and tailor-made for the specific circumstances of your environment.

First, you do not need any survival gear that is not able to withstand the many blows it will receive as you use it out with the elements. Likewise, affordability is essential to guarantee it always has a space in your survival kit, and you do not hesitate to use it to its full extent. Finally, wilderness survival kit items depend on where you will be—preparing for a hot and humid environment is different from a cold and dry area.

Luckily, there are certain items whose versatility and usefulness are near universal—survival gear that is a must-have regardless of environment and circumstances.

1. Fire Starter

There is a reason why the control of fire in the early stone age is considered a critical turning point in human evolution—it provides almost everything you may need. Fire keeps you warm, gives you light, protects you from predators, helps sanitize your water and food, and enables you to create additional tools.

Basically, any survival gear equipment is incomplete without one or more fire starter items.

The SE 2-in-1 All-Weather Magnesium Firestarter Kit is an excellent option for your wilderness survival kit. Not only is it lightweight and pocket

-sized, but it is also waterproof and easy to use regardless of technique. However, the more the better—feel free to include as many fire starters in your kit as possible.

2. Tinder

You may have the best fire starter available in the marketplace, but without tinder, the odds are that you will not be able to ignite anything—except your frustration.

Tinder is undoubtedly one of the quintessential wilderness survival kit items that cannot be missing from your primary bag, particularly because you will not always be able to find natural tinder in your environment.

Although there are many types of tinder available, your go-to option should be able to last for at least two minutes and work even in humid or damp conditions. Fatwood is ideal since its high resin content makes it easy to light up, even if wet, and quite resistant.

EasyGoProducts’ Eco-Stix is the Amazon best-seller because it is efficient, affordable, and an all-rounder.

3. Fixed-blade knife

You may be tempted to rely on a folding knife as the quintessential wilderness survival kit item, but you’d be surprised to know that a fixed-blade knife is, in fact, the one knife you should carry with you if you had to choose.

In the great outdoors, sturdiness is the most crucial aspect to consider. A knife is only as practical as it is functional, and folding knives are not known for their durability—if it breaks down, you’re done.

That is why a fixed-blade knife is your best bet to carry the heavy duties you may need—fire-making, wood-processing, hunting, and even self-defense. Make sure your knife has a full-tang construction with the blade’s steel extending through the handle. The G.I. Tanto is an excellent and affordable option.

Source: via LEATHERMAN

4. Multi-Tool

One of the best ways to guarantee you have backups—and backups for your backups—during your outdoor adventures is to carry a reliable, good, old-fashioned multi-tool with you.

It is versatile, practical, easy to carry, and has plenty of functions that cover most survival gear basics. In this manner, you will always have a tool available in case of loss, malfunction, or other setbacks.

Naturally, we do not recommend relying solely on a multi-tool for your great outdoor adventures—they sacrifice sturdiness and size in favor of practicality. However, they make excellent additions to any wilderness survival kit and can make a difference during emergencies.

The Leatherman Signal is designed for the outdoors and counts with a ferro rod, an emergency whistle, and more.

Source: via Berkley

5. Fishing line

Naturally, a fishing line is a must-have item if your wilderness experience takes place near a river or lake—after all, they are meant for fishing, right?

But while a fishing line can make catching dinner a lot easier, its uses are not limited to simply food gathering. It is sturdy, not easy to break, and can withstand most weather challenges, making it a valuable wilderness survival kit item.

With a fishing line, you could create enough support to hold up a tent for shelter, preserve your hunt by hanging it above the ground and away from predators, repair damaged fabrics and items, and even as a snare for wild game.

Our suggestion? The Berkley Trilene XL monofilament fishing line since it is sturdy, smooth, and durable.

Souce: via Titan Paracord

6. Cordage

Although a fishing line is quite versatile, it cannot do it all—which is when cordage comes into play.

When we talk about cordage, we mean rope, string, lashings, and more. They come in various sizes and thicknesses, which can adapt to many uses. Since they are so versatile, it can be hard to nail down the perfect all-purpose cordage, but we think I’ve come quite close to it.

Enter Titan SurvivorCord; cordage designed explicitly upon request of the Special Forces in Afghanistan to integrate three life-saving survival strands into one. The result is versatile cordage that can make a difference in life-or-death wilderness situations.

Source: via Gearlight

7. Head Lamp

Human eyes have not evolved to see in the dark of the night, yet in the great outdoors, you will be surrounded by plenty of creatures that can see you just fine. That is why you cannot overlook the importance of illumination survival gear.

Although a regular lamp or flashlight is excellent wilderness survival kit items, the real ace up your sleeve would be a headlamp.

Headlamps allow plenty of illumination that moves in any direction you are staring at while simultaneously keeping your hands free to engage in any activity you desire. This way, you can continue your survival tasks even when the sun sets.

Our suggestion? The GearLight LED Head Lamp—it’s versatile, resilient, and affordable.

Source: via Surviveware

8. First Aid Kit

Out of all the survival gear featured in the list, a first-aid kit may sound like the most obvious one, yet it is frequently overlooked.

Featuring everything you may require to attend to sudden health emergencies, there is no “universal” first-aid kit. In fact, the type of activity, the environment, and the time you will spend outdoors will define the items that should make it into your arsenal.

As a rule of thumb, your first-aid kit should feature few specialized items and instead include multiple pieces of equipment since it would be good to be prepared for many potential outcomes with as little space as possible. However, you must tailor it to your circumstances—for example, any antihistaminic if you happen to be allergic.

Keeping that in mind, an excellent first aid kit to build upon is Surviveware’s Survival First Aid Kit for the Outdoors—it has everything you may need, including some items already featured in the list.

Source: via Garmin

9. Handheld GPS

Technology is here to stay, so why not use it as you can?

Naturally, there is a certain charm in surviving the great outdoors in an old-fashioned way with analog devices. However, including some modern items is not cheating—it merely adds a little extra to your experience.

Enter handheld GPS devices—useful little things that can synchronize with satellites to provide accurate and instant information about your location, including coordinates, weather changes, and plenty of other valuable data.

You want your GPS to have excellent connectivity, durability, and resilience. Our pick? Any Garmin device, especially the eTrex 22x model.

Source: via Silva

10. Compass

Do you spiritually identify with a grumpy old man that refuses any technology in his wilderness adventures? If so, we’ve got you—forget about the handheld GPS device and embrace a good, old-fashioned compass instead.

A magnetic compass—provided that you know how to read it—will always be a reliable device that doesn’t require batteries or anything else to function. As such, your priority when picking the best survival gear compass should be durability: it has to withstand the elements and function in various environments.

You can find endless compass options on Amazon for less than ten bucks. However, if you are serious about wilderness survival kit items, a compass is something you can splurge on.

Our pick? Anything Silva since they are the tried-and-true resilient brand. The Silva Expedition S is an excellent all-rounder.

Source: via Coghlan

11. Flagging Tape

A compass is essential to find your way, but a flagging tape can be just as important to make sure you don’t find yourself lost in the middle of the great outdoors.

Bright-colored and resilient, a single piece of flagging tape can mark your location to help your navigation, let you know when you are lost, and guide yourself back when you stray too far away. Likewise, it can signal rescuers and other people of your whereabouts in an emergency.

You don’t need to be picky with your flagging tape—it just needs to be resilient and eye-catching. Coghlan’s Trail Tape is both and also highly affordable.

12. Aluminum Foil

Let’s be honest—is there anything aluminum foil cannot do? Versatile and multi-purpose, a single roll of aluminum foil can have dozens of uses and can be useful survival gear for outdoor adventures.

Granted, you may need to practice your origami skills a little bit.

A single piece of foil can help you cook your meals outdoors, transform into a versatile pot for boiling water, improvise a solar oven, function as a fishing lure, reflect heat, transform into a container, and much more.

No need to be fancy with this one—classic Reynolds Wrap is more than enough.

Source: via Arcturus

13. Rain Poncho

If there is at least a tiny chance of rain on your outdoor parade, then a poncho is more than a dubious fashion statement—it’s an essential component in your survival kit.

Basically, a poncho is a waterproof cloth that keeps your body and gear dry in the case of unexpected rain. It is functional and compact, taking very little space but providing an essential service, making it a quintessential wilderness survival kit item.

Better yet, if you choose military or MIL-SPEC ponchos, they can also do double duty and perform as excellent shelters should you need them. A good option to consider is Arcturus’ ripstop nylon rain poncho.

Source: via Nalgene

14. Stainless Steel Container

A large metal cup is nothing fancy, yet it can be one of the most versatile items you could include in your survival kit. It can help you cook food and rations, boil water to drink, mix anything you require, and even bathe.

Tin and enamelware cups are cheap, affordable, and found everywhere—they also can fulfill the role just fine. However, it’s worth going the extra mile to acquire a stainless steel cup— they are more durable, after all.

However, try to avoid insulated or double-walled stainless steel cups. Although they are excellent for keeping the contents cool or hot for a long time, they can prove impractical as survival gear since it is hard to boil water with them. The Nalgene stainless steel bottle is an excellent example of what to look for.

15. Water Purification Tablets

When it comes to water purification, a stainless steel container is not enough—you should always be ready for what may come and invest in at least another mechanism to guarantee fresh water outdoors.

Enter water purification tablets. With one of these, you can eliminate all water-borne pathogens that may plague the liquid, making it bacteriologically sustainable and drinkable. In short, it will make sure you won’t get violently sick.

The ideal water purification tablets are efficient and leave no aftertaste. Portable Aqua offers excellent options fit for all budgets and interests.


16. Whistling Flares

In nature, there are times to be silent and sneaky and times to be loud and eye-catching. For those moments where you need to be as noticeable as possible, a whistling flare cartridge becomes an indispensable wilderness survival kit item.

Sure, you could get retro flares and a separate whistle, but why not go for both simultaneously?

Whistling flares should release both loud noises and flashing lights to guarantee warding off predators and dangerous animals. Likewise, they should have a wide enough range to make you noticeable to rescuers in an emergency. Sirius Signal C-1002 is an excellent option to consider, even if on the pricier side.

17. Signal Mirror

Of course, in cases where you may require rescue, you do not always need to rely on high-tech flares or noises—sometimes analog devices are as reliable and timeless as ever.

A signal mirror is a must-have survival gear for the outdoors. It only relies on sunlight and your skills to work, and if done correctly, it can alert anyone on your location in a ratio of at least seven miles, including the ground and low-flying aircraft.

The ideal signal mirror would have a retro-reflective grid for a perfect aim with minimal effort, such as Best Glide ASE’s military-grade option.

Source: via DrakonOutdoor

18. Waterproof Backpack

Naturally, none of the aforementioned items matter if you don’t have the space to carry them with you. Thus, a good backpack could be the single most crucial wilderness survival kit item—it is the center of your gear.

The ideal backpack must be roomy yet lightweight. Likewise, it also should be able to withstand the elements and remain dry and waterproof to protect its contents regardless of circumstances.

Backpacks are a very personal item, and everyone has a set of preferences, but the Drakon Outdoors waterproof dry bag offers the essentials and more, making it an ideal starting point.

Do you think we missed something important? Let us know your expert opinion on surviving the great outdoors, and leave a comment below with your must-have essential kit item.

If you’re trying to survive something a little bit more rotten, green, and undead, then make sure to check the 18 Zombie Apocalypse Essentials All Survivors Have.

Wilderness Survival