Survival Kit Essentials

Must-Haves For Your Go-To Gear!

If you ask Google for survival kit content lists, it’ll come up with well over 80 million hits. Most of the lists are nearly identical. Almost all of them will be some variation of the following:

• Fixed-blade knife
• Water filter
• Emergency blanket
• Fire starter
• Compass
• Signal mirror
• Duct tape

Ho hum, boring, right? We know all that stuff. However, a whole bunch of items are often missing from those lists that would be invaluable in a true emergency. The great thing is most of these goodies are small, lightweight and inexpensive.

Zip ties store very well in a kit and are quite useful for binding or lashing.

Zip Ties

These can be almost as useful as duct tape. Zip ties come in a wide range of sizes, though short ones can be combined to create longer ones if necessary. They are cheap and easy to toss into almost any size kit. Standard zip ties must be cut off, of course, when their work is done. Reusable ones do exist but they are a little pricier than the standard models.

They can come in rather handy when building a debris hut or other type of expedient shelter. They can also be used to lash items to your pack or to keep cordage from getting tangled. Zip ties can even help keep your pants up. Run one between the belt loops on either side of the button on the front and slowly tighten until the waist is snug.

Jim has spent enough time in the wild to learn what you need — and what you don’t
— when out trekking on your own.

Plastic Bags

Conservation of resources is important in a survival situation. When the only supplies you have are the ones in your pockets or pack, you need to stretch them as far as they’ll go. For example, using natural forms of tinder like plant fluff, birch bark or dried grass means you can save the homemade or store-bought supply in your kit. Plastic bags are excellent for this purpose, keeping the found tinder dry until it is needed.

Foraged food like berries or dandelions can be tossed into a bag for later consumption. In a pinch, water can be carried using a bag with a strong zip closure.

Binder clips are inexpensive, small and lightweight. They are great when building shelters.

Binder Clips

Raid the office supplies for a handful of these clips. They are great for shelter building, especially if you have a tarp or emergency blanket you want to attach to a support beam of some sort. Simply wrap the edge of the tarp over the beam and put a clip over it.

These clips come in several sizes. Look for the medium ones 1.25″ across as well as the larger 2″ ones. Toss a handful of them into a plastic bag and stash them in your pack. In addition to building shelters, these are good for hanging gear from branches when you make camp.

Glue Sticks And Sewing Kit

These are great for expedient repairs to tents and such. You don’t need a glue gun either. Just heat the end of the glue stick by holding it near your fire until it softens, then smear it where needed. It might not work as a permanent fix for big rips or tears but it should work well enough until you can get back home.

Along the same line as the glue sticks, a small sewing kit can be used to stitch up tears in clothing. While dental floss and other sorts of thin cordage can be used, consider picking up a travel sewing kit instead. Of course, knowing how to properly sew on a button as well as repair rips and tears is just as important as having the needle and thread.

Sunscreen and bug repellent will make life a little easier when you’re on the trail.

Insect Repellent

There are some mosquitoes out there large enough to qualify as small aircraft. If you’re already fighting to survive, bug bites just add insult to injury. A small container of good quality repellent will be very welcome in such circumstances. Though this sounds like more of a luxury item, remember mosquitoes can carry diseases, including malaria and West Nile virus. Also, being able to get some undisturbed rest is crucial for proper mental awareness. If you’re up all night long swatting bugs, you’re not going to get much sleep.

Chapped lips are painful and could get infected. Protect them with lip balm.

Sunscreen And Lip Balm

A sunburn is certainly no fun and it is possible for it to get pretty severe without you realizing it. Even if you spend a lot of time outdoors and have a decent tan already, you can burn. Blistering means you’ll end up with open wounds, which is never a good thing. Many people forget to apply sunscreen to their face and suffer for it later. Be sure to cover up as best you can and apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.

Chapped lips can be quite painful, especially when sweat runs over them. It’s another open wound that could cause trouble. Lip balm is cheap, very small and well worth the investment. Many types are petroleum based. This means they can be used as an accelerant when you’re starting your fire. Rub a little lip balm on some tinder and it will not only light easily but the balm will extend the burn time a bit.

Gloves can help prevent injuries while a hat and sunglasses will keep you from squinting all day long.

Hat, Sunglasses And Gloves

They aren’t absolutely essential for survival, but a brimmed hat and sunglasses can make life a little easier when you’re traveling during the day. A gimme cap bearing the logo of the local gas station works just as well as a $40 hat picked up at your favorite sports gift shop. For the sunglasses, be sure they fit and are comfortable. Consider picking up a cheap case for them so they don’t get scratched while riding in your pack.

A good pair of gloves can prevent blisters, slivers and other injuries. Remember, even the smallest cut or scrape can get infected, causing all sorts of pain and misery. Thick leather work gloves might be too hot and cumbersome to wear much of the time, though. Look for breathable gloves with leather palms. Mechanix offers a wide range of glove styles.

A shemagh is one of the most versatile items you can keep in your pack.


A cotton bandana has numerous uses when it comes to survival. Many preppers and survivalists prefer the shemagh style of bandana, which is a bit larger than the booger rag you may have carried in the past. They come in slightly different sizes depending on the manufacturer, but the most common is 42″ square. They are also available in a dizzying array of colors, from olive drab and desert tan to blue and even purple.

The traditional use of a shemagh is as a head covering in the desert. It certainly works great to keep the sun off your head. But, it is like a multi-tool and has tons of other uses. It can be used as a sling for an injured arm. In cold weather, you can wrap it around your neck and face for warmth. Wrap it in a ball and use it as a pot holder to keep from burning your hand as you take dinner off the fire. In a dire situation, it can act as a tourniquet until you find help.

Baking Mix

It can be expensive to invest in several pouches of freeze-dried food for the bug-out bag or whatever you’re calling your kit. Trail mix gets old quick if you’re on the trail for a few days. Baking mix can be a game-changer. Look for varieties requiring nothing more than water and measure out the proper amount for a few biscuits into a plastic bag with a zip closure.

When it is time to make lunch or dinner, eyeball the right amount of water and pour it into the bag. Knead it to create the dough, then spiral a thin layer of it around a few clean sticks to use as skewers. Prop them up near the fire and turn them as they brown. In about 10 minutes, they’ll be ready to eat.

Spice Assortment

While there are many different sources of food in the wild, provided you know how to forage, trap or hunt them, salt and some other spices can turn a blah meal into something worth the time. Is it absolutely crucial to survival to improve the taste of your food when you’re in the field? No, of course not. However, much of survival is mindset.

If you feel better about your situation, your head will be clearer and you’ll be able to make better decisions. Little things like salt and pepper for your evening meal can make a world of difference to your morale. Many small containers on the market hold a variety of spices in a single shaker. You can buy them prefilled or empty to customize to your liking.

A cell phone might well be the most important item you have in a true emergency.
A small portable charger ensures you’ll still have power when needed.

Phone Charger

A portable charger, provided it has juice, can literally be a life saver. If your vehicle goes off the road in a bad snowstorm, calling for help is your best option. Zigged when you should have zagged on the trail and you can’t find your way back to camp? Call one of the people in your party or boot up a GPS app to get your bearings.

It is worth noting even though phone lines are often overloaded during an emergency, text messages can sometimes still get through. Using social media might be a viable option as well if you can get online with Wi-Fi.


We often think of survival kits being used when we’re out in the forest or some other stretch of lonely wilderness, miles from civilization. And we should definitely have our kits with us when we venture into the field, no question about it. But, emergencies don’t only happen when we’re by ourselves in the outback.

Any number of situations could unfold when you’re not out in the middle of nowhere. When this is the case, most disasters can be at least partially mitigated through the use of cash. Wildfires encroaching your home? Head a few towns away and get a motel room for a night or two. Hurricane eyeballing your community? Gas up the family vehicle and get out of Dodge

Keep enough cash stashed to pay for a decent motel room for a few nights as well as meals for the same time frame. Add in enough for at least one tank of gas and maybe a bit more for incidentals. For many, this isn’t an easy prospect as it’s at least a few hundred dollars. Work at it slowly, setting aside a few bucks here and there and let it add up over time.

Survival kits aren’t just about pure survival. The gear and supplies should not only keep you alive but provide you with at least a small measure of comfort while you determine the best course of action. The basics are important, yes, and should come first. But don’t overlook the little things that can be so important. 

A Sock To Stock Up On

Every essential may have found its place in your pack, but without good socks, it won’t be long before your feet fail you on the trail. So, spend a little bit to get some solid protection. A great option is the Damascus sock from Farm to Feet. Made from Merino wool, it’s lightweight, yet a capable hiker. Combining protective cushioning with cooling ventilation, this sock won’t let you down.

Farm To Feet, Ph: (336) 783-6043

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