The top 5 essentials for an all around survival kit…

The top 5 essentials for an all around survival kit…

This is pretty easy. Any good survival kit will have two or three dozen items, most of which will work for a core kit, while the other items for a particular kit may be seasonal, specialized for specific outings, or adjustable for any of a number of occasions or reasons. So let’s focus on the five MOST important items for ANY kit, and why you’ll need them.


Tool for all reasons and seasons…

1) A good high quality multi-tool, such as a Gerber or Leatherman, as well as a solid holster or sheath to keep it handy and secure. Many so called Survival gurus say your first need should be a good KNIFE. I agree, but my Gerber has a GREAT knife built in that locks in place. Needs? Cutting, trimming, sawing, shaving, prying, chinching, trimming, and more.

Fix a broken car or bike, shave some tinder for firestarter, saw some larger branches to get a good survival fire started, reattached broken or melted wires for vehicle repair, bust out a window in a wrecked car to save victims trapped in a burning or submerged vehicle…and lots more.

Staying Warm…and alive

2) Fire starter – Magnesium fire starter, magnesium flakes (you can buy them by the ziplock bag), premade fire starter cubes, or similar camping stuff you can literally find at Walmart, or make yourself from many plans on a thousand prepper or survival sites.

You’ll need tinder, dried pine needles or pine cones, or the driest wood you can find in your surroundings. One night spent on the side of of a rural road in the cold of winter with this in hand will save your life. PRACTICE and make sure you’ve got the right tools that work for YOU before you EVER need them.

The Bug Gulp…

3) Water, or ability to take any accessible water and filter out the germs, contaminants, and particulate matter (and scum) that is in most wilderness or road side standing water sources. Have at least a gallon or two of fresh water on any trip that has even the SLIGHTEST chance of breakdown, through no fault on your own (deer hit, blown tire, out of gas, master fuse link, blown water line or hose, broken belt…they all happen at the worst times).

Have ANY kind of good quality water filter that can fit in a small shoulder or hip pack, such as a Survival Straw, a sports bottle with a built in filter (similar to a mini-Berkey, but holding slightly less than a liter…fill it from the cleanest water source you can find, and the straw will keep the bad stuff from getting past your lips), or the standard fallback Iodine tablets and boiled water.

You’ll live three days without water, so that’s your highest and best bet for survival. The previous two tools will both help with water gathering, boiling, and prepping for consumption. Include tea bags, instant coffee, powdered drink sweetener, to break the monotony.

Your Ommy-nomnon-noms...

4) Any kind of prepped, dried, and long term food, such as freeze dried Mountain House, beef jerky, trail mix, dehydrated food, or more… at least a pound a day per person. If you’re going to sit and wait for help, you’ll save calories, unless it’s cold…if you’re attempting to walk out or self rescue you’ll burn more calories for the walk back to society or a location that can help.

Of course, you’ll need lots of water for reconstitution of the freeze dried food, but boiling it for food prep should kill most germs and disease sources. Along with food procurement, you will want to add two food tools just in case…a small spool of 10 to 20 pound test fishing line and hooks, and some flexible, small diameter braided aircraft cable…both can be used for trail snares and fishing, although I have caught fish on a shoestring and carved wooden hook.

Your food kit should include any mess kit you can find for cooking, cleaning, and otherwise keeping your survival food safe and thoroughly cooked thru and thru…safe is 165 degrees…anything less can leave some parasites in raw meat viable and still dangerous.

Let there there light….and dancing…

5) Tough one, because there are so many things you really DO need in a survival kit for ANY scenario…but I have to keep this simple. This item is going to be like number 1 on our list, just like a a multi-tool. They are much more common these days, and available in just about any halfway decent big box, sporting good, electronics, or ANY outdoors kind of supplier.

What is it? A hand cranked multi-function radio, with built-in flashlight, am/fm/shortware radio, yellow or red led beacon flasher, thermometer, and more. Some of these better devices will also have solar charging capability, can recharge small electronics such for your cell phone (which if not strong enough to reach a repeater tower, can still have enough juice for rescuers to triangulate your position from the closest cell towers, such as the rescue of the family (with 4 small kids) that flipped their jeep last week in Northern Nevada in heavy snow. A hand-cranked radio/light source/etc accomplishes a lot in a tiny amount of space, and newer models now including two way FRS frequency…

There you go…my top 5. There are other things I do every day, after paying attention to the weather forecast, whether it’s the next few days of weather for work, or the couple times a year trip 600 miles south to visit my daughter and family. Layers of clothing, at least one sleeping bag, some blankets, and every communication device I have (CB radio, cell phone, chargers, etc) and enough food for a week packed into one duffle bag in my SUV. Simple Survival doesn’t take much, but the sooner you put it together, the less you worry about the really big things.

There are many other reasons to have a survival kit for you, your spouse, and/or, each of your kids. Also, what works in the winter, may not work in the summer. Do you create a bag for each season, each trip, each location, or do you unpack and repack for the potential needs on an needed, specific destination. In my mind, a closet of large plastic tote, of survival kit master items, changed out for your specific need may be the best way to be prepared.

On the other hand, purchasing an already packaged kit, of which there are literally hundreds of offerings, might be the most expedient way to get up to speed quickly. My friends Sara and David have created an excellent list of survival kits at that offers a nice review of a selection of prepared survival kits. It’s a really quick way to get an overview of what commercial survival kits are out in our big, weather-filled, world.

Updated: November 28, 2020 — 8:41 pm

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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