Call it a bug-out bag, a SHTF plan or just a plain survival kit. It is the bag of stuff you need to survive if things suddenly go sideways. We mean more than just civilization taking the long jump off a short pier. Survival means making it when you get lost in the woods, your vehicle wrecks on a really deserted road and being prepared to live for several days with no help.
It must be small, portable and lightweight.
A good knife is more than just something to cut steak. It is a weapon and it is a tool. Here are the elements you need:
- Full tang. You want the metal to be all the way from the tip to the end of the handle.
- Skeleton handle. We are a big fan of the skeleton handle. The spaces in the handle can be used a wrench. A skeleton handle also ties easily to a tree limb to make a spear. While paracord-wrapped-handle knives carry little cord, it is enough to tie the handle to a tree limb and make a tourniquet. You can separate out the individual cords for a more rope.
- Hollow handle. A hollow handle knife allows you to store some fishing line, hooks and fishing flies. With some work, the tree limb can be jammed into the handle for a spear. Many of these style knives also carry a compass. You do know how to use a compass, right?
- Steel. Get a good steel knife. While much is said about ceramic knives, they have two major drawbacks. 1) Once dull, you must have a diamond grindstone; a steel knife can be sharpened with a smooth rock. 2) Ceramic is brittle; it chips easily which is not something you need in a survival situation.
If you live where it gets cold, a fire can save you from hypothermia and death, if you can get one started. Simple fire starter kits sell for less than $5. These create a spark, no matter the weather conditions. Some survival knives have a starter kit. Here is one our favorites.
Pro tip: If you have a hollow handle knife, pack some clothes dryer lint into it. There is the starter for the fire. Spark into the lint.
Science says you need about two liters of water a day. The truth is you can get by with less for a while, but you are going to need water. In a survival situation, having a way to store water can literally be the difference between life and death.
Good collapsible water containers run $10-$25. The better ones come with a small hand pump. Top-of-the-line models have a filter in the pump. You can also buy a filter and pump separately. The key part is collapsible. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Hauling that much weight in an emergency kit does not make sense. But being able to have that much water or more in a portable container is sound thinking.
Get a container that is puncture-resistant.
Need help finding water?
Paracord is the survivalist’s friend. Light, various colors and extremely strong. If you get seven-strand paracord, you are carrying seven times as much rope as it appears. Remove the outer covering and you have seven tough internal cords. Ten yards suddenly becomes 70 yards. Well, a tad less when you knot the strands together.
Here is what you can do with it:
- Rope. Hang stuff off the ground. Tie a tourniquet. Pull things.
- Snares. The thinner interior cords can be used for snares.
- Splint. A few sturdy sticks, paracord and you have an emergency splint. You can also make a sling.
- Tripwire alarm. Secure the perimeter with a trip wire.
- Hunting Sling. David slew Goliath with a rock from a sling. Watch YouTube for videos about people who hunt with a sling to see how serious this is.
As long as it is light out, you don’t need a flashlight. When darkness falls you need light.
If you are responsible enough to change out the batteries every few months, get a flashlight and good batteries. If you plan to leave it for long periods, invest in a decent emergency flashlight with a crank. In this case, do not skimp and buy a cheap one. Get one that has excellent ratings and reviews and costs a bit more.