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:


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:


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.

One Response

  1. It kind of goes without saying that whatever gear you buy should be of good quality. When it comes to hollow handle knives for example, it’s critical although some people do well with the cheap one sold at Harbor Freight by adding pins or a small screw or two and some epoxy to strengthen it. And there are always budget options and modifications one can perform to improve gear.

    I know these are suggested as the minimal basic items in a kit, but as anyone can see, even someone new to preparedness or survival, it’s a small amount of items and it’s easy enough to add a few more. And I have to say that a bandanna would be helpful for purifying water. It can be sued to filter sediment and then laid on top of an open container of boiling water and then the absorbed steam becomes water which can be wrung out and is now clean.
    I’d also consider a tarp, some trash bags or some plastic sheeting essential for an emergency shelter.

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