Things in a Survival Kit

Things in a Survival Kit
A survival kit is useless unless you have it when you need it and should be reserved for emergencies. Equipping a survival kit involves a trade-off between space and weight and the necessity of the item. Items in a survival kit should address one or more of the following needs: food, water, first aid, shelter, fire, light, and navigation. Tailor the survival kit for specific environments and don't overload it. Hiking through the American Southwest with a 30-pound survival kit in addition to your normal equipment is as senseless as hiking through French Guiana wearing thermal underwear. A survival kit used for hiking will also differ from one kept in a car, boat, or home. This list is intended as a reference point in building two survival kits -- one to save for emergencies and the other used to practice survival skills.


The more potable water you can have with you, the less urgency you will have in finding water sources. Unfortunately, water adds a significant amount of weight to your survival kit. Regardless of how much water you bring, you will likely have to find a new source. Water found in the wilderness often contains organisms that can seriously affect health. Iodine tablets, when properly used, can make water safe to drink although it will have an unpleasant taste. Some manufacturers provide additional tablets to improve the taste. Alternative treatments include chlorine tablets, filtration devices (some are not much larger than a straw), and boiling. Note that these methods remove biological, but not chemical agents. Include a collapsible strong container to transport drinking water that you find and purify.


Emergency rations, consisting of one or two days worth of food, should be kept with your survival kit. Sealed freeze-dried foods are low in weight and keep well. Military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) may be used, but can cause constipation. Nuts, candy, instant coffee, tea bags and sugar can provide a short-term boost to energy. Don't underestimate ramen noodles, as they are very inexpensive and lightweight. A metal cup and a spoon are great cooking aids. A fishing kit should include hooks, weights (usually split shot), fishing line, swivels and leaders. To create snares for small game, include at least 20 feet of 24-gauge brass wire.

First Aid

A simple first aid kit may be kept separate from the survival kit but should be kept complete. At a minimum, it should include alcohol pads for disinfectant, antibiotic pads to prevent infection, butterfly bandages to close wounds, assorted bandages for wound care, anti-diarrhea pills, minor pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, lip balm and sunscreen to prevent sunburns and lip damage, insect repellent and a small bar of soap for personal hygiene. Any necessary prescription medications you are taking should be kept near your survival kit.

Shelter and Storage

Emergency blankets are lightweight, resistant to moisture and very effective at preserving body heat. Parachute cord consists of a sheath surrounding four or more yarns useful in the construction of shelters. Also known as 550 cord, it can be separated and used for a multitude of additional purposes including fishing, trapping, raft building and first aid. A wire saw is effective for cutting small logs. While not as durable or effective as a conventional saw it has a much more convenient size and additional wire blades are easily packed. A sewing kit should include several needles, thread, safety pins and buttons. Also, include a few resealable waterproof bags in your survival kit, one of which can be used to waterproof the survival kit itself.

Fire and Light

At least eight hurricane matches in a waterproof container with a striker from a matchbox or a small disposable lighter can provide a quick means to starting a fire. Candles provide light when needed, and provide a more lasting flame when starting a fire. Carrying tinder can ease the search of materials when starting a fire. Commercial tinder is available, but lint from your dryer works as long as it is kept dry and packs easily around other items in the survival kit. Alternative fire-starting methods include flint and steel, and magnesium fire starters. A penlight or other small flashlight with extra batteries can provide additional light source as needed.

Signaling and Navigation

Survival kits should include at least one visual and one aural signaling device, such as a signal mirror and whistle. A popular choice for a signal mirror is the star flash signal mirror, which is very durable, floats, and available in a number of sizes. A small plastic whistle can produce sound with a greater range than the human voice. For navigation, add a small compass to the survival kit.

Article Written By David Chandler

David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.