10 Essential Items in a Survival Kit

Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Bruce

If you could only choose 10 essential items to put in your survival kit, what would they be.?

Well, the first thing to consider is what type of survival situation are you likely to encounter and plan accordingly.

Will it be hot, will it be cold? How long is your initial trip for? What is the terrain like? Will you need to hunt for food and use traps and snares or fishing?

Of course the very first thing to consider is the likelihood of getting lost or injured or forced to take a different route are – these are real possibilities in the wilderness and would mean you are now in a rescue situation. So always think ahead and consider how you intend to be found if any of these occur.

* If you do get lost there are several survival items that will help you – this list does not cover that type of rescue situation. see my list of equipment for being prepared to get lost.

So… assuming you are not lost or injured there are still lots of ‘what ifs’ which makes a definitive essential list quite difficult, however, when faced with the very basic top 10 list, I have my own.

This is it: (in no particular order) – remember, this list is not including any survival/rescue equipment.

1) A means to light a fire – a Ferro Rod / Fire Starter is my personal choice, they are simple to use, lightweight, work when wet and will spit out dozens of white hot sparks at 3000 degrees, as well as giving you thousands of strikes.

They are also dirt cheap, this one sell for under $20 on Amazon – so really affordable and far better than those all weather / waterproof matches

2) A water container / canteen. This gives a means to contain water for boiling and purifying as well as carrying with you. A wide mouthed canteen cup is preferred, as this can also be used for cooking and boiling up smaller critters or mixing in dehydrated foods.

To increase usable space in your rucksack always have a Canteen / Cup Kit  like the one shown here, as it can be hooked onto the outside of your rucksack.

3) First aid kit – a common sense kit will contain any medication you personally require (this is very important) as well as medication to suit your environment, insect repellent for swamp areas and midges at night, iodine for cuts and other general first aid equipment.

You can, of course, always make up your own kit. But I have found it better to start with a good pre-made assortment. This way you will get all the basics and more, normally in a decent container as well.

The Complete First Aid Kit is a typical pre-made kit. Made in the USA to ALL the relevant U.S. standards. So this give you something to build on and personalize to suit your own needs.

4) Emergency blanket – the Mylar thermal blanket is excellent for this – it can give you all weather protection – thats rain, wind and sun. Will provide you with a temporary shelter tarp or you can just wrap up inside it.

An Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket can even be used as reflective heat shield for fires and cooking.

5) Emergency clothing – a change of clothing is vital, especially spare sock, maybe even several pairs, a hat for shade or warmth, maybe clothes for rugged terrain or just to keep warm.

Waterproof clothing that is at least one size bigger is quite an essential item to pack. A Good Rain Suit like this one can be put on over your normal clothing and gives instant rain protection.

6) Food – seams obvious, but carry enough food for at least the first 72 hrs, including energy bars and a comfort snack (peanut butter is a favourite of mine) – An obvious choice is to take along some MRE Emergency Meal Pouches – apart from being quite tasty (which they are..), they will also provide a huge calorie boost.

If you’re in a cold environment these type of custom made dehydrated foods give you a huge boost and certainly help knowing you have a good meal available at all times. I like them because they are light, a 72 hr kit, shown here, weighs less than 3lbs. that’s a lot of food for the small amount of weight you will carry. 

7) Flashlight – handheld, lantern or head light – or all three. Plus spare batteries.

The more ideal choice for long term survival is solar or wind up powered flashlights – these are hand cranked and recharge an internal long life battery. This is the Energizer Weatheready, which is ideal as it has a carabiner clip to attached the flashlight to your rucksack, again saving space inside.

You can also get a really nice bit of survival kit, it’s still a wind up / solar combination, but comprises of a radio, flashlight and a cell phone charger, all without the fear of the batteries running out – I like this a lot, especially as it’s very compact at only 5.5 x 2 x 3 inches – this Emergency Solar Combination currently sells for $35 on Amazon – a lot of kit for your money.

8) Knife – any knife is better than no knife – however, with a good survival knife you can strike a spark on your ferro rod as well as provide wood for a fire, help build shelter and a host of survival tasks. Most people will carry at least two (including a Swiss Army style knife and maybe a multi tool knife)

My personal favourite, the KA-BAR US Marine Corps Fighting Knife (shown here), is one of the all round ‘good guys’ of survival knives and won’t let you down – I highly recommend this knife and if you need to know some more, take a look at my Ka-Bar knife review.

9) Map & Compass – goes without saying really – a map and compass are your best friend, especially if you get lost.!

But please, learn how to navigate using your compass before venturing out into the wilderness. (see my article – how to use a compass ). Practice in a small area of woodland first and get yourself used to orienteering with via a map and compass.

10) Paracord – a 1001 uses. Far more than just tying things up.

  • So there you have it – my top 10 Essential Items in a Survival Kit