Essential Survival Kit Items

11 Things You Need in Your Survival Backpack or Else

When I talk about a survival backpack, I don’t mean a wilderness backpack which contains the items you need to stay alive until you get rescued. Nor do I mean a Bug Out Bag which is meant to be your “go bag” and contain everything for the 72 hours after a major disaster. By survival backpack, I mean all of the things you need to survive for an indefinite amount of time until civilization can get on its feet again (and hopefully not mess things up this time around!).  Here are the most important things you need to have in your survival backpack if you want to make it through the end of the world.


Let’s start with your backpack for survival. While the $25 backpack from Walmart may be okay for a day trip, this isn’t what you want to rely on for survival in the wilderness or during a disaster. Your survival backpack first must be sturdy so it won’t fall apart on you the first moment it gets snagged by a branch or drenched in muddy water. Which brings us to the fact that you will want to choose a waterproof survival backpack. Or, if you can’t find a waterproof backpack, then get a waterproof cover for it. The cover can also be used for multiple other things, like as a food storage bag.

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Hydration System

My survival backpack has a stainless steel water bottle plus the Sawyer Mini water filter, which is only 2oz and good for 100,000 gallons of water. It isn’t going to clean water of radioactive materials, but it will completely filter and clean water from rivers, creeks, and even puddles so it is safe to drink.

Tent and Sleeping Bag

If your survival skills are in order, you won’t need these because you will be able to quickly make a shelter out of debris and stay warm by wrapping leaves or dirt around you. But you’ll probably be more comfortable with a tent and sleeping bag 😉


A knife has lots of uses including:

  • Cutting branches for shelter
  • Creating weapons
  • Cutting rope
  • Cutting bandages
  • Digging small holes
  • Self defense
  • Hunting food…

Since your knife is one of the most important items in the survival backpack, you better make sure it is a good one! Also follow good knife maintenance, such as always drying it thoroughly before closing it.

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Cord is another survival item with so many possible uses:

  • Creating emergency shelters
  • Making splints for a broken arm
  • Tying poles together
  • Fishing or trapping
  • Tying supplies to your bag
  • Hanging food away from wild animals
  • Mending a broken boot lace
  • Climbing and rescuing…

A paracord bracelet is a good way to keep a lot of cordage on you at all times. I keep a few of these in my survival backpack.

Tarp or Plastic Sheeting

Why do you need a tarp in your survival backpack? Some of the many reasons include:

  • Making an emergency shelter
  • Collecting rain water
  • Wrapping around yourself to protect from rain
  • Creating an improvised stretcher to carry an injured person
  • Making a hammock for sleeping above ground
  • To cover your tent if it starts to leak
  • To put on wet ground so you can sit
  • For hiding supplies and equipment
  • For hauling items
  • For using as a floatation device (yep, you can really build a raft out of a tarp!)

Fire Starter

Fire is what made us human, and without it we’d probably go back to beastliness pretty quickly. I hope you have mastered the most important survival tactics which include making a fire (including making fires in wet and snowy conditions). I include matches in my survival backpack as well as a match-less fire starter in case the matches get wet or I run out of them.

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Compass and Map

Make sure your survival backpack includes topographic maps of the nearby region, as well as other regions you might flee to. And I should add that it isn’t enough to have the map and compass – you better know how to read the map too!

First aid kit

They should include latex gloves, tweezers, plenty of bandages, pain killers, anti-diarrheals, sutures, needles,  antiseptics, and safety pins.

Cooking Equipment

You could just eat raw forage and chunks of raw meat torn from prey – but you will end up with diarrhea and some weird parasites. Pack a good lightweight camping cook set in your survival backpack. Mine also includes a folding knife/spoon/fork.

Change of Clothes

Most people pack too much clothes in their survival backpack. You do need clothes, but 1 change will be enough (plus a few changes of socks because wet socks are a disaster for your feet!). Make sure they are quality materials which dry quickly. And don’t forget the waterproof jacket and a hat with a brim to keep rain and sun out of your face.


Sure, you can survive without a flashlight – but your chances of survival greatly increase when you have light in some situations. For example, imagine you want to explore a cave to use as a possible shelter. Without a flashlight, you might not notice the gaping hole in the ground and fall to your death…

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Multi tool

Remember when Aron Ralston used his generic leatherman to cut off his own arm when trapped under a rock? Need I say more about why you need this tool?


Bandanas protect your head from the sun, they can be put over your mouth to keep out dust, they can be used as slings, or for a signaling device. Yes, pack a bandana in your survival backpack!

Sewing Kit

We about long term survival here, so you will want a sewing kit to repair your clothes, tent, sleeping bag, and even for emergency first aid.


If you want to survive in the long run, how do you propose building a shelter without a shovel (you’ll need to dig underground or at least dig drainage trenches around the shelter)? Or how about how you will dig a latrine or fire pit?


If you have to survive in the long term, chances are you aren’t going to be in the wild. You will be in some populated place. That crowbar will come in handy to open up locked doors, where you will then be able to raid for supplies and get shelter. A crowbar also makes a pretty damn good weapon…

If you want a comprehensive guide that shows you how to build the ultimate disaster survival kit, click here.