The 11 Most Essential Survival Tools (And Why You Need Them)

Survival situations can be complex, but your toolkit doesn’t have to be. While there are hundreds of different survival tools, most are not essential. You only need a handful of tools to meet your core survival needs. 

Here, we will go over what these essential survival tools are and why you need them.

Difference between Survival Tools and Survival Gear

The terms tool and gear are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. A tool is a device that helps do manual work. Gear is the equipment used to do a particular activity.  

All tools can be considered gear, but not all gear is a tool. A bow and arrow is considered gear for hunting or self-defense but not a tool. By contrast, a shovel is a tool that helps with digging and is also considered essential gear for activities like camping and gardening.  

*Also, don’t confuse tools or gear with supplies. Supplies are consumable items like food, medicine, and water purification tablets. You will eventually use up supplies, whereas tools and gear are reusable.

Tools Can Be Used to Make Survival Gear

Many tools can be used to make gear. For example, you can use a knife to carve tent stakes, cut plants to make rope, or make a fearsome DIY weapon.  

With some know-how, one tool can replace a lot of gear.

This is important because it means you can reduce the weight of your survival kit. Or, if any gear from your survival kit goes missing or breaks, you’ll have a way to make more. You can even use tools to make other tools – such as using your knife to carve a shovel.

Essential Survival Tools List

1. Knife

Knife Carry Position

A knife is considered the ultimate survival tool because of its versatility. This one survival tool can cover cutting, dressing game, batoning wood, carving, shaving, and self-defense (to name just a few).

There are many types of knives, and some are better suited for certain survival situations than others. 

For more info, read:

2. Axe or Hatchet

Estwing Sportsman hatchet

For heavy-duty chopping tasks, you’ll want to use an axe or a hatchet instead of a knife. Not only does it save your knife from overuse, it also makes the job a lot easier. You’ll be grateful to have one in situations like removing downed trees from roads, chopping firewood, or cutting trees for a shelter.

As with knives, there are many types of axes, and you’ll want to choose the right one for survival. 

Also Read:

3. Saw

Saws are a lot safer to use than axes and tend to be lighter weight. They also have more survival uses. Not only can you cut down and de-limb trees, but you can also cut through PVC pipes and make precise cuts in wood with a saw. Ideally, you’d have both a saw and axe in your survival tool kit.

Also read: Best Folding Saws

4. Sharpener

Your cutting and chopping tools can’t do their job if dull. While it’s possible to sharpen a knife with a rock or piece of glass, it’s better to keep a sharpener in your tool kit.

5. Scissors

Scissors make it a lot easier to do precision cutting tasks, such as when you need to cut an exact shape. They are also safer to use than a knife, especially when your hands are frozen cold. While many survivalists don’t pack scissors, you should at least have a pair of shears in your survival first aid kit.

6. Firestarter

The ability to make a fire is essential to survival. You need fire for things like boiling water for purification, signaling for help, and staying warm. 

There are many different tools you can use to help you make a fire. Lighters are the best option for most people but are usually considered “supplies” and not a tool because the fuel eventually runs out. Ferro rods are a favorite of survivalists, but there are many other options.

Also read:

7. Pot or Canteen

While often overlooked, the humble metal pot is one of the most important survival tools you will need. You can use it to collect water for drinking. It makes cooking food over a fire easier. And, while it’s possible to boil water without a pot, you’ll appreciate having one for purifying water. 

Many survivalists prefer canteens over pots because you can transport water in them. See our picks for best survival canteens.

8. Shovel

In the wilderness, you’ll need a shovel for building a snow cave, making a fire pit, leveling the ground below your shelter, or digging up grubs to eat. On the go, you can use a shovel to free a stuck vehicle. At home, shovels can be crucial for disaster cleanup, like when you’ve got mud in your home after a flood. 

For more, read: Best Survival Shovels

9. Hardware Tools

There are a lot of survival situations where you might need classic hardware tools, such as screwdrivers or pliers. You’ll want to have some of these tools in your vehicle emergency kit in case of breakdowns. It probably isn’t practical to carry a complete set in your survival kit. A multi-tool is a better choice.

10. Bolt Cutter

Need to cut through a padlock or chain-link fence? Or maybe you need to cut through chains blocking a road? Bolt cutters are the perfect tool for this, so you’ll want them in your bug out vehicle and urban survival kit.

11. Crow Bar

Like bolt cutters, a crowbar is an essential urban survival tool. It’s especially useful for getting into locked buildings. Even if you don’t live in a city, you’ll want to keep one in your vehicle in case you need to pry open a door after an accident. They also make a great weapon.

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