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11 Things You Need in Your Survival Backpack

Last Updated: July 21, 2020

A “Survival Backpack” is different than a Bug Out Bag. Where a Bug Out Bag is meant to keep you alive for about 2-5 days while you flee to safety, a survival backpack needs to contain everything you need 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.

Recommended ReadingHow To Choose The Best Survival Backpack

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.

Unfortunately, no backpack is 100% waterproof.  You’ll need an exterior waterproof shell for it.

Or, better yet, use a waterproof interior dry sack (Amazon link) for your items.
dry sack

Hydration System

My survival backpack has a stainless steel water bottle (Amazon link) plus the Sawyer Mini water filter, (Amazon link) 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 bacteria for water from rivers, creeks, and even puddles so it is safe to drink.

Read more about how to purify water here.

water bottlesawyer mini

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 😉

Recommended ReadingHow To Choose The Best Survival Tent


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.

Read the Top Survival Knives for Under $100


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 (Amazon link) is a good way to keep a lot of cordage on you at all times.

If you are confused about paracord, read this Ultimate Guide to Paracord

Or check out these other awesome Paracord Projects
paracord bracelet

Tarp or Plastic Sheeting

Why do you need a tarp in your survival backpack? Some of the many uses for a tarp 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 (Amazon link) in case the matches get wet or I run out of them.
fire starter

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.

Here’s what’s in my wilderness first aid kit.

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 (Amazon link) in your survival backpack. Mine also includes a folding knife/spoon/fork.
solo stove

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 (Amazon link) – 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…

Multi tool

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

Recommended Reading – How To Choose The Best Multitool For Survival


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?

Recommended: 10 Top Survival Shovel Reviews


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…

There are also cool mini EDC crow bars (Amazon link) you can get. This way, you’ll always be prepared!

Are you prepping for long-term survival in the wilderness? Let us know your insights!

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    • I got kicked out of my house for 3 days for staying out to long and I was to embarrassed to ask a friend if I could stay so I lived in the woods it was really fun and I used my last bit of battery looking at this article with 200 spare dollars in my pocket I was good to go but I thought the same as you and didn’t get a compas and a map and I actually spent a couple more hours in the Forrest than I wanted to because I couldn’t find my way back that’s why it could be useful also it was a pain in the ass to look for a water source so the map could also come in handy there

    • I was homeless back in the early 90s and the maps I had also had bus schedules and locations for the bus stops on different routes so maps can bed helpfully in different ways.

  1. I have wax coated, strike anywhere matches in my fire kit. . .but I never use them so I never run out of them. Instead I use my primary fire starters which are:

    1.) A 4x magnification Fresnel lens or a
    2.) Flint & Steel or a
    3.) Magnesium Block & Firesteel conbo

    which I use in that order to produce an ember in an Altoids tin of char material. I keep a short straw in my kit through which I can blow air into my mini-coal forge to produce a hot coal to light my tinder bundle…https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_3931514255&feature=iv&src_vid=5-F8g3hb938&v=6H0YcuO8Xcw

  2. Make sure when making a survival kit,it is for outdoor survuval kits,or indoor disasters kits,when putting together,both need different things.

    • Another good thing to have in your bag is either a pencil or some sort of pen so when you are mapping your way you kniw where you have been and when scavaging as well. I perfer a medical marker because it also is useful if you have to do any kind of procedure the ink is meant for skin…..tools and whatnot almost everyone has so scavaging for those will be easier then finding some of the other things mentioned in this article..

  3. A large plastic bag with a hole cut in one corner makes an instant waterproof shelte. It is inexpensive and light to carry. Sets up in one second.
    Also, a battery and some steel wool or a gum wrapper is a fire starter you can use with one hand, or your foot if necessary.

  4. I recently used this article to build my survival bag. I know this is meant to be a serious thing but I used the article to create a bag that me and a couple of my buddies all made and took out and stayed in the woods for three days. We came out fine and it was a great experience, recommend doing that and using this article to prepare also

  5. Put your personalised kit together and pack it in your rucksack, then go out and test it for a few days (that’s what weekends are for?) Back home get (or borrow) a rucksack that is smaller (about 5litres) and repack your kit. See what you don’t need and test it again.

  6. Great Information!
    In my BOB I also carry extra supplies for at least two people. I.E. the trash bag rain protection, I carry one for my wife and one for myself. The same holds true for most of the expendable supplies. Even if my wife doesn’t use them I know that I have a second pair of gloves etc to replace anything I’ve lost or destroyed.


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