In our day-to-day lives, we take a lot for granted. But things can change from one moment to the next. How we cope with a survival situation depends on many factors, including your age, fitness level, and location. Above all, the most crucial component is your readiness.
Each survival situation is different. Maybe the difficulty you’re facing is short-term, and you expect things to return to normal soon. Here, we are thinking of events such as getting lost in the backcountry, a flood, or a hurricane. Other events could be long-lasting, like a war or the zombie apocalypse, for example.
Your strategy will be different if you live in the inner city or a rural area. My instinct would be to leave the city (hello, have you seen the Walking Dead?), but the city might be the first place to receive help. Much depends on your personal circumstances, but you should always consider what you would do in a survival situation and how you can best ensure the safety of your loved ones.
Preparing a 72-hour kit or at least a go-bag can be the difference between a survival situation and just a situation. You don’t have to go all out and spend crazy amounts of money to be prepared unless you’re into that. In fact, you just need to gather some things you probably have lying around the house. Here are the ten best everyday items you need for survival situations.
10 Swiss Army Knife
Arguably still, the best multi-purpose tool on the market is the Swiss Army knife. These bad boys have been around for over 130 years, and they just keep getting better. Some elaborate models have an attachment for just about everything you might need, like a can opener or tweezers.
Swiss Army Knife knives are not cheap, but they are top-quality. It’s a good idea to keep at least two of these knives separately so that you always have a backup if you lose one.
Swiss Army knives can do just about anything, from starting a fire and building a stove to sawing small logs to building a makeshift loader and notching wood to construct a shelter. These pocket knives aren’t just Swiss; they’re salvation. Along with the Swiss Army knife, you might also want to consider adding a small ax or hatchet to your bag. Cause you never know…
9 First Aid Kit
Hopefully, you won’t need it, but a basic first aid kit is always a good idea. Make sure that your kit includes sterile wipes for cleaning wounds and your hands before treating injuries. You should also include iodine and pure alcohol. Include bandages, gauze wrap, bandaids, and plenty of aspirin, to reduce fever and swelling. Consider tossing in some insect-repellant for good measure.
If you dip into your first aid kit for everyday use, ensure you replenish what you’ve taken out. Check that your first aid kit is ready for use regularly, and tuck it back in its place for easy grab-n-go access.
8 Waterproof Matches or Lighter
In many survival situations, there will come a time you need to light your wood-burning stove or start a fire for warmth and even light your way when every other resource runs dry. A fire might be necessary for signaling your position. In that case, gather any spare lighters around your house to include in your survival kit. If you can, seek out some waterproof matches. You can easily make your own if you can’t find them at a local store.
Amazon and other camping stores like REI and even Walmart have great options. Even lighters with a reusable wick! Another option is to procure a flint and steel kit for starting fires. These are inexpensive but can be a bit finicky for beginners.
Better yet, if you have any crayons lying around, toss those into your kit! Crayons are made of wax and can burn for up to 30 minutes. That’s way better than a measly match!
7 Food and Water
People expecting an existential survival event squirrel away enough food to last a while. This may not be the case in your situation, but even so, you should ensure that you have enough food and water for at least 72 hours. A lost or injured hiker will need supplies to last until rescue comes, and if you can’t leave your house, you’ll need the fuel to stay put.
While you can last for days without food, it’s best to have a cache of nonperishable, high-energy foods such as trail mix, oatmeal, and fruit leathers (fruit rolls). Include some camomile tea bags which can help you relax and has various medicinal properties.
Water is another matter. Don’t worry about packing it. It’s too heavy. Instead, you’ll need chemical sterilizers, a water pump, or a small pot for boiling. Preferably all three, but we’re not picky. Hopefully, you will be able to find a water source such as a stream. If you do, go as far upstream as possible and check the water for contaminants (a dead animal just around the bend from you might pollute the water beyond any treatment.) Let the water boil for at least a minute but boil it for as long as five if you’re worried about its purity. If you’re at home, fill the tub with water and use the same treatment process before sipping.
6 Sturdy Footwear
As any hiker knows, good-quality boots are fundamentally important. Buy a pair that allow your feet some space. If your boots are too tight, you are almost certain to get blistered feet. After buying new boots, wear them around the house or on errands for a few days. This will allow your feet to get used to your new footwear.
Can’t afford boots or simply don’t have any? No problem. At least, for the love of Moses, find a pair of closed-toed shoes. There’s no worse feeling than showing up to a party, and you’re underdressed. Imagine that in a survival situation but about a thousand times worse.
If a year or so has gone by and you haven’t worn those old Nikes in your closet, they just found a new home in your survival kit. Be prepared to outrun everybody when the zombies set in.
5 Sleeping Bag
Your sleeping bag should be light, roomy, and waterproof. Keep your survival kit as light as possible. Don’t weigh down your pack with the softest, comfiest, thickest material. Though, many camping and survivalist brands offer functionality without sacrificing a ton of comfort.
Attach your sleeping bag to the outside of your pack. If you can, roll it up with a thin mattress pad. You can also forgo a mattress pad and transform the hard ground using a mat of grass. If you are expecting a serious survival event, it’s a good idea to have your rucksack ready-packed so you can leave at a moment’s notice.
For kiddos, ensure they still fit their sleeping bag about every six months.
It’s a good idea to use a wood-burning stove. Gas canisters will only last a few hours and are heavy to tote around if you’re on foot. Wood-burning stoves allow you to cook your meals using any scrap wood that you find around.
If you are in the open, look for wood in a sheltered place as it will be drier. Collect wood early in the day and leave it in an exposed place to dry out. Set up your stove on a level surface in a sheltered spot.
3 Analog Watch, Compass, and Maps
It’s never a good idea to rely on a smartphone’s GPS when you are out in the wild. In a survival situation, you might find that coverage is patchy or non-existent. And, sooner or later, you will have to recharge your phone’s battery. You might think that including an analog watch on this list is a little curious, as knowing the time will probably not be among your most pressing concerns. However, you can use an analog watch as a compass if you don’t have a real compass.
A detailed map of your area could be very important. The 1:24000 scale maps produced by the United States Geological Survey are the best for residents in the United States. Other countries have equivalent maps (Ordnance Survey maps in the UK, for example). A good map will allow you to work out where you are and the best way to get from A to B. It will also help you to find important resources such as rivers, ponds, and streams.
On YouTube, many videos will show you how to read and use a map. It might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the skills needed if you don’t have any map experience.
Good protective clothing will save you a lot of discomfort. You can buy light, high-quality rain gear at a reasonable price. In general, you should always keep your clothing as dry as possible. If you have to walk, ensure your socks are always dry. Change them if they are damp. Wet socks will cause blisters. Dry out clothing overnight next to your campfire, or lay clothes out in the sun during the day.
Clean out your closet for old but still in good condition articles of clothing like a pair of jeans, long and short sleeve shirts, a beanie, hat, gloves, and jackets. You’ll need at least one of each.
Remember: this is about survival. No one will judge your Smurfs t-shirt when someone’s leg needs to be amputated.
There is a wide range of rucksacks on the market at every price level. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a rucksack. Get one that is light, comfortable, and waterproof. A backpack is also a great alternative. Just don’t use a tote bag, purse, or suitcase. You’ll want your hands free and will be able to wear the pack for long periods.
And that’s it! Pack your bag with the above essentials in advance. If it’s ready, and you’ll want it to be ready, you can grab it and go, you little apocalypse-surviving nerd.