Skip to main content
17 Best Survival Gear Essentials to Prepare for Any Situation

17 Best Survival Gear Essentials to Prepare for Any Situation

21st Aug 2023

A zombie apocalypse, devastating global pandemic, or nuclear war: in survival situations, it pays to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Mental preparation is critical, but adding quality gear to your doomsday bag can give you the edge you need to survive.

If you’re ready to prepare yourself for what’s yet to come, the suvival gear essentials listed below can help get you started. You’ll find everything from ammunition and MREs to holsters, plate carriers, helmets, and more. Not every item will be applicable to every situation, but this collection of gear can give you the best chances of surviving a variety of scenarios.

What Makes a Good Piece of Survival Gear

Let’s be clear — survival and tactical EDC gear aren’t the same. You can store most of your everyday carry (EDC) gear in your pocket and use it to protect yourself or survive in certain situations. EDC tactical gear is also great even in casual scenarios. The survival gear on this list, however, moves beyond basic protection and utility to life-sustaining capabilities. It’s the difference between fending for yourself or succumbing in survival situations.

If a single piece of gear can extend your survival rate away from civilization for even a few hours, it’s worth having. In principle, the best survival gear items should help you obtain the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which includes:

  • Food - Whether you’re hunting or scavenging, you need tools to help you gather, prepare, and cook food.
  • Water - You need tools to store and purify water so that it’s drinkable. You may also need to wash utensils to prevent foodborne illnesses.
  • Warmth (fire) - Fire is critical in all environments (hot or cold). Humans need to stay warm and fire is required for cooking meat and providing light.
  • Rest - Lack of sleep can destroy your body and mind. Rest is essential to endurance in any survival scenario.
  • Safety and Shelter - Survival requires staying safe from harm in all forms (human, animal, elemental, etc.). You need a shelter that keeps you hidden and warm (so you can have rest and space to eat/think) and tools that help you protect yourself from threats.
  • Medical attention - While not part of the above pyramid, this is a top priority if you have injuries. A broken arm or an open wound make chances of survival much lower if not treated quickly.

It pays to stock up for special occasions, and we’re not talking about birthdays or anniversaries. Having a set of versatile tools at your fingertips can help you tackle whatever life throws your way. Some of these items you may be able to carry in your pocket, while others are best reserved for dire situations or an emergency bag.

16 Best Survival Gear Essentials for Any Situation

The following survival gear list will outfit you for most scenarios. You can easily mix and match gear to build the perfect bug out bag in a pinch. Pack light but pack smart. When it all hits the fan, you want to prioritize lightweight, space saving objects with the most utility.

1. A Gun With Ammunition

Whether you end up lost in the woods or in a situation where people wish you harm, you need a weapon and an ample amount of ammunition (250 rounds minimum) for personal protection or hunting. Your spear-throwing skills probably aren’t that good, so don’t try sharpening a stick. Instead, having a firearm at your disposal bodes well for most survival situations.

All things considered, a rifle is the best choice for survival, if it’s the only gun you’re going to carry. Rifles are easier to handle and shoot at long range. Handguns can be effective, but they are more specialized and harder to employ efficiently.

In any case, you’ll want to choose a great caliber that works for both. An AR-15 chambered in .223/5.56 NATO or .300 Blackout would do fine. Otherwise, a pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) chambered in 9mm or 40 S&W would work as well. Any of these options will work for small or medium-sized game — provided you’re making accurate shots.

2. SurvivorCord Survival Paracord

Developed in conjunction with Special Forces, the SurvivorCord Survival Paracord features 100 feet of three interwoven strands:

  • Jute fire tinder thread proven to light after four hours of submersion
  • 30-gauge brass alloy wire with a seven-pound tensile strength
  • Monofilament fishing line perfect for salt or freshwater fish

Available in black or dragon scale, this Survival Paracord is robust and weather-resistant. Guaranteed for near-universal use, this survival tool could save your life in many situations. Use it to tie up your tarp, create a makeshift stint with some sticks, improvise a fishing pole, and more.

3. Survival Tarp

Never underestimate the power of a tarp. This Survival Tarp from Texas Bushcraft measures 10 feet by 10 feet to help you shrug off the rain and cold with plenty of room. You can easily string this tarp between trees using the 14 nylon loops or five ridgeline loops. Rust-proof brass grommets also keep your tarp from failing over time.

More than a thin roof over your head, this Survival Tarp doubles as a waterproof blanket that retains your body heat. Use it as a tent or as an improvised sleeping bag. The fabric provides superior puncture resistance, repels fire, and reduces UV rays in the summer months. Featured in military green, it’s the utility blanket you never knew you needed.

4. Survival Knife

Guns and ammo can do a lot in a survival situation, but there are just some things knives do better. You might need to shave wood from a tree for tinder, cut a piece of rope for your tent, or cut up some freshly caught fish or small game. The key is a great knife.

Take the Columbia River Knife & Tool M21, for example. This survival knife features a sleek black design in a compact frame that folds in half to store securely. Triple-point serrations and a dual hilt give you the bite you need to rip and tear at will. This Columbia River Knife also features a frame lock and black oxide finish which is both for style and durability.

The Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara™ 2 FRN also makes a sturdy survival knife that walks the walk. Spyderco is known for its metallurgy, and though this isn’t its most expensive model, it upholds the family tradition. This full-flat-ground blade has a plain edge, textured grip, and back lock. The Byrd Cara Cara™ 2 operates smoothly and feels lightweight in the hand.

The Gerber Strongarm 4.8inch Fixed Blade Knifeis one of Gerber’s best-selling knives. This full tang 420HC steel blade has a ceramic coating and a rubberized diamond-texture grip, making it an incredibly durable tool for survival. It’s also MOLLE-compatible and includes several attachment features for customizable hip or leg carry. While it might be slightly more expensive than the other options, the quality of this knife cannot be overstated.

5. EXOTAC fireROD Firestarter

When you don’t have the luxury of scavenging for fire-starting materials, you need the EXOTAC fireROD Firestarter. Once you understand how it works, this device is simple and easy to use. The handle comes in orange, olive drab, or gunmetal and doubles as storage for tinder, water purification tablets, or other accessories that will fit.

Nearly five inches in length, this waterproof ferro rod guarantees up to 10,000 strikes and burns at almost 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The body is CNC-machined from aluminum and accepts replacement ferro rods. Made in the USA, the EXOTAC fireROD Firestarter is a must-have for your bug-out bag.

6. XMRE Meals

Choose from XMRE meals with heaters or XMRE Blue Line meals to fuel your fire as you battle for your life. Each pack features 12 meals with a guaranteed three-year shelf life. You can eat these meals hot or cold, and spoons and napkins are included.

The XMRE meals with heaters feature 1,200 to 1,500 calories. The waterproof outer bag keeps your vittles dry, and the flameless heater won’t attract attention like a campfire. Foodstuffs in this package include beef, chicken, or vegetarian entrees, snack bread, dry fruit mix, fruit jellies and jams, instant puddings, and salt and pepper to season it to your taste.

The XMRE Blue Line meals feature a similar menu with 800 to 1,200 calories. Choose from an assortment of entrees, drinks, side dishes, and desserts. Each meal is fully cooked and doesn’t require refrigeration or any water for reconstitution. If you’re stranded in the woods and can’t seem to catch a fish or kill any small game, these come in handy.

7. The Protector Helmet

If the name doesn’t say it all, then the heritage of the Protector Helmet might. This survival helmet is based on the PASGT helmet used by soldiers in the Middle East. It’s rated to stop Level IIIA threats and blunt force trauma. If something hard is headed for your noggin’, you’ll be thankful the Protector can handle the blast. It’s great for situations in which gunfire is a serious threat.

Choose from a black or coyote matte finish in medium, large, and extra-large sizes. The helmet weighs three pounds and features an under-the-chin adjustable closure. You’ll find enhanced padding inside, and the edges are covered in low-friction rubber. The Protector Helmet is solid, resilient, and will keep your head right where it should be.

8. Water Bottle and Purification

On average, humans can only survive without water for three days. However, this may be even shorter depending on how your body uses water and the conditions of your environment. For this reason, access to clean, drinkable water is absolutely critical.

Ideally, you want something that has water purification capabilities and at least five liters of storage. For example, you could use the SimPure Gravity Water Filter to purify three liters of water at a time (hang it on a tree or off your back). At the same time you can, store extra water in a basic five-liter plastic jug and feed more into your purifier as needed.

While it isn’t the perfect solution, the Rothco MOLLE Compatible Water Bottle Pouch (with a survival water bottle included) is a great budget survival option that you can carry with you in just about any situation. This kit can help you stay hydrated and keep your beverage cool. With the Rothco Water Bottle and corresponding pouch, a fresh drink of water is right at your side.

Available in black, coyote, olive drab, or multicam, the polyester pouch measures 10.5 inches by four inches. It features two six-inch MOLLE straps on the back, and the front zipper also incorporates MOLLE loops. The pouch has D-rings on each side and holes for a straw and drainage.

9. Body Armor

Protective plate carriers and armored backpacks often stand as your last line of defense in survival situations, especially where guns are involved. The AR Freeman bundle, comprised of two 9-inch x 9-inch rifle-rated plates, can save your life if you’re regularly facing gunfire. Add a few plate carrier pouches to the mix, and you’ve got yourself the makings of basic body armor ready to protect your internal organs from an onslaught.

If you're looking to kill two birds with one stone, the Phoenix armored backpack is a great storage and protection solution. Bullet-resistant and Level IIIA-rated, this armored backpack stops 95% of the rounds used in shooting incidents. Though not your typical bug-out bag, it’s also perfect for carrying smaller pieces of gear. That’s not to mention the conceal-carry front pocket, perfect for your handgun. The laptop sleeve is perfectly sized for additional plates as well. Though the Phoenix armored backpack has your six, it’s best paired with at least a front plate carrier to stop anything headed your direction.

10. A Good Set of Work Gloves

We don’t often know the value of our hands, unless we no longer have use of them. A sturdy and durable pair of survival gloves like the Mechanix Wear M-Pact® 3 Covert Gloves can help you strip down branches for a fire, traverse hazardous rubble, or protect your knuckles in hand-to-hand combat.

Available in sizes small to XXL, these Mechanix Wear gloves feature a gray-green color that blends well with most surroundings. Durable yet delicate, they’re sensitive enough to interact with any touchscreen device. The molded thermoplastic rubber fits your hand securely and doesn’t break down in the washing machine.

Mechanix Wear fits this pair of gloves with EVA accordion padding to reduce impacts on your fingers and thumb. The fingertips are internally reinforced to prevent tearing. Both gloves feature a nylon carry loop, synthetic leather palms perfect for gripping, and a one-piece knuckle guard. Mechanix Wear manufactures gloves for law enforcement and the military, so you know these versatile hand-warmers have passed the test.

11. The Coleman U.S. G.I. Lensatic Compass

Knowing how to read and use a compass can mean the difference between wandering in circles and finding your way out of a tragic scenario.

This Coleman U.S. G.I. Lensatic Compass allows you to easily get your bearings and navigate, with a durable frame that’ll hold up in a lot of situations. It’s sandproof, water-resistant, and rated for -50° F to 150° F temperatures.

Made in the USA, this compass has two versions, both well-built for survival situations. One uses Tritium micro-lights to provide 10 years of illumination. The other uses phosphorescence for a similar effect. It’s the same compass that served the U.S military with a few minor adjustments. This compass also includes a convenient carrying pouch with a cord for easy utility and attachment for your other gear.

12. Rothco MOLLE Tactical First Aid Kit

Your rate of survival is high when you’re fit and healthy. However, if you’re injured without medical supplies, your chances decrease with each drop of blood you lose. Most survival situations don’t often include nearby access to emergency services.

The Rothco MOLLE Tactical First Aid Kit can help you prepare for the worst. This compact first aid kit includes bandages, steripads, a telfa pad, antibiotic ointment, soap, peroxide, aspirin, and exam gloves. Like many medical kits, it won’t help you perform surgeries, but it can help you bandage yourself or someone else until professional help arrives.

A trauma pad and tourniquets can also be highly beneficial in your bug-out bag. Trauma pads cushion your internal organs from blasts to your plate carrier, reducing concussions from back-breaking to bruising. Soldiers in countless battles have relied upon tourniquets to stem blood loss. These compressional bands can serve additional purposes in survival situations.

13. FDA-Approved Thyrosafe Potassium Iodide Tablets

In the event of a radiation emergency, a firestarter or survival knife won’t get you very far. Instead, you’ll need FDA-approved thyrosafe potassium iodide tablets to help protect your thyroid. These iodide tablets could even prolong your life during a nuclear war.

Our bodies rely on our thyroids to regulate our metabolic functions. Protecting the thyroid from damaging radiation can increase your chance of survival immensely. Each 65 mg tablet is individually sealed for accurate dosing. The package contains 20 tablets total, all with a seven-year shelf life.

14. Dräger CDR 4500 Full-Face Mask

If you’re facing the threat of a biological attack or chemical warfare, this air-purifying mask from Dräger comes in various versions and sizes to fit your face. It can be used with the CBRN Cap 1 canister from Dräger via the standard NATO canister connection. The double-sealing frame fits your face safely and securely for protection against the threats you can’t see.

This mask contains a high-quality lens with an anti-scratch coating. You can purchase the mask in matte black to reduce any light reflections. Clear communication is also enabled through the integrated speech diaphragm, making this air-purifying mask perfect for civil defense or related situations.

15. Zebralight Headlamp

Survival situations are easier with illumination, and nothing works better than a durable headlamp that survives on as little battery power as possible. The H53Fc N Neutral White High CRI AA Floody Headlamp from Zebralight is waterproof up to IPX8 and comes with a durable headband that can also be used as a tourniquet if necessary.

This Zebralight headlamp incorporates a beacon strobe mode with a 90-degree beam spread. The battery capacity indicator lets you know how much of the AA battery is left. You can choose from three brightness levels (high, medium, and low). However, the headlamp automatically dims a level when it senses the battery is getting low.

It also features a frosted lens and weighs about three ounces. The unibody casting is precision-machined from aluminum and coated with a Type III anodized finish. The soft-yet-durable switch is conveniently placed for use with your thumb.

16. Go Time Gear Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag

Roughing it might feel good for the first few nights, especially if you have a cozy Winnebago to return to. If you want a sleeping bag that holds up better than any 30-year-old RV (and without the parking hassles), check out the Go Time Gear Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag. This two-person sleeping bag rolls into a compact shape measuring only four by three inches.

Bright orange and lightweight, this emergency sleeping bag is made from nylon material that’s as waterproof as it is windproof. The inner material reflects up to 90% of your body heat to warm you in colder temperatures. It even includes a 120-decibel survival whistle.

It’s hard to believe this three feet wide by seven feet long sleeping bag folds up to fit in the palm of your hand, but it only weighs 4.1 ounces. The waterproof sack keeps it ready for bedtime, no matter where you lay your head. The included 20 feet of paracord is also a useful piece of survival equipment on its own.

17. Breakwater Supply Waterproof Backpack

If you're venturing out on the water in a canoe or kayak, or just want a fully-submersible backpack that will keep your gear dry while you survive the elements, the Fogland Backpack from Breakwater Supply is for you.

Made with Cordura 500D Ripstop Nylon and available in 20L and 25L sizes and colors ranging from stealth black to safari tan, this backpack meets IP68 waterproof standards. Once the zippers are sealed shut, this backpack can be submerged underwater for extended time (30+ minutes) while keeping all contents in the front pocket and large main compartment completely dry.

Fogland Backpack from Breakwater Supply

Frequently Asked Questions About Survival Gear

Q: What is the most important piece of survival gear?

A: In short: your mind. You can have all the tools in the world, but only your mind can help you decide how to use them. Survival is about how to access water, shelter, fire, food, and medical attention in situations where they are not regularly available. To do this, you need to not only be creative but resourceful. Learn to use your surroundings to your advantage. With a sharp mind, you can make better strategic moves and survive whatever situation life throws your way. That’s why it’s important to train with practical survival scenarios in mind. Train with your firearm. Train your family on survival skills and plans. Exercise regularly. Think through everything you might need for different scenarios and prepare yourself to take action at any time.

Q: What kind of situations call for survival gear?

A: Imagine your car breaks down in a bad neighborhood. Maybe you get lost in the woods while hiking, or you survive a plane crash. Your body knows your life is at stake in desperate situations like these. You may also need to survive a military attack or insurgency where there are more violent risks than extreme temperatures, starvation, and wild animals. Body armor and tactical helmets protect you like no other piece of gear. Along with your concealed firearm, they’re your last line of defense when things go awry.

Q: What should you always carry in a survival bag?

A: Your survival bag should always include fire-making supplies, water filtration devices, a compass, medical supplies, and a weapon.

Q: What is a bug-out bag?

A: A bug-out bag is simply a basic survival kit you can grab in a hurry and “bug out” (flee your home or whatever scene you’re in). This kit can include everything from granola bars and bottled water to flashlights, MREs, and medical supplies. Most people add gear to a bug-out bag to prepare for the worst should it ever happen. It’s common to store the bag in your car in case you get stranded.


Preparation is critical to survival. When keeping your wits is challenging, setting yourself up for success can put you further ahead. Survival gear that’s durable, weather-resistant, versatile, and life-supporting can help get you one step closer to safety when things get bleak.

The good news is that most survival gear doesn’t cost much. You can easily prioritize what you need most and add to your bug-out bag over time. Remember, the more prepared you are, the higher your chances of survival.

Jumpstart your bug-out bag with survival gear from ProArmory. Our shelves are stocked with the necessary supplies to get you and your family to safety and help you prepare for anything. Don’t leave your fate to chance. Gather your survival gear essentials to prepare for any situation now — you’ll thank yourself later.

Back to Top