Survival Gear Checklist: 27+ Items to Get You Started

Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: April 13, 2021
Survival Gear Checklist: 27+ Items to Get You Started

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Getting started with survival gear is one of those overwhelming and potentially expensive challenges for the beginning prepper.

It can feel as though you need to purchase thousands of different items, but in reality just a few simple purchases can put you in a good position should something bad happen.

Today I will share with you a starter list of survival items that can be purchased at a reasonable cost.

You can purchase one item a week or one item a month.  Along the way, you will find other items and soon you will have a nice kit, ready to go when the big one strikes or the flood waters hit.

The Best Survival Gear to Get Started With

Below you will find a survival gear list with products that I feel are essential should an emergency take place.

Some of these items are general products, while others are for specific units that I believe are the best. Let’s take a look,

Crank-Up Radio

Kaito Emergency Radio Voyager Max KA900 Digital Solar Dynamo Crank Wind Up AM/FM/SW & NOAA Weather Stereo Radio Receiver with Bluetooth, Real-time Alert, MP3 Player, Recorder & Phone Charger, Black

This model from Kaito Electronics comes with all the features that you need in an emergency situation such as a multi-band AM/FM and shortwave radio, 7 NOAA weather channels, a five LED adjustable reading lamp, and a multi-function LED flashlight that can be used in both a normal bright color mode and red color for emergency use.

All of these features can be operated indefinitely without external power using a hand crank.  There is a solar panel that charges the built-in batteries or you can use AA batteries or you can plug the radio into a USB device.

LED Flashlight and Batteries

Maglite ST3D016 ML51080 3D Cell LED Flashlight Black, 3

You can never have too many LED flashlights and at least one should be a quality flashlight that can withstand the harsh environment of a survival situation. This MAGLITE LED Flashlight is great.

Survival Knife

The sky is the limit when it comes to survival knives.  For the beginner, or someone on a budget, a decent quality, all purpose knife is what you need until you have a chance to use it and learn what you like and don’t like, feature-wise before you invest in something more pricey.  This Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife is highly rated.

Candles, Matches, Lighter, and Fire Starters

From a safety point of view, a Candle Lantern is a great alternative to plain candles.  Waterproof matches and a Zippo Fire Starter are some other items to add to your starter gear.

Pepper Spray

Not everyone is comfortable with a firearm plus, getting started with guns and ammo is an expensive proposition.  That, plus the training required means that you should have some other means of self-defense to get you by while you are learning about firearms.

A Lightweight Axe

This is another area where you can spend a little or spend a lot.  This axe from Fiskars is highly rated.


There are so many uses for paracord that it deserves an article all by itself.  I just wish I had known about it sooner.  You can get 100 feet of 550 lb. Type III Nylon Paracord.  This is a real bargain.

First Aid Kit

This is one area where I prefer to assemble my own kit but I know from talking to others that I am in the minority in this regard.  My advice is that you carefully examine the contents of any kit you are planning to purchase and make sure that it is suitable to your needs.  This all-in-one first aid kit from Coleman.

Light Sticks

Light sticks are another one of those items that can be used in a variety of emergency and non-emergency situations. These Military Grade Light Sticks provide up to to 12 hours illumination each.

Survival Whistle

This 5 in 1 Survival Whistle is has free shipping.  In addition to a whistle, it includes a compass, signaling mirror, lanyard, and a storage case for your waterproof matches.

Survival Blanket

Not luxurious like a down comforter, but in an emergency, a survival blanket will help you retain body heat.  Get quite a few of these and practice using them before you have to.  This pack of 10 Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets has free shipping.

Water Filtration System

I will save the big, fancy water filtering system (such as the Berkey for another time.  What you need as a beginner are some Water Treatment Tablets to make contaminated water suitable for drinking on the fly.

Durable Water Bottle

There are lots and lots of choices for water bottles.  You can even recycle a soda bottle to include with your survival gear.  For the long tern, however, you should invest in a Nalgene BPA-Free Water Bottle or stainless model.  Cost?

Duct Tape

I have always said you can build a house with Duck Tape and Elmer’s glue.  Well, not really but I have to tell you, there are a lot of uses for duct tape and a roll or two should be included in every survival kit.  Survival Husband swears by the 3M Heavy Duty All-Weather Duct Tape but there are other, less expensive brands out there.

Outdoor Cook Stove

This is possibly the only budget breaker on my list, but definitely something you should consider.  I recommend Volcano II Collapsible Stove or an EcoZoom but if money is really tight, a Coleman will do just fine.  In that case, you will also need some propane instead of charcoal.

DIY Tire Fix Kit For SHTF

Car, bicycle, UTV, no matter what type of transport you have then you need a tire fix kit, Even wheeled devices like wagons and wheelbarrows may get a flat. Having wheels can help you get a lot more work down and make survival more easily.

Get Home Bag

What do you do if you are caught out and need to get home or ride out a day away from home? Our article on get home bags can help you figure out what you need so you can buy items a little at a time.

Bivvy Sleeping Bag

Mylar blankets are one thing but they are fragile and only meant for short term emergencies. An emergency bivy for an unexpected night out is a small investment that can pay off big. Our post on the “Best Emergency Sleeping Bags For The Unexpected Night Out.”


While situational awareness is important, you also need something to help you keep a level head and get through an emergency. Adult coloring books and pencils, a note pad and paper, an e-reader that can be charged off of a small battery bank, or any other reasonable activity that is low input is going to be helpful. Kids are easier during an emergency when they have something to do and keep them occupied. Get a cheap storage tote with a lid and start throwing some things in there that are entertaining. You can do this a little at a time and before you know it you have a lot!

Tent Or Hammock Style Tent For Shelter

Staying dry is important and there is nothing like a good tent or shelter to achieve this. While you don’t have to break the bank, it is a good idea to get a tent that is at least in a mid price range and then you may still want to seal it further. A hammock style tent is made to keep you off the ground and hung between two trees. Most hammocks are made for 1-2 people but a lot of people feel they are really a 1 person deal. A shelter also helps keep you warmer regardless of the quality of the shelter you buy. Some really nice tents are 3 season tents that are made to be adjustable so you can be comfortable during all kinds of conditions.

Camping mattress

A lightweight quality sleeping mattress can make a big difference in the quality of rest and sleep you get. If you have back pain or any joint related condition then you should definitely invest in a good quality camping mattress. An emergency of SHTF scenario means you need to be able to rest well when you can. Lack of sleep can lead to a significant loss of alertness. Some people can handle loss of sleep better than others but even then it still adds up over time. Life is fragile.

Thermarest is a popular brand. If you are 5’8 or less you can get a women’s version that is lighter and less expensive but still thick. There is no use in paying for a regular sized men’s version if you can get away with the women’s. A bug out bag or survival kit is definitely one thing where ounces and bulk can add up quickly.

Mess Kit/Camp Cookware

Well if you have the stove you are going to want some lightweight cookware to use with it. Very lightweight quality kits can cost a lot but there are plenty of budget friendly ones out there that are just as good. Stainless steel or titanium are what you want to get if given the choice. Aluminum can be okay but some people do not want to expose themselves to excess aluminum even in a survival situation if it can at all be avoided. If you are planning on just using the kit for you and 1 other person maybe you can get away with a minimal kit. For larger groups a lot of the time everyone packs their own food prep stuff.

Tactical Pen

It is useful to have something to write with for sure but tactical pens are useful for a lot more. The carbide tip can be used as an impact weapon and glass breaker. Some pens also have other build in features. For those that want discreet personal defense weapons it is hard to go wrong with a tactical pen. Check out our guide to the best tactical pens for a bunch of different options to fit all budgets and hand sizes.

A comfortable pack with lots of compartments

Organization is important in an emergency or SHTF bug out scenario. You really need to know where to find your gear at a moments notice. A good Molle pack is well padded and has sturdy zippers and a lot of stash spaces. For the money they are hard to beat.  I like that Molle bags really pay attention to the zipper issue. It is really unpleasant when you realize that what you thought was a great bag is great in every way but the zipper. It is a lot of trouble to replace one and during a survival situation it is unlikely you will have the time or even the right supplies.

Small mirror

While you may not be too concerned about preening you very well might want a way to examine areas of your body yourself so you can take care of wounds and other conditions. If you get something in your eye it can be nice to be able to see where the problem is so you can treat it better. Make sure that the mirror is made to be shatterproof.

Full set of synthetic clothing and several layers of it

Clothing is something you can buy a piece at a time. If you buy clothing in the off season and you are not picky about colors you can save a lot of money. For more clothing ideas you can read our list of the best clothing to have on hand for SHTF.

Long term water filter

Check out our guide to survival water filters for in depth info and links to reviews of many different water filters. If you want to just spend a little bit there is the Sawyer Mini and Hydro Blu. After testing out the new Hydro Blu 10 L Hydration Bag and Versa Filter I would advise getting it because it is the complete kit and it means you don’t have to pump water. The filter is good for over 20,000 gallons!

So there you have it –items that make a big difference but can be easily budgeted in.  I put a lot of thought into this survival gear checklist and it is in no way all-inclusive.  The intent was to get you thinking and to motivate you to start gearing up, one thing at a time.  Print out this list, shop around, and find your best deal.

Whatever you decide, start now and before you know it, you will have the perfect kit, tailored just for you.

Aff | Tactical Pen

[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon

Tactical Pen / Multi-Tool (Flashlight, knife, etc)

Stay Protected
Aff | Tactical Pen
[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon Stay Protected

34 Responses to “Survival Gear Checklist: 27+ Items to Get You Started”

  1. a better pocket knife is an older US made CAMILLUS GI pocket knife. You have good steel, a good size blade, can opener, straight blade screwdriver wit bottle opener and a leather punch. all steel with a bail loop. and you can modify the leather punch point in to a very small straight blade screwdriver and still use it as leather punch (works well on softer plastics too). I buy these up any time I see one that is in good shape at a reasonable cost. the most I have ever paid was $10.00. The US made ones have a year date on the blade. my daily carry is dated 1989 and I purchased it new.

    I avoid the new ones made in china.

    I have found these knives to be much better the then Swiss Army knives. Having a much better steel in them and cheaper too.

    I have found Coleman stoves at yard sales for $5.00 both the gas fueled and propane types.

    New or like new GI nylon duffel bags at Goodwill for $3.00 to $5.00 also.

    I have even purchased a back backing tent at Goodwill for $5.00 brand new because the tent and poles were still in the plastic wrappers.

    same goes for sleeping bags, back packs, mess kits, outdoor clothing and other camping gear.

    All wool blankets are something else I find at Goodwill.

  2. I would suggest cotton balls covered in vaseline or periphin then stuffed in a old pill bottle. when in a pinch you can spread out the soaked cotton balls and use them with kindling to start a fire. or it can always be used for a medical reason if necessary. Also one thing i dont see mentioned very often is condoms, all jokes aside, they are sterile and can be used for medical purposes. and if you get the ones without spermicide they are also usable as emergency water containers, If you are in that bad a situation it just might help or save you or someone with you. I try to have several varieties of items that can be used for the same thing as well as have a unique or other value (2 for1). also space is an issue, thats what is beautiful about the cotton balls they smash down then you can stretch them out, and condoms take up almost no space and weigh next to nothing. I like the ideas here in these comments thought I would add to them.

  3. Love the tips. Been researching about being prepared for emergencies. I used to camp quite a bit. I already have couple of Coleman cook stoves, several of the older style coleman lanters (take the fuel), tents, tarps, crank radio, crank flashlight/lantern, a propane lantern, a propane stove, ropes, sleeping bags, waterproof matches….and many other items. I find it overwhelming how much people stockpile. I read many articles and subscribe to many prepper sites and homestead sites. I just can’t fathom the amount of food some people stockpile. I don’t see how they can rotate it all before it goes bad. By the way pinterest is full of prepper info…..Slowly accumulating more items. Next purchace will be a generator. For the simple reason the power goes out here several times a yr. I have an upright freezer and side by side freezer that are full. Need to protect my invested money. Will start on a bug our bag next. Keep all the tips and articles coming….helps newbies like me make better decisions.

    • Thanks, Dave. Just so you know, I try to keep the tips and suggestions practical and not to far “out there”. So many prepper sites these days try to capitalize on fear so hopefully you will find not of that here.

      — Gaye

  4. Fire Makers don’t depend on lighters for long term learn to use fire steels or some other means to start a fire hard to stay warm or cook without fire and as above hobo stoves are good with the fuel around you and are cheap I have a “firebox” multfuel stove that burns anything but not cheap 75.00 +shipping cheap tarps are good for tents or waterproofing a trash house made with leaves and sticks and a few cheap large rat traps will take small game and you have to have a pot or pan to boil water in the make it safe to drink but a old tin can would work if nothing else could be found just use sand to clean all the rust you can out of it

  5. Mora of Sweden makes a knife called the clipper and can be bought on eBay for about $12. Great quality fixed blade knife with great reviews

  6. Also consider personal hygiene issues, as they can lead to some serious nastiness. I would recommend a small shovel, toilet tissue, feminine hygiene products, and hand sanitizer at a minimum. Several trash bags for long term survival situations are necessary, as well. Baby wipes work in a pinch, are cheap, don’t take up too much room and are a good way to wash your body when there is no running water. a thick paste of baby powder and water will wash the odor causing bacteria from smelly feet and arm pits also!

  7. I heard what I thought to be a clever substitute for pepper spray. One of my employees suggested hornet spray as a cheap effective substitute. It sprays about twenty feet, and I don’t think I would like being hit in the eyes with it.
    Having said that, I have no idea how effective it would be against a determined and/or psychotic attacker.

    • I actually keep a can of hornet/wasp spray at each of the doors into my home. The nice thing about hornet/wasp spray is that you will not end up in the slammer after using it to defend your domicile.

    • That is a great idea. I wonder how effective it really is. Pepper spray is illegal here in Spain.

    • Esther – I can not imagine a shot of pepper spray in the face being a pleasant experience 🙂 There are also some states in the US where pepper spray is restricted to law enforcement personnel.

    • This bears review.

      Also, there is that pesky “It is a violation of federal law to use a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling” warning that is stamped on every can of pesticide in this country. Spraying another human being in the face, intentionally, with pesticide would probably fall under that clause, no matter the reason. It would certainly give any lawyer a good enough case to catalog the user in prison for a while. Or at least empty your bank account and give it to the person that attacked you.

      Social breakdown? Spray away. If the cops can still show up, well, you may be in jail with your attacker. Pepper spray is a FAR better option.

    • Your Honor/Officer this intruder entered my home UNINVITED!
      I was in fear for my life!
      I grabbed the first thing I could get my hands on to defend myself!
      I thought I was going to die! I didn’t mean to blind this poor innocent intruder!
      Please oh please forgive me!
      It was not a planned assault!
      I thought I was going to be killed by this uninvited unannounced intruded in my home!
      As big wet tears roll down my anguished face…:(

  8. The best place for any cast iron cookware would a second hand store ,already seasoned and cheaper, I’m not really a prepper but a couponer and cheap. But my stockpile would rival any . But every year I do prepare for hurricane, after going thru one, Its the smallest things you miss. How to wash your clothes, now I have a portable washer and already have a clothes line,

  9. this one will really get you. this usa government will not go under why there is big i mean really big money in governments that why people try to over throw them. best business in the world is owning a government. things will get tuff so good to be prepared. even your government will tell you this if you go to there web site. cash on hand is what you want not gold. gas in the car sleeping bags food water in the trunk and a place to go. or sit and wait for help is on its way in a month or two .. one thing i really belive in america united we stand divided we fall. so circle the wagons feed each other and fight for our freeom. there our people out there trying to divide you from being a nation.

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