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Here’s the list of the must-have survival tools that you should always keep handy in case of an emergency or a disaster:
- Survival knife.
- Survival whistle.
- Topographic map.
- Spot locator.
- Water filter.
- Space blanket.
- Bear spray.
- Dry bag.
- Duct tape.
- Wire saw.
- Fishing hooks.
- Face mask.
These tools are equally effective, regardless of whether you’re a hiker, explorer, hunter or prepper.
Doesn’t matter if you’re lost in the woods, testing your survival skills or just preparing for a hurricane or another natural or artificial disaster – you need these items as part of your SHTF gear.
You can pack all of these in your backpack, car or just pick a few select ones and make your own mini survival kit.
In this article, I’ll also cover the following topics:
- A detailed look at the 16 must-have survival tools.
- The criteria that I based the list on.
Detailed Look at the 16 Must-Have Survival Tools
Here’s a more in-depth approach to the top 16 survival tools and why you need them:
You need a firestarter to light up a fire to stay warm, boil water, cook food and protect yourself from predators or hostile people.
A pocket-size, energy-efficient flashlight or a headlamp can help you find the right path if you get lost in the dark.
You can also use either to send signals if you need help.
Still, make sure to pack a couple of extra batteries in your backpack, just in case you end up staying in a survival situation longer than expected.
- Also read: This is what a tactical pen is
3. Survival Knife
Carrying a survival knife during an emergency scenario can make a huge difference in your survival chances as you can use it for a plethora of uses such as:
- Chopping wood.
- Preparing food.
- Cutting strings and branches.
- Defending yourself from animals and/or any hostile individuals.
And the most optimal survival knife is the one that matches the type of tasks you think you are going to use it for as well as your skills.
For instance, you can use more advanced survival knives to skin animals, cut strings, chop firewood, sharpen sticks.
But regular survival knives only have basic and limited chopping functionalities.
4. Survival Whistle
Don’t forget to attach an emergency survival whistle to your backpack or wear it around your neck when spending time in the wild.
This way you can, at any time, alert animals to your presence and if needed reveal your location so that rescue teams can find you.
The whistle should be able to produce a sound of at least 100 dB.
5. Topographic Map
Always carry a topographic map in your backpack or car, even when going to familiar areas for a short hike and learn how to read it.
Many hikers get easily lost if they step off their regular trail, which is why
it is important not to go far away from the trails you usually take or to have the map at hand.
A high-strength paracord can come very useful if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
You can use this lightweight yet sturdy survival tool for:
- Rigging tarps.
- Tying bundles of firewood.
- Making a stronger rope.
- Fishing as it can act as a fishing line.
- Dragging a large animal you’ve killed.
Some paracords can be worn as bracelets, meaning that you won’t need any extra space for them.
7. Spot Locator
A spot locator is a device that can send your SOS signal while some models allow sending messages with more details instead of just the generic ones.
This type of device works just fine even when your cell phone is out of signal and it should be capable of sending your coordinates regardless of where you are.
8. Water Filter
A compact water filtration system or a plastic water filter bottle can help you stay hydrated, cook food and clean wounds if you find yourself in any kind of survival scenario.
Always carry more water than you think you may need when hiking or hunting since an adult can survive 3 days maximum without water.
Note that drinking water from rivers, streams, and lakes, can put you in danger.
- Also read: The foods that you truly need to survive
That’s because the parasites, bacteria and viruses found in unpurified water can result in giardiasis or other waterborne diseases, which is why it is so important to filter water.
9. Space Blanket
Not only can you use a space blanket to keep yourself warm if you get lost in the desert or in the mountains where temperatures can go down quickly, but you can also use it as a:
- Heat reflector that you can cook food inside of.
- Signal for help.
Space blankets are super light and can quickly restore your body heat if you get
Although these blankets aren’t an ideal alternative to tarps and sleeping bags, you can still use them for building a shelter.
Although a hammock is not a typical survival tool, you definitely need it if you want to survive in the wilderness, where sleeping on the ground is not really a safe option.
Having a hammock with a mosquito net will protect you from both crawling animals and bugs/mosquitoes.
This is exactly why most preppers, campers and hikers always carry one in their backpacks.
11. Bear Spray
You can use a bear pepper spray to ward off bears and other predators alike.
This survival item works perfectly even from a distance and it blinds and shocks the animal temporarily so you can have enough time to find a shelter or escape.
12. Dry Bag
A dry bag can ensure your gear (such as fire-lighting tools, clothes and food) is safe and dry.
- Also read: Best bug out bags
It’s essential to have a dry bag if you plan on hiking around places where it is raining often.
13. Duct Tape
Duct tape is sticky, strong and, possibly, can have a UV protective layer that prevents the adhesive from weakening.
Use it to make butterfly bandage strips, mend shoes, fashion a belt, or patch clothes or your tent.
14. Wire Saw
Unlike a bow saw, a wire saw is more lightweight and it also folds, which makes it easy to pack and carry.
You may certainly need one to cut off big branches of firewood and you can also use it to protect yourself from any danger.
15. Fishing Hooks
Fishing hooks are a must-have item if you bump into a survival situation and you need to gather food.
If there are any streams around, you can use a paracord and a fishing hook to catch some fish, which can be easier to do than hunting some small game (e.g. rabbits).
16. Face Mask
A protective face mask can help filter out airborne particles such as chemicals, asbestos and other toxins, forest or volcanic dust, or viruses.
You can choose between dust masks, reusable particulate respirators, gas and vapor masks.
Criteria to Follow When Picking Survival Tools
We can place survival tools into several categories that I used as the main criteria when creating the list of the survival tools to carry.
Make sure to have at least one tool from each category to increase your chance for survival.
1. Fire-Building Tools
You’re going to need a stack of matches or a firestarter wherever you are to make yourself warm, look for food, or to send a signal for help.
2. Signaling Tools
Mirrors, glow sticks, headlamps, whistles are just a couple of tools from this category that you can use to call someone for help.
3. Shelter-Building Tools
To survive in the wild, you need to protect yourself from rain, stiff winds, sun, mosquitoes, other bugs and wild animals as well (bears, foxes, etc.).
This is why you need some kind of shelter – whether it be a tent, hammock, or a custom-build woodshed using the tools from the other survival tool categories.
4. First-Aid Tools
If you don’t have an entire first-aid kit in your car, you’d have to improvise in case of danger.
Bandanas, bandages, duct tape and a knife are some of the items you can use to prevent bleeding or take out foreign bodies, such as bullets, thorns, etc.
A map, compass, or GPS unit can help you find the right or an alternative route and get yourself out of a tricky situation.
6. Hydration Tools
You should disinfect water from natural sources in order to drink it, and bringing gallons of water with you is not an option.
Either boil water before consuming it or use a small water filtration system to
eliminate bacteria and make the water safe to drink.
If you want to prepare yourself for a survival situation, make sure to always have vital survival tools such as a:
- Water filtration system or a water filter bottle
- Bear spray
- Face mask
If you’d have to choose only one survival item though, your best bet would definitely be a survival knife.
So pack other items based on the available space in your backpack or the time you have to prepare yourself for an emergency.