What Are The Top 10 Survival Items?

What Are The Top 10 Survival Items?

Survival scenarios aren’t just about the doomsday apocalypse, the zombie invasion, and the lone hiker lost in the forest. More often than not, it can be something as common as being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Your car may have ran out of gas in the woods, or you may have been accidentally left behind.

What are the top survival items you should always have? These are a survival knife, a water treatment system, cordage, fire starter, multitool, compass and map, first aid kit, snakebite kit, mirror, and flares.

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Keep in mind that the list can change depending on your specific survival situation. Read on so you can learn more about the reasons and uses for these survival items.

We chose these items based on the survival adage that everybody should remember since it is better to have something and not need it instead of needing it and not having it.

1.  Survival Knife

The importance of a survival knife in a survivalist kit cannot be overemphasized! Your chances of survival increase with a durable survival knife since it can be used for a wide range of tasks. You can also use it for everyday tasks and, thus, it gives excellent value for the money. 

The uses of a survival knife include but aren’t limited to:

  • Cutting rope for whatever purpose it may serve, such as for catching fish, securing food supplies and creating shelter

  • Cutting plants for food, water and shelter materials

  • Digging holes for campfires, small water wells and digging for root crops

  • Creating weapons, such as spears, for hunting food and defending yourself

  • Making fire, such as when used as a bow drill or as a flint

  • Skinning animals and scaling fish

There is a reason why Rambo, the fictional character in Rambo, always had a survival knife with him! The iconic film character was also the reason behind the continued popularity of survival knives today. 

We suggest survival knives with a fixed blade since these are more durable than folding knives due to the absence of mechanical movement and parts. These are also more efficient in cutting both large and small objects.

Take note that most survival knives share similarities in their overall design. These usually have long blades with a sharp edge and a serrated edge for multiple uses. Their hollow handles can contain a small survival kit, including fish hooks and line, matches, and a needle and thread. 

But you can replace whatever small items you will likely need inside the hollow space. Think of pain medication or water purification tablets. 

Don’t scrimp on the cost of the survival knife! Think of it as an investment in your life since survival situations can happen at any time, anywhere. You can consider the Ka-Bar BK-22 Becker Companion Fixed Blade Knife, a customizable knife made of sturdy 1095 CroVan steel.

2.  Water Treatment

Every survivalist knows that the human body can survive for up to four weeks with exclusive water intake. It emphasizes the importance of having a water treatment system at all times. You may have food in your pack, but without drinkable water, your body can become dehydrated faster.

There are two primary water treatment options to choose from, namely:

Water Filters

Since these can be reused numerous times. While water filters in the past were bulky, the modern filters are small and portable. Many are the size of a water bottle or a large drinking straw with high filtering capacity.

Take, for example, the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter that can filter up to 1,000 gallons of contaminated water. Such is its efficacy that it exceeds the EPA filter standards!

It doesn’t have moving parts, doesn’t need batteries for operation, and does its work without chemicals. Plus, it weighs just 2 ounces and fits into any bag. 

Water Filtration Tablets

These are also great items to have in your pack. Water filtration tablets are typically made with chlorine or iodine, which are effective in removing harmful pathogens in water.

The water doesn’t taste great, but it’s drinkable water when it comes down to the line. Put these tablets in different places in your pack, in your clothes pockets, and inside your survival knife.

You are well-advised to have both a water filter and water filtration tablets in your pack. You can’t be unprepared in case one gets lost in the wilderness.

3.  Cordage

Of course, you can make rope from vines and the bark of trees in true survival mode. But if you already have cordage in your pack, you will be saving time and energy. You can then focus on securing your food or creating your shelter.

We suggest the SGT KNOTS Paracord 550 Type III 7 Strand because of its high tensile strength and flexibility. But any high-quality 550 parachute cord will do since it is lightweight yet durable in rugged situations. You should also have a paracord bracelet since it’s useful for small jobs. 

A few uses of cordage in survival situations include:

  • Building emergency shelters, such as with a tarpaulin or palm fronds

  • Making splints for fractured bones

  • Securing food away from animals

  • Lashing poles together

  • Fishing for food (fishing line)

  • Making traps for animals

  • Repairing tents

Keep in mind that a parachute cord isn’t suitable for climbing since it may not be able to hold your weight. But in emergencies, it can be strengthened and used for this purpose. 

4.  Fire Starter

Getting a good fire going is a must in survival scenarios because of its multiple uses. These include cooking the food, getting warm, purifying water, keeping predators away, and signaling for rescue.

You will also appreciate a fire to pierce through the darkness, which is the right way to maintain your mental health.

There are many ways of starting a fire, too, but if you can get a fire starter kit, the better. The SE 2-in-1 All-Weather Magnesium Firestarter Kit, for example, consists of a solid magnesium fuel bar and a serrated striker. You should be able to start a fire within a minute with it. 

But you should also be prepared with other fire-starting methods. You can pack a waterproof box with two lighters, a small magnifying glass, and waterproof matches.

The two lighters are convenient, but their fuel can run out, so waterproof matches come to the rescue. The magnifying glass harnesses the sun’s rays in creating a fire on dry tinder, such as leaves. You may also add a flint to make a spark by striking it against a stone. 

5.  Multi-tool

Les Stroud, the star of Discovery Channel’s Survivorman, always has a multitool with him for good reasons. While a survival knife can be used for a wide variety of tasks, it has its limitations. It is where the multitool comes into the picture.

There are dozens of multitools to choose from, but Swiss Army knives are the classic choices. If you’re looking for more modern multitools, your options include Victorinox and Leatherman brands.

Both are popular among campers, hunters, and preppers because of their durable construction and multiple tools.

Most multitools have tiny saws, clippers, and screwdrivers, among others, which address nearly every situation. The standard multitool has two halves with a plier joining them in the center.

Each side contains several smaller tools, such as screwdrivers, saw blades, pokers, serrated knives, Allen wrenches, and scissors.

The Leatherman Wingman Multitool is a good example. It has 14 tools, including spring-action pliers and scissors, pliers, wire cutters and strippers, openers and screwdrivers. It’s small enough to be stowed in your pocket but large enough for many tasks.

Here’s a tip, choose a multitool with as many knives as possible. You will need the knives for tasks that your survival knife may be too large or too heavy for. 

6.  Compass and Map

With the GPS feature on smartphones, getting a compass and map doesn’t seem like a good idea. These two things can take up space in your survival pack and demand basic orienteering skills for proper use. Besides, these are old-fashioned items.

But a compass and map don’t require something that a GPS-enabled smartphone should always have: A charged battery. There’s no need to plug in a compass into an electrical outlet, a blessing when you’re in a survival situation.

You can then find your way out of the wilderness and into civilization with these old-fashioned tools. 

But you should have the knowledge and skills to use these tools to your advantage. You can read books and watch tutorial videos about basic orienteering for starters. You should practice what you read and watch, so you’re not completely clueless when the time comes. 

It is essential to get a map of whatever place you are planning on traveling, camping, or hiking. You won’t have use for a California map, for example, if you’re in the Alaskan wilderness.

There’s no need to buy an expensive compass, too, since the most important thing is that it works. The UST Deluxe Map Compass is as good as any with its easy-to-read face, adjustable marching line, and multiple scales.

7.  First Aid Kit

Being in a survival scenario means a higher risk of being injured or ill while miles away from the nearest clinic and hospitals. There’s also the fact that even a small cut, scrape, or puncture wound can become serious in the wild.

The breaks in the skin become the entry point for bacteria and other pathogens to enter your body.

Your chances of survival can also decrease when you become ill from insect bites. You may be severely allergic to bee stings or poison ivy, among others. You may also have an underlying medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes, which require ready medication.

With that in mind, you should always have these items in your first aid kit. 

  • Prescription medications for your underlying medical condition. Even a week’s supply can mean the difference between life and death in your case.

  • Over-the-counter medicines for fever, pain, and allergic reactions. Examples include aspirin, antihistamines, and antacids, as well as hydrocortisone creams and burn ointment. These are small items that can save your hide. 

  • Antibacterial items like isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and iodine, even tubes of antibacterial ointment. 

If you’re overwhelmed by the lengthy list of items on your first aid kit, you can buy the First Aid Only kit instead. It has 298 items from burn and antiseptic ointments to bandages and tape. You can add to it as you see fit, including your prescription medications. 

8. Snakebite Kit

Did you know that in the United States, the risk of dying from a venomous snakebite is virtually zero? It is because of the high quality of medical care in the country, including the availability of anti-venom. Indeed, there are only 7,000 to 8,000 snakebite incidents, with five to six of them being fatalities.

But that doesn’t mean that you can be complacent about it! If you can’t distinguish between a venomous and a non-venomous snake, you will want to remove a snake’s venom ASAP. You won’t want to risk it, especially if you’re in the wilderness.

With that said, you should consider packing in the Rothco snakebite kit just to be on the safe side. It contains the items necessary for removing venom from the body, particularly the two suction cups. It also comes with an instructions sheet for the proper use of these items.

But don’t rely on the snakebite kit too much. You should also have anti-inflammatory pills and painkillers in your pack. These medicines will decrease the inflammation and pain at the bite site.

Be sure to pack an emergency whistle, too. You may become weak, perhaps immobilized, from a snakebite, and the whistle can be your only SOS tool. 

9. Compact Mirror

Being in a survival scenario means doing away with vanity for a while. But a vanity item can become your lifeline to other people, including rescue teams, too!

You may be able to survive for up to a month with enough food, water, and shelter. But you will still want to be rescued and make it home in one piece. You should then pack a compact signal mirror in your pack!

You may be able to use an old mirror, even a broken one, for signaling purposes. But there are survival mirrors that are specially made for this purpose!

These are typically made of non-breakable materials other than glass, such as Lexan, and comes with extra features. These can reflect direct sunlight, moonlight, and headlights, as well as flashlight beams better than glass, too. Your chances of rescue increase because of it. 

10. Flares

Signaling for rescue is vital in survival, whether you’re stuck on a tropical island or in the Alaskan wilderness. You have many means of signaling, too, such as smoke signals (three quick puffs). You can also use a signal mirror or an emergency whistle.

But if you want a more effective signaling method that passing planes, ships, and cars won’t miss, go for flares! Just imagine Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway and what flares could have done for his early rescue.

It is because flares exploding in the sky cannot be missed. In contrast, not everybody will be looking for smoke and mirror signals. These can also be lost in the fog or overcast skies. 

There are several types of flares for emergencies, too—first, the flare guns like the Orion Safety aerial flare that can be operated like a gun. Just fill the cartridge, aim the nozzle at the sky, and pull the trigger to release the flare. 

Second, the handheld flares that produce a red flame when activated. You wave it over your head so others can see it. Take note that these flares may not be as effective as flare guns in areas with tall trees. These are best used in open areas to signal people overhead or on the ground.

Third, laser flares work by casting a bright, concentrated beam of light into the air. The light beam itself isn’t dangerous when it hits people, but it will definitely get their attention. It can be seen up to 30 miles away during the day and night. 

The laser flares are the most expensive type, with many costing as much as $250. But your life is priceless, so you may want to tuck one into your survival pack. You can add a couple of the traditional flares, too.


None of these ten items will make your survival situation comfortable and cozy. But when used properly, these are valuable tools in keeping your body and soul together. You can find food and water, build a shelter, and make defensive weapons as well as call for rescue.

But we also want to emphasize that these ten items aren’t the be-all and end-all of a survival pack. You can change the list depending on your specific needs and wants. You can also add or subtract from these items depending on the predicted scenario.

For example, you can substitute the snakebite kit with a handful of ready-to-eat meals if there’s little snakebite risk. You may also do away with the mirror and use an emergency whistle instead.

Again, your survival pack should be customized to your lifestyle! That’s the essence of being a survivalist and prepper.