20 Items For Outdoor Survival

There are seemingly countless survival items that you could choose to have with you for outdoor survival. However there certainly are items that are more common among those who are asked what they would carry.

The selection of survival items to have (e.g. within your your kit /bag) should be tailored for the specific outdoor environment to be traveled. Region. Season. Scenario. Etc..

Survival items that you might carry with you in a small day-pack for a 3 hour summer hike will not be all-inclusive compared to what you might take with you during an overnight in the wilderness, for example. Or what you might choose for a general purpose bug-out-bag.

The time of year, the weather forecast, the geographical region of travel. All these and more will affect your choices if you take the time to analyze them.

The purpose here is to simply provide some thoughts and ideas. Individual choices will be unique to you. And the circumstances you’re planning for.

Well lets have some fun… I’m going to list 20 items for outdoor survival. And an additional brainstorm list of more things. Add your own thoughts below.

Outdoor Survival – The First Five Cs

Note: Lets assume that we already have an amount of food and water, and we are equipped with adequate clothing.

I’ll start off with Dave Canterbury’s 5 Cs of Survival:

Cutting, Combustion, Cover, Container, Cordage

1. Fixed Blade Knife (such as the Full Size US Marine Corps KA-BAR)
2. Fire (BIC Lighter / Magnesium firestarter / FireSteel / flint rod & steel)
3. Tarp (Camo Tarp)
4. Stainless Steel Canteen (G.I. Military w/cup)
5. 550 Paracord (e.g. 500 FT Spool Titan Military Type III from ReadyMadeResources)

Tip: Whatever style of ‘canteen’ that you choose, choose metal (e.g. stainless steel) to enable water purification via boiling. And, do NOT get one that is insulated (e.g. double-walled) because you need single-walled for efficient boiling over heat.

Now let’s add 5 more to the list.

6. Firearm (Rifle 1st-choice, Handgun 2nd-choice, Ammo)
7. Folding Saw
8. Water Filter (e.g. Katadyn Hiker Pro from RMS, or a Sport Berkey from ‘the Berkey Guy’)
9. Headlamp
10. Fleece Blanket

Note: Wool is great, but Fleece has some advantages… dries quickly and weighs little. However be very aware (cautious) that polar fleece is highly flammable.

Okay we need 10 more items for outdoor survival. Here are some more thoughts…

We’re presuming you’ve already got the food department covered. And you’re starting off with some water (and you have already included a water filter and/or means to boil water).

Also with reference to FOOD, I just want to mention that MRE’s sure are convenient and space-saving.

“Grab 6” from Military A/B cases at ReadyMadeResources

More Outdoor Survival Gear

A brainstorm list, in no particular order.

  • Steel Pot
  • Hand Axe
  • Hammock with bug netting
  • Folding Saw
  • Machete
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bandana
  • Duct (Duck) Tape
  • Snare Wire
  • Flashlight
  • Multi tool
  • Fish Hooks (and line)
  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Camp Shovel
  • Compass
  • Cell Phone (well, most people have one with them anyway…)
  • Whistle
  • Mylar ‘Space’ Blanket
  • Area Topographical Map
  • Candle
  • Dry Tinder (e.g. cotton balls w/Vaseline)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Walking Stick
  • Walking Shoes / Boots
  • Clean Socks
  • Chapstick
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Rain coat with parka hood
  • Band-aids or Moleskin for blisters on the feet
  • Personal medication
  • Extra eye glasses (if I go blind so to speak I am no good)
  • Toothbrush & paste
  • Soap
  • Gloves

From the list above, I might choose to add the following items (of course I would want ALL of it, and more… <grin> )

11. First Aid Kit – at least a compact one for starters…
12. Bug Repellent – Ugh, I hate mosquitoes! (Read about Permethrin)
13. Toilet Paper (no explanation necessary!)
14. Walkie-Talkie 2-way Radios (especially with two people)
15. Rain coat with hood (I know we mentioned clothes, but this one’s important)
16. Fire Starting Kit
17. Compass & Topo Map of the AO
18. Tent
19. Hygiene products
20. Garbage Bags (multiple uses)

What additional items might you consider for outdoor survival?

[ Read: 5 Cs & 10 Cs of Survival ]


  1. A decent Hat.
    That Sun will bake your brain quickly if you have no shade.

    1. I agree with NRP, having white hair the sun can really make life uncomfortable. A boonie hat can be stuffed in small space without damaging it.

  2. Ken,
    I just wonder how much that (20 items) weighs? I have my own bag in my pick-up. If I had to go on foot for miles and miles, I’d have to really consider some of them. Not too long ago, I put together a bag for granddaughter. A very nice backpack with the waist belt to carry some of the load on her hips. I ended up with fewer items than I originally planned for her. I gave her the “extra” items as well, but weight is a BIG deal. We had a long discussion about the weight and the choices she would have to make. Better to have it with you and leave some of it behind, than not have it. She is young, strong, and fit, 104 lbs. She can’t possibly carry my bag very far.

    Heck, I probably can’t carry my bag as far as I think. Depending on the situation, some items would be left with the vehicle. I had some fun and some serious thought exercises, when putting her bag together. Made me go through my bag, yet again.

  3. I have thought it through a few days ago if I had to survive here in Northern Minnesota as 6 bare minimum items for warmer weather these would be it.

    1.) A large knife –good for chopping down small trees, digging up roots, cutting up wild game and vegetation, making containers.
    2.) A mosquito net
    3.) A lighter
    4.) Fishing hooks and line.
    5.) a large tarp
    6.) a metal pot

    Anything else I can make/find myself including spruce root cordage, painkillers, food, fish, insulation, firewood, baskets, utensils, water, shelter, etc…. Only I will miss my coffee…but hey, I have willow bark nearby to remedy the headache withdrawals.

  4. that’s a good list, and a long one. i may have missed it but copies of important documents would be important.
    i don’t trust flash drives. i would have them as a backup because they are of almost no weight. but it’s hard to beat paper.
    also,while a fishing pole is fun and can be productive. a few yo-yo’s weigh almost nothing and can be set like traps while you take other business.

  5. Walking shoes/boots. I rolled up a pair of rubber boots for my bag. Nothing worse than wet feet. Felt insoles makes them more comfortable.

  6. Poncho to cover self, head, and backpack. Wet clothes can kill ya when it’s cool.

  7. I would take a headlight instead of flashlight,,, hands free
    First aid
    Spare glasses
    Multi tool

  8. – I’m probably being picky, but cactus spines are difficult to dig out with just a knife. No needle? And a Fresnel lens would be useful.

    – Papa S.

  9. In colder temps, a goodly supply of chemical handwarmers.
    Something to sharpen your knife.
    For what it is worth, the old saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”
    In a similar vein, and one that I prescribe to, the Inuit (of the past) believed in being “self-contained.” As such, when I used to run a 1000 mile sled dog race I never built a fire. My clothing kept me warm. Did have an alcohol stove to melt snow to feed and water the dogs and refill my thermos with hot water.
    Another old saying, credited to Thomas Jefferson… “The more you carry in your head, the less you have to carry on your back.”

  10. Oh, at the very least practice with what you carry. Better yet, what you carry should be things you use, if not daily at least on a regular basis.
    I saw snare wire listed. If you’ve never set a snare and caught game with a snare…

  11. I just wanted to add a little caveat about the differences between the fleece and wool blankets. Obviously wool is more fire resistant than fleece, but being a synthetic fabric, fleece will not collect and grow mold spores.

    Point of reference, I live in a cabin in the woods in Alabama. It’s very humid here and I don’t have a/c so the windows are always open. Screened of course, but open. My first few weeks living here I had some nice cotton sheets and down pillows. And well, they only lasted a few weeks. I came in one day and noticed they were starting to grow mold. Mold likes all natural materials, including building materials. I burned the sheets and pillows and went out that day and bought a bunch of fleece blankets and found a decently comfortable synthetic pillow and haven’t looked back.

    On a side but related note, I also keep my clothing and any other items that might be affected by mold or even humidity tied up tight in plastic bags, zip lock bags, and vacuum sealed bags. Garbage bags will work ok in a pinch, or if you’re just short term camping.

    1. Wow, never knew that about mold, natural fibers and down. Thank you for the information.

  12. Neck gaiters are very versatile. I kept them handy year round during my many years in the middle east. Also, my 11yr old son keeps a pair of the sleeves with the thumb holes in his bag. He showed them to me while talked over this article. Now I want some!

  13. I like dual purpose, the cotton balls with vaseline is not only good as a fire starter, but negates the need for chapstick. A wooden rat trap can be tucked in your pack they are good for catching squirrels and other small mammals, they’re not really that heavy, but just be sure and drill a small hole in one end and use a piece of you snare wire to tie them down or they could be drug off. Trekker Out

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