How to make a survival kit

How To Make A Survival Kit

How to make a survival kit

I’ve written quite a number of articles on the topic of a survival kit.

I was thinking about how we label them or refer to them in different ways. They may have different purposes.

– survival kit
– 72 hour kit
– bug out bag
– get home bag

The thing is, some of them might be purposed towards specific circumstances while others are just general kits. That’s the beauty of it… you can tailor it to your needs.

I have a number of “survival kits” and each of them are designed for a purpose or unique use-case-scenario. For example one kit fills a backpack. Another is part of a smaller shoulder pack. Yet another can fit in my pocket. Different sizes, shapes, needs.

What if someone simply asked how to make a survival kit?
…and i thought about it.

At first I might say, “it depends” (which it does).

But then I thought some more, and while it does depend on what you intend to use it for (or what scenario), most all kits have many things in common.

How To Make A Survival Kit

First, just think about one’s basic survival needs – regardless of circumstance.

What do we need to survive?

1. We need to breathe the air.

2. Our body core temperature needs to be within safe limits.

3. We must remain hydrated.

4. Eventually we need to eat.

5. Insert ‘safety’ anywhere above as necessary.

If you at least focus on those requirements above, you will be on the right track to making your own survival kit. All else will be bonus add-ons.

Each of us will probably go about building a kit in our own unique way.

We may quantify things differently. Our potential scenarios of usage will factor in. Time-frame of survivability. Size constraints. Whether we need to carry it. How far. And lots more… This is where tailoring becomes what it is.

Let me hit on the bullet points:

We Need To Breathe

Most ordinary kits don’t have a specific “thing” for this, however it’s important to mention.

You will likely be dead within 3 minutes if you cannot breathe.

What you need here might involve First Aid, supplies thereof, and know-how. Maybe there’s a use-case scenario where the air needs to be filtered prior to breathing. What environment might you be entering?

When thinking about survival, the ability to breathe comes first.

Body Core Temperature

This also covers the “shelter” category of any survival kit. The ability to stay warm enough and dry enough when conditions are bad. Similarly the ability to stay cool enough when conditions are hot.

How To Prevent Frostbite, Hypothermia

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Proper clothing. Proper outerwear. Knowing what to do if you develop hypothermia or how to help someone else suffering the condition.

Rain Gear Items For Your Preps

How to start a fire. The things you’ll need to start a fire. Tinder & Kindling. What you’ll need to keep a fire going.

How To Start A Fire With Wet Firewood

Tinder For Building A Fire

Batoning Wood

The ability and tools to build a shelter.


It is so important to remain hydrated.

Are You Dehydrated? Ever Had A Dehydration Headache?

When considering how to make a survival kit, EVERY survival kit must address this issue. Do you have a water container of some sort?

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink… Have a drinking water filter?

Water Filter – A Survival Prep ‘Must Have’

Maybe water purification tablets. Can you boil the water if you need to?

How Long To Boil Drinking Water


While the human body can survive a long while without eating food, you will become weak without it. You need energy from food to keep going.

How much food will you put in your kit? (It depends). What type of food?

The CLIF Bar is one of several good choices for a Survival Kit

Do you have the ability and “know-how” to acquire your own food if there’s none in your kit? Do you have a the ‘tools’ for it?

Safety & Security

This could be (depending) even more important than #1. Your own immediate safety and security could jeopardize your life. So do whatever you need to do to mitigate the issue.

The Tangible Items In A Survival Kit

So, how to make a survival kit?

If you consider each of the topic areas that I’ve briefly mentioned, there are all sorts of items that you might consider to include in your own survival kit.

What specific things you choose will depend on the constraints that you put on the kit itself.

For example if you’re considering ‘kit’ to take with you on a week long camping trip at the cabin, you could potentially take along LOTS of things. Why? Because you’re driving there and it will fit in your car or truck.

On the other hand if you’re going out on a day hike or even a night or two hike, there’s only so much weight and space in your backpack. You need to get creative.

I could sit here and list 100 things you should have in a survival kit. (Maybe that would be a fun post someday). I’ve touched on “how” but not much about the “what”.

Here’s something that people use for some of the basic “what” items:

Read >> The 5 C’s of Survival
1. Cutting (knife)
2. Combustion (fire)
3. Cover (shelter)
4. Container (water)
5. Cordage (rope)

Related articles:

Survival Knife

Fire Starter Kit Within Your Overall Survival Kit

Build A Survival Shelter While Considering These Guidelines

Use Single Walled Stainless Steel Canteen For Boiling Water

Survival Kit Paracord – How Much To Include Or Take With You?

What To Put It All In

Part of the question, “How to make a survival kit”, will include what to put it all in?

This is where your own constraints come in. Typically though, many or most survival kits that people put together are integrated with a backpack of sorts.

Lets face it. If you’re utilizing your kit, you may be walking out of a situation. Even the kit in my truck is contained mostly within a backpack. Although I do have additional items stored in the truck (storage space under the seats, etc..).

When building your own kit, just use your head. Think. Consider your own requirements for a given kit. The use-case-scenario. It’s actually pretty fun putting one together. The challenge is not stuffing it with too much “stuff” including the kitchen sink, so to speak!

But don’t forget the points I’ve mentioned above…


  1. The pack i haul around usually has basics, water, ibuprofin, IFAK, protection, protein bars, wipes ans such. Its more like my lunch bag generally if im away from the home base, just makes me feel better. I use an Eberlestock pack. F5 Switchblade. Excellent pack

  2. Plastic poncho, water bottle, pocket knife, bandanna and food. Basics? : )

      1. Not compact enough. The atlatl will have to wait. The slingshot, on the other hand, is almost compact enough to fit.

    1. Ok OK ya all…..
      Take a roll of TP pull the cardboard core out, stick the roll in a Vacuum Sealer Bag.
      Cycle the Vac Sealer twice before letting it seal…
      Less than one inck thick and about the size of a sandwich.
      Just stand back when ya cut into that puppy 😳 😳 😳

      1. NRP&BLUE
        Is that akin to opening up a can of whoop ass?
        Asking for a friend…lol

        1. Bill Jenkins Horse:
          Hello my friend, long time no talk.
          Hoping all is well, God knows enough is going on to NOT to worry about Toilet Paper LOLOL.

          Butt yes. You cut that TP canister lose and ya better give-er room.

          DO NOT cut it lose while sitting in the Outhouse 😳😳😳😳😳

        2. ->opening up a can of whoop ass?

          From the description of the contents, more like wipe ass?

      2. Why not get a few Pacific baby wipes, they are disposable, can clean most anything and are cheaper than tp

    2. – Lauren,

      Good start, but I would like to see you add a couple of ways to start a fire. I’m assuming you don’t smoke. So, I would add a BIC butane lighter at the minimum. You can start a fire with one whether or not it has fuel in it. Better yet, add a ferrocerium rod and some storm/waterproofed matches in a case as well.

      Sometimes butane lighters will fail you. You might see Ken’s ;Make Fire in the Toughest Conditions with Magnesium Bar and a FireSteel’ article,  down in the comments I mentioned a case where mine failed in a rough place.

      – Papa S.

      1. For my own kits I have a little bottle with a 9 volt battery, a roll of dryer lint, matches and a piece of steel wool.

        That reply was supposed to be facetious, seeing if I could pack all the categories into a pocket.

      2. Zippo lighter will start frozen with wind. A Bic lighter is not a go to if you need a fire..
        Magnisum sulfate as starter. Magnesium stick to strike arch or use your Zippo to ignite sulfate.
        The fire will last depending on how much you used. Magnisum will burn hotter than arch welding. It will burn on water.

        1. Plus, you can set down a Zippo lighter while it’s still lit. There are a number of benefits to that.

  3. To me a medical bag is one of the top three resources you will need to survive. If you or someone in your group takes medication it is advised to have on the minimum two months supply in reserve.
    You will need medical care at some point in a prolonged trip or bugout situation. A simple cut not giving attention could result in gang green, or a sting from a wasp to someone who is allergic could be fatal.
    I look at the environment, what kind of terrain will I be transferring, the availability of water, danger factor and what could go wrong.
    You can live almost 7 days without eating, three days without water but if you are cut and bleeding that must have attention to stop the blood and clean the wound. A simple cut or break left untreated could result in death.

  4. Make sure your survival kit contains items that will be useful in your AO and for each season. There are some basics (med, water, food, shelter) but a kit for Montana winter will look at lot different than one in Florida summer. Also be honest with your skills, goals and physical condition when preparing a kit.

    I have several different packs and bags depending on the season, where I am going, how long the trip will be, what mode of travel and who will be accompanying me. One size does not fit all and be sure you have thoroughly tested every piece of gear and are familiar with using it. After you have run out of water is not the time to find out that the new filter you bought is defective.

  5. My red “possibles bag” was removed from my backpack and the contents were examine by me tonight after reading this article. The bag contains all the small things that will get lost within a bigger bag. Tonight I found in it: 1 working Bic lighter, ferro sparking rod within a magnesium block. hacksaw blade to use for small cutting jobs and to create sparks with ferro rod. Swiss army knife with locking blade, 1 each: bandanna in white, red and blue. not only are bandannas handy to have and use but the different colors were used as markers in Southern California gang areas. ( when in Rome…) 3 different lengths of paracord with the ends sealed by burning for a wide variety of uses. 3 packs of kleenex pocket packs for use on butt or nose, 6 envelopes of handi-wipes to cleanse self. Suunto Forester compass with flagging tape and p-38 can opener on the neck cord. 3 blocks of hexamine solid fuel tabs. Space blanket with 2 long burning candles.

    The possibles bag is the core of my backpack for which all other equipment and outerwear is built around and is mission-specific depending on temperature, weather, activity ( hunting and tracking versus wildland fire fighting.)

    1. Calirefugee
      i used to keep that kinda stuff in ziplocks, till i figured out how easy they get holes in them.
      then i switched over to keeping thatstuff and pretty much everything in dry bags from REI, have a variety of different sizes etc, keep stuff seperated in the pack in them, adds a little weight but those dry bags are excellent to consolidate

  6. My theory is, where will most likely be when I need it! “At work or in transit, I spend about 10 hours a day 5days a weak there”. I work about 35 miles from my house and it would take me about 12 hours to walk at 3 MPH. Thinking about where I live “in Ca.” the roads could be gridlocked, earthquake, EMP-CME, etc. To resolve this I cared a bicycle in the car with me. This increased my speed to 10 MPH and I could be home in 3 to 4 hours.

    1. Left coast,
      ive been thinking about getting a bike, oddly it doesn’t hurt my hip as bad as walking, not sure why, it makes good sense in a lot of ways in many situations, actually saw an E bike that was for hunting, fat tires, had a cart, kinda a cool setup, range is about perfect,

      1. Kulafarmer
        E bikes are grate as long as you have a way to charge them. We have one. I recommend that you take them for a test ride with and without the battery turned on and try different brands

        1. A friend of mine built a bike shed and roofed in with Solar Panels. His house was too far into the woods for good solar panel use. It not only charges his pair of Blix e-bikes, it provides a solar “generator” for his home. 110 volts travels well :-)

          That same friend was toying with a flex mount on his bike trailer to have a solar recharge away from the home when parked. As they have a 14 amp hour battery with a 5 hour charge time 200 watts was plenty running through an inverter to charge.

  7. I mentioned the 5 gallon red an yellow buckets I put together for the kids Christmas’s. Here is the red bucket list,, Sealed in Mylar First Aid pouch with oxy and moisture packs,, Spray peroxide,,alcohol swabs,,iodine,,bandage tape,,bandaids,,woundpads,,polysporin,,neosporin,,ibuprophen,,tylenol,,chewable baby aspirins,,finger splints,,q tips,,vaseline…. Placed in bucket,,91% bottle alcohol,,2in1 shampoo,,personal cleaning wipes,,anti bacterial hand soap,,dish soap,,bath soaps,,laundry soaps/liquid and bar,,toothpaste,,toothbrushes,,N95 mask,,bandage sissors,,115 hour liquid paraffin candles,,toothpicks,,cotton balls,,small kleenex packs,,duck tape,,lighters,,matches,,para cord,,gorilla super glue,,light sticks,,emergency blankets,,WD40,,medicine syringe,,small medicine measure cups,,vinyl gloves,,clothes pins,,disosable box cutter type knives and garbage bags.

  8. For ladies on the road maybe one adult diaper to use incase. This comes to mind from a friend that got caught in a snow storm and trying to get home in almost stopped traffic she had to pee in her jacket.

    1. I have a soft plastic funnel and a milk jug. Hubby can use without the funnel.

  9. Reply to Kula: I use a red nylon stuff sack with drawstring closure. It works for dry land travel. I keep my dry sacks stored empty when not in use for boat travel. I also do not have any creams, ointments or lotions in my bags as they tend to leak within a backpack or luggage. The liquids that I travel with go into a ziplock bag with some thought placed on location in event of leakage because some of the liquids use for outdoor travel can be pretty caustic or corrosive. ( like bug repellents that contain DEET at high concentrations and what it does to plastic and coatings on nylon garments). For travel at high altitudes and open water travel, I also pack a sunscreen, chapstick and a skin moisturizer for use at the end of the day.

    My solution for packing bottles of bug repellent with high DEET concentration: I wrap the bottle in a soft cotton washcloth held in place with rubber bands so any leakage goes on the cotton and I can wipe the cotton on my skin directly and store the cotton wrapped around the bottle for transit. This substance is oily and tends to leak. This method of wrapping the bottle with cotton rag also works for small bottles of gun oil too.

  10. Ken: As one can tell from my posts, my “survival kits” are my backpack and generally the backpack is stuffed with things that are mission specific. ( cold, wet weather versus the hot dry desert ). It is not easily possible to prepare for every eventuality but I would encourage newbies here to think about “What if” game. What if my car broke down on my commute home from work? What if we get in an accident while driving on vacation? Those of us that have been first responders to accidents and civil unrest tend to have a well thought out “kit” nearby/usually within our primary motor vehicle. Since lotions, food and drinks tend to expire, I tend to go through my supply and resupply constantly. One of the things that will expire is the Isreali bandage that was touted here a while back. That is why I just keep standard sterile gauze and roller gauze in my first aid kit. For simplicity sake, I place my personal medications in the same kit as my grooming supplies. ( once again, usually a ziplock bag ).

  11. For me “4. Container (water)” is my top priority. You can’t survive long without water, and even if you manage to find some, being able to purify it, and pack it are the next problems. The only exception to this is Winter. In winter, the cold becomes my top priority, because you can freeze to death much faster than you’ll dehydrate. Just recently on the news they were talking about a young woman who died snowshoeing. She was lost for less than 12 hours, but simply didn’t survive the night. Very tragic :(.

  12. I agree. The bag that you carry is for circumstances that are unforseen.
    I have several bags also. My most needed is for medication that I take daily, then those in your group. Your group may only be four people or maybe ten. Medication will be hard to find if not available from stores.
    Like I said I have several bags. My second bag is most used. It is for cuts needing stitches, abrasion or septic solutions for germs. This bag has over 180 solutions to medical needs.
    Like the author said you tailor each bag for specific needs. Every bag that I have has a few things in common. All contain survival blankets, a way to start a fire, a Sawyer straw, flashlight, Zippo lighter, knife, leather man tool, para cord and a emergency shelter.
    Sounds like a lot but it’s very compacted and weighs just over two pound mark.
    I was always told to better have and never needed to be needed and not have. Go to a store, if you don’t have it buy it even it is for bee stings or poison plants. You may not be allergic but I guarantee that someone in your group is allergic to bee stings and poison ivy. Better to have.

  13. Medication should be at the top of the list, enough for you and your group for two months if not longer.
    Purification system for drinking water. More than one way to start a fire, I suggest magnesium flakes, fire log, fire start and a Zippo lighter
    Tarps, emergency tent, solar blankets, wool blanket ( will keep you dry and warm even wet)
    ParaCord 550 or better. You can use the inner strands as tie rope, each strand will hold approximately 50lbs so there are many uses
    Food should always be contained in a airtight container as well as your water.
    I found a place that sells 30 gallon containers and 50 gallon containers that I store my supplies in. The container MUST be food grade.

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