15 Pieces of Survival Gear We Can’t Live Without
New gear recommended by Outdoor Life’s survival experts
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If the worst day of your life happens to be a survival situation, then you’d better be stocked with the best gear available. When it comes to the latest and greatest survival supplies, it’s important to do your research and make sure you have the right tool for the job. “Newer” doesn’t always mean “better,” but in this gallery, we’ll take a look at some industry sweethearts and my personal favorites.
Each piece of carefully chosen gear serves a vital role and has its proper place in your equipment. But if you lack the time or the inclination to assemble your own kit, then let Ultimate Survival Technologies do it for you. And let’s be honest, they make half of the gear you’d want anyway.
The new line of updated UST FeatherLite Survival Kits contain a heaping helping of the gear and tools that you’ll find indispensable in an outdoor emergency (or if things get tough anywhere else). This compact orange pouch lets you carry a safety net of supplies everywhere you go. The streamlined 9 ounce kit is a must for your hunting pack, bug out bag, car, boat or even your home.
The Featherlite 2.0 includes one of each of the following:
• Button compass • Emergency blanket • Emergency poncho • JetScream Micro signal whistle • Klipp Biner folding knife • See-Me chemical light stick • MoonForce LR4 mini-flashlight • StarFlash Micro signal mirror • Survival towel • Waterproof matches • 8 x 7 inch pouch
In recent years, Zippo has introduced a number of survival supplies and they continue to refine their product line. Their new Emergency Fire Kit is a major upgrade from their older “lighter-shaped” fire kit. This water-resistant tube is made from tough ABS plastic, making the kit durable while keeping it light enough to float in water.
The EFK features the same trusty Zippo flint wheel that is made in the USA for their lighters. It’s even replaceable, though you’d probably never have to swap it out. The flint wheel is rated for 1,700 sparks. The kit also comes with five wax-soaked tinder tabs that burn for five minutes each. These tabs will catch a spark, wet or dry, after shredding the end to expose a few fibers. You can also use the hole in the tinder to place it on a stick (easier to insert into a fire lay or move around). If you do happen to burn up all of your tinder tabs (during practice, which I would recommend), they are replaceable as well.
• Product weight: 2.4 ounces • Size: 1.2 x 4 inches • Contents: 1 Zippo spark wheel and 5 tinder tabs • Extra features: Water resistant housing, lanyard hole
Like Mora knives, they are typically very affordable and very effective cutting tools. The most commonly seen Opinel is the #8, which hasn’t changed a bit in almost 130 years. But that doesn’t mean that this French company isn’t paying attention to today’s outdoors-people.
The Opinel #12 Explore is a folding knife designed for hunting and survival. The convex grind stainless steel blade locks into an open or closed position with Opinel’s patented twisting collar lock. The knife also has a retractable gut hook and a shrill 110 decibel whistle integrated into the handle.
• Product weight: 3.2 ounces • Blade length: 3.94 inches • Blade material: 12c27 Sandvik stainless steel blade • Handle material: Fiberglass-reinforced polyamide
In this context, the “pocket rocket” moniker refers to an ultralight camp stove that is perfect for backcountry hunters, long-distance hikers, bug-out preppers, and anyone else who may need to cook a hot meal quickly while off the grid. The Pocket Rocket 2 is half the weight of the first version, and it can boil a quart of water in only three and a half minutes.
Of course, you’ll need a fuel canister to provide the heat (isobutane-propane fuel canisters are designed to fit this stove, and they offer great temperature and altitude tolerance). Once the self-sealing fuel canister is screwed into place, using the stove is a breeze. The serrated pot-supports can hold a variety of pots and pans. The adjustable flame can go low to simmer food, high for a fast boil, or anywhere in between. You can even use it like a blowtorch to start a stubborn campfire. The stove also comes with a lightweight case for protection, and it easily packs down to store in your cookpot (or your pocket).
• Product weight: 2.6 ounces (4.2 ounces with case) • Open dimensions: 4.8 x 4.8 x 3.6 inches • Closed dimensions: 2 x 2 x 3 inches
A quality hatchet can be a true lifesaver when it comes to building shelters and processing firewood in a wilderness survival setting. And it’s darn handy when you’re just camping in the local woods, too. Designed by Vietnam veteran Elmer Roush, the new CRKT Pack Axe is a tiny titan.
Tipping the scales at a bantam weight of only 1.14 pounds, and less than a foot long, even the gram-conscious minimalists have to take notice. This beautifully built camp axe is made with 1060 carbon steel that is hot forged into very durable blade. It also has the bonus of a hammer poll (for pounding in stakes and such). Tennessee hickory is the wood of choice used for the hatchet handle, and it comes lacquer coated for a longer lifespan. If you’re looking for small axe that can tackle big jobs, check this one out. But don’t freak out when it arrives: it does not come with a sheath. You’ll have to provide your own. After all, it’s Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT), not Columbia River Knife and Tool and Leather Works (CRKTLW). I’m sure you needed to practice your leather work anyway. It should also be known that 10 percent of the profits on this tool go to the Green Beret Foundation.
• Product weight: 1 pound 2.3 ounces • Blade length: 2.927 inches • Blade steel: 1060 Carbon steel • Overall Length: 11.25 inches • Handle: Hickory
Mass casualty incidents have become the new normal in our sad world, and the situation seems to be escalating. Accidental injuries are a frequent occurrence too. For situations like these, and other emergencies, North American Rescue has designed a Civilian Trauma Kit to provide lifesaving equipment that almost anyone can use.
Focused on bleeding control, the CTK consists of a tough clear pouch full of easy-to-use medical supplies. Most importantly, the kit contains a C-A-T® tourniquet, one of the safest and most effective pre-hospital tourniquets available. The kit also contains gauze and pressure dressings to control life threatening bleeds that are not on a limb. Keep a kit like this in your vehicle, hunting pack, bug-out bag and even in your EDC gear. The life you save may be your loved one’s or your own.
• Product weight: 13 ounces • Product dimensions: 8 x 2 x 6 inches
The Lifestraw Universal kit comes with a 2-stage filter, two different sized caps and a leak-proof lid. Compatible with most Nalgene, Camelbak, Klean Kanteen, Hydro Flask, Under Armour, Gatorade and other standard bottles, the replaceable microbiological filter removes 99.999999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 99.999 percent of waterborne protozoan parasites.
If that wasn’t enough, a replaceable activated carbon capsule removes a number of chemicals and improves the taste of the water. All materials are FDA approved, made from food grade silicon, Polysulfone and ABS plastic. The kit includes a wide mouth cap, standard mouth cap, sport mouthpiece, standard mouth piece, 2-stage filter, and carry bag.
• Product weight: 3.3 ounces • Product dimensions (filter): 2.5 x 7.3 inches • Rated to filter up to 1000 gallons
Gerber’s Center-Drive multi-tool provides full size tools in a compactly designed folding package.
The Center Axis bit driver works like a real screw driver and magnetically holds any standard driver bit (the tool comes with a sleeve of 12 assorted bits). It even has one-hand opening plier jaws that open with a flick of your thumb. The knife blade is 420HC steel and 3.25 inches long. The tool also has a saw, wire cutter, pry bar with nail puller, bottle opener, awl and file. The Center-Drive is made in the USA.
• Product weight: 9.4 ounces • Product dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5 x 4.7 inches • Included components: Tool, nylon sheath, 12 bit set in holder
Headlamps are a great tool, giving you light where you need it and allowing you to work in dark places with both hands free. The Black Diamond Storm headlamp is a waterproof, multi-mode headlamp with a 250-lumen maximum output. It offers a bright beam for distance light, as well as strobe and dim modes. It even has green and red night vision modes.
The slim design holds 4 AAA batteries for a long burn time, and a 3-level power meter shows remaining battery life. The dustproof and waterproof housing provides you with a durable light in the event of a nighttime emergency, or any other time you need hands-free lighting.
• Product weight: 3.2 ounces • Product dimensions: 1 x 2 x 1 inches • 4 AAA batteries required (included)
If you need this product, you’re in the middle of a terrorist attack or an act of war using a chemical warfare agent (CWA). The people around you will be dying. You’re going to die, too, if you breathe in these chemicals. But if you only have skin contact with these lethal substances, and you have a decontaminant at hand – you can neutralize them. Let that sink in for a moment. If you only come into contact with a chemical weapon on your skin, there is a product that will counteract most toxins.
Now, this isn’t exactly a new product. In fact the company has been making this product for many years, and a friend of mine has successfully used it in “live agent” military training. The part that’s new is that this product is now available to civilians. RSDL is the only decontaminant cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to remove or neutralize chemical warfare agents such as tabun, sarin, soman, cyclohexyl sarin, VR, VX, mustard gas and T-2 toxin. It’s a simple little packet of lotion-like neutralizer.
Each kit comes with instructions and a training product, so you can get a feel for it through realistic practice. It also comes with a packet of decontaminant for one person, which removes the chemical agent from the skin in a single step.
Product weight: 1.9 ounces
They’ll burn in a downpour. You can even strike them, stick the lit match in a glass of water, pull it out and it will re-light like some kind of magic trick. But UCO isn’t a one-trick-pony, and those remarkable matches aren’t the only tool they provide for our survival. The UCO Stormproof Torch can take your fire building to a whole new level, blasting out flames from their patented triple jet system.
This pint-sized blowtorch is actually a refillable butane lighter, and it’s one of the fiercest on the market. The triple jet torch is windproof and water-proof, with an adjustable flame to conserve fuel (or let it roar). Each lighter holds enough butane for roughly 700 ignitions, and it ignites with a piezo-electric ignition system that is rated for 30,000 uses. Keep in mind that you’ll have to purchase the fuel separately and fill the lighter yourself (due to hazardous material shipping regulations); but this is easy to do and well worth the trouble. The UCO Stormproof Torch is a fire on demand, even in the wettest weather.
• Product weight: 3.4 ounces (empty) • Product dimensions: 1.87 x 1.25 x 4.12 inches • Materials: ABS plastic and silicon
The modern term refers to a weatherproof bag that is used in the wilderness or in an emergency setting to provide shelter (typically for one person, like a sleeping bag). We get the word from the UK (where they spell it with two “V”s), and it’s based on the more familiar word bivouac (meaning a temporary encampment). A bivy can be used in conjunction with a sleeping bag, to create a more weather resistant shell, or a heat reflecting liner. Or the bag can be used as a standalone shelter. Items like these have been on the market for years, but as materials improve – their weight keeps dropping and their effectiveness is increasing.
Enter the TACT Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag from Survival Frog. This tight-packing bivy is made from our HeatEcho™ thermal reflective material to hold in your precious body heat. Like a space blanket, these remarkable materials can reflect back as much as 90% of your body heat. The bag is also windproof, waterproof and reinforced with taped seams. These are a great survival resource for your vehicle (particularly in the winter), but they’re a great fit in your survival kit or bug out bag too.
Each one packs down small into nylon stuff sack provided, and they weigh less than 5 ounces each. There is a bright orange version, perfect for assisting SAR crews in finding you. You can also get a green version, for a lower profile in the wild. Either way, it’s a feather-weight shelter that fits in the palm of your hand!
• Product weight: 4.8 ounces • Product material: HeatEcho™ thermal reflective material/polyester • *Open dimensions:** 7 feet x 3 feet
The Ring O Fire kit from Live Fire Gear combines three great products into one fire-friendly pack. The trio starts with a hot-sparking ferrocerium rod. Next comes 25 feet of FireCord. This eight strand 550 cord has an extra strand that is highly flammable. Just cut a short section free, and pull out the red strand for a volatile tinder material. You also get a Live Fire Original Emergency Fire Starter.
This small tin has a fuel soaked wick inside, which burns for 30 minutes with the lid completely removed, and much longer when the lid is only partially opened. Place the Live Fire tin under your kindling to start a campfire, or use it as a candle. This sleek kit is a great fit for your camping gear, vehicle, tackle box, disaster kit or bug out bag.
• Product weight: 5.6 ounces • Product dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 8 inches
This premium tactical folder features a reverse tanto blade made from high quality stainless steel. The Mini Loco has G10 handle scales for a worry-free grip, and a deep carry pocket clip to prevent loss. Proudly made in the USA, this rugged manual-opening folder is perfect for pocket carry around town or as a survival tool in the field.
• Product weight: 4.47ounces • Blade steel: CPM-S30V premium stainless steel (58-60HRC) • Blade length: 3.38 inches • Open length: 7.62 inches • Closed length: 4.38 inches
The Ultimate Bushcraft Survival Manual will teach the reader how to survive in the wild with just their wits and a few tools, plus it is stuffed with great pictures and illustrations. Remember also that paper survival books are portable, long-lasting, invulnerable to cyber-attacks and completely EMP proof.
• Product weight: 2 pounds • Page Count: 224 pages • Language: English • Book Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
6 Guidelines for Evaluating Any Piece of Backcountry Hunting Gear
But do you really need a new piece of gear?
It seems like there’s always something I need to buy for the season. For any piece of gear I’m considering, I usually evaluate it using these simple principals. If any piece of gear meets each of these six criteria, it’s a good bet that it will work for me. It’s always a smart idea to research the different products you’re looking at and, best of all, talk to people who have used them on the same type of hunt you are planning. But evaluating your potential choices in these categories is a good start.
This is kind of a no brainer, but you’d be surprised what kind of crap people sometimes try to take on the mountain. You don’t want to take anything that will easily break, shred, or otherwise become damaged. Basically, any gear you will be taking (boots, packs, clothing, etc.) all need to be able to handle some rough treatment. Look for potential weak spots or flaws that could put this gear out of commission before you risk your hunt on it. Backpack hunting gear needs to be able to take a beating and still keep functioning.
Any backcountry gear needs to be able to withstand and function in bad weather, especially here in Alaska. Sometimes big storms won’t be a part of your hunt, but that’s in a perfect world. Consider where you are hunting and the worst scenarios you might encounter. Then plan for that. You may want a stove that will burn even when it’s very windy, as well as a rifle or bow and optics that can withstand moisture or other weather conditions you might face.
This is a big factor for me in evaluating potential gear choices. You want to limit Murphy’s chances to ruin your hunt on the mountain. When you can find the simplest option to fulfill your gear needs, that’s usually the best one. Basic gear will also make you more efficient. You can waste a surprising amount of time constantly rifling through pockets or fiddling with accessories when a more straightforward option would be easier and faster. Contemporary marketing often likes to add all kinds of gizmos, gadgets, and options, but keep in mind that additional features can often be additional failure points.
When evaluating gear that you’ll have to carry on your back, you want to consider both its weight, and how easily you’ll be able to fit it in your pack with everything else. Tents, sleeping bags, clothing, and food seem to take up the most space, and you can also cut a significant amount of weight from your load by optimizing these. Consider the weight of every item. With a few items it can pay off to opt for a slightly heavier model, but there are still plenty of areas that can be trimmed down.
Dependable backcountry gear doesn’t usually come cheap, but price is still something to consider. There are areas like boots, packs, and optics that are well worth spending a few extra dollars on, but there’s also a lot of grossly overpriced gear out there. You don’t want to skimp and waste money on shoddy gear that will leave you hanging, but if you shop around, you can usually find gear that will fit your needs just fine for much cheaper than the newest and fanciest available.
6. Gut Feeling
Backpack hunting is an endeavor that typically involves a significant cost: sometimes in money, but always in time and effort. At the end of the day, you need to be able to trust that your gear will work when you need it. More often than not, the previous five categories will disqualify some potential choices. But sometimes everything in my inventory seems to be okay, except I have a bad feeling about it for one reason or another. If you experience that feeling, don’t buy it. If nothing else, it’s one less worry in the back of your mind.
One example was a set of breathable rain gear that my buddy Frank bought for our sheep hunt last year. It was from a reputable brand, lightweight, and packable. I was a little skeptical, however, and sure enough, after its first hard exposure to nasty weather, it leaked like an old barn roof. Even if it doesn’t always seem rational, if you have a bad feeling about something, listen to your gut.