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18 Essential Items for Building the Ultimate Survival Kit List

Do you keep an ultimate survival kit list handy in case of an emergency? The truth is that a natural disaster can strike at any time—whether you’re enjoying a family camping trip or a hike with friends, or whether you’re going about your day-to-day business at home.

family of hikers with backpacks full of items from the ultimate survival kit list

The importance of having a fully loaded survival kit in a disaster-related scenario can’t be overstated. The right emergency items can help you stay in good health, treat an injury, or even save a life.

Fortunately, we’ve already done much of the legwork for you. In this article, we’ll be sharing our ultimate survival kit list so that you can easily organize, track, and maintain these important items at all times. Let’s dive in!

18 Essential Items to Include in Your Survival Kit

Ready to build your very own survival kit? Here are 18 of the most critical items your ultimate survival kit list should include. Jam these into your emergency kit and you’ll be prepared for almost every survival situation!

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1. Backpack/Bag

The first item you’ll need for your ultimate survival kit list is, of course, a backpack or bag to carry your disaster and emergency supplies. Find the perfect backpack for you—one that is comfortable, durable, and spacious.

Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Travel Hiking Backpack

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2. First Aid Kit

People often use the terms survival kit and first aid kit interchangeably, but the reality is that a first aid kit is only one component of a complete survival kit. Having the following items in your kit will ensure that you can administer survival first aid effectively:

3. Tent

When faced with a survival situation, you will need to find shelter as soon as possible. Your emergency kit should include a protective, all-weather tent that will shield you from the elements, insulate your personal space, and keep unwanted critters out of your way. This item is a must for your ultimate survival kit list.

LYN Emergency Shelter Survival Tube Tent

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4. Food

Without proper nutrition, your body will eventually run out of fuel. Be sure to keep plenty of non-perishable, high-protein survival food items and emergency rations stocked in your kit. Nuts, cereal, granola, power bars, dried fruit, and trail mix are all great options!

72-Hour 1-Person Emergency Food Supply Kit 4 lbs

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5. Water

While you may be able to survive for up to weeks without food, you won’t make it many days without water. As a rule of thumb, you should have access to one gallon per person per day. It’s also wise to include water filters and water purification tablets on your ultimate survival kit list in case you run out of clean drinking water and need to draw it from another source.

Simple Modern 1 Gallon Tritan Water Bottle

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Portable Gravity-Fed Water Purifier with 3L Gravity Bag

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6. Multi-Tool/Pocket Knife

A multi-purpose tool, Swiss army knife, or pocket knife will give you access to essential functions while only taking up a fraction of the space that a full toolkit typically requires. Most multi-tools can fit in your pocket or hook onto a belt or keychain!

Multitool Pocket Knife

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7. Flashlight

We all take electricity for granted until it’s gone. When a natural disaster requires you to switch to battery-powered devices, a flashlight becomes an essential item—particularly as you approach nightfall. Make sure to have a flashlight on your ultimate survival kit list.

Keychain LED Flashlight

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8. Batteries/Power Bank

Many of your devices—including your flashlight—run on battery power. Keep extra sets of batteries on hand, or invest in a small power bank that will keep all of your devices fully charged!

Kodak AAA + AA Batteries Combo (24)

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9. Whistle

When signaling for help, you can only holler for so long before you run out of energy and damage your vocal cords. Pack an emergency whistle instead, as three blows of a whistle is an international standard signal for distress. What’s more, a whistle won’t take up very much real estate in your ultimate survival kit list bag!

HyperWhistle The Original Worlds Loudest Whistle

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10. Emergency Blanket/Sleeping Bag

An emergency blanket is a lightweight plastic sheet that will help reduce heat loss in your body when temperatures drop. Unlike your average blanket, it folds up into a very small and convenient overall size. If you afford the space, consider packing a sleeping bag.

Eackrola Sleeping Bag

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11. Fire-Starting Kit

You don’t need a collection of large or elaborate tools to start your own survival fire out in the wilderness. A kit that features a flint or magnesium fire-starter, matches, and a little tinder will be more than enough to get the job done!

Pocket Survival Fire Starting

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12. Poncho/Raincoat

Especially in cold or wet weather, you will need a way to keep your clothing dry. Include a durable poncho or raincoat in your emergency kit to help preserve body heat that can easily be lost to wet clothes.

Arcturus Lightweight Ripstop Nylon Poncho

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13. Gloves/Hand Warmers

If you find yourself stranded in frigid temperatures, it’s critical that you protect your hands from frostbite. Of course, a good pair of winter gloves will do the trick; but hand warmers are another effective and inexpensive alternative. Keep a few pairs (or even a full box) in your ultimate survival kit list bag!

Carhartt Men's WP Waterproof Insulated Glove

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14. N95 Respirator/Face Mask

Respirators and face masks are important—not only during a pandemic but also during an earthquake, building collapse, or another event that causes toxic chemicals to be released into the air. A high-quality dust mask or face covering will help filter these contaminants.

BASE CAMP M Plus Dust Face Mask

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15. Personal Hygiene Items

Even when you are working with limited resources, it’s important that you continue to practice good hygiene—for your own health and also for routine’s sake. Assemble the following items for a modest but effective emergency hygiene kit:

  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Body wash/soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Nail clippers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Shaving gel/foam
  • Shaving razor
  • Contact lenses/solution (if applicable)
  • Feminine products (if applicable)
  • Garbage bags and ties

16. Compass

If you’re out in the wilderness, lose cell phone reception, and are unsure of where you should be heading, a compass can help point you in the right direction. Don’t question adding one of these to your ultimate survival kit list!

Sportneer Lensatic Military Compass

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17. Fire Extinguisher

House fires can occur for a number of reasons, such as unattended cooking and electrical mishaps. By including a fire extinguisher in your emergency kit, you can combat the flames before they grow out of control.

StaySafe 5-in-1 Fire Extinguisher

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18. Sun Protection

If you’re stranded in an unsheltered or hot environment, it’s important that you protect your skin from the sun’s intense UV rays. Add a bottle of sunscreen, a wide-brim hat, and a pair of sunglasses to your survival kit.

Banana Boat Sport Ultra SPF 100

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Factors to Consider When Building Your Ultimate Survival Kit List

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all survival kit. Needs differ from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance. So, when fleshing out your own ultimate survival kit list, you will need to account for the following factors.

How Many People Will Be Sharing the Kit?

Ideally, there will be multiple people in your party who will have their own survival kits. As a result, your group will have access to an abundance of emergency supplies. Otherwise, be sure to account for each person in your group when building your survival pack.

Certain items—such as multi-tools, whistles, and fire-starting kits—won’t be impacted by the size of your group. Other items—such as survival food and clean water—will be affected.

What Are Your Personal Survival/Emergency Needs?

If you suffer from a particular health condition or disability, it’s critical that you also account for these needs when putting your ultimate survival kit list together.

An asthmatic person, for example, should keep an additional inhaler on hand. Similarly, someone who requires a specific prescription drug should make sure there is a steady supply of that medicine.

If you need medications or things like an inhaler, these items should be on your ultimate survival kit list

What Is Your Level of Survival/Emergency Experience?

Your ability to make use of the resources around you will also factor into what you add to your survival kit.

If you have a significant amount of wilderness experience, CPR training, and well-tuned survival instincts, you may be able to rely on a smaller and lighter kit. If you are inexperienced or find yourself delving into unfamiliar territory, on the other hand, it’s best to be over-prepared.

Regardless of your level of survival experience, try to maintain a healthy balance between relying on the resources in your environment and relying on the resources in your emergency kit.

Overconfidence in your ability to utilize your environment and natural resources for survival can easily put in you jeopardy. Conversely, an overreliance on your survival kit items can present all types of dangers when supplies begin to run low.

What Type of Environment Are You In?

Your environment will also play a role in determining which items to include in your emergency kit.

If you’re staying in town, you may have access to supermarkets, hospitals, and other places where you can stock up on groceries and medical supplies. If you find yourself far from civilization, however, you will need to make sure you stock up on more supplies when putting your kit together.

You will also need to account for your location’s climate. If you are visiting somewhere cold, your emergency kit should include winter-related items—such as a warm blanket, winter clothing and gear, and hot drink mixes.

Finally, consider the landscape. If you are spending time in the forest, bug spray and tick repellent are essential items. If you are spending time in the mountains, pack a trekking pole!

Ultimate Survival Kit List Tips

Assembling all of the items for an effective disaster kit is no easy feat. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind as you’re finalizing your ultimate survival kit list:

Come Up With a Reasonable Budget for Your Ultimate Survival Kit List

While it might be tempting to cut corners when budgeting for an emergency kit, keep in mind that your life, health, and wellbeing are at stake.

If you’re buying an emergency kit online, you may come across options that cost as little as $40–$50. However, these kits are often made from cheap materials and provide only the bare bones of what you would need in a survival scenario. Carefully vet the product to verify its quality before you make a purchase.

deciding how much to spend on your ultimate survival kit list

Rather than skimping on your ultimate survival kit list, invest in a high-quality kit that will prove to be reliable under life-threatening circumstances. The best survival kits may cost upwards of $150–$200 but rest assured that a great kit is a more-than-worthy investment!

Have the Specific Application in Mind

Emergency kits can take on different names, depending on the application. You may hear a kit being referred to as a disaster kit, bug-out bag (BOB), or survival backpack.

Before creating your survival gear list, determine how and when your kit will be used. Are you building a home emergency kit or a wilderness survival kit? Do you need supplies for 72 hours or for upwards of 2–3 weeks?

This will not only impact the types of items you include in your kit but also the quantities of those items.

Manage Your Ultimate Survival Kit’s Total Weight

As is the case with any kind of bag or suitcase you might use, it can be difficult to keep your survival kit’s overall size and weight under control. Whenever possible, opt for lightweight alternatives to traditionally heavy or bulky items—so long as they are still considered to be dependable products.

Making sure the items in the ultimate survival kit list don't weigh too much

Prioritize Survival Over Luxury or Entertainment

One of the best ways to ensure your kit’s effectiveness is to organize your ultimate survival kit list into three categories: items you must have, items you should have, and items that are nice to have. Should you need to narrow down your list, start by cutting the items you have already identified as non-essential.

Maintain Your Ultimate Survival Kit

As you use the supplies in your disaster kit, they will need to be replenished. Of course, this needs to happen quickly so that you are prepared for the next time you find yourself in an unexpected emergency situation.

Fortunately, staying on top of your survival supplies is easy when you have an organized list. With a copy of your checklist in hand, run through all of the items in your kit and confirm that you are fully stocked up on each item.

Make Sure You’re Prepared for Any Scenario With an Ultimate Survival Kit List

Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or a homebody at heart, it’s important for every person to have an emergency kit with as many items as possible from this ultimate survival kit list. Preparedness is key, as there’s no knowing when an unfortunate incident might occur.

Using the items, factors, and tips we’ve discussed in this article, you have everything you need to draft up your very own ultimate survival kit list today!