5 Best Survival Playing Cards Worth Their Extra Weight

By SS Contributor | Updated: 03/11/2023

Best Survival Playing Cards For Your Survival Pack

Survival Playing Cards

When constructing a bug-out bag (or get home bag, go bag, etc.), the lighter, the better.

Yet, I always make room for a deck of playing cards.

That might sound surprising.

I mean, at first thought, silly games may not seem essential, right?

But the truth is, they play an important role in survival by keeping morale high.

A group with no morale has no will to survive.

But games don’t have to weigh you down.

Many camping games work well in a bug out bag because they require little or no equipment.

And survival playing cards are at the top of my list because they only weigh about 3 and a half ounces, yet you can do so much with them.

The obvious games are poker, solitaire, garbage, gin rummy, and many others.

↓ My Top 10 Games That Use Standard Playing Cards ↓

But there is more you can do with a deck of cards outside of the typical card games:

  • Build a card house
  • Card throwing
  • Practice blackjack card counting
  • Card magic tricks

You get the idea.

But I don’t pack just any deck of cards.

Like a good survivalist, I prefer each piece of gear to serve multiple purposes.

Because of that, I’m a big fan of survival playing cards, both informational and playing cards.

So here are my favorite survival playing cards for your survival pack.

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Best Survival Playing Cards

For Wilderness Survival
Gentlemen's Hardware Campfire Survival Playing Cards

The Gentlemen's Hardware Campfire Survival Playing Cards are a great addition to any camping or outdoor adventure. The cards are designed to withstand the elements and come in a compact metal case for easy transport.

The cards themselves are made of high-quality PVC material, which is waterproof and durable. They feature survival tips and tricks on each card, making them not only great for entertainment but also a useful tool in case of an emergency.

The combination of entertainment and practicality makes it a must-have for camping trips or any other outdoor adventure.

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For Wilderness Survival
SEA and SKY Discover Wilderness Survival Playing Cards

Discover Wilderness Survival from SEA and SKY is my go-to deck for wilderness survival because the cards contain dense wilderness information. It’s practically a book. I enjoy just sitting and reading the cards.

  • Half the deck covers how to survive all kinds of natural disasters, climates, and attacking animals.
  • A quarter of the deck deals with survival skills like finding water, gathering food, and building a shelter.
  • A quarter of the deck is dedicated to first aid.

A few negative points are that the print is so small some people will have trouble reading it. Only 3 cards in the deck have illustrations (useful knots, animal tracks, ground-to-air, and Morse codes); the rest is all text. Also, the cards are a little flimsy.

The deck more than makes up for it by the sheer volume of information you get.

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For Mountaineering
Freedom of the Hills Deck: Mountaineering

The Freedom of the Hills Deck from The Mountaineers is focused on wilderness travel in the high mountains.

It has a special place in my heart because its content comes from the excellent book that got me started in backpacking, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, by Steven M. Cox.

  • Half the deck covers mountain and climbing skills, like self-arresting with an ice ax, performing avalanche rescue, building an emergency snow shelter, and setting up for belaying and rappeling.
  • A quarter of the deck covers mountain wilderness skills, like avoiding lighting and dealing with bears. It contains almost nothing about shelter, water, or food.
  • A quarter of the deck is first-aid skills specific to the mountains. It covers things like hypothermia, frostbite, and altitude sickness.

The cards are especially thick. Because of that, this deck is a bit thicker and heavier than most playing cards. It weighs in at 115 grams and is 25 mm thick, compared to 98 grams and 19 mm for the Discover Wilderness Survival deck.

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For Identifying Edible Plants
SEA and SKY Discover the Edible Wilderness Playing Cards

SEA and SKY Discover the Edible Wilderness Playing Cards are a deck of playing cards designed to help people identify and learn about edible plants and animals found in the wild.

These cards are not only fun to play with but can also serve as a valuable educational tool for anyone interested in learning about foraging and wilderness survival.

The cards are durable and made with high-quality materials, ensuring that they can withstand regular use.

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For Identifying Edible Plants
Edible Wild Foods Playing Cards

Wild Cards: Edible Wild Foods by Linda Runyon is a fun deck that many survivalists would like. Each card covers a common wild edible in North America.

The back of the card has a full-color photograph of the plant. The front has its description, including which parts you can eat and how to prepare them.

This deck has several plants I see daily around my home in San Francisco, like dock, thistle, mallow, stinging nettle, and chickweed.

There are two things that I don’t like about this deck.

The back of each card is “marked” with a different photo, which makes them less playable once you remember, for example, that the sunflower is the 6 of diamonds. Also, I wish some of the photos were taken closer to see more detail.

Still, these cards are great for learning about edible plants and are usable for casual card games.

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Best Survival Playing Card Features To Look For


First off, durability is non-negotiable.

Look for cards made from waterproof and tear-resistant materials.

Mother Nature doesn’t always play nice, and you don’t want your survival deck falling apart after a little rain or rough handling.

A quality set should withstand the elements and stand up to the wear and tear of survival scenarios.


Next, utility is the name of the game.

Seek out decks that offer more than just numbers and suits.

Look for decks that include survival tips, emergency signals, navigation aids, and even edible plant identification.

Every card should be a mini information hub, ready to assist you in a pinch.


Versatility is another key factor.

The best survival playing cards should serve multiple functions.

A set that can be used as a signaling mirror, makeshift knife, or even fire-starting material can be a true lifesaver.

It’s like having a multi-tool in your pocket, ready to tackle various challenges that may come your way.


Portability is crucial as well.

Your survival deck should be compact and lightweight, easily fitting into your pocket, backpack, or emergency kit.

Space and weight are precious commodities in survival situations, so the last thing you need is a bulky set of cards weighing you down.

Educational Value

Lastly, educational value is a major bonus.

Opt for a deck that not only provide practical survival information but also help you learn new skills.

A deck that offers illustrated guides on building shelters, tying knots, and administering first aid can transform your downtime into productive learning sessions.

Take Action

You need a little fun, even in a survival situation.

A deck of cards is cheap, small, lightweight, and versatile.

It’s especially versatile when you have a multi-purpose survival deck.

Not only can it bolster your morale and give you the will to survive, but it can also give you the knowledge to survive as well.

I challenge you to take action today: Add a deck of playing cards to your go bag essentials list.

Get a few decks that you like.

Put one in your go bag. Put one in your bug out bag.

One in your camping pack, one in your glove box, etc..…

I guarantee they will get used one way or another – hopefully just for fun and games.

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