5 Best Survival Playing Cards That Are Worth The Weight

By SS Contributor | Last Updated: February 6, 2017

Survival Playing CardsHow much does your bug out bag weigh?

I’m an ultralight backpacker.

Which means I make difficult choices about what to bring and what to leave behind.

I take the same weight-conscious approach when constructing a bug out bag because (all things being equal) lighter is better.

However, I always have a bit of room for a deck of cards.

That might sound surprising.

At first thought, games may not seem essential, but they play an important role in survival by keeping morale high.

A group with no morale has no drive – no will to survive.

Games don’t have to weigh you down.

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

A deck of playing cards is at the top of my list because it only weighs about 3 and a half ounces, yet you can do so much with it.

The obvious ones are card games, like poker, solitaire, bulls, gin rummy, and a hundred others. 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, which are both informational cards and playing cards.

Here are my 6 personal favorite survival playing cards.

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Survival Playing Cards

I don’t have a single “favorite” deck. There are a number of survival decks I like, each for different reasons.

For Wilderness Survival

My go-to deck for wilderness survival is Discover Wilderness Survival from SEA and SKY because the cards are so dense with 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 a little flimsy.

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

For 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 how to self-arrest with an ice ax, perform avalanche rescue, build an emergency snow shelter, and set up for belaying and rappeling.
  • A quarter of the deck covers wilderness skills in the mountains, like avoiding lighting, and dealing with bears. It contains almost nothing about shelters, water, or food.
  • A quarter of the deck is first-aid skills, again 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.

For Urban Survival

I spend a lot of time in the woods, so I practice wilderness survival in case I get stuck out there. For most of us, when the SHTF, we’re likely to be in an urban area. That’s why I like the Urban Survival Playing Cards from Tactical And Preparedness Solutions. They’re focused on urban survival.

urban survival playing cards

This deck has a lot of unique survival tips like using super glue as stitches, purifying water with bleach, getting emergency water from your water heater, and preserving refrigerated food after a power outage.

For Identifying Edible Plants

Wild Cards: Edible Wild Foods by Linda Runyon is a fun deck that a lot of survivalists would be interested in. 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 to eat and how to prepare them.

wild cards edible wild foods

This deck has a number of plants that I see on a daily basis 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 so that I could see more detail.

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

A Conversation Game

Conflicted: The Survival Card Game is different than the rest of the cards I’ve mentioned. Instead of teaching survival skills, the purpose of these cards is to start a conversation.

conflicted the survival card game

Each card describes a debatable end of the world scenario and asks what you would do, for example:

You hear a noise in the back of your house, and you find 12 orphans scavenging for food from your garbage cans. They appear to be kids under 6 years of age.

Taking them in would diminish your supply timeline by at least 50%, and you’re not certain you can replenish your supplies once they run out.

Plus it would take extra manpower to watch over all of them, and you can spare little since everyone in your camp is constantly exhausted from hard work and rationed meals.

Leaving these kids to their fates would mean their deaths, or worse. How would deal with this situation?

The official game is to read a card aloud, have everyone say what they would do, and then each person vote on the best answer. I use them as a conversation starter and I don’t bother with the voting.

This is a good way to learn about your friends, their morals, and how they match up with yours. I’m a big fan of conversation games because they help you connect with your friends on a deeper level than a typical card game does.

Survival Card Weight and Sizes

If you’re a gram counter, I should tell you that some decks are beefier than others. Heavier cards are also bulkier but seem more durable.

Deck Weight Deck Thickness
Discover Wilderness Survival 98 grams 19 mm
Freedom of the Hills 116 grams 25 mm
Urban Survival 111 grams 20 mm
Wild  Edible Cards 91 grams 17 mm
Conflicted 92 grams 17 mm

All cards were the size of typical poker cards, 2.5“ x 3.5” (6.35 cm x 8.89 cm).

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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.

Did I leave out your favorite deck of survival playing cards? Tell me in the comment section below.

This post was written and submitted bMike Lin the co-owner of Rallt, maker of packable adventure and travel gear.

P.s. Do you know where the closest nuclear bunker is from your home?

There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.

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