Survival Pack: How To Build One NOW (before SHTF)

By Will Brendza | Updated: 05/16/2024

Emegency Survival Kits

Today I’ve got something important to share…

A Complete List Of Critical Gear To Add To A Survival Pack

Because the idea behind building a survival pack is simple.

It’s a stash of critical survival gear and supplies organized in a portable container.

That’s it!

And while that sounds fairly straightforward – not just any old bargain pack will do.

If you want an epic one, you need to do some research.

You must understand what “stuff” makes a survival pack great and what makes one a dud.

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Survival Pack

Your Survival Pack Checklist

It’s important to know what goes into a quality survival pack for two reasons:

  1. First, you’ll understand how to identify high-quality gear from poor “stuff.”
  2. And second, this pack list ensures you don’t overlook anything critical.

And even if you buy one instead of building one, you’ll come across extra items you may want to add to the one you’ve bought.

There are no rules against customization – in fact, it’s highly encouraged.

But here’s the problem – many of you survivalists already have their Bug Out Bag packed and ready.

And when we cover in detail what’s inside a kit, you might notice some crossover between the two.

So my advice is this: redundancy is never bad for survival.

Having extra fish hooks and dehydrated meals is never bad.

And many of those items weigh little and are easily packed away without taking up a lot of space.

If the crossover bothers you, you may want to include just those items you don’t have instead of building a second “Survival Pack” almost identical to your Bug Out Bag.

Bug Out Bag Checklist eBook Cover - a man walking away wearing a military style backpack

Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Finding and Purifying Water Survival Skill

Emergency Food & Water Supplies

Before discussing any survival gear, you need to make food and water a priority first.

Without proper hydration and energy, a small emergency can quickly take a turn for the worse.

Even the Red Cross recommends a minimum of:

Water Filters/Tablets:

Sawyer Mini Filter

Clean drinking water is critical for survival situations and from your water taps in everyday life.

Survival water filters and purification tablets should be one of the first things you put into any survival pack.

Iodine tablets are very useful and occupy almost no space inside your pack.

Survival water filters work even faster than iodine, so get a few portable ones, like a Sawyer Mini.

Here’s my video review of the incredible Sawyer Mini.

↓ Sawyer Mini Water Filter Review


Sustenance is one of the pillars of survival.

Without it, you starve, shrivel up, and die miserably.

Calories are energy, no matter how you’re storing them, so keeping some form of food storage in your emergency pack is essential!

It can be as simple as a few energy bars or freeze-dried, dehydrated meals.

Some people prefer energy gels, packets of peanuts, and trail mix.

Another great survival food for your pack is called Pemmican.

The Native Americans originally invented this survival snack for their own survival needs.

It’s a protein-dense survival superfood that can last decades without refrigeration!

Avoid relying on candies and other food with high sugar content.

They will give you a short burst of energy, and you’ll feel more tired once it’s quickly used up.

The bottom line is to make sure to stash a bit of emergency food in your survival pack.

Gear For A Survival Kit

Emergency Tools & Gear

Survival Knife

Survival Neck KnifeIf you know how to use one, pack a survival knife.

But even a small credit card knife can be helpful in a pinch.

Knives have been one of man’s most important survival tools.

And that remains the same today – don’t get caught unawares without one.

ESEE makes a quality survival knife, but it’s nearly 12″ in overall length.

So, if you’d rather pack a compact survival knife that easily fits into a smaller emergency kit, check out The Survival Neck Knife.

↓ Survival Neck Knife Review – Can Your Neck Knife Do All This?

Waterproof Matches, Striker, and Lighter

I carry a Ferro rod, waterproof matches, and a survival lighter in my survival kit.

Because fire is one of man’s oldest survival tools, you’re under-prepared if you don’t have a way of making one.

Of course, many ways exist to start fires without matches and lighters.

But those methods are complicated, time-consuming, and less reliable.

Instead, pack a set of stormproof, waterproof matches because you should never make surviving an emergency any harder than it needs to be!

↓ UCO Titan Stormproof Mathes: Full Review!

Compact First Aid Pack

You want a small medical first aid kit, not a full EMT trauma kit.

Those large medical kits will consume nearly all of your available pack space.

Sure, you’ll be prepared for almost any medical emergency, but that’s it.

You won’t have room for all the other necessary survival supplies.

↓ My Medic MyFAK – Walkthrough & Review

Small Compass

Nothing can turn an emergency from bad to worse than getting lost.

That’s why every emergency pack should include a compass.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive compass or even a high-tech one.

It needs to be a compass you can rely on to point you in the right direction.

Inexpensive compasses are easy to find; make sure that it’s reliable.

Once you’ve found a cheap but reliable compass like this, put one in every bag you own.

Your bug-out bag, your hiking backpack, your purse… wherever!

A compass is a useful survival tool to always have on hand.

Fish Hooks and Line

Fishing is one of the easiest and most reliable forms of calorie acquisition in wilderness survival.

Fish make for excellent survival protein, and you can find them in most bodies of water.

And you don’t need a fancy pole and reel setup to catch one.

Some bait, a strong line, and a hook are all one needs to catch a fish in a pinch.

And patience… lots and lots of patience.

Survival Blankets

tact bivvy emergency sleeping bag

Emergency sleeping bags, “space blankets,” or bivy sacks as they are sometimes called, are essential for all Survival Packs.

They pack smaller and look like tin foil than an actual blanket, but these survival devices retain heat.

NASA originally designed them (hence their nickname “space blanket”) for astronauts.

But they work just as well for cold survivors down here on Earth.

Of the ones we’ve tested here at Skilled Survival – The Tact Bivvy by Survival Frog is our favorite.

↓ Bug Out Bag Shelter – Survival Frog TACT Bivvy Review

T-REX Duct Tape

The traditional American “fix-all” tape.

Duct tape is highly useful for everyday tasks and emergencies.

It allows you to build and repair just about anything you might have on hand in a survival situation.

And today’s T-REX duct tape is even better than the original version of this stuff.

Nowadays it’s all-weather, it’s stronger and lasts longer.

↓ T-Rex Tapes Explained

Emergency Poncho

When it starts raining in an emergency, you must stay dry.

Hyperthermia is extremely dangerous, especially in an emergency.

And if you’re stuck outside, with no house, buildings, cave, or other natural structure to seek refuge in, having an emergency poncho at your disposal is crucial.

Having two is even betteryou won’t have to share yours if you have a companion.

↓ Frogg Toggs Poncho Review

Emergency Lightsticks

These little devices can be lifesavers.

Not only will they provide some hands-free emergency lighting.

They can also provide a recuse beacon for search parties.

They are inexpensive, simple to use, and easily fit into any size kit.

Dust Masks

Let’s be honest – none of us can predict the sort of emergency we’ll end up in.

If the discharge includes fire, smoke, ash, dust, particulate matter, or a similar nature, you will want a dust mask.

These protect your respiratory system from pollutants and toxins.

They are cheap, lightweight, and easily packed away.

Or you can upgrade from a dusk mask to a full-blown gas mask for more dangerous chemicals in the air.

Nitrile Gloves

The applications for these are nearly endless.

Nitrile gloves are important when working with injuries.

They’re useful for cleaning nasty things (like toilets) or toxic materials.

So, stuff a couple of pairs of these into your survival pack.

You never know what you’ll need them for, but you can be almost certain you’ll need them for something.

Emergency Whistle

While you might have a loud shouting voice, survival whistles are always better at alerting people.

No matter how loud you think you can get, your voice will not carry as far as a whistle.

1. Our Top Recommendation
SE 7-IN-1 Green Whistle

The 7-in-1 Whistle is a high-tech whistle that comes with a LED flashlight and a compass (as the name implies). It also includes the following:

  • signaling mirror
  • waterproof storage compartment
  • thermometer
  • magnifying glass
  • 16” lanyard

This device is helpful in any survival situation.

The main drawback to this whistle is its color. Instead of neon-orange (which makes it easy to spot), this one's green. This color tends to blend into nature's surroundings.

This may be a Pro if you are not interested in rescue but evasion.

Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ NDUR 7-in-1 Survival Whistle Overview ↓

Survival Flashlight & An Extra Battery

firehawk tactical flashlightI recommend packing a survival flashlight that’s super bright and only requires a single AA battery.

No matter how bright a flashlight might be, you don’t want to deal with special battery sizes.

That way, you can pack an extra battery of the same size (AA) and have a flashlight for any emergency or survival situation.

Want a free FireHawk Tactical Flashlight?

Click Here To Get 2 For 1 FireHawk FlashlightsClick here now to access this limited time offer, just cover the small shipping & handling fee.

↓ Get A FREE FireHawk Tactical Flashlight (+S&H) ↓

Bio-Hazard Bags

I don’t know what kinds of injuries I’ll deal with in a future emergency, nor do you!

Biohazard bags are the things you do not need until you need them.


A deck of survival playing cards, a cribbage board, a book, or a magazine can make a huge difference in a survival situation.

Entertainment can preserve one’s sanity in stressful situations.

An emergency kit without some form of distraction (like a deck of survival cards) is incomplete.

Personal Items

Do you wear contact lenses?

If so, you should stash a spare pair in your emergency preparedness pack.

Seeing in a crisis is essential; contacts can fall out or get debris in them.

Do you take insulin or special medications?

Obviously, you also need to add some spares of those critical items to your pack.

Think about the items specific to you and your health and add them to your preparedness pack.

Final Thoughts

A survival pack is the kind of asset that makes the difference between a chaotic and difficult struggle and a manageable challenge.

With a single bag, you can prepare yourself for the worst emergency.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of crossovers between “Bug out Bags” and survival packs.


I do not recommend supplementing one for the other. Why not have both?

It’s good to have two, even if they are roughly the same and loaded with many of the same supplies.

It means you’re doubly prepared in the event of an emergency.

Redundancy in survival is a good thing; do not be afraid to have more than one of the same survival tools.

Why Trust Skilled Survival...

Go here now to review a full breakdown of:

  • Who We Are
  • Our Credentials
  • Our Mission
  • & Product Recommendations...

Here are a few highlights of our teams credentials & certifications:

  • Certified Member of a Mountain Search & Rescue Organization
  • Plant Emergency & Safety Leader for a Major Food Manufacturer
  • Member of the 10TH Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR, CPR
  • Official Gear Tester for Numerous Outdoor Gear Companies
  • Countless Multiday Backpacking trips into Remote Wilderness
  • Bachelor's Degree In Mechanical Engineering 
  • Bachelor's Degree In Civil Engineering
  • Bachelor's Degree In Biomedical Engineering

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." - Warren Buffett

We're fully aware that trust is NOT something you GET but is EARNED.

And we'll continue to earn YOUR trust through our forthright and honest approach with each new Blog Post, Guide & Product we create...

Will Brendza

Will Brendza

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Member of The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR (expired), CPR (expired)
  • 8+ Years Researching, Writing, About Survival and Preparedness
  • Awards from Society of Professional Journalists
  • Winner of Camp Cold’s “Happy Camper” award in 2020
  • P.s. Do You Live In A 'Danger Zone' County?

    Find out now using my Danger Zone County List & Special Report it’s absolutely FREE.

    In minutes you’ll know EXACTLY where you stand and if you should be worried or not..

    Cooking over a rocket stove
    Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
    Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).