Best Survival Packs For Hauling Your Most Critical Gear

By Will Brendza | Last Updated: May 15, 2018

Emegency Survival KitsThe idea behind a survival pack is simple.

They are a stash of critical gear and supplies organized in a portable container (bag, pack, tin, etc.).

That’s it!

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

If you want to build (or buy) an epic one, you need to do some research.

You need to understand what makes a survival pack epic and what makes one a dud.

So today, we’re going to go over all the critical pieces of survival gear you need to build a survival pack you can be proud of, specifically:

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Survival Pack

Your Survival Pack Checklist

It’s important to know what goes into a quality survival kit for two reasons.

First, you’ll know if it’s truly comprehensive or missing an essential item. You’ll know how to identify a high-quality pack from poor ones.

And second, this list will help you build one.

And even if you buy one instead of building one, you’ll see extra items you’ll 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 a bad thing regarding 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 yet instead of building a second “Survival Kit” almost identical to your Bug Out Bag or Survival Bag.

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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 worst.

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 take up 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.


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 some 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 then 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.

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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 since the dawn of time. And that remains much 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.

Waterproof Matches, Striker, and Lighter

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

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

Of course, there are many ways 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!

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 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.

Instead, get a smaller first-aid medical kit like the Day Tripper Medical Kit.

It has all the basic medical tools and supplies you need for most emergency and survival situations.

Whichever first aid kit you ultimately choose, it must include Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol swabs, and some clean gauze at a bare minimum.

Also, check out our in-depth article on how to build your own medical kit.

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 just 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 small 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.

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.

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 betterthen you won’t have to share yours if you have a companion.

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.

And if it includes fire, smoke, ash, dust, particulate matter, or other discharge of similar nature, then 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.

You should check out the Scream Whistle by Survival Frog. Not only is this whistle light and compact, but it’s extremely loud.

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Survival Flashlight & An Extra Battery

firehawk tactical flashlightWhile you never want to rely on many survival gadgets that require batteries, carrying one for your survival flashlight still makes sense.

I 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 you’ll have a flashlight for any emergency or survival situation.

Bio-Hazard Bags

I don’t know what kinds of injuries I’ll be dealing with in a future emergency – and neither do you!

Biohazard bags are the kinds of 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, then 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 need to add some spares of those critical items to your pack as well.

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.

Now, as I mentioned, there is a lot of crossover between “Bug out Bags” and survival packs. THIS IS OKAY.

I do not recommend supplementing one for the other. Why not have both? Even if they are roughly the same and loaded with many of the same supplies, it’s good to have two.

It means you’re doubly prepared in the event of an emergency. Redundancy in survival is often a good thing, do not be afraid to have more than one of the same survival tools.

Will Brendza

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