Without proper, reliable and durable equipment the basic tasks of finding or building shelter, cooking food, locating safe water, guarding against extreme weather, signaling for help, or even defending yourself will become an ongoing struggle, compounding an already stressful situation.
When it comes to survival, preparedness is key with no room for procrastination. Gathering together the most essential survival gear and equipment for your individual/family needs will help protect and ensure overall safety and security, and provide a sense of comfort amidst an uncertain environment.
Your backpack or essential survival gear should be lightweight, durable and waterproof. Look for a bag that is spacious and has several smaller compartments that will hold different items. The pack should fit correctly with most of the load resting comfortably on your hips, is contoured to your back and has adjustable shoulder straps to ensure proper weight distribution.
Backpacks are not a one-size-fits-all product. There are a great many options for a variety of body types, including bags specifically designed for women. Retailers that will assist each member of your family in finding the pack with the best fit. Consider a dry run. Take the family on a weekend pack trip, one where a moderate hike is required to get to your destination and thoroughly test the backpacks for comfort.
Resting alongside water and food, shelter is one of the most essential pieces of survival equipment. If evacuation is required and if hotels are full, there are no friends or family to stay with and if shelters are unavailable or at capacity you will need to provide your family with shelter.
The best option is a tent. As with backpacks, there are a bewildering number of options, choose from large, 12 person, canvas hunting tents to lightweight, 1 or 2 person, backpack tents with just enough room to lay down inside to everything in between. Choose what will best work for your family and your evacuation plan.
Water Purification Kit
Whether you’re sheltering in place or bugging-out your supply of water is finite. Eventually, it will need replenishing. This means turning to less than perfect sources like rivers, ponds, reservoirs and lakes.
These alternatives might seem clean and safe, but, on the side of caution, and assume all outside water sources have some type of contaminant. Boiling and iodine or chlorine tablets are tried and true methods of purifying water for drinking but there are a large variety of water filters (both for the home and portable uses) that will meet virtually all your family’s needs. While home filters can prove pricey, portable filters designed for backpacking and camping are affordable, lightweight, durable and can remove the majority of contaminants found in North American waters.
Food and Cooking
Ranking a very close second to water and just above shelter, food is essential for any emergency where resources become limited. You need food to maintain your health and energy during stressful times.
If sheltering in place is an option then whatever types of food you’ve stockpiled will be available but if bugging-out is necessary then lightweight, dehydrated food and freeze-dried packable meals are best. Dehydrated foods are acceptable for short-term evacuations but nothing helps boost moral than a warm meal. And to serve a hot meal you need fuel and something to cook that food in. Luckily, the backpacking, camping and hunting markets are flush with a broad selection of equipment at a range of prices. These products will be lightweight, packable and designed specifically for the needs of anyone surviving during an emergency.
First Aid Kit
A well equipped emergency medical kit will include rolls of gauze, adhesive strips, antiseptics for treating wounds and preventing infection, topical anti-inflammatory creams for common skin rashes, and an assortment of medications for pain, inflammation, infection, nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal (stomach) problems.
Also include sufficient prescription medications your family members regularly need to last two to three months. Pack other supplies such as contact lenses, eyeglasses, hearing aids, syringes, epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) for severe allergic reactions, blood pressure and/or glucose level monitors. Bring items such as face/gas masks, silk sutures, blood stoppers and transfusion bags (if trained to use them). You may consult with your family doctor about a supply of broad-spectrum antibiotics in case of bacterial infections.
In an emergency when you are likely to be exposed to the elements, the proper clothing will keep you warm, comfortable and alive.
Think in terms of layers…
Layers of clothing rather than bulky jackets or sweaters will save space and provide you with a broader choice for changing weather conditions. Combining a short sleeve undershirt, a long sleeve outerwear, a fleece pullover and a rain jacket that crumples up into its own small bag will allow most anyone to brave a range of conditions, short of hunkering outside during a hurricane or a blizzard. Again, choose wisely and don’t skimp on quality as this is the clothing you may have to depend on for some time.
Select shoes that will protect your feet from the elements, keep them warm and dry, and allow you to walk, run, jog and jump, if necessary. For survival situations, the best equipment for your feet are a pair of good, well broken in hiking boots made from quality materials. Look for excellent cushioning, arch and ankle support, solid lacing, thick soles and deep treads. Boots should provide a snug and comfortable fit when worn with thick socks with little movement to minimize blisters.
Source of Heat and Light
All to often, the little, yet essential things are forgotten. Matches or lighters are remembered only when the camp stove is out and ready to light. Flashlights are only missed when dusk descends and the tent isn’t even set up. Pack these things away in your emergency backpack now where they will be when needed.
Matches, lighters, flints and instant fire-starters, are small and very light. There’s no reason not to prepare for any eventuality and pack each type. “Strike-anywhere” matches are reliable as long as they do not get wet. Store all matches, even waterproof matches, in plastic, resealable bags along with an emery-board to strike against. Butane lighters, the kind found at any convenience store, are probably the best choice given their packability, simplicity and long-lasting fuel. Magnesium flint fire-starters are inexpensive and round out a reliable trio of fire starting tools ready for virtually any environment.
Portable lighting from standard flashlights to headlamps to backpack lanterns, the market is broad. While tempting to seek out the latest, rugged, unbreakable model available, sometimes the simplest is the best choice. Flashlights and camp lanterns today are small, wrapped in sturdy aluminum bodies with efficient, bright LED bulbs. When deciding on battery-powered lighting equipment keep battery types consistent and simple.
If carrying loads of replacement batteries is unappealing consider hand-crack or solar-powered lamps or a low-tech alternative to electric lighting… aluminum housed, candle lanterns designed for backpacking and camping. Whatever your decision, once again remember to choose reliable equipment that will work when needed.
During disasters, traditional telephones, mobile phones and internet services are quickly overwhelmed rendering their systems virtually useless. And if the power goes out, these systems will falter along with everything else that operates on electricity.
Satellite phones will most often work but are expensive options. You and your family will need alternatives. Citizens Band (CB), yes it still exists, is one option. It has good coverage, 1-15 miles, (depending on the size of the antennae), with home-based versions to more mobile options for vehicles or hand-held walkie-talkies available. UHF handhelds for staying in contact with family members over short distances are another option. Yet, when all else fails and the only need is to attract the attention of rescuers then go with a flashlight with signaling function or beacon, a whistle or signal mirror. At the very least, keep a transistor radio on hand. Even if you cannot communicate with emergency services, there will be radio alerts telling you where to go to find help.
Whether you intend to head out of town to find safe haven or simply moving to another location, you need to know how to get around once you arrive.
GPS is useful but in a disaster situation when communication lines become disrupted, physical maps and compasses are your most reliable navigation tools. Buy a waterproof maps or print out on thin sheets of plastic or other waterproof material. Have two or three compasses on hand in the event one is lost or broken. Familiarize yourself with your environment. A map will show you where you are but it will not tell you what types of risks you are facing.
Cordage, Rope, String & Duct Tape
You will always need a length of rope or cord to tie something down, hang something up and lash something together. Include string and fishing line as well. And duct tape… well that goes without saying, a million and one uses and still growing.
More Essential Survival Gear Options For Protection
Invest in a good survival knife, the kind that is strong enough to cut through small branches, rope, leather. Survival knives serve many functions. They can cut, puncture, slice and – if and when necessary – protect you from bodily harm.
Other survival tools worth considering are;
- A multi-tool that will handle locks and screwdrivers
- A sheet of tarpaulin for shelter or covering
- A pair of binoculars for scouting
- A hunting rifle and ammunition for fast, efficient hunting
- A hatchet or a machete for cutting trees and dense overgrowth
- Night vision goggles for viewing the environment in total darkness