Last Updated on December 11, 2020
The dictionary defines survival as “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” As Preppers, this is our primary goal even though each person has a unique vision of what that looks like for their life. The Prepper Journal’s survival gear list is designed to help you “continue to live” in spite of “difficult circumstances”.
But this equipment for survival is going to be general survival gear in a lot of respects. If you have most or all the items on this gear list, or some reasonable facsimile, you should be fine in a lot of emergency situations or “difficult circumstances”.
If you give me a highly unique situation, like the grid is down and ‘my dog does not have his insert whatever medicine here‘ then this list may not help fido survive. What it should do, is give you context to consider your own survival gear list requirements easily and plan accordingly.
This is not a basic preparedness list either. For just the basics, you can read our Prepping 101 – Baby Steps article. This survival gear list presented below is an involved checklist and some of you may look at all the items and wonder how you would pay for all of them.
Prepping is not a destination; it is a journey. Think of this list as the things you ideally would have, but it is perfectly fine to start out without everything. I did! To keep your prepping goals in sight, print out this survival gear list and check off items as you acquire or achieve them.
This survival gear list does not go into great depth on each item or category – we have specific articles for almost every topic on this list and I will link to those accordingly.
This survival gear list is not magic. It requires planning and maintenance. You cannot stick this stuff in a shed and forget about it – although even if you did, you will still be better off than your neighbors who did nothing. That topic is also another deserving of its own category, but I will not address that either in this survival gear list.
Along those same lines, just having a ton of survival gear is not your desired end goal. You must know how and when to use the equipment below to save a life, maybe your own, so ensure training and planning are also two of your very first priorities.
Lastly, before I get into the actual survival gear list, for this exercise I am assuming you are home with your stuff. If you are out of town on vacation or kidnapped by the Cartel -blindfolded in the trunk of an old Chevy, it is likely these items will not help you. However, you can use any of these survival items in several different ways so there are dual-purpose items in here as well.
You can use the Table of contents below to jump to specific sections if you need to. So without further ado, let’s get into our recommendations for your survival gear list.
Table of Contents
Core Survival Gear List
The items on this survival gear list are meant to keep you alive so I started with the core problems of maintaining proper body temperature (not freezing or burning up), ensuring you have enough water, food storage and security first.
Not having adequate shelter will kill you faster than just about anything assuming you are not shot or killed intentionally in some way so a method to protect yourself from the elements is one of the top survival priorities.
Tent – A tent in a house? Yes, I know but tents can help you even inside your house. If you have a power outage in the winter, you can get into a tent to keep your body heat trapped more so than in a wide-open house. If you have something like a buddy heater, it is easier to stay warm inside the tent.
In the summertime, you can sleep outside to take advantage of fresh air and whatever breeze is blowing, or if you are forced out of your home, this is your new bedroom. A good tent should be on your survival gear list.
Tents have recreational uses also so they are not purely survival gear items that you can only use in an emergency. Choose a tent that is big enough for your family situation. Two smaller tents may be necessary to hold everyone.
Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and quality but I have never agreed with their per-person ratings. For instance, I had an 8-person tent and you could only get 8 people in there if we were packed like sardines. Take that with a grain of salt and get one that is big enough yet offers a little room to move around.
A good quality tent like this one is probably good for two adults and maybe a small child with room left over to store your bags in there if needed.
Tarp – Why do you need a tarp if you are in your house? A tarp is a budget tent if needed – just hang it between two poles or trees using some paracord and you will keep condensation off you, and if configured properly will allow you to reflect some heat if you have a fire set up.
You can temporarily patch holes in roofs with it. You can make a shower curtain with it or in a pinch, use it to catch rainwater. There are lots of different tarps on the market and you can get the cheaper blue tarps, but a heavy-duty tarp is going to last longer. Size and weight might be considerations as your survival gear list item so I’d recommend something lighter, thinner, and easier to pack like the Aqua Quest Guide Tarp, and don’t forget tent stakes to go with that tarp.
Sleeping Bag – A sleeping bag is the best solution for keeping you warm that we have invented short of HVAC. When the power is out and you don’t have access to a roaring fire, a good synthetic sleeping bag will keep you warm on chilly nights.
We have several sleeping bags laying around for just that reason. Alternately, you could have warm blankets and comforters but a quality three-season sleeping bag usually packs down to a smaller size and you can easily add this to your bug-out bag if you need to leave home.
Bivvy Bag – Last-ditch survival gear like a bivvy bag is necessary when you have no other options. Bivvy bags are shelter in the form of a mylar sack that reflects your body heat. These are meant for survival only so don’t expect these to stand up to sleeping every night.
Alternate Heating Source*
Ideally, you have backup systems for the modern conveniences we rely on when the grid is up and everything is normal. Backup heat is an important consideration when we look at survival gear lists. Many of you have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. These stoves are amazing and if that is your setup, you should be good. Assuming you have plenty of firewood chopped and ready.
For those who have gas fireplaces, they are a good option if the gas is on and flowing. If the gas stops or you do not have a gas fireplace, a kerosene heater is a good, relatively cheap backup heat device.
We keep a kerosene heater in the shed with 10 gallons of kerosene treated so that should we need to, we can pull that out and use it to keep us warm and alive.
I would also recommend a spare wick for your kerosene heater and not to store it filled with fuel. This way, you will not have to worry about fire and the wick stays fresh. I left a wick in the heater one year and it was gross and moldy so it had to be replaced.
After we have made sure our body temperature can be regulated with shelter, our next consideration for a survival gear list is water. Water is necessary even more than food to keep you alive and while we take it almost for granted now, we could run into a survival situation where water was either unavailable or unfit to drink. A good survival gear list should cover both scenarios.
One of the easiest preps you can do is store some extra water in your house. How much water do you need to store for emergencies? The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day for each person.
This one-gallon requirement takes into consideration cooking and hygiene also in addition to consuming a level of water you need to be healthy and hydrated.
Weather considerations affect how much water you need to store also. You will need more if you are active in the summer.
The best way to store a larger quantity of water is in food-safe water containers, out of the elements and free of contaminants. You can use either 7-gallon water jugs or for those with less room, water bricks make a good choice for stacking. Both options allow you to stack them to reduce the space footprint of all of this stored water. Storing old milk jugs is an acceptable backup plan, just make sure they are very clean before you start storing water in them.
Pro Tip – Water will go stale after a while so make sure you have a water rotation plan. I have six 7 gallon water containers that I refill with fresh water every 6 months. For additional water needs, I look to water filtration.
Water Filtration Individual
At some point, your water storage will run out unless you have a big lake or pond on your property. For those of us who do not, filtering water is the easiest way to make almost any water source you have safe to drink.
What about boiling water? Yes, boiling water is a proven method to kill any microorganisms but it is extremely inefficient. First, you need to make a fire. Then you need to have a container to hold the water while it comes to a boil. Then you have to let it cool off. Even after you do all of that, boiling doesn’t do anything to the sediment.
For me, the clear choice is a gravity water filter for your survival gear list. Luckily for us, there are many options out there.
If you have looked around at all, two main choices seem to be a LifeStraw or the Sawyer mini. They are lightweight and highly portable, but you can’t easily get a large amount of water filtered with these two options – unless you get one of their more extensive kits.
The best water filtration device I have seen uses two bags. One to hold the dirty water which is then fed through the filter to a clean water bag. I think even Lifestraw and Sawyer now have something like this.
But the model I have used and can vouch for is the Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System. Easily allows you to filter water for yourself or another person.
Water Filtration Group 2-4
The Big Berkey is even easier than the Gravityworks. Just dump your water in the top and it comes out filtered in the bottom. It holds 2.5 gallons and sits on your counter just waiting for you to fill it. The Berkey’s replaceable filters also last for up to 6,000 gallons so a lot of capacity for a family.
Another option is the Patriot Pure Ultimate Water Filtration system. It holds just over 2 gallons and the filters last for 5,000 gallons but it is a little cheaper than a Big Berkey.
Backup Water Filtration methods
With those two water filtration methods above in your survival gear stash, you should have plenty of capacity to live and thrive through most short-term emergencies. But what if we are faced with something that lasts longer?
You could always boil, but bleach is yet another method that is guaranteed to kill organisms if done properly. This is not my preferred method, but in terms of long-term viability going the bleach route might be something you consider.
But I am not talking about household bleach here, although unscented bleach will work. The downside is that it doesn’t last long. Bleach has about a 6-month shelf life so don’t plan on that being your backup water filtration method.
What does not go bad, at least for a very long time is the active ingredient in bleach, Calcium Hypochlorite. Calcium Hypochlorite is a powder and has a shelf life of 10 years if stored in a cool dry place. You can use this to make bleach which you can then use a diluted amount to disinfect water.
To learn more about this long term water disinfection option, you can read our post Disinfection: From Treating Water with Bleach to Killing Ebola for step by step instructions. You can purchase Calcium Hypochlorite, store it safely (because fumes will corrode metal and eat through cheaper plastic – first-hand experience), and be able to make bleach to disinfect water for years.
Backup water collection methods
We’ve covered water filtration but what about finding or collecting water to filter in the first place? A well-rounded water storage plan also has the means to capture or transport water collected elsewhere to your home.
Now, if you live in the desert, your options are much more limited, but not impossible. But for this article, I will deal with most people who have some access to wild water.
Rainwater catchment system – Rain barrels are probably one of the first prepper projects I tried because the benefits are so great compared to the effort to get them working. The average US home can collect thousands of gallons of rain and that can fill up barrels for you to use for sanitation, cooking, or drinking.
There is a handy little rainwater collection calculator here that you can use to see just how much rainwater your roof could bring you. And hundreds of Rain barrel projects like the one below for you do this weekend.
Other Water sources – Pools and Hot tubs will work but chlorine levels and filtration methods would still need to be monitored to ensure the water is safe to drink and before I drank something someone may have urinated in, I’m looking for other options.
For the survival gear list, I will not get into the specifics of what kinds of food storage are best, but we have several articles on that subject too. I would recommend either Prepping 101 – Prepper Food Storage or Back to Basics: How to Stockpile Food for Emergencies if you are interested in learning more about food storage plans.
This list will focus a little more on the survival gear we could use to manage or prepare the food you have stored up.
30 Days of non-expired/not refrigerated food for everyone
Briefly, we will just put this down as a requirement for your survival preparations. If you are printing out this survival gear list to put on your refrigerator this line can be one you check off when your food storage amounts meet the goal.
Something to consider in a power outage is that your fridge and freezers will only keep food cold for maybe a couple of days. (assuming temperatures aren’t freezing at the time) You could eke out more time with a chest freezer if you keep it closed, but sooner or later that food will need to be eaten or it goes bad.
Implements to prepare food without electricity
So, you have food stored at your home but no microwave or electric stove or oven to cook it. You need a plan for preparing the food you have so that it does not go to waste.
Cook Stove – A normal camping stove is the best bet for this situation. Many have dual burners so you can cook two things at one time. We carry a Coleman stove like this one camping with us and it works great. In a power outage, this fits easily on the counter and we have made delicious meals with it.
Backyard Grill – Another option is to use your grill which is one reason why I have two propane tanks stored in my shed. This way I have a little extra capacity and I always keep one in rotation. If you are a purist and only use charcoal, this still works obviously but the storage space requirements for charcoal would be a little more than with propane.
In keeping with the backyard theme, you could also just have a propane tank burner. These hook on to regular propane tanks and give you a stable platform to heat a pot or skillet. Useful for boiling water or cooking a turkey.
Rocket Stove – One handy option is a rocket stove. You can build a rocket stove yourself with simple materials or purchase one like the EcoZoom Versa. There are other rocket stove options like the Bruntmor Camping Rocket Stove.
The good thing about rocket stoves like this is that they take regular sticks you can collect from the ground and not an expensive fuel like propane. As long as you have trees nearby you would have a virtually endless supply of fuel for your off-grid stove.
I’ll mention a backyard campfire because people have cooked over open fires since the world started spinning. But with any of the methods above you are going to want cookware designed for these more rugged conditions.
Can Opener – Don’t forget a manual can opener to help you will all of those cans of beanie weenies you have stored. It may sound odd, but believe me, a can opener should be on your survival gear list. Just ask the people affected by hurricanes when all they had were canned foods. If you do forget this, you can read How to open a can without a can opener.
Freeze Dried food for long term storage
The final item in our food section of the survival gear list is just a mention of freeze-dried food. The storage shelf life for these is over 25 years and you just need water. I recommend a good portion of your food storage be long-term freeze-dried food – if all your other survival needs are met first.
Other Food Considerations – Trapping/Hunting are a valid option but in a grid-down scenario with food shortages, wild game is not going to last. They will quickly be hunted to extinction so I wouldn’t make this the main focus of my food storage survival plan. You may get lucky but you will be in the minority.
Clothing you would think is a no brainer because who walks around naked right now? That is true, but just because you have clothes doesn’t mean those are appropriate for survival. Women will not be running around in yoga pants for very long and your cool skinny jeans that show just the right amount of guy ankle will be junk in short order.
Clothing for survival needs to be able to take abuse and keep you moderately protected. We are talking about durable farm work type clothing or at least hiking gear.
Appropriate Clothing for elements – You will be outside more, potentially subjected to rougher environments so you want clothes that can stand up to the task. I have a few pair of Carhart work pants and overalls that will take a serious beating and not rip or tear.
In addition to clothing durability, you need layering options. If you are outside in winter working, you probably will tear that nice puffy jacket up quickly. Base layers that wick away sweat are better and cotton is going to be deadly if you get wet so plan accordingly.
Work boots or sturdy hiking boots – Your footwear should be looked at with an eye towards protecting your feet. Fashion will go out the window in an emergency, but you want to keep up with everyone else if the situation is bad.
Heavy-duty gloves – Good sturdy work gloves will be needed as most of us are not used to working with our hands outside.
You can take all the steps to protect your family from the elements, from lacking water or food but it does not matter how well-fed and warm they are if their physical safety is compromised by bad people. For that reason, and many others, I believe any survival gear list is lacking if you do not have a plan for physical security.
For me, that means that I want the resources and conviction to answer violence or threat to my family with equal measure. In the US alone, just in 2020 over 17.2 million background checks were run for firearm purchases. That does not count illegal firearms or ones that have already been purchased. It stands to reason that eventually someone with a gun could cross your path.
Firearms are the only realistic choice when you hope to be able to defend yourself although I will mention some less lethal options below.
Individual Security Gear List items
Personal Handgun with 3 Magazines – Individual firearms should be your next to the last line of defense assuming you have a full complement of firearms procured already. They are a good first option though if you are looking for something for home defense. You can read more about our recommendations here… but ensure you have at least 3 magazines for your weapon and get training. Pistol magazines are frequently on sale at Gun Mag Warehouse.
Personal Rifle with 6 Magazines – A better option for security is a semi-automatic rifle. The AR-15 and Ak-47 are the defacto standards for most preppers out there and we debate the merits of each in this article but either will do a good job at defending your family. Again, training is non-negotiable, and you want to be very proficient in your main battle rifle. Rifle magazines are cheaper than most pistol magazines for some reason and Gun Mag Warehouse has a good selection of those also.
Holster for pistol or battle belt – Yes, you can tuck your pistol into the back of your pants as they do in the movies, but this is just asking for trouble. More so if you are one of the people who like to wear baggy pants…
You can go with something like a Battle belt that allows you to configure additional pouches on your belt that are fastened and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I have a Safariland 6005 SLS Tactical Holster that I converted to fit my belt. Now, I just grab the belt, insert my pistol into the holster, clip it on and go. It is preconfigured with 2 pistol magazines, 2 rifle magazines, IFAK, and a drop pouch.
Or you can just use a good Kydex type of holster and along with a sturdy belt, just clip this into your pants and you still have a better method of carrying your firearm than in the back of your pants.
Ammo for each firearm – Firearms without ammo are just expensive paperweights. You do not need to drop thousands of dollars for ammo, but the more you have the better. For guidelines on recommended ammo amounts, you can check and download our free ammo inventory spreadsheet. Start small but start.
Cleaning kits – Shooting a firearm introduces a lot of powder gunk and chemicals not to mention the dirt or mud that just carrying one all the time can bring. Make sure your weapon is in prime order and ready to fire by ensuring it is clean and well lubricated. A good weapon cleaning kit is not expensive but a weapon malfunction because you didn’t clean it could cost you your life.
Weapon Light – A weapon light is not necessary, but they are incredibly useful. I have a Streamlight TLR-7 500 Lumen on my nightstand gun and a Streamlight TLR-9 1,000 Lumen on my rifle. Yes, you could hold a flashlight in one hand and with training be effective, but what if your flashlight isn’t with your gun?
If you are getting a weapon light for your pistol, make sure you do this before purchasing your holster.
Knives aren’t really my go-to for defense but I am adding them in here because I didn’t include an overall Tool section in the survival gear list – again the thought being that you are at home and many of these items are already common in your house.
We do have many articles on tools that should be on your survival checklist which you can read for more detail. That being said, a good survival knife is a must on the survival gear list.
Fixed Blade Knife – Pocket knives are fine, but for survival gear, you want a robust knife that is capable of serious use without breaking. A good survival knife doesn’t need to be ridiculously long (think Rambo) either to do the job. Just two good options are the ESEE Knives Izula-II or for something a little more robust, my personal favorite is the Gerber LMF II
Multitool – Multitools are amazing creations but the comment I hear most people make about them is that they use them to open boxes. To be fair, I have done the same thing and it seems that we get more and more boxes each year. However, to overlook the usefulness of these everyday carry tools is a mistake.
I have used almost every attachment on my multitool at one point. The Leatherman Wave won’t let you down.
Hatchet – Sometimes, you need to chop wood and a survival knife, while capable to an extent, is not ideal. Axes are unwieldy in some use cases but a hatchet is the right size. Plus it’s portable and easily handled by smaller frame people.
Don’t go for the tactical tomahawk types, but get a good quality hatchet from someone like Gransfors bruks. Yes, they are more expensive but in this case, you do get what you pay for.
Less Lethal/Alternate security options
Some of you live in areas where firearm ownership is either illegal or so restricted that it might as well be. Regardless, you still need a plan to defend yourself.
Pepper Spray/Bear Spray – Essentially a chemical deterrent that gives you just enough time to get away. Bear spray has a further reach and more capacity than typical pepper spray and I think a bear spray container is easier to use effectively.
Some people recommend wasp spray as a cheaper alternative but if you are planning for self-defense, I wouldn’t rely on bug spray.
Air Rifle – Perfectly legal in many parts of the world and powerful enough to hunt game with. Air Rifles can be an answer if you cannot get a firearm.
Crossbow – Bows have been killing people long before pistols and AR-15s. A bow in the right hands can be just as deadly. One advantage is that this can also be used for hunting when you don’t want anyone to hear you.
What about a stun gun? I personally don’t want to be that close to someone if I don’t have to. However, a stun gun could be a hidden last resort.
Medical Survival Gear List
Medical issues should be high on the survival gear list for everyone for one simple fact. In a crisis, healthcare will be overwhelmed. Look at the statistics right now for COVID-19 that has a 99% survival rate and they are saying hospitals are at max capacity.
Imagine something worse than COVID-19. Imagine if our country was in dire straits like Venezuela who during this crisis has people opting not to go to the hospitals because the care is so bad. In some cases, you may be on your own to treat family members. You may do it by choice.
Obviously, Doctors go to school for years for a reason. Without serious training, you will be limited in what you can do, but assuming you aren’t shot in the head, many wounds can heal on their own as long as blood loss is stopped and infection is prevented.
Health and first aid is such a broad subject and we cover it in much greater detail in articles like The Importance of a Medical Kit in Your Preps and Medicine to Stock up on for When There Is No Doctor but here are the survival gear list basics below that you want to have on hand.
Basic first aid – Every home should have a basic first aid kit but make sure you do some research before you purchase. Most first aid kits are just a bunch of band-aids. You are going to want to get something much more substantial like a wilderness first aid kit or a tactical med bag.
Individual First Aid Kits – The medical kit above is for the home, but you need to be able to render first aid if you are away from home. The IFAK was designed with the basic items you need to stop blood loss – enough to stabilize you so you can get back to proper medical supplies and treatment.
Medical Information – The average person needs a lot of training to just stabilize a person with a serious injury, but you can learn. No, you will not be a doctor, but there are many excellent reference books that give you the basics you need.
I cover more printed resources at the bottom of this survival gear list article, but I highly recommend Dr. Bone’s Survival Medicine Handbook
Blood Stoppage/Trauma – Cuts and scrapes aren’t generally bad enough to warrant serious measures to stop bleeding, but if you have significant blood loss, a tourniquet may be necessary. These are included in the IFAK I mentioned above and you can carry a single tourniquet on you wherever you go.
The video below explains how to use the tourniquet and apply it to yourself it needed.
Some cuts require stitches and the needle and thread method takes a good bit of practice to master. If sutures are needed, the skin stapler is a better option since it does not require steady hands and fancy knots.
Basic Pain medication – By pain medication I am referring to over the counter pain relievers. This can help with anything from headaches, sore muscles from too much exercise after SHTF or injuries. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is good for relieving pain and fever. It is generally less irritating to the stomach and is safer for children but can be toxic to the liver if you take too much of it.
Antibiotics – Sooner or later someone you know will need something a little stronger than a clean bandage. Antibiotics are used in the treatment of bacterial infections. A cut from a rusty piece of metal when the grid is up is not life threatening. Without something to fight the infection in a grid down world, a bacterial infection could spell death. Antibiotics do not work on viruses though, so they will not help you out with every illness.
First Aid Accessories
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Anti-Itch Cream
- Hand Sanitizer
- Blood Pressure Cuff
Within the same category as first aid, sanitation and hygiene are important considerations for our survival gear list because you can die from poor sanitation too. Many of these are self-explanatory, but we go into more detail in our Survival Sanitation article.
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Baby Wipes/Adult Wipes
- Bleach or Calcium Hypochlorite Powder (see water filtration and disinfection above)
- 5 -Gallon Buckets
- Heavy Duty Trash Bags
Power Outage Survival Gear List
The start of our power outage checklist begins with the most obvious and that is a means to create or harness power again when it’s not provide by our local utility.
LED Headlamps for each individual – infinitely easier and more practical than flashlights. Allows for hands-free tasks.
Propane lanterns – great outdoor lighting option or use within a well-ventilated area. They also put off a decent amount of heat. LED lanterns are a safer option when propane runs out or heat is not needed.
Short-term backup power
In addition to the survival gear list above I wanted to include some reference books that I think are important to learning and perfecting a lot of the skills you will need to survive if you are forced to use your gear above in an emergency situation.
There is a more complete list on our Survival Books article.
Introduction to concepts
Homesteading / Self Sufficient Skills
Natural Remedies / First Aid
What items did I leave off the survival gear list?
I purposely left off a few areas that some of you may consider vital. For one, I didn’t go into Home security at all, but we have the following articles that cover that topic:
I also did not get into communications for a similar reason. It would make this article on survival gear twice as long so for more information on communication options, you can read:
There is also much to be said for household repair items and that is covered in:
Finally, there are the nice to have survival gear list items. I call these the X factor and go into things like body armor, gas masks, night vision, and things like that. I completely agree these could be necessary for some conditions, but I will also address each in separate articles.
So there you have our survival gear list items. As I said at the beginning, there is no magic that having these survival items impart on you, but having them and more importantly, knowing how to use them will help you survive.
What did I miss? Please let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below and stay safe!