4 Experts Weigh In With Generalist Survival Gear: 10 Items To Survive

In many cases, the right gear in your pack can literally save your life. But what to bring?

A survival kit is something most hikers, hunters, and explorers will never break open. It will sit in the bottom of a backpack, potentially for years, encased in a waterproof vessel of some sort, lightweight and out of the way.

The leanest survival kits are stored in Altoids tins and the like, and they include just the bare backwoods essentials: matches, firestarters, fishing line, a tiny compass, water purification tablets, a whistle, a small rescue mirror, and so on.

“As far as survival gear goes, it really depends on the space you have available, how much weight you can comfortably carry, and how far you plan to venture,” said Mike Forti, a graduate of the United States Air Force Survival School. “In reality, a backpack full of camping gear is simply a large ‘survival kit’ designed for a comfortable and extended stay in the wilderness. A much smaller version of this might consist of a tobacco tin with relatively few items tightly packed in.”


To trim a survival kit down to its top 10 essentials is to reveal the utmost necessary items for ad hoc shelter, warmth, communication, navigation, and sustenance in the deep backwoods. Here, then, are three survivalists’ lean lists of gear you should not be without in any wilderness situation.

Todd Smith, editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life magazine
1. Personal locator beacon (PLB) or cell phone
2. Map of area
3. Compass
4. Small first-aid kit
5. Water bottle
6. Flashlight/headlamp
7. Lighter and fire starters
8. Space blanket/bivy sack
9. Whistle
10. Signal mirror

Doug Ritter, founder of survivalist website Equipped To Survive,
1. HeatSheets brand space blanket
2. Gloves
3. Chlorine dioxide water-purification tablets
4. Nylon braided line
5. Whistle
6. Lighter
7. Waterproof matches
8. Tinder (for fire starting)
9. Signal mirror
10. Personal locator beacon (PLB)

Mike Forti, graduate of the United States Air Force Survival School
1. Large knife (machete or hatchet)
2. Cell phone
3. Bic Lighter
4. 9 × 12 foot plastic painters tarp (0.35 mil thickness)
5. Mylar survival blanket
6. Mini L.E.D. flashlight
7. Water purification tablets
8. Water container of some sort
9. Small roll of fishing line or dental floss
10. Fifty Dollar bill (“After a few days lost in the woods eating bugs, it would be a real shame to emerge next to a 7-11, and have no money for food,” Forti said.)


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