Survival Needs Hardly Change

Hector Santana
6 min readNov 26, 2023


The Things You Will Always Need.

Your bug-out bag will often need new items, keep it current and always look for ways to do things better.

Survivalists often talk about the things they need to survive a calamity. The list ranges from person to person but there are some items that are irrefutably necessary under any circumstances. What are they and why are they so important? Let's take a look.


Without water, it's all over. You can only survive two-three days without water so act like it from the start. Carry a water filter like a life straw, Ketadyn Hiker, or some other brand in your kit. Water bottles are great but let's face it you can only carry so much because of limited weight and space. You can also learn how to filter water as well, just in case you lose your filter you're not left high and dry. Don’t forget desalination methods, in case you're on a remote island with no fresh water.


Being able to navigate the terrain over an unknown area is a key skill set that one can acquire over the course of time. The best way to do that is through the use of a map and compass. Yes, there are hi-tech aids that make the task easier, but remember those systems may be down during an emergency including the popular US GPS System that powers most GPS devices. Therefore, you should learn navigation with a map and compass and practice from time to time, since land navigation is a perishable skill that one can forget. So, get out there and practice.

GPS on your phone is great, but if you have no signal, it won't work. Get yourself a quality compass.

Fire Starter

A good magnesium stick, wet weather matches, or a flint stick is a lifesaver when you need a fire for warmth, to cook food, or to boost morale. Better yet, learn to start friction fires with nothing but wood. Because nothing is worse than not being able to stay warm. Always have something ready in your kit or vehicle for this purpose. You will thank yourself later.


A headlamp is without question one of the most important items you can have in your kit. Just try to walk in a dark room or complete a task in the dark without the aid of a headlamp and you will understand its importance. But beware, there are a myriad of cheap headlamps that are not worth the savings. Don’t skimp on this purchase, get the best headlamp you can afford with the highest lumens available and the longest run time. Trust me, you will not regret spending money on this essential item.

A good headlamp will make the difference between seeing and not seeing. Don’t skimp on this purchase.

Two Way Ham Radio

This piece of kit will come in handy in so many ways it will be hard to imagine how you could operate without it. A ham radio can put you in touch with help or your friends and family when SHTF. There are plenty of options for radios you can purchase but don't simply opt for the low-cost model that may not have the power to reach out and touch someone. Remember, you get what you pay for, and a cheap radio may give you cheap results, so think about that when you consider that your life could be in the balance. Do your research, get a quality, high performance ham radio. You won’t regret it.

Sun Protection

This did not always make it onto my list, but recent weather-related anomalies have made this more of a priority than in recent years. Sunscreen in the hot, arid, or humid conditions of today are an essential item and should be included in your bug out bag. Don’t wait until your suffering from sun burns to realize it.

Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)

Meals ready to eat are awesome. They are high calorie, compact meals you can eat on the go. Always opt for the lightweight packaging like the Mountain House freeze dried meals. Keep at least three in your bug out bag and more in your car. The military versions are great if you are carrying them in your vehicle. If you are on foot, they are heavier than freeze dried versions and having too many will quickly weigh you down. Explore the menu to find out which ones you like, then include them in your bag.

A good knife is great to have but not if you don't keep it sharp. Sharpening it will keep it useful.


A good knife is essential for fixing things, cooking, hunting, and self-defense (if you are into that). But there are an endless number of great knives to consider so do your research. Esee and Benchmade are two great companies you can check out but remember to carefully consider the metals when picking your knife. Better metal equals a better knife.

Soft Shell Jacket

Rain can be a bummer when your outdoors. Be prepared for it with a quality, lightweight, waterproof softshell jacket. There are many to choose from, stores like REI and specialty camp shops have great choices. As with everything else, shop around before you buy. Look for taped seams and waterproof membranes designed to withstand the water. Keeping dry will get you a long way in lousy weather so don't be shy when looking for a quality jacket. Ask questions, try them on for fit and comfort and be prepared to spend as the good ones are a little more expensive.

First Aid Kit

This essential item is a must for saving lives. First aid kits will help mend injuries, fight off infections, and make you feel better. Shop for one that includes a trauma kit because you never know what can happen. You can also get a Quickclot Trauma pack and Hyfin-Vent Chest Seal to include in your kit for the more intense firearm wounds, hope you never have to use it.

Quick Shelter

What is a quick shelter? Exactly what it implies, something you can literally throw on the ground and sleep in. A poncho, an emergency blanket, a Gore-Tex bivy, or a simple tarp can all be used as quick shelter. Of course, you can always use a lightweight tent, but remember you will want to limit weight because, yes you have to carry it.

A Poncho being used as a quick shelter. Quick, easy and lightweight. Photo: SOFREP


A good axe is indispensable in the forest. This tool is super important for chopping and splitting wood, shaving tinder, cutting meat- you name it. It saves lives in many situations. But get yourself a good one. I use the Gransfors Bruk Scandanavian Forest Axe, it is a quality piece of hardware, and I don’t get anything for saying that. They are just that good that they deserve honorable mention. Look around, there are many quality axes but get one, nonetheless. If you're in the woods, you will need it.

When you're in the woods there is nothing like a good quality axe. Shop wisely and you will rejoice.


Ok, we’re not going to get away from this one. Where legal, a firearm is an essential item when in a survival situation. Though many deny this to be true, it is undeniable that you stand a better chance with one than without one. But only if you know how to use it. First off, keep it small and portable, so that when you need to be inconspicuous you can be. Second, have enough fire power to be able to defend yourself in the wild but not so much that you hinder your movement. Of course, get training. Muzzle awareness, please. This is one of those things that you cannot sidestep, better training means better, safer results- for you and for other folks. Practice with your firearm regularly and remember to always seek out knowledge about hunting and defending yourself with a firearm. Move, use, train and store your firearm safely, especially if you have children at home. In that case make sure you use a lock box.

Of course, not all things are equally important to everyone but there are those items that nearly everyone will miss. Think about that and you will stay focused. Safe trails out there…



Hector Santana

*Top Writer-Camping and Survival. I love to write about the great outdoors, survival and foreign policy. An avid outdoorsman and survival instructor.