Ready For Anything: The Best Survival Gear In 2022
If you go into the backcountry, you need to be prepared to be stuck out there. Obviously, no one plans to be stuck outdoors for longer than they are expecting, but even if you don’t plan for it, you need to be prepared for it.
Every year, over 300 people die in National Parks in the US. And many more find themselves stuck outdoors, in a bad situation, waiting for search and rescue that may never come. Things happen. You might sprain your ankle accidentally. Or bad weather descends when the forecast called for clear skies. Or your gear may malfunction, leaving you helpless without a repair kit. The point is, it pays off to be prepared.
The solution is to ensure you’re always carrying effective gear and you know how to use it. Survival tools these days take on a myriad of forms both high tech and low tech but all the best survival gear has one thing in common: it’s incredibly practical.
In this guide, we’re going to share some of our favorite pieces of gear. We’ll concentrate on the best survival gear aimed at aiding those engaged in outdoor activities and not those forced from their home by a natural disaster, although some of these products will also be useful in that situation as well.
- Best Headlamp: Biolite HeadLamp 200
- Best Water Filter for Emergencies: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Best Communication and SOS Tool: Garmin InReach Mini
- Best for Maintaining Body Heat: SOL Emergency Blanket
- Best Emergency Shelter: Ortovox Bivy Bag
- Best Camping Cookware Kit: Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- Best First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight And Watertight Medical Kit
- Best Pre Made Survival Kit: Uncharted Supply Co Seventy2 Survival System
- Best Premade Kit for Backpacking: VSSL Camp Supplies Kit
- Best Fire Starters: Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
- Best Survival Knife: Kershaw 1990X Brawler
- Best Compass: Eyeskey Multifunction Military Compass
- Best Wearable Survival Gear: A2S Paracord Bracelet
- Best for Starting a Fire in the Rain: Ultimate Survival Technologies Wetfire Tinder
- Best Underrated Survival Gear: Gearaid Reflective Tape
The Best Survival Gear
The Biolite 200 Headlamp ended up in our tester’s hands by a mistake about four years ago. Since then, it has been a dependable and bright headlamp for night climbing, hiking, camping, and more. Weighing in at a mere 50g, it’s one of the lightest headlamps around and so far has been virtually indestructible. Our tester is forgetful and has lost it many times but it always pops back up; it’s been dropped, tied to trees, and used in so many other odd situations. Our tester is notoriously hard on gear and not much has changed in four years with this headlamp except for some discoloration on the adjustable band.
Recharging is quick and easy with the included MicroUSB cord. Our tester usually recharges it in her van so it can stay there and be at the ready for adventures. Other features our tester adores are the flip-down front panel and six lighting modes and a maximum output of 200 lumens. The runtime is advertised at 40 hours on low and three hours on high, but our tester found that the runtime on high was generally longer.
40 hours of run time on low
6 lighting modes
Some say the button is hard to press
Finding clean water is a necessity in the backcountry, and these days, it’s pretty much safe to assume that all water you come across in the backcountry could be contaminated. So you’ll need to filter water to fill your water bottle. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is necessary gear that can turn that stagnant pool into a lifesaver. Ditch the water purification tablets and carry a LifeStraw instead. LifeStraw also makes water bottles with their filters built into them if you want a more convenient way to drink water.
The LifeStraw portable water filter meets EPA standards and has been shown to remove more than 99.9% of waterborne parasites and bacteria. Plus it is built to last for over 4000 liters of water. Humanitarian relief workers in all corners of the globe use LifeStraw to help bring clean water to threatened communities and refugee camps. The “straw” itself weighs a scant 0.1 pounds and measures 9 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter. Just stick it in the water you want to drink, and it will filter it through a microfiltration membrane, removing bacteria and parasites as you suck. Bring this survival tool with you whenever you venture into the wild and make sure waterborne illnesses are not on the menu.
Removes 99.99% of bacteria and parasites
Lasts for up to 4000 liters of water
- ModelPersonal Water Filter
- Weight0.1 Pounds
Easy to bring anywhere
Filters out bacteria and parasites
Can be hard to drink out of
A Garmin InReach is my number one pick for the best survival equipment. I bring mine on every adventure, no matter what. It syncs with my phone to give accurate offline GPS mapping to which I can also upload my own maps. It also allows me to send messages over satellite through my phone, or the device itself. I use these features on a day-to-day basis when I’m out in the backcountry without service.
But the key feature is the SOS signal that it can send out if disaster strikes. Just push a button and the signal goes out to GEOS—Garmin-powered International Emergency Response Coordination Center that something is wrong. Plus the super small design and long-lasting battery make it easy to just keep this device in my backpack 24/7 to pull it out if necessary.
2-way satellite messaging
GPS location tracking and maps
- Weight3.5 Oz
Connects with your phone
90 hours long battery life
Satellite connection goes far beyond cell service
Less useful if your phone dies (but definitely still useful in an emergency situation)
Untold numbers of people wind up suffering frostbite, shock, or hypothermia every year because they didn’t have adequate survival equipment when the weather on their wilderness adventure took a rapid turn for the worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The SOL Emergency Blanket is light as a feather and yet capable of retaining up to 90% of your body heat.
I’ve actually used these blankets in a real-life situation where a friend and I were stuck outside in ferocious winds late at night. While it wasn’t necessarily a life or death situation, it was incredibly worthwhile to have somewhere to stay warm to be while we shivered. I was surprised by how warm and protected from the wind these blankets kept us. They are waterproof and tear-resistant and come in a pack of four. And unlike mylar material space blankets, they won’t shred if they do get punctured. So, there’s no excuse for not having one tucked away in your backpack or daypack when you set out. The very definition of some of the best survival camping gear for all outdoorspeople.
Reflects 90% of body heat to prevent heat loss
Made from durable polyethylene
Windproof and waterproof
- BrandS.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer
- Weight0.18 Pounds
Easy to always have with you
Not suitable for long term use
The ORTOVOX Bivy Bag Single is a must-have for any mountaineer, alpine climber, or anyone who has a chance of being caught outdoors overnight. This bag packs down to nearly the same size as the VSSL Camp Supplies canister (see below) but adds only seven ounces to your pack. Thankfully our tester hasn’t been benighted yet, but this bivy bag is easy to carry and has been stowed for multiple ski tours and will be a welcome companion on summer alpine climbs.
We love that this bivy sack is so light and easy to pack. When deployed, it’s roomy for one person. The fabric is windproof and water-resistant, protecting you in unpredictable alpine conditions. Our other favorite feature is the bright orange color that makes being spotted by rescuers or other climbers easy, but the stow bag compression sack is an attractive blue.
Windproof and water-resistant
Comes with a compressible stowaway bag
- Brand Ortovox
- Weight7 Oz
Lightweight, easy to pack
Durable, perfect for various alpine conditions
Colorful, easy to spot
Not as comfortable as more fully functional bivy bags
Being able to prepare nutritious meals is essential to survival in the outdoors and this Cookware Mess Kit is a great option for an affordable cooking kit to take on your next backcountry trip. This 13-piece cook set collapses down into a tidy bundle that stows neatly in the included mesh bag.
When I first started backpacking, I bought a camping kit from Amazon that looked very similar to this one. I still have the pots and stove and use them all the time when I’m backpacking, camping, or even just in my van while traveling. This kit comes with more than the one I originally bought, including a small camping stove, non-stick pot, lid/pan, wooden spatula, knife, fork, spoon, three small bowls, sponge, carry bag, and carabiner.
13 piece cooking kit
Lightweight and durable
Pot/pan handle covered for heat protection
- Weight0.63 Kilograms
All packs up together
Great value for price
Plastic container for stove
Some accessories aren’t as high quality
These are the first aid kits that I’ve been using for years. They are small enough to fit in the bottom of your backpack, water-resistant, and contain all the essential medical supplies for a short trip. If you go on longer trips or are responsible for many people, you may want to customize this first aid kit with other things or buy the more comprehensive version. When you run out of band-aids, alcohol pads, or medications, you can get refills on their website to make sure that your first aid kit is always stocked and ready for an emergency.
You can also choose which size first aid kit you want: 0.3, 0.7, or 0.9, each of which has more supplies. They all include medications for bites, pain, and fever, bandages, and more depending on the size. Plus the whole kit fits in a waterproof bag, inside an outer bag. I have also been able to slip in Wilderness First Responder field guide book to the first aid kit bag, and a patch kit as well. This way I have the best outdoor survival gear kit for me at all times.
Multiple sizes to choose from
Medications, bandages, instruments and more
Comes in a waterproof bag
- Weight1 Lb 12 Oz
Not the most comprehensive first aid kit
If you’re looking for a complete, ready-to-go kit, check out this comprehensive survival kit for the first 72 hours after an emergency. Uncharted Supply Co thought of everything, including a high-quality backpack to hold all your gear in. The waterproof fabric and roll-top design hold everything you need to survive.
This kit includes many of the things already on our list but compiles it all into a ready-to-go backpack. It has a first aid kit, emergency blanket, emergency rations, a water filter, flashlight, multi-tool, shovel, sunscreen, radio, water bottle, and so much more. If you just want your whole survival gear list packed for you and ready to go, this is the kit for you.
Designed to have everything you need for 72 hours
Insert in backpack provides survival steps
- BrandUncharted Supply Co.
- Weight11 Lb
Grab and go kit
Pretty comfortable to wear
Less customizable than compiling your kit yourself
The VSSL Camp Supplies kit is a must-have for the prepared outdoorsman or woman on your next adventure. This kit features over 70 pieces of gear, a flashlight, and a compass in a compact and neat package. This product is a bit heavy in hand when full as it weighs 1.32 pounds, but is approximately the size of a medium flashlight. When our tester explored the kit for the first time, it was evident how carefully packed it was. Surprisingly, as our tester used items from this kit, they were relatively easy to pack back into the compact package which was her main worry. She stashed this kit in her van so it’s available for whatever she encounters.
The VSSL Camp Supplies kit has a little bit of everything for your basic needs, whether it’s one of the few items you have in a crisis, or as a backup in case you forget something, it nearly has it all. Inside the flashlight canister are smaller canisters that house a fire-making kit, fishing kit, sewing kit, first aid materials including band-aids, cloth, a wire saw, a water bag and so much more.
Over 70 piece kit, including essentials, survival and first aid
Made from military-grade aluminum
Stackable, organized aluminum tins
- Weight1.32 Lbs
Easy to pack back up
Multi-use for every outdoor adventure
Slightly heavy to carry in a backpack in some scenarios
Gerber has teamed up with noted adventurer Bear Grylls to bring affordable, high-quality survival tools to the masses and the Bear Grylls Fire Starter is one item that should always be in your backpacking backpack regardless of whether you’re a hunter, fisherman, camper, climber or just love the outdoors.
When you’re cold and wet and in desperate need to stay warm, you need a dependable way to get a fire started. Firestarters are the key. If you’ve ever tried to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together (I have— not in a survival situation) you know it’s not the way to go in any high-stakes situation. The Gerber Bear Grylls firestarter is small and simple with one end providing a ferrocerium rod to create a spark and the other a metal striker. There’s a lanyard running through both ends so you don’t lose track of anything and a survival whistle on the lanyard that will allow you to signal for help. The whole thing tucks away neatly into a waterproof storage unit that also provides a dry place to store tinder.
Waterproof storage for tinder
- BrandGerber Gear
- Weight0.1 Kilograms
Large enough to get a good grip
SOS instructions rub off easily
A survival knife should be a mandatory piece of survival gear for anyone venturing into the wilderness. The Kershaw 1990X Brawler sports a 3-inch high carbon blade with black oxide coating for superior corrosion resistance and a glass-filled nylon handle for a rock-solid grip in all conditions.
From the SpeedSafe, one hand assisted opening, to the 4 position pocket clip to the uber-secure liner lock that prevents the blade from closing on your fingers, the Brawler from Kershaw is the kind of safe, effective survival gear you want at your disposal when things get gnarly. The modified Tanto blade has a pointed tip for precision work, spearing or piercing and the high carbon holds an edge longer than standard carbon steel blades. An invaluable addition to your emergency supplies when the weather closes in and you’re miles from nowhere.
SpeedSafe assisted opening
Secure liner lock
High-performance steel with good edge retention
- ModelKershaw – Brawler – Box
- Weight0.8 Ounces
Sharp and highly versatile
Easy to open
Quality control issues with paint coming off
Sure, you can use the GPS on your phone to navigate, but what happens when your battery dies and you don’t have a portable battery handy? A map and compass (and the skills to use them) will never let you down. No technology necessary!
The Eyesky compass is designed specifically to help extricate you from emergency situations and help you find your way in the great outdoors. It features a floating dial with a 360-degree scale, a liquid capsule for stable operation, and a level bubble for increased accuracy. The rotating bezel ring lets you lock in your bearing to make sure you’re going the right way. It’s also built to last, with a metal base and cover. It will take you all of an afternoon to learn how to use the Eyesky compass and it may turn out to be the most valuable afternoon you ever spent.
Metal base and cover
Rotating bezel ring
Liquid-filled, luminous effect
- Weight0.27 Kilograms
Manual teaches you how to use the compass
Simple and accurate readings
Some reviewers had issues with quality
Some survival gadgets are just too clever to pass up. Take for example the A2S Paracord Bracelet. This convenient, versatile survival piece of gear provides 5 methods for helping you through a difficult situation. Made of durable paracord, it’s as tough as it is attractive.
The 5-in-1 paracord bracelet can be worn on your wrist or stashed at the bottom of a backpack until you need it – then it becomes one of the best tactical survival kits in a tiny package. Should you need to get a fire going there’s the fire starter kit comprised of flint and scraper. Then, once you’re warming up by the fire you can take the lay of the land with the mini compass. This bracelet also includes a powerful emergency whistle that will project up to 100 decibels of sound. Or you can take the whole thing apart to use the 12 feet of paracord as rope, tinder, fishing line, or thread.
5-in one comprehensive kit
Paracord, whistle, fire starter, compass, fishing line
Comes with emergency tips
- BrandA2S Protection
- Weight0.13 Kilograms
Super-easy to bring with you
Doesn’t fit on everyone’s wrists
If you’ve ever tried to start a fire in the rain or from wood that’s been wet for weeks, you know how stressful it would be to be stuck in the backcountry needing to start a fire in wet conditions. It’s bad enough being injured or lost in the wild but things really get bad when the weather closes in and you can’t get a fire started to stay warm and prepare food and hot drinks. That’s where Ultimate Survival Technologies Wetfire Tinder comes in. Developed specifically to help you get a fire going in the pouring rain if necessary, it’s some of the best survival gear to have.
In the worst-case scenario, people perish because they’re unable to create the warmth they need to counteract cold, wet conditions. All it takes is a tiny bit of WetFire shaved on some kindling to get a fire going even when it’s wet or cold. Then use any stormproof lighter or other sparking devices — like our best firestarter above – to get your flame lit. Wetfire has a 5-year shelf life.
Works in wet or cold conditions
Each cube can be used multiple times
- Weight0.09 Pounds
You don’t need a lot to get a fire started
Practice needed to get the fire from a flame to a roaring fire
Some reviewers had a hard time getting it to light
The best survival gear is not always the flashiest and the last entry on our list of top survival gear is a good example. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape is a miraculous fabric repair technology that allows you to quickly and effectively repair holes, gashes, rips and tears in your down coat, sleeping bag, tent, and other outdoor gear.
Tenacious Tape is not the kind of survival equipment you will use every time out but when your inflatable sleeping pad deflates in the middle of the night, you’ll be glad you have some. Tenacious Tape is completely weatherproof and won’t ever wash out. It doesn’t leave any tacky residue and is also machine washable. It’s the kind of quiet innovation that elevates the outdoor experience for everyone. It’s available in 3-inch or 20-inch rolls and a variety of colors.
Peel and stick design
- BrandGEAR AID
- Weight0.06 Pounds
Bonds to lots of different fabrics
No heat or sewing required
Can peel over time (cut with rounded corners to prevent)
Why Trust Us
After years spent in the outdoors as a climber, mountaineer, hiker, and backpacker, I have had my fair share of emergency situations. From ending up unexpectedly outside overnight to dealing with injuries miles from a trailhead, I've had to deal with a number of situations where survival gear either came in handy or would have been a gamechanger. I have created the right survival gear list for the trips I take into the backcountry, and I've used my own experience to share in this guide.
Here at Gear Hungry, we also have a team of avid outdoors people who have contributed to choosing survival gear for this guide. We have either researched, personally tested, or heard great things about every item on this list.
Who This Is For
Whether you simply spend a lot of time outdoors and want to be ready for whatever might go wrong, or you have anxieties about the apocalypse, the average human can do a lot to be better prepared for emergencies.
If you're looking for the best survival kit and just want to pick up a survival pack and go, you'll find that. Or if you're looking to put together your own kit, with specialized tools that you need personally, you'll find a lot of great gear for outdoor use in this guide.
How We Picked
We chose the survival tool options that we included in this guide by spending a lot of time outdoors. From our own experiences, we learned the best gear for the average person to have in case of an emergency, from a heat blanket to a tactical pen, from a survival knife to a signal mirror. We compiled this list of survival gear with ourselves in mind, by choosing what we already use, and what we wish we had as a survival tool.
How We Tested
We tested this gear in the backcountry all across the world, from Southern Patagonia to Alaska. We've also found the survival tool options on this list useful while living out of vans and other vehicles because you never know when something might go wrong. We've put this gear through the wringer, to see when it will break — and sometimes it does!
Features To Look For In Survival Gear
Included items/supplies - If you're buying a pre-made emergency kit, you want to make sure you know what is inside. From an emergency whistle to a signal mirror, survival kits can contain important survival tool options. The website or product description should give a good layout, but make sure to read it thoroughly. Also, make sure once you buy your kit that you orient yourself with it completely. You never want to have to learn how to use something in the middle of a survival situation.
Organization and instruction - For a pre-made kit, you want to know how it is organized before you buy it. Do the reviews say that it is easy to organize or find what you need? This is vital in an emergency. For other items, does it come with thorough instructions? Do reviews say that it is easy to use and figure out?
Weight and size - This is a vital feature of your survival gear purchase. You'll probably be carrying your gear in a backpack or wanting to stash it somewhere to be easily accessed. Small, lightweight items are going to be key, although there are certain pieces of gear that might be important enough to sacrifice some weight for.
Durability - In a survival situation, you're not going to want to wonder whether or not your multi-tool will stand up to constant use, or if your tube tent is going to collapse in the middle of the night. Make sure your gear is durable enough for your next adventure before you consider it part of your kit.
Number of people - How many people will be with you on your trip or who will you need to take care of in case of a crisis? This is important when planning what gear (and how much) to have on hand.
Number of days - How long do you plan to be prepared for? Do you want something that will get you through 48 or 72 hours, or even longer? Are you going on a two-week backpacking trip and need to make sure you have enough materials for a long period of time?
Application - What do you need your survival gear to do? Some gear is better for one purpose, such as a space blanket that helps you maintain body heat, while other gear like a multi tool, might be a bottle opener, a survival knife, and pliers in one.
Shelf life of perishables - If your survival gear has food in it, make sure you know how long it is designed to last for.
Survival Gear FAQ
Q: What should I put in a survival kit?
A: Think about the basic things that a human needs to survive. Then compile your checklist.
- Drinking water — It's vital to stay hydrated. Make sure to have something to filter drinking water if you need to get water from less than ideal places.
- Food — Have some emergency rations just in case.
- Shelter — Whether this is a space blanket, a bivy bag or tools to build a shelter, think about how you will stay warm and dry.
- First aid items — Just in case something goes wrong or someone is hurt.
- Light — Either a flashlight or headlamp.
- Survival knife — make sure to have a knife or multi-tool. Knives are really hard to substitute for in a lot of situations. This one is surprisingly important.
- Whistle — Having an emergency whistle can make the difference between signaling for help and being found, and...not.
There are lots of other things you may want to add to your survival gear kit, but these are some of the basics. Think about what you personally will need, and go from there.
Q: What foods should I stockpile for survival?
A: If you plan to stockpile foods, make sure they are nonperishable. Freeze-dried foods are popular because they last for long periods of time, have lots of nutrients, and can even taste pretty good if you get the right ones. If you're not worried about weight, canned soups are also a good option, along with protein bars. Think about foods you really like to eat, and how to find it in a nonperishable version.
Q: Should you keep cash in your kit?
A: This depends on where you plan to be, and what you want your kit to be used for. If you are preparing for a backcountry emergency, you might not need cash, however, it never hurts to have a little. If you want to be prepared for a natural disaster at home, you may want to keep more cash in your emergency kit.
Q: What’s the best way to organize survival gear?
A: When organizing outdoor gear, there are certain fundamental rules to follow such as packing the sleeping bag at the bottom and placing most of your heaviest items in the center of the bag, with clothing like thermal tops and hiking pants, etc above that. If you’re carrying a tent it should be lashed to the side of the pack.
Survival gear – like most of the items reviewed above – is often small and light and should be distributed in the exterior pockets of the backpack where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. Place items related to the same task in separate pockets; i.e. place all your fire starting related items in the same ziplock bag and put them in one pocket then put your navigational aids together in another pocket. Things like a space blanket and bivy tents might be best suited to the bottom of the pack. A knife is best carried on your person, or close at hand.
Q: How should I pack survival gear?
A: Any items that might be affected by moisture should be placed in a dry bag, including your first aid kit and any warmth-providing items like sleeping bags, hats, gloves, and other clothes. Some emergency blankets may fall in this category but most are water-resistant or waterproof. Other parts of your gear should be packed together based on application (food prep, fire starter, shelter related). Keep things you need often, like a multi-tool or survival knife, or water bottle to stay hydrated, within reach.