What kind of survival gear should you buy?

What kind of survival gear do I need?

This is one of the most common questions that we receive. I probably receive at least a couple of emails everyday asking me what gear is the best. It’s a highly debated topic on survival blogs, websites, and forums; but I think it sometimes overshadows what’s really important.

survival gear

Newbies, and even some old timers, often obsess over their gear. Sometimes they put so much emphasis on their gear that it can actually become detrimental to their ability to survive. I love survival gear as much as the next guy, but I think our attention deficit disorder society has created a culture that is addicted to the quick and easy fix.

I see it time and time again, people who load up on survival gear and then live under the delusion that they are somehow prepared for everything. But that’s not how it works.

Your survival gear
is only as good as your training.

If you lack the skills to survive in the wilderness, then all the fancy gear in the world isn’t going to be able to save your life. In fact, I would put my skills up against any piece of fancy gear, any day.

So when a newbie asks me what kind of gear to buy, I usually recommend a good survival book or point them over to our list of survival websites before I recommended any piece of survival gear.

It’s not that I don’t like survival gear, I have a lot of it, and I often make gear recommendations. But when someone is new to the subject of survival there is nothing as valuable as information, knowledge, and real world practice. Once you have a good grasp on what’s needed to survive, then you can start to choose what survival gear to buy.

If you are just getting started, then stick to the basics.
Water, Food, Shelter and Protection.

survival backpacks The survival gear that you choose needs to be based on a number of factors. Your location, your skill set, and even the most likely disasters that you’ll face all need to be taken into consideration when choosing a piece of gear.

In my opinion water, food, shelter and protection are the most important things that you can focus on. They are the fundamental building blocks to any good survival bag, and should be the foundation that the rest of your gear is built off of. If you can cover those four categories, you will be far better off than 99% of the country.

Having the right gear can make life a whole lot easier, but eventually your gear is going to fail. Investing in your skill set is the only sure-fire way to ensure your long-term survival.


  1. Kloathis
    July 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I think it goes without saying that your brain is the most important piece of survival equipment. Humans had survived thousands upon thousands of years without all sorts of fancy gear and electronic devices and in the grand scope of time we are not so far removed from that. The last hundred and fifty years or so of “industrial revolution” has really “dumbed us down” with regards to our species ability to survive in our natural habitat which is the outdoors.

  2. Corey B
    July 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    The more important factor for me has been learning primitive skills. I am pretty heavily constrained budget-wise so I don’t have the option to replace a difficult skill with an easy technological assistant or piece of gear. As Kloathis said, the gear won’t ever be an adequate “replacement” for knowledge.
    That said, who doesn’t love a cool piece of new equipment?

    • OFFGRID Logo
      Off Grid Survival
      July 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      No Doubt! I Love getting a cool new piece of gear but agree that there is nothing that can replace knowledge. It’s to bad most people take the easy way out and opt for a bunch of fancy gear instead of learning those primitive skills which are a thousand times more valuable than even the most expensive piece of gear.

  3. Tim Harp
    July 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I get what I am use to, Military gear. I have a large and medium Alice packs, One called a bugout bag -all black and tons of room- Cody Lundin said it best knowledge light weight and easy to use. One or the other will only take you soo far but both is supreme.

  4. Dan Wolfe
    July 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    One of the other main things we all need is each other. You have to figure out a way to connect with like minded people, and my first suggestion is to start with those you can not say no to when shtf. Family, close friends, loved ones. If they are not awake enough you have to figure out a way to wake them up.

  5. Mick
    July 23, 2011 at 12:34 am

    don’t get me wrong I love a new piece gear no doubt. I’m always trying to find a new gadget or tactical gear. but hands down @ offgridsuvival your %100 right your know how will always win. there area a lot of great survival courses. makes no sense to have great gear and not know how to use it. great article!!!

  6. norman
    July 23, 2011 at 5:20 am

    the best gear money can buy is useless without some some kind of skill and know how to back it up !

  7. PreppingToSurvive
    July 25, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Couldn’t agree more with the comments about the most important survival tool being your knowledge and the skills that you possess. In fact, I blogged about that recently.

    The Cody Lundin quote is right on. Plus it’s hard to accidentally leave your knowledge behind or have it break.

    Thanks for the good article.


  8. Wicker1967
    July 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I like the short and to the point article. Well done.

    @ Dan Wolfe – You’re right, having people that you can truly count on is an essential survival tool. Having people with different skill sets is important.

    Also, what gear to have depends greatly on the situation. Nuclear war, biohazard, or even more local like a hurricane or an earthquake. I try to prepare for several different scenarios.

    One for instance is that I have plenty of lumber to fortify my home if need be. I’ve prepared an area of my basement as a fall out shelter. Bugging out is a worst case scenario. I plan to shelter in place initially and for as long as possible(should there ever be an issue) plus I have a friend’s place to retreat to as an alternative, with whom my family and his would “bug out” from there if necessary.

    My first thought of gear is not for the wilderness, but rather for security and sustenance in my home. Always thought provoking conversation.

    Thanks again.

    • Hang Man1
      October 16, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      I heartily agree, I intend to BUG-IN for as long as I can before retreating to my backup location.

  9. M. Martin
    July 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    The one thing I think of when buying a survival item is, how
    good is it. It would not be much help if you buy a $5 Swiss
    Army “type” knife. There are many items you do not have to spend a great deal of money, but you better be sure you can
    count on them. Quality is an important factor for what you
    buy. Like the rest of you, I love the neat stuff to. Also,
    I think redundancy is a good idea for many items we choose
    for our various kits. Then there is the fact that you always
    have to ask what you are using the kit for. Same with first
    aid kits. There is a big difference between a first aid kit and a trauma kit. Wilderness and urban survival. Car kit. Home kit. But, it all comes down to what is in your head.
    In this case knowledge is not only power but lifesaving.

  10. Jack Fallin
    August 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Knowledge, knowledge and oh yeah knowledge, Start fires, build traps, build shelters, skin and butcher game,forage, build a spear, a bow and arrow, a deadfall trap, Self defense, shelter, food, water, and most anything you must have to survive you can find, make or improvise with a sharp knife,or axe and a lot of knowledge, naturally depending on where you are. Surviving comfortably, having some security and living versus survival requires stuff, See Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man, One survived a while before evo got him,the other lived on. You decide which you like best and what you need to do which with. I have always felt that some knowledge, some stealth and a good sharp knife and I can get most of what I need but it might not be too ethical. WE live by the rules we make and we live with our own knowledge and ethics. Make your own peace and make good decisions and bring what you can afford and know how to use. Luck to all
    Semper Fi

  11. Backpack
    December 23, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I agree. If you don’t have the skills to survive, it doesn’t matter if you have the best survival gear in the world. If you can’t use your head, you not gonna make it!

  12. Ric
    December 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Learn how to make fire. Rain Sleet Snow Mud just build the fire. It’s good for the soul and a great start to everything else.

  13. Urban Prepper
    January 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Do what you can, whatever you can within your means. Even a little at a time adds up to a lot. Think about what you could do to prepare everyday!

  14. Chris
    January 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I’m looking for the link to the ultimate bug out bag best bang for my buck and with a longer term survival on the lamb scenario.

    • Mike
      June 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      Think about it… there is no such thing as the ultimate BOB that will meet every scenario for every person, and anyone that tries to sell you one is probably providing gear with a 200% (or more) markup to line their pockets, and is probably their method of preparing (to get your cash).
      Do your research, what are the potential impacts that could affect your current lifestyle? What do “you” (and family if that fits) need to last 2 weeks, 2 months, 6 months, indefinitely; the answer will have some similarities, but will be different for each one. Go to different surplus stores, ARC/Goodwill, etc., sporting goods stores and get a feel for what gear will meet your needs.
      The Rule of Threes (3 minutes without air, 3 hours without protection from the elements, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food) should help define some of your needs and focus on shelter, water, food to start, then increase your other items in order of priority, and many people will have security high on the list as well.

  15. Kyle
    January 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    What brand of packs are those in the pic?

    • Aj
      February 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      I would also know what brand of bags those are.

      • Mike
        June 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

        I am also interested in the brand of pack, more specifically the backpack on the left. I really like the layout of its design.
        As most other’s say, knowledge on how to survive is crucial, but having a good logical pack to carry quality gear to assist that knowledge is also “smart.”

  16. Matt
    February 19, 2012 at 12:22 am

    the more knowledge you have and skills it applies to, the less gear you need. My mind doesn’t improvise or adapt very well so I like to stockpile other people’s tricks.

    But yeah, I’d like to have as little gear as nessesary, to be able to keep moving longer, and be able to not rely on items so much and sustain indefinately. There are very few pieces of gear that are truly mandatory, and those just because finding or making something from something natural, would be impractical. But things like a compass, that’s just extra weight if you know what you’re doing (but maybe worthwhile even to those guys if they’ll need to stay a specific course). OTOH, a Bic lighter, also CAN be done without by rubbing sticks or whatever, but for how easy it makes life, worth carrying. A lot of people’s BOB’s to me look like they’re going camping, but,that’s their choice and hopefully works for them.

    I was once for a time homeless, I lived in my car, through that and other experiences, I know exactly how long a person can go without food, water, key nutrients, cleanliness as relates to wounds, etc.
    I’ve learned a few survival skills in general, but my education is just beginning and can’t come fast enough. A solar flare like have happened before electricity and life went on, tommorrow could shut down the world

    Learn how to make due like if you washed up naked on a desert island, then learn how to do everything with a bare minimum of equipment-versitale tools and other supples. Keep your pack light so you can keep going, or if you have to book, not have to dump your pack and leave stuff behind (though an on-body PSK like a fanny pack is good just in case as a last line). I also am trying to learn how to make due without fire, in the warm months that is. Winter’s too cold and you could be tracked anyway easily by following footprints in the snow, body heat signature as at anytime.

    i plan to bug in, but should the little guy be with his mom, I have a hell of a walk ahead of me, and the way back, about 100 miles, lugging a 40 lb. kid most of the way. Who knows what will become of my food reserves and supplies without me there to guard them.
    I imagine this immediate grid down scenario more than long term survival concerns (in which I/we will not be going to whatever halfass FEMA thing they’ll put together, or give up what I have because I thought ahead-though I pray no one has to die over some cans of beef stew and hormel chili). Getting the ex set up anyway for him, and her, if something happens and I can’t be there. Too many people at that house though too. Suggestions for this scenario? I’m definately looking into a late 60’s points and condenser car to purchase this year and a bunch of filled 5 gallon gas cans, might solve that problem. Anyway…

    Too much good info here, and the right perspective. I’m going to miss the internet someday. Unfortunately my insulin dependant mother as well.

  17. Davy
    February 19, 2012 at 1:41 am

    I’ve always been taught that knowledge and a good mental state are the best survival tools followed closely by fire, water, shelter,food plus a good sharp knife, great post really enjoyed reading it.

  18. Mark L
    February 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

    This post is one of the most important aspects of survival. It does not matter what some expert recommends in a book. You need to gather your kit and go out and use it to see what works for you and what does not. I recommend the Pathfinder School, Dave Canterbury, host of Dual Survivor, is a no nonsense back to basics instructor. He has vast real world knowledge and what you learn will keep you alive. You can also check out my book How to Rely on Yourself in The Great Outdoors, available on Amazon.com. This book is loosely based on the Pathfinder system and will take you to the next level of self reliance.

  19. lcw52
    May 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

    flashlights…used to buy nothing but mini-mag …got a Fenix TK10 from an old freind, amazing to say the least. Stupid me, the first thing i do is look right into the light, couldn’t see anything but a large white spot for about a half hour. Thought to myself what an amazing weapon. Guess these kinds of flashlights are expensive, range 50 to 300 dollars. Every prepper has to check these things out.

  20. Mike
    May 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    While I agree knowledge is the most important thing, the idea of a bug out bag, to me, is to provide yourself with the basic necessities to travel light for three days. This will get you out of a disaster zone, not carry you through the zombie apocalypse.

    • Mike
      June 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      To me, I plan to bug-in, fortify, or hibernate, or however you wish to describe it for as long as possible… if I have to bug-out, carrying all the essentials to truly survive for any length of time, in my mind that becomes more of a “I’m never coming back” scenario because my life is more important than any material items.

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