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The right survival supplies on hand can save your life in an emergency, offer protection from the elements, as well as protection from dangerous animals or other people. What are the top 10 survival supplies to always have on hand for a disaster or wilderness emergency?
Survival in any situation… whether you find yourself in the mountains, low-land wilderness, desert, river, or even an urban environment after a natural disaster has taken place – survival usually comes down to how much experience a person has in surviving, as well as what kind of survival supplies are on hand.
Basic knowledge on how to use each piece of equipment is advised. Follow the links at the bottom of the article for additional tips and more in depth information. We also have additional survival advice across the site – if you’re looking for other survival information like how to put together a get home bag, or a bug out bag, or what the top survival tools for the wilderness are – make sure you check out the survival gear section on our site.
What Are The Minimum Top 10 Survival Supplies?
You never know when a disaster might strike. The tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004 and the super typhoon that struck the Philippines in 2013 are real life examples.Or the earthquake that struck the Bay Area of California in 1989, for those of you in the U.S. thinking that disasters only happen in other parts of the world.
If that’s the case, maybe you’ve failed to take notice of the severity and increase in natural disasters that have struck the U.S. also in recent years. A major disaster striking somewhere in the world every few months has become the norm.
Disaster Happens Unexpectedly
The nature of disaster is to catch populations off guard, like the 2004 tsunami. Indonesians, prepared for disaster, would have been prepared with essential survival supplies. In the case of many over, that would have included the ability to fish for food. Right now, if disaster struck your region, are you prepared with the right supplies for the region and climate that you live?
At the minimum, you should have the following top ten survival supplies.
Top 10 Survival Supplies And Basic Skills
Along with essential emergency supplies, there are basic survival skills that should be practiced well before hand. These basic skills are: Finding shelter, building a fire (if the power is out and the temperatures drop), and of course, finding and / or procuring water that’s safe to drink. These skills will help you meet your basic survival needs. Then there’s food: If you want to try survival fishing, for example, you won’t be able to head to your local fishing supplies shop to get gear. You’ll be on your own with only nature to contend with – and if you’re lucky, a basic survival knife or a survival multi-tool for basic cutting and carving and so forth.
These are the first three things that a person should learn when tackling the subject of survival. These are three skills to teach your children when they’re young, and you start taking them camping and fishing in the early years of life.
The wilderness is a perfect place to prepare kids for the idea of an emergency taking place, where immediate needs like shelter, warmth, water, and food need to be met.
The First Step In An Emergency
Take stock of the situation – As soon as disaster strikes, it’s important to take stock of the situation. How much day light do you have? Is it safe to build a shelter where you’re at, or should you move to higher ground? Where can dry wood be found? What is the easiest fire starter to be had?
The Top 10 Survival Supplies
Carry Two Lighters And Tinder In A Waterproof Container (#1)
If you’re somewhat prepared, you should have fire starter (a good survival lighter, and tinder, as well as a few back-up lighters and waterproof matches). There are many methods for carrying tinder, typically finely shredded wood or even dried out moss and pine needles kept in a small water-proof container called a Dry Box.
(You can also use tinder from around the home, before you’ve ever stepped outside: cotton balls or dryer lint for example can be excellent tinder; also cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol and placed in a Zip-Loc freezer bag).
Hypothermia is one of the first dangers people can face following a disaster or wilderness emergency. And so the first step to recovery becomes making a fire, for both warmth and boiling water for water purification; later, for cooking.
Before making a fire, you’ll survey the scene and collect the most likely items that will burn (if in a dry environment, creating fire is usually very easy. But if it’s been raining heavily, and everything is wet, you’ll have some challenges). Once you get your first fire going (even using up most of your tinder if you have to) start the process of creating new tinder – which you’ll need for the next fire later that day, or the next.
Cut small shavings of wood, collect moss, damp cardboard or paper (if in a disaster zone), etc and lay them near the fire (close enough to dry out, but not close enough to catch on fire).
Then when adequately dry, be sure to store these in your dry box before this new batch of tinder gets wet (if raining).
What about a lighter for higher elevations or cold temperatures?
Research lighters when it comes to higher elevations and deep cold. A lot of survival lighters that work great (an aside: here’s a list of the best survival lighters) might not work at all in low temperatures or altitudes of 9,000 feet or higher. One trick is to keep a lighter in your pocket so it’s kept warm by your body heat. Then pull it out and light it before the deep cold chills it.
In the end, considering what high elevation backpackers have said about their personal experiences with lighters (you can read some first hand experiences here), a trusty Bic lighter is the least likely of all lighters to fail — though a more expensive survival lighter with a torch head in normal daily conditions may work better in higher winds than a Bic while also having more heat and direct flame, which gives you a faster campfire. So, to be truly prepared, have a survival lighter with a torch head, back up fuel canisters for that lighter, and then a few Bic lighters as well.
If for some reason that Bic won’t work, pull out your dry box of highly flammable tinder (which you should always have with you for any trek into the wilderness) and magnesium alloy (Swedish FireSteel creates sparks even when wet and works at any altitude) and then proceed to setting campfires that way.
Adequate Clothing For The Climate Packed In “Dry Bags” (#2)
If you leave your house on a drive to the mountains for a day hike, and it’s 75 degrees and sunny, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be 75 when you get to the mountains an hour or more away from home, and clouds roll in or the weather system is simply different there. Always have access to adequate clothing, including boots, gloves, and rain gear (or just an oversized poncho). If you do this you are ahead of the game. Having adequate clothing for the temperature and weather conditions can make survival pleasant, and keep you warm and relatively dry.
Are you taking other people with you into the mountains? Make sure they’ve also got adequate clothing as back up – including the right shoes for the outdoors.
What if this isn’t a wilderness emergency we’re talking about — but a disaster zone, like the tsunami that struck Indonesia? There are plenty of coastal cities along the West Coast and East Coast of America. Hurricane Sandy brought a storm surge, that caused flooding. Anyone caught in flood waters can soon be in danger of hypothermia. Thus adequate clothing, and backup clothing kept in waterproof Dry Bags can be a life-saver (“dry bags” are different than a “dry box” and you should have more than one dry bag for protecting small electronics and another dry bag for protecting an extra set of clothing and yet another dry bag for your coat and or sleeping bag).
Experts in outdoor adventure know just how useful a set of dry bags can be for protecting gear, food, and clothing from the elements or accidental submersion. Accidental submersion can happen when crossing a stream or having a boating mishap like a canoe capsize or survival raft you’ve built coming apart midway across a body of water.
Dry bags can be life-savers and help ensure protection from otherwise hypothermia by ensuring that you always have a dry set of clothes and coat in an emergency.
Tarp, Rope, And Tent (#3,#4,#5)
Simply having a tent is no guarantee that you’ve got good shelter. What if the tent rips, or what if the rain is so severe that your tent just can’t stand up to it? To avoid being soaked, be sure to pack an extra tarp or two. If there are more people in your party, have each one of them carry a small tarp also. Have a few lengths of rope, and practice improvised shelter making, and you can set up a weather proof base camp just about anywhere (that there is something to tie rope to). A lightweight alternative to rope is paracord. You can carry around a good amount of paracord by just buying a good paracord survival bracelet and wearing it all the time.
Backpack And Sleeping Bag (#6, #7)
Whether you’re going hiking, or simply in a city miles from home when a natural disaster strikes, having a great survival backpack pre-packed with survival gear, clothing, and the right shoes / boots is advised, if a person wants to be prepared “at all times”. Along with a good sleeping bag that is well put together, and has a cold weather temperature rating, you’ll have a “Survival pack” nearby when you need it. Be sure to store emergency food as well as drinking water, and a map or two, and other essential survival supplies, including medication (should you have any need for prescription medicine).
We have an article about the best ultralight sleeping bags here if you don’t already have a great sleeping bag.
Water Bottle, Water Purification Tablets / Water Purifier (#8)
A good water bottle, such as the stainless steel water bottles seen in many stores nowadays, is a handy item when it comes to survival. Certain water bottles can be rigged to allow water to be boiled right inside the bottle – no need for a pot or tea kettle. Be sure to check whether a bottle is actually stainless steel, or if its made from aluminum, and also look up the brand to see what the manufacturer (or others) have to say. Klean Kanteens and Guyout Designs are both stainless steel bottles that are OK to boil water in.
If you’re in a hurry, and don’t have time to boil water, then having a few Water Purification Tablets on hand is advised. Be sure to read ratings and reviews as well as understand how they work so that you can choose the correct tablets and use them effectively.
In addition, having a good portable water filter on hand, means you can purify water for several days and or weeks in the event of a disaster — with just one filter (survival filtration technology has come a long way). Two filters to compare are Lifestraw and the Sawyer Mini. As with water purification tablets, read ratings and reviews; when you do get your hands on one finally, become familiar with how the portable water filter you have chosen for survival is used.
Self Defense – Protection From Animals And Even Other People (#9)
In a survival situation, especially in the wilderness, you may encounter wildlife that sees you as its next dinner. Heavy duty pepper spray (such as bear pepper spray) can be a good deterrent, but its advised that you become familiar with using it before hand. For those who prefer the security of a firearm, of course a gun can do the trick. How fast can you get to your gun though, before an animal strikes? Just like an old west gun slinger, you may want to practice how quickly you can get to your firearm, whether its a pistol, shot gun, or rifle. Now with that said, what are the odds of you actually hitting a charging animal (such as a grizzly bear)? This point is why a can of Bear pepper spray is reported to be a safer choice. All it takes is pointing the can in the general direction and dispensing it’s contents into the face of a charging animal (including a dangerous dog if a neighbor’s guard dog gets loose).
Human assailants are often a lot like predators in the wild, such as mountain lions. If you yell loudly and speak aggressively (ladies, you can do it to), you can often intimidate an attacker (or a mountain lion), who is usually looking for an easy victim. Yelling loudly, aggressively (and throwing sticks and rocks) can also work to detour a grizzly bear, in a “predatory confrontation” when a bear is stalking you (though this tactic is not advised in what experts call a “defensive confrontation,” which is when a bear is protecting its cubs, or food, if you suddenly bump into the bear on a trail or elsewhere).
Finally, choose a good survival knife, even two. That way you always have one as back up. Survival knives are easily concealed, and can be used to deter an attacker. If one of your survival knives is big enough, and you “act” aggressive enough, as long as your attacker doesn’t have a firearm there’s a good chance you can detour him, just like that bear or mountain lion in the wild.
Another alternative to a knife is to have a hatchet with you. Hatchets are basically small axes, primarily designed for chopping trees, cutting wood, and getting through dense undergrowth, but they make very effective self defense weapons when necessary – after all, a small axe is still an axe. Check out our guide to the best survival hatchets if you want to learn which survival hatchet to choose.
Crooks, would-be rapists, etc. want easy victims; they may act tough but a lot of them are just mentally disturbed and it’s easy to shake their confidence with just a fierce glare and loud words, letting an attacker know you will fight back if they approach.
Last, for a worst case scenario, you also practice repeated stabbing and slashing motions with your knife; should a bear tackle you on a trail (in a “predatory confrontation”) experts say to fight back; if this is a “defensive confrontation” though (a mother is protecting it’s cubs), then experts say to play dead (at least with grizzly bears; I’ve heard that black bears are likely to start eating a person if a person simply plays dead; do some reading on this and talk to wildlife officials in any areas you plan to travel).
A Map (#10)
If you’ve ventured anywhere away from your home, you should always have a good idea of the layout of the land. For obvious reasons, when you are in the mountains or in a national park or forest, but also when you are miles from home in another city, perhaps just visiting family. If you study a map, and familiarize yourself with the landscape, you’ll have a good idea of how to get home should disaster ever strike and the roads you traveled are no longer there. If a city of a few hundred thousand people (or a few million people) lies in the path of home, you should know the best way to detour around the city, because traveling through a large city that has been struck by disaster could be very dangerous. Rioting, fires… or terrorists that have struck with a dirty bomb. Yes, it’s possible. That could be the next major event that Americans face somewhere.
Oh, and one more thing to add to your list…
Faith In God To Deliver You
You’re on a Christian website, so we’re obviously going to throw this one on here. Even the most outspoken God-haters among us can find themselves thinking twice about their lack of faith in the midst of disaster – when they finally realize that they need God, and suddenly are willing to finally look for him on faith. Or they’ve believed in God all along, but chose to live for themselves rather than submitting to Christ and learning how to live for Him – as we are called to do in the Bible.
God has let many disasters strike throughout the ages, some just happen naturally, and some actually at the hand of God when he wants to reach a person or nation with his presence.
Could America be the next nation on God’s time line that God calls to repentance, as he did many times in the Old Testament? Very easily. Why? We discuss these reasons on our End of Days survival page.
What’s Next? Selecting Essential Survival Tools
What you’ve just read in the article above is a basic introduction to survival supplies. But there’s more you should know, including recommendations for specific products that can save you money (over more expensive products) and greatly aid in survival. You don’t have to spend top dollar on survival supplies — there may be products right under your nose that will work great in a survival situation.