The best survival kits to prepare you for all the things you can’t predict

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in recent times, it’s that we simply cannot predict what life is going to throw at us. From wild weather events to a worldwide pandemic, it’s becoming abundantly clear that we should all try to be a little more self-sufficient these days. After all, mother nature’s been pretty angry with us, so it’s high time we call in the reinforcements and supply ourselves with some backup.

From natural disasters to unpredictable emergencies at home or on the road, it could take a while for emergency responders to reach you when you’re in need. In these survival scenarios, having some essential gear at the ready could make all the difference. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best survival kits and go bags to help you prepare for all the things you can’t predict. (Just in case.)

Why do I need a survival kit?

An emergency situation could entail anything from a power outage to having to fend for yourself in the wilderness (depending on your usual activities, of course). And in some cases, you just need to evacuate in a hurry! So we might as well prepare for it all, right?

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards, blackouts … maybe even a dash of zombie apocalypse to spice things up, who knows! I’m certainly not ruling anything out these days. But my point is, you can never be too careful.

That said, you certainly don’t need to be a doomsday prepper with a well-stocked bunker to want to keep yourself safe in case of an emergency. There are plenty of pre-made survival gear kits out there to fit all sorts of needs, whether you want to stash some basic essentials in your car, take some wilderness survival tools on your next camping trip, or stock up on goods to hunker down in said bunker. You might even consider covering all of your bases with a couple different types of kits that’ll help you out both indoors and outdoors. It all comes down to your particular needs.

What should a survival kit include?

There can be a lot to consider when searching for your ideal emergency survival kit, especially depending on where you live, what natural threats might be expected and whether you intend to use your kit during outdoor adventures. However, there are a lot of commonalities across many of the best survival kits on the market, so we’re going to break down what you may see and why you might want to have that gear by your side in any given survival situation.

And sure, you could technically buy everything separately, or cherry-pick what you think you might need. But it’s very likely to cost you more money for less gear, and it will definitely cost you more time. Plus, you’ll leave yourself open to gaps in necessary gear that you might not have expected you would need (not until the very last minute, anyway).

That said, you’re probably not going to find everything you need in one kit simply because everyone’s situation is so unique. But a pre-made survival kit will still give you a major leg up, especially if you’re not sure where to start. And you can always supplement a solid kit with additional essential items as you see fit for your specific needs down the line.

At its very core, an emergency survival kit should include essential items that provide sustenance (i.e. an emergency food supply and water), warmth, safety, first aid, and navigation. And, unless you’ve got one of those aforementioned bunkers, it should all fit within something easily transportable in case you need to get the hell out of dodge in a hurry.

Common emergency supplies that you’ll probably want in your survival kit include:

A hand-crank radio, flashlight and/or charger so that you don’t need to rely on electricity or batteries for information, light and communication. However, a tactical flashlight should be quite reliable, too.

A multi-tool with the ability to act as a bottle opener or survival knife to help you cut through rope, or open boxes, bags, bottles and cans of food.

A first aid kit to patch up any injuries as best as possible until help arrives. Ideally, this would include surgical gloves for cleanliness, as well as over-the-counter painkillers, antihistamines, and any other similar essentials.

A compass to find your bearings when outdoors.

A signal mirror, flare, or glowstick to visually alert others.

A whistle to audibly alert others to your location, whether lost in the wilderness or if you need to be rescued from your home in the case of a flood, tornado, or another natural disaster. Pea-less (those without moving parts) are the loudest.

Waterproof matches and/or a lighter for starting fires for warmth and to cook, whether outdoors or indoors.

An emergency poncho for protection from the elements.

An emergency blanket—usually a mylar blanket—for warmth.

Meal-replacement bars or dehydrated meals (just add water!) with a long shelf life.

Water and/or a water purification system, such as filtering straws or water purification tablets. If the water is provided, it’s important that it’s packed in pouches with a long shelf life because regular plastic bottles can leach chemicals over time.

Face masks. We’ve come to know them for virus protection, but don’t forget they’re crucial for keeping out dust, too.

Some survival kits will even include an emergency tent and a sleeping bag or two. Both can come in handy when you lose your way outdoors, but also if you need to “set up camp” at an evacuation center outside of the emergency zone. You’ll probably want to supplement your kit with a legitimate camping tent if you’re actually planning to be outdoors for a wilderness outing, though.

If you live in an area that can get cold, you might also want a survival kit with hand warmers and other considerations for low temperatures.

Items in a personal hygiene kit, such as toilet paper and body wipes (and biohazard bags to put them in after use) shouldn’t be overlooked either. Some outdoor survival kits, however, might opt for a trowel to dig catholes to hide your business when nature calls.

Now would also be a good time to emphasize the importance of hand sanitizer. Never not crucial to have around.

And duct tape! You can use it to repair gear, patch leaks, stabilize a broken limb, fashion it into a bowl for eating or collecting water—the possibilities are endless. You may not find it in all survival kits, though, probably because it’s so cheap to buy on its own, and it’s also super easy to just throw a roll in with an existing kit. But honestly, it could wind up being the most valuable item of them all.

There are also some things you won’t find in a pre-packed survival kit, but you should absolutely keep stashed in or around your go bag. These specific survival items include rechargeable batteries, a solar power bank or charger (and any necessary power cords for your devices), an extra set of car or house keys, cash, any prescription medications you or your family may need, and extra pairs of prescription eyewear. You might also want to stash some local maps, emergency contact info for loved ones, and important documents in a waterproof, fire-safe container or sleeve, too. And don’t forget about your pets! Be sure to keep food, water, and other essentials on hand for them as well.

All of that considered, let’s jump into the best survival kits that are already pre-packed with emergency supplies to give you a head start on disaster preparedness.

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