Introduction To Survival Kits


There’s alot of information about survival kits, many different views and opinions, commercial products and sales, etc., but what is a survival kit? A survival kit as a commercially made product is an attempt by someone else to profit. This isn’t a bad thing, its just not what we think is necessarily the most important way to view it.

Because everyone has different needs and ever situation is different, there’s no such thing as a right or wrong survival kit. The main thing is to plan ahead and have a customized survival kit that fits your needs, addresses threats specific to your region (weather climate, likely civil disturbances, etc), and will be readily available to you should an emergency situation arise.

The following excerpt from the US Army Survival FM 21-76 provides a very high level overview of the survival kit, it’s importance, and some suggestions for what to include in it. Keep in mind this was written for soldiers so certain items may not be relevant to your needs.  In later posts, we’ll detail various types of survival kits to mitigate specific threats (emergencies such as natural disasters, wilderness survival kits, urban survival kits, etc.)


Detailed prior planning is essential in potential survival situations. Including survival considerations in mission planning will enhance your chances of survival if an emergency occurs. For example, if your job requires that you work in a small, enclosed area that limits what you can carry on your person, plan where you can put your rucksack or your load-bearing equipment. Put it where it will not prevent you from getting out of the area quickly, yet where it is readily accessible.

One important aspect of prior planning is preventive medicine. Ensuring that you have no dental problems and that your immunizations are current will help you avoid potential dental or health problems. A dental problem in a survival situation will reduce your ability to cope with other problems that you face. Failure to keep your shots current may mean your body is not immune to diseases that are prevalent in the area.

Preparing and carrying a survival kit is as important as the considerations mentioned above. All Army aircraft normally have survival kits on board for the type area(s) over which they will fly. There are kits for over-water survival, for hot climate survival, and an aviator survival vest (see Appendix A for a description of these survival kits and their contents). If you are not an aviator, you will probably not have access to the survival vests or survival kits. However, if you know what these kits contain, it will help you to plan and to prepare your own survival kit.

Even the smallest survival kit, if properly prepared, is invaluable when faced with a survival problem. Before making your survival kit, however, consider your unit’s mission, the operational environment, and the equipment and vehicles assigned to your unit.


The environment is the key to the types of items you will need in your survival kit. How much equipment you put in your kit depends on how you will carry the kit. A kit carried on your body will have to be smaller than one carried in a vehicle. Always layer your survival kit, keeping the most important items on your body. For example, your map and compass should always be on your body. Carry less important items on your load-bearing equipment. Place bulky items in the rucksack.

In preparing your survival kit, select items you can use for more than one purpose. If you have two items that will serve the same function, pick the one you can use for another function. Do not duplicate items, as this increases your kit’s size and weight.

Your survival kit need not be elaborate. You need only functional items that will meet your needs and a case to hold the items. For the case, you might want to use a Band-Aid box, a first aid case, an ammunition pouch, or another suitable case. This case should be–

  • Water repellent or waterproof.
  • Easy to carry or attach to your body.
  • Suitable to accept varisized components.
  • Durable.

In your survival kit, you should have–

  • First aid items.
  • Water purification tablets or drops.
  • Fire starting equipment.
  • Signaling items.
  • Food procurement items.
  • Shelter items.

Some examples of these items are–

  • Lighter, metal match, waterproof matches.
  • Snare wire.
  • Signaling mirror.
  • Wrist compass.
  • Fish and snare line.
  • Fishhooks.
  • Candle.
  • Small hand lens.
  • Oxytetracycline tablets (diarrhea or infection).
  • Water purification tablets.
  • Solar blanket.
  • Surgical blades.
  • Butterfly sutures.
  • Condoms (can be used for recreation and water storage).
  • Chap Stick.
  • Needle and thread.
  • Knife.

Include a weapon only if the situation so dictates. Read about and practice the survival techniques in this manual. Consider your unit’s mission and the environment in which your unit will operate. Then prepare your survival kit.


As with virtually all other survival skills and self-reliance concepts, a good survival kit can be constructed with planning. It’s planning, rather than the latest, fanciest gear, that will determine the effectiveness of a survival kit. A kit designed for a specific threat such as an earthquake, will be of little use to an individual who lives in a region that doesn’t experience earthquakes…

Another important consideration is accessibility. If you can’t make it to your survival kit in an emergency, what good is it to you? To be prepared, it’s a good idea to make multiple kits, for example: one for the home, vehicle, and a mini kit to always be carried on your person. These concepts and specific types of kits will be discussed in additional posts as well. If you’d like to submit your own customized kit, feel free to contact us and we’ll post your setup on so that others may benefit from your knowledge.

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