Fact: the world will end at some point. Hopefully, it will come to pass in a few billion years with the sun swallowing the earth in a spectacular fireworks display. By that point, the human race will have colonised thousands of other planets and will experience the event by way of a live stream rather than 1st hand.
If we’re unfortunate enough to experience a cataclysmic event before then or even a minor survival situation, then you can increase your odds of survival significantly by ensuring you have access to a prepared and well-provisioned survival kit.
Unfortunately, disasters can often occur during periods when we least expect it, during such times being prepared will often have a significant impact on your ability to survive the situation. Chances are you, like me and many others, have been told by many authority figures, including the government, to have essential survival items at hand. You probably thought about it, agreed it was a good idea, then went back to watching Game of Thrones. Maybe you live in a high-risk area, somewhere that is prone to fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or in the case of the UK, the adverse weather conditions are probably the most immediate concern. With that in mind you might have stockpiled some water, maybe some canned food & lentils, and stocked up on candles, batteries and torches.
These items will likely get you through most minor disaster situations. But, what if the unthinkable happens? Horrible situations are unlikely, but they can happen. From tsunamis to earthquakes, to terrorist attacks, to floods, to volcanoes. The range of disasters that can happen are almost uncountable and can all pose serious challenges to your continued existence.
Chances are that you’ll never have to exist in a world where every day is an epic fight for your continued survival, but let’s imagine an apocalyptic setting, taking a few proactive steps now could literally make the difference between life and death later. At the worst case, you’ll end up buying a few bits and pieces that you’ll rarely use and invested a few hours of your time. In the best case or worst case scenario, your preparation will mean you won’t become a statistic, you won’t starve and you won’t become a victim of a roaming scantily clad biker gang in 2025.
How to Build the Perfect Survival Kit
This is not your run of the mill survival kit or something which you might take away with your camping. This is fire and brimstone end of civilisation survival kit which will allow you to survive, even prosper, in all sorts of dangerous and adverse situations. While it’s pretty much impossible to account for every survival eventuality, or even please every armchair expert (there might be something you want to see included, in which case include it), but with the things in this kit, you’ll be far better prepared than 99% of the population, and even better prepared than someone that bought a commercially available kit.
In researching the requirements for this survival kit guide, I’ve liaised with several experts in the field as well as tried to take an objective view of the numerous other guides available, taking the best parts and discarding the chaff. Where appropriate I have cited my references and tried to reason why an item is a must-have.
The Pocket Survival Kit
A professionally put together pocket survival kit will likely only have a minor impact on your potential for survival in an apocalyptic scenario, but it also has the distinct advantage that it will fit in your pocket, which means you can always have it with you. Having this simple piece of kit with you before you head out your front door is a great idea. Ideally, a pocket survival kit will be part of a larger survival kit which will always be with you.
A pocket survival kit is made up of a few simple items:
• A waterproof container to house the kit
• A candle
• Fishing line and hooks
• Flint/striker or other non-match based fire starter
• Plasting bags
• Safety pins
• Sewing Kit
• Signaling mirror
• Snare wire
• Water purification tablets
• Wire saw
When you’re away from home, your primary concern will be having access to water and being able to keep warm – which is why this kit contains multiple methods of creating a fire, as well as ways of making water safe to drink (boiling or tablets). This kit is ideal to carry with you everywhere, it very portable and contains several essential must have items. But, for and of days event, you’re going to need a more serious pieces of kit.
This list will be long, and where appropriate we have provided the reason for including the item as well as our recommendations as to what to buy. Not all items require an in-depth explanation, we trust that you understand that a sleeping bag is for sleeping and that sleeping in a tent without one can be a very uncomfortable experience.
The Survival Backpack
Backpack – Your backpack is perhaps one of the most important pieces of kit you can buy, it needs to be lightweight, sturdy, waterproof and comfortable to wear for long periods of time. It needs to be able to put up with the wear and tear of prolonged use and large enough to carry all of our essentials. I strongly recommend purchasing a pack which is MOLLE compliant or that has external webbing, this will allow you to attach extra pieces of gear to the outside of the backpack when appropriate. I would personally recommend any of the options below:
Torch – A torch can illuminate your surrounding on an otherwise dark night, as long as you have access to charged batteries. At a push a torch can be used as self-defence weapon and even to focus sunlight for creating a fire. It’s a very useful tool, but one which become less useful as time progresses, depending on batteries. It’s worth looking into low energy LED torches or hand cranked versions, which will significantly extend their usefulness.
Compass – It perhaps goes without saying but a compass is really a no brainer, they are inexpensive, small and will allow you to orientate yourself with ease. Make sure you select one which is decent quality. A lensatic compass is a great choice.
Maps – The more information you have on your surroundings, the easier it is to navigate. If the worse happens and you need to flee your normally familiar surroundings, you may need to travel quite far and GPS might not be available. In these circumstances several high quality maps will be invaluable and will be worth their weight in gold. Buy as many as you can that cover your immediate area and surrounding areas. Store them in a waterproof ziplock or map bag.
A First Aid Kit – Functional first aids are widely available from many stores, most are perfectly capable triaging minor wounds and injuries, but I would suggest supplementing the content to make sure it includes the following items, latex gloves, tweezers, pain killers, bandages, needles, sutures, antiseptic and anti-diarrheal.
Knives – A good knife is incredibly important and should be part of any survival kit. A well-constructed, reliable and sharp knife can be used in many scenarios, from hunting and cooking to wood gathering and self defence. I would suggest buying a fixed blade full tang knife with a straight edge, as these types are generally stronger and more maintained. Additionally look to buy a multifunctional knife which can be used for other scenario that require more specialised tools, for example opening a tin can with the blade of a knife is possible, but it’s more easily accomplished with a tin opener attachment on a multi-functional tool. This knife can also act as a backup in case something happens to your primary knife.
Crowbar – If you’re thinking about survival situations, chances are you’re thinking about the wilderness, but you’re probably missing out on a lot of potential resources if you don’t consider the cities. A crowbar is key to forging for equipment and food within a city and can quite literally be a lifesaver. In a pinch, it can also be used as climbing equipment.
Hatchet – If you need to build a fire, make traps, build a shelter or gather wood for any other reason, having a hatchet can make your job much easier. It’s worth bearing in mind that while pocket saws are lighter, they are not as durable, and sharpening a serrated is not a trivial job, as such I would still recommend a hatchet over a saw.
Firearms – This is probably a fairly controversial choice, but it’s difficult to address a doomsday survival kit without even considering weapons. If you live in the UK you’ll probably find it incredibly difficult to get your hands on a gun legally and rightfully so. If this is the case then consider air rifles or more traditional hunting tools such as bows or hunting catapults.
Folding Shovel – Small in size and designed for digging, there is no replacement for a shovel if you want to dig a fire pit, put in shelter foundations or even cook food on.
Water Purification – Iodine tablets offer one of the most compact purification systems available, though they are not sustainable long terms and are not a good solution if you need to purify water for a large group of people. It’s worth investing a proper water purification system that you can set up at your base camp.
Water Storage – As you’re travelling around you probably don’t want to lug around 20kg of water with you. Buy a water flask. For your base camp buy a seal-able food grade container which is suitable for containing liquids.
Sleeping Bag – Get a sleeping bag which is suitable for the weather conditions you might encounter. It’s good to have something small and portable, it’s worse to be cold when trying to sleep, make an appropriate choice.
Collapsible Tent – Modern day tents are engineering marvels and are capable of being extremely small and portable while collapsed, yet also be warm and spacious when erected. There a ton of buying options available, so finding something to meet your budget and requirements should be easy.
Fire – You absolutely need multiple methods of starting a fire. Buy some strike anywhere matches, a multi pack of disposable lighters, a magnesium block and striker and a solar lighter. These will likely keep you lighting fires for years to come, if not decades.
Fire starter – Cotton wool and wire wool makes for an excellent fire starter.
Climbing Rope – You can never have enough rope. Climbing rope is perfect for climbing, given that it’s rated for both weight and shock. Invest in at least 100ft of rope and a few quality carabineers. It might be a good idea to prepare the rope with a carabineer attached in order to allow for quick deployment and less fuss. Climbing rope can be used to reach hard to navigate places, to make a quick exit or for securing equipment.
General Use Rope – You’ll want to have as much general purpose rope as you can afford to carry. It’s brilliant for building shelters, creating traps, holding equipment together, keeping items off the ground and individual strands can be used for sewing. There are for more uses than I can possibly list here. I would very much recommend 550 paracord, it’s cheap, compact and very strong.
Knot Tying Guide – Unless you’re a former boy scout, fisherman or outdoors enthusiast, chances are your knot repertoire is rather limited. Even if you know several types of knots, there’s no harm in knowing more, especially when you find something that meets a particular use case. Buying a small laminated knot tying guide is an incredibly cheap way of getting access to a variety of knots.
Clean Socks/Underwear – It’s very likely that you’ll end up wearing the same clothes for many days at a time, in which case you’ll find your clothes quickly become soiled, wet, damaged and looking worse for wear. I highly suggest that you have clothes that are used as day wear and a separate set of clean clothes which you use for sleeping in. Try very hard to keep your sleeping clothes clean, dry and in good condition. If you do this you’ll find slipping into your clean, soft, warm and dry clothes at the end of the day is a highlight and something you’ll begin to look forward to.
Food – While it’s not sustainable to live off prepacked food long term, it’s worth having a stock of emergency supplies which can tide you over until you establish a sustainable food source. Long lasting foods come in many forms, from tins, freeze dried meals and dried beans through to nuts, chocolate and other calorie dense foods. Ideally you’ll want a selection of food types, including items which can be eaten without any form of preparation (tins), items which are nutritious but require preparation (dried beans) and items that are very calorie dense and are therefore portable and can be eaten on the go. Avoid food waste, anything which you can’t eat can and should be used to bait, composting or other purposes.
Appropriate Clothing – Dress appropriately. Have a range of clothes for all sorts of weather conditions. If the climate is hot, ensure you have light layers which minimise your skins exposure to the sun. If the climate is cold, having multiple layers of clothing is better than having one thick layer.
Bandannas – Despite perhaps not being the coolest accessory to have, bandannas can still serve a functional purpose. They can protect your head from the sun and when soaked in water they can help cool you down. They can protect your mouth from dust and in emergency act as a bandage or act as a sling.
Gloves – Whether you live in a hot climate or a cold climate, you’ll need gloves. If the weather is cold then the need for gloves is obvious. In a warm climate, or really any climate, having gloves can quite literally save your skin. If you’re putting together shelters, chopping wood and handling rope and you’re more used to using a keyboard and mouse, you’ll find that you can blister pretty easily. Given time you’ll gain callouses and harder hands, but in the mean time you’ll want to be able to continue with your work, which is where a pair of quality work gloves can keep you working.
Waterproofing – Having several heavy duty rubble sacks at hand can mean you can easily waterproof a rucksack, store wet clothes or even put together a temporary shelter.
A Survival Book – Even if you’re an expert at outdoors survival, having a handy reference guide can be a great help. Get one that fits in your pocket and I can guarantee you you’ll reference in more than once.
So that’s it, that’s the survival kit which will help you survive the apocalypse. I’m sure many people will have an opinion that differs, maybe something is too heavy, or there’s too much stuff or even to little stuff. If you want to pack something else, pack it, if you want to leave something out, then leave it out. There is no right and wrong answer. Customise the content to meet your own personal requirements, location and climate.
Best of luck and I sincerely hope you’ll never need to use this survival kit.