Survival Bug Out Gear

There are many many things to know and consider when buying or putting together survival bug out gear. Perhaps the single most important issue to realize is:

There is no such thing as a one size fits all.”

If you perform due diligence and investigate say … 10 of the best survival websites pertaining to building a bug out bag, with strongly recommended survival bug out gear, you’ll end up with a bug out bag that will weigh between 150 to 225 pounds. What is also somewhat remarkable is you still won’t have everything you need for addressing every anticipated situation. To me this is totally unacceptable. I haven’t carried a pack that heavy since VietNam and could hardly do it then. (Just as a note: a Pack’s weight should equal 15% of your body weight and no more than 20%. After that it becomes extremely difficult to manage)

Instead of putting a survival pack together I suggest we put a list together first in order to organize and classify the individual elements into weight and need. Another thing you must remember is “if the pack is too heavy it’ll either slow you down, injury yourself, or have you discarding elements as you go.” None of which is desirable.

Let’s get started with a plan on assembling Survival Bug Out Gear, keeping in mind, this does not have to be difficult or nerve rattling.

Obviously the first thing we need to decide is what type of bug out bag are we going to buy? We immediately run into two trains of thought both that will argue till the cows come home their position is correct.

  1. Buy all the items first, then buy the bag to fit the load

  2. Buy the bag first, then proceed to fill it.

Personally I’m entrenched in the buy the bag first, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right.

  1. Don’t buy a bug out bag by price. Most likely you’ll want to stay within budget but don’t think expensive equals better, as that’s not always true

  2. Buy for comfort. Comfort of Straps are extremely important

  3. Go to a reputable sporting goods store, not Walmart. The sales people are knowledgeable and you’ll probably be shocked at how many varieties there are available.

  4. Once you’re happy with your bug out bag, let’s begin to fill it with survival bug out gear.

    Classify the needed items: I’m not going to recommend specific items you’ll need. Instead I want to classify them into certain needs and requirements, suggestions and allow you to fulfill or ignore the segment.

Water/Hydration: People tend to argue about anything and everything these days, but arguing the importance of water is not one of them. Without water, within 72 hours the body will shut down and you will die. Compare that to 3 weeks without food before death and … enough said. It’s recommended 1 liter of water minimum (¼ gallon) per day, per person.

Suggestions to fulfill this requirement:

  • Collapsible Water Bottle to obtain and hold water

  • Hard Water Bottle

  • Canteen

  • Water Filters / Purification System

  • Water Purification Tablets

I highly recommend to carry at least two (more is better) Lifestraws. These water filtration devises remove 99.9% of the bacteria and other deadly microbes from the water without boiling or additional treatment. A lightweight life saver.


Food & Food Preparation: You’ve addressed the single most important survival issue, water. (Although that is not always true) Let’s rephrase that to Normal survival issue. Now we must address the issue of food, and since most food will require cooking, preparation items. We won’t address hunting or foraging yet as that’s another whole ballgame. Let’s concentrate on bringing enough food to maintain us for 3 days.

Suggestions for take along food sources:

  • Protein/ Energy Bars (at least 6)

  • MREs / Dehydrated Meals (3)

Cooking Utensils:

  • Spork

  • P-38 Can Opener (little, lightweight, excellent for opening metal cans)

  • Metal Cooking Pot (Hard to cook anything over an open flame in a plastic or paper container)

  • Metal Cup (also handy if you must boil water to safely drink)

  • Fuel tablets (8 to 10)

Clothing: The type of clothing you have available can save your life. Style is out the window in this requirement. Some people may not take the importance of this requirement near seriously enough. Don’t be one of them!

  1. Choosing bug out clothing is somewhat similar to regular shopping. That is, choose the type of clothing that fits your body type, fitness level and tolerances.

  2. First rule of clothing … layer. Take off if hot .. put back on if cold.

  3. The type of clothes will depend on your environment and climate. You don’t want cold weather clothing in the desert. However, remember the desert becomes frigid at nightfall. Re-evaluate every six months as conditions may change.

  4. You must have at least 2 changes of clothes. The last thing you need is to be wet and unable to change into dry clothes, causing not only discomfort, but hypothermia. Don’t count on being able to start a fire and dry the wet linen. 99% of the won’t happen for some reason or the other.

Suggestions for clothing:

  • Lightweight long sleeve shirt (mosquitoes can drive you insane)

  • Durable pants (zip-off pants are ideal)

  • Underwear (chafing can disable you)

  • Wool hiking socks / 3 pair (wool wicks moisture)

  • Medium weight fleece coats (2 for layering)

  • Working gloves (to protect hands from cold, blistering and firm gripping)

  • Rain gear (poncho or rain suit)

  • Wear a hot, wide brim if possible (think cowboys wore wide brim hats for style?)

Shelter & Bedding: This is one of those ahhh subjects. Most survivalist rely on their own experience and skills to provide these items and scoff at store bought items. They’ll fill a trash bag with leaves for a mattress or pillow. However, companies are becoming more attune at making items designed for packs. At least explore the options.

  • Tent

  • Tarp

  • Sleeping Bag

  • Ground Bag

Heat Source: No matter where you are located or what time of year … you need a fire for heat and a 100 other reasons. If you think you’ll start a fire by rubbing 2 sticks together … I’ll notify your next of kin. You MUST have at least 3 sources of making fire. Always remember the motto … “Where there are two there is one. Where there is one, there is none.” I have no idea who thought of that but it’s kinda brilliant. Murphy’s law applied. You got 2 matches, figure one won’t light. Got 1 match, same as none as it probably won’t light.


Mylar Tent

Suggested items for Survival Bug Out Gear:

  • Stick matches dipped in wax (waterproof)

  • Fire Stick

  • Steel & Flint

  • Tinder

  • Lighters

  • Research it as new products are always becoming available

First Aid & Hygiene: I group these two because they can overlap, plus try to buy items that could serve 2 purposes. For instance disinfectant for a cut can be used to sanitize your hands.

Suggested Items:

  • Small First Aid Kit

  • Insect Repellent (very important) with deet

  • Mylar Survival Blanket

  • Hand Sanitize

  • Travel tooth brush & paste

  • All-Purpose Soap

  • Compact Mirror

Tools: The following items are very nice to have, but you must be extremely selective in what you want to carry. Unless you hire equipment bearers like in the Tarzan movies, I wouldn’t get carried away with these items, but I feel it helpful to list them for your knowledge.

Suggested Items for Survival Bug Out Gear:

  • Survival Knife

  • Multi tool

  • machete

  • 550 Parachute Cord (50’+)

  • Duct Tape

  • 55 Gallon Contractor Garbage Bag (2+)

  • Resealable Plastic Bags (5)

  • Sewing Kit

  • Latex Tubing

  • Fishing Kit

  • Ax

  • Sunglasses

  • Binoculars

Crisis Situation: Lets switch gears for a moment. We have tended to lean towards a short survival situation or hike that may go wrong. But let’s look at a few items we will require if we are actually looking at a SHTF situation.

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Crisis Bug Out Bag:


  • $400 to $500 cash in small denominations – buy and barter

  • Quarters (8 to 12) vending machines

  • Precious metals (gold / silver)

  • Compass (It’d be nice if you knew how to read one)

  • Note Pad & Pencil

  • Emergency Whistle

  • Cell Phone

  • Emergency Radio with Hand Crank

  • Pepper Spray

  • Handgun

  • Ammunition (50 to 100 rounds)

  • Rifle or shotgun (preferably both as they serve different purposes)

  • Candles

  • Flashlights & batteries

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Some people get the idea that the Prepping / Survivalist agenda are set in concrete. There’s a right way and a wrong way only. I’m going to take this opportunity to briefly play devil’s advocate and show you how some items considered essential by some experts are a total waste of time, money and energy to others. Let’s begin.

  1. Sleeping Bags can be a total waste depending on where you are. Why carry a heavy sleeping bag when a couple of bivvies are adequate?

  2. Tents are a waste. Simply carry a lightweight tarp and some cordage to build a shelter. That will save @ 5 lbs.

  3. Camping Tripods are stupid. Why carry 6 lbs of iron around when you can quickly and easily construct a tripod for cooking out of available tree limbs.

  4. Camping Lantern. Why? Build a larger fire or use a flashlight.

  5. Flare Gun. Why? Build a signal fire or use a mirror to reflect sunlight as a distress signal.

  6. Plates & Utensils. Pack a spork and eat directly from the can or package.

  7. Medications. Some medications are essential, as are some pain relievers, etc. It’s doubtful you’ll use an entire bottle of these items. Dump them out and combine and adequate amount of each and put into one bottle or plastic Ziploc bag.

  8. Survival Books: If you’re bugging out it’s too late to begin reading. Grab a SAS Survival Guide, 7 ounces, as it will contain all you’ll need to know.

I think you get the idea. There is no one way to pack or do things. There may be better ways, but not only one way. When you are considering what Survival Bug Out Gear to pack it’s important to think. Do I really need this? Can I lighten this? Will another tool work just as well and on other things? Survival is a game of critical thinking.

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Survival Gear

Survival gear. Wow, That’s a really broad subject and quite ambiguous. Survive what? A weekend at the beach under a blistering sun, or a monumental trek across an Antarctic ice shelf. It does make a difference. When I think of survival gear I get visions of heavy parkas to insulate against blizzard conditions, or rappelling gear for trans versing rugged jungle environments. You know … real He-man stuff. But in reality how many of us will ever encounter such conditions? Very few if any.

Alright Einstein,” I said to myself, how do you inform people about survival gear when you’re not even sure what it is? Not to be outsmarted I quickly refer to the Webster dictionary for an educated definition. Do you know there is no definition for survival gear? Really!

Survival kit … a compact package of emergency equipment including food and other items that vary with climatic factors in the operational area for use by aircrew members who have descended in isolated or primitive territory is the closest I could come to.

Trying again with a different dictionary. No definition for survival gear. Survival Kit …

A pack of emergency equipment, including food, medical supplies, and tools, especially as carried by members of the armed forces. A collection of items to help someone in a particular situation.

I must admit I’m relieved I’m not as dumb as I feared, but not as slick as I thought either. What we’re going to do is build examples of survival gear that would be required for certain situations. Obviously there will be redundancy so the normal (food, water, etc.) may be skipped after a while.

Day Hike survival gear example

  1. Knife (Swiss Army Knife)

  2. Energy bars – food

  3. Cell phone – ability to call for help or be tracked

  4. Bic lighter – Starting a fire

  5. 9×12 plastic tarp (0.35 thickness) – over from the elements

  6. Mylar survival blanket – Will save your life in cold weather climates

  7. Mini LED flashlight – Dangerous to walk in the darkness

  8. Survival whistle – Method of alerting rescuers

  9. Water container (metal) – Can be used to boil water and/or food

  10. Water purification tablets – back up

  11. Duct tape – Amazing what can done with duct tape

Home survival gear example

We traditionally consider our homes as a safe haven, but in reality it’s just a building of some sort designed to protect you from the elements. It’s just as vulnerable as anything else to the fury of nature, such as a tornado, hurricane, snow blizzard. The survivalist rule of three (1) shelter (2) water (3) food still applies. The shelter part may be fulfilled, but there are other needs to be addressed. Consider special or unique needs such as pet foods or senior citizen’s special needs.

After an emergency, snow blizzard which takes out the electrical grid, the authorities will be overtaxed and unable to provide quick relief, leaving you on your own. You must be prepared to last at least 72 hours totally on your own and quite probably longer. Let’s build a basic survival gear kit for home.

  1. Water – at least one gallon per person, per day, for 3 days minimum, for drinking and sanitation. 4 people x 4 gallons x 4 days = 16 gallons of water. Adds up in a hurry.

  2. Food – Minimum 3 day supply of non-perishable food. Canned goods the best.

  3. Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

  4. Flashlight and extra batteries. No electricity means no lights

  5. First aid kit

  6. Whistle – in order to signal for help if trapped

  7. Dust masks – in the event there is rubble dust due to the emergency

  8. Moist towelettes, garbage bags with plastic ties for personal sanitation

  9. Wrench – turn off utilities. You don’t need a natural gas explosion

  10. A manual can opener. No electricity .. no auto-can opener

  11. Cell phone with chargers, car chargers, and / or extra fully charged batteries.

Additional Supplies to Consider:

Since you have no way of knowing how long or how severe the emergency situation may last you’ll want to consider additional survival gear.

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  1. Prescription medicines – You don’t want a catastrophe occurring

  2. Non-prescription such as pain relievers, antacids, laxatives or anti-diarrhea medication. You’ll most likely acquire a stress headache

  3. Glasses, contact lenses and solution – You must be able to read fine print instructions

  4. Infant formula, diapers, diaper rash cream – baby miserable … you will be too

  5. Pet food – human food is OK for a bit, but not long term

  6. Cash or travelers checks. You may need to buy supplies and the credit card and/or debit card won’t work without electricity.

  7. Important family documents such as insurance policies, bank statements, ID don’t count on someone saving your important documentation.

  8. Sleep bag for each person. Just because you’re inside your house doesn’t mean it won’t be cold.

  9. A complete change of clothing including shoes. Nothing worse than getting wet and not able to get dry. Hypothermia becomes an enemy.

  10. Household chlorine bleach and eye dropper for disinfecting water

  11. Fire extinguisher – The house survived the initial disaster let’s not accidentally burn it down

  12. Matches – starting fire for warmth or cooking

  13. Mess kits, paper plates / plastic utensils

  14. Feminine supplies

  15. Pencil & paper for making lists

  16. Games for bored children

Maintaining readiness:

  1. Store canned food in a cool dry place

  2. Stored boxed food in air tight containers

  3. Rotate and replace your stock on a routine basis

  4. Re-think your needs yearly. You may be on medication you weren’t on last year.

  5. Maintain the exact same emergency gear in your car in the event you are stranded

Those are your two basic survival situations you’ll most likely endure. From here forward I’m going to basically list survival gear to insure you are aware of their availability and can custom create your survival gear kit to suit your particular needs.


Life-straw Water Filter:

Drinkable water is always a basic requirement for survival and being forced into a decision of drinking filthy sewage filled water or dying of dehydration is not a choice you want to be forced to make. This is when a Life-straw water filter is more precious than gold. These filter devises are designed to trap microscopic particles and dangerous bacteria before you consume them. You can drink suspect water with confidence although you may want to close your eyes. It’s amazing what the senses can do to our minds and stomach.


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Water Bottle:

In order to survive you very well have to be on the move and that will require you to have a container to carry water with you. After finding a water source and purifying it you’ll need to store it and there’s nothing much better than a metal water bottle.

A metal bottle offers you the ability to boil water in order to purify it in the event you have no other means to clean it. Buy a single wall lined bottle, Not a double walled one. A double walled lining has a tendency to exploded when exposed to high temperatures for an extended amount of time, exactly what is required to sanitize water.


Cold Weather Tent:

A cold weather tent is a must requirement if you are in a cold weather climate. Although not the lightest piece of equipment to carry, at @ 10 pounds, it will definitely save your life in the harshest of conditions. These are the quality tents high altitude climbers use to protect them from the elements of mountain climbing.

Survival Tarp:

Tarps are an excellent method of creating a shelter. They are flexible enough so it can be customized to allow you the option of creating several different types of shelters to protect you from rain, snow, sleet and wind. Caution, do not buy a cheap tarp which the wind will shred or the rain filters through like a sift. Buy a high quality tarp with an ample amount of anchor points.

Survival Hammock:

You probably think of a hammock being strung between two palm trees on the beach, but not all are entirely for snoozing. Some are for survival. Many can be rolled up into a compact ball and are very light. They can allow you to sleep off the ground avoiding those thousands of crawling critters that call the ground their domain, as well as sleeping high into a tree for avoiding larger beast.

Tact Bivvy:

This piece of gear is literally a life saver. This 5 ounce emergency sleeping bag traps your body heat keeping you warm even under the most frigid conditions. Used in conjunction with one of the above shelters your chance of surviving a blizzard are excellent.


Survival Gear – Fire Starting Gear

Starting a fire with dry tinder, crumpled newspaper and lighter fluid is easy. But to start a fire in blizzard conditions or during a downpour of rain is quite another matter. You’ll need specialized equipment for that task.


Lighters come in all types and varieties from the cheap, but effective Bic lighter, to high tech lighters like a Tesla. Zippo lighters are excellent for operating in windy conditions, always carry extra flints inside the Zippo lighter packing.

Fire Striker:

The advantage of using a fire striker over a lighter is it doesn’t require fuel. All types of lighters require a fuel source in order to work and that can run out. The fire strike is good for 12,000 strikes, making it nearly inexhaustible, however you will have to practice with it a bit to get to know how to use it.

Storm-Proof Matches:

normal ordinary matches should not be a survivalist vocabulary. Once wet they are totally worthless. Storm-Proof matches are designed to get wet and still work. This is what you should think of when thinking matches.


This is a unique piece of gear which conjures up visions of James Bond 007. The shoelaces are made with mini Ferro rods for the tip ends, which can be used to create a spark and start a fire.

Tinder Box:

Sometimes finding dry wood for making a fire is next to impossible, this is where this handy gadget comes in. This piece of survival gear is created with the same intent as a cheese grater, only for wood. Rub a stick up and down the grater and you’ll make a pile of easily ignitable tinder.

Survival Gear – Self-defense

Weapons may never cross your mind, or are low on the priority list, but that could be a terrible mistake. In a SHTF situation fear of fellow man must be adhered to, but for those squeamish about acts of violence, how about hunting for food.

Survival Bow:

Bows include a long bow and/or a cross bow, both highly technical, accurate and deadly. They are never intended to be a substitute for a firearm, but if stealth is required a bow is the only option. The thump of a bow string vs the explosion of a firearm … well.

Tactical Pen:

Although rarely considered a weapon, a tactical pen in the hands of a skilled person can do plenty of damage along with its normal usage.


Advanced technology has created tasers that are compact and easy to wield. Pop someone with high voltage and no matter how big or strong they are, they will drop like rock and will become totally incapacitated, offering you plenty of time to escape or restrain the attacker.

Pepper Spray/Mace:

The huge advantage of pepper spray over a taser is you can direct a spray and make contact with the intruder from up to 6 feet away. Anytime you can keep the enemy out of the close quarter combat zone … do it. Devil Juice Pepper Spray is an excellent choice and will quickly send an attacker into a fit of pain.

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Survival Gear – Bladed Tools

Survival Shovel:

Some people will argue a shovel is very low on the priority list, but a shovel is capable of doing something no other survival tool can accomplish … Dig holes and move a lot of dirt. When you need to dig a hole or a trench a shovel is your best tool.

Survival Knife:

We’re not talking our familiar pocket knife we carry on a daily basis. We’re talking a stout, solid tang knife capable of enduring a baton strike to split firewood. It’s normally one f the first pieces of survival gear you buy and most people own several to accomplish different tasks.

Survival Hatchet/Ax

Survival hatchets and axes are similar in shapes but not in size, the hatchet being much smaller. You can get away with using one or the other, but each has its own advantages. An ax is much more efficient at cutting down trees because of its size and long handle which allows you to provide more powerful strikes, but they are unyielding when trying to skin or chop smaller objects.

Survival Multi-tool

This survival gear piece is based on the original Swiss Army Knife concept of incorporating many tools into one. An example of its usefulness is providing a long nose pair of pliers which allows you to forcibly grab an object and twist, turn or pull it, something you can not do with your fingers alone.

Blade Sharpener:

It only stands to reason with so many bladed pieces of survival gear you’ll need to keep them sharp. There’s a saying “you’ll never cut yourself with a sharp knife.” Which at first sounds ridiculous, but what it means is, a sharp knife allows you to perform the task as you intend, where a dull knife will require you to use undue force or a whittling motion, a formula for accidental cuttings.



Walking around or attempting to perform tasks in the dark is not only dangerous, it’s sort of stupid. However, trying to survive doesn’t end when the sun goes down so you’ll need to create your own light.

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Tactical Flashlight:

Having a tactical flashlight with you is not an option … its a requirement. This piece of survival equipment can provide a powerful light which you can use to safely walk and/or perform work in the complete darkness of the woods.

Survival Lantern:

At least one survival lantern is required gear for any camp, the more the better. It not only provides illumination, but offers a more normal feeling instead of the dread associated with a survival situation. They come in many sizes and styles, solar are the best, but having another alternative energy sourced lantern would be good in the event you experience numerous cloudy days.

Survival Headlamp:

The huge advantage to this gear is it allows hands-free illumination if you’re in a confined space attempting to work. You may not want to advertise your presence with a glowing lantern or flashlight.

Rescue Gear


We sometimes concentrate so hard on surviving until we are rescued, we forget about helping rescue personnel to locate us. This type of gear can be very simplistic to complicated and technically advanced.

Survival Whistle:

Noise is a fickle thing. Stranded in the dense woods you may be able to hear someone calling for you from along the perimeter, but they will not be able to hear your voice calling out. That’s where a whistle is invaluable, as it will carry much farther than your voice, alerting rescuer of your presence.

Signal Mirror:

This is a very underrated piece of equipment. You can harness the power of the sun to shine a reflection across a lake, towards a circling helicopter or across a vast span of land. It can also be used to start a fire, although not the easiest method, it beats nothing.

Survival Radio:

People with any military experience knows the value of intelligence in an emergency situation. Without access to critical intelligence, such as approaching weather, dangerous flooding conditions, etc. you could find yourself moving directly towards the danger instead of away, or whether to move at all. Buy a survival radio that operates by a cranking devise, not batteries or electricity. A few cranks and you’ll be able to power up and listen for any critical information.


In a group environment the ability to communicate with one another from a distance could prove critical. Whether you’re talking perimeter defense, or scouting report a walkie talkie is your best bet, with ranges of up to 24 miles.

Survival Watch:

Today’s technology has moved survival watches into the realm of being a mini-computer, capable of not only telling time, but registering temperature, altitude, GPS, compass directions, and other functions. They are tough enough to endure the rough treatment endured by survivalist.

Finished? Not Yet

We have covered a lot of material and a lot of survival gear, which will keep you alive and well during a normal (if there is such a thing) disaster. But let’s go over board and think outside the box.

Survival Stove:

There are reasons for survival stoves or less they wouldn’t make them, but for all practical purposes you can cook over a regular fire. However, technology is making even the lowly camp stove hi-tech. Some models now produce electricity while burning compost.

Survival Bike:

What if we were hit by an EMP which renders anything electrical inoperative, including your car, or if suddenly there was no gasoline anywhere. How do you move about? Walk is one way, but what about a bike, especially a rugged mountain bike.

Survival Bandana:

Cost very little, takes up no space, easy to stick inside a pocket, yet can be transformed into a bandage, tourniquet, head scarf for sun protection, etc. etc. There’s no reason not to carry one.

Gas Mask:

There may be only a few emergency scenarios where a gas mask would be required, but unfortunately every one of those scenarios are deadly. Not being able to breathe or breathing deadly chemicals will result in death within minutes.

Snares & Traps:

True you can make dead-fall traps and para-cord snares, but it’s usually quite easier to snag a meal with equipment that is specifically designed for the task.

Fishing Pole:

A standard fishing pole is great, but for survival smaller can be better. Check out pocket fishing poles, short rods, or telescoping rods for an alternative.

Fishing Tackle: It’s a great idea to keep a small tackle box with your fishing pole. Stock it with a few crank baits, some plastic worms, stink bait, bobbers and a few hooks.

Compact Binoculars:

Being able to spot game or the enemy from a great distance is extremely advantageous. Miniature high powered binoculars are available.


Hopefully you’ll have a survival knife, but most likely not have a fork or spoon. A spork fulfills this need.

Survival Saw:

A lightweight useful tool for sawing through wood, some good sized limbs.

Survival belt:

Most men wear a belt as a normal piece of clothing, like a pair of shoes. Why wear a normal belt when you can wear a survival utility belt which doubles as survival gear.

Battery Boost Charger:

This piece of equipment should be standard issue when traveling off road either with a 4×4 truck, ATV or motorcycle. It contains enough energy to provide a hot shot to bring a dead battery back to life.

Sling Shot:

A person skilled with a sling shot can always bring home a meal of some sort. You don’t have to worry about ammo, ammo is all around you in nature. A good primitive weapon.

Survival Cup:

A collapsible metal cup which allows you to drink water from a cup instead of from your hands, and offers a container to boil water or soup in. They are great for pets as dogs can not drink from a bottle, but can from this cup.

As you can see survival gear covers a huge swatch of information. There is no perfect survival gear kit because there are far too many variables involved, but if you know what’s absolutely necessary, what’s nice to have, and/or what’s available, it makes putting together a survival kit a lot easier.


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