Best Survival Tools
Have you ever wondered how you would survive if you were stranded in the woods for days on end before you were rescued? Given that it’s unlikely and an unsettling thought, it’s understandable if you’ve avoided putting much thought into it. However, anything can happen in the wild and it’s best to plan for this sort of contingencies so that you can handle things if the situation goes awry. The list of things you need to survive this sort of situation can be quite extensive, so for this guide, we’re going to just focus on survival tools. Even if the likelihood of becoming stranded is slim, it’s still possible and you need to plan for it.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Comes with a leather sheath for transport
There are circular grooves on the handle to provide a great grip even when damp
Both the handle and blade are designed to chop through light bones
Top 10 Picks
1. Granafors Bruks Hunters Ax
Comes with a leather sheath for transport
There are circular grooves on the handle to provide a great grip even when damp
Both the handle and blade are designed to chop through light bones
It is a little pricey, but honestly worth every penny
If you stop and think about it, is perfect really achievable? Honestly, nothing in this world is but if something is as close to perfect as humanly imaginable, then it deserves to be classified as so. As you may have guessed, the Hunters Ax from Gransfors Bruks is just that.Read more
With a weight of only two pounds and an included leather sheath, transport is both easy and safe. The leather sheath covers the blade and prevents a serious injury in the case of an accident.
No doubt, this was designed with hunters in mind. This is not your standard, everyday ax. Instead, the Hunters Ax can field dress, dismembers and flay small to large animals. In addition, both the handle and blade are fully equipped to handle cutting through light bones.
Outside of its overall durability, the poll is crafted in a way (being rounded and burnished) that will assist when you are removing the hide from an animal.
The included sheath aids in portability and also safety. But, convenience is of the essence here. Due to the circular grooves of the handle, even in times where the conditions are wet or your hands begin to perspire, you can achieve a maximum grip at all times. Plus, the head and handle are angled in a way that allows parallel strokes with the belly of animals.
Perfection is impossible to achieve, but good luck trying to find something else that gets closer than the Hunters Ax. With its magnificent combination of design, safety, and portability, this is the ultimate survival tool. This ax is quite expensive, but this multiuse tool is very handy to have in the wilderness.
2. Fenix Led Tactical Flashlight
The intelligent memory circuit automatically remembers your last output mode
It is waterproof to IPX-8 standards
Impeccable design of the body
Lots of buttons to rummage through, which some may take issue with
A flashlight may not be the first survival tool you think of, but it is important. In pitch darkness, what are you going to achieve if you can’t see your right hand from your left? Thankfully, Fenix solves this issue for you as their Tactical Flashlight is the Da Vinci of flashlights.Read more
Excluding the battery, the flashlight only weighs 89 grams and is compact enough to take up little to no space in your storage.
You can utilize several different illumination power settings, with the highest reaching 1000 Lumens. But, what is truly sensational, is this has a lifespan of 50,000 hours which should last you a long time.
Besides the lighting being sensational, the overall construction is beyond impressive. To start, the body is constructed of durable aircraft-grade aluminum with a hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish. Plus, it also is slip-resistant.
When the battery needs to be replaced, an indicator light will notify you. In addition, when you turn the flashlight on again after using it previously, it is programmed to automatically remember your previous illumination settings.
Some may take issue with the sheer amount of settings and buttons on the interface, but it does allow you to have full control over the amount of lighting that you want. Plus, you can’t beat the overall construction and craftsmanship. While this is priced high for a flashlight, you're not going to find a better companion for the pitch-black nights. Fenix offers a limited lifetime warranty with their Tactical Flashlight, ensuring you are covered in the instance of a defect or damage.
3. Victorinox Swiss Army Knife
Despite its several functions, it is designed to be slim and lightweight
Has 14 different design functions
Includes a lifetime warranty and integrates stainless steel
For a swiss army knife, this model is rather heavy and large
No journey is complete without a swiss army knife and in particular the model from Victorinox. With 14 different functionalities, this bad boy will come in handy in every situation that you could ever imagine.Read more
For a swiss army knife, this version is rather large but it is still compact enough to ensure that it makes a great companion for outdoor activities or survival situations.
Among all the tools on this list, this swiss army knife offers the most functionality. With 14 different design functions, including a large blade, small blade, bottle opener, screwdriver, and scissors, this will come in handy for anything you can think of.
To provide an excellent amount of durability and sleekness, the swiss army knife is crafted from stainless steel and is encased in polished red (or any other color variation that you choose from) scales.
What is not convenient about this tool? Each function offers a different amount of convenience and there are so many options that you may not even use them all.
Anyone who has owned a swiss army knife will rave about their usefulness, as they are one of the most convenient tools (not only in survival situations) period. It also helps, however, that the construction is up-to-par. The best part about this tool is the fact that is quite affordable! In the case that you are sent a swiss army knife that has material defects, Victorinox backs this with a lifetime guarantee to ensure you are not responsible.
4. Ka-Bar Fixed Blade Knife
It is a full tang knife
For protection and transport, it comes with a hard-shell nylon sheath
Features both a drop point blade shape and 20-degree blade angle
As the sheath is extremely tight when applied, it can be stiff and difficult to get off with only one hand
Even though the previously documented swiss army knife comes with a blade, sometimes you need more force and sustainability. For the ultimate weapon in the wild, one that could both save your life and provide you with food, the Ka-Bar BK2 Fixed Blade Knife is an ideal choice.Read more
As this is a fixed blade, it will not retract like a pocket knife. As such, Ka-Bar has included a black glass-filled nylon sheath for transport. However, the sheath is super tight when applied and you may need two hands to remove it.
Ka-Bar designed their fixed blade knife to be highly versatile. With the incredibly sturdy blade, you can pry apart joints from wild game or split out small kindling to start a fire.
Strength and wear-resistance are two essential components for any kind of knife and the BK2 is certainly capable in this area. The blade is made from a low allow carbon steel (1095 Cro-Van) with vanadium and chrome carbides and a black epoxy coating.
Again, the sheath aids in both portability and safety. Because the blade is exposed at all times and you can’t conceal it, the sheath provides ample protection in case you drop the knife accidentally.
Expect nothing but quality and high craftsmanship from Ka-Bar’s BK2 Fixed Blade Knife. Its awesome construction and design are one thing, but it truly shines when you need it the most thanks to its blade. For a fixed blade knife of this quality, the price is fair.
5. Lifestraw Water Filter
Comes with a sealed bag for storage
Does not require any batteries
Filters beyond EPA standards
You can only acquire water when used as a straw
Can require a lot of effort to suck in the water
Hopefully, if you do ever run into a scenario in which you need to use your recourses to survive, you will be able to find a body of water. Because, if you do, this Personal Water Filter from LifeStraw is indeed a lifesaver.Read more
For ultra-portability, this weighs in at only two ounces and is a great alternative to heavy purifiers. LifeStraw also ships a sealed bag with their filtration system to give you the means to store it.
No batteries are required and there are no moving parts inside. Instead, you utilize it as a straw to suck the water in. The filtration system is able to filter 1000 liters of water without chemical or wait times.
LifeStraw constructed this system to remove 99.99 percent of all bacteria and parasites that are present in water. It also exceeds EPA standards, which is an impressive feat.
Because there are no batteries present, you never have to worry about the filter not working. As long as you have access to a body of water, this filter means you'll be able to have clean and safe drinking water, which is of the utmost importance in a survival situation.
With an ultra-portable design and filtration that exceeds EPA standards, the LifeStraw water filter is going to be one of the most important survival tools you can bring with you. Sucking in water can take a lot of effort, but the end result of perfectly clean (and safe!) drinking water is more than worth it. After all, a little hard work goes a long way. For such a useful tool, we would have expected a much higher price tag. At this rate, you can buy one for the whole family!
6. Zippo Emergency Fire Starter
Weighs in at only one ounce making it ideal for easy transport
Has a water-resistant seal and floats in water
The included tinder sticks provide quick lighting
The seal is not the best
Could hold more starter sticks
All alone in the wild, the only source of heat that you can rely on to cook your meat and provide you with warmth is a handmade fire. Well, one of the best ways to create a fire is with a fire starter. As you will soon find out, Zippo’s is not only practical but also highly convenient.Read more
This is as lightweight as it gets. With a minuscule weight of only 0.09 pounds, this will not only take up little to no room but is also pathetically easy to carry.
No matter the weather condition, even though an exposed fire will be extinguished by rain regardless, the flint wheel will deliver a maximum spark every single time for starting fires.
Inside the case, there are tinder sticks that are used to start the fire. With a water-resistant seal, they are kept dry. In addition, the entire case will float in water.
Right from the get-go, you are provided with four tinder sticks (that are waxed for easier lighting) that can be easily torn for quick lighting.
For a reliable accessory, it is priced fairly, if not slightly expensive. While not without its slight flaws, for example not the best seal and only being able to hold four sticks, it will come in handy in times where you do not have access to the sun for starting a fire.
7. Go Time Gear Life Bivy
Whistle and paracord included
There is extra room in the stuff sack- could be smaller
Not as comfortable as some reviewers had hoped
A bivy, a blanket, a sleeping bag, and a shelter all in one. This one-person bivy from Go Time Gear is a great piece of equipment to have in an emergency situation. The bivy is made from weatherproof and abrasion-proof mylar material. Additionally, an emergency whistle and paracord are also included.Read more
This is a great piece to have with you in many different circumstances. When it is all folded up and stored in its nylon stuff sack, it weighs only 4.1-ounces and fits in the palm of your hand.
The Go Time Gear Life Bivy can be used as a bivy, a sleeping bag, a blanket, or as a shelter. One side is reflective. If you are stranded in a cold environment, you will want the reflective side facing you as it holds in up to 90% of your body heat, keeping you warm. If you are in a warm environment, you can set up the reflective lining the opposite way to reflect the sun and heat away from you.
The bivy itself is made from 26um extra-thick mylar that is finished with a durable coating that makes it wind and waterproof. It is also tear and puncture-resistant. The seams are sealed to ensure that no snow or rain can sneak in. Also included with the bivy is a 550lb nylon core para-synch technology drawstring that can be used to attach gear or build a fortress. All of this fits into the small waterproof nylon stuff sack.
You can choose between orange or green with this one-person bivy. However, the orange color is much brighter and may be easier for rescuers to spot when searching for you. At the end of the durable paracord, there is a 120-decibel whistle attached. The sound of this whistle cuts through trees and wind and can be heard from a mile away.
For such a useful product, it is priced affordably. It can be used over and over again and includes the waterproof stuff sack, whistle, and paracord. We must remind you that this bivy is made for emergency situations only and is not a posh camping item. There is no padding or comforting touches added, it is a thin, but durable, mylar fabric.
8. Carson Flip-open Pocket Magnifiers
Comes in a set of four magnifiers
It is backed by Carson’s limited lifetime warranty
It is terrific for camping and other outdoor adventures
For some reason, it can be fairly challenging to open
Can be a little tricky to create a fire
If you are an old-school individual, you may want to create heat with nothing more than a magnifying glass and the giant ball of fire in the sky. While it is trickier, as long as you have access to the sun you can pull it off (making it fairly reliable).Read more
Whether you want to transport these magnifiers in your purse, bag, or backpack you can easily do so. They are super compact and ideal for any outdoor adventure.
The only aspect required to make a fire in conjunction with these magnifiers is the sun. If you have both, then you can utilize these in a way to start a fire.
Each separate magnifier glass, as there are four in total (if you choose the seller option), has a 1.6-inch diameter and 3-times power magnification.
To protect each glass from accidental damage, each one comes with a built-in folding case.
A magnifying glass is like a compass to a GPS. Will it do the trick and be more reliable (in terms of functioning)? Probably, but it is also a more difficult and less advanced version of modern technology. It is a simple tool and the price reflects that. These magnifiers are priced cheaply. If any of the magnifying glasses have material defects, Carson will be responsible thanks to their limited lifetime warranty.
9. Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets
Makes water safe enough to drink
Easy to carry
For survival purposes not for use long term-everyday
Water purification tablets are the back up which you need when you need larger volumes of water. To carry the water purification straw and tablets means that wherever you go you are able to get the right amounts of life-saving liquid hydration. The rules are very clear, no water equals not surviving.Read more
These tablets are potentially the most needed part of any survival kit. While water filtration straws like the LifeStraw do filter water to make it safe to drink, these tablets are designed to purify larger volumes of water. They come in a small durable container and are so portable you can carry them in any pocket.
In survival mode you may well find a stream, river or other larger source of water but is it safe to drink? If you have brought your water purification tablets the water will be safe and you can fill a water bottle, drop in a tablet and you now are able to carry drinkable water while you are on the move.
Each purification tablets has tetraglycine hydroperiodide at 20mg. Carry the tablets in a sturdy small dispensing bottle, it is small enough to fit into your hand so it's very easy to stow away in any pocket.
Each purification tablets has tetraglycine hydroperiodide at 20mg also called TGHP, when you drop the tablet into water it will release titratable iodine which will neutralize dangerous microorganisms so that after waiting for 35 minutes the water will be safe enough to drink.
When you're unsure if the water is safe to drink, use the tablets, drop in a tablet and wait for 35 minutes, this is a survival treatment for water and not a product for long-term daily use. When you are out in the wilds back-packing, hiking or in a survival situation these tablets are incredibly useful. With 50 tablets per package, these are a steal! They are not expensive and provide you with clean drinking water.
10. Kelty Noah Tarp
Multiple size options
Easy to set up and takedown
Poles sold separately
While nearby trees may provide some shade in the sun, they don't help much in regards to rain. This goes especially for colder weather, as being wet in cold conditions puts you at an increased risk for hypothermia. This is why a tarp is an important piece of survival gear; it protects you from the elements. One of our favorite picks is the Noah Tarp from Kelty, and we explain our decision below.Read more
Even some of the larger size options of this tarp pack quite nicely: the 12x12ft variant packs down to 12x10x3in, and weighing a little under three pounds. This makes it easy to pack and carry with you without weighing you down too much. The cut of this tarp allows for easy setup, so putting it up and taking it down is a quick process.
This square tarp comes in four sizes: 9x9ft, 12x12ft, 16x16ft, and 20x20ft. Setting it up is a quick and easy process thanks to the numerous tie-outs on the edges of the tarp. However it doesn't come with poles, so you will need to purchase those separately.
Made with taped seams and a durable coated polyester taffeta fabric, the Kelty Noah tarp has a tight pitch and offers lightweight resistance from the elements. While the catenary cut means it has less room underneath it, this distributes stress evenly over the surface, further enhancing its durability.
While this lightweight tarp may not withstand downpours or blizzard conditions, it is rated with twice the waterproofing as the average umbrella, meaning it will keep you dry and safe in light to moderate rain or snow. As stated above, the Kelty Noah tarp is easy to set up and take down and packs quite nicely for easy carrying.
While it may not handle extreme weather well, Kelty's Noah Tarp series are durable and made to work well in light and moderate precipitation. The catenary cut design means easy setup and extra durability. The price is fair for such a functional piece of equipment. Kelty provides a limited one-year warranty for this product, and if it has a manufacturing defect they will either replace the product, repair the product, or refund you at their discretion. Hang onto your receipt; you'll need it for proof of purchase in the event you file a warranty claim. If you have additional questions about their warranty, or you aren't sure how to start the claim process, you can email [email protected] for further guidance.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
If you are in a real-life situation where you are required to survive with what you have, you are not going to want to lug around incredibly heavy and bulky items. Depending on how prepared you are, you should have an adequate shelter so you can store all the belongings there.
However, if you need to hunt and track food and move your set-up, you want it to be as lightweight and portable as possible. Hence, all the tools that secured a spot on this list are designed to be very portable. Obviously, tools such as flashlights, swiss army knives, and fire starters are as portable as they get.
But, when you think about weapons, such as airguns, crossbows, and fixed blades, if they have an exposed blade, to aid in safety when transporting they should have included sheaths. But, no matter what you intend on bringing with you camping, backpacking or hiking trip, your intentions should be portability in the first place. Preparing for a potential survival situation should be no different.
If you compiled everything you would really need to survive in the wild, it would be quite the long list. Decisions should be made beforehand on survival tools that you probably could do without. But, there are certain sections that you can focus on. When talking about tools, this could be your means of acquiring food (weapons), starting a fire, seeing in the dark, and hydration.
If you can manage to feed and hydrate yourself, in conjunction with keeping yourself warm, you can survive for longer than you may imagine. Each section is personal preference, though. For example, with weapons, crossbows, air guns, and fixed blades, they can all be used for killing and preparing wild game.
Then, your fire starters or magnifiers can start a fire so you can insulate your body and cook the meat. Also, tools such as filters and a swiss army knife can provide clean drinking water and ultra-convenience, respectively. To put it simply, if you think the tool will be useful for you, bring it.
Construction and craftsmanship are paramount for any consumer products but when a tool’s performance can be a matter of life or death, this becomes even more important. Now, the construction can be broken down into two sections: exterior and interior. Both are important, but it really depends on the type of tool you have to which one is more important.
Again, let’s take for example the weapons you will use to survive. For a specific example, let’s look at a fixed blade. In order for the blade to perform what it is designed to do, both the handle and blade need to be constructed efficiently. If the blade is not sturdy or coated well, rust can take over and it can be insufficient in cutting meat.
Then, you can take something like a water filter. The exterior, while important, is not as vitally critical as its capabilities to filter the water to ensure clean and safe drinking water
(which means the interior construction needs to be up to par). Think about it this way, a tool will only perform as well as the manufacturers design it to perform.
The features of all the different survival tools are what differentiates a product from being decent or great. In this case, with so many different items, the features that we focused on for each product are different. If it a dangerous tool, we discussed how easy it is to store or use without harming yourself.
Additionally, if it is a weapon or tool that has a grip on it to make holding it more secure, we noted that as well. For other items, we commented on how easy they are to use or what other uses they provide other than the obvious. Each feature plays a large role in the overall ease of use, effectiveness, and safety of the product.
Obviously, each item has a monetary price, but it's difficult to put a value on an item that could save your life. Depending on the type of adventurer that you are, some of these items may seem practical while others seem unnecessary.
To determine the overall value of each item, we took a look at both the impressive features and the downfalls of the item. We took into account its usefulness and durability and then compared these features to the price of the item. Some of these products cost a bit more than we would like to pay, but as we mentioned earlier, they could save your life.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Often times it is a better idea to build your own survival toolkit. If you buy a premade kit, it may sound like a dream but the quality of the products often suffers. Another great reason to build your own is the ability to customize it to your adventurous spirit.
Knowing how to use each piece of survival equipment is crucial. It is a good idea to inspect each item and practice using it in a controlled environment before your excursion. These tools are useless if you are out in the wild and don't know how they function.
Knowing the difference between edible and poisonous plants is crucial. You should take some time out your days to educate yourself about surviving in the outdoors. A good indication of plants that are poisonous or should be avoided includes plants with thorns or spikes, plants with milky sap, or a plant that has a bitter taste.
Other Factors to Consider
No matter the product you are investing in, it is wise to understand the manufacturer’s warranty. A lot of the times, companies will provide a warranty if you receive the product with material defects and workmanship. But, depending on the description of the warranty, they typically will not be held accountable for your handling of the product.
So, if you misuse the product and it accidentally breaks, there is a strong likelihood that the warranty will be voided. Though, to be 100 percent sure, you can always contact the company or view their website for full details. However, most of the time, an included warranty is a nice addition as you won’t be on the hook for a defect in manufacturing or craftsmanship.
Ease of Use
It is ironic that safety and ease of use are so important in tools because the entire situation that you could be in, is a detriment to your safety. Granted, not all survival tools need to implement safety features. Tools such as flashlights and magnifying glasses present no safety concerns. However, a lot of them do.
Weapons have been used as an example a lot, but they are the epitome, in a lot of ways, of a survival tool. No matter your age or IQ, things can go awry with a weapon in your hand. A weapon is designed to cause harm to something else, which means safety needs to be of the essence. However, safety is one design aspect and convenience is another.
In all honesty, a survival situation is going to be stressful enough so you do not need tools that act up and that are difficult to use. For example, integrating precision features in a crossbow or air gun to ensure you hit your target every single time.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Is it legal to carry a fixed blade knife?
The topic of knives and legality is a complicated one. It would be nice to give you a straight-up, concise answer to this question but that is simply not the case. About the only way, you can make sure if the knife you want to get is going to be legal to carry around, is to check the laws of your current jurisdiction. In public areas, such as in buildings and schools, they will probably be prohibited no matter what.
But, if it is a hunting knife or pocket knife exclusions could apply. Again, just check the knife laws in your area for further information and clarification. But, it is worth noting that a blade is technically considered a tool if the blade is kept under 3.5-inches long. If you take it with you in the wild, you should be fine though.
q: How long can humans survive without water?
This is an extremely important question and one that everyone needs to be aware of. In a do or die situation, dehydration will do you in much faster than you expect. During your time in school, this is a question that may have been brought up from time to time. So, let’s paint a picture. If you were to go without water for an extended period of time, you would be able to survive for up to three days and that is it.
After that, your body will no longer be able to function properly. No doubt, this is your primary concern in a survival situation, which also makes carrying a filter even more important. After all, a large body of water means little if drinking it will make you sick. Even if you cannot find bodies of water, remember that you can obtain water from fruits and plants.
q: Should you pack spare batteries for your devices?
Do not even think twice about this one as this is not a trick question. Whatever devices that you bring that require batteries to function, whether this is a flashlight, radio, GPS, etc., pack an extra set for each one. The worst thing that could happen to you is for the batteries in your much-needed devices to burn out when you need them the most.
Make sure to check what types of batteries each device needs, as each one will probably require different types. Some may be as simple as needing AA or AAA batteries, while others may need special batteries such as Ds and Cs.
Also, another step to take is to initially place fresh batteries in your devices to ensure they last as long as possible. After all, you never know how long you will need to survive in this type of situation.
q: What are some tips for packing a fire starter kit?
You have learned of the various types of tools that can start a fire. But, you may want to keep all of them inside of a special kit. Thankfully, this is something that you can do from home but some attention to detail is required. If you follow a few basic tips, without going into too much detail, you can properly prepare your fire starter kit and be ready to start a fire when disaster strikes.
Firstly, place as many tools as you can inside of the kit; which could include fire starters (you can pack multiple), magnifiers, lighters, etc. Then, as moisture and water can compromise the contents inside of your starter kit, ensure that your kit is waterproof. There are a few ways to do this, so look online to see which method works best for you. Finally, practice makes perfect so being practicing with your kit. Ensure that you know how to start a fire with the resources that are inside.
q: How long can you survive without food?
Water has already been addressed, but how about food? Depending on the amount of time that you are trying to survive, you could essentially survive without ever eating any food. An average person can survive for two to three weeks without eating any food. However, that does not mean that ill effects will not happen sooner. After around three days, your brain will begin to shut down if you do not feed your body with food or nutrition.
Unfortunately, in this scenario, your judgment and decision process will be seriously hampered as your brain will not function properly. Err on the side of caution and try to feed yourself every day, even if it is a little each day. Do not worry too much about losing weight, as your primary concern should be surviving as long as possible until someone can rescue you.
q: Are there flashlights that do not have batteries?
If it has not become abundantly clear to you yet, flashlights are an essential component of survival. Maybe not so much in the daylight, but you will have to survive at night as well. But, you may see it as a hassle to carry extra batteries and worry about them not working. Thus, people oftentimes bring up if there are any flashlights that do not require batteries. If the answer you were looking for is yes, then you will be happily pleased.
There are variations of flashlights that run on solar and cranks, but you should thoroughly research them to find out if they will fit your needs or not. To be honest, it should not be too big of a hassle to bring replacement batteries (especially when you can get a flashlight that is as good as the Tactical Flashlight from Fenix).
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