When becoming involved in survival and prepping, there are many different ways to get started. For instance, some people start by learning about specific survival skills, while others start by buying supplies. Some people buy a few survival tools and learn how to use them, while others just spend time becoming more self-sufficient.
There is no right or wrong way to get started. Just making an effort puts you miles ahead of the average person. However, there are some misconceptions about putting together packs and gear…
3 Types of Kits
Which one of these is right for you depends on your goals and your situation, read on…
Bug Out Bag (BOB)
One of the first types of kits that you will encounter is the Bug Out Bag (BOB). It seems like every survivalist has either put together a BOB, has purchased a pre-made one, or at least knows what it is.
This bag is designed to give you the supplies needed to survive if you packed up and left your home in a hurry, often being gone for days to weeks. However, the likelihood of needing to pack up and leave your home is relatively small. [Editor’s note: It totally depends on where you live and the situation you’re in… please be prepared to bug out if need be.]
Do not misunderstand me. Having a bug out bag is important and an excellent idea. It is just that the list of scenarios in which you must abandon your home is just small.
Get Home Bag (GHB)
The get home bag is designed to be kept at work or in your car with just enough supplies to get you home. Even if you end up on foot, most people would only be traveling for a couple of hours or a day or two at most. This makes a get home bag typically smaller.
It also makes the items more focused on urban survival. Most people spend their time walking the city streets, not trudging through the woods and is a more likely scenario as most people spend their days at work several miles from home. [Editor’s note: Yes! Most of us need to think about being able to get around city streets, not the woods.]
With the majority of your supplies at home, the end goal should typically be to make your way back home. Unfortunately, you could find yourself unable to get to a bag in your car or desk which brings us to…
The Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit
By far the most important and most undervalued kit you can put together is an Everyday Carry kit (EDC) which is an assembly of tools that you can carry with you at all times. That does not mean leaving it in the car or storing it in a locker at work. You have to keep these items with you.
This is the survival kit you are most likely to use, the least expensive to assemble, and has the most valuable tools. However, most new survivalists end up focusing on extreme bug-out scenarios instead of an emphasis on the everyday scenarios that are most common.
Most people work in an environment where they want to hide their survival background. Keep in mind that when SHTF, human nature is to take what is needed from the people who have it. That is, co-workers may be inclined to take your kit if they know it is on you.
As such, for the items in your EDC kit to be effective they either need to be hidden or be able to hide in plain view.
Bag or No Bag?
One of the easiest ways to conceal your EDC kit is in a small bag of some kind. Of course, this poses some problems as it must be a bag that you can take with you everywhere — to the bathroom, to meetings, to lunch, literally everywhere.
Aside from maybe a purse or laptop bag, this can be difficult. Another problem with keeping your whole kit in a bag means that someone can steal it or you can lose it and now you are completely vulnerable. Besides, keeping your whole kit inside a bag makes it more difficult to access the items you need quickly.
For example, you can keep a tactical pen in the bag for self-defense. But do you prefer to dig through the bag looking for it or just pull it out of a pocket? For most people, I feel that doing without the bag is a better option but the decision is up to you.
Main Items to Consider
To some degree, the items that you choose for your EDC should reflect where you spend most of your time. If you work in a large city, they should reflect urban survival. If you work in the country, they should reflect wilderness survival.
Regardless, you should always first consider the four pillars of survival: food, water, fire, and shelter. Then consider self-defense, first aid, navigation, and signaling for help.
You can carry as many items as you like as long as you are comfortable with their weight, size, and appearance.
For any survival scenario, many people consider this to be the most valuable tool to have because it is incredibly difficult to replicate its capability with natural materials.
Sure, you can sharpen a stone or hone a piece of glass but it can never be as strong or as capable as a steel blade. A good knife helps with self-defense, cleaning food, cutting cordage, building a shelter, starting a fire, hunting and dozens of other tasks.
Full Tang or Not?
The tang of a knife is how long the blade extends to the handle.
In a full tang knife, the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle, this makes it incredibly strong. However, the average full tang knife is quite long since it cannot be folded.
There are three primary ways to carry a full tang knife for your EDC kit. If you can carry a knife on your belt, that is my suggestion. It allows you to take a larger blade that is better for chopping and self-defense.
If that is not an option, you can carry a boot knife or a neck knife. A boot knife is hidden in a sheath inside the ankle of a boot, while a neck knife is carried on a chain around your neck. Both can stay completely hidden under your clothing.
A folding knife is commonly known as a pocket knife because that is where it is intended to stay. While the hinge makes the knife a bit weaker, you can still find quality options.
It is important for it to be a locking blade knife as this prevents the blade from folding in on your hand. You can buy folding knives with several other tools included.
My suggestion is that you stick with a single or double blade knife and save the other instruments for a multi-tool if needed.
Many people think that you only need to start a fire in wilderness survival situations. This is simply not the case. There are plenty of scenarios in which the heat could be cut off from an urban building or you could be forced to venture out into the cold winter streets.
You should always have one or two reliable ways to build a fire in your EDC kit as you can die from exposure in just a few hours.
[Editor’s Note: I prefer to keep a mini Bic lighter on my keychain for this very purpose.]
Normally, you are going to use your EDC kit for short term survival. This means that lighters are ideal for starting a fire. A Zippo lighter is reliable, durable, windproof, and can even be refilled with any flammable liquid. If you do not want to spend the money on a Zippo lighter, a couple of Bic lighters are a good alternative. They are still reliable and cost nearly nothing.
A ferro rod is small, windproof, waterproof, and requires no fuel. I like to keep a ferro rod with me along with a fire assistance product such as Wetfire cubes. In many cases, I can build a better fire with this combination of tools than I can with a lighter. [Editor’s note: lighters are pretty darn easy to use so I would encourage you to have one on your person if possible.]
You need a striker which can be any piece of high carbon steel including your knife. By striking the steel on the ferro rod, you create super-hot sparks that ignite many types of tinder.
Again, assuming that you can find clean water because you are in the city is not smart. Many buildings are supplied with water through pumps that can shut down without power. You should always have at least one method to purify water.
This is the method I prefer for my EDC kit. It is a commonplace to see people carrying a bottle of water with them everywhere they go.
The difference is that my bottle has a filter built into the lid that removes 99.999% of harmful contaminants. It even makes “safe” tap water taste better. Nobody knows the difference.
This filter accomplishes the same thing but is small enough to keep in your pocket. If you do not want to carry a bottle everywhere, this is a good option. The only downside is that you must get down on the ground to sip from the straw in most cases.
I also carry these little lifesavers everywhere I go. The vial is about the size of my car key and holds dozens of tablets. Each one can purify a bottle of water. I had situations where my filter clogs beyond repair and these tablets saved my life. The only downside is that they must dissolve for 30 minutes before you can drink the water.
This is another one of those items that are difficult to replicate with natural materials. Cordage is vital for anything from climbing to building a shelter. It can be used for cooking, self-defense, trapping, or fishing if you do not have a regular fishing rod (and more options here). The key is finding an easy way to carry it with you.
Paracord is by far the most functional type of cordage. It is thin but has seven internal strands that can be pulled out and used separately. The most common option is 550 paracord which can hold a 550-pound load.
The easiest ways to carry a paracord are as boot laces, bracelets or lanyards. I always replace my shoe and boot laces with appropriately colored paracord. This way, I have about 50 feet of cordage available at all times.
I can also remove the inner strands and reuse the outer sheath for laces. You can weave paracord into lanyards and bracelets for additional options. I typically keep one of each on me at all times.
Recently, certain companies have started making survival style paracord that has additional functions, such as a flammable cord with a Ferro rod and striker for the tips of the laces.
Another has the typical seven interior strands along with a strand of copper wire, a strand of fishing line, and a strand of flammable material. These can add even more function to an already needed item.
Other Items to Consider
You can go on and on listing out potential items for your EDC kit. Here are some of the most popular we have not yet mentioned.
Weapons – I have seen survivalists carry handguns, tactical pens, ball bearings on a cord, or even brass knuckles. A tactical pen is ideal for an office setting because it just looks like a nice pen.
Before you choose a weapon, know what your local regulations are. These are especially important in urban areas.
Emergency blankets – These are small enough to fit in your pocket and reflect 90% of your body heat back to you. They are suitable for wrapping up or for building a shelter.
Multi-tools – You can often see people carry these handy tools on their belt in a leather pouch. I even have one small enough to fit on my keychain. They have dozens of functions and are perfect for projects in which you are away from your tool box.
Wallet tools – In my wallet, I carry a folding knife, a multi tool, a survival card, and a lock pick set. There are all kinds of gadgets that are designed to be shaped like a credit card.
Small fishing kit – This includes line, hooks, sinkers, floats, and sometimes lures. You can make these small enough to fit in a mint tin.
LED light – These bright flashlights are small enough to fit in your pocket, on your keychain, or in your wallet.