A survival kit is a set of items that outfit you with the capabilities to tackle the basics of survival in the aftermath of a disaster or civil unrest.
To find the best survival kits on the market, we had our research team look at all of the options available, both small and large, for survival kits. Our rankings are your best bet of outfitting yourself with the gear you need in a survival situation.
The big picture
Survival kits keep you ready at a moment’s notice in case of disaster. With a well put together survival kit, you can ride out the situation or get out of harm’s way.
A good kit will enable you to take care of the most pressing threats to survival, helping you treat wounds and injuries, avoid exposure to the elements, keep yourself fueled and hydrated, and enable you to navigate your way to safety.
Our team found that Redfora’s Complete Earthquake Bag is the best all-around survival kit available right now, thanks to the gear it provides that can help you avoid or escape the dangers that come in the aftermath of large scale fires, earthquakes, storms, hurricanes, or civil unrest.
1. Redfora Complete Earthquake Bag
Redfora makes a survival kit that’s specifically geared towards surviving in urban environments after an earthquake or other natural disaster. Unlike many wilderness-oriented kits, it includes a few components that are very useful specifically in urban environments like work gloves.
Why we like it: Components like work gloves, safety glasses, and a hand-cranked flashlight/radio combo are a really nice touch, as is including 3600 calories’ worth of shelf-stable food. The fact that it’s all packed into a bag you can immediately grab makes it even better.
Flaws: This kit is very well stocked, so much so that minimalists might want to discard a few components like the comb and safety razor for shaving to save weight if you need to travel cross-country on foot.
2. Emergency Zone Urban Survival Kit
Emergency Zone’s survival kit is specifically formulated to meet FEMA recommendations for a mobile survival kit, and for this reason, it’s very well-suited for keeping in your car or in your home in case of emergency.
Why we like it: It features a pretty solid supply of water (in plastic satchels), shelf-stable food, emergency ponchos and bivy sacks, as well as a pretty impressive array of first aid gear. The hand-cranked flashlight/radio combo is great, and all the supplies fit in an easy to carry backpack.
Flaws: As with some of the other urban survival kits, there’s some dead weight in this kit, like hand warmers, a comb, a shaving kit, and playing cards. Ditch these for a signaling whistle, compass, and an LED flashlight to make this a first-rate kit.
3. EVERLIT Survival Kit
EVERLIT makes a great survival kit that has fully stocked first aid supplies, as well as survival necessities like paracord, a flint stone, and glow sticks.
Why we like it: Many survival kits skimp on first aid supplies, but not EVERLIT. You’ll be able to treat a wide variety of wounds and injuries with the supplies in this kit, plus keep your general survival bases covered. The organization of this mini-backpack kit is also great, with enough room to toss in extra supplies as needed.
Flaws: You’ll need to supply your own batteries for the flashlight, and water and shelf-stable food to cover all of your survival needs, but aside from that this kit is ready for just about anything.
4. Sustain Supply Co 72 Hour Emergency Survival Kit
Sustain Supply Co strives to provide your family with everything you need to survive for three days, in one easily carried package. This survival kit hits on all of the essentials recommended by major emergency preparedness organizations, making it a great pick.
Why we like it: Sustain Supply Co explicitly includes water and ample amounts of food for post-disaster survival, plus the first aid supplies you’d expect in a survival kit.
Flaws: This kit is a little heavy on creature comforts and is a little light on a few more technical pieces of equipment—most notably, it’s lacking a compass.
You can probably ditch the handheld lanterns for a compact LED flashlight, which would simultaneously drop weight and increase the versatility of this kit. You’ll also want to toss in a radio as well.
5. Mayday Industries Earthquake Kit
Mayday Industries is one of the few suppliers that specifically designs home-based survival kits. This kit comes in a watertight bucket and contains food, dust masks, work gloves, and other post-disaster essentials in an urban area.
Why we like it: Many commercially available kits don’t have the gear you need to protect yourself from building debris during clean-up or extraction, and fewer still come in a waterproof container. This kit can tide your family over for a few days until assistance arrives.
Flaws: One drawback of the bucket design is a loss of portability: you’re not going anywhere with this kit. It’s also a little light on first aid gear, but that’s easy enough to remedy with a good first aid kit that can be kept inside the bucket as well.
6. KOSIN 18 in 1 Emergency Survival Kit
KOSIN makes a survival kit that’s compact and focused on surviving in the outdoors. It’s replete with tools like a flashlight, compass, folding knife, multitool, firestarter, paracord, and a whistle, making it good for situations where you’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time.
Why we like it: KOSIN goes heavy on tools that are sometimes hard to find in other kits, like a good quality screwdriver and a designated folding knife.
Flaws: Crucially, KOSIN doesn’t include water purification gear, so you’ll have to add that to the kit yourself. The first aid supplies are a little sparse, and the tools are probably a little bulkier than needed: a single multitool would do the job of two or three of the different components included in the kit.
7. Monoki First Aid Survival Kit
Monoki puts heavy emphasis on self-reliant survival, making this mini survival kit a good choice for wilderness situations. The first aid kit is great, and there are plenty of tools for impromptu repairs and fix-ups.
Why we like it: If you want something tiny you can toss in your glove compartment, this survival kit is a prime candidate. The versatility of the first aid supplies is surprisingly good for such a small package, and the range of tools available is a big help.
Flaws: You’d need to substantially supplement this kit to serve as a standalone survival kit; most noticeably, it’s missing a radio, food, and water.
8. Ready America Deluxe Emergency Kit
Ready America makes a backpack based kit that’s well balanced for a variety of urban survival situations. It has a few nice perks you won’t find in wilderness-focused kits, like work gloves and a pretty solidly stocked first aid kit.
Why we like it: In a post-disaster situation in a city, you want a kit you can grab and get out quick. This kit fits the bill, providing adequate supplies in a light and easy to carry format.
Flaws: The backpack itself isn’t as rugged as we’d like to see, and while including boxed water is great, the containers are not very durable: it’s easy for them to rupture. If you get this kit, replace these with plastic bottled water instead.
9. SUPOLOGY Emergency Survival Gear Kit
SUPOLOGY focuses primarily on survival tools as opposed to equipment; while this kit is light on consumables, it does have an impressive array of reusable gear.
Why we like it: SUPOLOGY is one of the few manufacturers to include reusable water purification gear (a filtration straw, in this case) in a mini survival kit, and the mini compass and mini flashlight are surprisingly high quality for such a small kit.
Flaws: Without a water bottle, food supply, and a fully stocked first aid kit, this survival kit can’t stand on its own in survival situations. You’ll need to combine it with other gear to be fully prepared for survival situations.
10. CHAREADA Emergency Survival Kit
CHAREADA brands this kit as adequate for both wilderness and urban survival, and while the selection of durable gear is pretty good, it suffers when it comes to consumables.
Why we like it: The included compass is surprisingly nice, and you even get a backup mini-compass on the paracord bracelet. It also includes a few components missing in many urban-oriented kits, like a signaling whistle.
Flaws: This kit is too small to stand on its own and needs to be beefed up with water purification gear, more first aid supplies, and food supplies to increase its versatility.
What’s new with survival kits?
Who should buy a survival kit?
Survival kits are important enough that major national organizations like the American Red Cross recommends that all families have a survival kit ready for emergency situations.
Even if being ready for doomsday scenarios is not at the top of your mind, you still need a survival kit to be ready for more mundane (yet still dangerous) situations like an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flooding, or severe thunderstorm.
There’s nowhere that’s safe from all of these threats, plus the additional problems that come along with living in populated areas, like civil unrest and power outages.
The best strategy is to have not one, but two survival kits: one small, portable kit that can support you for a few days, and one large, well-stocked kit at home for a few weeks of survival. The smaller kit is designed to get you home, or to another safe place, while the home kit is designed for longer-term survival.
Any survival kit needs first aid supplies, drinking water, a multitool, a flashlight, a radio or other communication device, and food. Mobile survival kits also need (paper) maps and a compass in case you have to navigate back home or back to safety on foot.
Mobile survival kits tend to skimp on food, since you can live without it for quite a while, and may also include extras like purification tablets for water and an emergency blanket in case you get caught out in bad weather. Home kits focus more on day to day essentials, and as such will carry more food and much more water (often many gallons’ worth) to make sure you can survive for weeks at a time.
Every home should have at least a rudimentary survival kit—anything less is just irresponsible. It doesn’t take much to trigger a multi-day power outage, a loss of clean drinking water, or lack of basic supplies available at a store. With a survival kit in your home and in your car, you’re well-prepared both for natural and man-made disaster.
How we ranked
To guide our rankings of the best survival kits available right now, we used principles from leading resources on survival as to what your priorities should be.
This included recommendations from the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the ‘ten essentials’ list espoused by several outdoor groups, among others. We evaluated potential kits based on how well they conformed to the recommended components in these lists.
The most important components were the items whose absence would most seriously affect your survival prospects: this meant first aid supplies, a source of light, and water or some type of water purification technology.
We also looked at the quality of the knife or multitool included in each kit, as well as the range of shelter equipment included, like emergency foil blankets or rain ponchos.
Mobile kits needed some type of navigation equipment that did not depend on electricity: while you’ll have to supply a map, the quality of the compass included in a kit had a substantial impact on its score.
We also penalized survival kits that had unnecessary components, or duplicates of items that weren’t strictly necessary. Multi-tools with tons of ancillary items, like bottle openers and corkscrews, or large amounts of minor first aid supplies like Q-tips, were good examples of items that were penalized for not being strictly necessary. Especially for kits that are designed to be carried for long distances, extra weight is a real problem.
Beyond the actual components, we also rated kits designed for travel based on their ease of use and comfort while carrying. Backpack style kits scored well thanks to how easily they support even large loads of supplies.
We also checked to see if the survival kits we reviewed had extra space for additional supplies: many people have specific survival needs, like insulin for type 1 diabetes, contact lenses or glasses, an epi-pen, or other prescription medication.
Having extra space also factored into an overall score for organization. Much like our rankings of first aid kits, we took into consideration how easy it was to access the supplies you need, and how easy it would be to put things back once you’d taken them out.
Miniature survival kits had a disadvantage in this regard—they tend to make quite a mess once you unpack them to get at the one thing you need.
Our final rankings factored into account how well each kit hewed to standard recommendations for survival kit ingredients, whether the kit contained any unnecessary extra items, the overall weight, and comfort, ease of use, and organization. The best products in terms of overall quality made our final list of the best survival kits of the year.
A survival kit takes care of the most pressing needs facing you in a survival situation. Among experts on emergency preparedness, there’s very little disagreement about the most immediate dangers facing you in the aftermath of a natural disaster, civil unrest, or other survival situation.
Whether you ask FEMA, the American Red Cross, or the Boy Scouts, you’ll get more or less the same answer: before you do anything else, you need to apply any necessary first aid, make sure you have access to drinking water, and ensure that you have adequate shelter or protection from the elements (1,2,3).
First aid is a no-brainer: you won’t make it long if you have a cut, laceration, or other wound. Tackling first aid is pretty simple: you just need the basic components of a first aid kit to deal with bleeding, cuts, and other wounds. Drinking water is essential as well, since you can barely last a few days without water (and far less if you need to be on the move).
The obvious solution is to include drinking water in your survival kit, but mobile survival kits can also get away with a water bottle and a purification device (often tablets, because they are lightweight). Exposure to the elements can also put your survival in jeopardy in short order, whether it’s heat, cold, or rain.
Hypothermia and hyperthermia can take you out over the course of a few hours. At home, shelter is not usually a big problem, but for a mobile survival kit, an emergency blanket or a poncho can go a long way towards protecting you from the elements.
A few custom additions to your survival kit can go a long way towards improving your survival chances. As good as a commercially available kit can be, there are a few things that are tailored to your particular situation that you’ll need to add.
First among these is a map: both for a home survival kit and a mobile survival kit, a (paper) map is hugely important if you need to make your way out of a dangerous situation, or get to a designated meeting place. In a survival situation, you may not be able to count on cell phones or GPS to get you where you need to be.
Any good survival kit should have a compass in it already, so you can pair this with maps of your local area to be able to navigate. You’ll also want to include any special medication that you need, like insulin, heart medication, or an epi-pen.
Don’t forget more mundane but equally important personal items, like an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses: you won’t get far without these, either.
Ideally, a properly prepared survival kit will help you tackle the most important aspects of surviving: applying first aid to any pressing medical needs, getting clean water to drink, building or getting to a place of shelter, signaling potential rescuers, garnering further information about your situation, and providing food for sustenance.
Make sure you have a radio in your survival kit. Perhaps one of the most often-overlooked items in a survival kit is a small radio, either battery powered or hand-cranked.
After addressing your most pressing survival concerns (first aid, water, and shelter, as discussed earlier), your next step needs to be to get an understanding of the parameters of your survival situation. Even in small-scale disasters, you can be virtually guaranteed that cell service will go down.
In New York City, for example, cell service went down almost immediately during the 9/11 attacks because so many phone calls were being sent simultaneously—and that was without significant damage to cell phone infrastructure.
After a hurricane, earthquake, or widespread civil unrest, the odds that cell service will be a reliable way to get information are essentially nil. Analog radio transmissions are incredibly old-school, but they’ll be the most reliable source of information.
Make sure your handheld radio has AM-band reception, because AM band radio transmissions can travel much further than FM band radio (4).
Thanks to a peculiar atmospheric phenomenon known as “skywave propagation,” AM radio signals can travel for hundreds of miles at night.
That means that even if local radio stations have suffered damage or do not have power to transmit, you can receive information from further away on AM band. FM radio, in contrast, is limited to more or less line of sight transmission: you won’t be able to get FM signals any further than 30 or 40 miles away.
Q: What are the top ten survival items?
A: Undoubtedly the ten most important survival items have to be those that address the much-discussed “ten essentials”: navigation, protection from the elements (sun protection, insulation, and shelter), illumination, first aid, fire, survival tools, water, and food.
For survival specifically, including a radio or other communication device should be considered essential as well, since information is one of the most valuable components of making it through a survival situation.
Q: What is the most important item in a survival kit?
A: It’s hard to pin down a single item in a survival kit as the “most important”—after all, it wouldn’t be a kit if it didn’t need multiple different components—but a first aid kit is arguably the single most important piece of equipment to have, as untreated wounds are the biggest immediate threat to your survival.
Water is perhaps another candidate, as you won’t last long without drinking water either. At a more ‘meta’ level, your mentality might be an even more important tool: a cool, calm survival expert with a very bad survival kit will fare much better than someone who is panicked and unprepared, even if they have the best survival gear money can buy.
Q: Why do you need a survival kit?
A: Survival kits carry connotations of post-nuclear apocalypse, but they’re necessary to make it through far more mundane (and far more common) scenarios, like a hurricane, severe storm, earthquake, or local civil unrest. If you don’t have a survival kit, you’ll be completely at the mercy of the elements if your house is destroyed during an earthquake, or if rioting forces you to quickly abandon your apartment.
Even a basic survival kit, and some know-how on how to use it, will help you ride out these survival situations or make it to safety. Survival kits aren’t just recommended by doomsday preppers, either.
Major national organizations like the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Boy Scouts of America all recommend keeping a two-week survival kit in your home and a mobile survival kit in your car or at your place of work.
Q: What is in a military survival kit?
A: Military survival kits are often customized for the operational environment, but you can count on them to include a reflective space blanket, a poncho, bivy sack for shelter, a storm-proof fire starting kit, combat first aid supplies, sunscreen, water and purification gear, signaling equipment, and an assortment of tools, like fishing hooks, multitools, and paracord.
Military survival kits also invariably include a firearm for self-defense in hostile situations—typically a standard-issue service pistol, plus ammunition.
Q: Can a survival kit fit in a backpack?
A: Yes, a mobile survival kit that can last you for at least three days can easily fit in a backpack. Survival kits based out of a backpack are well-suited for using as a mobile survival kit or as a “bug-out bag” that you can easily grab if you need to get out fast (for example, in the case of an approaching forest fire, imminent civil unrest, or other immediate danger).
Mobile survival kits that fit in backpacks generally go a little light on food, using the saved weight and space to include outdoor survival equipment like a poncho and an emergency blanket.
A lightweight water purification method can also multiply the duration that a mobile survival kit will last you. It’s hard to carry more than a few days’ worth of water on you, but refilling with water you purify en route can solve water problems more or less indefinitely.
Q: Should you keep food in your survival kit?
A: In a home based survival kit, most experts recommend keeping at least two weeks’ worth of non perishable food (like freeze-dried food). That way, you can hunker down for a few weeks without having to risk leaving home to seek out food.
You pay more of a premium for carrying food in a mobile survival kit because of the weight, but it’s still a good idea to put at least a day or two’s worth of food (perhaps as energy bars that you can eat on the move) to sustain you if you need to cover long distances on foot. After an earthquake, hurricane, or fire, the odds are slim that transportation infrastructure will remain unscathed.
Q: What should be in a hurricane survival kit?
A: For a hurricane specifically, you should pay extra attention to ensuring that you have adequate drinking water. Stored water is great, but you should also have a way to purify water.
Hurricanes are notorious for leading to disease outbreaks because drinking water gets contaminated with sewage. You’ll also want to keep a map in your hurricane survival kit that shows elevation—post-hurricane flooding is the biggest danger you’ll face, so you’ll want a reliable way to get to high ground. More generally, try to keep your hurricane survival kit in a watertight container, ideally somewhere that won’t get flooded.
Q: What should be in an earthquake survival kit?
A: Assuming you survive the initial quake, the two biggest dangers from an earthquake’s aftermath are untreated injuries and fires. Make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit to treat gouges, cuts, lacerations, and other injuries that can occur during or after an earthquake.
Also make sure you have a survival kit that’s ready to be thrown on your back in a hurry: gas lines can be easily ruptured in an earthquake, leading to out-of-control fires that envelop whole areas of a city. Make sure you have a map so you can get out fast if fires break out.
Q: What should be in a mini survival kit?
A: If you’re making a mini survival kit, it’s best to design it so it can treat any pressing needs and get you to safety as fast as possible. Include some basic first aid supplies like gauze and bandages, a multitool to get out out of sticky situations, and some way to purify water for drinking.
To go ultra-light, you might even keep only an empty collapsible water bottle and a few water purification tablets, and count on your ability to find a source of water to purify.
Lastly, make sure you include a local map, miniature compass, and some sort of protection from the elements, like an emergency blanket. These items should be able to get you home or to another safe place if you find yourself in a survival situation.
A survival kit contains everything you need to ride out a survival situation, or to get to safety. At a minimum, a survival kit should include items to administer first aid, supply or purify drinking water, protect you from the elements, help you navigate to a safe place, receive information about your situation via radio, and signal for help.
Most experts recommend keeping two survival kits prepared: one mobile survival kit which can sustain you for 72 hours, and a home-based survival kit that can sustain you for at least two weeks.
That’s because some survival situations call for hunkering down in your home, while others require you to get out—often fast. These survival kits will help you be prepared for earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, civil unrest, or any other survival situation that might come your way.
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