Survival Basics

The Most Important Survival Tools

If you’re putting together a bug out bag or survival kit, it should actually be built around the tools you bring. Some would disagree with this, but once the food and emergency fire starters are all gone, the tools are what you’re left with. If you can’t survive with just those, you’re going to be in trouble. 

Granted, it’s easier to survive with freeze-dried food and chemical fire starters which will make wet wood burn. But you can’t always count on having those. True survival is more about the skills one has, than buying the right stuff. Even so, it’s a good idea to have good tools to work with, as they will increase your chances for survival.

Here’s the list of the most important survival Tools you should have.


The knife is the most basic survival tool, as there is so much you can do with it. While it is possible to cut corners on a lot of survival gear, saving money; it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality knife. The last thing any of us needs is our primary survival knife breaking at the wrong time. 

Honing Stone 

Many people forget about this little add-on for their knife. Theoretically, it would be possible to sharpen your knife with a rock; but it can be hard to find a good rock for that, especially if you don’t have a running stream to look in. Keeping a honing stone on-hand will ensure that you can keep your knife in top form. 


The hatchet is primarily used to split wood. One of the purposes of the bark on trees is to help protect them from burning. That’s why it’s so important to split wood for a fire. The heartwood will be drier and much more likely to catch fire then the bark or sapwood is. A good hatchet can also be used to hammer in tent stakes for your shelter. 

Most Important Survival Tools


Most people don’t bother with a machete; but for those who are accustomed to using one, they are highly useful. Not only can you clear brush from your path, but they can be used in place of a hatchet, saw (if it has a saw back) and shovel. In the hands of someone who knows how to use it, the machete is a very versatile tool. 


Saws are used to cut branches off of trees, mostly for building shelters. They can also be used for cutting branches off of deadfalls, to be burnt in the fire. I carry two types of saws; a manual chainsaw and a folding pruning saw. The pruning saw is my main saw, as it is quick and easy to work with. But there are some cases, especially when branches are close together, where it’s hard to get the pruning saw in position. That’s where the chain saw comes into play. 


The main purpose of a shovel is to dig a latrine outside your campsite. But it can also be used to dig a fire pit (think Dakota fire pit) clear out debris for a fire bed and dig a trench around the fire and/or your shelter, to keep the rain out. I carry a Hori-Hori for this, rather than a regular camping shovel, as it is lighter and takes up less space. The one I have has a saw blade on one edge and a knife edge for the other, making it a backup for both those tools. 

Fire Starter 

Some sort of dependable fire starter, which is easy to use and does not require anything consumable. This leaves out both lighters and matches. While I recommend carrying both; as a backup tool, I’d recommend something like a metal match. 

Water Purifier 

The big problem with most water purifiers is that they have a limited life. You need something that you can count on working, after the filters get plugged up. That either means a filter that is back-flushable or using something like boiling water to purify it. In that case, you need a metal water bottle, so that you can put it in the fire. A WAPI (water pasteurization indicator), a reusable device for monitoring when water is hot enough to be pasteurized, is a good idea as well. 

Tactical Light 

While not a requirement, having a good tactical light or headlamp is a great idea. The big problem here is batteries, as they go through batteries rapidly. If you go with rechargeable batteries it will help, but most solar chargers won’t bring them to full charge in a day. 

Solar Charger

The solar charger is for two things; to charge your phone and to charge the batteries in your tactical light. As such, you’re going to want one with good capacity and an internal battery. While it probably won’t be able to keep up with everything, it will charge them up enough for emergency use. 

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Another item that’s not a requirement, but is extremely useful to have. There are many situations where having a multitool on you could make things easier, especially in making repairs on your other gear. 

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