When it comes to preparedness and surviving any disaster that might come your way, there is no shortage of survival tools, supplies and prepping gear you can buy.

The 12 Most Important SHTF Survival Tools Prepping Gear and Skills

It seems like some of these survival supply companies are trying to reinvent the wheel and are always coming up with some “new and Improved” survival gadget or trinket that will “save your life” in a SHTF scenario. The truth is, nothing beats a good old fashioned ferro rod and a little skill.

While we all love to try our the trinkets and gadgets, and some are actually useful, nothing beats the basics when it comes to preparedness and survival.

In this article I want to skip the designer survival tools and get down to the most essential prepping tools and gear. I also added some force multiplying skills that make these survival tools even more effective.

Tips from the Preparedness Community

I didn’t want to just write an article about what I thought the most important survival tools are, so I asked the fans of Survivalist Prepper for their feedback.

I received more feedback from preppers in the community about what they think the key preparedness supplies are than I ever imagined. Thank you to everyone who responded!

I didn’t list all the SHTF supplies and tools suggestions that I received, but I did list some of the survival tools that were mentioned quite often.

It just goes to show, while the basics are fairly universal, what you think the most crucial prepper gear and SHTF survival tools are, may not be the same as the next persons.

At the end of the article I listed a few of the responses I received, and thanks again to everyone who chimed in.

Force Multiplier Skills

In this list of most important survival tools and prepper gear I also added some prepping skills that should accompany them. These skills will be force multipliers, meaning they will make the survival supplies you have even more affective and useful.

As John wrote in one of the replies…

“You can have the most expensive fixed blade knife in your bug out bag, but if you don’t know to use it for building shelter or making a fire, all you have is an over priced kitchen knife”.

This may be like beating a dead horse because you’ve probably heard this over and over again, but survival skills are just as (if not more) important than the survival tools and supplies you have.

The 12 Most Important SHTF Survival Tools, Prepping Gear and Skills

This was a tough list to make because whittling down the most important survival supplies to 12 was almost impossible. This actually started as a top 10 list, but I had to add a couple.

You’ll notice that there are more than just 12 survival supplies listed here. This is because some of these are categories, and require more than just 1 type of prepping gear.

Here is the list of The 12 Most Important Survival tools that I came up with. Below is a more detailed explanation about each of these, as well as survival skills that should accompany them.

  • Fixed Blade Knife
  • Water Filter & Purification
  • Bug Out Bag Or Go Bag
  • Fire Starting Supplies
  • First Aid Kits & Medications  
  • Self Defense Supplies
  • Cordage
  • Multi Purpose Supplies
  • EDC (Every Day Carry) Items
  • Foot Ware and Care
  • Survival Guides
  • Cash On Hand

Fixed Blade Knife

In my opinion (and many others) a good fixed blade knife is the second most important survival tool you can have. This is because you can make anything you need with a good knife and some skill.

The image above is a RAT-5 from Ontario Knife Company, but the type of knife you pick is up to you. I use this knife because it’s high quality at a reasonable price.

Make sure and read the article I wrote about picking a good fixed blade knife. The article goes over different blade styles, blade steel, and the general anatomy of a knife.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Knife Sharpening and Care | Whittling/Carving | Process Firewood (Tinder) | Self Defense | Trap Building | Processing Animals | Building Shelter | And More…

Water Filter & Water Purification

Having a water filter and the ability to clean drinking water could be one of the most important supplies (and skills) to have with you in any sort of SHTF or survival scenario.

It’s also important to have other ways of purifying water that you might come across. Some water purification techniques prepper like to use include using bleach, pool shock, water purification tablets and boiling.

Keep in mind, all these water filters and water purification tables have their own pluses and minuses. Read this article I wrote about Picking the right water filter. It goes over how different water filters work, and what the different water purification tablets actually do.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Using Bleach | Finding Water | High Country VS Low Country Water Filter | Water Storage (home and away) |Water Tablet Usage | Building a Field Expedient Water Filter

Bug Out Bags & Go Bags

A bug out bag is not a “most important survival supply” but rather where you would keep your most valued survival supplies and tools. The reason I added this to the list is because just about every one of these tools and supplies would go in a bug out bag.

This doesn’t just apply to bug out bags. It could be bug in bags, get home bags, purses, or what ever you call the bag you carry your survival supplies in.

For a better idea about how to put together a bug out bag have a look at this bug out bag checklist I put together.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Bug Out Bag Weight | Physical Fitness | Multi Use Prepping Supplies | Backpack Construction & Quality | Equipment Needs For Your Location | Organization & Rotation

Fire Starting Supplies

One of the most mentioned essential survival supplies had something to do with starting fire. Some of the ideas were bic lighters, Vaseline soaked cotton balls, char cloth, ferro rods and many more.

The ability to start a fire is something many people take for granted, and something that is harder than we give it credit for. Staying warn is also important at home in an SHTF situation, not just in an outdoor survival scenario

The great thing about fire starting supplies is it can be practiced right at home. No need to go to the range or or a camping trip to to use these survival tools.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Learn Primitive Fire Making Skills | Fire Making Materials | Making Char Cloth | Using a Frenzal Lens | Friction Fire | Practice With Your Ferro Rod | There are Literally Hundreds of other Ideas…

First Aid Supplies & Medications  

First aid kits and supplies are a very important part of everyday life as well as being important preparedness supplies. In many survival situations, medical help may not be available, and we will be on our own.

Many of the comments I received mentioned including pain killers and prescription medications. Prescription medications are a must, and over the counter medications that can help with diarrhea, fever, nausea and will help with other common issues.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: First Aid Classes | Wilderness Medicine | Trauma Medicine | Bandaging & Wound Dressing | Learn to Use the Supplies You Have | Understand Your Limitations | Antibiotics and Prepping

Self Defense Survival Tools

When it comes to self defense survival tools and skills everyone is different. Self defense can include your physical ability to defend yourself, using a tool for self defense, to a combination of both.

An important aspect of any self defense weapon, whether its you or a tool is the ability to be effective. Make sure and practice, and don’t overestimate your abilities.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: | Self Defense Classes | Building “Zombie Weapons” | Hand Gun Training | Building Primitive Weapons | Avoiding Conflict | Non Lethal Options

Cordage & Wire

This is one of those key survival tools you don’t miss until you need it. Cordage alone may not be a lifesaving survival tool, but in conjunction with your other supplies it could be.

Cordage can be use to make shelter, a field expedient water filter, fishing and trapping, along with many other uses.

I like to have 100″ (continuous length) of paracord along with wire for traps, fishing line, and smaller lengths cordage anywhere I can.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: | Paracord weaving | Building Snare Traps | Building Survival Shelters | Knot Tying | Camp Perimeter Security (Trip Wire) | Splinting | And too Many More to Mention Here…

Multi Purpose Survival Supplies

I’ve already listed a few important multipurpose survival tools, but I had so many suggestions in this category I wanted to list a few more.

The obvious one here is the multi Tool, but there are many more survival tools we carry that can be used for multiple purposes. Along with the Survival Items in the picture there are many more.

Some of these include hand sanitizer, alcohol, aspirin, bleach, iodine, and clothing among others. Having multi use survival gear is important for reducing the amount of supplies you need.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Because there are so many different types of multi purpose items in preparedness I can’t list them all here. Do some research on each of these and you will find hundreds of ideas.

EDC (Every Day Carry) Items

Everyone chooses to have different EDC survival tools, but the core tools are very similar. At the very least it should be a flashlight, pocket knife, Bic lighter, extra cash and a multi tool.

Key chains are also great for some smaller items like a P38 can opener, some paracord, and carbiners. Be careful not to overload your key chain though, it can damage the ignition on your vehicle.

If you need some more ideas about EDC items have a look at the Everyday Carry: From Head to Toe article I wrote a little while go.

Footwear & Socks

While I shouldn’t have been, I was a little surprised how many people mentioned taking care of your feet. This is one we don’t think about much when it comes to essential survival supplies, but could be a game changer in a SHTF situation.

Regardless whether you are bugging out, or just working around the home, if we can’t walk or move our preparedness plans are shot. Keeping your feet dry, warm and healthy is an absolute must for survival.

Force Multiplying Survival Skills: Make sure this is one area you don’t skimp on. Make sure you get quality hiking boots or shoes because the Walmart brand may look like the higher quality shoes, but you will regret it.

Survival Guides & Resources

Let’s face it, we can’t remember everything. Having some prepping and survival resources available can help us if we can’t quite remember how to tie that knot, or apply that bandage.

One of the most popular survival guides in the preparedness community is the SAS Survival guide. This also comes in a smaller bug out bag size version if you can find it.

As SideLiner wrote in one of the comments below, it’s not only important to have these survival guides, it’s important to read them. These guides should be used as a refresher in a survival situation, not an “oh crap” guide.

Creating you own binder with preparedness and survival resources is also a good idea. I’m not going to link to anything here, but you can find a few of these survival guides on the internet free in PDF form.

Cash On Hand

While there are some scenarios where cash will be useless, in most situations it will have some value. In personal doomsday situations and small scale disasters having a little extra cash is absolutely a survival tool.

The amount you carry is up to you, but I suggest making sure it’s in smaller bills. This is because if you need to buy something and all you have is a hundred dollar bill, you’ll either end up overpaying or buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

The MOST Important Survival Tool

Without a doubt, the most essential survival tool you have is the one sitting on your shoulders. Having the SURVIVAL Mindset is more important than any of the supplies on this list.

As Douglas wrote in his reply “It’s the simple will to survive. Call it grit, call it faith, call it down right stubbornness. I’ve heard about many times where a man has all that he should need to survive a situation, but is found dead because he didn’t think that he could. And on the other hand, I’ve heard stories about men who have cut off their leg and survived, just because they wouldn’t give up.

Comments About Important Survival Tools

Below are some of the comments I received about what the most important survival tools are. I recieved over 200 comments about these survival tools, so if I didn’t list your here, you were still a big help creating this survival supplies guide.

Shawn from Folkway Lodge mentioned Dave Canterbury talks about the 5 C (sometimes the 10 C’s) of preparedness. Shawn wrote: I like the 5 C’s: Cutting Tool (knife, Hatchet) Cordage (Bank Line, Paracord, Hemp Rope) Cover (Tent, Tarp, Poncho) Combustion (Fire Steel, Ferro Rod, Flint and Steel, Magnifying Glass) Container (Steel Bowl, Pot, Or Single Wall Water Bottle)

Mark: In reference to your email about critical survival tools, my mind focused on things that aren’t easily replicated in nature more specifically maintenance tools and stock such as: Screw drivers , Hose clamps, Duck tape, Saws, Nails, Hose bib key….

Ryan: Something I’ve always put at the top of my list is boots.  Boots that can handle some water and keep my feet dry.  Travel over any distance can be quickly go from back to horrible/impossible with damage to our feet.  In my opinion, I’ll spend a bit more for good quality and durability.  With that said, I’ve found Danner and then Vasque to be my preference.

Gus: I like to think I’m a realist and try to prepare for likely scenarios. In every case I can think of, when people are starving and have hit rock bottom. Whatever you have or they think you have, someone is going to try to take it from you. I think if you can’t protect yourself, family and supplies, then you’ve wasted all you’re efforts. Weapons for self defense should be a top priority on any list.

Sheri: My first knee-jerk response is probably something that Lisa may be better at writing about, but I’ll offer it up to you as a suggestion, since you asked…

Women dealing with their monthly cycle. If SHTF ever happens, say bye-bye to modern conveniences, women.  You’d better have a “Hoosier” sanitary belt on hand, or something like it, and a boat-load of re-usable/washable cloths.

I can pretty much guarantee that, while this may not be the first thing on a female prepper’s mind, as soon as their first cycle hits during SHTF, the horror of “Oh my God, what do I use when I run out of _____??!!!!!” will settle in.

Considering that, in the 1800s, women would usually just bleed into their chemise, that they wore for 4-8 days (extremely unsanitary), we’ve gotten spoiled.

And, now that I’ve completely squicked you out, feel free to pass this email on to Lisa.  LOL

What Are Your Thoughts?

As soon as I go through all of the suggestions on the most important survival tools I received I’ll be posting them in the comments below. If you have anything to add, make sure you do the same.


Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    15 replies to "The 12 Most Important Survival Tools, Prepping Gear and Skills"

    • Jenny

      Great article, Dale! We can always use the review of the basics and fundamentals. That’s the foundation for all of preparedness.

    • Charles Hyde

      Well said, Dale. We have been getting good info from you for several years, and I thank you. I have a great deal of survival food and I cook with mine every day. I cannot see the sense in waiting twenty-five years to find out whether or not the food is still good, and whether or not we like it. When we open a new pack, we get another to replace it. If we don’t like the content, we can always find someone in need. You and Lisa have inspired several friends and family members to pay closer attention to current events and prepare for what we hope will never happen. Thanks, Rob

      • Warren

        Rotate your stock. I strongly agree with you %100 percent. Eat your survival stash long before the 25 year shelf life, find out what you like most and obviously renew what you used.

    • Capt. Denis

      Something I have always found very handy for many fixes are cable ties. They come in different sizes and are very durable and strong. Next are bungee cords of different lengths and strengths. There are the kits as well.

    • Oleeta Igar

      Hi Dale,

      I use a lot of your information on a daily basis. Every year I pick a survival skill or two that I want to focus on for the year.

      Last year I had two! I lost 40 pounds and worked on being able to go up and down stairs without stopping on each step! I dropped three medications and greatly reduced a fourth! I took two firearms training classes and now go to the range regularly to practice.

      I also invested in some non lethal pepper spray and a stun gun. Maybe that’s a third choice for the year…

      This year I need to work on my car emergency supplies and create an every day carry bag. And I want to lose another 40 pounds! Being healthy and in better shape is always a good survival skill! Doing some home canning and other ways to preserve food is on my list for this year too.

      Enjoy your emails and website. Thanks!


    • Jim (Jiimy) Brown / NZ

      Awesome article. Thanks!
      I would add bandanas to the list. You can use them for a million different things (keeping cool, bandage, signal, fibre for fire starting, blending in in bad neighborhoods 😀, etc) Some even have good info about plants or maps, etc.
      Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks for all the great info!

    • Sideliner 1950

      You write, “Let’s face it, we can’t remember everything” and then go on to recommend several excellent resource books. Thanks for that.

      But it’s only when we dig into a book and familiarize ourselves with it that we truly become familiar with what’s in it. Familiarity with books and with ALL our emergency gear will increase our chances of success.

      So don’t just “BUY” the book/s…”READ” the book/s!!!

      And then yes, if possible, keep ’em handy for reference material. That way, when the SHTF, you’ll at least know where look to find further guidance in dealing with the problem.

      Access to knowledge can be hugely helpful, but “knowledge is power”.

      Excellent article. Thanks.

    • David Liverman

      Toughbooks and Linux. Learn pgp/gpg encryption. Believe in solar and do not forget goal zero. Use internet phones and not cell phones. Everbody is listeneing and the cell towers are not encrypted. Always be thankful to your military training and learn to be self reliant. Nobody is coming to help! Develope an attitude and harden up. Say nobody is going to hurt you today or in the future. schrade knives, I hate hand guns. do your work in the dark.

    • Lee Martinez

      Awesome Article Dale. Great stuff here as always.

    • Ben Leucking

      A very good article that hit on the essential categories without too much focus on the product advertising angle. While I agree with all twelve, my #13 would include items such as hatchets and machetes. There are simply too many instances where a fixed blade knife, regardless of its size, is not an effective survival tool. My personal preference tends toward the machete because it works so well on clearing brush. Both are (or can be) effective defensive weapons as well, if you know how to use them.

    • Jim Gregg

      One of my favorite lines from a movie is “What is your weapon? What keeps you alive and the other guy die. What is your weapon? It’s your brain” Samuel L. Jackson in “Basic”.

    • LuvtoHike

      Hook & Loop Velcro strips area great tool.

    • fuzzy1949

      I like your selection. However, If you are going to carry books I would add one book, a plant guide covering medicinal and wild edible plants. Sooner or later you will get hungry. You mentioned wire. I would use that wire to make snares to procure meat, but before you run out and try trapping wild game learn what you should be doing so as to increase your odds of success. Wild game along with some wild plants to eat will keep you going. Been there, done that.

    • Kathy

      One thing I never see people talk about is actually spending a few days living in a simulation of their SHTF scenario. Grabbing that bug out bag and hitting the woods on the fly for a weekend or shutting off your main breaker and water main to deal with that emergency for a few days would certainly give an idea of where one really is in their preparedness or lack of.

    • Rob

      Hi , lm new to all of this but in the way things are going in the world , well prepping is high on my list. I spent a number of yrs in the emergency services. Just a couple of things ld like to share with you .
      1/ lf you dont have a compass, and you have a watch you can use it to find to find north . By facing the 12 at the sun , and by using the hour hand half way between it and 12 is north.
      2/ aluminum foil, not only for cooking but also as a thermal blanket .

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