There’s been a debate going on in the survivalist community for decades now. A debate that everyone seems to have their own opinion about and is extremely important to a person’s survival in an SHTF situation. And that debate is about what a person should have in their survival backpack. Although many survivalists will agree on a few of the backpack’s contents (such as having duct tape or a way to purify water), the rest of the survival backpack is up for debate. If you ask three survivalists what they put in their survival backpack, then you’re likely to get three different answers. We’re going to solve that debate right here and now and talk about what really should be in a survival backpack.

Now, before we start, we should say that there is a little bit of room for improvisation when it comes to these backpacks. After all, different people will have different needs and different survival tactics and their backpacks should definitely reflect those values. However, there are some basics that should be in every single survival backpack without exception. To not have those things is a dereliction of a person’s duty to protect themselves and their families. And it’s these basics that we’re going to go over, and people can feel free to add their own personal item needs to the following basics.

The Backpack

The backpack itself (or in some cases, a duffle bag) is the most important part of the whole kit. After all, it holds all of the contents and will have to withstand just about any possible conditions, so it needs to be sturdy. We recommend a good military tactical backpack that’s made with a durable fabric that’s been coated to be water-resistant. It should also have plenty of storage space and additional pockets for keeping items easily available. No one should be buying the same backpack students carry to school.

An Air Filtration Mask

Using the rule of 3, we know that air is one of the most important things a person needs for surviving a situation. That’s why a good air filtration mask is needed. Debris from wildfires, impacts on buildings, and volcanic eruptions make these masks absolute lifesavers.

Water Purification

Access to clean water is also important for survival, so the backpack should contain some way to purify groundwater. These can be iodine tablets or a Life Straw. It doesn’t matter as long as the water can be purified. While it’s tempting to add a water bladder to the backpack, toting water can be difficult. If need be, a person can add purified water packets to their pack, but only enough for 3-days.


The next thing to keep in a survival backpack is some kind of food. These can be energy bars or MREs. Or other portable ration packages. It DOES NOT include canned foods. Basically, you’re going to want to have portable meals that provide energy and nutrition but aren’t difficult to carry.


We recommend having a sleeping bag, a tent, or at the very least, some mylar plastic that can be used for building a shelter. These things are essential for making makeshift shelters in the wilderness while traveling between waypoints.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is also an important consideration. A basic kit will contain the following items:

  • Bandages
  • Trauma Pads
  • Gauze
  • First-Aid Tape
  • CPR Face Shield
  • Scissors
  • Burn Gel
  • Sutures and Needles
  • Antidiarrheals
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Tweezers
  • Aspirin
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Sting Gel
  • Antihistamines
  • Nitrile Gloves
  • A tourniquet
  • Bleed Stop (Blood Clotting Powder)
  • Alcohol prep pads

Survival Knife

A survival knife is so important it should really be in the number one position, but we think that everyone is aware of its importance so we shouldn’t have to place special emphasis on it. Just be sure that when you purchase a survival knife you choose one that’s full-tang and comes with a quality sheath. Also, be sure to pack a knife sharpener with your knife. You’re going to need it.

Multipurpose Tools

A Multipurpose tool is another important tool for your survival backpack. A multitool should include pliers, wire cutters/strippers, knives, can and bottle openers, screwdrivers, and bit drivers. It should also contain a sheath so it can be easily carried.


Another important consideration for a survival backpack is cordage. For most preppers, paracord is the chosen cordage and we think that’s a fine choice. When packing paracord you will have to make sure that you pack enough for making shelters and for other survival needs, but not so much that it dominates the survival backpack.

Duct Tape

No discussion of a survival backpack can be complete without talking about packing several rolls of duct tape. Duct tape is extremely useful for about a thousand different things, so it’s important to have several rolls packed.

Personal Items

It’s also extremely important to keep personal items in your backpack that you might need. This includes copies of important IDs, home deeds, car papers, and anything else that you might need to identify yourself. It’s also important to keep an extra charger and/or phone, important medications, and emergency contacts in your pack.

Some Other Useful Items

To finish up your survival backpack, you’re also going to have to add a few more things to complete it. The following items will help to round out the survival backpack and make sure it contains everything needed for an emergency.

  • Maps
  • Compass
  • Signal Whistle
  • Mirror
  • Razors
  • Tampons
  • Extra Clothing
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Hand and foot warmers
  • Fire Starter
  • Waterproof Matches
  • BIC Lighter
  • Floral Wire
  • Camping Saw
  • Sewing Kit
  • Portable Shovel
  • Space Blanket
  • Flashlight (With Extra Batteries)
  • Small Handaxe
  • Radio
  • Solar Phone Charger
  • Portable Fishing Kit
  • Safety Pins
  • Light Sticks
  • Wire Saw

And that just about covers everything that should be in a survival backpack. As we said earlier, you’re going to want to customize that backpack a bit to fit your needs, but it should contain just about everything that you need for a survival situation. Just be sure that each member of the family has their own survival backpacks or bug-out bags.

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