A big part of preparedness is having the right gear to keep you alive. However, this doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on survival gear. There are plenty of ways to make DIY survival gear from cheap or even free things you can find.
Below are some examples of survival gear you can make, plus links to the instructions. I’ve divided the survival gear into categories: food/water, fire, fuel-based gear, self-defense, and shelter/worn gear.
DIY Gear for Food and Water
We can only survive three days without water and need it for hygiene, cooking, and cleanup. Because of its importance, water survival gear should be at the top of your list. You’ll also want some gear that will help you obtain food.
1. Plastic Bottle Water Filter
While certainly no substitute for a proven water purifier, this DIY water filter from a plastic bottle works in a pinch. The layers of gravel, sand, and charcoal remove sediment and impurities. You’ll still want to boil the water afterward, though.
2. Solar Still
A solar still lets you distill water in leaves, dirt, or urine. It’s pretty simple to make.
Read about how to make a DIY solar still.
3. Water Distiller
There are many ways to use plastic bottles for survival, including this DIY water distiller by desertsun02. It is straightforward to build and doesn’t rely on a stove like most homemade water distillers. Read the instructions here.
4. Deer Bone Fish Hook
These fish hooks by John Yost are gorgeous. They are made by carefully carving down a portion of deer jawbone. The result is a sturdy hook that works much better than those DIY soda can tab hooks. Read how to make them here at Yost Survival Skills.
5. Wire or Nail Fishing Hook
Here’s another way to make a survival fish hook. This method uses a piece of sharpened wire. You can also use old nails to make the DIY fishing hooks. See the instructions here at Sensible Survival.
6. Fish Trap
7. Survival Net
In addition to fishing, DIY nets are useful for trapping animals, hammocks, and carrying supplies. Learning net-making takes some time but is worth the effort.
8. Animal Traps and Snares
Traps and snares may be considered primitive hunting gear, but they kept our ancestors alive. You don’t need any special supplies to make an animal trap, but you need a lot of knowledge about constructing and placing the trap. Read how to make animal traps and snares.
9. Grasshopper Trap
While you might not like the idea of eating insects, they are one of the best foods for surviving in the outdoors. Grasshoppers and crickets are particularly easy to catch, abundant in nutrients, and taste good if you eat them properly. Read how to make the trap here.
Knowing how to start a fire in various conditions is one of the most important survival skills. While it is possible to make a fire without a lighter, you’ll fare better if you have some fire-starting gear. Here are some DIY gear options.
10. Char Cloth
Char cloth is great, especially when making a fire with friction. It catches sparks and holds an ember for a long time. All you’ve got to do is learn how to blow the ember into a flame. Read how to make DIY char cloth.
11. Featherstick Tinder
Making a feather stick to use as tinder is a higher-level bushcraft survival skill, and you’ll need a good survival knife to do it. However, it’s worth the effort to learn. The feather stick will light up quickly, and you won’t have to worry about running out of your lint or Vaseline tinder. Read the instructions here at Paul Kirtley.
12. Waterproof Tinder Bundle
This is a cool design for waterproof tinder. The bundle has a center pull bundle, so you can pull a piece of the tinder out without destroying it. It is coated in paraffin wax to be completely waterproof. Read how to make it here.
13. Waterproof Matches
This post discusses two ways to make waterproof matches: dipping in wax and using nail polish. It also compares the results. Read the instructions here at Firewood For Life.
Also, see our favorite waterproof matches.
14. Fatwood Tinder
Fatwood is the resinous wood at the center of a pine or spruce tree. It makes excellent natural tinder that you can chop into “matches.” Read how to harvest fatwood.
Fuel-Based Survival Gear
This category of DIY survival gear includes survival stoves, heaters, ovens, candles, lanterns, and chargers. It’s great to have gear running on different fuels to always have a backup.
15. Hobo Stove
I have fun making hobo stoves. The designs range from simple ones out of a single can to improved stoves with dampers and ash stands. See the instructions and 5 different plans here.
16. Rocket Stove
In terms of efficiency, rocket stoves are a step up from a hobo stove. They can be made with bricks, cinder blocks, coffee cans, and mud. Read how to make a brick rocket stove and see rocket stove designs.
17. Soda Can Solar Heater
Ideally, you should have a wood heater or propane heater for emergencies. You can use this homemade heater to stay warm through emergencies in a pinch. Read about 4 other DIY emergency heaters.
18. Alcohol Stove
Alcohol stoves are small and portable, ideal for bug out bags. They are also reasonably simple to make. Read the instructions here.
19. CFV Stove
Take your alcohol stove to the next level with this DIY Capillary Force Vaporizer (CFV) stove. Some low-tech changes to the design allow it to be more efficient and easier to control the flame. Read the instructions here.
20. Wind Screen for Canister Stove
When using canister stoves outdoors, the wind can blow the flame away from the pot. You may end up using 5x more fuel because of the wind. For this reason, you’ll want to use a wind screen. Not all wind screen designs are safe for canister stoves, though. Read how to make a safe wind screen here.
21. Oil Lamp
There are many ways to make a survival oil lamp that runs on vegetable oil or paraffin. You can even make your own wicks. Read the instructions here.
22. DIY Candles
23. Solar Charger
Even if you buy your solar charger, learning how to make one yourself is still important. Then you can fix your solar charger if something goes wrong. You can read very clear instructions for a DIY solar charger by Alex Beale here at Footprint Hero.
First Aid and Hygiene Gear
Things can get gross in survival situations, especially when flooding is involved. There may also be issues like toxic fumes or particles in the air. You can use these DIY survival gear to stay safe and healthy.
24. Homemade Hand Sanitizer
Out of hand sanitizer and can’t get rubbing alcohol? Here’s how to make hand sanitizer from perfume, herbal tinctures, and other ingredients. Read the instructions here.
25. HEPA Filter Face Mask
Masks aren’t only used during pandemics. They are essential to wear during disaster cleanup when toxic chemicals may be in the air. If you can’t get any N95 masks, try these DIY respirators made from HEPA vacuum bags.
26. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal may fall more into the “supplies” category than DIY survival gear. However, it is so vital that you’ll want to know how to make it yourself. Not only does it treat stomach bugs, toothaches and work as a poultice, but it can also be used for treating chemicals in water. Read how to make activated charcoal at home.
27. Butterfly Bandages
Butterfly bandages are great for closing gaping wounds when you can’t get stitches. They can be made with medical tape or duct tape. Read more about DIY butterfly bandages.
28. Bucket Washing Machine
Drill some holes and nestle two buckets – you’ll have an efficient washing machine that uses no electricity and very little water. Read how to make a 5-gallon bucket washing machine.
29. Wood Ash Soap
It may not look as pretty as factory-made soap, but it does the job. You even get to reuse the ashes from your wood stove, meaning less waste. Read how to make soap from wood ash.
30. Compost Toilet
When the plumbing is down, and you can’t use an outdoor privy (such as during flooding), a compost toilet will save you from a bad situation. Because it separates pee and poo, waste is easier to deal with and less messy. Read about DIY composting toilets.
31. Tick Removal Tools
Ticks carry numerous diseases, which can affect your health (I’ve had Lyme disease, so I can testify to how much it sucks!). You’ll need a tool to remove a tick without getting its stomach contents in your body. See some cool DIY tick removal tools you can make here.
32. Hand Washing Station
There are a few ways to make a survival hand washing station. They don’t require running water, and you can use buckets to collect the water for reuse. See how to make a hand washing station without running water
DIY Survival Tools and Weapons
33. Slingshot or Sling Bow
Most DIY slingshots do not have enough force to kill big game. That’s not the case with this slingshot by Survival Sherpa. It’s made with an adapted wrist rocket. You can also read how to make a hunting slingshot.
34. Rope from Plant Fibers
Rope is one of the most essential survival gear to have. You can make your own rope from plants if you don’t have any. It takes some time and patience, but it is a great survival skill to have. Read how to make cordage.
35. Glass Knapping Arrows and Blades
You can knap flint into an arrow or blade, but what do you do if you can’t find flint? Shawn Wood shows how to salvage old glass to make a seriously sharp arrow. See the video here.
36. Pine Pitch
There are a lot of different survival uses for pine sap. You can use it to make salves, glue, lamps, and more. Before you can use it though, you’ll need to know how to process it. Read how to make pine tar.
37. Bone Knife
A knife is arguably the most essential piece of survival gear. There are many ways to make a survival knife from scratch – forging, glass knapping, and flint knapping. This method uses bone and rock to create a blade.
DIY Shelter and Worn Gear
While you may prefer a good survival tent and suitable clothing, you might find yourself in a situation where you must improvise. Here are some DIY survival gear solutions.
Who needs a tent when you can make your survival shelter? There are many ways it can be done, but here are instructions on how to build a lean-to shelter. You can add a mylar space blanket for extra warmth.
39. Bushcraft Bed
Now that your shelter is built, it’s time to make a bed to get yourself off the ground. This bed uses pine boughs for insulation and comfort. It’s easier than lugging a cot around with you in your BOB!
40. Duct Tape Backpack
Hopefully, nothing will happen to your survival backpack and all its gear. But if it does, you can make this awesome duct tape backpack by murple. It is a serious design that rivals even expensive packs. See the instructions here.
41. Snow Shoes
Here’s another DIY survival gear you can make from duct tape. You’ll need to soak some birch branches to make the frame, though you could probably use tennis rackets too. Read the instructions here.
42. DIY Mocassins
You can make an awesome pair of moccasins with some leather, beeswax, and know-how. They will come in handy when SHTF and your regular boots fall apart! Chris Telder explains how to do it here at Felt Magnet.
Do you make your own survival gear? Let us know what you’ve made in the comments section below.