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Updated Feb 13, 2023 9:44 PM
A survival kit isn’t a one-size fits all solution to an emergency, but the best ones offer a variety of tools and supplies that can help you through a rough patch. Having the right one can help you and your family make it through a tough situation. Whether you are in the backcountry when your vehicle breaks down or stuck in the city when a natural disaster occurs, you’ll be glad you had the right assortment of goods to make it through.
There is a dizzying array of survival kits in stores and online, including offerings from name brands like Uncharted Supply and SOL. It can be difficult to decide which kits will be best. Fortunately, we did some of the work for you.
How We Chose The Best Survival Kits
I have been working as a disaster preparedness instructor and author for over 10 years and have been involved with the survival field for a couple of decades prior to that. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to not only review countless survival kits, but also assist companies in the development of them.
Over my time working with survival kits, I’ve typically used three basic considerations to evaluate them.
- Quality of Components: If your gear fails under pressure, it might put you in serious danger. Therefore, the first thing I look at is the quality of each component in the kit. Is it well-made? Is it designed for real world use, or it is just for decoration? Each and every item needs to be durable, well-designed, and at the very least, work as intended.
- Usefulness: Many kits sold today have items that serve no real purpose. Or, the item might be of limited use. While some of the contents might have a very specific use, such as a water filter, that use should be tied to a basic, universal need that must be satisfied in virtually any emergency.
- Cost: This is always a balancing act. Generally speaking, the cheaper the kit, the lower the quality. This isn’t always true, but as the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for. However, spending a ton of money on an item you might never actually need it a difficult concept for many to grasp. In my evaluations, I want to see true value for the price paid.
I’m personally familiar with each kit on my list. I’ve tested them, I’ve used them, and I’ve found them to exceed all expectations.
The Best Survival Kits: Reviews & Recommendations
Best for the Car: VSSL Camp
Why It Made the Cut: With its innovative design, this survival kit packs all you’ll need into a compact cylinder that will fit into all but the very tiniest of glove boxes.
- Dimensions: 9.4 inches x 2 inches
- Weight: 1.32 pounds (with included contents)
- Aircraft-grade aluminum construction
- Rugged and durable
- Easy to store
The design of the VSSL kit was originally inspired by the classic Maglite flashlight one of the best flashlights on the market. The cylindrical shape lent itself to easy carry in a pack pocket. Over time, the contents evolved and eventually VSSL began offering fully customized kits, with the contents chosen by the end user.
There are a variety of VSSL kits available, or you design the exact kit you want or need. Start with the container size–small, medium, or large. There are seven colors available, including black, silver, and orange. The top cap can be a carabiner, compass, or both. The bottom can be plain or a 4 LED flashlight.
The Camp Supplies version has plenty of useful implements for those that just want to buy an off-the-shelf ready kit. This version contains the following:
- Canadian beeswax candle
- Miniature first aid kit with 6 bandages, 10 Steri-Strips, two wipes, and two safety pins
- Expandable bamboo cloth
- One-liter Whirl-Pack water bag
- Firestarter kit containing five Tinder Quik fire starters and 10 weatherproof matches
- Fishing Kit with spoons, spinners, J-hooks, split shot, and 35 feet of line
- Wire saw
- Miscellaneous gear kit with a whistle, two gear ties, mini sewing kit, and P38 can opener
- Multi-purpose tape
There are also various-sized empty tins that you can add, allowing you to fully customize the kit to your exact specifications. These can be filled with anything you’d like, such as an emergency supply of prescription medications. Of all the kits on our list, this one is the best survival kit for the car.
Best for Hiking: Be Prepared Pocket Survival Kit
Why It Made the Cut: Officially endorsed by the Boy Scouts of America, this pocket-sized kit is easy to carry and has everything you need, sealed in a durable tin.
- Dimensions: 4.5 inches x 3.0 inches
- Weight: 6.0 ounces
- Water-resistant sealed container
- Small size, easy to keep in a cargo pocket or pack
- Covers most basic survival needs
- Lacks depth in most areas
When you’re carrying everything on your back, every ounce counts. It is crucial to make sure that every single item you add to the pack has merit and satisfies a true need. This is the best survival kit for hiking trips because it won’t weigh you down, yet it could very well save your life.
It packs quite a bit of gear, spanning a large range of survival necessities, into the tin.
- Purification tablets
- Water bag
- Flint fire starter
- Fresnel lens
- Beeswax candles
Shelter and Protection
- Emergency blanket
- Insect repellent
- Adhesive/butterfly bandages
- Derma Safe razor knife
- Sewing kit
- Utility cord
- Wire saw
The container is sealed until you need the contents, so there’s little danger of the gear getting fouled by water as you travel. While it lacks any sort of actual food, you could easily toss a granola bar or trail mix in your pocket next to the kit.
Best Emergency Survival Kit: Sustain Supply Comfort2
Why It Made the Cut: With everything you need, including food, water, and shelter, this survival kit is perfect for keeping at home or taking on the go.
- Fully stocked backpack
- Will provide for two people for 72 hours
- High quality components
- Has everything needed for temporary disasters
- Low maintenance; can be stored for long periods of time
- Includes food and water
Most state and federal agencies recommend that families assemble the best emergency survival kits that will meet their basic needs for at least 72 hours in case of a disaster. It may take relief organizations that long to get to you and provide aid, so you should be prepared for at least that long. This kit has everything ready to go, including food and water. While there is room in the backpack to add additional items, there aren’t many that you’ll likely need, beyond perhaps a few comfort items.
- Twelve servings of freeze-dried food
- Portable stove and cookware
- Bowls and utensils
- Two liters of purified water
- Filter straws
- Fully stocked first aid kit
- Cyalume light sticks
- LED lantern
- Ferrocerium rod with striker
- InstaFire tinder
- Emergency blankets
This survival kit is absolutely packed with supplies and they’re all contained in durable backpack. This is the perfect kit to keep stashed in a closet so it is on hand and easily found when an emergency strikes.
Best for Snowmobile: SOL Scout Kit
Why It Made the Cut: Small and lightweight, this survival kit will keep you alive if you go off the trail or run out of fuel in the forest during a winter excursion.
- Dimensions: 6 inches x 3.75 inches
- Weight: 5.4 ounces
- Waterproof dry bag
- Very small and will fit just about anywhere
- Offers some room for expansion
- Fire striker will last for 5,000 strikes
- Very limited in gear and supplies
If you’re heading out on a snow machine, possibly far from civilization, it is critical that you have at least basic survival skills. This includes being able to navigate by compass and build a fire in challenging conditions. You should also pack along a few keys tools to help should the unexpected strike.
Snowmobiles aren’t known for their storage space. Anything you choose to carry will need to be small, slim, and compact. This limits you when it comes to picking the best survival kit for snowmobiles, with room only for bare bones necessities.
This kit has the bare essentials for those tasks and related survival needs.
- Survival blanket
- Fire Lite striker
- Tinder Quik tabs
- Survival whistle
- Signal mirror
The emergency blanket has survival instruction printed directly on it for help and guidance. Under ideal conditions, the whistle can be heard up to a mile away and the signal mirror’s flash can be seen for up to 10 miles. The dry bag has a roll-down closure and will keep the contents safe and secure no matter where your sled takes you.
Best First Aid Kit: MOLLE Bag Trauma Kit 1.0
Why It Made the Cut: When seconds count, you need the best first aid supplies on the market. This kit has everything you’ll need to stop the bleed and keep the patient alive.
- Dimensions: 7.87 inches x 5.51 inches x 3.54 inches
- Weight: 0.9 pound
- Contains over 60 items
- Small, easy to carry size
- Contains common medications as well as bandages
- Features QuikClot© hemostatic gauze
- Limited supply of personal protective equipment
As the best survival first aid kit it’s small in size but absolutely packed with supplies. It will handle everything from traumatic wounds to routine sprains, as well as any number of common illnesses that can crop up when you’re out and about.
Medications included in the kit are:
- Pain reliever/fever reducer: aspirin, 325 mg; ibuprofen, 200 mg; acetaminophen, 500 mg
- Antihistamine: diphenhydramine, 25 mg
To handle heavily bleeding wounds, there’s a length of QuikClot© hemostatic gauze. Add to that trauma pads and other wound dressings and you’ll be in good shape until you can seek proper medical assistance.
For minor wounds, there are a number of adhesive bandages as well as antiseptic wipes and triple antibiotic ointment. They’ve also included EMT shears and even After Bite® wipes for insect bites.
While you’ll want to add additional personal protective equipment, particularly nitrile gloves, overall, this kit has everything you need to handle routine problems.
Things to Consider Before Buying The Best Survival Kits
Choosing a survival kit is an important decision. It is far too easy to just plunk down your cash on something that looks cool, but isn’t even worth the container it comes in. Remember that you’re purchasing something that you might need to save your life or the lives of your family. This is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly.
Here’s what you need to consider.
It makes little sense to purchase a kit that isn’t going to add much usefulness to the situation. Some survival kits sold today are absolutely packed with gear, but very little of it is going to be helpful in a crisis. Sure, a folding grappling hook sounds cool and all. But unless you’re planning to scale the side of a building or dredge a creek for junk, it is just a nifty piece of kit that serves no practical use.
Range of Use
Some kits on the market are very specific with their intended use. While some of the contents are universal, much of it won’t be needed unless that specific type of disaster hits. Heirloom seeds are a great item to have if you’re concerned about long-term breakdowns in society. But if your biggest concern is a hurricane or earthquake, those seeds aren’t likely to be of much benefit to you.
Noted survival and bushcraft instructor Mors Kochanski once said, “The more you know, the less you need to carry.” In other words, the more skills you have, the less tools you’ll need to accomplish tasks.
But the opposite is also true. The lower your experience level, the more advantages you’ll need to make it through a crisis. So, make sure the best survival kit you choose will suit your experience level and give you the leg up you want and need in a disaster.
Q: How long can you survive without water?
The generally accepted rule of thumb is that a person can survive without water for about three days. However, there are a lot of factors that will affect that time frame. If it is hot out, or you’re performing strenuous activity, you’re going to lose water through sweat much quicker than you would if you were to remain sedentary and stay cool.
Q: What items do Preppers forget?
Preppers often forget to practice and train with their gear. There can be tendency to just throw money at the problem. The drawback is when a crisis does occur, you need to know how to properly use all the items in your survival kit. Otherwise, they will be nearly useless to you and your family.
Q: What should be in a 72-hour kit?
The items in your 72-hour kit should include simple foods that require little to no preparation prior to eating, water that is safe to drink along with a filter or purifier for more water sourced elsewhere. It should also have a basic first aid kit that will handle common injuries and illnesses, a flashlight with extra batteries, a sturdy knife, ways to make fire and stay warm, and anything else that might be specific to your home or your individual situation.
Final Thoughts on the Best Survival Kits
It can be difficult to sort through the different survival kits on the market today. Many of them look very similar, despite the range in quality. The best approach is to select a kit that will meet most of your needs, then to customize it by adding your own personal touches. This will allow you to have the best survival kit that will be ready to handle whatever life throws your way.