Essential Survival 

What are the Top Ten Essential Survival Items?

To answer this question fully – What are the top ten survival items – we should also consider where it is you are surviving. For instance, would the top ten items in the desert, be different to the jungle survival situation and so on. Therefore, we will need to assess each items usefulness in all environments, to actually determine a true top ten list of survival items.

For this, I will be using the Essential score spreadsheet and rating individual survival items in the following environments:

  • Ocean
  • Desert
  • Woodlands
  • Islands
  • Mountains
  • Tropics
  • Snow

Each item will be scored out of 5pts for each environment and will receive 1 useful point, per environment that the item scored in. A total of all points, will provide the items essential survival score. So, only the top scorers will be in the top ten list!

What are the Essential Survival Items for a Survival Kit?

For this post, I will detail the top ten survival items for a pocket survival kit, however, these items also belong in your EDC bag. And by survival items, I don’t mean survival tools, these are items like a compass or a signal mirror. Obviously, survival items that are small enough to be packed in a pocket survival kit.

If you want to know what the top 5 survival tools are, then read this post instead.

Top Ten Survival Items in Any Environment

When it comes to surviving in all environments on Earth, there is only one thing they all have in common; you! It’s you that is trying to survive in them! Rain, hail or snow and sun, either way you will be there shivering or frying like an egg.

Now, that is helpful! As we know what we need to survive every day and it will be no different, when stuck in these differing environments. The fundamentals don’t change with the environment but they will be reprioritized by it and sometimes quickly so.

For example, a sudden weather change will move your priorities along from fishing to finding shelter in a hurry. Also, consider how an abundance of fresh water in your environment, could make some of the pocket survival kit’s contents redundant.

Suddenly not feeling hungry, need shelter instead

Pre – Planning

Preplanning will ensure that you have the right amount of the essential survival items when you need them. And I’m thinking, that the best way forward, is to land on the top ten survival items in a basic survival environment. That is to say, an environment that is not trying to kill you at every turn.

Essential Survival Items for a Pocket Survival Kit

We can easily pull the top ten items out of the essential score spreadsheet and start there.

Here they are in order from No.1 top item in a pocket survival kit:

  1. Heat Blanket – 23 pts
  2. Trench lighter/safety matches – tied 17 pts
  3. Zip lock bag – 16 pts
  4. Water purification tabs – 15 pts
  5. Filtered straw – 15 pts
  6. Bandage – 15 pts
  7. Salt – 15 pts
  8. Tape 12 pts
  9. Button compass – 11 pts, elastic bands – 11 pts
  10. Signal mirror – 10 pts – and many items with 10 pts
Final List of Essential Survival Items

I’m going to go ahead and remove these items from the list: Bandage, elastic bands, tape. These three items, can be packed easily in your pocket kit, so long as you can wrap the bandage around your kit, like I did. What’s left to make the top ten: Tie wire, band-aids, splinter pick, tweezers, fishing line, snare wire, rescue whistle, cordage. Throw in a razor blade as well just in case you lose your knife. Do not lose your knife!

We know from previous posts, that all these items fit easily into (or around) the pocket survival kit, so we will remove them from the list as well. And seeing that all the items removed can be packed easily, I will bunch them all together into a combined group of bonus items. That leaves the list looking like this, including the combined bonus items and swapping the filtered straw/tie wire for a slingshot option:

  1. Heat Blanket – 23 pts
  2. Trench lighter – 17 pts
  3. Safety matches – 17 pts
  4. Zip lock bag – 16 pts
  5. Water purification tabs – 15 pts
  6. Salt – 15 pts
  7. Button compass – 11 pts
  8. Signal mirror – 10 pts
  9. Slingshot – 10 pts
  10. Bonus items – 10 pts

That’s it, you have all the survival categories covered in the most basic of ways with these ten items:

  1. Heat Blanket – 23 ptsShelter, heat, water gathering, signalling, Apache helicopter protection, cordage, bandage, fishing lures…
  2. Trench lighter17 ptsFire, signalling
  3. Safety matches17 pts Fire, signalling
  4. Zip lock bag – 16 pts Water, fire, keep rations fresh, bandage
  5. Water purification tabs – 15 pts Water
  6. Salt – 15 pts Medical
  7. Button compass – 11 ptsNavigation
  8. Signal mirror – 10 pts Rescue
  9. Slingshot – 10 ptsFood
  10. Bonus items – Bandage wrap, Band-Aids slipped in with space blanket, rescue whistle and cordage tied on as a lanyard. Splinter pick, tweezers, zip ties and the razor blade, all slip in easily around the main contents as well.

What are the Top Ten (Insert Environment here) Survival Items?

What are the top ten items for a pocket survival kit in a tropical rainforest, Pacific island, snow or anywhere else? Keep in mind, that the above list is all you can feasibly carry in your pocket survival kit. And you will also see, that the list is really for all environments. However, the priorities will change with the environment and we can work them out in the spreadsheet.

I have answered the question: What are the top ten survival items? Now I will look at the environmental priorities for these items, in a spreadsheet and for email subscribers only. There has to be some benefit for signing up, so, the spreadsheet is available to subscribers here:

Environmental Priorities Spreadsheet

You can see from the spreadsheet, how I scored each item under the different environmental categories. Also, each item scored 1 useful point for every category that they received marks in.

This is how they look in order from top item:

  1. Heat Blanket – 42 pts
  2. Signal Mirror – 40 pts
  3. Safety Matches – 39 pts
  4. Trench Lighter – 38 pts
  5. Button Compass – 37 pts
  6. Water Purification Tablets – 36 pts
  7. Slingshot – 34 pts
  8. Salt – 30 pts
  9. Zip lock bag – 27 pts
  10. ?

Subscribers can manipulate and score the items as they see fit and I’m sure you’ll arrive at different results than I did. That’s ok, in fact it’s great, because it means you have put some thought into your gear and its true essential value to you! That is the main purpose for creating these spreadsheets; to make you think first and survive later.

If you’re intending to purchase an online pocket survival kit then you could input the contents into the spreadsheet. This will give you a good idea to the suitability of the contents of the online kit, before you buy it!

Environmental Edge

No.1 – The Heat Blanket

mess tins for the EDC bag/72 hour survival kit
Heat Blanket stowed in the EDC Bag/72 hour survival kit
heat blanket inside survival kit
And in a pocket survival kit

Personally, I was pretty disappointed with the online survival kits and their lack of a space blanket in their kit’s. Protection from exposure or Hypothermia is paramount for the survivor and potentially the first threat you’ll face. Again, this will depend on the environment you’re trying to survive in and the average temperatures it produces.

No surprises for me with this item topping the list. A heat blanket just has so many uses to the survivor, other than its intended purpose. It scored top marks in all environments for its intended purpose alone, everything else they can do is a bonus! For example, you may not need a blanket in the tropics for Hypothermia but protection from rain and the sun is an option.

  • Heat blankets work best when in contact with the skin, rather than wrapping it around your clothes. Can protect from the heat and cold.
  • It is also a portable shelter that you can rig up to shield from rain (and then collect the runoff to drink) or shade from the Sun.
  • The reflective surface can be used to signal rescuers
  • Sliced into strips to create lashings or bandages, even fishing lures
  • Cook food with the heat reflective properties of the blanket, use the Sun or set it near your camp fire, not on the fire!

Pretty easy to see why the heat blanket top scored in all environments, as it’s a life saver in every one of them.

No.2 – The Signal Mirror

Micro signal mirror in an EDC Bag

The mirror is a specialist item, in its own category and it scores highly in almost all environments. Simply put, it gets the job done. Put aside the fact that it only works during the day, as it’s also the most likely time rescuers will be out looking for you.

You will be unlikely to survive for long without a rescue!

No.3 and No.4 – Safety Matches and the Trench Lighter

Trench Lighter

Without these two items, your chances of starting a fire plummet. You will need skill and the right materials, to succeed without a fire starting device in your survival kit. Firstly, the Trench lighter is used primarily to start all your fires and the safety matches are your back up fire starters. You could also use the matches to start a fire quickly, such as, lighting a signal fire without delay.

My choice of primary fire starter, can be of course substituted for other devices, such as the Ferro rod. As long as your primary source is almost guaranteed to create fire, for an extended time in the wild. Try and avoid gas filled lighters or battery powered types, as they may malfunction or leak.

waterproof storm matches
Storm matches

Just one point separates No.3 and No.4. They only scored points in the Ocean environment for their signalling capabilities, of which I think the matches have the edge. Other than that, they can make a fire anywhere which is needed in almost all environments. Except maybe floating on the open ocean in an inflatable rubber boat!

Although, not being able to make a fire shouldn’t deter you from cooking out on your boat. If you’re lucky enough to haul in some seafood that is. Cut up and prepare your meal and fashion a bowl from your heat blanket. Then set it in the sun with the meat strips inside. If you’re fighting off birds that’s a good thing! For starters it’s another potential meal and you’re probably closer to land than you think.

No.5 – The Compass

The button compass, inside the pocket survival kit is another specialist item in a specialist category. Like the signal mirror it dominates its field by efficiently performing its fundamental function – direction finding.

The compass scored well but not so useful when stranded on a Pacific island you’d think. Other than that, it will point you in the right direction so long as you know what the right direction is!

No.6 – Water Purification tablets

A way to obtain drinking water must make it on the list, as you can only go about 3 days without it. And that’s while at rest and not exerting yourself, when you’ll need water replacement more urgently. With the limited size of the pocket survival kit, the water tabs are probably your best option to pack.

Make sure your tablets will remove the salt from the water efficiently and especially if heading out to sea. Test all your water items before you depart into any environment, as most ground water you encounter will be salty too.,taps%20as%20well%20as%20streams.

No.7 – The Slingshot

slingshot rubber

After you have covered the most critical categories – water, heat/shelter, rescue/signalling/direction – you can then look to feed yourself. Sitting under your shelter, with a nice fire going and ample water reserves will leave you wanting one more thing. Food.

While food is not immediately essential, it sure is helpful and can be easily covered by the inclusion of the slingshot. I really rate this as a top hunting tool for the survivor, as it is a projectile weapon rather than a static trap. The slingshot brings another level of potential prey for the hungry survivor, to attempt to get into the cooking pot.

Surviving, is no time to get squeamish over hunting little creatures to eat but you do need to temper your needs and not over hunt. Catch and eat what you need to get you through and make sure any traps are disabled when you move on.

Hunting Options

Along with the prey options the slingshot brings, it will also be close at hand to make the most of opportunities that arise. Most importantly, you can do it while walking your way out to safety, basically stalking for prey while you hike.

The slingshot didn’t receive top marks in all environments but it did score better overall than the fishing line/snare wire. The three different methods are each more suited to a specific environment, for example, the fishing kit at sea would be favoured over the other two.

Looking at it that way, shows that the slingshot is suited to more of the potential hunting environments, than the other two can match. Not to mention, that I think you would just have a better success rate, with a projectile weapon in hand.

Think how much of an advantage a firearm provides to the hunter over his prey and then think of the slingshot as a primitive form of a gun. Although, just like a gun, the slingshot’s usefulness is also limited to the amount ammo you’re carrying. In the right environment the survivor should be easily able to replace the ammo for the slingshot. Not so when out on the ocean and as a result the slingshot scored low in some of the environments.

No.8 – Salt

Salt is purely a medical aid for the bodily functions, you can carry it or find other ways to obtain it. Animal blood is a common source as well as naturally occurring salt deposits, if you can find them. Personally, I suffer from muscle cramps, especially when I’m in Tropical environments, so, Salt is a must in my kit.

This further reinforces the need for personal space, when you’re building your survival kits. Some items, you’ll need more than other people and you need some free space for those things in your kits. For instance, in this pocket kit list, I have Salt and a slingshot taking up my personal space.

With a survivor’s interrupted diet and water intake, coupled with physical exertion, you either carry Salt or find it. Because you’re going to need it!

No.9 – Zip Lock Bag

zip lock bag wrapped in rubber bands
They don’t take up much room either

I am surprised how useful this item is to have inside your PSK and any other kit for that matter. Its primary role is to be a water carrier and some even use it for fire lighting but it has more than that still.

For instance:

  • You could prevent infection by using the bag as a bandage to keep a wound clean.
  • You can make a mini solar still and obtain fresh drinking water from salty water. Use your pocket case as the salty water container and seal inside the bag, place in direct sunlight to distil the salty water. Fresh water condenses inside the bag.
  • Keep rations/forage fresher and make them easier/hygienic to carry
  • Extract water from green foliage

No.10 Survival Item – ?

This is a top ten list for a pocket survival kit and the last item may depend on what you can fit in there. I had room left over for the fishing/snare wire tube in my kit and that completed my top ten. You can choose between one of the two or go with both as they’re handy for shelter building too. Even if you’re not comfortable with setting snares or fishing, you will find other uses for them regardless.


pocket survival kit with medicine tube
Medicine container on the right

If another method of hunting isn’t what you need then you could go with a tube of medicines instead. Pain killers or anti-inflammatory tablets, antiseptic wipes and the like will all be useful to have in the kit. Your preplanning may offer suggestions for filling the remaining kit space and rounding out your own top ten survival items.

Don’t forget to pack in your bonus items and finish off with a bandage wrap and you’re good to go!


Not only have we answered the question – What are the top ten survival items – we also answered what they are in all environments too! In the end though all of the gear you bring will still require you to execute good judgement. In the pocket survival kit, this is all you’ll be able to bring and now you know that you can take it anywhere.

EDC Bag/72 Hour Survival Kit

Moving forward, the top ten survival items in the next kit size up, might have a very different result to this. Look out for the post when it drops – Stay safe!

Pacific Sun

by bing74

August 10, 2020

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