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Pack to the Basics: 5 Must-Have Survival Backpack Essentials

Pack to the Basics: 5 Must-Have Survival Backpack Essentials

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Aptly named, a survival backpack could save your life in case of an emergency, such as a camping trip gone wrong or a natural disaster. With that in mind, you want to ensure that you pack the essentials.


But what are the survival backpack essentials? While you might have room for more, this list includes the five basics that every survival backpack needs. You can easily find survival essentials at outdoor retailers like Self Reliance Outfitters.

Rule of three

When deciding your survival backpack essentials, it’s crucial to remember the rule of three. Also called the rule of four, this guideline describes how long a person can go without necessities like air, water, and food. The guidelines are as follows:


  • Three minutes without oxygen
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food
  • Three hours without shelter (extreme weather/climate conditions)


In an emergency, you’ll need tools that ensure you never have to test these numbers yourself.


A knife is versatile. It can be used for defense or as a tool for cutting, digging, and crafting. Various types of knives may come in handy, but the quality is paramount. You don’t want to end up in a survival situation with a chipped blade just because you tried to save a few bucks. A reliable knife will help you obtain shelter and food while you wait for rescue. 

Survival straw

Water is life, except when it’s contaminated. That’s why you need a survival straw that eliminates waterborne bacteria and debris. Now every stream or puddle is a safe water source. It’s also essential to have a water container that you can refill using your survival straw so you aren’t chained to a water source if dangerous conditions require you to keep moving. 

Emergency Rations

Once you secure hydration, you need food. With emergency rations, you don’t need to worry if your environment isn’t rich with edible vegetation or you aren’t a skilled hunter. 


You can make homemade rations with long-lasting items like nuts and nutrition bars. It’s also wise to add dehydrated rations for protein. If you have the space, consider packing a few MREs or meals ready to eat. 

First Aid Kit

Your first aid kit will vary depending on size constraints, but it should have basic wound care supplies. The Red Cross has a handy list of what a first aid kit needs for a family of four. If you’re packing for one or two, you can halve the amount to lessen the weight.

First Aid Must-Haves:

  • Sterile gauze
  • Antiseptic wipes or soap
  • Adhesive tape
  • Assorted adhesive bandages


Other things that you should consider having in your first aid kit include scissors, tweezers, safety pins, instant ice pack(s), a pair of disposable non-latex gloves, a flashlight with extra batteries, an emergency blanket, and a barrier device (pocket mask or face shield).

See Also

Duct tape

No list of survival backpack essentials is complete without duct tape or gaffer tape because the uses of duct tape are unlimited.


You can apply duct tape for medical care, sealing cracks, marking trails, and creating other tools from scratch. It’s also waterproof, allowing you to patch tears in rain gear or even make a drinking cup.


Gaffer tape or gaff is similar to duct tape, although it’s less water-resistant than duct tape. In addition, it’s heat-resistant and non-reflective. Gaffer tape is slightly better for blister or wound care as it doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue.

Wrap up

Whether you’re setting up camp or just going for a short walk in the woods, you never know what can happen. Now that you know the five survival backpack essentials, it’s time to pack your bag. Happy trails, and don’t forget your new pack at home.


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