35 Pocket Sized Survival Items to Always Carry

Prepping is about a whole lot more than just having the right gear and tools, but if we’re being honest, having the right equipment really helps. And don’t think you have to lug around a bulky bug-out bag to be prepared, either.

pocket sized survival items collage

Lots of essential preps and life-saving equipment are compact enough to fit in your pocket, and you can carry several of them with you wherever you go at any time. Either that, or you can assemble a truly comprehensive and compact survival kit.

Below are 35 pocket-sized survival items to keep handy at all times…

1. Flashlight

One of the most indispensable survival tools around. All kinds of bad things happen in the dark, from accidents and mugger attacks to just getting lost in the woods.

flashlight with paracord wrapped around it
flashlight with paracord wrapped around it

Being able to light up the night on demand is a priceless capability, and that’s why you need a survival flashlight. Pocket-sized ones are smaller, brighter and tougher than ever before.

2. Pepper Spray

Out of all the defensive tools that you might carry, pepper spray is one of the very best.

Used right, it can stop a fight before it starts and pepper spray is usually considered a level of force that is far more civil and responsible than a knife or a gun. Pepper spray should be your constant companion wherever you live.

a fixed-blade EDC knife
a fixed-blade EDC knife

3. Knife

Every prepper understands the value of a good edc knife. Whether you like a small fixed blade or a convenient folder, everybody should have a knife on them at all times.

It’ll be used for a hundred utility chores, can help you accomplish essential survival tasks, and in a pinch, it is a brutal and effective close-quarters weapon. Keep it on you and keep it sharp.

4. Multi-tool

Having a bunch of tools for every conceivable situation is a great thing, but the problem is that tools take up a ton of room and they weigh a ton.

four open multi-tools
multi-tools with a variety of knives, screws, pliers, spoons, and mini-screwdrivers

No one wants to carry a tool chest around with them, but the next best thing is a sturdy multi-tool.

With a few select options to take care of the most common problems, you’ll be able to improvise just about anything.

5. First-Aid Kit

The ability to patch up holes is much more important than the ability to make holes for preppers. Holes in people, I mean!

A highly capable, compact first-aid kit can take care of burns, lacerations, penetrating injuries and more, hopefully stabilizing the victim until they can reach higher-level care.

Bic lighter
a Bic lighter

6. Lighter

The ability to make fire is an ability mankind has enjoyed for ages, and it remains just as important today as in centuries past.

You be foolish not to take advantage of the convenience and certainty a survival lighter can offer you. Keep one in your pocket or in your bag wherever you go.

7. Tinder

The ability to create a fire is one thing, but building one is something else entirely. To get a fire going good and hot, and also sustainably, you’ll have to build it in stages and to really get it going you’ll need tinder.

Tinder comes in many forms, but all of it is small and light, meaning you can keep some with you.

8. Ferro Rod

Lighters can break, fail or get lost, but starting a fire using primitive friction methods and other techniques is a skill that can take years to master.

Uberleben Zunden Ferro Rod
Uberleben Zunden Ferro Rod

Or, you can split the difference between the two techniques with a ferro rod. A quick swipe of a steel knife will produce a roaring fountain of sparks.

9. Mini-Compass

Do you know where you’re going? I mean really? You might not, and if you’re in an unfamiliar area, an area that looks radically different because of a disaster or you are lost in the wilderness knowing which way you are heading can and will save your life.

10. Cell Phone

That one facet of modern life that seemingly no one could live without. And you shouldn’t shun your modern smartphone in lieu of other survival skills: they are packed with potentially life-saving capabilities, way too much to get into here. Keep your cell phone on you and keep it charged, no exceptions!

11. Notebook

All the digital tools like the smartphone above are wonderful, and some of them border on miraculous, but nothing beats analog capability when the chips are down.

From jotting down essential information or making a hasty sketch of an evacuation route, nothing beats a notebook and a pen or pencil.

bandana and small edc flashlight
bandana and small edc flashlight

12. Bandana

A bandana is far more than a stylish accessory. You can use your bandana in many ways, such as an impromptu bandage, bindle, head covering, and a whole lot more.

It is my favorite multipurpose survival implement, and I carry one everywhere.

13. Cash

Money makes the world turn, and it will keep it turning even in the aftermath of a massive disaster.

If you need to buy mission-critical supplies or earn access to capability, or maybe just put someone up to a desperately needed favor, cash speaks.

14. Lanyard

If you don’t want to lose something in the middle of a chaotic situation, it had better be tied to you, literally.

A retractable lanyard or a common nylon strap can help you hang on to essentials that you can’t afford to lose.

15. Paracord

Every prepper’s second best friend is paracord. It’s fantastically strong, compact and lightweight cordage has countless survival uses, and combined with a working knowledge of knots there’s almost nothing you can’t get done with it.

A paracord bracelet or keychain fob is perfect for packing it everywhere you go.

16. Whistle

Sometimes you need to get attention, either drawing it to yourself for your own sake or letting people know that there is danger in the area.

The shrill blast of a survival whistle is ear-splitting and can be heard from miles, or heard over the din and commotion of an emergent situation.

five rolls of colored duct tape: gray, brown, green, black, red
five rolls of colored duct tape: gray, brown, green, black, red

17. Duct Tape

Duct tape is one of those things that you truly cannot afford to be without…

If it moves and it shouldn’t, duct tape it. If it has a hole in it, duct tape it. If it is leaking, duct tape. If you need to improvise, duct tape. It’s a meme, for sure, but one that is true!

A tiny roll of this stuff can do it all and then some.

18. Water Filter

In a survival situation, water might be all around you but hardly any of it is fit to drink as it is.

Lifestraw water filter
the Lifestraw personal water filter

It will be full of germs, chemical contamination and solid matter that can make you dreadfully sick. A pocket-sized water filter can turn even the nastiest water safe.

19. Snap-Light

Snap-lights, also known as chem lights or glow sticks, are excellent secondary illumination, marking and signaling tools that produce almost no heat and are absolutely safe to use in all circumstances.

They also don’t have any batteries to worry about while in storage, and I love keeping a few of these things on me just in case.

20. Fishing Kit

If you’re trapped in the wilderness, fishing for your dinner is a lot easier and often more sure than trying to hunt it on land.

A tiny fishing kit consisting of hooks, lures, sinkers, line and more can fit in an Altoids tin.

sewing kit inside an Altoids tin
sewing kit inside an Altoids tin

21. Sewing Kit

Taking care of your gear, and especially your clothing, is paramount in a survival situation but survival is going to be very hard on all of it.

A little bit of know-how combined with a smartly equipped tiny sewing kit can hold your clothes together until you can get out of whatever mess you are in.

22. Fresnel Lens

A Fresnel lens is a specialty magnifying glass that is designed for fire starting. All you need to do is hold it in the right orientation facing the sun and at the right height over your tinder or kindling to concentrate light and start a fire in a flash.

About the size of a credit card, there’s no excuse to not have one.

green and brown face paint with signaling mirr
green and brown face paint with signaling mirror

23. Signal Mirror

A signal mirror has many uses in a variety of survival situations. It can signal to rescuers on the ground or in the air over a vast distance, signal to distant members of your party, be used to cautiously peer around a blind corner, or just used as a mirror for shaving and other mundane tasks.

24. Can Opener

Don’t forget your can opener! You’ve probably got plenty of canned food yourself stashed at home, and in urban or suburban survival situations it will be all around you.

But you don’t want to have to improvise some silly way to break into it. A simple, military-style folding can opener or one built into a Swiss army knife or multi-tool will make your life a lot easier.

25. Energy Bar

Let’s face it, you’ll need food in a survival situation, and you’ll need it for simple energy way before you are in any danger of starving.

Both your body and your mind need lots of energy to see you through whatever kind of trouble you are in, and you shouldn’t wait until you’re on fumes to “gas up”.

Energy bars, granola, and other shelf-stable, portable, energy dense foods are perfect for our purposes.

26. Door Stop

A doorstop might at first seem like a curious inclusion in a survival kit, but they serve a vital and practical, if utilitarian, purpose.

You can use a door stop to hold a door closed or open in a number of situations. Keeping a shooter out by blocking a door is a good one, as is propping open a door to help prompt evacuees.

27. Mouse Trap

Another strange inclusion according to the reckoning of most people, mouse traps are money makers in all sorts of survival scenarios.

For one thing, mice are all over the place and easy to catch with a mouse trap, meaning you can come up with supplemental food in a hurry.

Second, mouse traps are easy to jury rig into proximity alarms and even remote signals with a little bit of know-how. I always keep a few in my survival kit.

lockpicking set
lockpicking set

28. Lock Picks

Don’t raise an eye at lock picks. We aren’t being bad guys breaking into things, but in a real-deal survival situation when the chips are down, you might have to quietly and cautiously defeat all sorts of locks if you’re going to survive.

It’s best if you know how to do that and have the tools to accomplish it close at hand. Or, you never know, you might need to let yourself into your own home after locking your keys inside.

29. Snare Wire

Snare wire is another specialist inclusion in any good survival kit. It can be used for its intended purpose, catching small animals, or rigged up into all sorts of delicate contractions like the aforementioned proximity alarm noise makers.

You can also use it as a fine but strong lanyard for gear that you don’t want to lose.

tactical pen inside green front shirt pocket
tactical pen inside green front shirt pocket

30. Tactical Pen

Tactical pens aren’t just gimmicks. Aside from having a writing implement, a tactical pen can be used as a surprisingly effective close-quarters self-defense tool, especially if you have some skill already with martial arts striking.

Even better, it is a weapon that can go absolutely, positively anywhere with its low-profile design.

31. Power Bank

All of our lives seem to be filled up by electronic gadgets. Our phones are number one, of course, but there’s plenty of other technology besides like flashlights and a whole lot more.

When the power is out and you are on the move or far away from your generator, a compact power bank with the appropriate charging cable can let you gas up your gadgets and get back to work.

32. Solar Charger

Similar to the power bank above in purpose, but fulfilling it in an entirely different way, a modern ultralight and ultra-compact solar charger can allow you to harness the limitless energy of sun to power your devices.

Perfect for use in the wilderness or anywhere you might be staying for a time, all you have to do is send it out and point it directly at the sun with your devices connected.

One good day of strong sunshine is more than enough to charge most common devices, and you can even use it to refuel your power bank making you completely off-grid capable for as long as you can be above ground during the day.

33. GPS

Having a map and a compass is all fine and good, but being able to know precisely where you are, where you are going and how best to get there is utterly invaluable in so many survival situations.

compass app on a Garmin GPS device

Modern day GPS receivers are themselves far more durable and reliable than most people think, and even the intricate systems that serve them have far more redundancy than is popularly claimed.

The bottom line is that you’ll likely be able to depend upon your GPS if the receiver is not destroyed and you aren’t dealing with a genuine end of the world scenario. Get one, know how to use it and keep it charged.

34. Flash Drive

Don’t count on the Apocalypse. I’m not saying don’t plan on catastrophes happening, and don’t bother to be prepared for them.

I’m saying don’t count on society as you know it ending: it will probably recover and go on, and when it does you’ll need lots of documents and other important files to prove that you are who you say you are and own what you say you own.

A tiny, encrypted flash drive can hold absolutely everything that you need and go with you anywhere.

35. Deck of Cards

A deck of cards might seem like the most worthless thing on a list of survival equipment, but I’d argue against that assertion. Sometimes, survival just means tedious waiting. Waiting and wondering and fearing.

Impatience and anxiety can fray the nerves of anyone, and sometimes a game of cards, a few tricks or other silly things that you can do with cards might be just the thing to settle nerves, fortify bonds, and raise spirits, all important considerations for any survival situation. It won’t weigh much, so take a pack with you just in case.

pocket sized survival items pinterest

9 thoughts on “35 Pocket Sized Survival Items to Always Carry”

  1. Tom thank you for sharing your comprehensive list of survival items. Several I never even thought about. ?nick

  2. Such a practical list of items. Thank you for writing this helpful article.

    I always learn from you!

  3. Richard Redano

    The Life Straw water filter pictured above will filter out biological contaminants, but will NOT filter chemical contaminants.

  4. Thanks a lot for this simple and yet complete list of mostly unexpensive items that can make all the difference. i am grateful.

  5. Good stuff to have, yes, but to fit it all in our pockets? Even my wife’s cavernous pocketbook is going to strain at the seam! 😉

  6. Help others while you help yourself. I always carry a tourniquet and a CPR shield w/one-way valve…and get trained!

  7. possibly I would add some heavy duty garbage bags. the type you use for construction clean up. an 8X10 heavy duty plastic drop cloth and the largest cloth grocery bag you can get. (when you find something useful to keep. some construction gloves to keep your hands safe. any injury cuts your chances of getting home. As always you write a good article. Thanks—– I, Grampa

  8. One more key item – WD-40. Either one of the small cans in a bug-out kit, or there are even pen-sized versions.
    “If it shouldn’t move and it does, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move but it should, use WD-40” solves a WHOLE lot of mechanical problems, at least in the short term/good enough to get back to civilization.

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