If you are coming into the prepping game a little late, you might be feeling overwhelmed when considering the sheer amount of supplies that various experts on the internet, including yours truly, tell that you absolutely have to have if you’re going to survive a disaster.
While it is true that having the right gear, provisions and supplies will only improve your chances, you shouldn’t get too wrapped around the axle thinking about the giant shopping list and associated cost looming over you.
As it turns out, many useful survival items can be counted among the things you already own, including some innocuous items but you wouldn’t necessarily think of as survival supplies.
This can only be a good thing, first because it means you’re probably going to save some cash and time in acquiring your supplies, and second it turns out that you are actually more prepared than you might think… Once you have a little bit of knowledge to back it up!
On the list below you will find 15 survival items that you most likely already have.
These items are useful, adaptable, and readily available almost everywhere, so even if you don’t already have them, keep them in mind anyway the next time you go shopping or need to buy them for a specific purpose.
You’ll be ahead of the game knowing if they could be an ace in the hole during a survival situation.
Cyanoacrylate, or superglue, is well-known and fairly infamous as one of the fastest acting and highest strength adhesives that the average person will ever use.
Chances are, most of us have super-glued our fingers together at one point or super-glued them to the item we were trying to fix. We can look back on it and laugh now, but it probably wasn’t very funny at the time owing to the incredible bonding power of superglue.
All of the qualities that make superglue useful in day-to-day life make it useful in a survival situation, as it can affect rapid, sturdy repairs on all kinds of broken gear, from hard plastics and rubbers to wood and fabrics.
When you don’t have time to mess around with tinkering, super glue can probably provide the quick fix.
Beyond the uses provided on the label, however, you can also use superglue to rapidly and safely close small cuts and punctures. This should not be attempted on serious wounds, but when you need the leaking to stop right now and also protect the injury in one shot, super glue can do that for you.
Check out even more uses for superglue here.
Dental hygiene is important, and that means brushing and flossing is something you should do every day, including during a survival situation so long as you can spare the time and aren’t in an immediately life-threatening situation.
You never know how long it will be before life gets back to normal, and you don’t want to let yourself fall apart in the meantime. But aside from its intended use, floss has other qualities that endear it to preppers, qualities that you will soon become familiar with if you aren’t already.
As it turns out, the strength that makes floss appropriate for doing its job makes it good for lots of other cordage tasks, including tying knots, lashings, traps, and tripwires and other functions.
Floss is so cheap, so plentiful and so compact it has a place in virtually any survival kit. and I will bet money that the vast majority of people have a roll or two in their house right this second. Don’t forget about it when you need some fine, strong cordage to help you complete a task!
Check out even more uses for floss here.
Print newspapers might be going the way of the dodo, but their day isn’t up yet and many people still get the newspaper delivered, pick them up from newsstands or have a functional equivalent in the form of the dozens and dozens a pieces of junk mail that we receive every day in our actual mailboxes.
As it turns out you might want to keep some of these useless newspapers and similar papers around for a rainy day. You might need them!
Newspaper has many uses for the clever survivor, including as an insulating material for staying warm, fire-starting tinder, absorbent media for improvised toilets, toilet paper and even as a weapon!
Newspaper that is tightly rolled, carefully folded and taped in place can form an improvised truncheon called a “millwall brick”, a tool capable of inflicting serious, shocking injuries.
4. Buckets, 5 gal.
The humble 5-gallon paint bucket is almost a prepper’s best friend. You can use these sturdy, sealing buckets for everything from pest-proof food storage and water collection to indoor disposal of human waste in case your plumbing is out of whack or the public sewer system is damaged or otherwise rendered non-functional.
Obviously, it cannot do all of those things at once or in succession, but the good news is these things are so cheap and so plentiful there is no excuse for not having a handful on hand (along with their accompanying, gasketed lids) at all times.
Even if you have an old bucket kicking around that you have used several times for other projects it can still be useful in a survival context.
In a pinch, you can use it to easily carry and store more gear than you could otherwise, and even a dirty, paint slathered bucket is still entirely functional as an improvised indoor toilet.
You can also flip one of these over to make a fairly convenient stool if you pad the top; they are capable of supporting quite a bit of weight.
5. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly is a seemingly wondrous substance that has been around for well over a century now, and it has all kinds of uses around the house and for personal care.
Everybody knows that you can use petroleum jelly to soothe rashes, take care of cracked or irritated skin, as a lip balm and more, but did you know you can use it for various maintenance and repair tasks?
Petroleum jelly works great as a contact grease on your vehicle’s battery terminals, as a remover for sticky or tacky substances, as a temporary penetrating lubricant and even a masking fluid.
I don’t know one single house in America that doesn’t have a jar of Vaseline or other brand of petroleum jelly floating around, and the stuff is so cheap if you don’t have a jar there is no excuse for going without.
You might not have much need for it personally but you definitely shouldn’t underestimate what it can do for you in a survival situation.
Check out even more uses here.
6. Ziploc Freezer Bags
The large, one gallon-size freezer bags as popularized by Ziploc are incredibly useful in day-to-day life, and equally useful in a survival situation. These bags are excellent for preserving food, sorting items around your house or in your survival kit, waterproofing sensitive electronics or documents, and more.
Incredibly, these bags can even make excellent improvised can teens or water skins, making them ideal for transporting water when you lack some other suitable vessel. Even better, they take up a virtually no room when they aren’t being used.
But take a tip from me: you should absolutely invest in the Ziploc brand freezer bags, not any other knock-offs or store brands. I have used them all extensively over the years, and I can tell you with authority that the Ziploc brand is far stronger with a nearly impenetrable seal and that makes them especially well-suited the storage of food, and also for carrying water if it comes down to it.
Also, be sure you get the kind with the classic “clicky” zippers that actually seal, not those weird slider things. They will not work for our purposes.
7. Coffee Filters
Coffee filters are great when you want to make coffee, and you’ll definitely need them if you have to make “cowboy style” coffee in a pot of boiling water.
Coffee filters also work for filtering more than just coffee, and if the time ever comes that you need to take found water sources and make them safer to drink by boiling or some other method of disinfection, you can use a couple of coffee filters as a nifty pre-filter for the purpose.
All you need to do is affix the coffee filter to a jar or other container, and then slowly pour your water through it. The ultra-fine weave of the coffee filter will easily remove fine silt and sediment that some coarser improvised filters would miss.
Most Americans and indeed people all over the world drink coffee and so chances are you will already have a bundle of these in your home.
Check out 50 clever uses for coffee filters here.
8. Hatchet / Axe
These trusty chopping tools are favored by campers, lumberjacks and also homeowners who might have to take care of large trees that periodically drop limbs around their home.
The ax and its smaller cousin the hatchet are some of mankind’s most ancient and most used tools all over the world, at least anywhere that trees are common.
Chances are you have one or the other banging around in your garage or hanging out in a toolbox. This is a multi-purpose survival tool that can help you out and all kinds of situations.
Besides its obvious use for processing wood, hatchets and axes are also useful for extrication, light demolition and even self-defense.
Even woodcutting axes make ferocious self-defense weapons, and they don’t require much in the way of finesse. Even a glancing blow with an axe or hatchet means you have struck your assailant with several pounds of hardened tool steel.
A direct hit will inflict a grievous, gnarly wound. Even though that is a scary thing to think about, you will definitely be better off having an axe or hatchet around.
9. Plastic Sheeting
You know those big, wide rolls of plastic sheeting you can buy and put down to use as a drop cloth when you are painting your walls or ceilings? Those are pretty good to have when you’re in the middle of a survival situation as it turns out, especially one caused by a natural disaster.
Anytime you need to keep wind or rain or even just moisture out of a space, heavy plastic sheeting works wonders. You’ll probably have calls for keeping out both moisture and wind after a natural disaster because it is likely that your home is damaged.
Sure, you could give up all your other advantages and leave your home to find a place that is high and dry, but that might not be necessary at all if you have enough plastic sheeting and something to affix it with.
A little DIY repair might keep your home habitable and even reasonably comfortable under the circumstances.
Plastic sheeting is also great to have for various sanitation tasks, as a drop cloth and for fashioning improvised rain catching systems out of containers that might not be clean enough to use otherwise.
10. First-Aid Kit
Taking care of injuries is going to be a regular occurrence during a survival situation, and depending on how bad things get it might become altogether too-common a task.
A well-equipped prepper will have a comprehensive medical kit as well as the skills to use it, and should be able to treat all kinds of lesser injuries and illnesses as well as major traumatic injuries.
But, if you are just getting started with prepping that is probably a goal that is down the road somewhere unless you have a medical background already.
But have no fear because the lesser injuries and boo-boos that you are probably equipped to handle thanks to your basic home first-aid kit will still need treating. Even minor injuries can become life-threatening in survival situations because prompt and reliable institutionalized medical care will no longer be a certainty.
If you get a cut, scrape, burn or some other comparatively minor injury you should treat it with all the seriousness are they more significant one. A basic home first-aid kit that has band-aids, antiseptic, gauze, burn cream and various medicines can very likely handle injuries of that type.
11. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is an effective, thorough and convenient replacement for hand washing in any situation where soap and water is either not available or not practical. It is also highly portable, inexpensive and typically lasts pretty much forever.
Those are all great qualities, and doubly so when you consider them in the context of a post-disaster situation.
When water becomes a precious resource that can no longer be summoned instantly by the turn of a faucet handle you might want to conserve what water you have that you know is good for drinking.
This is where hand sanitizer is more than worth its weight because used properly you know it will get your hands clean and free of germs in almost all circumstances.
Chances are you have a few small bottles floating around either for daily carry or for use in your own bathroom, but I recommend you get an extra large refill container and put it aside for a rainy day, or using it to feed your smaller containers and that way you’ll at least have a sizable surplus when you need it.
Bleach is good for more than just whitening clothes and cleaning porcelain. Bleach has many useful attributes for the survivor, and perhaps none more useful than its ability to make questionable water safe to drink by killing the invisible but dangerous microbes that might be hidden within.
Bleach is also, as you know, a potent disinfectant that can help you keep yourself and your surroundings clean by sanitizing surfaces and preventing the spread of disease.
Chances are you have a jug of bleach sitting in your laundry room right this moment, but for our purposes it is crucial that your “survival-qualified” bleach be free of all perfumes, dyes and additives.
That means no scented bleach, no “splashless” bleach and nothing else fancy or in any way special. Regular, old, plain bleach is all that is required.
Note that while very little bleach is needed to treat even a gallon of water, bleach does go bad over time, losing potency, and especially after being exposed to oxygen.
So if you have a bottle of bleach that has been kicking around for a couple of years I wouldn’t trust it to sterilize your water. Check out even more uses for bleach here.
13. Water Bottle
There is nothing especially surprising or innovative about this option: You’ll need water to stay hydrated during a survival situation, and water is frankly a pain to carry without a specialized container.
The water bottle you use for bike rides, dog-walking and trips to the gym is more than adequate for keeping a supply handy, clean and ready to drink.
If your water bottle is old, busted or leaky consider replacing it with a newer, nicer and shatterproof version. My favorite is the ubiquitous Nalgene, but there are many others that work just as well. You might want to consider getting a steel water bottle that has no internal coatings as it can perform double duty as a vessel for boiling water or cooking in a pinch.
14. Duct Tape
Ah, duct tape. The one tool that all preppers love! This sturdy, sticky and incredibly versatile tape is useful in almost every situation known to man. If you need to fix something, attach something, build something, or secure something duct tape can contribute to the cause.
Duct tape can be used on conjunction with other survival items to create other jury-rigged tools or quick fixes that can improve your situation.
I say this truly and without my tongue in cheek: you always need a plentiful supply of duct tape in a survival situation, and you shouldn’t leave home without at least a small role.
You can use duct tape to fix plastic sheeting over a leaky roof, create a shelter, improvise a spear, patch your backpack, prevent blisters, remove splinters, waterproof containers and silence hostages. I’m just kidding about the last part. Maybe…
No matter who you are, where you live or what kind of situation you are anticipating duct tape deserves a place of honor in your survival stash. I especially like the extra-heavy duty variants of this venerable tape, particularly the Gorilla and T-Rex brands.
Check out dozens of uses for duct tape here.
Even if you are brand new to prepping you have probably heard the term bug-out bag or “BOB” bandied about. If you are unfamiliar, a bug-out bag is nothing more than a large pack that holds all the varieties of supplies, gear and other provisions that a person anticipates needing to survive while evacuating.
Bug-out bags are a highly personal topic, and everyone has their own approach and two-cents worth of advice concerning the selection and stocking of them. You might not have a properly developed a bug-out bag, but you might not need one straight away.
If you have a common backpack- one used for hiking, school, commuting or something else- it is easily repurposed to keep your most vital gear, supplies and personal effects like essential documents, cash and small valuables handy just in case you need to run out the door in a hurry.
You’ll definitely want to start working towards building a proper BOB, but for now a common backpack that can carry a little bit of weight will do.
Everybody started somewhere, and if you are just getting started in prepping the road ahead might seem long indeed when it comes to your acquisitions.
But your first steps might just take you down the hall to the closet because many useful survival items are probably already inside your home and their ubiquity does nothing to lessen their importance or performance when you need them.
Take the time to review this list, see what common items you already have and make sure they are fit for service should a disaster occur.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.