Seasoned preppers know that a big part of maintaining personal readiness is keeping a few choice gear selections handy pretty much round the clock. At home, at the office, or on the road, there are some things that are universally useful no matter what the situation might be.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, hauling a huge bug out bag or some other piece of luggage around with us as we move from place to place can attract attention, and not the kind of attention you want.
Staying low profile, beneath notice and “gray man” is a virtue. What is a prepper to do, then, about carrying all this gear?
It just so happened some of us, particularly the ladies, have an ace up our sleeve in this regard since we have cover for carrying a certain piece of luggage pretty much everywhere we go: their purse.
Purses are in many ways the ideal vessel for carrying a sensible array of survival gear, items that can afford you a lot of capability in a very small package.
The average purse has room to spare and then some, allowing female preppers the ability to painlessly haul what they need in a survival situation, along with all the cosmetics and other goodies they need to get through their day around town. In this article, we will share with you 12 critical survival items that are perfect for in-purse carry.
Purses are Handy, Sleeper Survival Bags
It is difficult to overstate just how useful a person can be when it comes to carrying EDC survival gear.
Think about it – the average purse:
- can go anywhere without attracting undue attention
- has built-in organization
- is generally more accessible than carrying an assortment of small items in your pockets,
- and can provide that storage when your clothing cannot, or will not provide adequate concealment. Let me tell you, men should be downright envious!
Obviously, not every purse will qualify in this regard, as teeny, tiny ultra-fashionable purses will carry some sunglasses, and perhaps a tube of lipstick and little else, and certain purses are just too peculiarly shaped or arranged to make carry of life-saving essentials viable.
But these purses are comparatively rare even for the most fashion-forward woman.
But what you should not do is take your survival gear, things that might very literally spell the difference between life and death in a crisis, and dump them into your purse where they will roll around in a giant mixture with all the other dozens and dozens of things you have stored inside it.
If you are going to use your purse as a legitimate part of your EDC system, you will want to take pains to optimize it for the purpose. In the next section, I’ll provide you with a little guidance so you can do exactly that and then we will get into our list.
Clean it Out, Keep it Organized, Keep it Safe
There are only three simple guidelines you must remember if you want to employ your purse as your go-to EDC bag for survival gear. You need to clean it out, keep it organized and keep it safe.
Clean It Out: I’m not a woman, and I don’t even play one on TV, but approximately 9 out of 10 women that I have ever known in my life have purses that are chock-full of an incredible amount of stuff.
Rolls of loose change, tumbleweeds of receipts, seemingly empty tubes of lip gloss or balm that have the most passing fraction of product left in them. All kinds of… Stuff!
The average purse looks more like a magpie’s hidey-hole than a helpful bag. If you want to make use of survival gear stored in your bag, you must be able to find it in a timely fashion.
You can’t do that when there’s a mountain of crap in it. Time to dump the purse, do an inventory, and ruthlessly delete anything that does not deserve to be there.
Keep It Organized: As mentioned above, it is far from inconceivable that you’ll need to access your survival gear at a moment’s notice.
This means you need to know exactly where it’s at and exactly how to retrieve it from the purse without fumbling, flipping, fussing and cussing to do it.
Remember the craftsman’s maxim of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” You should have dedicated spaces, pouches, or holders for the tools you need most or most urgently.
Emergency or defensive tools should get priority, and things that you are less likely to need or will need with less urgency can be placed somewhere out of the way if needed.
Keep It Safe: One factor that is sometimes easy to forget is the fact that the purse is going to be a liability if you are attacked. In fact, it is usually the reason for the attack, since that is where a mugger or thief can depend on a woman keeping her valuables.
This will create a delicate balancing act if you decide to keep your survival gear in your purse, because it would not do to be stripped of your purse, meaning you’re going to lose all your valuables and all your survival gear in one fell swoop.
Always make sure you keep your head on a swivel, and act to carry your purse correctly and defensively when required.
If you keep these three simple procedures in mind, your purse will serve as an invaluable part of your EDC complement. That’s all there is to say on that, time to get on to our list of gear!
12 Survival Essentials to Keep in Your Purse
It is hard to imagine modern life without some sort of cell phone, and despite whatever cultural decay our utter reliance on these things might suggest, practically there is no denying just how useful modern phones can be.
Jam-packed with all sorts of technology that would have been nothing short of miraculous just a couple of decades ago, your phone is an invaluable communications device, navigation set and database.
There have been more than a few people rescued based on the presence of their phone alone, so long as it was powered.
Law enforcement agencies and rescuers alike are able to home in on the various signals emitted by a smartphone so long as it is functioning, and even if they cannot it will furnish you the ability to make calls, send texts, or potentially even email when you desperately need to establish communications with someone.
Just because you cannot always count on having a signal everywhere does not mean you should forgo the capability granted by these incredible devices.
You probably don’t need me to remind you, but keep it handy, and keep it fully charged!
As good as modern cell phones are, the goodness only lasts while the power does, and you can generally depend on not having any access to a convenient source of electricity during a crisis.
Even if you did, you might not have the time to stay tied down while your phone “gases up”. You can skip that hassle, and furnish yourself a little piece of mind easily enough by carrying a backup battery with your phone.
These nifty power sources are rarely bigger than the phones themselves, and allow you to painlessly connect to a mobile power source that can ride right next to the phone in your purse.
For recharging a nearly dead battery or simply keeping the phone topped off while you are on the go, these things are the best.
The average unit can provide one full recharge or up to two and a half recharges when it is fully powered. If you are willing to sacrifice a little more weight and space larger versions can easily double that number.
Don’t forget to keep your backup battery charged so it is there when you need it!
Out of all the survival tools that you can carry, there is probably none more universally helpful in a crisis than a good, reliable flashlight.
Think about it: too much of the time bad things will happen in periods of low light or power will be lost as a direct consequence of the event. That means that building interiors and nightfall will take on especially new, challenging, and scary significance!
Humans are so dependent upon our eyesight to navigate the world and meaningfully interact with it that we are essentially helpless when deprived of it.
To make sure you still get a vote on whether or not you’ll be able to rely on your eyes you’ll have to provide your own lighting on demand, and that is where a flashlight makes all the difference. For mundane tasks, general emergencies, or self-defense in low light you cannot beat a high-output flashlight.
More than most other tools you’ll carry your flashlight deserves priority of place inside your purse, and make sure you can access it and draw it painlessly with either hand.
If you have been on the prepping scene for any length of time, you have probably noticed a disproportionate amount of effort placed on defending against direct threats of violence, and one form or another.
Part of this attitude stems directly from fear, the notion that other people could violate our bodies or our sanctuaries against our will.
The other part is that these skills are emphasized because they are cool, interesting and badass to develop, in stark contrast to more boring but definitely more useful skills like first-aid.
No matter who you are, where you live, what you are doing, or what sort of event befalls you there will always, always be more prepared for fixing holes in people than making holes in people, including holes that are likely to appear in you!
You’ll need the skills, and the equipment, to conduct repairs on “biologicals”, and that means you’ll need a first aid kit.
A small but properly stocked first-aid kit can easily fit into a purse and can handle everything from routine boo-boos like cuts and scrapes to more significant wounds and trauma.
All of this should be kept in a small, organized pouch, not separately, so it can all be produced at once when needed.
Remember, this is one item that will do next to no good if you are untrained in medical intervention, unless you are blessed enough to have a trained Good Samaritan or first responder find you in your time of uttermost need!
You should never leave home without a large bandana in your purse. I know, I know; maybe you don’t think they are cute, or wouldn’t be caught wearing one for any purpose, but you aren’t carrying it as a fashion accessory, you are carrying it as a prep!
A bandana, nothing more than a sturdy piece of cloth, has innumerable uses in a survival situation, not the least of which it can serve as an improvised bandage, a bindle, a headband, a signaling device, a mask, and even pressed into service as a weapon if you load it with a small, dense object.
Not for nothing, your bandana will also be there, standing by, to help you clean your hands, clean up spills or just wipe your face off after a particularly gruesome sneeze.
Believe me; you’ll never be sorry you have it. You should make it a point to keep a bandana or two in your purse at all times and religiously rotate and wash them after use so that they stay fresh.
In the grand pantheon of technologies that mankind has mastered, fire is one of the oldest and also notable for being the most capricious of our servants. A fire can keep you warm and cook your dinner or very literally burn a city down along with everybody and everything in it.
Simultaneously blessing and curse, no survivor should go afield without the ability to produce it on demand. Flints, ferro rods, and other esoteric methods of fire starting are excellent and work great with a little practice, but you may fire going right this very second nothing beats a modern lighter for the purpose.
Consider that you might need to start a fire to stave off exposure, dry out your clothing, create a torch, a signal for rescuers, boil water, cook food and so much more, and you can begin to see just how precious lighters really are.
You don’t need to go crazy with selection, as a couple of modern Bic lighters are all that is required to cover your bases. Unless you are going to the most hostile environments on earth you can depend on them working.
Do keep in mind that even a fully functional lighter will lose fuel over time to evaporation, so replace them periodically. They are so cheap it is painless.
Life is messy, and survival situations are even messier. It stands to reason that you’ll want to keep your hands clean not just for matters of decorum and peace of mind before very real concerns about safety.
Biohazards abound in everything from contaminated bodies of water to human blood, oozing out of the victim of an unfortunate mishap.
You can take your chances and go in bare-handed, or be smart and protect your hands to dramatically lower the chances of spreading any contagions to you or others.
No need to overcomplicate this: You should keep at least a couple of pairs of disposable gloves in your purse, of any material that works for you.
Some people like traditional latex, others like rubber and most choose trusty, steadfast nitrile. Spend a few extra cents and get ones that are properly sized, powdered for easy donning, and heavy-duty to help resist punctures and damage.
Whatever kind of nastiness you are facing out in the world, you’ll be better prepared to deal with it with a few pairs of disposable gloves.
Don’t trust your mind to remember critical information in high-stress, time-is-life situations. Whatever it is, whatever you think it might be, write it down! No exceptions!
Crucial notes in a crisis might be personal information or known drug allergies of a victim, or even yourself, a description and license plate of a suspicious vehicle or suspected attacker, rendezvous information, anything. Compared to electronic methods, the speed and certainty of using an old-fashioned pen and pad are hard to beat.
If you want to take a tip for me, spend just an extra couple of bucks on your notebook and get one of the all-weather, heavy-duty types. It doesn’t have to be anything large, fancy or intricate.
But, not for nothing, “purse duty” is hard on equipment and regular, bargain-bin notepads will easily get ground into a pulp, lose their covers, dissolve, or otherwise fail you when they are riding around unused in your purse. Better to spend a couple of extra bucks now for cheap insurance later.
Also, don’t forget to add a good pen, too!
Ounce per ounce one of the single, best defensive tools you can carry is pepper spray. Pepper spray can go virtually anywhere, and affords you a highly effective defensive option with a little bit of reach.
Naysayers and idiots sometimes scoff at the notion of using pepper spray simply because it is not a gun, or because pepper spray (just like any other defensive implement) may not stop a threat with total certainty.
These people are fools and generally not worth listening to, and even if you do carry a gun you should still make room for pepper spray.
Why? First, pepper spray is one of the only intermediate force options available to civilians that is actually worth carrying. If you don’t want to solve a problem with hand-to-hand combat, but the problem doesn’t warrant shooting, pepper spray is likely the best choice.
Even better, long exposure on TV and advertising has thoroughly inoculated the public to the idea of pepper spray being the “family-friendly” weapon system, one that causes intense pain, but no real harm. This will only help you in court, something that will invariably happen in the aftermath of a self-defense situation.
Pepper spray is another item that must have priority of place in your purse, with its own dedicated compartment that is easy to access in a flash.
You might be scratching your head at my suggestion that you carry a compass in your purse, especially after I just got done touting all the advantages of the modern cell phone with its intricate navigational suite.
Though modern phones are highly capable GPS systems and you might not but rarely travel any farther than your hometown, you should still include a tiny button compass among your purse’s survival gear.
My reasoning is that there are all kinds of disasters, man-made and natural, that can so disrupt the landscape you might not recognize where you are. Even if you happen upon or carry with you a map, you might not be able to orient yourself without a compass.
You need not carry anything large, heavy, or intricate for our purposes as basic direction finding is often enough to get you out of a jam.
Suunto makes the excellent “Clipper” compass that will attach to a strap in an out of the way place, perfect for our purposes and one that deserves a home in your purse.
Save the moaning and groaning, and I won’t hit you with any lame duct tape jokes. Whatever you might think about the silver stuff, duct tape really is a rockstar survival item when you are in a bind.
There is hardly anything that duct tape cannot be used to repair, improvise, jerry rig, or finagle. This means that no survival kit is complete without it.
The smart way to carry duct tape in your purse while minimizing footprint is to literally roll your own holder.
You can use the cut down barrel of a pen, a small diameter wooden dowel, or even a hank of tough cord-like paracord that you then carefully, neatly roll a 3 ft. length of duct tape around.
The result will be a tiny bundle that will, nonetheless, provide enough tape to help you do what you need to do- unless you are trying to make a duct tape canoe!
Second only to fire, the knife is mankind’s oldest developed and mastered tool, and we rely on it constantly even to this very day.
For that reason, a knife is, quite literally, an essential survival tool and one that no self-respecting survival kit is complete without. You might be thinking you don’t have cause to carry a knife, but you are wrong.
Your EDC knife will naturally be employed for all sorts of mundane chores, like slicing tape, opening mail and things of that nature but it could also be called upon to help extract a crash victim from a quickly burning automobile when they have a stuck seat belt, or even used to fend off a larger and more powerful attacker.
There is no telling what you’ll need your knife for, but when you do need it, it has to be handy and sharp.
You don’t need to carry a large and brutish tactical folding knife if you don’t want to; knife selection is always a highly personal endeavor, and all that matters is that you have confidence using it, it is easy to open or draw, and it stays secure in the hand.
Your purse does not need to remain a humble carrier for womanly essentials. Your purse can easily serve as a convenient, quick, and discreet container for a variety of survival implements.
By paying a little attention to keeping the purse tidy, properly organizing your selections, and then keeping it safe from snatching or direct attack your purse can be an ideal way of carrying your survival gear!
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.
8 thoughts on “12 Survival Essentials to Keep in Your Purse”
I have had a plethora of the “bottomless” purses in every shape and size imaginable, carting around my survival kit, but never being able to find what I’d need without the usual rummaging around. So I tried putting things in pouches, which did help. But, I finally found the answer to the cursed purse: the messenger bag. It’s very roomy and has loads of pockets for organizing. Mine has a padded side for a tablet or laptop. But that’s where my battery charger, flashlight, first aid kit, etc., goes. Everything finally has a place where it can be quickly accessed. Hallelujah!
Good article! So easy to carry these things, I always have a small roll of duct tape or two in my purse; instead of rolling your own, there are 2″ x 50 inch rolls available to purchase. A small pocket knife is SO useful, and for me, pepper spray is a must and a lighter a no-brainer.
I am an R.N. with 34 years experience. The usual purse-sized first aid kit has 8 band-aids, 2 hand wipes & 2 gauze pads. That wouldn’t be good for much more than a kid’s “boo-boo”. For a purse kit, I would advise making your own or adding to the commercial one. Include 4 chewable benadryl and a few ibuprofen and Tylenol/acetaminophen along with the band-aids. I have liquid hand sanitizer as a replacement for the hand wipes, and at least one extra-large band-aid.
I’m not a fan of the pre-packed first aid/field trauma kits . I suppose they’re okay for the knowledge the general population has and would be adequate in a situation that involved one or two mild to moderate injuries, but they’re also filled with a lot of junk. As a bare minimum, I suggest these additions:
1. Gloves. Many pairs of nitrile gloves. Most kits have one or two pairs of vinyl gloves..
2. Epipens, or injectable epinephrine. I know it needs a prescription, but we are resourceful people.
2. Benadryl/diphenhydramine. Liquid is good but bulky; chewable is compact to carry. Injectable is great to have on hand, but one would need the know the how-to’s, why’s, and have the syringes available.
3. Less band-aids and “sting relief pads”and more combine pads and wound closure strips.
4. More 4 x 4 dressings, more than one ace bandage in more than one size.
If you know an EMT or paramedic with field experience consult them before making your kit. Their advice is valuable!
3 more things
1) a few days supply of medication
2) personal med list ( I carry my husband to )
3)address book (they made nice small ones)
No one remembers phone numbers or addresses anymore and your phone may be completely out of service or not work
I always carry several 3″x5″ cards with me. One has emergency contact info for everyone we would want to contact if we ever had to evacuate along with emergency numbers for fire, police, phone, electric & gas companies. Another has all my medical info on it: my doctor’s phone # & address, my allergies, my blood type and all medications & supplements I’m taking along with their dosages & the reason I’m taking them, along with the emergency contact info for my husband & family. I carry a mother card that has the same info on my husband. If we’re ever in an accident together and both unconscious, this should give the EMT’S or emergency room people a place to start. It’s also extremely handy for routine doctor’s visits; they always ask what meds you’re taking and the dosages (and I can never remember the dosages).
I consider these cards essentials for everyday carry.
You can also carry the 30 gal trash bags to make a tent and clothesline rope.
Criticism that women can never find what they’re looking for in their purses is unfair as most purses are just a big bag where everything falls to the bottom. Being dark, you also can’t see what’s in there.
I found the perfect answer in this “purse organizer”: “Vercord Updated Purse Handbag Organizer Insert Liner Bag in Bag 13 Pockets” which you can find for around $17 on Amazon.com.
Makes finding things a snap, and you can haul the whole thing out of your purse if you want to use a different one (purse, that us) or if you want to look at things in a better light.
I can locate my pepper spray in a flat second — although it’s almost always in my hand when I’m in situations where it might be needed.
Another tip: clip a flashlight to one of the outside zippers of your purse, where you can find it by touch if needed — NOT the inside of your purse, where it will get lost in the detritus. I swear by this type: “Photon Tactical X-Light Micro Flashlights” for around $10. It’s around the size (actually less) than your first thumb joint, and comes with a clip I use to attach it to an outside zipper pull. I found if you can’t find a flashlight by touch, you’re SOL.
I also found this first aid kit to be small enough to fit in my purse, but with enough items to be useful: “Coghlan’s Pack First Aid Kit” (Type II) for around $8; I added benadryl, cord (for a tourniquet) Quick-clot bandages, antibiotic cream, and ibuprofen (there’s enough extra room to tuck these in). As with all first aid kits, inventory all items with expiration dates, so you know when to replace them.
EXCELLENT additional recommendations!
This is a great article!
Don’t forget alcohol based disinfect, and clean cloths, or paper towels folded small,, at very least tissue. AND INSECT REPELLENT! Put things in ziplock freezer bags. Suck the air out, and you save a lot of space! I would also add some dry socks. I second the recommendation to insert a organizer, you can easily make your own which is personalized for your organizational style. I also made a bottom compartment with pockets for things I don’t need to be immediately accessible, just used Velcro to keep it closed. Ladies, I know it is sometimes impractical, and tacky depending on the situation, to carry a large messenger type bag, though some are quite lovely. There are a lot of smaller purses, from casual to formal, which can carry an unbelievable amount of essentials. Regardless of size, when shopping for purses of any size or occasion, look for ones that are water resistant/repellent, have secure straps which are securely sewn on, none of those chain straps, or clip on straps, ideally the straps should be adjustable, so you can always wear them crossbody. The crime rate in the US has rose to unprecedented numbers, we have to stay prepared always.