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Survival Gear

Types of Survival Gear

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Emergency Shelters

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Fire Starters

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Survival Kits

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Whistles and Horns

Top Picks

How we choose: The best survival gear highlighted here were selected based on 195 reviews of 95 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a survival gear that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Top Emergency Shelter

UST Survival Blanket 2.0

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

This emergency blanket/tarp is the best bang for your buck, hands down. Tough and durable at a price that anyone can afford.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable material
  • Mylar side is fireproof
  • Grommeted for use as a tarp
  • Blaze orange for high visibility
  • Mylar side is fireproof
  • Extremely economical

Reasons to Avoid

  • Bulky
  • Noisy

The UST Survival Blanket is one piece of equipment that is a must have for anyone. I have purchased several of these to keep in the emergency kits in our vehicles, a BOB at home, and I have two of them in my pack when I am out in the woods. I am not a typical backpacker, making long treks cross country. I typically go in and set up a base camp and then spend the next few days hunting and fishing for my food. These UST blankets have been a part of my gear for a couple of years now. First of all, the price is unmatched.

Read more: UST Survival Blanket 2.0 reviews (3)

Yaktrax Hand Warmers

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Small enough to tuck away in your pack relatively unnoticed, but oh so nice to have when you need them. These rapid oxidation warmers can be used as labeled to warm your hands or just about any other parts you want to warm up. Pack them as survival gear if you want, but I carry them to be used for the happiness a little warmth can bring on winter trips.

Reasons to Buy

  • Warm, but not too warm
  • Long lasting
  • Pack small
  • Individually packaged

Reasons to Avoid

  • Adds weight to the pack

Yaktrax is well known for their traction devices, so when I came across their hand warmers at my local Renys (A Maine adventure!) last fall I grabbed a stack for the coming cold weather camping season. Little did I know at the time, but there wouldn't be much winter camping this year due to lack of winter weather. That made me appreciate these warmers all the more on a couple of trips since I didn't have enough time in the cold to acclimate much. Ease of Use: The warmers are very simple to use, which is important if you are in an actual survival situation and pretty nice even when you aren't.

Read more: Yaktrax Hand Warmers review (1)

Top Fire Starter

UCO Stormproof Matches

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

The UCO Stormproof Matches are great for all types of weather. No matter the conditions, you can count on getting a fire started with these matches.

Reasons to Buy

  • Flames lasts a long time.
  • Product lives up to claims of being stormproof.
  • Comes with extra striking surfaces.
  • Waterproof container.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Striking surface does not appear to be stormproof

These matches are amazing. They are definitely stormproof. I’ve taken these matches with me in all seasons in all sorts of weather conditions. They haven’t failed me once. I live in Washington where it’s wet and cold seven months out of the year. I’ve started a fire with these in the rain and snow as well as in the humid summer air. These matches have a long burn time too, so if something doesn’t catch right away, that’s okay! You have some time to adjust some things before the match burns up.

Read more: UCO Stormproof Matches reviews (2)

Emergency Shelter

SOL Thermal Bivvy

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5 reviews)

Turns a light summer bag into an impromptu "colder weather" bag. Very compact, lightweight, and easy to use. Durable, and it's NOT a mummy style for us larger guys/gals.

Reasons to Buy

  • Seemingly very durable
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Will fit over most full size bags
  • Water/weather resistant
  • Opens at feet for ventilation

Reasons to Avoid

  • Velcro tabs could be sturdier/closer together
  • Used as a stand-alone, condensation can be a factor

On a recent summer outing with my son, I made an egregious rookie mistake when packing and did not account for a "cold snap" that was moving through the area. While low temps had been in the low/mid 60's F for awhile, on our trip they dipped down into the high 30's and low 40's for several nights. I had only brought my Coleman light summer bag (generously rated at 50 degrees), no jacket, and no other blankets. Mistake...huge mistake. After getting virtually no sleep the first night (low 40's), grumpy and cold I remembered that I had an SOL Thermal Bivvy in my trunk (bought in 2016) for emergencies and my demeanor improved greatly.

Read more: SOL Thermal Bivvy reviews (5)

Fire Starter

UCO Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

An interesting eco-friendly product that is excellent for lazy lighting of campfires and wood stoves in good conditions. It is extremely easy to use and burns longer than most fire starters, but does not perform as well as alternative fire starters in adverse weather. It would not be my go-to fire starter if I anticipated adverse conditions such as wind and rain, but will likely be in my pack for those weekend trips where the weather is more predictable and I want to get a fire going with the minimum fuss and maintenance.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy start for a fire or wood stove (good weather)
  • Long burn time (over 7 minutes)
  • Burns when wet and in rain/snow
  • Environmentally sustainable product

Reasons to Avoid

  • Strike light is not waterproof
  • Needs shelter in high winds
  • Not strike-anywhere
  • Cost/unit higher than alternatives

For years I have carried UCO’s stormproof matches and in my experience they provide high quality fire-related products that are dependable and work in all conditions. Before getting into the details of the Sweetfire, I feel it is best to emphasize the intended function of this product. UCO does not claim that the Sweetfire is waterproof or windproof, which it does on other matches that are intended for that purpose. I shouldn’t say “other matches” as this is not a match. It is a strikeable fire starter and therefore bridges functions between a match and a compressed fiber fire starter, similar to the commonly found Coghlan’s fire sticks.

Read more: UCO Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter reviews (2)

Fire Starter

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Okay, hopefully my final review of matches! These matches are amazing, and are now kept in our emergency kits, should we ever need to start a fire in extreme conditions. The matches are heavy duty, definitely waterproof, and the case and extra strikers make this a solid, though not expensive, addition to any emergency outdoor gear kit.

Reasons to Buy

  • Waterproof
  • Easy to grab case
  • Extra strikers

Reasons to Avoid

  • More expensive than other waterproof matches
  • Can't blow them out!

We purchased this set of 25 matches,as part of the UCO set which includes a waterproof case, 25 matches, and 2 extra striker strips. These guys are heavy duty! Strong wooden sticks, with a treated end which will stay lit for 15 seconds. They will even stay lit after being immersed in water (see video below).We did learn early on, though, that you cannot blow out these matches...we found that out when lighting a camp stove, and then found us with a burning match that we could not extinguish...thankfully, we were near the campfire, so tossed the match in there.

Read more: UCO Stormproof Match Kit review (1)

Top Whistle/Horn

Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Simple, effective, super lightweight and powerfully necessary, the Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle is a tremendous asset and needs to be a supplement in every outdoor enthusiast's pocket.

Reasons to Buy

  • Titanium construction
  • Super lightweight at just 3g
  • One-Piece Pea-less Design
  • Reflective lanyard may come in handy
  • Necessary gear - No Reason not to carry one.
  • It retails for just $10.95 - You can't go wrong!

Reasons to Avoid

  • Don't own one? That's your mistake!

Simple, effective, super lightweight and powerfully necessary, the Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle is a tremendous asset and needs to be a supplement in every outdoor enthusiast's pocket. There comes a time when we all must realize that we are smaller than the sum of all things. Take, for example, the very unfortunate accident that could have ended dishearteningly worse to Aron Ralston and the basis for the movie, "127 Hours". I can't even imagine how brave this young man must have been. With that said, there are a number of mindful measures we must do to make the best of any situation and avoid dispiriting tragedy… Whether it's in your clothes pocket, a stuff sack, long-corded around your neck, emergency bag, ditty bag, pack pocket, etc.,...

Read more: Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle review (1)

Fire Starter

Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter is a good idea and handy gadget that functions as a spark lighter with ferrocerium (ferro) rod and bellows. I would recommend it to folks who like wood stoves and building fires, but there are better options if all you need is a spark lighter to light a stove, as the dual function and convenience result in a couple of areas that could improve.

Reasons to Buy

  • Dual function—spark lighter and bellows
  • Convenient clip allows for safe and easy storage
  • Bellows are handy to start/adjust a fire even soaked wood
  • Strike lighter works in all conditions (water and wind proof)
  • Quality construction
  • Replaceable ferro rod and clip handle

Reasons to Avoid

  • Serrated striker slightly outperformed by back of blade or striker
  • Ferro rod could be a bit longer to produce more spark
  • Carrying clip sacrifices comfort on handle

Vargo subtitles this device with “Just add fuel”, and that is fitting.  The Ultimate Fire Starter (hereafter called UFS for convenience) is a neat product that provides a spark light off a ferro rod in wind and rain, while nesting in an extendable bellows. I considered the bellows function a luxury on first use, but now would really miss it for starting or adjusting wood stoves and fires. The UFS comes in a pleasingly simple package—a small plastic bag (now being used to hold some odds and ends in my equipment box) and a recyclable cardboard backing.

Read more: Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter review (1)

Fire Starter

Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Excellent, effective, and affordable fire starter tinder that light easily with match or lighter as well as with a ferrocerium rod. Perfect for inclement weather or for those occasions when you don't want to wrestle with seeking dry natural tinder. Great for backpackers, car campers, hunters, and more.

Reasons to Buy

  • Effective fire starter
  • Affordable!
  • Generous supply for the money
  • Works after being wet or soaked
  • Approximately 15 minute burn time per stick

Reasons to Avoid

  • Larger than some smaller manufactured tinders

Those who frequent backcountry areas with established campsites and fire rings often enjoy the classic thrill of being warmed by or even cooking over an evening camp fire, but adverse weather conditions, fatigue, or impatience may make it desirable to have a fire starter in one's pack. This product, Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks, is just the sort of thing for these occasions. I received these after my mom picked them up for me on a whim while traveling. I've seen them listed at any price between $1.59 and $4.99—in other words, if you're interested after this review, shop around.

Read more: Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks review (1)

Fire Starter

MSR Strike Igniter

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The MSR Strike Igniter is a reliable fire starter that is not affected by wet conditions or high altitudes. Although it requires two hands to operate and weighs an ounce more than a Bic lighter, there are enough strikes in this unit to light a thru-hiker's stove and campfire as he/she conquers all three of the U.S. long trails. With this in your pack, you'll never fear of lighter failure.

Reasons to Buy

  • Reliable
  • Usable after being completely soaked
  • Not affected by elevation
  • 3,000-12,000 strikes

Reasons to Avoid

  • Two-handed operation
  • Heavier than other options
  • Poorly designed bottle opener
  • Priced higher than competing brands

When Trailspace assigned me the MSR Strike Igniter for Review Corps testing, they requested that I use it multiple time in a variety of settings, including cold and wet weather. In the month that I've had it, there has been nothing but cold, wet weather to test it in! I have used this in the flatlands of Illinois a few times, and I played around with it at 9,600' while snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains (though I did not attempt an actual fire). In each and every attempt, the unit has functioned as it was designed to.

Read more: MSR Strike Igniter review (1)

More Survival Gear

Trailspace reviewers have shared 195 reviews of 95 different survival gear. Narrow your search and view more specific survival gear recommendations in these categories:

Emergency Shelters

Fire Starters

Survival Kits

Whistles and Horns

All Safety Gear

Other Types of Safety Gear

Find more safety gear reviewed in these related categories:

Avalanche Safety

Bear Safety

First Aid and Hygiene

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