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Prep 101: Compact Minimal Survival Kit

compact minimal survival kit

You can still be prepared if you aren’t a “prepper.” I’ve posted before about having a go bag, and also a scaled-down survival pack to store in your vehicle in case of emergency. But the average person isn’t going to invest that much time and money into something that may never happen. This post is about a simple and small survival kit that can be kept in your vehicle and tossed in a backpack or attached to a bag or belt. It will enable survival for at least a day or two in the wilderness by providing just the essentials when they are needed most. This is something so easy anyone can do it!

Why: even the most well-intentioned hikers and outdoors people get lost sometimes, and this can be especially dangerous and even life-threatening at higher elevations or in remote areas with little to no visibility from the air. By putting together this compact survival kit you can head into the woods for an impromptu stroll – throw this small kit in your pack and you’re prepared … just in case.


- You’ve let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return.

- You’ve got water, food (snacks), a first aid kit, and any Everyday Carry items (such as ID and self-defense item).

Description: this pack will help you survive a night or two without any way to get regular food and water, without shelter, and without warmth. This is not a long-term survival pack and as such it is simple and cost effective to put together. This should be everyone’s “just in case.”

The Bag:

Smaller is better, and what size you use will depend on your personal preferences. Use a bag you have laying around, as I did, or you can find one at an Army Surplus shop, or on Amazon ($17). The one I used measures 5.5 x 7 x 1.5 (inches).

The Essentials: here’s a list of what I think should be in a minimal survival kit. The exact items will depend on your needs and environment.

- Water purification: water filter, bottle/bag, water treatment

- Fire: at least two ways of starting a fire (always have more fire starting options than you think you’ll need, and always something that’s not a lighter - which may not work at higher elevations), and tinder (recommend jute twine or cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly – both of these options are easy and inexpensive)

- Shelter: at a minimum, include a rescue blanket and cordage

- Knife: recommend a straight blade and a pocket knife. If a pocket knife is part of your EDC don’t include it here, but you might want to add a multi-tool instead.

- Light: a good flashlight or headlamp will do.

- Compass: and know how to use it.

- Signal mirror: doubles as a safety mirror if you get something in your eye and need to check it out.

- Personal care: feminine products (double as a stopper for nosebleeds or bullet wounds), and compact towels (double as bandages for cuts/scrapes or a sling or toilet paper)

- Warmth: hand/foot warmers (I’m not sure about you, but I hate being cold)

My Kit:

Here are the specifics of what I included in my minimal survival kit.

compact minimal survival kit

2 - Collapsible water bottle (comes with the Sawyer Mini filter)

4 - UST Brands Tek-Fire Fuel-free Lighter ($17) – plasma-arc lighter, USB rechargeable

7 - Flint and steel ($10)

8 - Tinder – I have jute twine in a used Altoids tin, another good option would be cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly and stored in a plastic bag ($ pennies)

9 - Rescue Blanket – use as blanket and/or shelter ($4)

10 - Cordage – include some paracord and/or paracord bracelet ($5)

12 - LED flashlight ($7)

13 - Compass ($10)

14 - Signal mirror ($7)

15 - Feminine products

16 - Compact camp towels (EZ Towel - $9 for 50 pack, or try Wysi Wipes)

18 - Tarp clips ($7)

Total dollar cost (USD) for this minimal survival pack: less than $160

Saving your life: PRICELESS

If you have room in your bag, consider adding a compact shelter to your kit ($9). Also, if you don't have to buy the bag and eliminate a couple of the multiple fire starters I listed above you can get the cost down closer to $100. Birthday or holidays approaching? Ask for survival items instead of socks you don't need and your kit will be complete in no time for very little money.

The bag I used had a MOLLE system for attaching to a belt or pack. This will snap to a regular hiking pack in less than a minute.

Or, simply toss inside your hiking pack – the tiny size of this compact survival kit will fit into even the smallest backpacks.

I recommend keeping this minimal survival pack in your vehicle or in your hiking pack – at the ready for when you might need it most.

Am I forgetting anything? Comment below! And, if you’ve created your own minimal survival pack I’d love to know what exactly you’ve included – send me a list or photos and I’d love to add it to this post.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Trails!


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