10 Items for Your Survival Vest

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.

Survival Vests are a great way to increase the number of items you can carry with you in an emergency situation. Carrying important gear in your vest keeps it ready to use and always available, even if you lose the rest of your supplies. In fact, survival vests first started their use among airline pilots. When a pilot has an emergency, sometimes the only thing he or she has to survive is what is already on their body. Pilots must pack their vests carefully in order to be sure they can survive most anything!

What should you put in your Bug-Out Survival Vest? Let’s look at 10 items I recommend that could possibly save your skin in a bad situation. And don’t forget your ID for identification in case you become injured or need to show who you are for some other reason.

(Check out this article if you are still trying to decide which survival vest to buy.)

1. First Aid

First aid is essential in any survival situation. You will need supplies for trauma situations (like a tourniquet) and for smaller concerns, such as cuts and burns.

M2 First Aid Kit

I recommend this first aid kit  M2 300 Piece First Aid Kit as it comes with everything you will need in most medical situations, plus the added bonus of a compass/whistle, carabiner, and emergency blanket. This kit can be attached to you vest with a clip or hang from your belt.

Hygiene is also part of this. Staying clean is part of taking care of yourself. Think baby or hand wipes, toilet paper (you’ll thank me for that one!), and lip balm. And don’t forget this: Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper, 3 Rolls.

2. Shelter

2 Person Survival TentYou might wonder how you can carry shelter in your survival vest, but you can! Survival tarps and tents are made quite compact for just this reason. Ultralight 2 Person Emergency Tent   Many survival vests have a large pocket on the back that will work perfectly to carry a heavy-duty survival blanket. You can also carry a space blanket or two, because those are small and lightweight. Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (4-Pack) + Bonus Signature Gold Foil Space Blanket (Designed for NASA) Round out your supplies with a few hand warmers and you will be sleeping cozy if you ever become stranded with your vest.


Smith-and-Wesson-KnifeYou probably already have a certain knife you may carry with you. I recommend this strong SMITH & WESSON Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife  However, it is a good idea to put an extra one in a pocket of your vest, just in case. You could also opt for a multi-tool that includes a sturdy blade. Multitool Knife. 15 in 1 Portable Pocket Multifunctional Multi Tool


4. Signaling

UST SplashFlash Emergency LightWe’ve all seen movies where the characters have been stranded and need to signal for help. Not all emergencies require you to call for aid or rescue, but it is a good idea to be prepared in case you need to do so.

A good emergency/SOS light for your survival vest is Emergency SplashFlash Survival Lights. Things that are helpful in these cases include: flares, a strobe light or flashing headlamp, a strong whistle (get one with no “pea” inside because it will last longer and is louder) Noopel Emergency Survival Whistles, and a signal mirror Coghlan’s Survival Signal Mirror. You don’t have to have all these things in your vest; get what you feel makes sense for your situation.

5. Fire

Fire-StarterHave at least two methods of starting a fire. These could include: strike-anywhere matches, a lighter, flint, an electric starter, etc. This is a good strike starter SE FS374 Full Magnesium Body Fire Starter, 3″ x 1″ And this is a great lighter Waterproof, Windproof Outdoor Lighter  if you have a portable battery charger with a USB port in it.

It’s good to carry some tinder with you. You can purchase starter cubes and flakes. I carry old dryer lint (put in a plastic baggie for safe storage) as it’s free every time I use my clothes drier and works very well as a campfire starter. Cotton balls will work, too.

6. Water

Emergency Drinking WaterWater is a tricky one.  You can start out by adding a few packets of sealed water such as these Emergency Drinking Water in a pocket of your survival vest. It will last up to 5 years. However, having storage containers to collect water in and a small water filter is also a good idea.

These are excellent water filters to carry in your vest LifeStraw Personal Water Filter.

7. Food

Humans can go without food for a few days, although it doesn’t feel too pleasant. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore having some with you, especially if you have a medical condition that makes it necessary for you to eat regularly.

Food has many components. Think about it in terms of what will provide immediate energy and stamina, plus sustain you over a period of time. These are great meal bars to carry in you survival vest that will fill you up PROBAR – Meal Bar, Variety Pack (12 Count).

Survival-TabletsEnergy comes from foods high in calories; an emergency situation is not the time to be thinking about your diet. You will need to keep your strength up and to do this, you will need to eat! You might consider a packet or two of these food tablets to stuff in a pocket of your vest  Survival Tabs 8-Day Food Supply 96 Tabs Emergency Food Replacement

I also like to include some comfort foods such as a candy bar or my favorite dry cereal to munch on. I also carry in my vest things like fishing line, hooks, and lures such as this basic pocket kit Best Glide ASE Survival Fishing Kit – Basic Version. so I’ll be able to catch my own supper if near a stream or river.

Don’t forget to change out your food every now and then. It loses its nutritional value after a certain amount of time. Check product labels to see their expiration dates.

8. Light

High-Powered-FlashlightLight is extremely important, so try to have at least two different light sources with you. They should take the same batteries for ease of use. A headlamp is recommended so you can stay hands-free in the dark and still be able to see what you are doing. Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight – Super Bright Cree Led, Lightweight, Comfortable Headband, The other light should be a small handheld flashlight with a powerful beam like this one Flashlight, LED Tactical Flashlight S1000 – High Lumen.

You might even want to consider a couple of glow sticks, as these don’t require batteries and can last for up to 12+ hours. Though they do not give off as much light as a headlamp or flashlight do, they can still provide light inside your emergency tent.

9. Navigation

Sportneer-Military-CompassNavigation these days usually entails your phone’s GPS system. However, you should have some back-up items in case you can’t get any reception where you are. A good compass can be incredibly useful, and you can learn how to operate one by doing a quick online search. This is a good, reasonably priced compass to look at Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Carrying Bag, Waterproof and Shakeproof

You might also want to consider packing a map of the area you will likely be in, even if it’s just a print-out.

10. Utility Items

These are other items that have many uses and are just plain good to have on you. Think about what you know, where you live, and what you might need. Then pack accordingly. Here are some things to consider for your survival vest:

Wrap Up

Packing your Survival Vest properly could save your life. Always take into consideration where you live, what your needs are, and what kinds of situations you might have to face. Pack your vest so that it fits comfortably with the weight distributed equally on all sides. You should be able to bend, sit, and walk in it.

Be sure to check the contents of your vest annually and replace anything that has gone out of date. Strike-anywhere matches, batteries, glow sticks, some medical supplies, food, water, and other items all need to be replaced with time. And don’t forget to carry some cash in your vest in small denominations. It’s always a good idea!

Be sure to understand how to use the items in your vest! You don’t want to get into an emergency situation and realize that you have no idea how to use your first aid gear, or light a fire with flint and drier lint, or open that cool flare you bought. Well, you might want to study the flare’s directions, but not actually set it off until there’s a need.

Now go on, get out there and learn to survive! But pack your vest first.



Survival has been a necessity ever since the world began and has continually built upon itself. However, few could pull out of their hats the skills to survive if, and when, called upon to do so. With all that is going on in today's world, this knowledge is an important tool, one that each of us needs to hone. This is why I founded this site.

More to Explore

Survival Languages

Survival When you think about survival, you think about disasters, camping, backpacks, food, water, campfires, and many other things. But what about Survival Languages? Yes, learning another language, ...