Packing Your Survival Vest

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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 a few items I recommend that could possibly save your skin in a bad situation.

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

  1. First Aid

First aid is essential in a survival situation. You will need supplies for trauma situations (like a tourniquet) and for smaller concerns, such as cuts and burns. If possible, put something different on the zipper or front of the pouch that your first aid kit is in so that it is easy to find. You might sew a globally recognizable symbol such as a red cross on it.

Compact First Aid Kit

Recon Medical BLK-1PAK-FBA Tourniquet

QuikClot Advanced Clotting Gauze

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.

Coleman Camper’s Toilet Paper, 3 Rolls

Fomin 3-Pack (300 Sheets) Foaming Hand Soap Sheets – Antibacterial

DRMTLGY Body and Face Shower Wipes for Women and Men – 45 Wipes. XTRA Large Biodegradable

  1. Shelter

You might wonder how you can carry shelter in your vest, but you can! Survival tarps and tents are made quite compact for just this reason. 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. Round out your supplies with a few hand warmers and you will be sleeping cozy if you ever become stranded with your vest.

Go Time Gear Life Tent Emergency Survival Shelter – 2 Person Emergency Tent  (Use this as a Survival Tent, Emergency Shelter, Tube Tent, Survival Tarp – Includes Survival Whistle & Paracord)

Rain Fly EVOLUTION 12×10/10×10 Hammock Waterproof Tent TARP & Survival Bracelet

Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (4-Pack) + Bonus Signature Gold Foil Space Blanket (Designed for NASA)

Arcturus Military Wool Blanket – 4.5 lbs, Warm, Thick, Washable, Large 64″ x 88″

HotHands Body & Hand Super Warmers – Long Lasting Safe Natural Odorless Air Activated Warmers – Up to 18 Hours of Heat

  1. Knife

You probably already have a certain knife you carry every day.  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

SMITH & WESSON Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife

  1. Signaling

We have 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. 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), and a signal mirror. You don’t have to have all these things in your vest; get what you feel makes sense for your situation.

UST SplashFlash 25 Lumen Waterproof, Mini-Lantern, Safety and Personal Locator Light

LED Road Safety Flare Roadside Warning Safety Flare Kit for Vehicles & Boat | 4 Beacon Disc Pack

Michael Josh 2PCS Outdoor Loudest Emergency Survival Whistles

Coghlan’s Survival Signal Mirror

  1. Fire

Have at least two methods of starting a fire. These could include matches, a lighter, flint, an electric starter, etc. Also, be sure you have tinder with you. Old dryer lint works very well as a starter and is easy to get, but you could also use cotton balls, and there is even special tinder to buy for just this purpose.

An emergency candle is also a nice thing to have, if you think you will need a back-up light source.

lcfun Waterproof Lighter Outdoor Windproof Lighter Dual Arc Lighter Electric Lighters USB Rechargeable-Flameless-Plasma Lighter

SE FS374 Full Magnesium Body Fire Starter, 3″ x 1″

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3 Strikers

GreenSpark – Friendly Fire Starter Bundles, 70 Count, 100% All-Natural

Coghlan’s 36-Hour Survival Candle, 6-Ounce, with matches

  1. Water

Water is a tricky one, because it is heavy, and you cannot just leave it in the vest forever until you need it. However, having storage containers to collect water is a good compromise. (You can also keep these full and change them every few weeks.)

Of course, another good idea is to carry a water filter and water purification tablets. If you have a filter straw, water purification tablets, and a couple of small collapsible water bladders, you will be able to collect, treat, and store clean water as you travel.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets With PA Plus – Two 50 count Bottles

Vapur Element Flexible Water Bottle – with Carabiner

  1. Food

Humans can go without food for a few days, although it doesn’t feel too pleasant. Hopefully, within that time, you will be able to find a way to get yourself rescued or find some food. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore it completely, 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, what will give comfort and morale, and what you can use to get more food. Energy comes from foods high in calories; an emergency situation is not the time to be thinking about your diet. Comfort foods will differ, but common ones might be a few packs of instant coffee or tea bags, some candy, or a favored dry cereal to munch on. Items to obtain more food would be things like fishing line, hooks, and lures or other gear that makes sense for your area.

Don’t forget to change out your food every now and then. It loses its nutritional value after sitting for a long time.

Best Glide ASE Survival Fishing Kit – Basic Version

Vigilant Trails Pocket Survival Snare Traps. Includes 3 Locking Small Game Snares

Power Up Trail Mix, High Energy Trail Mix

Survival Tabs 8-Day Food Supply 96 Tabs Emergency Food Replacement

PROBAR – Meal Bar, Variety Pack (12 Count)

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee Medium Roast Packets — Pike Place Roast — 1 box (8 packets)

  1. Light

Light is extremely important, so try to have at least two different light sources. 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. The other light should be a handheld flashlight with a powerful beam. You might also consider a couple of glow sticks, as these don’t require batteries.

12 Ultra Bright Glow Sticks – Emergency Light Sticks – Lasts Over 12 Hours

Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight – Super Bright Cree Led, Lightweight, Comfortable Headband, 3 x AAA Batteries Included

Flashlights, LED Tactical Flashlight S1000 – High Lumen, 5 Modes, Zoomable, Water Resistant, Handheld Light

  1. Navigation

Navigation these days usually entails your phone’s GPS system. However, you should have some back-up items in case you can’t use that. A basic compass can be incredibly useful, and you can learn how to operate one by doing a quick online search. Also consider packing a map of the area you will likely be in, even if it’s just a print-out.

Coghlan’s Map Compass

Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Carrying Bag, Waterproof and Shakeproof

  1. Utility & Misc

These are 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:

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 and practice using 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 a cotton ball 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!



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.

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