Photo by Kurt Box

15 Survival and Self-Defense Tools You'll REALLY Regret Not Having

I have ranked the top 15 survival tools in order of importance (arguably).

I base this list on the old "Rule of 3s: You can survive 3 minutes without oxygen, three days without water and three weeks without food."

In addition, since self defense goes hand-in-hand with wilderness or off-grid survival techniques, the following list also addresses the self-defense benefits of each tool.

1. Water

Survival: Be sure to carry clean water in a steel canteen (for boiling), water purification tablets, and a LifeStraw.

Self Defense: Clean water is a commodity in a survival situation and, if you are able to create more clean water easily, a great bartering item.

2. Shelter

Survival: The best way to ensure shelter is to always carry a tarp. If you don't have a tarp, learning natural shelter techniques is you next best option.

Self Defense: A well-thought-out shelter can also act as a safe, dry hideout.

3. Fire

Survival: Always carry multiple means for starting a fire - lighters, matches, flint & steel, magnesium, gun powder, tinder, dried moss and cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly. I also carry a tin of char cloth - great tinder and fun to make.

Self Defense: Fire is an effective self defense tool when dealing with animals that want to eat you. Always keep a sturdy stick or log half-way in the fire, ready to grab.

4. Knife

Survival: Knives are one of the most useful and vital items in any survival pack.

Self Defense: It is also a good idea to know how to fight and hunt with a knife. Knife throwing is a valuable skill to have - and all it takes is a quick lesson and lots of practice.

5. Cordage

Survival: The sheer multitude of uses for ropes/cords cannot be overlooked in any survival pack. Cordage is king!

Self Defense: Snares, nets, trip wires and lassos are just a few of the many self-defense uses for cordage.

6. Clothing

Survival: Insulation and water/moisture resistance through multiple layers is the best way to approach your clothing. Dress like a prepared onion.

Self Defense: If your clothing blends into your surroundings, it automatically becomes a tool for self defense. But, keep in mind that it also hides you from potential rescuers, so pack/dress for both scenarios i.e. cover or remove blaze orange if in a self defense situation, but wear it loud and proud when you want to be found.

7. First Aid Kit

Survival: Untreated injuries or illnesses will threaten your survival no matter how prepared you are. A good first aid kit contains injury dressings as well as oral or topical medications.

Self Defense: You can't defend yourself if you are sick or infected.

8. Food

Survival: Oh yea, food. You need this to survive. Through your combination of other essential items, food becomes a reality. But always carry as much non-perishable food as possible with you.

Self Defense: Tools for gathering food usually double as weapons quite well - sticks, spears and slingshots are effective for both purposes. Food is also a highly-valued commodity for barters.

9. Hatchet/Tomahawk

Survival: Chopping and hammering tools for firewood as well as shelter construction or even animal butchering should be coveted by anyone stuck in the outdoors.

Self Defense: Do you want to fight someone that has a hatchet in their hand? Be the one with the hatchet.

10. Bone/Wood Saw


Survival: Firewood cutting, shelter/rack constructions well as sawing through the bones of harvested animals is made easier and more efficient with a sturdy hand saw.

Self Defense: A saw is a very terrifying weapon to come up against. Be the one with the saw.

11. Help Attractors

Survival: These should include a loud whistle, a mirror, blaze orange clothing/flags and a fire starting kit.

Self Defense: In an escape/rescue scenario, help attractors become invaluable.

12. Flashlight

Survival: Flashlights light up the dark for safety as well as hunting.

Self Defense: Sturdy, super-bright tactical flashlights can confuse attachers with a strobe feature - and they can pack a punch if used as clubs/batons.

13. Fishing gear

Survival: A lot of effective fishing tackle can fit into an empty Altoids container.

Self Defense: Fishing line is an excellent warning trip wire.

14. Slingshot

Survival: Small, light and effective on small game. Plus, you don't have to carry ammo - you pick it up off the ground.

Self Defense: Remember David vs. Goliath. Practice!

15. Long Gun

Survival: Benefits are obvious. Lucky you. This gives you a huge advantage.

Self Defense: Be the one with the rifle.

Did we leave anything out? Did it make you think about what you have on hand?