SHTF Gear: The Essential Gear to Survive SHTF (2023)

Essential outdoor survival gear for SHTF
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The reality is, we’re probably going to discover we’re not as prepared as we thought when SHTF (Shit Hits the Fan). That’s why it’s never a bad thing to have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) full of your SHTF survival gear ready. But what are the essential items you need for SHTF situations? We’ve got you covered with this essential SHTF gear list.

What is an SHTF Kit?

An SHTF kit is a collection of items most likely to be needed in an emergency.

The acronym “SHTF” stands for when the “Shit Hits the Fan,” which typically happens after an SHTF event.

Life rarely goes according to plan

Examples of SHTF events are natural disasters, such as a tornado or earthquake, large-scale financial crises, such as a stock market crash, or bank failures.

SHTF events can also be human-made and include acts of terrorism such as 9/11 and negligence, as with the Chernobyl meltdown.

When it comes to assembling your kit, you can make it happen with very little money with a bit of planning.

What Do You Need to Survive SHTF?

In addition to survival skills, we all benefit from having equipment working as force multipliers for us.

Here’s our list of must-have SHTF survival gear items that will help you survive whatever disasters or emergencies you may face.

Keep a waterproof backpack for transporting supplies

1. Personal Defense Items

After mindset and situational awareness, the next fundamental of preparedness is survival.

And the first step in survival is to avoid any catastrophic damage that

ends your life. Outside of unavoidable mishaps, the most significant threat we face is from the living.

Humans pose the most significant living threat to us, with animals and insects pulling up a very distant rear.

Therefore, if we are to be in a position to need water, food, etc., we must first be able to defend ourselves from any life-threatening attack.

That’s because if you don’t survive what happens in the next few minutes, you won’t have a need to protect yourself from the elements for an extended period.

The Toughest Guy

First, the seemingly tough guys don’t always win when it comes to personal defense. That’s because our mindset and situational awareness count for so much when it comes to the fundamentals of preparedness.

The fundamentals of preparedness are Mindset, Situational Awareness, Survival, Safety, and Self. (M4S)

The point is that a small person with wits, awareness and the proper SHTF gear can overcome not-as-aware bad guys.


Once you have your mindset and situational awareness taken care of, it’s time to focus on your personal defense survival gear.

There are many different types of knives for use during SHTF


Survival knives, such as the Morakniv Companion, are essential gear when you’re out in the wild since you can use them to slice or prepare food, hunt for food, open canned goods, fix things, cut ropes and other m

aterials for shelter, as well as defend you from attackers.

While some people laugh at small folding pocket knives, I found over a decade deployed overseas that they were great for day-to-day use. That’s because they took most of the beating in cutting and slicing things, saving my fixed blade fighting knife for the bad guys.

Credit-card-sized knives are easy to carry and won’t take up too much space in your bug-out bag. As small as it looks, it is heavy-duty and works as a knife should. What makes it an essential SHTF gear is that it can fit into your wallet without being noticed.

Neck knives are also a great piece of SHTF gear. They are concealable, helping you to achieve gray man status, and are easy to carry to you’re always prepped.

Don’t forget to maintain your knives and keep them sharp. Otherwise, you may find not just your knife but your ability to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice dulled and ineffective as well.

A multi-tool can solve a range of issues during SHTF


Lightweight multitools such as the Leatherman Wave Plus Multitool are easy to carry with you anywhere and always have a place.

Choose a multitool that comes with pliers, scissors, and screwdrivers, which will come in handy.

Whether it is a stealth EDC multitool or a Schrade hatchet in your bug-out bag, there are many survival tools with more than one purpose in challenging situations.


Adding a quality survival axe to your SHTF gear is always a consideration. A survival axe can be used as a tool for everyday needs and self-defense in a pinch. Do some research when choosing your best survival axe to find the one that is most applicable to you and your situation.


Palmetto State Armory Best Daily Deals LInk

You can also arm and protect yourself with firear

ms. Remember to use guns only in self-defense and only when necessary for absolute survival.

With that, memorize these rules of firearms safety:

  1. ALWAYS treat all firearms as if they are loaded.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
  3. NEVER point your firearm at anything that you’re not willing to destroy.
  4. ALWAYS be sure of your target, backstop, and beyond.

How Many Guns Should a Prepper Have?

There are a lot of firearms available on the market.

When purchasing a firearm, it’s vital to choose a gun that:

  1. Suits your needs.
  2. Fits your body.

When it comes to your SHTF gun (or guns), you will want to get the most bang for your buck.

With that, a shotgun may be the best firearm for one person. However, another person may prefer a pistol or bolt action rifle. And yet, others may feel an M4 is an excellent rifle for their needs.

Regardless of the firearms you choose, training is the key to safety, success, ad comfortable shooting with this critical tool.

5-Step SHTF Plan Ad

Therefore, including the capability to get more ammo is an important consideration. After all, complete training includes putting rounds downrange.

Next, it’s crucial to understand your gun laws when dealing with firearms. Not knowing your laws is not an excuse for breaking the law, which could cost you your ability to own a gun legally.

Lastly, I’ll answer the question of how many guns a prepper should have. A prepper, or anyone for that matter, should have enough firearms to adequately provide for their safety, security, and overall preparedness.

The key to how many guns a prepper should have is not to break the bank. Also, initially only buy what you need and can become proficient with. And, don’t let the quest for flashy and cool firearms overwhelm your ability to prepare in other areas.

In the end, you can’t eat a fancy rifle if you run out of food and water.

An extensive first aid kit is essential SHTF gear

2. First Aid Kit

You should immediately add an individual first aid kit (IFAK) whenever you add a firearm to your defensive posture.

A good first aid kit will include a tourniquet and other forms of stopping bleeding and assisting the heart with pumping oxygen-rich blood through the body. With that, you will need to learn how to Stop the Bleed and provide CPR.


An important point to remember is that Amazon and other suppliers are often overrun with counterfeit tourniquets. These knock-off tourniquets are known to break.

Therefore, make sure you go directly to the manufacturer or an authorized reseller.

The last thing anyone needs is to have a tourniquet fail when a person’s life hangs in the balance.

my medic first aid kit linkGeneral First Aid Gear

In addition to stopping bleeding and circulating oxygen to the brain, your SHTF gear must include a first-aid kit containing medications, alcohol, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, band-aids, tourniquets, gauze, or bandages, and pain relievers, to name a few items.

You should also have the supplies and tools to treat burns, itches, wounds, sprains, cuts, and other injuries.

Another must-have in your first-aid kit is potassium permanganate, which can clean and sterilize wounds.

Your kit may also need to have tampons or sanitary napkins for women and diapers for babies or seniors.

Lastly, don’t forget medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and similar survival essentials. Having the ability to diagnose problems more accurately is always beneficial when treating the sick and injured.

Layered, protective clothing is important to have during SHTF

3. Protective Gear and Clothing

Protective clothing is two-fold. You want to be protected from the elements and protected from attacks.

You want to have comfortable clothing that you can layer. It should be appropriate for your environment, so you may need to change out this clothing seasonally.

Consider warmth, sun protection, and rain gear for staying dry when choosing your clothing.

A piece of headgear called a shemagh is a valuable SHTF item since you can use this as protection against the sun, dust, and heat, as well as an arm sling or emergency gauze.

SHTF survival gear should also include items to protect you from attacks, such as survival belts, body armor, and tactical clothing.

You may wish to include gas masks and respirators for cases of airborne attacks.

4. Shelter

Another piece of essential SHTF gear is some form of shelter.

No list of SHTF survival gear would be complete without a mention of shelter.

You’ll want to have a tent that is waterproof and can withstand extreme conditions, such as heavy rain and snow. Paracord, such as Titan Survivorcord and tarps, can also be useful.

A sleeping bag rated for your particular environment is essential to help keep you warm while you rest.

At a minimum, a mylar emergency blanket is an excellent addition to any emergency supply pile.

5. Water

It is also essential to keep yourself hydrated as your body will barely survive without enough water supply.

When worse comes to worst, you may find yourself stuck in an area with no clean water available.

Having a reliable way to purify water will ensure that you don’t run out of water to drink. It is an essential part of your SHTF survival gear whether you are out in the wilderness or the suburbs.

Securing a safe, clean water supply is paramount for any grid down situation.

Water Purification

Water filters are one way to beef up your emergency kit. However, consider boiling water and water purification tablets if you’re just starting and water filters are out of your price range.

Likewise, purchasing a small stockpile of bottled water will ensure your drinking water needs are met without having to dip into your water purification tablets. Also, a supply of water on hand is helpful if boiling water isn’t an option.

6. Food

Ensure that you have your own food supply of enough food and clean water that can last for a week up to a month.

Your emergency food supply must include ready-to-eat food such as canned goods, crackers, energy bars, beans, fruits, and snacks. Food that has a long shelf-life or is not easily spoiled is ideal.

Food Storage

Food storage is also an essential planning consideration. That’s because having your food secure and readily accessible ensures your family’s needs will be met when it matters most.

Also, don’t forget to rotate your food by eating what you store in your emergency food supply. After all, not eating what you store may lead to an expired food supply, which is a waste of money and resources.

Your survival food must also be easy to carry or transport if you and your family are on the move. There are many survival food options on the market today, which you can check out.

Bug Out Bag Essentials Article and Podcast Link

7. Waterproof, Heavy-duty Backpack

Fitting SHTF survival gear in your bug-out bag might be challenging, but it is necessary for emergencies.

That’s why having a waterproof, heavy-duty backpack that can carry a lot of stuff is a must-have piece of SHTF survival gear.

At the same time, don’t overload yourself. You also must be comfortable hauling it for an extended time over the terrain in your area.

Likewise, while the prepper-urge may be there to get a molle-clad tactical backpack, the right course of action may be to take a less noticeable route.

Find the Right Pack for You

Look for a quality bag that can withstand extreme snow, heat, and rain.

Make sure to check the fit of your pack so you can comfortably haul all the supplies you need.

You don’t want your backpack giving up on you while you’re on the move. When packing your pack or any survival kits, add a weight column to your SHTF gear list.

Once you do, you’ll quickly see how the two is one, and one is none mindset leads to unwanted backaches.

A solar charger can be a huge help in an emergency

8. Back-up Power, Flashlights, Headlights, Batteries

A portable power kit, such as this 2500o mAh power bank that can recharge via solar power, is essential SHTF survival gear.

You can use this kit to power your flashlights, headlamps, emergency lights, phones, digital devices, and radios.

When gathering supplies, don’t forget to include extra batteries, lighters, and matches in your SHTF gear.

When it comes to lights-out kits, adding a high-quality hand crank flashlight is always a good idea!

9. Emergency Communication

Having emergency communication items such as phones, battery, crank, solar-powered radios, or long-range walkie-talkies is essential. Battery-powered radios are valuable SHTF survival gear since you have to stay connected with the world and keep yourself up to date with the most recent and reliable information.

Another valuable, often-overlooked piece of SHTF survival gear is a survival whistle to alert people of your location.

Keep a physical map and compass handy

10. Navigation tools

Make sure you have a physical map of your area or state. You may not be able to rely on GPS during an emergency. Having a map will help you navigate to your destination, find your way around detours, and locate evacuation areas or temporary shelters.

It will also be helpful to have a compass for navigation purposes and a topographical map in your SHTF gear.

Avoid Gimmicky SHTF Survival Gear

When you’re out searching for your preparedness gear, it’s a good idea to avoid getting sucked into any of the garbage gimmicky, prepper SHTF gear that haunts the market.

Now, if you’re like me, I still get sucked into gimmicky prepper gear, and that’s okay. However, make sure that you don’t rely on any fly-by-night, ready-to-break at the most inopportune time gear.

What Should I Do Immediately After SHTF?

The first thing to do immediately after an SHTF event is to remain calm and figure out what is going on.

Once you have an idea of what’s going on, address any real survival necessity first.

Next, come up with a plan. I prefer to use the PACE plan.

Follow these steps in an emergency

PACE stands for:

  • Primary
  • Alternate
  • Contingency
  • Emergency

In my case, if I’m at home when SHTF happens, I’m going to hunker down and assess the situation.

If I’m on the road, here’s my plan:

  • Primary: Continue driving until I get home.
  • Alternate: If I can’t reach home, move to another safe harbor such as a friend’s home.
  • Contingency: If I can’t reach anywhere, find as safe a location as possible, inventory the survival boxes I keep in my truck, and plan a way to get home or to a safe harbor.
  • Emergency: I can’t get to safety in my vehicle, so I’ll grab my bug-out bag and try to find safety.

The Mind4Survival Pyramid_Survival Pyramid

Have an SHTF Plan

In addition to your gear, make sure you have an SHTF plan ready to go. The fact is that everyone should have a plan prepared for when the Shit Hits the Fan. That’s because, as unlikely as we are to experience an SHTF event, there is still a chance. As such, you need to be ready.

With that in mind, I wrote a great article on SHTF planning, with accompanying videos and a podcast episode. Please go check it out:

M4S SHTF Plan Article and Videos

The Bottom Line on SHTF Survival Gear

These are just the minimum of must-have SHTF survival gear to arm yourself with in preparation for when a natural disaster strikes and other emergencies.

But this SHTF survival gear list is nothing without proper response and handling on your part. You, yourself, are the key to surviving any SHTF situation.

That’s why you should be mentally and emotionally prepared for a crisis or when SHTF. You mustn’t panic. All the gear in the world won’t save you if you can’t calmly face challenges. Think in terms of solutions rather than problems.

You must be able to devise a comprehensive SHTF plan and act on it in the best way possible. The gear we listed above can help you survive disasters and crises for sure, but don’t forget, you hold the key to your survival.

What do you think of our SHTF survival gear list? Are there any items that you would like to recommend? We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.

Additional Resources:


Stay safe,


  1. john cole on August 30, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Love it.Thank you

  2. Tina ZenQuest on March 10, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    Wow I got some holes on my BOB. Very informative. Thanks!

    • Brian Duff on March 30, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      I hear that’s a common problem these days.

    • White Rabbit on July 7, 2022 at 4:50 pm

      Same here. This is good to know, and very timely. Who knows what’s going to happen?
      Watching the refugees leave Ukraine carrying luggage and plastic bags has prodded me to reconsider and finish putting together my BOB.
      Thanks, Brian, for the info.
      P.S. I’m guilty of having far too much gimmicky stuff and not enough actual gear. I’m changing that, though! Right now!

  3. Greg Chabot on April 20, 2021 at 9:18 am

    Great Advice!

  4. Rachael on June 24, 2022 at 3:53 am

    Some of the most practical, well thought out advice I’ve read yet! I have been doing some reading on how to SHTF for a single parent…anything you may want to include?

    • JJ on August 13, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      How olds your little one? Infants and toddlers would be 1-3 months of diapers (or 1-2 weeks worth of cloth diapers that you could re-wash), 1-3 months worth of wipes, formula (if required), diaper cream for rashes, medication for the inevitable colds / flu, soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Anything older than a toddler you essentially treat the same as an adult in terms of supplies but be sure to have some entertainment to keep them occupied and have some sense of normalcy.

  5. koirjoej on August 26, 2022 at 12:20 am

    Love how ever single link is an Amazon referral link.

    Seriously people, check the first couple of links and if its like that this dude is simply writing this to make money off you.


  6. Ron Brown on January 19, 2024 at 2:05 pm

    Great article! But I noticed that Section 8 (lighting) mentions only battery-powered options. So if your baby decides to be born at midnight, stock some extra D-cells.

    “The Non-Electric Lighting Series” (written by your truly and available on Amazon) could make life easier. There are 8 books, all available in eBook format as well as paper. Book 1 is “Candles.” Book 6 is “Kerosene Pressure Lanterns.” Book 7 is “Propane.” Etc. Nice to have squirreled away.

    You can quickly locate these books by typing “non-electric lighting by ron brown” into Google. Hope you do. IMHO, it’s time to start prepping for real. Have a good one!

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