3 Day Survival Kit: 25 Life-Saving Items to Have with You

3 Day survival items
Written by Dennis Owens

A 3 day survival kit requires a lot of planning ahead, because putting one together is no joke. If you don’t select fundamental items you may find yourself lacking essential tools to make due in the wilderness.

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That’s why we’ve reviewed some of the best equipment which you absolutely need, as well as the factors to be taken into account for their selection.

What Items Work Best

When it comes to choosing what to put in a survival kit, you have to take into account factors like the ones listed below.


Since you’re interested in a 3 day survival kit, the weight of the items you’re taking along shouldn’t hinder you in any way. As such, consider how you’re going to carry them: in your backpack, or in a car? How much weight can you carry? Do you have back pain issues?

3 day survival kit

While everyone is different, the total weight should be comfortably adjusted to your own needs. Choosing lightweight items is best, as long as that doesn’t interfere with their functionality.


Every wilderness trip has its own particularities, so its best to consider where you’re going and what items you need for survival there.

For instance, a water bottle is a compulsory item wherever you may go, but a shovel may not be. Take into account factors such as weather, and what supplies other members of your group may bring along.

Water resistance

The most proficient gear nowadays is almost always waterproof. You don’t need items which can easily be damaged by a few drops of water, or otherwise you won’t be able to use them.

Some of the items in your kit should also be windproof, like the rain poncho. That’s because a cold rain accompanied by the wind is sure to make you ill if you don’t take the necessary precautions.


A long-lasting, durable item is made out of topnotch materials, and it has quality craftsmanship that is observable with the naked eye. Of course, that means it costs a little more. On the other hand, equipment that goes in your survival kit should be meant to endure all sorts of conditions and hardships you may encounter.

Durability in the wilderness

Paying a little more for a durable item is a long term investment in gear you can use for years to come.


Try and choose only versatile items in your kit. A multi-functional tool is better than one which meets just one purpose, because it won’t make your backpack bulkier, nor heavier.

Nonetheless, items like some medicine in your first aid kit have just one purpose and that’s ok, since they’re vital to your well being. But otherwise, go for the stuff that can help you in a variety of ways to make sure you’re covered in a multitude of situations.

What Are The Actual Items You Should Include And Why

That being said, the question of what to have in a survival kit has different particular answers depending on your needs. However, there are some items you should consider when packing your equipment, like the ones listed below.

#1 Water bottle

The number one thing you should take with you is a water bottle, because you have to keep yourself hydrated at all times during an outdoor trip. Choose this bottle with great care, because it will be your best friend for the next 3 days.

Water bottle for survival

Get one that:

  • Doesn’t break easily.
  • Can maintain the temperature of your liquids constant.
  • Can hold different liquids of different temperatures.
  • Is at least a gallon.

Apart from storing liquids, a water bottle can also be used to:

  • Store and gather food.
  • Improvise a funnel if you cut it in half and use the top part.
  • Improvise a scoop or a bowl if you cut the bottle diagonally and use its bottom part.
  • Catch flies and bugs, by filling it with water, adding some honey inside and poking a few holes to make a trap.

#2 Lightweight nylon cord

Rope and paracord will always prove themselves useful as wilderness survival tools, but in our opinion at least 30 feet of nylon cord or parachute cord may prove even better. That’s because it doesn’t needlessly add to the total weight of your backpack, it’s easy to fit inside, and it’s as sturdy as paracord. Take look at our piece on the many uses of paracord to give you more ideas.

Lightweight nylon cord

You will need nylon cord in situations like:

  • Improvising a shelter for emergencies.
  • Tying a splint if you have a fracture.
  • Lashing the poles of your tent.
  • Making small repairs if your tent gets damaged.
  • Climbing.
  • Making a hunting trap.
  • Improvising a fishing line.
  • Securing additional equipment to the outside of your backpack.

#3 Lighter

A lighter is another great addition to your backpack, being easy to carry and to fit inside your pocket. You can use it to light fires obviously, but it has another advantage as opposed to matches: it has a bit of gas inside.

As such, this gas can be useful in emergency situations when you can only find wet leaves to start your fire with. A bit of gas will aid the combustion and start the fire faster. Or you can use the gas lighter as an insect repellant if you’ve forgotten that at home. For our reviews of the best waterproof lighters, see our article on this topic.

#4 Matches

When packing your matches make sure they’re the waterproof sort, unless you want them to get wet – which makes them useless.

Matches for survival

Also, select the bigger sorts of matches, they work for longer and they have some advantages when it comes to windy weather too.

Don’t think matches are useless because you don’t need to cook anything, the weather’s warm and you have a flashlight to see in the dark. Matches are great to make signaling fires too, which is an important thing in survival conditions, as well as fires that keep wildlife at bay.

#5 Small pot

You may think you don’t need to cook anything, but a small pot has many uses:

  • Boiling water to make tea or coffee.
  • Purifying water.
  • Safe keeping leftover food.
  • Using it over a fire to create more obvious smoke signals.
  • Hitting it with a rock or stick to make noise and scare animals.

#6 Whistle

Having a whistle is another significant addition to your survival kit, and in some ways it may even be argued as a compulsory one.

The first way you can use it is to give out a distress signal. If you’re in danger, other people nearby will hear you for sure and come to your assistance. Other times, your dangerous situation may not be obvious, but the sound of a whistle makes it clear you need help.

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The second way is to signal your presence if you get lost from your group, so you can meet easier. It’s also good to scare away wild animals, especially bears.

#7 Utility knife

When it comes to choosing a knife, you should keep in mind that a good one improves your survival chances exponentially. A fixed blade knife is sturdier and can be used in activities which demand more resistance, like cutting branches. A folding knife is good for menial tasks that don’t require force.

Utility knife

That being said, you need a knife for:

  • Cutting your cord/ rope, etc.
  • Using it as a weapon or improvising other weapons.
  • Improvising a shelter.
  • Cutting your way through a thick forest.
  • Making bandages.

#8 Foil blanket

The space blanket is different than your run of the mill, typical blanket you sleep with at home. The various reasons that make it more appropriate for a survival kit are:

  • It doesn’t weigh much, as opposed to a regular blanket.
  • It can be folded in a very small package, having the advantage of low volume.
  • It is heat reflective, meaning it prevents you losing heat when you’re tucked in.
  • It’s airtight, preventing water evaporation and you losing heat through perspiration.
  • It has a metallic surface, which means it can be used to reflect sunrays and thus give distress signals.

#9 First aid kit

There are different sorts of first aid kits on the market, one more proficient than the other.

First aid kit

However, the basic items you should check for are:

  • Bandages, especially triangular bandages.
  • Antiseptic for disinfecting wounds.
  • Scissors to cut bandages.
  • Latex gloves to prevent further infection.
  • Analgesic for pain relief.
  • Topical antibiotic cream that can be applied directly on the wound for preventing infections.
  • Gauze to make a medical dressing.

#10 Aluminum foil

You’ll need at least 3 feet of aluminum foil, but don’t worry – it won’t add to the bulk or weight of your backpack. The reasons you need this are:

  • Cooking. Cover your food with aluminum foil and put in directly in the cinders to cook, or in the ashes to keep warm.
  • Signaling. Aluminum foil is reflective, so you can use it to give distress signals.
  • Collecting water. Improvise a rainwater collecting device with aluminum molded into the shape of a pan.

#11 Magnifying glass

Why waste your matches to light a fire if there’s plenty of sunshine, and you can do it for free with a magnifying glass? The only other things you need is dry tinder and a bit of patience, which is why most experienced outdoorsmen prefer to keep a magnifying glass in their survival kit.

It’s lightweight, easy to carry and to find a place for it, apart from the fact that it saves you valuable matches that can be used better during nighttime.

Magnifying glass

Remember that it’s important to have a high quality magnifying glass, not one made of cheap plastic, because that will hinder your fire lighting skills. Choose one that’s actually made from glass, or even from acrylic.

#12 Cotton balls

Cotton balls are again a valuable solution when it comes to starting fires in the wilderness, especially if the weather doesn’t give its full support. As such, Vaseline cotton balls are amazing, they work without error, they weigh very little and their retail price is close to nothing.

You can also use them to:

  • Stop bleeding.
  • Clean your wounds.
  • Cover a blister.

#13 Safety pins

The ways in which you can use safety pins as essential survival tools are endless, but we’ll give you our top 3 reasons why we think you should take them along:

  • Making small repairs. Maybe your tent gets a small rip, or your backpack comes undone at the seems, or your clothes need a little  fast stitching – just use a safety pin.
  • Fishing. Safety pins are great along with nylon cord to improvise fishing gear, in this case a primitive hook that can still do a great job.
  • Medical purposes – can’t ignore splinters in the wild so try and get them out with a safety pin. Other things you can use it for are securing bandages, or improvising arm slings.

#14 Insect repellent

This is another item you absolutely need in survival conditions, because your purpose is survival, which you can’t do if you become infected or impaired by an insect bite. See our review of the top insect repellent to protect you from these pests.

Insect repellent

Besides, even if you’re bitten by a harmless mosquito it can still be annoying, and you can still lose a lot of sleep and comfort over that. And we all know that a good night’s sleep can ensure your survival chances.

#15 Duct tape

An easy to carry and small piece of equipment, duct tape is essential for anyone who’s planning to put together a survival kit because:

  • You can use it to repair your clothes or tent.
  • Twist a few straps of duct tape together and you get a sturdy rope.
  • If you get a hole in the sleeping bag, you can easily cover it with duct tape.
  • If you have food leftovers, simply pack them in aluminum foil and secure them with duct tape.
  • Improvise a weapon. If you need a spear to catch fish or fight some wild animals, use the tape to secure a knife to a pole.
  • Secure bandages, and keep your wound properly covered.
  • Waterproof everything you need to be protected from rain.

#16 LED flashlight

A LED flashlight is way better to have with you than any regular powered flashlight, even if it may seem a bit more expensive. The reason is that a typical LED will last for approximately 5 to 6 years of continuous use, which is about 700 times more than 3 days.

LED flashlight

Of course, a wind-up flashlight sounds even better, because you activate it manually in order to produce light, without being afraid that you’ll remain without a light source.

Why it’s important:

  • Seeing in the dark.
  • Giving help signals.
  • Keeping critters and other wild animals at bay.

#17 Water purifying tablets

If you find yourself without a clean water source at hand, you still need to remain hydrated. These water purifying tablets are great to turn rainwater or water from a pond into a potable liquid.

Water purifying tablets

Not to mention that they don’t weigh much and they can easily fit in your backpack. Here’s our list of the best water purifying tablets for you to choose from.

#18 Compass

Getting lost in the wilderness is no joke, and every good survival kit has to contain a compass. It’s even better if you know how to use it, especially in combination with a map. The good news is that learning methods of finding your way like the triangulation method isn’t very difficult, with some practice.

#19 Mirror

Can you really survive without knowing how you look in the mornings? Just kidding.

Mirror for survival

That’s not the only use of a mirror in a survival kit, and it would be a mistake not to take one with you, given that it weighs very little and isn’t that voluminous.

  • Use it to reflect sunrays and signal your position.
  • Harness the solar power with your pocket mirror, direct it to some small, dry tinder and make a fire.
  • Place it near a wounded person’s nose to see if they’re still breathing.
  • Break the mirror in order to improvise a weapon or something to cut your rope. It’s way better than a foldable knife in that respect.

#20 Gloves

Another fundamental piece of gear, gloves can be used to cover your hands in various situations:

  • To keep your hands warm when it’s freezing cold.
  • To prevent cuts or splinters when doing woodwork or other chores.
  • To secure nylon rope that may cut through your skin.
  • To protect yourself from insect bites when handling rocks that cover dark, moist places.
  • To remove spider webs.
  • To remove weed around your sleeping area.

Make sure the gloves are manufactured from a quality waterproof material that doesn’t break easily, and that can’t be pierced by protruding items.

#21 Plastic rain poncho

Rain protection is always a good idea to include in your equipment. But a plastic rain poncho is even better because it’s windproof, and it’s easy to store.

Plastic rain poncho

If it doesn’t rain, you can still find other uses for it, such as:

  • Storing your food.
  • Insulating your sleeping bag.
  • Carrying additional equipment.

#22 Pen

How can you survive for 3 whole days without writing down your memoirs? You need a pen for:

  • Cleaning the soles of your shoes or boots.
  • Improvising a sharp weapon, like a dart.
  • Using it to make holes with its tip.
  • Using it for a makeshift straw.
  • Pulling your hair in a bun.
  • Use the spring inside for making small repairs or to make some fishing wire.

23. Small notebook

Another basic tool for writing memoirs, a small notebook can also be used for:

  • Starting fires by ripping its pages.
  • Making to do lists.
  • Leaving notes for members of your group, so make sure the notebook is waterproof.
  • Improvising a map to understand your position better if you suspect you got lost.
  • Lifting your spirits and playing various games.
  • Using the spring in much the same way as the one from the pen, only this one’s bigger.

#24 Self-powered radio

Keeping the lines of communication open with the outside world is fundamental in surviving conditions.

Self powered radio

A self-powered radio will not fail you in that department, because it doesn’t need to be recharged. Use it to:

  • Get weather alerts.
  • Get disaster notifications.
  • Charge your electronic devices.
  • Use as a light source if it has an incorporated flashlight.
  • Entertain yourself at nighttime.

Make sure you buy a good radio, that’s versatile and can meet all these functions.

#25 Bandannas

Don’t limit yourself to just one bandanna, grab at least 5 because they don’t take a lot of space, they’re light and they can be used for:

  • Medical purposes, like making bandages, tourniquets, slings and compresses.
  • Acting like a mask.
  • Protecting your head and neck from the cold.
  • Making a water filter.
  • Cleaning various items in your backpack.
  • Tying your hair.
  • Repairing tears in your clothes.
  • Marking your trail, and letting other members of your group know where you are.
  • Giving a distress signal.
  • Lighting fires if you don’t have enough tinder.
  • Improvising weapons or hunting gear.

The Main Points You Can Take Home

That being said and our list being completed, it’s quite easy to see that all the items we’ve recommended above are great in survival situations, given the fact that they are essential pieces of equipment that meet all the requirements listed at the beginning of this article.

Bandannas and matches

One thing to note is that we’ve only covered the basics, leaving aside stuff like toilet paper. That is important to have, but it’s not absolutely necessary for your survival. You can use a lot of things instead of it, like leaves, water or even pages from your notebook.

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The last thing to consider is that we left aside stuff like a phone charger. Again, this item can be considered non-essential as long as you bring along a self-powered radio which has a charger included, that can be used for powering all your devices.

As we’ve said before, versatility is a significant consideration in what survival kits are concerned, but it’s also important to look at your own needs before putting together the equipment you’ll need.


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.