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5 Basic Items You Didn’t Know Are Useful Survival Tools

Have you ever found yourself lost in the wilderness without a pack full of useful survival tools? It can be scary! And if you haven’t been there, even the thought of it is bad enough. While most people know to pack essentials like a knife and matches, some unexpected items can make a big difference in survival situations.

In this post, we’ll share five surprising tools that should make their way into your wilderness survival kit. From duct tape to dental floss, these versatile items can help you fix gear, maintain hygiene, and help cook food. Whether you’re an experienced outdoorsman or just starting, read on to learn how these tools can vastly increase your chances of survival.

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Survival Tool #1:
Duct Tape – The Ultimate Survival Tool

Useful Survival Item #1: Duct Tape
Useful Survival Tools: Duct Tape

Whether you’re dealing with ripped clothing, a torn tent, or a damaged backpack, duct tape is the go-to for quick and dirty repairs. Let’s face it – there is nothing faster or simpler than duct tape. Not only can you repair gear that would otherwise be unusable, but you can also prevent further damage from occurring until you can tend to it properly.

In terms of medical, pair some duct tape with a stick, and you now have a makeshift splint. Use it with cotton, and you have a bandage.

Did we mention fire? Duct tape burns very well and for a while, making it an excellent source of tinder. Especially when wood, or rather your kindling, is moist or damp. That calls for a stubborn fire – duct tape to the rescue!

Duct tape is about improvising and solving problems. It is the most basic of useful survival tools, and it’s a good survival kit item! Its uses are limitless and worthy of a spot in your pack. Does that mean a giant roll of tape? Of course not! We use the 1″ wide version, particularly Gorilla Tape. It fits into the pack quite nicely. 

Further Reading: 7 Fire Kit Survival Essentials That You Should Carry

Useful Survival Tool #2:
Sewing Kit: The Importance of Fixing Your Clothes and Gear

Useful Survival Item #2: Sewing Kit
Useful Survival Tools: Sewing Kit

Whether on a day hike or a week-long expedition, a sewing kit is an essential tool for survival when out in the wilderness. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when packing for a trip, but it should be part of your survival kit.

So, let’s get back to “Ripped clothing, torn tents, and damaged backpacks,” which you can mend with a needle and thread. Like duct tape, a sewing kit can save you from potentially dangerous situations, such as leaking water in your cold climate shelter. Unlike duct tape, it’s more of a permanent fix.

Each of these top 5 useful survival items has its time and place. When the wind rips your tent at 3 am, it’s pitch dark, and the rain is coming in, duct tape is your best friend! But when all you have is your $200 fancy hiking pants, and they rip, do you really want sticky tape on them? It’s best to pack that sewing kit.

Let’s stress again that by repairing your gear in the field, you also prevent further damage from occurring. Damage that can render gear, for example, a tarp shelter, utterly useless.

Let’s not forget, if need be, you can also stitch up a wound.

So yes, this sewing kit can be crucial in the wilderness, especially during survival situations. Don’t forget to pack a sewing kit – it hardly takes any space or adds weight to your backpack. And do take the time to fix any damaged gear before it becomes a bigger problem.

Survival Tool #3:
Dental Floss: More Than Just Oral Hygiene

Survival Item #3: Dental Floss
Useful Survival Tools: Dental Floss

Believe it or not, dental floss can be very handy in the wilderness. While it’s essential for oral hygiene, it’s also very versatile. For instance, it can be used as a makeshift fishing line, allowing you to catch fish for sustenance. You can tie up your gear, build a shelter or other bushcraft-style items.

Did you run out of thread in your sewing kit? No problem, use dental floss. Trouble starting a fire? Waxed dental floss is a great rescue. Hungry? Use floss to make a makeshift spear. Have an injury? Use dental floss for stitching wounds, securing splints or as a tourniquet in an emergency.

We highly recommend carrying a real tourniquet. Especially, if you hunt, off-road, hike, or work with equipment like a chainsaw. Accidents happen unexpectedly. Your injury may not allow you to make a makeshift tourniquet. I also carry proper paracord, fishing line and a hank of waxed whipping twine (similar, but stronger than dental floss) in my survival backpack. Putting together a go-bag can be expensive. However, there are ways to save money, and a tourniquet is just not one of those things.

So, do raid your bathroom for that spare pack of dental floss, which is collecting dust and toss it into your pack. You never know when it might come in handy.

Further Reading: Emergency Antibiotic Kit: You Need to Have One

Useful Survival Tool #4:
Trash Bags: Versatile and Essential

Useful Survival Item #4: Garbage Bag
Useful Survival Tools: Garbage Bag

Another functional tool to carry with you is a trash bag. It is not only lightweight and compact, it’s versatile as well. For instance, if it starts to rain and you don’t have a raincoat, a trash bag can make a perfect makeshift poncho or pack cover.

You can also use a garbage bag to collect firewood, pack out your trash, or even create a makeshift shelter – if it’s big enough to double as a tarp. You can even launder your clothes if you really need to. Or how about using strips to mark a trail or use it as a signal, providing your trash bag is a bright colour?

Did we mention you can collect water? That is a big deal in the wilderness! With a trash bag, you can create water. This method is called a solar still, which could be a lifesaver in a survival situation.

One of the single, biggest and best uses for a trash bag (commonly also called “drum liner”) is a bed! Most of the cold comes up from the ground, and if forced to spend an unplanned night in the woods, you can fill a garbage bag with leaves or loose debris and create a browse bed. The browse bed will insulate you from the ground by utilizing air pockets. If going lightweight and not expecting to spend the night, the trash bag is a lightweight insurance policy for the what-ifs.

Someone experienced may argue you can use cedar bows for a bed – and while that’s true, trash bags create a lot of options. It can keep you clean in the process – not to mention off of anything that you could react to.

It’s generally the most experienced bush crafters, ex-military and seasoned outdoors people that carry trash bags! The utility-to-weight ratio is unbeatable, so pack a couple and opt for the thicker 3mil variety, if available.

Further Reading: Techniques to Make Safe Drinking Water in the Bush

Survival Tool #5:
Aluminum Foil: Cooking and Signalling

Survival Item #5: Aluminum Foil
Useful Survival Tools: Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is a practical survival tool and can do much more than cover chicken in the oven or yesterday’s dinner!

Use aluminum foil to cook food over an open flame. Just wrap your food in the foil and place it over (or in!!) the fire. The foil will help distribute the heat evenly and prevent your food from burning. Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to cook meals without needing a pot or pan. And if you’ve never cooked on an open fire, remember you can control your heat by pulling coals aside and cooking on those. Don’t forget that you can also use the foil to block the wind from blowing out your fire by making a wall.

Cover a metal container, and water boils faster. If you’ve ever boiled water in a fire, you’ll know some of that ash that floats around lands in it! So foil, as a lid, takes care of both of those.

Do you need to work on something with small parts or something that has to stay clean? Foil can double as a work surface.

Use the foil as a funnel to collect rainwater. Or use it as a fishing lure to mimic live bait.

But perhaps the most crucial use for aluminum foil is its ability to help you signal for help. If you’re lost or injured in the wilderness, take a piece of foil and shape it into a large “X” or “SOS” sign. Then, place the foil on the ground in a clear, open area where it can be seen from above.

Never discount signalling tools in general: They’re not sexy, not cool, and not something to show off to your buddies, well, except for maybe flares, but whatever. The point is that signalling tools may be the only items that will ultimately get you OUT of the mess you got yourself into in the first place, especially if you can’t self-rescue!


In any scenario, being prepared with the right tools is crucial for survival, especially in the wilderness, where the unexpected can happen.

Will you survive with the items in this post? I don’t know – it depends on your situation, your skill AND what else you happen to have on hand. Pairing these items with a knife, matches, compass, and so forth gives you better versatility and more options for self-rescue. But most people already know that, and we even covered the main survival items in a prior post.

Most of us are constantly working on our survival kits and swapping items in and out based on season, weight, intent of trip and so on. Today’s post is about giving you more OPTIONS for survival gear as you continuously build and enhance your kit! And today’s useful survival items just so happen to be cheap, light and multi-functional. Most of all, these are items you probably already have, in other words, FREE! So, pack them up along with your imagination, and you’ll be that much farther ahead in a bad situation!

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5 Basic Items You Didn't Know Are Survival Tools
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Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

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