Survival Items Hero

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

Have you ever found yourself lost in the wilderness without the necessary tools to survive? Scary, isn’t it? And if you haven’t been there, even the thought of it is bad. While most people know to pack essentials like a knife and matches, there are some unexpected items that can make a big difference in a survival situation.

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 even cook food. Whether you’re an experienced outdoorsman or just starting out, read on to learn how these tools can greatly increase your chances of survival.

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Duct Tape: The Ultimate Survival Tool

Survival Items: Duct Tape
Survival Items: Duct Tape

Whether you’re dealing with ripped clothing, a torn tent, or a damaged backpack, duct tape is the go to for the quick and dirty repair. Let’s face it, nothing is faster or simpler. 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 up some duct tape with a stick and you 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 during times when wood, or rather your kindling, is moist or damp. That calls for a stubborn fire – duct tape to the rescue.

Duct tape is really about improvising and solving problems with the most basic tools! It’s uses are limitless and it’s worthy of a spot in your pack. Does that mean a giant roll of tape? Of course not, we use the 1″ wide version ourselves, particularly Gorilla Tape and it fits in the pack quite well.

Sewing Kit: The Importance of Fixing Your Clothes and Gear

Survival Items: Sewing Kit
Survival Items: Sewing Kit

Whether you’re on a day hike or a week-long expedition, a sewing kit can come in handy when out in the wilderness. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when packing for a trip, but it should definitely be included in your survival kit.

So let’s get back to “Ripped clothing, torn tents, and damaged backpacks”, all of which are easily fixed with a needle and thread. Like duct tape, this 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 and every survival item has their time and place. When the wind rips your tent at 3 am, it’s pitch dark and the rain is coming, duct tape is your best friend! But when all you have is your $200 fancy hiking pants and they rip, do you want sticky tape on it? Better 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. So yes, this very much can be crucial in the wilderness, especially during a survival situation. So, don’t forget to pack a sewing kit, it hardly takes any space or weight in the pack. And do take the time to fix any damaged gear before it becomes a bigger problem.

Dental Floss: More Than Just Oral Hygiene

Survival Items: Dental Floss
Survival Items: Dental Floss

Believe it or not, dental floss can be very handy in the wilderness. While it’s essential for oral hygiene, it can also be used for a variety of other purposes. For instance, it can be used as a makeshift fishing line, allowing you to catch fish for sustenance. It can also be used to tie up gear, build shelter or other bushcraft style items, or even as a tourniquet in an emergency. 

Personally, I carry a real tourniquet – but then again I use chainsaws and shoot guns frequently. I also carry real paracord, fishing line and a hank of waxed whipping twine (similar but stronger than dental floss). But not everyone needs to run around and spend oodles of money on what if items. Especially if you are just starting out and don’t have the budget – because you are acquiring other items for your survival backpack. So do raid you bathroom for that spare pack of dental floss that’s collecting dust and toss it into your pack.

Trash Bags: Versatile and Essential

Survival Items: Garbage Bag
Survival Items: Garbage Bag

In the wilderness, you never really know when you’ll need a trash bag. These lightweight and compact bags can be used for a variety of things. For instance, if it starts to rain and you don’t have a raincoat, a trash bag can be a perfect makeshift poncho or pack cover. You can also use them to collect firewood, pack out your trash, or even create a makeshift shelter – if it’s big enough to double as a tarp.

Did we mention you can collect water? I suppose that’s a big one isn’t it. But did you know they can also be used to create water? That would be what’s called a solar still which could be a lifesaver in a survival situation.

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

Someone experienced may argue you can just use cedar bows for a bed – and that’s true. But the trash bag creates a lot of options and keeps you clean in the process – not to mention off of anything you could have a reaction 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 3 mil variety if you can.

Aluminum Foil: Cooking and Signalling

Survival Items: Aluminum Foil
Survival Items: Aluminum Foil

Yes, basic aluminum foil can do a lot more than cover chicken in the oven, or yesterday’s dinner!

Aluminum foil can be used to cook food over an open flame. Simply 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 in an open fire, just remember you can control your heat by pulling coals aside and cooking on those…

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.

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

But perhaps the most important use for aluminum foil is its ability to help you signal for help. If you’re lost or injured in the wilderness, simply 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 easily 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. This is especially true in the wilderness, where the unexpected can happen at any moment.

Will you survive with the items in this post? I don’t know, it depends on your situation AND there are far more important items to pair these with such as a knife, matches, compass and so on. But most people already know that and we even covered the main survival items in a prior post.

Like yourself though, we are always working on our own kit and swapping items in and out based on season, weight, intent of trip and so on. Today’s post is really about giving you more OPTIONS for survival gear as you continuously build and enhance your kit! And today’s 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 along with your imagination and you’ll be that much farther ahead in a bad situation!

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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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