The Most Essential Survival Gear / Equipment

Survival Gear / Equipment

I've tried to select the most important items to have on hand in a variety of scenarios. This is a new page as of 16 September 2017, which will grow and improve over time.

There are only a few products currently and I'll be adding more over the next few weeks.

As the page gets longer I'll split off some of the non-essential products (like cameras) into their own separate pages. For now everything is getting thown in together and then I'll sort it out. I'm starting off the gear section with the equipment that I think is the most important and useful, and/or which I've used the most myself. Or if I just like it a lot.

Like the book sections of, I get a commission for most of the products listed here — though if I think something is significant enough I'll still add it even if there's no commission available for it.

Note that the Amazon products listed here have been verified that they ship to Australia.

The auto-generated specials page is here now.

What Items Are The Most Essential?

It's open to a lot of debate which items of equipment are the most important. Of course a lot depends on the particular situation.

For wilderness survival, first on the list of items to have, in rough order of importance, are a cutting implement (usually a fixed blade knife), something to start a fire, something to boil water in, a chopping implement (an axe, machete, or large fixed blade knife), something to carry water in, cordage (e.g. rope or paracord), something to keep warm in (e.g. a blanket). You could also add a personal locator beacon (PLB), torch and/or headlamp (to see in the dark), something to purify water without boiling, map, compass, signaling equipment and first aid equipment. And no doubt plenty more things (perhaps a bag to carry all that in)...

Again it will depend a lot on the situation, and what you are trying to achieve, e.g. to live for a period of time away from society, or to be rescued as soon as you possibly can. Or just to use at home to learn and practice bushcraft skills. Also the climate (hot or cold, etc.) and the type of landscape, are there easily accessible water sources like creeks in the area, etc.


I've put knives first and then the other products. I'll group them into separate categories with headings later...

Enzo Trapper Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentEnzo Trapper Knife

This is my favourite knife of those that I have for cutting (as opposed to chopping) wood, for example tasks such as making traps. It cuts through wood like a knife through butter - just amazingly better than the other outdoor knives I have. It's got a "Scandi grind" which means the blade profile is a straight line all the way from the cutting edge to where the bevel begins (about 8.5 mm from the edge on the Enzo Trapper 95 Scandi grind, less than that close to the knife tip).

The angle between the centre line of the blade and the grind is about 11.5 degrees on each side, or 23 degrees counting both sides. Most knives are more like 20 degrees each side (i.e. 40 degrees for the edge in total). This means it can be sharpened really sharp - though the edge is more fragile than a blade with a less steep angle, and you wouldn't really want to use it to cut through a car door.

A few other outdoor knives have small edge angles - for e.g. most Mora knives have 23 to 27 degrees total edge angle, depending on the particular model of knife. For wilderness survival type tasks, knives with really thin edge angles are best used in combination with another tool, like an axe, or another knife with a thicker edge for chopping and tougher tasks.

The Enzo Trapper is available in two lengths, a 95 mm blade and a 115 mm blade. There are two grind options - Scandi (like I have) or a flat grind. You can easily tell which grind is which by looking at the blade, even from far away. On the flat grind, the side of the blade is flat all the way to just before the cutting edge where the secondary bevel starts. On the scandi grind the bevel starts about 1/3 of the way from the edge to the spine (i.e. back) of the knife.

There are at least two steel options, N690Co which is a high quality stainless steel or O1 which is high quality non-stainless tool steel. The handle can be micarta or wood with the micarta being stronger and the wood looking better. Most options come with a really nice thick dark brown leather sheath which has both a regular and a "dangler" style belt loop. The knife is held in the sheath by friction, there's no clasp or clip to hold it in, though there's plenty of friction and it doesn't feel like the knife would slip out accidentally. If I push the knife into the sheath and then hold it upside down by the tip of the sheath, and shake as hard as I can, eventually the knife will fall out. Custom made sheaths are available though you might have to look around a bit to find one.

The Enzo Trapper and many other Enzo knives are also available in kit form, where you shape and attach the handle scales to the blade yourself

Mora Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentMora Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife

Mora, along with opinel, is one of the most longest-running and popular brands of low cost / high quality bushcaft knives. These Mora knives are fixed (not folding) blade and arguably the best bang-for-buck outdoor knives on the planet. They come in several versions, this one is a partnership with "Light My Fire" and has a removeable firesteel which fits into the handle of the knife (rather than the sheath, which is more usual).

These knives are very light weight. On long trips by foot, the main deciding factor in whether or not to carry something is how much it weighs. So even if you have a thick, heavy knife it's a good idea to have a thin, lightweight one also — for comparatively very little extra weight burden.

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KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentKA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Knife

This knife gets a lot of reviewers and people on forums claiming it's the best survival knife. The BK2 and BK22 are the same knife that comes in two different sheath options.

The BK 2 (and 22) have a 5 inch (13 cm) blade that's 6.35 mm (1/4 of an inch) thick, and weigh 452 grams. Made in the USA.

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KA-BAR Becker BK7 Combat Utility Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentKA-BAR Becker BK7 Combat Utility Knife

There's a huge amount of competition for the best all-round outdoor / camping / survival / utility / zombie apocalypse knife — but it could easily be this one. The BK7 has a 7 inch (18 cm) blade that's 4.75 mm (3/16 of an inch) thick. The BK 2 and 22 have a 5 inch (13 cm) blade that's 6.35 mm (1/4 of an inch) thick. I find that really thick blades feel more like holding a mini-axe and don't cut some things as well. The BK7 weighs 385 grams, and the shorter and heavier BK2/22 is 452 grams. Made in the USA.

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KA-BAR USMC Fighting/Utility Fixed Blade Knife with Brown Leather Sheath - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentKA-BAR USMC Fighting/Utility Fixed Blade Knife with Brown Leather Sheath

The KA-BAR website calls this the most famous fixed knife in the world. They're probably right. (Presumably the most famous knife of all is the Swiss Army Knife, which is a folding knife). The KA-BAR USMC Fighting/Utility knife has a long and proud history that goes back to World War II. The handle is made from compressed leather which is a classic, warm, friendly material. The blade is made from 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel, which is a non-stainless steel. The blade is not full tang but a semi-full tang that goes all the way through the handle but inside the handle it's much thinner than the cutting part outside the handle. Some people call this a rat-tail tang though I believe that technically a rat-tail tang is a separate rod of steel welded onto the end of the blade, which is weaker.

KA-BAR is correctly pronounced as "KAY-BAR", with the first syllable accented:

You don't know how often people ask "Am I saying it right?" and when you tell them "actually, it is KAY-BAR" the response is "Nah, you don't know what you are talking about". Makes me laugh every time.

KA-BAR Official Representative

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Buck 119 Special  - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentBuck 119 Special

Another contender for the most classic survival / utility / outdoor fixed blade knife. It has a 6 inch blade. Most versions (perhaps all) come with a genuine leather sheath.

The product information for the 75th Anniversary version says, "Celebrating 75 years of the famous 119 Special! Hoyt Buck's first knife, made from a worn out file blade in 1902 was a fixed blade. The U.S. Government requested blade donations for the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is then, in the basement of a church in 1942, that Hoyt Buck began making knives by hand. It was design that was dialed in after 40 years of making knives to customer specifications. The anniversary edition 119 Special features a custom medallion in the handle and a 75th anniversary blade stamp. The leather sheath also features an embossed anniversary logo. Made in the USA."

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Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Fixed Blade Survival Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentGerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Fixed Blade Survival Knife

This "signature" knife is sold in many places and gets great reviews. It's got a high-quality steel full-tang blade and a comfortable, durable non-slip handle. The blade has a straight edge which is far more useful for bushcraft-type activities than a serrated or partly serrated blade. It comes with a quality sheath made from . There's a sharpener integrated into the sheath, and a firesteel (for starting fires). The official product information says "This is the pinnacle knife in the Bear Grylls signature line".

There's another model without "Pro" in the model name, which is different, and used to be the top-of-the-range Bear Grylls signature knife. The Pro version is the newer model with better steel (9C419MoV high carbon stainless steel instead of 7Cr17MoV steel) and other improved features.

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Gerber StrongArm Military Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentGerber StrongArm Military Knife

Another knife that's frequently seen in lists of the "best survival knife". It has a 4.8 inch (12 cm) blade. The product information says, "Gerber has been making survival knives for the US Military since 1968. The StrongArm Fixed Blade carries on our legacy of tough-as-hell fixed blade knives for combat and survival applications. With a sheath that can be mounted in a variety of ways, this knife offers reliable use whether on-duty or off.

SOLID GRIP FOR CONFIDENT APPLICATION. Featuring a fine edge, full tang 420HC blade with black ceramic coating, the StrongArm was designed around the fundamentals of military survival training. Obtain a solid grip on the knife in all conditions with its diamond-texture rubberized handle. The striking pommel positioned at the base of the handle functions to break through hard surfaces for effective rescue operations, and ceramic coating on the blade offers subtle use through low visual profile, as well as preventing corrosion for long life of the blade.

SMART MULTI-USE MODULAR SHEATH SYSTEM. The StrongArm's modular sheath system is as important as the knife itself. With the sheath's snap-together components, the operator can mount the knife vertically on MOLLE, horizontally on a standard 1.75" tactical belt, or in a traditional drop-leg belt mount fashion. The StrongArm Fixed Blade is designed and built in Portland, Oregon."

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TOPS Tom Brown Tracker T-3 Knife  - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentTOPS Tom Brown Tracker T-3 Knife

The original Tracker Knife was designed by Tom Brown, Jr. It was custom built in small quantities first by Ed Lombi, and then by Dave Beck. The Beck version became known as the Beck WSK (for "Wilderness Survival Knife") and was featured in the movie "The Hunted". After that TOPS Knives started making them. The TOPS versions are factory-made in the USA and finished by hand. The TOPS version had steeper grind angles and many people thought it was inferior to the original models, though many others loved it. After a while a smaller version was made, which was called the T-2 version, and the original then became known as the T-1 version.

Finally, a third version was made, the T-3, which is in between the first two in size and weight. The T-1 version weighs 600 grams without the sheath, which is pretty heavy for a knife. The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet also weighs 600 grams, and it's an actual axe, and chops much, much better than the Tracker knife. But of course the Wildlife Hatchet doesn't cut like a knife.

The Tracker T-3 knife weighs 375 grams, which is a lot lighter. It's bit over an inch shorter overall, which is not that much really, and a lot of the weight reduction comes from it being thinner, 4.8mm (3/16") instead of the T-1's 6.38 mm (1/4"). The thinner blade also means the grinds are shallower, so the T-3 cuts better.

The Tracker style of knife is meant to be an all-in-one tool, so you can cut and chop with it. Of course there is a compromise with any multipurpose tool, and having a separate knife and axe would be much better — apart from having two items to carry instead of one. The saw on the back is mainly meant for putting notches and grooves in wood, as when making traps, or grooves to tie rope around, etc., rather than for sawing through large branches. The blade is made in two sections, the straight part close to the handle is for finer tasks, and has a shallower grind (meaning it's sharper). The curved part further away from the handle has a thicker grind (meaning its stronger), meant to chop.

The T-3 model is made from ATS-34 steel, which is a very high quality stainless "supersteel" made in Japan by Hitachi, and then imported into the USA where the TOPS knives are made. The other TOPS versions of the Tracker knife are 1095 carbon (non-stainless) steel.

Genuine Jimmy Lile First Blood Genuine Jimmy Lile First Blood "Rambo" Knife

This is a reissue (not an imitation) of the original knife as used by John Rambo in the the movie First Blood. The knives used in the movie were made by Jimmy Lile, who made his first knife at the age of eleven by grinding an old file into a blade. He first worked as a high school teacher, then a construction contractor, and then a full time knifemaker. Lile died in 1991 at the age of 57. The knife here is made by Vaughn Neeley under the original Lile brand. It's not a cheap copy.

In some ways it's not the absolute most usable knife for real wilderness survival tasks, e.g. due to the steepness of the grind (though this makes the edge incredibly strong). And the price is out of reach of most ordinary people. Despite these issues, for a dedicated fan of the First Blood movies this would have to be one of the coolest things ever made. If you're a Star Wars fan, you can't exactly buy a real lightsaber, no matter how much money you have.

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Opinel Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentOpinel Knife

The Opinel range of folding knives have been used all around the world and are famous for their quality vs. low cost. There are many different sizes available, with the No. 8, with an 8.25 centimetre blade being the most popular. They have been around since 1880 and are still one of the most respected outdoor knives. They are made from carbon (non-stainless) steel. One of the advantages of carbon steel is that it doesn't have to be expensive to be high quality.

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Schrade Old Timer 4 Inch Senior 3 Blade Stockman Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentSchrade Old Timer 4 Inch Senior 3 Blade Stockman Knife

Another classic working knife that's stood the test of time. This is a folding knife with three blades. The steel is carbon steel which is high quality, but can rust if not looked after. One advantage of a knife like this is that you're probably less likely to get in trouble with the law if caught carrying one without what they consider a valid reason. The old-style looks and especially the fact that the blades do not lock make it seem much more like a camping or farm work type of knife than a gangster type of knife.

When I was around 7-8 years old there was a wall display of pocket knives at the local newsagent, where I'd walk past every day on the way home from school. The "3-blade stockman" style knife was the most expensive and I really wanted one for a long time.

These used to be made in the USA but like so many things are now made in China. The Chinese ones are still considered to be high quality. I've got an older US-made one and to be honest I'd probably use it more if it was a Chinese one, since I tend to baby my one and don't want to get it scratched or beat-up.

The three blades each have names: The clip blade is the longer one. The sheepsfoot blade has a completely straight edge. The third blade (the short non-straight-edged one) is called either the pen blade or spey blade. "Pen" referring to the historical use of sharpening the nibs of feather quill pens, it can also sharpen pencils and of course be used for many other things. The name spey blade comes from its traditional farm use of neutering (de-sexing) male livestock. It's also ideal for skinning hunted or trapped animals, with the non-sharp point making it less likely you'll accidentally put a hole through the skin/leather.

This is the same knife seen in the Bush Tucker Man series of videos. Note that the eBay links do not specify the size of knife, so some smaller ones (e.g. the Junior Stockman) will be returned. This is because not all the listings for the full-size (Senior) version have the word "senior" in them.

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Victorinox Huntsman Swiss Army Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentVictorinox Huntsman Swiss Army Knife

This "Huntsman" model is the first genuine Swiss Army Knife I owned. A long time ago when products were much more expensive, it seemed like a really big deal to have an actual real Swiss Army Knife. This knife is featured in the first articles on, which you can see here, here, and probably in other places on the website.

It doesn't have a locking blade, and on start.php I said that if I bought one again, I'd get one with a locking blade. Although if you treat it carefully, and treat it like the small knife that it is, and don't use it for heavy work, there is little risk of the blade accidentally closing. The main reason I can think to have a non-locking blade is that it might look better to the police if you're carrying one around — since a small non-locking blade folding knife is not much of a fighting knife.

Question: "Do you know why Switzerland is neutral in every war, and their army never fights anyone?"

Answer: "Have you seen their weapon?"

Jokes aside, it's probably still highly illegal to carry even one of these in a public place. Things have changed a lot since the days when every boy carried a pocketknife. And probably most men too, though I'm not old enough to remember that.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are made from stainless steel of a high quality, they are very sharp and cut extremely well.

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Victorinox Official Swiss Soldiers Knife - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentVictorinox Official Swiss Soldiers Knife

This is a Swiss Army Knife with a locking blade. The screwdriver also locks. The blade is mostly serrated but the plain part of the edge is the part closer to the handle, which is much better for woodwork and most other things than having the serrations closest to the handle (which is more common in partially-serrated knives). A pocketknife blade isn't going to be used for heavy woodworking, so having serrations is much less of an annoyance than on a (much stronger) fixed blade knife. It has a wood saw which is a really useful item.

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Leatherman Sidekick Multi-Tool - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentLeatherman Sidekick Multi-Tool

This is one of those tools that's both one I use all the time in "normal" life, and one of the most useful survival items. It's one of the cheaper Leatherman multitools but don't be fooled: It's a quality item. You could spend a lot more on a Leatherman, but I'd rather have an two or three more of these for the same money (or spend the money on a wider range of tools).

The Sidekick model has a saw which is much more useful for outdoor work than the scissors found on some other models. Both the saw and the knife blade are locking. I think the type of locking mechanism is what's called a liner lock, and it feels solid. The edges of the casing/handle of mine were a little sharp for ideal, so I went over it with a fine small file and made them smooth and comfortable to hold in my hand. Persumably the more expensive models wouldn't have this issue. The steel is meant to be very high quality and it does seem so to me. They are made in the USA. In one of Tom Elpel's "Art of Nothing" DVDs, his apprentice takes a multi tool on their camping trip. If I remember correctly, its the only thing he takes (other than his clothing).

Depending on where you buy it, it may have a leather pouch or a nylon sheath. The leather pouch that came with mine is very basic and has two metal eyelets/loops for a lanyard.

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Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentGransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

This is like the Rolls-Royce of small one-hand axes. The Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet is a traditional scouting and camping axe, hand made in Sweden from traditional materials. Gransfors Bruks' core focus is "Producing axes with sound green credentials, avoiding any unnecessary consumption of natural resources." You can read about their production process here. It comes with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath (the correct term is actually "mask") and a 20-year guarantee.

The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is 34 cm long (blade and handle) and weighs 600 grams.

Note that with axes, the most dangerous ones are the smaller ones. This is perhaps counter-intuitive as people generally expect something large to be more dangerous. The reason here is that a short handle means the blade is going to land close to your own body, whereas with a larger axe, the blows are generally landing further away from you and therefore less likely to miss and cut part of yourself. Using a hatchet from a kneeling, rather than standing position is safer — since a missed strike will probably cut into the ground instead of your leg. Be very careful when using a hatchet!

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentGransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

The Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe has a larger head and a longer handle than the Wildlife Hatchet, and therefore provides more chopping power. However, it's still small enough to fit into a rucksack. Hand made in Sweden from traditional materials. Gransfors Bruks' core focus is "Producing axes with sound green credentials, avoiding any unnecessary consumption of natural resources." You can read about their production process here. It comes with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath (the correct term is actually "mask") and a 20-year guarantee.

The Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe is 49 cm long (blade and handle) and weighs 900 grams.

Some people may think that these axes are far too expensive — but have no problem spending three or four times more on a phone that will be replaced in a few years and be completely worthless a few years after that. A quality axe can last for more than a lifetime, even for several lifetimes, if it's looked after well.

Ferrocerium Firesteel - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentFerrocerium Firesteel

These come in several brands and sizes. The principle of use is the same, you strike a sharp piece of metal along the rod and a shower of sparks come off. Unlike a fuel-based lighter (e.g. a butane cigarette lighter), the firesteel has no parts to wear out. It will also work when wet. Other than the firesteel itself getting slightly smaller with each use. About 1 cm thick is a good size, which will last a very long time.

To start a fire from a spark (as given off by a ferrocerium rod) you need extremely fine tinder. The tinder needs to be better than just a scrunched up piece of newspaper (which along with matches is what was most used to start fires when I was a boy). Your tinder needs to be dry, but you can often find dry tinder even in very wet conditions by looking on the underside / dry side of trees, logs, etc, or cutting the outer layers of bark off to get to dry wood underneath. You then make the dry wood into very fine shavings with a knife.

From Wikipedia, "Ferrocerium is a synthetic pyrophoric alloy that produces hot sparks that can reach temperatures of 3,000 degrees C (5,430 degrees F) when rapidly oxidized by the process of striking. This property allows it to have many commercial applications, such as the ignition source for lighters (where it is often known by the misleading name "flint"), strikers for gas welding and cutting torches, deoxidization in metallurgy, and ferrocerium rods (also called ferro rods, flint-and-steel, and flint-spark-lighters). Due to ferrocerium's ability to ignite in adverse conditions, rods of ferrocerium are commonly used as an emergency combustion device in survival kits. Ferrocerium was invented in 1903 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It takes its name from its two primary components: iron (from Latin: ferrum), and the rare earth element cerium."

The firesteel pictured is the "Light My Fire" model, which is a well known and reputable brand made in Sweden. It comes in two sizes: the "Army" size which is bigger, and the "Scout" size which is smaller. You can get it in a few different colours.

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WetFire Synthetic Fire Starting Tinder - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentWetFire Synthetic Fire Starting Tinder

The picture shows WetFire tinder burning in a small puddle of water. From the manufacturer, "Lightweight, safe, and easy-to-carry, UST's WetFire Tinder is guaranteed to light in windy or wet conditions. Requiring just a small amount of tinder to build a fire, you can shave off a small piece or use the entire cube depending on the level of wind or moisture. WetFire tinder burns up to 5 minutes and can be extinguished instantly.

Offering a 5-year shelf life, the cubed tinders are individually packed to maintain freshness. Available in 5-, 8-, and 12-pack quantities." They're great for use in combination with any spark-producing device.

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Reflective Emergency Survival Blanket - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentReflective Emergency Survival Blanket

In many areas that get cold at night, the greatest danger to lost bushwalkers is the cold (i.e. hypothermia). These reflective emergency survival blankets are very light weight, and the reflective surface means that heat does not pass through them easily (since most of it is reflected back). This makes them much warmer for their weight than most blankets.

They come in several sizes, brands, and prices; you can browse some different ones by following the links below.

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Zebra Billy Can 14cm/2L Heavy Duty Stainless Steel - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentZebra Billy Can 14cm/2L Heavy Duty Stainless Steel

If you had to live with only a handful of items from modern civilisation, a container to boil liquids in would be close to the top of the list. Traditionally a billy is made from an old tin can, and you can buy new tin can-style billies however most of them are thin like a tin can and will burn right through eventually. As a child I loved making fires and it's suprisingly easy to burn right through a metal can with repeated exposure to fire.

This billy made in Thailand by Zebra is made from thick stainless steel and will last a great deal longer than a thin "tin" can. It comes with a smaller removeable internal tray that can be used as a steamer, or a separate dish. The lid can be locked on with plastic clips and the clips can easily be removed from the can if desired for use in very high temperatures.

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Zebra Billy Can 16cm/3L Heavy Duty Stainless Steel - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentZebra Billy Can 16cm/3L Heavy Duty Stainless Steel

If you had to live with only a handful of items from modern civilisation, a container to boil liquids in would be close to the top of the list. Traditionally a billy is made from an old tin can, and you can buy new tin can-style billies however most of them are thin like a tin can and will burn right through eventually. As a child I loved making fires and it's suprisingly easy to burn right through a metal can with repeated exposure to fire.

This billy made in Thailand by Zebra is made from thick stainless steel and will last a great deal longer than a thin "tin" can. It comes with a smaller removeable internal tray that can be used as a steamer, or a separate dish. The lid can be locked on with plastic clips and the clips can easily be removed from the can if desired for use in very high temperatures.

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550 Paracord - The Most Essential Survival Gear / Equipment550 Paracord

The 550 in the name is the rated breaking strain in pounds of weight. That's 250 kg, which is a lot for cord that's really quite thin — usually about 4 mm diameter. It was first used in World War II between paratroopers and their parachutes, hence the name. It's got a lot of uses for survival. It takes knots extremely well, unlike many cheap types of rope where the knots tend to untie themselves. It's very light and flexible for its strength. It's got multiple strands inside it, and these individual strands can be taken out and used as string or cord. It comes in a few different strength ratings, with 550 pounds being the most common, which usually (or always) has 7 strands inside plus the outer covering.

If you buy from eBay be careful to check the feedback rating of the seller, since there may be some low-quality imitations offered by sellers with less-than-ideal feedback. To my thinking, feedback over 99.5% is usually fine, and anything under 99 I would usually ignore.

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Deuter Aircontact 65 + 10 Trekking Backpack / Rucksack - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentDeuter Aircontact 65 + 10 Trekking Backpack / Rucksack

I have several backpacks and this one is my favourite of them all. Mine is an older one with different colours but the same model (i.e. Deuter Aircontact 65 + 10). I think the current one has some minor improvements. I like the colours on this newer one better. The colours would blend in well in the bush but without looking "tactical" or "camo". Which means it would blend in both in the bush and in public locations, unlike most military packs. Deuter is usually pronounced as "DOY‑ter".

The "65 + 10" refers to the pack having 65 litres of internal capacity, plus it has an extendable top section which gives an extra 10 litres more space when it's extended.

The company's description says, "It has been an absolutely trustworthy companion on so many trips around the world. It's always hard to change a winning team. But it was time to refine our Aircontact legends. They are still extremely durable, but now come in a more modern, slim look. And they are more comfortable, too, with their new flexible Active Fit shoulder straps and the revised hip wing construction."

It has a lifetime warranty on materials and workmanship, excluding zippers.

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Water Purification Tablets - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentWater Purification Tablets

This is an essential item to carry on outdoor trips. They are small and don't weigh much, or cost much, and could save your life. The "Potable Aqua" brand is one of the most popular but there are several other brands. "Aquatabs" is another popular brand, which come in a cardboard box and blister packs rather than a glass bottle like "Potable Aqua".

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See more water purification tablets at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [BCF] [Ray's Outdoors] [Amazon USA]

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentLifeStraw Personal Water Filter

From the product info, "The award-winning LifeStraw Personal Water Filter can travel with you anywhere. Weighing just 2 ounces and only 9 inches long, the LifeStraw is ideal for hiking, backpacking, camping, travel, and emergency preparedness. The straw-style filter design lets you turn up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water into safe drinking water, filtering out protozoa and bacteria.

It utilises advanced hollow fiber technology which is a highly efficient method of filtration that requires no chemicals. All you need to do is simply place one end of the LifeStraw tube into unfiltered water (a water bottle, river, or even a puddle) and suck clean water through the top of the straw. Follow the instructions provided for your first use.

For each LifeStraw product you buy, one school child in a developing country receives safe drinking water for an entire school year."

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

Purchase from Australia (Cotswold Outdoor)

Purchase from Australia (BCF)

Purchase from Australia (Rays Outdoors)

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

Mountain house Essential Food Bucket - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentMountain house Essential Food Bucket

This gets extremely good reviews. It's got three types of meals in it, packaged as four of each (so 12 packs) and each pack is meant to make up 2-3 meals.

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

See more camping and/or emergency survival food at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [BCF] [Ray's Outdoors] [Amazon USA]

Akubra Felt Hats - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentAkubra Felt Hats

The Akubra is the classic Australian outdoor hat. You can choose from many different styles. They aren't the cheapest of hats but can last for decades.

Purchase from Australia (Wild Earth)

Browse more hats at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [Cotswold Outdoor] [AdventureCo] [Kathmandu]

Greenleaf D-Handle Camping Shovel - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentGreenleaf D-Handle Camping Shovel

A spade (or shovel if you like) is one of the most useful items to have for a huge number of tasks. This is an item commonly left out of lists of "top 10" or top-some-number of survival items. If you don't think the "lowly" spade is all that useful, have a read of this and then come back to this page.

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

4X4 Equip Combo Shovel Standard - The Most Essential Survival Gear / Equipment4X4 Equip Combo Shovel Standard

A spade (or shovel if you like) is one of the most useful items to have for a huge number of tasks. This is an item commonly left out of lists of "top 10" or top-some-number of survival items. If you don't think the "lowly" spade is all that useful, have a read of this and then come back to this page.

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

Browse more camping shovels from Tentworld

Fenix Flashlights E12 130-Lumen Flashlight, Black - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentFenix Flashlights E12 130-Lumen Flashlight, Black

This is my favourite survival torch. Though I don't have a lot of really expensive torches so there may be better ones now, or newer ones. This one is rare in that not only is it bright for one AA battery, but it has a very low-power mode — which means the battery can last for a long time. The product informations says 40 hours which is probably realistic. That's on one AA battery. If you use the brighter modes, it lasts a lot less of course. I also like how when you turn it on, it starts up in the lowest power mode, and then you have to click the power button to get the medium and high modes. Most torches I've seen are the other way around and assume everyone wants the brightest possible beam. Which is fine for when batteries are readily available. But if you're lost in the wilderness, or living after the collapse of Western civilisation, conserving battery life will be vital.

Because of the low-power mode, I keep this torch permanently EMP shielded. I really should get a few more of them. The torch I use by far the most in ordinary life is the Led Lenser P5.2 which is great on full power, but it only has the full power mode and no other.

The product info says "High intensity adjustable light beam. Precision-machined, high strength aluminum alloy case. Limited lifetime warranty. Max 130 lumen output from a single AA battery (included). 50 lumen medium (6 hr 30 min) and 8 lumen low (40 hours ) provides additional flexibility. Max 130 lumen output from a single AA battery (included). 50 lumen medium (6 hr 30 min) and 8 lumen low (40 hours ) provides additional flexibility. Compact 4" aircraft grade aluminum body weighs less than 2 ounces. IPX-8 Waterproof, 2 meters for 30 minutes. Supported by limited lifetime guarantee from Fenix Lighting, US."

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

See more Fenix torches at Amazon USA

Led Lenser Torch P5.2 with Nylon Pouch - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentLed Lenser Torch P5.2 with Nylon Pouch

This is the torch I use the most from day to day. It's really very good. I don't have a lot of experience with expensive torches though. It runs on one AA battery which lasts longer than I would have expected for such a bright torch. You can zoom the beam in and out over a very big range. When it's zoomed out the circle of light it puts out is very evenly illuminated.

The product information says "Offering top specifications and intuitive controls, the new Pro Series sets a higher bar for performance than ever before, upgraded specs combine with our Advanced Focus System, Speed Focus, Dynamic Switching and near-legendary durabilty to make the P Series a must have.

The upgraded Led Lenser P5.2 flashlight is small, lightweight, and saves energy, making it one of the best flashlights you can find for everyday carry. Not even three ounces and running on just one AA battery, this amazingly bright flashlight produces a powerful 140 lumens — over 25% more than the original P5. Even better, you can quickly focus those lumens for a far-out power-spot, or close-up reading beam with just one hand using our Rapid Focus technology. It's like a little spotlight for your pocket."

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

See more torches at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [Cotswold Outdoor] [BCF] [Ray's Outdoors] [Kathmandu] [Tandy] [Amazon USA]

Led Lenser P3 AFS Keyring Handheld Torch - 25 Lumens - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentLed Lenser P3 AFS Keyring Handheld Torch - 25 Lumens

I have the Led Lenser P3 BM (which I believe stands for "Blue Moon") on my keyring. It's a is a slightly older model, the newer model P3 AFS is meant to have 25% more light output. It runs on one AAA battery which lasts a long time.

Purchase from Australia (Wild Earth)

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

Browse more Led Lenser torches from [Tentworld] [Amazon USA]

Silva Expedition 4 Compass - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentSilva Expedition 4 Compass

The Silva Expedition 4 Compass is the classic full-size baseplate compass that's been used and depended on for decades.

If you buy a compass from overseas, ideally it should be made for the Southern Hemisphere. Silva compasses come in five different zones, with Zone 5 being for Australia. The Silva code for Zone 5 is "MS" and you can see the letters "MS" embossed in very small writing if you look underneath the central turning part of the compass.

The reason for the different zones is that a magnetic compass doesn't naturally point along the ground — it wants to point to the actual North Pole, which is underneath the ground, at an angle determined by your latitide and other magnetic properties of the Earth's rocks. Therefore in different regions, the compass needle can tilt wrongly if it's made for the wrong zone. Though it will still work, you may have to hold the wrong-zoned compass at an angle other than flat to get the needle to spin freely.

This might not be that much of a big deal, especially in a very cheap compass, but I wouldn't buy an expensive (or even a medium-priced) compass made for the wrong magnetic zone. I heard that there's a book about England's Special Boat Service, and in one chapter, the author was discussing the Falklands War. Apparently there was an incident where a patrol was where it shouldn't have been, partly because their compasses were meant for the northern hemisphere, and it resulted in a "friendly fire" death.

Purchase from Australia (Cotswold Outdoor)

See more compasses at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [Cotswold Outdoor] [BCF] [Ray's Outdoors]

KTI SafetyAlert Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentKTI SafetyAlert Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

Around May 2017 I spent quite some time looking at the reviews and product descriptions of PLBs, and this looked like the one to get. It's made in Australia. It's got a 10-year battery life. It's other features were comparable to the other brand-name models.

The long battery life was the main thing I liked about it, as you generally throw these types of devices away once the batteries are flat. Since getting them changed costs almost as much, or perhaps even more money than a new (and better) unit.The advantage to having a sealed long-life battery is that you don't have to think about whether or not it needs new batteries or needs charging - all you need to do is have the unit with you (and the expiry date hasn't passed yet). I didn't see any other brands of PLB with a battery life more than 5 years. Most of the others were 5 years.

The idea behind a PLB is that if you get into a life-threatening situation, you press the button to activate it and it will send a distress call along with your GPS position to a global satellite network. So people will come looking for you, and be able to find you.

With any PLB make sure to only order from Australian dealer, unless you specifically confirm with an overseas seller that the PLB you buy can be registered in Australia. PLBs will work anywhere in the world, but are registered in the country of residence of the owner. For at least some types of PLB, perhaps all, there's a country code associated with the device which needs to be set by the dealer (not by the owner) for Australia. Don't buy one from overseas unless you confirm that it's been preset for Australia. It's probably much easier just to buy one from within Australia (or whichever country you live in if not Australia).

Spot Gen3 Personal Satellite GPS Messenger, Tracker & Locator - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentSpot Gen3 Personal Satellite GPS Messenger, Tracker & Locator

This is a newer style of personal distress beacon with extra features beyond the standard "PLB" Personal Locator Beacons (which are like a mini-EPIRB. An Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is a larger device normally found on boats).

Traditionally a PLB can be activated in case of a life-threatening emergency, and it will send a signal with your position information and registration details to a satellite network. This is a free service, and like calling 000 (or 911 in America), it's illegal to use it for anything other than a serious emergency. Another 'feature' of traditional PLB beacons is that they're meant to be one-use only with regards to the batteries installed in them. You can get the batteries replaced once they run out, but the cost of that is usually about equal to, or more than the cost of buying a whole new (and better) unit. Typical battery life in one of those is about 5 years, assuming you never use it. If you try to change the batteries in a traditional PLB yourself (which is almost impossible without advanced spot-welding machinery), then it's illegal for an authorised dealer to do anything with the device like service it or even change the batteries.

The SPOT Gen3 is a very different style of device, which allows you to do a lot more with it than leave it in your pack and never touch it unless you're about to die. It can send regular location updates that can be viewed on Google Maps by friends and/or family or anyone you choose to give access to. It can send SMS text messages and emails via satellite (in a very limited fashion, you can't have a conversation with it). The price you pay for all these extra features is that you must pay an ongoing subscription for the satellite network connection that it uses. Also you can change your own batteries, which is necessary, since you're going to be using this device to transmit, and that means the battery life is a lot shorter (since it's not turned off the whole time). The disadvantage to this is that it's possible for the batteries to be flat when you need it most.

There are four main functions of the SPOT Gen3. 1. it can track the progress of your bushwalk or other expedition (or even jog) which can be viewed by your friends/family/etc in real time on a map. 2. It has an "OK" button which you can press to send a pre-programmed message (I think via SMS/text and/or email) to tell your contacts that you're okay (and the trip/expedition is going according to plan, etc.) 3. It has a non-life-threatening emergency function which you can activate to send a message to your contacts (not to the government/search and rescue authorities, etc.) that you need assistance, and finally, 4. It has an SOS function for a serious emergency, which will notify and send your GPS location to the global emergency response network.

Basically what you get with the SPOT Gen3 is in between a regular satellite phone (which have extremely expensive network connection and call costs) and a PLB that you can only use when life-threatened. The standard PLB has only feature number 4 from the list above, but the batteries will probably still have charge assuming it's before the expiry date (since it's not used for anything else). If you want to be able to use the SPOT Gen3 in a real emergency, you need to make sure the batteries aren't left flat.

Purchase from Australia (Wild Earth)

Sea To Summit Nano Mosquito Fly Head Net - Permethrin Treatment - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentSea To Summit Nano Mosquito Fly Head Net - Permethrin Treatment

A mosquito net is a very lightweight item, and one you could be extremely glad to have in certain situations.

Purchase from Australia (Wild Earth)

See more mosquito nets at [Tentworld] [Cotswold Outdoor] [BCF] [Ray's Outdoors] [Amazon USA]

Esky Solar and Crank Powered Portable Radio - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentEsky Solar and Crank Powered Portable Radio

This solar and crank (wind-up-handle) powered radio gets great reviews. It's also got an LED torch. It looks almost identical (as if made in the same factory) as a different brand one that I have. I couldn't find my exact one, it's probably been updated as this one says it's got a brighter torch than the previous version of it. You can use it to charge other USB devices, though to fully charge a phone would take a very long time of cranking. It would be a lot, lot better than having no charge if you were in an emergency situation and your phone's battery was flat. I think it can also charge via the solar panel, though in practice it takes a larger solar panel than this to charge a phone. It could probably solar-charge itself (the radio and torch), and charge other low power devices.

The brand is written "Esky", though it looks more like E-Sky on the logo. I don't think they're asociated with the popular Australian brand of portable coolers.

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

See more crank powered radios at Amazon USA

Browning Spec Ops BTC-8FHD Trail Camera - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentBrowning Spec Ops BTC-8FHD Trail Camera

This is the camera I have, but a newer version. I think mine is the 2015 version. There are a few varieties of this camera. The current "Extreme" version has an X at the end of the model number, i.e. BTC-8FHDX. There's a platinum version with a P at the end of the model number, I think the platinum one has a colour LCD screen to view images on (like a digital camera). My one does not have this, it only has a small two-line black-and-white LCD screen that shows writing only (for mode settings, etc.). My one has a nice bright green backlight.

Since there are several versions, it's best to check out the exact features a particular one has with a retailer. Each year the cameras generally improve with more megapixels and better other features.

The Spec Ops has "no-glow" infrared LED flash, which is really invisible, at least I can't see anything at all when it flashes in the dark.

Swann OutbackCam Portable HD Video and 12 Megapixel Photo Camera and Recorder (SWVID-OBC140) - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentSwann OutbackCam Portable HD Video and 12 Megapixel Photo Camera and Recorder (SWVID-OBC140)

A trail camera (a.k.a. camera trap) isn't a survival tool in itself, but it allows you to practice trapping animals without having to actually trap them (since this is illegal in most places).

The official description says "Designed to withstand the toughest outdoor climates and situations, this powerful surveillance system is created in a portable, water resistant design. Enjoy around the clock operation in any conditions thanks to a durable, water resistant casingthat can operate in weather conditions and temperatures down to -20!C. Capture clear photos with the 12 MP camera or record HD 1080p videos at 15 frames per second, with powerful night vision reaching up to 15m. Set and forget with long lasting battery operation for extended monitoring over several months plus. Keep a lookout in remote areas with portability by mounting to trees, posts or flat surfaces to monitor farm or wild animals."

Purchase from

Blusmart Wildlife Camera (Trail/Hunting Camera), 12MP 1080P HD With Time Lapse and Infrared Night Vision, 2.4Blusmart Wildlife Camera (Trail/Hunting Camera), 12MP 1080P HD With Time Lapse and Infrared Night Vision, 2.4" LCD Screen

My Browning trail camera does not have an LCD screen, which would be a nice feature. Technology has advanced since I got mine.

From the product information, "Excellent Image and Performance: Ultra-high performance 12 million pixel resolution, 1080P HD video recording can be in the day or night can clearly capture the wild animals of each action. At the same time can be -20 degrees Celsius -60 degrees Celsius extreme temperature, and the camera has a super waterproof function.

Consumption and Response: Wildlife camera running very low power, can provide long running time, in standby mode, the use of four AA batteries up to 3 months, the use of 8 AA up to 6 months battery, more energy Environmental protection. Wildlife camera has a very fast capture effect, the reaction time as low as 1 second, you can capture every subtle action, while high sensitivity infrared sensor (PIR, passive infrared sensor) on the camera to open, activate the image or video mode.

Multi-functional Experience: 500 million pixel sensor, the assessment area can be on the environment, the temperature changes have a sensitive response. The hunting camera also uses the serial number function, the location can be edited in the photo, easy to find, while the photos will have time, date, temperature display, lock and password protection, low battery reminder.

Shooting Range and Installation Use: The trail camera shooting range is very wide, shooting width of 120 degrees, night vision distance of up to 65 inches, do not worry about day or night problems. In order to be able to use more customers more, we have the camera operation and installation of the continuous simplification, but also with detailed instructions, do not worry about the use of inconvenience. "

It's very good that we don't have to worry about the use of inconvenience.

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

S.E. International Nuclear Radiation Pen Dosimeter - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentS.E. International Nuclear Radiation Pen Dosimeter

This is the real deal. These are the dosimeter pens as developed in the cold war days, but brand new. Their website says "The advanced PEN direct reading dosimeters are rugged, precision instruments. They are higher quality, improved sapphire lens, and have greater reliability than other dosimeters of this type."

These are dosimeters, that is the measure the total absorbed dose of nuclear radiation, like the odometer on your car (the number under the speedo) which says how many kilometres the car has gone. As far as I know they have no electronics inside and are EMP proof. They're a completely mechanical device: a piece of metal inside, mounted on a hinge and attached mechanically to the dial needle, is given a static electrical charge with a separate charger. Once it's charged, each gamma-ray photo on radiation that hits it (remember they pass right through the cylindrical housing) removes a little of the charge. As more gamma rays pass through, the charge gradually fades away and the needle moves along the dial. Their operation is just the same as the Kearny Fallout Meter (KFM) which you can build youself. Of course the pen-style ones are professionally made and much more accurate, reliable, and durable than the KFM. If you want to build a KFM the instructions are in the freely downloadable book Nuclear War Survival Skills.

As far as I know they have no electronics inside and are EMP proof. They require a charger, you need to purchase this separately. There are two types of chargers, one runs on a single D-size battery, and looks like a square metal box about 10x10x5 cm. You can use the old cold war civil defense ones or buy a new one. The old ones mostly all still work, and they don't go out of calibration since the calibration is built into the dosimeter "pen", not the charger. They are called pens because they have a similar shape to a pen, even with a pocket clip. The other type of charger looks like a small pistol, and does not require a battery, but is (I think) a bit harder to use, and usually costs a lot more to buy. Of course not needing a battery is a big advantage in a nuclear war. Though the battery type of charger does not use much power (as it only takes a few seconds to charge the dosimeter pen) and the batteries would last a long time.

You can find the chargers easily on eBay. The gun style of chargers are sold new on Amazon but they are expensive.

You can buy the original yellow versions of these pens secondhand, for e.g. on eBay. Many (like maybe half, very approximately) of the old ones are quite leaky, meaning when you zero the scale with the charger, the needle starts moving up all by itself even when there is no radiation. As far as I know these are unrepairable and are pretty much just junk. The ones that don't leak most likely still work, unless they have the other issue which sometimes develops with these, which is the needle gets sticky. It seems likely to me that if the dial needle moves up and down very smoothly when you turn the knob on the charger (the battery powered ones have a knob which moves the needle across the scale), they probably aren't that sticky. But I'm not completely sure. Buying a brand new one would ensure greater peace of mind that it actually works.

They come in a few different sensitivities, indicated by the maximum reading on the scale. The lower value ones will show movement of the dial at lower exposure rates (i.e. are more sensitive) but will need to be recharged more often. When the needle reaches the end of the scale, you must use the charger to reset it to zero again. The higher value pens are less sensitive and require charging less often. The original yellow pens were made up to a 200 R full scale deflection version, and this was the version that they made the most of. The lowest (most sensitive) of the original ones were 200 mR, which will max out the scale 1000 times faster than the largest 200 R size. The original literature described the 200 mR ones as "Low range dosimeter used for training". Meaning not in an actual nuclear war. To put that into perspective, in Australia we recieve about 200 mR (i.e. 2 mSv) of natural background radiation per year. And an X-Ray or CT scan adds another 150-2000 mR (1.5-20 mSv) more.

To get a perspective of the dose rates, acute radiation sickness begins at about 100 R of exposure. If exposed to much more than that approximate dose, you may have problems recovering. About 500-600R will kill most people and much higher than that means certain death. The more modern unit of the sievert (Sv) is bigger than the R so that 1 Sv = 100 R, so 1 R = 0.010 Sv = 10 millisievert (mSv). These are very high numbers of radiation levels like would be experienced in a region of nuclear fallout. If you look around the web at peacetime radiation meters, they often talk in microsieverts, where 1000 microsieverts (uSv) = 1 mSv. The highest recorded radiation rates during the Fukishima nuclear reactor crisis were about 40 R per hour.

You need a light source to read the pens, like the sun, or a torch or light bulb, etc. You can't read them in the dark. At a pinch you can use the battery operated chargers as a light source to read the scale, but you have to be super-careful not to press the pen very hard into the charging socket or it will reset the needle reading (and you will never know what it was).

You can read a lot more about the pens and how to use them here. These S. E. International ones are the same as the Arrowtech Inc. ones, and if you look at the close-up of the product image on Amazon you can see "ARROW-TECH" on the label.

The Amazon purchase item is for ONE pen, not three. There are three pens shown in the product image. Please ignore the one-star review from someone who was expecting to get three pens. These are quality items, as good as it gets. The eBay link includes an item called "Dosilite Pen Dosimeter Light" which is much cheaper, note that this is just the light only, not a dosimiter.

Purchase from Amazon (USA) 20R Maximum Reading

Purchase from Amazon (USA) 5R Maximum Reading

Purchase from Amazon (USA) 200mR Maximum Reading

Radiation Alarm - Free App for Android - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentRadiation Alarm - Free App for Android

This is a free app for android phones which uses the phone's camera to detect gamma rays. It's not a toy - it really does detect radiation (apparently). You need to cover the camera with something completely dark so that it does not detect light. I used a few layers of black electrical insulation "sparkie" tape. According to ANSTO these kinds of apps really can work accurately. The app they tested was a paid one that I haven't tried yet but this one works on the same principles. The most important questions were 1. can a phone camera detect radiation such as gamma rays), and 2. What is the response of the detector to increasing levels of radiation. According to their tests, yes radiation is detected, and the response of a phone camera was found to be linear, meaning that the measured level of radiation was proportional to the actual level as they tested with their professional scientific equipment. They tested the Apple iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S2. I would imagine most other smartphone cameras would have a similar behaviour and work with this app.

I also read somewhere a comment that the detector/sensor in phone cameras does not saturate at very high levels of radiation as much as a Gieger-Muller tube, which if true would be a great thing in terms of nuclear war radiation measurements (which are higher than Gieger-Muller tube based detectors, including nearly all modern radiation detectors, can measure).

Of course the very large disadvantage with this kind of app is that in a real nuclear war the EMP produced would destroy your mobile phone in a fraction of a second, and then it would be unable to measure radiation (or do anything at all) at the time when you would most want to measure it. The only way around this problem would be to keep your phone EMP shielded if you thought there was likely to be a nuclear attack. Another more practical solution would be to install this app on an older phone that you don't use anymore and keep that one permanently EMP shielded. Of course you'd have to ensure that the phone had power after a nuclear event, which would mean keeping a charger and portable solar panels also EMP shielded, or using some other method of charging that's both off-grid and EMP proof.

Unfortunately, after installing it on a HTC One M8 (which is from about 2014) it hasn't detected any radiation yet despite sitting on top of my radioactive source (a uranium oxide glazed plate) for a few minutes. I'll leave it on for a while and see how it goes. According to the comments on the app, several people have tested the app with radioactive sources and it did work for them. It could just be that my source isn't strong enough, though my actual Geiger counter can detect it no problem at all. Also the interface isn't the greatest. For e.g., whenever the phone is turned around and the screen changed orientation, the calibration window comes up on the app.

I couldn't find it on the Apple App Store. There are a few other radiation detection apps out there. Some of them require a small detector tube that plugs into the headphone jack. I've also tried GammaPix Lite which isn't detecting anything either. It's website claims that it should work with my model of phone. Again, it might just be that my source is too weak. GammaPix Lite has a lot more features than Radiation Alarm, but it has a license that expires in a few months, and I read something about it needing a network connection for something. Which isn't going to be much help in a nuclear war.

Download from Google Play

Tasco Essentials 10x50 Binoculars - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentTasco Essentials 10x50 Binoculars

I have the 8x40 of this series, which I bought because I saw them on special, and they had a much clearer image than the cheap no-name brand binoculars I had before. I would have got 10x50 instead if they had been on special also. These are great basic binoculars which can be used for birdwatching, stargazing, etc.

The first number (like 8 or 10) refers to the magnification, so bigger numbers mean you can see closer up, but the image will shake around more. The second number (like 40 or 50) is the diameter of the large lenses in millimetres. Bigger numbers mean more light gets in, so the image is clearer and better, at the expense of being larger and heavier to carry around.

With binoculars, once you get above the really cheap models (like $30-50), the image quality is pretty good. You can pay a lot more, like a few hundred dollars, or $1000 or $2000 even — but most of what you get isn't so much raw image quality but other features like durability, being waterproof, better lens coatings, image stabilisation, etc. Cheaper binoculars are more delicate and if not treated gently the two sides can go out of alignment with each other.

The product information says, "Tasco has been America's popular choice in sports optics for over 50 years. For half a century we've made it our mission to design and manufacture quality optics at prices that will fit any family's budget. Tasco products are packed with the latest features, built to exacting quality control standards, and designed to deliver a lifetime of satisfaction — so you can choose Tasco with confidence. With a great selection to choose from, you're sure to find just the right sports optics product for everyone in your family."

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

Purchase from Australia (BCF)

Browse different models of binoculars at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [BCF] [Kathmandu] [DWI] [Kogan] [Amazon USA]

Celestron Nature DX Binoculars - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentCelestron Nature DX Binoculars

A very highly rated binocular for its price, especially for outdoor use. It wasn't that long ago that sealed, fog proof & waterproof binoculars cost enough to be out of the reach of average people.

From the manufacturer, "Celestron's Nature DX 10x56 binoculars are the perfect companion for your next outdoor adventure. A great first step into the world of serious sport optics, the views through Nature DX rival those of more expensive binoculars, at a price to fit your budget. With phase-coated BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics, Nature DX reveals image detail you won't find with other entry-level binoculars. And when you're off the trail, enjoy superb views of concerts, sporting events, and more.

Sophisticated optics: Nature DX's high quality BaK-4 prisms are phase coated to increase contrast and resolution. Phase coated prisms, combined with fully multi-coated lenses, provide maximum light transmission through the entire optical path, for brighter images, even in low light conditions. With 10x magnification and 56mm objective lenses, Nature DX 10x56 strikes the perfect balance between performance and ease of use. Acquire and follow your subject quickly in the wide field of view. Or, observe nearby subjects like plants and insects with a close focus of just 6.5 feet.

Binoculars that fit your lifestyle: A durable rubber armored, polycarbonate housing protects your Nature DX binoculars from damage without weighing you down. Twist-up eyecups with multiple stops ensure proper positioning of the eyes, even for eyeglass wearers. Waterproof, fogproof, and nitrogen purged, these binoculars can withstand the elements. They're easy to pack, even for long excursions, and fit comfortably in a glove box or oversized pocket.

Bird watching made easy: Birders will love Nature DX for its bright, sharp views of distinguishing features and markings. You'll get more bird identifications and more enjoyment from each birding outing. The 10x56 model is a favorite among beginning and intermediate birders, since birds are easier to locate and follow in its wide field of view. Take your passion for birding to the next level with Nature DX!"

Purchase from Australia (Tentworld)

Purchase from Amazon (USA)

Browse different models of binoculars at [Tentworld] [Wild Earth] [BCF] [Kathmandu] [DWI] [Kogan] [Amazon USA]

Zeiss Terra ED Binoculars - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentZeiss Terra ED Binoculars

These get amazing reviews for birdwatching and other outdoor uses. In more expensive optics a lot of the cost goes into the higher quality lens coatings, which are expensive to manufacture. One effect of better coatings is that a lot less light gets reflected from the surface of the lenses, meaning that more light gets into your eyes and the field of view looks brigher overall. This means that a smaller (and therefore lighter and easier to carry) objective lens with really good coatings can give a bright view similiar to a bigger lens with cheaper coatings.

The manufacturer's description says "Compact, light and robust: With its fibreglass-reinforced, waterproof casing, the TERRA ED fulfils the high expectations of the outdoor enthusiast. The TERRA ED line is designed to be compact, light and sturdy. This means: the TERRA ED is the ideal companion that weighs little, fits easily into every pocket and is almost indestructible. Whether on long journeys, in the open countryside, at racetrack or concerts, on city tours, in the mountains or on the open seas.

Brilliant, razor-sharp images: Thanks to maximum optical precision and a hydrophoic multi-coating, the ZEISS TERRA ED meets all demands for versatile use. This state-of-the-art coating ensures that ZEISS TERRA ED will impress you even under difficult conditions such as adverse weather and challenging outdoor situations. These binoculars guarantee outstanding images, minute details and absolutely natural colors.

Easy-to-use, quick focussing: The large, smooth-running and easy-access focussing wheel of the TERRA ED makes focussing especially easy and fast. Pick up a pair of TERRA ED binoculars and their advantages are instantly apparent. The index finger automatically positions itself on the focus wheel. You no longer have to think about how best to hold the binoculars if an exciting scene appears right in front of you. Quick as a flash, you are focussed on the object of your interest. You can be sure never to miss out on those unforgettable moments. On the contrary, you have a razor-sharp, ringside view of them.

Close-up field observation: Active outdoor lifestyles demand compact, durable and versatile binoculars. The ZEISS TERRA ED delivers razor-sharp images of far-away objects. But it can also observe nature up close with great precision. With a generous wide field of view and a close focus distance of just 1.6 m (TERRA ED 32 and 42) or 1.9 m (TERRA ED Pocket), the TERRA ED is ideal for nature observation, whether the object is far across the field or in the tree just above you."

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Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200MM f/4-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction II Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras - The Most Essential Survival Gear / EquipmentNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200MM f/4-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction II Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

This is the lens I used for nearly all the bird photos on this website. It's quite cheap as far as digital SLR camera lenses go. It's also very lightweight and easy to carry around. I have the older "VR I" model, this is the newer improved version that was introduced in 2015. I got mine, plus a wider zoom lens, together with my first digital SLR camera, a Nikon D40. Even now, after buying a much more expensive and longer focal length zoom lens, I find that this lens is better for caged birds (e.g. at Featherdale Wildlife Park) because it can get shoot through the gaps in the cages. When doing that, I use it with a rubber lens hood which I can press right up against the cage bars, and still move the camera around to point it, and if done carefully the lens hood makes the bars look nearly invisible in the photos. When you consider how much you could pay for a zoom lens, this must be one of the best value lenses on the planet.

"I own the more expensive alternatives, and I usually use this 55-200mm VR II instead because it's easier to carry and more fun to use. Sharpness and performance are extraordinary. A lens this inexpensive never used to have the right to be this embarrassingly good." Ken Rockwell.

You might not think of cameras as survival tools, but they're very useful for practice. You can practice trapping with a trail camera. You can practice hunting with a handheld or tripod-mounted ordinary camera. If you can shoot an animal with a camera and a long lens, then you could have shot it with a gun. If you can get close enough to an animal to shoot it with a short focal length lens, then you could have caught it with a low-tech hunting weapon. Starting off with a lightweight, easy-to-carry longer lens is much easier and more rewarding when you're beginning with this.

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See Also

Survival Books
My Top Two Survival Books
Books by Tom Brown, Jr.
Survival DVDs
Australian Field Guides and Nature Books
Permaculture, Self Sufficiency And Sustainable Living Books
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