10 Most Important Survival Tools If You Get Lost In the Wild

When you’re out in the wilderness, you are completely at the mercy of whatever it is you decide to pack with you. It’s impossible to predict what you might run into, so it’s essential that you’re prepared for anything and everything. That’s why you should always remember to pack the most important survival tool.

So what exactly is the most important survival tool?

While there is a lot of debate on the topic, everyone seems to agree that the most important survival tool is either a paracord, survival knife, fire starter, water purifier, or simply your own wits.

Like most things in life, survival tools are not one size fits all. You may consider one tool more important than another based on your individual situation. For that reason, let’s go over the most vital survival tools you should always bring along. That way you can make up your own mind about what’s most important to you.


paracord is the most important survival tool

A good quality paracord comes in handy in so many situations and it should absolutely be on your person at all times. Whether you stuff a couple of bundles in your bag or braid some paracord to wear as a bracelet, belt, or collar for your travel companion, it is a must-have.

Any strong rope will do the job but paracord is usually preferred as it can hold up to 550 pounds.

Paracord can be used to tie down shelters, repair gear, make splints or tourniquets, hang clothes, and lower you down from cliffs. It can even be unraveled to create sewing thread and fishing line or braided together to create an even stronger rope. 

Survival Knife

survival knife cutting wood
Image Credit: Markus Spiske

A survival knife, pocket knife, or multitool that is small and lightweight is one thing you never want to leave behind on your excursions. Choosing the right survival knife can be difficult with so many options but the most important thing is that whatever knife you choose does its job when the time comes.

Having a knife on hand can help you out in hundreds of situations, including:

  • Chopping, Cutting, or Carving Wood
  • Fire Starting
  • Signaling
  • Shelter Building
  • First Aid
  • Digging
  • Makeshift Screwdriver
  • Self Defense
  • Food Preparation
  • Hunting and Skinning Animals

And so much more!

Before you go out on any adventures, make sure you have a strong but easy-to-carry survival knife with you. You never know when or where it will come in handy, especially in emergency situations.

Fire Starter

ferro rod fire starter

Warmth ranks along with food and water as one of the most important things for survival. So it makes sense that a means of starting a fire would be one of the most important survival tools.

There is more than one way to start a fire and it’s advisable to carry at least 3 different types of fire starters with you at all times, just in case one fails to work.

The best methods of starting a fire are matches, butane lighters, and Ferro rods. All of your fire starters, as well as some dry tinder, should always be kept in waterproof bags or containers to make sure they have the best chance of sparking.

Fires are important for warmth, cooking food, boiling water, and keeping away predators at night.

Water Filter or Purifier

water filter straw for survival

You can’t trust water out in nature. Drinking straight from the source could end up in serious illness. That can easily be avoided by carrying some way to purify water before you drink it, cook with it, or clean wounds with it.

The difference between filters and purifiers is the way they clean the water. Filters strain bacteria from the water while purifiers use chemicals to combat viruses that are too small for filters to catch.

Choosing a water treatment method comes down to what you think is going to work best for you. It’s a good idea to research filters and purifiers before making your final decision so that you feel confident your water will be clean and safe. 

Proper Clothing

Clothing is your first line of defense against the sun, insects, and mother nature. Dress appropriately for the conditions you know you’re going to be in and always prepare for the worst you could possibly encounter.

Wool and synthetic fabrics are best for cold environments while cotton works better in hot temperatures.

Make sure you’re wearing moisture-wicking underwear and wool socks as well as sturdy shoes that are comfortable and will stand up to any water, snow, or mud you have to trudge through. You want to be comfortable but you also want to be safe, so give your clothing plenty of thought.

Map and Compass

map and compass for survival
Image Credit: S Migaj

It’s so easy to get lost in the wilderness. There’s no guarantee you will have access to GPS or phone reception while you’re out there. It’s not only important to bring a map of the area and a compass, but it’s also essential that you learn how to use them properly.

Taking an orienteering class can keep you from getting hopelessly lost.


The only thing worse than getting lost is getting lost in the dark. 

Doing anything in the dark makes you feel so much more helpless. Even if you’re only planning on being out during the day, you never know when freak clouds might hit or you lose your way and stay out longer than normal.

It’s not worth the risk of having to find your way, set up camp, or cook food in the dark. Invest in a good headlamp and you won’t even have to worry about it.

Signal Mirror and Whistle

Signal Mirror and Whistle

Now, sometimes you just can’t find your way out no matter what you do. That’s where the survival part comes in. These two handy tools are some of the best to help other people find you when you get completely turned around.

A signal mirror can alert aircraft to your position, reflecting the sun up to seven miles in good weather. A loud survival whistle cuts through all the other noise out in the wilderness to let other people know where you’re located.

Whistles are also good for alerting bears and other animals to your presence.

These two tools are things that you should always keep on your person rather than in your bag. In the event you get separated from your gear, you will still have the means to be found and rescued.

A Sturdy Tarp

A tarp probably isn’t the first thing you think about when you think of survival tools but it’s so versatile that it’s hard to justify leaving it behind.

A good quality tarp can be used as a shelter, cover your campsite, protect your gear from the elements, serve as a base for your tent, collect rainwater, or as a surface to prep your food on. 

Emergency Kits

emergency kit for survival
Image Credit: Mat Napo

There’s nothing to say if you aren’t already planning on packing some kind of emergency kit. Even if you think you won’t need it, there’s never a good reason not to have one with you when you’re talking about survival.

Emergency kits come in all shapes and sizes – from your basic first aid kit to kits packed with everything you could possibly need in case of an emergency.

You can also build your own emergency kit that suits your individual needs. Some things you can include in your emergency kit are:

  • A Dry Bag
  • Flashlight
  • Water
  • Non-Perishable Food
  • Battery-Powered Radio
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Waterproof Containers
  • Basic Tools (Wrench, Screwdriver, etc.)
  • Flares
  • Prescription Medication
  • Pain Reliever
  • Spare Eyeglasses
  • Pet Food and Supplies
  • A Warm Blanket
  • Trash Bags and Ties

Everything you think you might need in case of an emergency should go into your emergency kit. Because at the end of the day, your forethought is really the most important tool you have at your disposal. Thinking ahead and being prepared is what helps you survive.