Building your bug out bag is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family in the event of a catastrophe.
Your bug out bag is designed to help you evacuate at a moment’s notice and is packed with the essential survival gear to get you to safety. It should contain everything you need to sustain you for a minimum of 72 hours.
Our free interactive bug out bag list will help you build your fully customized bug out bag, tailored to your specific needs, abilities, and environment.
IMPORTANT: If you do not want to build your kit from scratch, consider the following options…
The bug out bag list below is broken down into various essential survival categories. Go through each category, one by one, and select the items that you would like to pack in your bug out bag.
Keep in mind, a well-designed bug out bag should weigh no more than 25% of your body weight, assuming you are in average physical condition and are not overweight. Any heavier than that can make carrying the bag highly strenuous and limit your ability to remain mobile and travel long distances on foot during an evacuation. Limit your packing list to the essentials that will help you survive.
Our bug out bag list tool will automatically estimate your bug out bag’s weight based on your selections, with the option of entering your body weight to see if your kit is below the recommended 25% weight threshold.
Once you are finished selecting your items, your personalized bug out bag checklist will be sent to you by email, to help you pack.
DON’T MISS: Below the tool, you’ll find a list of links to the best bug out bag gear to help you find any items don’t already own!
The Best Bug Out Bag Gear (with links!)
After you’ve decided on what to pack in your bug out bag, the next step is to assemble your kit.
In case you’re missing any of the items, we’ve put together the following list of our favorite survival gear.
REMEMBER: Don’t just pack everything on this list. Instead, limit your bag’s contents based on your specific needs, environment, and potential threats.
Also, make sure your bag, once packed, weighs less than 25% of your body weight, assuming you are in average shape and not overweight.
Finally, don’t forget to include your personal items such as cash, copies of your identification, and medications.
We love the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 for a 3-day bug out bag. It is designed by professional survivalists and is built to last.
If you were born in the 70’s or earlier you probably remember when the term Bug Out Bag was virtually unknown. Nowadays at least three out of four people you meet in a social context are likely to be familiar with the term. It’s a sign of the times in which we live.
However, we don’t hear a lot about the concept of varying the items in one’s BOB depending on whether it’s an urban or rural environment the person will be dealing with. I won’t spend time going over all of the items one should have in his/her pack as I suspect this is well covered ground for most reading this article (CLICK HERE to make your custom bug out bag list & have it sent straight to your inbox!).
Whether one is in the city, countryside, or deep in the wilderness, much of the pack contents should be the same. Much, but not all.
Choosing The Right Tools For The Job
I have read advice about the best items to select for a BOB as if the general environment where it will be used is irrelevant. In my view this is akin to having a handyman show up to your home with only a small tool box without telling him whether it’s a plumbing or an electrical problem he will be addressing!
Having the right tools to survive can mean the difference between life and death! Choose wisely…
As a cop working in the greater Los Angeles area for over two decades, I’ve spent some time observing the kinds of scenarios typically encountered when things go awry in urban and suburban environments. Some were accidents, while others involved intentional violence. The point is that all of these events are likely to occur during and following a major disaster, with two major differences:
The effects of these incidents will be exponentially larger, and
Any resources available to respond to same will be overwhelmed, and possibly unavailable altogether.
Worse yet, in my opinion there is likely to be a synergistic effect if the scope of the disaster is severe enough to severely impact the infrastructure (including police response). Those who live their lives as predators (i.e., gang members and others) will in all likelihood become aware of the lack of first responders far more quickly than the rest of society, and will take full advantage early on.
I would like to be proven wrong, and perhaps I will, but don’t count on it.
A disaster doesn’t tell you when it is coming
Disaster Planning: Know Your Environment
Making a Bug Out Plan that is specific to your locality is vitally important. You want to include the intricacies and potential dangers that are local to where you are going to be operating.
Urban Disaster Planning
If one should find himself/herself in an urban environment after a catastrophic incident that essentially collapses the infrastructure, the primary objective should be to get out of the heavily populated area ASAP. This is one of the major differences between bugging out through an urban area and doing so in a rural location. Time is a much bigger consideration in the former. With this in mind, one should prepare so that he/she can:
Be equipped to determine alternate routes while on the move (or at least with little time to make route changes).
Have the means to defeat the varied physical obstacles potentially to be encountered.
Have the tools capable of extricating one’s self or others from confinement due to structural collapse, vehicle collisions, or other situations more common in urban disasters.
Be equipped to create large holes in interior walls to facilitate escape from threats present inside the building.
If escape/avoidance is not possible, have an effective means to defend against violent attack.
A wild fire can move incredibly fast and destroy EVERYTHING in its path
Rural Disaster Planning
Contrast the above with the typical priorities for a short duration rural or wilderness survival scenario, such as:
Capability to process wood for starting and maintaining fire.
Means to put together basic (short term) shelter.
Less important, but worth mentioning, is the means to fashion additional crude tools (e.g., hunting devices) to aid in survival conditions should the scenario turn into a longer term one.
A map of the city where one works (as well as where one lives if not the same city) is imperative. Unlike as is often the case when traveling through rural or even wilderness locations, urban travel after a disaster can present fluid situations chock full of potential extreme danger requiring sudden and unexpected route changes. No matter one’s skill and/or type of weapons he/she may have, avoidance of conflict at virtually all costs is going to be the better option. And in the process of changing direction (perhaps multiple times as part of evasion), even the best of us can find ourselves disoriented. Pack a map! And have at least one (preferably two) reliable light sources to study the map during darkness. I have found that unlike when navigating through wilderness, a small inexpensive compass will suffice for city map work.
Click on the image to brush up on your map reading skills
Unlike when hiking through wilderness locations, having/wearing high quality state-of- the-art gear while walking through heavily populated areas when the infrastructure is down is a mistake. Wearing the latest “tacticool” pack can be an equally big mistake.
Since two-legged predators will be aware of the increased opportunities the conditions have created for them, the less attention one invites, the better. I know from experience that many street smart bad guys have a surprisingly keen eye for quality gear, even when it comes to items they know almost nothing about.
Don’t advertise your cool gear if you can possibly help it. Wearing a pack is likely to draw at least some extra attention no matter what—this is largely unavoidable. But donning a pack that appears to be very used, or even dirty, is a better option than a brand new pack. And a “plain Jane” civilian pack is more likely to ride under the radar than a tactical pack. Ditto all of the above when considering the clothes you will wear during these conditions—especially shoes! Learn and practice your Gray Man/Woman Skills now to fly under the radar when a disaster strikes (Click HERE to learn how).
Click on the image to learn how to be a Gray Man or Woman
Large Knife VS. Tomahawk
On many occasions I have watched other first responders use a variety of tools when handling emergencies. I have also used some of these tools personally to gain entry into semi-fortified homes during the course of police work. Other than issued weapons (police) and medical equipment (fire department/paramedics) the tools used most often were those designed to defeat barriers typically encountered in cities (everything from car doors and windows to steel home security doors).
Although you might convince yourself you would not stop to help another in need if it delayed your bugging out from a dangerous environment, you really never know until faced with that scenario. Moreover, you just might need the means to get yourself out of a jam.
Each has its place…
With the growing threat of terrorism and active shooter incidents, being equipped to create a travel path (breaking out a hole to crawl through) between a building’s interior rooms is a reasonable preparation. There are many scenarios that could prompt the need to bug out through an urban area—a massive terrorism incident is certainly one of them.
I am trying to make the case for not including a large knife in favor of a rugged tomahawk. Never mind that many “experts” insist on having a large hard use survival knife in any and all BOBs. A person is better off with an affordable tough tomahawk for urban scenarios any day of the week. And a suitable “hawk” can be had for about half the price of any survival knife capable of doing other than traditional knife chores!
Estwing’s Black Eagle Tomahawk fits this bill. It is not very attractive, and the workmanship shows only minimal attention to finish and fine symmetry, but I can personally attest to the tool’s capability. I have used the spike end to break car window glass, punch through heavy steel mesh and car trunks, as well as breaking a six-inch diameter hole in a cement cinder block (I encountered no steel rebar however). I have also used this “hawk” to pry apart two-by-fours fastened with 16D nails. After all of this, the business ends of the hawk’s blade are still not much worse for wear (cosmetic damage only). Does anyone think any of the better quality survival knives out there could perform these tasks without causing damage, or even breaking, the blade?
I once watched a fellow patrol officer show off his $250.00 tanto bladed knife by punching through the steel door of a typical gym locker. Worked fine. He repeated the feat an hour later to show off his new knife to another observer. This time it significantly damaged the blade’s tip. He was so angry we couldn’t talk to him for over an hour. Knives simply are not meant to be used to defeat steel, concrete, or even glass! Check out our article on Picking The Best Tomahawk For Your Bug Out Bag HERE.
Click on the image above to learn how to pick the best tomahawk
I have no financial interest in Estwing, and there may be other equally well-performing hawks out there for a similar price (about $35 HERE on Amazon), but I have not found them. I have discovered far more expensive hawks but never purchased or tried them. And I have tried a couple of the lighter hawks sporting plastic handles, but found their performance lacking—seriously so! The only real downside to the Estwing is its weight. At 27 ounces it is admittedly heavy. The Becker BK2, a popular hard use survival knife, weighs about 10 ounces less, but the capability of the Estwing hawk makes it well worth these extra ounces in an urban environment.
I would feel adequately equipped If my urban BOB cutlery items were limited to a robust hawk and my multi tool (a must for any BOB, regardless of setting, check out our Guide for Picking The Best Multi Tool HERE). The former could handle any rough cutting tasks, while the latter’s small blade could deal with finer cutting chores.
If someone absolutely insisted on carrying another knife for more traditional cutlery chores, a Mora Kniv would fill the bill for about twenty dollars. And it’s doubtful the Mora’s extra 4 ounces (including sheath) would be noticed.
Finally, a hawk can be used for protection against a violent attack when all else fails. As for whether a hawk or a good knife would serve this purpose better…well, that really depends on the individual as well as the circumstances. After all, neither is the best tool for self-defense, for more reasons than one (a topic for another article). Let’s just leave it with the idea that a hawk can be used as an effective self-defense tool in a pinch.
Lightweight Wire Cutters
Being able to cut through standard chain link fence could prove to be the difference between escaping a very bad scenario and falling victim to one. I can conjure up a half dozen scenarios where a person might need to escape a threatening situation, seek shelter, or simply shave off valuable travel time by cutting through a fence.
Chain link fencing is ubiquitous in virtually any urban area. Unfortunately, I have found multi tools fall short of being capable of cutting chain link in a reasonable manner of time and effort. Find the smallest/lightest tool capable of cutting chain link in one clipping action (Tekton makes a good pair, see them HERE). Bending or sawing through wire takes too long under most scenarios that would warrant cutting fencing in the first place.
Rural / Wilderness Pack Items
Knife vs Tomahawk vs Hatchet
You’re probably asking, “Didn’t he just cover this issue?” I did—for the urban setting. However, after spending a good deal of time in the wilderness (including several nights without a tent), both recreationally and as a search & rescue volunteer in the California Sierras, I prefer a good large knife in any environment other than an urban/suburban one.
Surviving in the wilderness doesn’t have to be hard…IF you have the right tools and skills.
Hundreds of years ago, the tomahawk’s philosophy of use was multi-faceted. Only one of these intended functions involved the processing of wood for structure building or building fire. The hatchet (hand axe), on the other hand, was designed for one purpose only—processing wood. As one could predict, the hatchet proved to outperform the tomahawk for wood processing, while the hawks performed better as weapons. I have tried many a “woods hawk” over the years, but in the end I have found quality hatchets of similar weight simply do better with wood chores.
Given the points made in the “Disaster Planning” section of this article, the hatchet gets the nod over the tomahawk for a rural BOB.
All of the above notwithstanding, I prefer a large survival knife to a hatchet for my rural BOB. The hatchet will almost always out chop a knife of similar weight, but this isn’t the end of the story. When it comes to cutting wood a small lightweight folding saw offers a better choice than a tool that chops the wood to the desired length. But the primary element of fire wood preparation involves splitting the pieces for fire building.
A quality knife with a 7 to 9 inch blade can be used very effectively to split wood using the “batoning” technique. And in my opinion it is a safer means of splitting wood than swinging a hatchet to accomplish the task. When “batoning”, only the piece of wood used to strike the knife spine is being swung through the air. The odds of a catastrophic accident are greater when using the hatchet for the job. This can be ever more the case when working in cold climates outdoors. As for the argument that “batoning” to split wood constitutes abuse of the blade, I call B.S. I have split at least a cord of wood over the years with my Ontario SP50, and other than destroying the black blade coating, the knife is still in great working shape. Check out this video to see how batoning works:
I know there are many (far more than hawks that can compete with the Estwing) quality large survival knives that can also perform well when it comes to wood prep. I would, however, urge anyone selecting a fixed blade knife for his/her wilderness BOB to go with a seven inch blade or larger. This makes splitting wood of three inches or larger diameter much easier than using a shorter blade. To see our comprehensive guide on choosing a fixed blade CLICK HERE NOW.
When travelling through areas where there are no street signs, or even no streets, a higher quality compass becomes very important. Land navigation where there are no streets is a skill that demands time and effort to learn. Knowing how to navigate through these types of surroundings using a topographical map is not for the novice! If at all possible, stay on a road, or at least keep the road in sight. In any case, a rural BOB should always include a high quality compass.
Fire Starting Kit
This should be a “no brainer”. When bugging out through an urban setting under circumstances where you might have to spend some resting hours in the dark, it might or might not be advisable to make a fire. Fire attracts the urban predators, while it tends to repel the four legged type.
Furthermore, having a fire in a location where there is no man made shelter available is uniquely important. In addition to heat and minimal light, it is well documented that a small fire can provide a significant psychological boost for the solo survivor/traveler.
Having established the greater importance of being able to create fire in a rural setting, ensuring one has the ability to do so becomes paramount. Having multiple means to create fire is a must for the rural/wilderness pack:
Butane lighters (avoid the knock-offs and get the Bic brand)
Don’t forget to Include a few petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls as well. They will ignite with a decent spark (paper and many other tinders requires actual flame) and continue to burn for several minutes. If you want to learn 6 ways to start a fire WITHOUT matches, CLICK HERE.
Steel Water Bottle
Any BOB will include a container to carry water (I’m assuming this goes without saying), so why not have one that can also be used to heat or boil water? A single walled stainless steel water bottle like the Klean Kanteen (or similar design) products can be placed over open flame or coals to heat water.
Boiling water is a dependable way to kill any pathogens (chemical contamination is another issue). I once used a heated steel water bottle as an improvised hot water bottle to ward off hypothermia in a snow cave. Not sure if it was literally a lifesaver, but I was sure glad to have it. Make sure to remove the cap before heating water to avoid a pressure build-up and the subsequent likely explosion.
My experience has convinced me that for urban applications, escaping the locality as fast as possible should be the key objective in a SHTF scenario. Sheltering in place, even for a short time is likely to be catastrophic. In my view a robust tomahawk, coupled with a good multitool and small wire cutters, is close to the perfect set of BOB tools—but this could be surpassed with a new invention at any time.
For rural/wilderness environments, night travel is far less desirable and sheltering through the night(s) becomes a priority. Creating fire and crude shelter is paramount for the wilderness trekker under any circumstances. For this application, a large survival knife becomes the tool of choice, edging out both the tomahawk and hatchet in the versatility and safety categories.
The very fact that those reading this article have probably already put together a bug-out bag at all places them way ahead of most. Having a readily accessible BOB, even if not perfectly constituted, is 90 percent of the game in itself. However, it’s still a good idea to evaluate equipment choices every so often, keeping a philosophy of use mindset while doing so.
If you are ready to build your custom Bug out Bag List, click on the button above now.
For more info on this topic you can check out these articles:
Do you have an item that is a “must have” for your urban or rural bug out bag? Can you think of any other big differences between what you would pack for these scenarios? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!
About The Author
Frank LaFlamme spent almost a quarter century in law enforcement in the Los Angeles area serving for three local agencies as well as an assignment with the DEA Los Angeles office. His assignments included uniformed patrol in one of the most violent areas in California, narcotics investigation, gang enforcement, robbery and homicide investigation, high risk warrant service, and a terrorism liaison officer position. Upon retiring, Frank volunteered as a Search & Rescue “ground pounder” with a sheriff’s department in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park. Additionally, he started a small disaster preparedness consulting business called F& D Consulting. In 2014 he published a novel titled EMP Los Angeles (an Amazon best seller for a while, CLICK HERE to see it), a raw and gritty cautionary tale of a post EMP attack Los Angeles.
Here at TBOBG, we’ve covered all kinds of preps. Among those, of course, are preps for defense and food procurement. Even though you’ve painstakingly researched and selected the ideal armament for your situation and have been religiously stocking up on ammunition, there may come a time when these careful preps aren’t sufficient.
Perhaps you’ll have suffered a raid, an unrepairable malfunction, or simply run out of ammo. In any of these instances, you would do well to have some alternatives to the usual collection of firearms. Read on to learn up on some of the best alternative ranged weapons.
As we look through our options, we’ll make sure to touch on some key decision-making factors for any ranged survival weapon. These factors will include:
Range: At what distance from the target can this weapon be effectively utilized?
Lethality: What is the effect on the target when this weapon is used against it?
Ease of Use: How difficult is this weapon to become proficient with?
Accessibility: How difficult is this weapon to obtain or build?
Ammunition: What is it, where can it be found, and how easy is it to replace?
Ranged Survival Weapons
The first alternative ranged weapon to come to mind for most folks will be the good ol’ bow and arrow. A decent bow is a fine alternative to a firearm, offering good range, high lethality, fairly easy learning curve, and pretty high accessibility.
Most adult-sized bows are easily capable of effective ranges beyond 40 yards. This brings their effective range close to that of most handguns. A high quality compound bow that has been set up correctly for a competent shooter is capable of accurate, effective shots out to as much as double that distance.
The whole idea behind a bow and arrow is to poke a hole through something from pretty far away and cause the target to bleed out. As with any piece of gear, proper equipment selection will make a huge difference here. Most bows will definitely be able to harvest deer, pigs, or other medium-to-large sized game.
From a defense standpoint, bows are equally effective to, though much different than a firearm. Do be aware that, unlike a firearm, there’s not a huge amount of hydrostatic shock when a target is hit with an arrow from even the most powerful bow. Unless there’s a direct heart shot, the target will likely be able to move and fight until it bleeds to death.
Ease of Use
Bows are simple in concept, but take a lot of practice and skill to master. Whether you’re inquiring about a modern compound bow, replete with pulleys and cables, or a traditional wood bow paired with a Flemish Twist string, any experienced bowyer will tell you that consistency is key.
If you’re making the smart move of setting yourself up with a survival bow in your preps, make sure to double down and practice with it! Go beyond just learning your anchor point and dialing in your release; shoot from different positions at different ranges. If you’re of the constitution, go bow hunting. You’ll not only get out in the woods and hone your technique, but you’ll likely end up with a freezer full of the finest organic, free-range meat available.
Even if you don’t intend to bolster your preps in advance with a bow, it’s not a bad idea to find a range and take a few lessons. Like learning to drive a manual transmission, the muscle memory and basic understanding of the concept can pay off big time in a pinch.
Bows are quite easy to find, and nearly as easy to make. To purchase a new bow, your best bet is your local archery or hunting store. Otherwise, bows can be found in all the usual online marketplaces, or at gun shows, yard sales, and by word of mouth. Many bowhunters are dying to get rid of some of their old equipment to help fund the Next Best Bow.
Be sure to buy the right size bow, and don’t go overboard with the draw weight. Even the hunkiest prepper would do well to start off at a reasonable draw weight (45 pounds or so). Don’t skimp on your arrows, either; get them in the correct spine stiffness, length, and weight for your bow and intended use.
If you’re looking to make your own bow, you’ve taken on a very rewarding challenge. Whether your project is to design your ideal lifelong hunting partner, or just to gain experience for a “what if” scenario, you should be able to get from tree to complete bow in less than 15 hours of work. Many designs and options to be made from wood, PVC, or other materials are readily available online. Work carefully, pay attention to the details, and you’ll end up with a long lasting, sweet shooting product.
Bows shoot arrows, of course! The best arrows are store-bought. Though traditionalists like the notion of wood arrows, most will eventually agree that using proper carbon fiber or aluminum arrows will result in superior accuracy, reliability, and safety from any bow.
That said, arrows aren’t that difficult to make. Like a bow itself, arrow making is simply an investment of time that can pay big gains. Even the feathers that influence the arrow’s true flight, or fletching, can be made from a number of materials: Including, of course, duct tape!
One of the most versatile of ranged weapons, a good survival bow can be outfitted to take almost any kind of game. A blunt point will do well for small critters like squirrels and rabbits. A barbed point and some line will turn a standard bow into a fine bowfishing rig capable of bringing in 20 pounds of fish at a time. Some creative use of string tied in loops on the business end of an arrow can increase your margin of error and bring birds out of the sky.
Preparing yourself to use or build a bow and arrow setup is an extremely valuable use of your time. The bow was instrumental in separating Man from beast, and can make the difference between a dangerous arms-length encounter and a safe kill from a distance. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with this fantastic piece of ranged weaponry.
Martin Jaguar Takedown Bow
Traditional style makes a good starter bow
Breaks down easily for packing in a BOB
Laminated wood and glass limbs provide a smooth draw
Spectre Compact Take-down Survival Bow
Modular design allows for 35, 45, or 55lbs of draw
Set includes quiver and arrows
Stores compactly in quiver
Siege Compound Bow
Accessory screw mount for bow fishing
55lb draw weight can handle larger game
Maximum speed 206 FPS
Click the images to view product details and pricing on Amazon.
Everybody’s favorite soft-hearted, zombie-slaying, post-apocalyptic TV redneck uses a crossbow for a reason; it’s accurate, powerful, silent, and easy to use. If you’re looking for a ranged survival weapon that will do its part in fending off the undead horde or take down a fortnight’s meat, a crossbow shouldn’t be far from the top of your list.
Crossbows are essentially a standard bow that has been turned on its side, attached to a rifle-like stock, and given a trigger mechanism that holds the string at the full draw position until the shooter is ready to fire. As such, the operator only has to draw the bow to its full draw position for a period of time sufficient for the trigger mechanism to lock the string in place. Because of this, the crossbow can be designed to use a much higher draw weight, and thus fire its projectile (though it looks like an arrow, it’s called a “bolt”) a greater distance with higher power. Expect 20-40% more range than a standard bow.
Crossbows are every bit as lethal as a typical upright bow. They poke the same size hole, but generally can do it from a greater distance.
Ease of Use
Crossbows tend to be a bit more forgiving to shoot than a regular bow. While not as easy or intuitive as a rifle for some, the crossbow has a relatively short learning curve. They do take a while to load, and thus likely aren’t the best pick for heated battles. Additionally, they can be awkward to store and transport.
Though fairly readily available pre-TEOTWAWKI, there isn’t likely to be a glut of these after the SHTF. In contrast to most of the other ranged survival weapons, the crossbow is pretty difficult to make with limited time or materials.
Crossbow bolts aren’t just short arrows. Bolts tend to be much stiffer, and don’t have any sort of nock at the rear. Because of the nature of the crossbow’s function, bolts must be very straight and very strong. It’s not recommended to make your own bolts unless there’s really no other option.
There are some specific advantages to the crossbow, namely the effective range and short learning curve. The cons can quickly begin outweigh the pros for many people, though. If you’re not equipped with one of these before TEOTWAWKI, don’t count on ending up with one after.
Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow
Self-cocking mechanism shortens reload time
Quiet and well-suited to hunting small game
Good beginner crossbow for a reasonable price
Barnett Jackal Crossbow
Powerful 150lb draw and 315 FPS for hunting larger game
Red dot scope for improved accuracy
Smooth 3.5lb trigger pull
Barnett Oudoors Ghost Crossbow
Carbon Riser Technology reduces overall weight
Anti Dry Fire Trigger system prevents firing without a bolt in place
Heavy duty crossbow for experienced hunters
Click the images to view product details and pricing on Amazon.
Using a basic lever concept and aerodynamic projectile, a throwing arrow is a highly lethal, simple package that has been around since the earliest days of our species. The most common type of throwing arrow systems are the atlatl and the Swiss arrow. The atlatl is generally wood or some other rigid material, while a Swiss arrow setup uses rope or twine.
A single throwing arrow (or dart, to be technical) is generally effective at a medium range. Once you’re proficient with the thrower, 15-20 yard shots on deer-sized game will be quite achievable. Though the darts can be propelled much farther than this, accuracy wanes quickly.
Throwing arrows can be used quite effectively as a high-volume defense weapon. Though a single surgical kill shot is difficult to achieve beyond 20 or so yards, a great volume of flying darts can be more than a little intimidating. If your group is low on ammo and expecting a fight, consider equipping several members with throwing arrows and instructing them to fire simultaneously at a target.
A well-placed dart is as deadly as a sharp object can get. Even without perfect shot placement, darts will often hang out of a wound and further damage will be done as the exposed portion of the dart is dragged through brush or on the ground. Like the bow and crossbow, there’s not much in the way of hydrostatic shock; the intention is to cause the target to bleed out.
Ease of Use
Throwing arrows take a lot of time and practice to use effectively. A general rule of thumb is to pretend as though you’re simply throwing a normal spear. Let the lever do the work.
Atlatls are quick and easy to make. The lever system can be made from nearly any wood or PVC or other available material, or the focus can be on making a Swiss arrow by using just a bootlace or twisted fiber. While simple in nature and construction, it’s important to recognize the end goal before you get started. Check around for build guides on the internet.
Darts can be made relatively easily from most straight, reasonably rigid materials. Darts should have some flex to them for best performance. Unlike arrows or crossbow bolts, throwing arrows don’t necessarily need to be fletched, although this does increase their accuracy and range.
Because throwing arrow systems are so easy to make, there’s no excuse not to practice at home before the need arises. If the time ever comes that an atlatl could make the difference between eating and not eating, you’ll be glad you did!
Simple and durable design, easy to travel with
Knuckled handgrip for better control
Darts are made from ash lumber for straightness and elasticity
Fingerless rest holds dart in place
Comes with fletched 5' darts with field tips
Engineered specifically for hunting
Hammer grips tranfers more power
Moderate shaft flex for improved control
Click the images to view product details and pricing on Amazon.
Evidently Dennis the Menace knew a thing or two about lightweight, portable weaponry. Though he generally used his to wreak havoc on his neighbors, the slingshot shouldn’t be discounted as a formidable light-duty ranged survival weapon. For our in-depth review of survival slingshots, CLICK HERE.
Slingshots work off of energy stored in an elastic band. Unlike the previous ranged weapon alternatives, the slingshot doesn’t have the assistance of leverage. As such, even the most well-executed models will be limited to shorter range work on smaller targets.
Slingshots aren’t particularly powerful. Even the compound-style slingshots that can be found these days are fairly anemic compared to other ranged weapons. With most slingshots, expect to be able to take small game at short range. Due to the ease of getting close to them, rabbits and birds are particularly good bets for hunting with a slingshot.
For defense use, don’t expect much from your slingshot. While shots can be painful, it’s rare that they’re deadly.
Ease of Use
While not difficult to get the hang of, slingshots can benefit from some quality practice. Much like a survival bow, consistency is key. When shooting a slingshot, always draw the band to the same length, and try to keep your arms in the same relation to one another. If angled shots are required, focus on keeping your upper body position the same and bending at the hips to account for the angle.
Slingshots are available at many big-box stores, and are really easy to make. Any highly elastic, durable rubber banding should be a good bet for the power plant, while a stout forked branch serves as the chassis.
The beautiful thing about slingshots is that ammo is prolific. While a ball bearing or similarly dense, spherical object is the ideal projectile, any rock or acorn or bolt nut can be used. If you’re equipped with a slingshot, keep on the lookout for good ammo. That said, don’t worry about saving and carrying anything but the very best of what you find; no need to carry mediocre ammunition when it’s available pretty much everywhere.
A slingshot can be a very handy secondary ranged weapon. They work very well for taking game that might not be worth risking damage to an arrow or bolt for a small amount of gain. Also, since it’s not necessary to carry a lot of complex ammunition, the slingshot can be a very lightweight, simple weapon to have in a back pocket, Dennis style.
Aftermath Kavia Elite Sport Slingshot
Adjustable sight and wrist support. Has unique push-button design to dispense ammo from the hollow handle.
Trumark FS-1 Folding Slingshot
Lightweight aluminum frame for easy carrying. Hollow handle has a flip valve for dispensing ammo quickly.
Saunders Wrist-Rocket Pro
Unique design allows for extreme velocity. Folds in a manner that allows you to padlock the slingshot to prevent children from using it.
Click the image for product details and pricing on Amazon.
Most famous for its involvement as the weapon of choice against a certain Goliath and its effectiveness in the skillful hands of Ayla from Jean M. Auel’s series of books, the sling is a simple but remarkable ranged weapon.
Slings are a good short-range weapon. The power and range of a sling is determined in large part by the size of projectile selected and the length of the sling itself. As with throwing arrows, a large number of stones being hurled by members of a party can be quite effective at even long ranges. Flying rocks always hurt.
Though technically capable of kills on larger game (or in defensive use), the sling is more appropriate as a tool for turning small game into food, and for dissuading would-be attackers before things get out of hand.
Ease of Use
Like most of the ranged survival weapons in this article, slings take some practice in order for a user to become proficient. Though the motions and the principles are quite simple, a good deal of learned coordination and muscle memory are required.
Premade slings can probably be ordered online (Really, what can’t?), but there’s no excuse to not make your own. A length of cordage and a pocket of stiff fabric or leather is about all you need. Aside from a driveway full of rocks, of course.
A sling is capable of propelling just about anything that fits in its pocket. Like the slingshot, there’s no sense in collecting and carrying any but the finest scavenged ammunition.
While not much of a defense weapon against someone with anything more effective than a sling of their own, the sling does have its utility. Even due to nothing else besides its light weight, simple construction, and easy portability, a sling might be one of the most convenient alternative ranged weapons available.
Handmade from 550 paracord
Pouch fits ammo up to the size of a golf ball
60" total length
Moulded bison leather pouch cups ammo
54" total length
Click the images to view product details and pricing on Amazon.
Though not as permanently damaging as, and considerably less romantic than, many of the other ranged weapons we’ve covered, pepper spray is one seriously effective tool when used correctly.
Most pepper sprays have an effective range somewhere from 10 to 25 feet. This isn’t far, but it can quickly create time for you to get away from your attacker.
The relatively few deaths that have occurred due to pepper spray’s effects notwithstanding, pepper spray is not considered to be a lethal weapon. Using pepper spray for any sort of survival hunting would probably do more harm than good.
Ease of Use
Pepper spray is pretty simple: Point at attacker’s face, depress a button, and watch the sucker writhe in drool-inducing pain. You’ll probably only have one chance to get it right, though, so make it count.
Pepper spray is readily available in most states. Any local gun shop or big box store should have several options. After a big SHTF event, though, this may no longer be the case. If pepper spray is something you intend to rely on, make sure to stock up.
Pepper spray is self-contained. While there’s no doubt that some enterprising soul could probably find a way to mix up a home recipe and make it portable, it’s likely best to simply run what ya’ brung.
Be aware that pepper spray is just that: A liquid spray. If you’re downwind of this stuff, even if you’re not the target, you’re in trouble. Additionally, pepper spray is only going to bring a human down for a short time. During that short time, they can still be combative. Use pepper spray to create the opportunity to make space between yourself and the one you’ve just sprayed.
SABRE Pepper Spray
10 foot range puts distance between you and your target
Contains 25 bursts or 10 one second sprays for multiple uses
Quick release key ring to deploy quickly
Police Magnum Pepper Spray
17% OC solution is highest allowed by law
Flip top design deploys with one hand
Pistol-like design for grip and accuracy
Sprays at 90 mph to hit the target and only the target
Second reserve shot for backup
Click the images to view product details and pricing on Amazon.
Throwing Knife or Tomahawk
Don’t do it. Don’t ever throw a knife, axe, or any other hand tool as a weapon. At worst you’ll do no damage to your target and lose a valuable tool in the process. At best, you’ll do less damage than you’d like to the target and lose a valuable tool in the process. Knives and axes can be fun to throw for competition or a challenge, but not for hunting or in battle. Keep those tools and use them to make a more appropriate ranged survival weapon.
Now that you’ve got the information, it’s time to get started with the prepping! Consider your goals, and think long and hard about how you’ll approach the possibility of living without firearms during bad times. If you’re unsure about how to proceed, there’s no harm in trying each of the above ranged weapons. Most of them are fairly easy to make or purchase, and all will add a new dimension to your ability to defend, hunt, and succeed. There’s no time like the present to prepare for the future.
Do you have some experience with any of these alternative ranged survival weapons? Are your preps already stocked with firearm alternatives? Speak up about your experiences, successes, and failures in the Comments section below, thanks!
In a survival situation, timing is everything. The extra couple seconds it takes you to reach something in your pack can very literally mean the difference between life and death – especially if that item is needed for first aid or self-defense. Having both hands available at all times can be a huge advantage, and a great way to ensure you can maneuver hands-free is by wearing a headlamp.
In survival situations, headlamps (or headtorches, depending on where you hail from) are extremely convenient and useful, as well as having a variety of applications outside of survival situations including outdoor / camping adventures and home projects.
However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, different circumstances will require headlamps of a certain quality. While you may not be concerned with the quality of headlamp you’re using to complete repairs in your garage, you’ll definitely want to ensure the one in your bug-out-bag is the best headtorch for your needs.
In this article, we delve into the key features that differentiate the best headtorches from the mediocre, what you should look for in a headlamp, and provide our top picks for:
The most powerful / best LED headlamp
Best hiking headlamp
Best camping headlamp
Best compact headlamp
Choosing the Best LED Headlamp
The primary function of a headlamp – whether it be for camping, home use, or survival – is hands-free illumination. There are a variety of add-ons that come with certain models, but generally, an LED headlamp is not considered a multi-use item.
Why use a headlamp? Consider the various situations you may find yourself in and how hands-free illumination could make those situations substantially easier. If you’ve ever tried to set up camp in the dark or quickly reach supplies in your pack, you know the value of having both hands free. If you find yourself in a power outage, a great hiking headlamp will allow you to navigate a dark basement and check the breaker or make repairs quickly and easily with both hands at your disposal.
In a survival situation, LED headlamps can also function as excellent signalling devices – particularly those with either a strobe or SOS setting – and are less likely to be dropped or lost as they are strapped to your head. Additionally, the use of LEDs has led to brighter lighting and longer lasting battery life, meaning that most of the best headtorches can be used for several hours a day for well over a month before their battery power runs out.
So what qualities should you look for when searching for the best headtorch? Your priorities may differ depending on whether you are looking for the best hiking headlamp, best camping headlamp, or best LED headlamp; and ultimately, how you intend to use your headlamp. Generally, when choosing the best headtorch, you will want to look for the following: brightness, distance and battery life; comfort, weight, and size; and IP rating for water resistance, IK ratings for shock resistance, and durability.
How Powerful Should Your Headlamp Be?
The brightness of your LED headlamp will determine how far you will be able to see, and how far you need to see is determined by the specific activities you intend to use your headlamp for and your climate. In some cases, a headlamp with exceptionally long range may not be necessary if the tasks you will be performing are close at hand, such as reading and repairs. However, if you intend to use your LED headtorch for tasks such as scavenging for supplies or monitoring your perimeter for security, you will definitely want a headlamp capable of scanning long distances. Additionally, the climate you live in can play a role in the brightness required from your headlamp as light travels furthest in dry air; therefore, an arid climate would require less light than a humid one.
To ensure you have an available option for almost any visibility scenario, select a headlamp with a combination of floodlight and spotlight settings. A floodlight can light up an entire campsite while the focused beam of a spotlight can pinpoint a distant object. Additionally, strobes can be very useful for signaling as well as running in the night, while an SOS signal can be vital in a survival situation.
In a survival situation, preserving battery power will be essential, as will having more than one battery option. Many survivalists opt for headlamps with both white and red LEDs to maximize battery life. The red light setting can be used for low-light tasks such as reading, as this setting is both easier on the batteries and eyes. Brighter lights will run your batteries down faster, so if finding a power source will be an issue, you may want to cut back on the Lumens or numbers of LEDs in your headlamp.
Balancing Comfort and Size
Much like your bug-out-bag, for your best headtorch choice, you want to select one that is both comfortable and lightweight, especially if you will be traveling frequently at night.
If you plan on wearing your headlamp for extended periods or while you are running or climbing, a top strap can be a desirable option as this adds stability. Whether or not you choose to wear a top strap, make sure to adjust the band so that it fits snugly enough to keep the light in place while you shake your head. To eliminate neck strain, choose a headlamp with an adjustable light angle.
Both the number of lights and type of battery will affect the weight of your headlamp. Make sure that the model you choose is the best headtorch for your needs and of a weight that you can reasonably support for an extended period of time.
The more LEDs, the brighter your light – but with each additional LED you are adding to the overall size and weight of your headlamp and increasing the draw on your batteries. Depending on your needs, decide what the ideal size and number of LEDs is that you can reasonably support without the headlamp being too heavy or depleting the batteries too quickly.
Does It Stand Up To The Elements?
The IP rating refers to Ingress Protection Marking or International Protection Marking. It rates the protection of mechanical and electrical parts against solid particles and liquids. If there is an ‘X,’ this signifies that there is no rating available for this criteria, as in the case of IPX4 where the ‘X’ indicates the item is not dust rated and has a water resistance of 4 (meaning it can withstand splashing but not submersion).
The IK rating refers to mechanical impact and measures how many joules of downward force the object can endure. For the majority of consumer products, shock resistance ratings are typically given in meters, indicating the height at which the item can be dropped from and still withstand the impact.
For durability, choose an LED headlamp that has fantastic impact resistance, especially for use in survival scenarios.
A clear winner on brightness, with 1000 lumen maximum output
It runs on rechargeable batteries, which can last up to 1.5 on turbo or 96 hours on eco mode
There are multiple light options including four levels of steady floodlight and three levels of steady spotlight, resulting in twelve different combinations, as well as an additional SOS strobe option
There is a 60 degree tilt mechanism with a lockout design that prevents the headlamp from accidentally turning on while packed in a bag
It is impact resistant up to one meter with an IPX6 waterproof rating and a sturdy aluminum chassis designed to shed heat and handle impact
A drawback of this model is its weight – at 8 oz., without batteries, this is one of the heavier headlamps available; however, the weight is supported by a center strap and balanced with the battery pack on the back
This headlamp does not contain any red LEDs but can dim to 4 Lumens
The Black Diamond Icon is our choice for the best camping headlamp as it has the most options for lighting scenarios and a lock mode to prevent it from switching beams while on the move
It includes one quad power, two single white LEDs, and two single red LEDs, which emit as much as 200 Lumens over a distance of 100 meters; this provides more than enough light to set up camp or search for firewood in the dark, and the two red LEDs are bright enough for reading and other low-light tasks
There is a dimmer that precisely adjusts your lighting and a strobe setting for signaling
At IPX7, you can feel free to traverse a waterway without worrying about losing the use of your light
This headlamp is lightweight and comfortable; it includes a removable strap that can be added for stability or customizing the fit over a hat or other headgear
There is a handy battery life indicator that will let you know when when there is 50% and 20% of power remaining, providing you with ample warning to adjust your light level if need be, i.e. prolonged use is required
This headlamp can be powered by four AA batteries (included) or a rechargeable NRG battery (sold separately)
A reliable, quality headlamp not only makes an excellent addition to your survival gear, but also to your general equipment for outdoor activities and daily tasks.
The benefits of having a dedicated light source that stays put while you are hiking, running, or climbing, are endless; as are the benefits of being able to work freely with both hands while maintaining constant illumination.
When choosing the best LED headlamp for your needs, make sure to select one that provides an adequate level of lighting in a model that fits you comfortably.
Look for headtorches that have multiple light settings and angle adjustability, as these qualities will increase the versatility and usefulness of your headlamp. Additional considerations, especially for outdoor use, are the levels of water and shock resistance and having more than one battery option available.
Always remember, chance favors the well-prepared – and especially the well-equipped!
Do you own a headlamp? Would you choose a headlamp as your primary light source for your bug-out-bag? What benefits or drawbacks do you feel are most significant?
Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below, thanks!
In this review article, I’ll give you the rundown on a trio of tools from Nitecore including the general-use EA21 flashlight and the EDC-focused MT06 flashlight and NTP10 Titanium Pen.
I’ve had these tools for several weeks now, and have had plenty of opportunities to put them through their paces. The MT06 EDC light and NTP10 tactical pen have been riding with me daily as part of my EDC gear. Meanwhile, the EA21 has served me well on home duty and on a few camping trips.
Read on to see how I tested them and what I thought!
EA21 Nitecore Flashlight Review:
The EA21 has proven to be a very useful, versatile light. As mentioned, I’ve used it primarily as a general-purpose light for both around the house chores and camp duty. Before we get to the real dirt, let’s hit some quick points:
All the output options you could ask for: 5 brightness settings ranging between 1 and 360 lumens plus Strobe, Beacon, and SOS modes.
Handy 5” x 1” size makes for easy storage in a bag, cargo pocket, or glove box.
Drop-proof LED for those all-too-common impacts.
Built to withstand dunking in a deep creek with IPX-8 water submersion resistance.
Light, sub-4oz weight including 2x AA batteries.
Multi-position metal clip to suit every carry option.
Includes a carry pouch, spare o-rings for backups or maintenance, and a lanyard attachment option.
So Many Options . . .
I’m not ashamed to admit that after pulling this light out of the box I had to look over the instruction booklet to figure out how to use all its modes. After getting used to it, I’ve found I really like the functionality of the unique dual button setup, which became intuitive after a short learning curve.
I can easily go into Turbo mode (a blinding 360 lumens) or Ultra-low mode (1 lumen) or just turn the unit on and off without cycling through all the other brightness and strobe settings. If you need them, however, these emergency modes are quickly accessible. The buttons also provide a nifty locking function that keeps the light from being accidentally turned on when it’s packed in your bag.
A neat function that I haven’t seen often is the inclusion of a battery power indicator. A simple battery uninstall/reinstall procedure will key a secondary red LED light to let you know how much life the installed batteries have left.
On that note, the EA21 has got enough smarts programmed in it to automatically adjust brightness after twenty minutes on the high setting to keep from killing the batteries or overheating. As an aside, that red LED is also available as a secondary illumination option for low light needs such as map reading and other situations where you want to preserve your night vision.
In my real world use of the EA21 I got to search around for my breaker panel after a power surge at my home. A week or so later I had some furry night creature digging around in my campsite. When the little critter got close to blindness after I shined the full Turbo setting on him, he went scurrying on his way. I was able to follow him with the light while he ran across a field and disappeared into some trees a hundred or so yards away.
One thing to note is that as with most intensely bright LED lights, the EA21 gets pretty hot after about ten minutes on the high output setting. I’d be hesitant to stick it right back into a pack or touch the business end of it with my bare hand after extended use. It’s also a little big to be carried in a jeans pocket. I would say that the Nitecore EA21 is best suited to keep in a pack, vehicle, black out kit, or medium to large sized EDC bag.
My Thoughts on the Nitecore EA21
The Nitecore EA21 is a great general purpose flashlight with some useful extra features for those who demand more than a basic light. The handy size, battery familiarity (who doesn’t have extra AAs?), and plentiful modes allow for excellent usability in lots of settings.
The extremely bright Turbo mode can certainly disorient would-be attackers, while the Ultra-low mode can be used without giving away your position in sensitive settings. As an addition to a BOB (in the locked-off setting, of course), on car trips, or as an at-home night security tool, the EA21 is great choice (CLICK HERE to see the EA21 on Amazon).
NTP10 Nitecore Titanium Pen Review
This part of our Nitecore review isn’t for a flashlight; it’s for their Titanium tactical pen. In the world of tactical pens (see our guide on tactical pens HERE!), there’s a full range from simply obscene to obscenely cool. The Nitecore NTP10 definitely fits in the latter category. Here come the bullet points:
Built from CNC milled titanium, the body of this pen is indestructible.
Designed as a standard-sized pen at 4.25”, but a crazy light 18 grams.
Equipped with a Fisher Space Pen cartridge for smooth writing anywhere.
The cutout body makes for a superior positive grip during writing or defense use.
Extra strong replaceable tungsten tip for busting windows or bad guys.
Included storage/gift case to keep a low profile or impress friends.
Writes and Fights
In the month that I’ve been carrying around this titanium pen I’ve used it to write notes, sign forms, and punch massive dents in seasoned old pallet wood (no bad guys could be found to test the tungsten tip out).
I’ve also received several compliments on it; the NTP10 looks really cool with its spiral cut styling and matte titanium finish. Besides looking good, those spiral cutouts provide excellent grip for the occasional smashing the pen is designed to endure.
In use, the NTP10 is smooth and functional. The Fisher Space Pen ink cartridge works every bit as well in your exciting cubicle as it does in the dull confines of outer space for which it was designed. The pen itself is quite comfortable in the hand whether in writing mode or held ready for battle.
My Thoughts on the Nitecore NTP10
The NTP10 is as functional as it is cool. The only drawback I found during my evaluation was regarding its super sharp window-breaking carbide tip. It’s a dead giveaway to airport security screeners; getting onto a plane with this pen might be a difficult proposition. That same tip can also damage pants pockets or cloth bags if not properly secured.
I’d suggest keeping it clipped into a jacket pocket or proper pen slot in a bag. Alternatively it can be stored in its included aluminum case; though that significantly reduces its readiness factor. Also, it’s a nice size (about the size of a standard Bic pen), but might be a bit small for those with very large hands or while wearing gloves.
In short, the NTP10 is a really cool, unique, and functional piece. If you’re looking for a unique daily carry item with multiple uses, this titanium tactical pen should be an intriguing option. For more information on the NTP10 you can CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.
MT06 Nitecore Flashlight Review
I have been very pleased with the MT06 over the past month or so of carrying it. I’ve kept it in my every day carry bag, and it has shined in every test. First, here are some highlights:
Two simple no-hassle brightness settings: 165 lumens and 32 lumens.
Extremely light at just 1.58 oz. with AAA batteries.
The 5” x 0.5” size is perfect for clipping into a pocket or small EDC bag.
Powerful 92m max beam distance for those long shots.
Proprietary LED is resistant to impacts from waist-high drops onto pavement.
Water won’t be a concern due to an IPX-8 water submersible rating.
Form & Function
One of the big advantages of the MT06 in my view is that it doesn’t have that suspicious tactical look to it. There’s no “skull smasher” crown and no crazy knurling. This light is designed to be carried anywhere with a low profile and simply meet a utilitarian need for a dependable quality light.
A bit thicker than an average pen, the size is just right for clipping into a pocket or EDC pouch. Its standard rear-mounted button makes for easy on/off toggling with one hand.
The two light modes come in pretty handy. Navigating through a dark car lot at night I was thankful to have the 165 lumen high mode. Then when I had to search around for the keys that my sweaty hands had just dropped between the seat and the console, the low 32 lumen setting was bright enough without causing a blinding reflection.
Like the EA21, if you leave this light on high mode for too long it will switch to the lower setting automatically to maximize battery life and minimize heat. High mode can be easily reactivated by clicking it back on.
My Thoughts on the Nitecore MT06
While it’s refreshing to have a good EDC light that doesn’t look like it belongs mounted on a SWAT weapon, Nitecore might also have done well to incorporate some form of EA21-style lock setting on the MT06. With the easy-to-tap rear button there’s a small chance of the light being turned on if it’s left to bounce around in a bag.
Otherwise, this little light is an awesome companion to the rest of your EDC gear. The MT06 packs convenience, performance, and easy utility into a modestly priced (see the best price for the MT06 HERE on Amazon) flashlight.
Really, all three of the tools in our Nitecore review were useful and practical. The two lights are incredibly efficient; just a few years ago flashlights like these would have cost a fortune.
All three items seem to be of very high quality. I had no problems with them, and can’t see them failing or falling apart in hard use. Each tool had its job to do, and each fit the bill. In spite of the minor drawbacks for each I can definitely see all three of these pieces serving me well for years to come. If you want more in formation about these 3 tools you can see them each on Amazon by clicking the links here:
Nitecore has been around since 2004 and is a well-respected brand in EDC and preparedness circles. A member of Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO), each of Nitecore’s offerings are independently tested and rated (For the unaware, PLATO is the organization responsible for the handy lumen/runtime/beam properties charts on the packaging of all those fancy flashlights you’re always playing with at REI.). Since their introduction, Nitecore lights have gained favor with outdoor enthusiasts, members of the military, and others looking for high quality handheld lighting solutions.
Have you used the EA21, NTP10, or MT06? Do you have another Nitecore flashlight that you like? Want to see another Nitecore flashlight review? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!