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Tools, Supplies & Gear: For a basic level of preparedness, you can skim by with next to nothing in terms of gear, but this will depend on the time of year and the climate in your area. After years of putting countless products to the test, we’ve narrowed down a list of recommended items everyone should eventually have in their possession. The goal with these items is not just to acquire them, but to learn to use them as well. This is a fairly simple list (aka “essentials”), much of which you may already own. Remember though, you typically get what you pay for with many of these items, which is why we’re suggesting some higher cost items. We’ve also included good quality, budget-friendly options as well, if you need to stretch your dollars a little further.

Practice using your gear

Essential Tools

Basic Tool kit

Every homeowner, or renter, should at least have a basic set of tools to help with maintenance around your home or apartment and/or minor vehicle repairs.


These live up to their names to say the least. They have a multitude of uses for a variety of situations, and they’re small enough to keep with you most of the time.

Folding POCKET Knife

Personal note from Casey: “I’ve carried a pocket knife for most of my adult life, and from a versatility and practicality standpoint, it hits the top of my list. In fact, if there was only one item I could take with me anywhere, it would be my pocket knife above all others. They perform a multitude of functions, can be used for defense purposes and will last indefinitely if properly cared for. Why not a fixed blade knife, you may ask? I’ll say it again, versatility and practicality. At some point a fixed blade knife will absolutely come into play, and depending on your circumstances, may even replace your pocket knife. For now though, a well-built pocket knife is what I recommend you start with.”

There is a huge disparity when it comes to knives as well, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter which style you choose. What does matter are the following characteristics:

  • Open-style: Assisted Open. An assisted-opening blade is a huge help as it can easily and quickly be opened and closed with one hand.
  • Steel: S30V. It’s the best price point, has great edge retention and can be sharpened fairly easily.
  • Blade Type: Plain edge. It can be a drop-point or a tanto, but we recommend avoiding a serrated edge blade. They are harder to learn to sharpen properly, and a multi-tool can be far more effective in terms of serration needs. Having more blade length has served me better over the years versus the occasional need for serration as well.

Pocket knife recommendations:

Craftsman 57-Piece Home Tool Kit

Gerber Suspension Multitool

Leatherman Wave Multitool

Benchmade Barrage 580

Benchmade Bugout 535

Kershaw Blur 1670S30V

Essential Supplies & Gear

at least two bic lighters

They’re 100% reliable until they run out of fuel, unlike other brands. A reusable lighter can work too, but when it comes to cheap essential items, a few Bic’s are all that’s needed.

TWO AA / AAA Powered LED flashlights

Headlamps are best to keep your hands free, and ~200-350 lumens is plenty. Remember, the higher the lumens, the shorter your battery life and easier it is for people to see you if/when there are no other lights. Headlamps with a red light are especially good for nighttime use with limited exposure.

Hand-crank can opener

Whatever is your preference, but if the power is out you’re going to want a way to open up some canned goods. I stand by my trusty old P-38 and P51 can openers. They’re almost weightless, can be kept about anywhere you might want to have a spare (bug out bag, vehicle, camping gear, etc.) and they’re super cheap!

Spare batteries

Most flashlights/headlamps and other basic electronics require AA or AAA, so these would be a minimum. You could also consider CR123A rechargeable as well (which are commonly used for higher-end electronics).

Emergency solar / hand crank radio

If the power is out, this can be a great way to stay up to date on news, weather and other potentially important information.

deck of cards

When you’re stuck in your home for a couple of weeks, it’s great to have some backup entertainment. Plastic cards are best, last pretty much forever and are virtually indestructible.

Hand Sanitizer

It probably goes without saying, but these days this stuff is just a necessity. Get a tub as large as possible so you can just refill smaller containers as needed. Most of the big box stores used to sell them fairly cheap, but they’re somewhat hard to find at the moment. 

special needs

If you have mandatory prescriptions or other health-related requirements, you may want to consider arranging for a 10-14 day advance rotation on those items. If possible, a 30-day advance is best.

Eneloop Pro AA Rechargeable

CR123A Rechargeable

Amazon Basics AA Rechargeable

P-38 and P-51 Can Openers

Copag Plastic Playing Cards

Bicycle Playing Cards

Gearlight LED Tactical Flashlights (2 Pack)

Nightcore MT2A LED Flashlight

LE Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp

Red Cross FRX3+ Hand Crank Radio

ETON FRX2 Hand Crank Radio

View Other Essential Groups

Want the full monty?

Check out our comprehensive guide to preparedness.


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