Base Camp Survival Tool Bag

SHTF Tool Kit

Eventually everything you own that was conceived by a mode of industrial assembly or manufacture will fail.  Even if it doesn’t outright fail, it must be maintained in order to achieve maximum product utility especially for a survival situation.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SurvivalCache.com

All of this preparation requires mechanics tools and the skills to use them.  Let’s start with the tools.

Keep in constant perspective though that learning to fix everything from gas engines, to water pumps, to electrical, electronics, survival tool kitdrive systems, and hydraulics, etc. is another whole matter altogether.  Whatever you own that requires mechanical maintenance; learn about it to the best of your ability.  A lot of things you can learn to fix and maintain yourself.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a mechanic.  I was raised though by parents that owned an auto parts store and an agricultural flying business.  I was around mechanical things all day, so I naturally learned a few things.  It certainly has come in handy to know how to use the proper tools to fix and maintain many things.  I don’t do electricity.

Basic Tools First

Even if you are not particularly mechanically inclined, learning to use a few basic tools is pretty easy.  Like everything else, it just Survival Toolstakes come on-the-job training and practice.  If you have no tools other than one bent screwdriver, a nail hammer, and a Vise-Grip, then start by looking around and shopping at some places that sell basic and specialty tools.  Good places for tool browsing includes Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, NAPA Auto Parts, Ace Hardware, and many other local outlets or mom and pop stores.  Check all sales flyers.

Every basic tool bag needs the following items:
1. Screwdrivers, Phillips, Torx and slot sizes, long and short shank.
2. Pliers, regular and needle nose types.
3. Set of open end and box wrenches, inch and metric.
4. Claw hammer and ball peen.
5. Socket set, inch and metric.
6. Vise-Grips, small and large.
7. Adjustable wrenches, several sizes.
8. Cutter pliers.
9. Punches.
10. Pipe wrenches.
11. Allen wrench set.
12. Metal tape measure, 25 feet.
13. Retractable cutting blade.
14. Roll of black electricians tape.
15. Selection of various sizes of pull ties.

This is a basic set of tools. Next you need a good bag to stow and carry them. I like the canvas wide mouth tool bags with strong grab handles.  Get the one with inside and outside pockets for carrying extra items.  Put in a pair of safety glasses.

The Advanced Tool Bag

What else might I add if I wanted to upgrade a basic tool bag to a higher level?  I would add a good pry bar, duct tape, files, tubes of survival_tool_kitoil and glue, a can of WD-40 and Liquid Wrench.  A couple shop towels would be nice and some mechanics gloves, too.  Then add a hacksaw, sheet rock saw, electric drill and bits, and cans of PVC pipe cleaner and glue.  It never hurts to have a zip lock bag of assorted nails and screws of all types.  An industrial staple gun comes in handy as well.  As you shop around, undoubtedly you will find other useful tools to add to your collection.  Having a good quality set of hand tools and knowing something about how to use them will put any prepper in good stead for keeping things maintained, repaired, and running.  This will certainly prove valuable during any prolonged SHTF event.

Photos by:
Dr. John J Woods
B Knee Mess
Matt Gemmell

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Montana Mike July 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Everyone can think of things to add to this toolbag. What I would suggest is you visit garage sales for some of these basic tools. Bring along a friend who can help pick out the better quality ones with you. (MM)

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DaveH July 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Well thought out article dr. Woods! +1 on what Montana Mike said, try to buy quality tools (made in USA is a good start) cheap poor quality tools can be frustrating to work with especially during SHTF. Something that I do is keep a portable file box that has shop manuals for my vehicles, generator, pump, compressor, heaters, etc. This can go a long ways toward fixing a vital peice of equipment! Several of the parts STOREHOUSE boxes of assorted nuts, bolts, washers, hose clamps, and zip ties will be invaluable as well!

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Regulator5 July 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Good call on having all the manuals for your equipment. There are lots of manuals available for free online, especially for military equipment that can be downloaded and stored for a "just in case".

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Hannibal July 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm

An Ol' Skool FJ40, the perfect bug out vehicle. Have one myself! ;)

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Cory July 1, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Pretty good list. But, missing the one thing nobody else thinks of, propane torch and soldering kit. Wether its los of great in winter or an earth quake you may be faced with fixing copper water pipes.

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Wesley June 23, 2013 at 11:37 am

+1 on the propane and soldering kit.

Also consider a small cutting torch rig and a small stick welder or flux core welder.

Being able to cut and fabricate fortifications and basic structures would be invaluable and it’s not difficult to develope a functional proficiency of skill.

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Windcalmer July 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

A few things in addition to everything that has been listed that I always have in my kit are:

Assorted drywall screws. They are great for just about everything from wood to metal to plastic.

A 1 foot length of steel pipe to act as a cheater bar with my sockets.

Lastly a grease pencil. Markers run out, pencils don’t mark on everything. Grease pencils will mark on darn near any surface.

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Michael July 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm

+1 on the drywall screws.

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Regulator5 July 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Good article Dr John. I would add that while perusing the yard sales, farm sales, estate auctions, and flea markets to keep an eye out for brace and bit sets and any other hand powered tool that most have electrical options for now. Even if not a long term event, a drill (brace and bit) may come in handy after a storm knocks power out. If I did not do alot with my tools and could only have 1 set, I'd choose all hand powered tools because I know they will work regardless if the grid is up or down.

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Rescue7 July 11, 2012 at 2:55 am

Good call… Hand drills. The military carpenters tool kit: engineer squad has a great combo of tool including ax, hatchet, saws, drills, scrapers and planers… Been trying to find a surplus store that has one. Ten penny nails and large washers work great on nailing thick wood and as tent or easy-up stakes. Much easier to hammer into hard ground. Long bolts, nuts and washers work well to fasten thick, heavy pieces of wood together and have numerous other uses.

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Ed_B July 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

"Good places for tool browsing includes Sears…"

I gave up on Sears when I realized that they were charging me 3x the price for Chinese made tools that I could get at Harbor Freight. Yes, HF has some junk, mostly in their electrically powered tools, but their hand tools are often very good. The fact that they are cheap means that more tools can be bought for the same money.

I would add various saws to this list, including a couple of carpenter hand saws, a couple of bow saws, and even a cross-cut tree-falling saw, if you can find one.

"Claw hammer and ball peen."

Yes, and a couple of spare handles for each of them as well.

I second the idea of shopping for tools at garage and estate sales. Lots of good stuff there, including some of the older hand-powered tools that many people do not want these days but that would be invaluable during a SHTF scenario. One of my best garage sale finds has been an auger drill with 15" long x 1/2" steel bit and a hollow 1/2" bit for cutting pegs. These can be used to fasten boards together without nails. Works great.

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ward3 July 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Pawn shops are great place for real cheap manual tools. Files are a must to keep all cutting tools sharp.

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NorthWoods Harry July 4, 2012 at 8:51 am

I would add a caulk gun and a few tubes of silicone and black jack…

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KansasScout July 5, 2012 at 1:46 am

I thought of something else to add to the kit for the base/ base camp a forge, anvil and black smithing tools also machine tools that us belt drives that can be hooked up to a PTO or other means of providing the right rpms to use the drill press, bandsaw, table saw, grinder, or lathe. My grandfather on my mother's side had all belt driven power tools in his workshop. These were powered by pulleys and belts connected to an electric motor, but he could use a gasoline engine if necessary or in times past a steam engine.

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Weldon July 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Hey, don't forget an emergency cook stove. My favorite is the 180 Stove. Uses natural fuels (twigs) so there is no need to store fuel for it.

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T.R. July 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Gloves , gloves , and more gloves .
You do everything with your hands , you hurt your hands , you have a big problem . if TSHTF , staying healthy and injury free will be a challenge , injuries can get infected , protect your hardest working set of tools ………your hands !
heavy work gloves for heavy tasks , the light nylon and rubber ones for everything else .

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Straydog August 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Absolutely! Work Gloves are very important addition and one that you can never have too many or variety of. You should have a pair in your BOB as well.

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MrMrsRedneck April 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Gloves are real good to have, but it is hard to use gloves, when you use your hands to see. You can't see that much with gloves on.

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Dirty Steve July 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Nut drivers, wire nuts, wire cutters, and Teflon tape are just a few ideas.

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Jeff Wise July 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I'm embarrassed to say I don't have most of those tools. I don't even have electricians tape! It was a relief to see from these comments that I can get some of this stuff at garage sales though.

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Gramas October 11, 2012 at 12:38 am

Don't be embarrassed Jeff, just take notes and start gathering things you think you will need.
I bought this little 5-1 tool from Amazon and wow was I surprised at how well made it was.
I dont know how to put the link up correctly, but here is the link.
http://www.amazon.com/Sheffield-12301-Camper-12-I…

I carry this in my EDCB
I would recommend it to everyone!
Yes I am an old cow (crazy old woman) but I have more tools then my hubby and damn near as good a mechanic. Love getting my hands dirty doing something productive!!

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Sharpie5015 July 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Excellent list. I second most additions as well. I would like to add that I have sorted my tools into categories. ie: mechanic, electrical, woodworking. While there is overlap, by doing this and thinking each scenario through I am able to make certain that I have what is actually needed. Also enable me to grab and go without much fuss or searching for a missing something.

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Regulator5 July 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I too separate my tools by use. I even have a portable box that I keep my "home repair" tools in. I would suggest that even if you have a socket set or screw driver set for mechanical work, get a second 1 for woodworking (example only). If the tools are needed for more than 1 application, you don't want to be without if they get broken or lost.

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Regulator5 July 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Harbor Freight has fair tools at affordable prices. The only tools I would suggest going the extra money for are line (flare nut) wrenches. Even the craftsman line wrenches aren't a guarantee of great fit, but they are better than HF's offerings (I have HF's and Snap On's). Snap On is probably the best on the market for these wrenches but at 150 a set, a little pricey if you don't use them everyday for work. There are some great deals at flea markets where you can get "flawed" tools, cosmetic flaws where the engraving was off and other minor blemishes that do not effect results at very good prices. I've seen Snap On and Matco impact socket sets go for under $100 and some sets under $50.

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Regulator5 July 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Another cheap set up is make sure you have the disconnect wrenches for fuel and AC lines for vehicle maintenance. You can get a complete set for under $20 and they will save some headaches when you have to change a fuel filter. I would also add a complete O ring assortment, filters for every piece of equipment you have, fluids (oil, trans fluid, hydraulic oil, jack oil if have a floor jack, etc), nuts and bolts kit, etc. Many home improvement and hardware stores offer a decent kit. Ratchet straps are cheap and very mutipurpose, a come-along and tow strap makes a hand powered winch.

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Karma Fox July 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

*sledge hammer
*impact driver
*5 in 1 (very useful)
*pipe cutter
*a handheld blowtorch
*solder and flux

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Mike July 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Block and tackel are nice to have as well.

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Christopher July 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

If you have the knowledge to be fixing anything electrical, a multimeter would be good. If you don't have the knowledge, get some!

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bronco28 July 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Don't forget electrical parts cleaner. The other day my truck just wouldn't go anywhere. I would give it gas and it wanted to die. I gave the truck a tune-up, plugs, air filter, cleaned throttle body, but nothing worked. After some searching online the mass air flow sensor came up. Pulled out the sensor and it was caked with road grim that had gotten passed the filter. cleaned it off with electric cleaner and my truck is purring like a cat in a chicken coupe now. parts cleaner will work in most cases, but the filaments in the sensor are so delicate you really need to use the correct product. Just my two cents.

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Redeye48 July 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm

This is my first time to comment, however I've been enjoying and using your information for a couple of years now. A couple of items that I carry in my tool box and have used several times
are road flares and a good come-a-long. Not only for signals but also for fire starting. Living in the mountains of Oregon any good fire starter is important and a come-a-long has more uses than I can list here.

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Hardcore August 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Bolt cutters anyone?

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Straydog August 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm

One thing that has been on my work bench for decades is that old coffee can full of nuts bolts screws, washers, wirenuts, wire connectors, cotter pins, AN and MS tubing plugs/ fittings, etc. I know I saw this mentioned above but, a good set of wire twister pliers and some .032 safety wire and mend everything from the crack of dawn to a broken heart!

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AuricTech August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

a can of WD-40 and Liquid Wrench

On the other side of the coin, it's also a good idea to have some Blue Loctite on hand.

ETA: More specifically, Loctite® Threadlocker Blue 242®.

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T.R. August 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Get a can of Tool Dip . No kidding , this stuff has many uses , mainly in the waterproofing department , just paint some on where you want to keep water out ……and it stays out . It dries flexible and you can controle how thick you want the layers . Beats the hell out of duct tape . Perfect for coating scraped or damaged areas of your gear as well , you can even make an emergency gasket .

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rescue7 September 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm

You can improvise a lot but not everything. Having spare parts can save the day. M4 repair kit on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tactical-Field-Repair-Packa…

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ironmonger September 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Hand chisel fashioned after air chisel used to cut sheet metal(cuts about 1/8 kerf, can cut out holes in center of sheets by using starter hole),a way to make holes in sheetmetal (as simple as tapered, pointed punch backed up with hardwood, regular metal cutting chisel, hammer, and a handfull of small rivets. A rock can be used for bucking the rivets. What could you make from steel drums, abandoned cars.trucks ect. By hammer and hand, all arts do stand.

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Jake October 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I would add a 1" diameter steel bar. It's stronger than a punch and comes in very handy for removing the inner race of a wiped bearing. Great list!

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UrbanMike November 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

A yankee drill is good if there is no power.

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MtnKiwi December 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Utility knife stuffed full of spare blades…..

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Mark Milton February 25, 2013 at 1:15 am

With so many metal tools, all that's missing is a big enough piece of sheet metal to build something sturdy out of. That is, of course, provided you had something big enough to store it in.

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Mark Whitman March 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Not a bad set of tools for the emergency toolbox. I can think of a few additions to it though, such as a hammer, nails, screws, and maybe a manual drill to name a few.

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Free FX Programming April 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

The only way to become an expert is much like learning the violin; the answer is practice, practice and practice some more.

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addisabner May 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

Pretty good list. But, missing the one thing nobody else thinks of, propane torch and soldering kit. Wether its los of great in winter or an earth quake you may be faced with fixing copper water pipes.
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bbbb September 14, 2013 at 6:38 pm

How about a wire brush for cleaning electrical connections rusty tools or a few other uses that I'm sure I'm missing.

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toollover October 31, 2013 at 1:18 am

How bout a welder!!! Walmart has good deals on stick welders or SMAW welders.

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Roger February 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Some additions include an axe or two (single edge so it can be batoned/hammered), sharpener for tools and blades, grease gun and cartridges, IMO Nothing 'beats the hell out of duct tape' though guerrilla tape comes close, pipe clamps, if using multi-bit screwdriver, then extra handles, extra tape measures and certainly gardening/ digging tools if base camp is long-term!

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