The Bare Bones Minimalist Survival Kit for 2020

Minimalist Survival KitAn old standby “survival” skills game used to facilitate leadership development training forced participant teams to choose among a list of survival gear and supplies items. The game was posed as being cast on an isolated island after a ship wreck or plane crash (Hey, remember Wilson?), or in the jungle after a plane crash or some other fictitious peril.  The teams were limited to picking only 10 items.  It was fun, and very instructional.  

The groups had to gather up individually and begin the process of the picking of their top 10 survival gear items from the available list.  Then each team had to present their choices to the other teams and explain their rationale for their decision-making.  The instructional part was not only the communication and exchange of ideas among team members, but also the feedback and assessments provided by the entire group.  What survival items would you pick?

Just to take a note as a sidebar such a game would be very useful for potential prepper teams in the formation phase to process survival information and to express opinions about various related survival tactics.  This would not only reveal other’s survival knowledge base, but also their compatibility, communication, and sensitivity to the other potential team members.  

Formulating a Minimalist Survival Kit

bug_out_essentials_stuffIn our reality based world, lucky for us, we are not really limited by any set list of survival gear, tools, supplies, or essential items.  We can choose from the infinity of everything out there to include in a bare bones kit bag.  The only primary limitation then for the assembly of this kit becomes the kit’s total weight, and a practical choice of just the bare fewest items to complete such a kit.   

Related: 10 Bug Out Bag Essentials

For this kit, we are not even suggesting a backpack or indeed a fanny pack sized carry conveyance.  We have to keep focused on the minimalist approach here.  This kit then is not really an EDC bag nor is it any kind of a BOB either. It’s different.  It goes in the trunk of the car or under the back seat of a pickup truck, in an office desk drawer, or some other place that is easily and quickly accessible.  It is not intended for long term use, but a “get by” circumstance.  

This kit may also not be something that is necessarily grabbed and carried during an emergency, but it could be.  It might be a kit used during an office or school lockdown during say an active shooter situation or maybe a tornado warning or other emanate emergency condition or SHTF.  It could get you by if the interstate highway was shut down by a wreck for an extended period of time or if you got caught in a snow storm, perhaps even overnight.  

Depending on the SHTF situation (urban or wilderness), you might have to hunker down in the office or in your vehicle.  You could have the option or decide to hike out a few miles to another safe location or to be picked up elsewhere.  Naturally, the potential emergency situations are also endless, so think for yourself, what are the likely events you could encounter and stock your bare bones kit accordingly.

Bare-Bones Survival Kit Parameters

meds_knives_bagFor this exercise, I have volunteered as the Guinea pig.  Of course, my personal situation and conditions are decidedly different than yours, so I will outline my own parameters.  You need to do the same.  It is important, no critical, that every person self-profile themselves so they build a kit that meets their exact personal needs for virtually any type of short-term survival SHTF. I am a senior citizen, retired, and of age for social security, but still quite active.  I have health issues that require daily medication, hydration and minimal food intake.  I am an avid reader, and writer with good mechanical and organizational skills.  I am more of a hermit than a joiner, but am active in wildlife management work and serve on the executive board of a state wildlife conservation group.  

Read Also: The Prepper Learning Curve

I could not run a hundred yards, but could walk for five miles, more if allowed to rest periodically.  I actively hunt, fish, work my bug out camp, ride ATVs, and am a proficient shooter.  I carry concealed with a legal permit.  I work at home every day, but travel a fair amount.  My minimalistic survival kit would likely be used mostly via access in a travel mode, so they are kept in vehicles.  

2_matchesAre there some assumptions then?  Yes, of course. Let’s assume you will have your iPhone with you at all times, ideally fully charged.  You’ll have a wallet or purse with IDs, cash money, and credit cards.  If you have a CCW permit, carry it.  You may have with you a concealed carry weapon, or in close proximity to one and maybe at least one extra loaded mag.  Have available or carry a lightweight rain jacket ideally with a hood.  Accordingly these items are not included in your minimalist survival bag, because you should always have them anyway.  

One Bare Bones Minimalist Survival Kit

Here are the items in my own Bare Bones Minimalist Survival Kit:

Quick bag.  This would be a lightweight nylon pull cord top bag, small satchel zip bag, or some small military type gear bag. You should check out the EVATAC Tactical Backpack as well.

Rothco Canvas G.I. Style Soft Pack, Olive Drab
  • Mini Heavyweight Canvas Alice Pack
  • One Large Main Compartment For Storing Gear

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Water and Snack.  I would pack (2) bottles of water and (2) protein and power bars.

Medicines.  3-5 days of required meds.  A small bottle of pain relievers.  

Blanket or Cover.  One fold up compact space blanket or similar cover/shelter. Or better yet, a TACT Bivvy.

TACT Bivvy Review
  • Our Favorite Sack
  • Weighs only 6.2 ounces. Very durable.
  • Use in all survival situations to stay warm
View Latest Price

Knife.  A high quality folding knife or fixed blade camp/survival knife.  Not a Rambo blade. Read our survival knife guide for more details.

Fallkniven A1 Fine Edge Fixed Blade Knife, Black
  • Blade material: lam. Vg10
  • Blade length: 160 mm

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 11:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Firestarter.  Box of waterproof, wood matches and (1) butane lighter.  Small tin or med bottle with prepared tinder cotton balls. Read our fire starter and tinder articles.

Signals.  (1) Signal whistle with lanyard.  

Noopel 2 Pack Survival Whistle with Lanyard and Keychain Double Tubes...
  • Super loud survival whistle: double tubes emergency whistle can provide up to 120 decibels, enough...
  • Premium Quality: Aluminum Alloy Material, strong and durable.

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Paracord.  (1) Wrap of 50 feet of paracord rope.  

TOUGH-GRID 750lb White Paracord/Parachute Cord - Genuine Mil Spec Type IV...
  • Packaged According to Length: 50, 100, and 150 Footers Come Coiled in Bags; 200 Footers on Tubes
  • 500 and 1000 Footers are Wound on a Spool; 1000 Footers May Come in up to 2 Non Spliced Sections

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Head and Hand Gear.  One ball cap or hat with sun visor and a pair of durable gloves.  

First Aid Kit.  One micro first aid kit in tin or plastic container.  

Coleman Family Size Emergency First Aid Kit - 82 Pieces
  • One 82 piece Coleman Family Size Emergency First Aid Kit
  • Car first aid kit contains 82 pieces with enough supplies for larger groups

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 15:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Assessments

2_iphone-desk-laptop-notebookNow before you go crazy at ripping apart my selections for a bare bones kit, reflect on your own needs or make viable suggestions for other needed items. Undoubtedly, in my own thinking and planning, I have left out something.  With practice and trial, perhaps I will change up my own bare bones kit to delete some items or add others.  We want to learn from the readership, too.  That is best accomplished by not criticizing, but by comparing and contrasting.



Written by John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of John J.'s articles.

7 thoughts on “The Bare Bones Minimalist Survival Kit for 2020”

  1. Dr. John J. Woods thanks for your determination to keep people informed, sadly I see more and more barley a few of the old members and only a bare trickle of new ones is disheartening.

    I am of the mind that we are living on the edge of sanity and weapons systems foreign infiltrators and political discourse there is a undertow waiting to pull us all down I have not seen such tension since Kent state and that era IMHO. all the political financial and social triggers are cocked and it is a matter of incident for them all to trip as made popular the statement never let a crisis go to waste. I recall that only 3% of the nation was involved in the American Revolution against British rule. Out of a nation of 300 million only 2 % of living Americans have served in the military, at some level that is a revelation that should make everyone understand why we have such unrealistic sentiments of young people protesting about the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

    A bug out bag is not a option it is a life saver I was a witness to the Katrina and Rita hurricane evacuations that were best described as abysmal failure of government and common sense people had no food water medications and were stranded on the roads there was breaking in and looting of stores there was literally crap a foot high around a local gas station and a creek of urine flowing to the ditch police commandeered the fuel stations and towns refused people from blocks out of the area they deemed as their responsibility refused them water ice and simple food (MRE's) and under threat of arrest to leave to a "county" relief area MILES AWAY. this was a KNOWN temporary event as hurricanes are and these police ones I knew were tense threats and arguments made it worse.

    Imagine if this were an event of unknown duration limited or no power water r relief and military were to be deployed or "jade helm"
    I get sick and tired that stupid people do not understand there is a plan for COG or continuation of government at the point of a gun all these ignoramuses need to do are simple searches of emergency agencies and the powers under emergency situations .
    even in peace time mandatory evacuations forced entry into homes and disarmament of legal citizens has happened.

    It will never happen here LOL only if we the people have enough sense to see it coming and with all the recent silliness over presumed and false narratives and the failure of the legal system only a fool would not have a well packed BOB and organized totes with long tern meds and items simple things like birth control thyroid meds ect without a person would suffer certain changes and diminish their physical and mental edge so make decisions and remain calm in difficult situations and NOT PANIC ! or get sick.

    Inasmuch a good BOB is a mental security blanket / teddy bear

    of course there is the Quote, " if you can remain calm when all about you are panicking, you just do not understand the situation !

  2. I already have a few of these minimalist bags setup for family members and pets. These are for "quick grab" only, we have BOBs as well but these minimalist pouches are for the situations listed above. I have sets of these in each vehicle we own and one spare for myself in my office at work.

    A while back I got a good deal on some Magpul DAKA Pouches in various sizes, I keep three of the large pouches ready for myself, two for my fiance and two for my daughter.

    Basics for me: Office Pouch
    Magpul Daka Pouch – OD Green
    UST Waterproof Storm Matches
    2 Bic Lighters
    50' of FireCord (paracord that burns)
    Sandwich bag sized vacuum sealed bag of Vaseline cotton balls.
    Space blanket
    Rain poncho (cheap plastic type)
    Emergency whistle
    Morakniv carbon
    Bottle of Portable Aqua Tabs
    12oz Kleen (holds some items in this list)
    Coleman Altoids Tin Sized First Aid Kit supplemented with extra pain relievers and benadryl

    The grab bags for my fiance and daughter are basically the same, except for color. The Magpul pouches are water resistant and can be submersed a little without leaking (personal experience a small Daka pouch was submersed in about 3 feet of salt water for 30 to 45 minutes with my phone and some other stuff in it and everything was BONE DRY when we retrieved it).

    My vehicle is a different story. I have a bag like the one detailed above hidden, but I also have a vacuum sealed bag of ammo for my carry weapon, a fire steel, and some odds and ends like a wire saw and iodine. We also keep fleece blankets in the vehicles and a travel pillow or two.

  3. Sounds like everybody is on about the same page, however I like a fire steel (over matches, esp. with the vas-cotton balls handy), Sawyer mini (over tablets which age/ expire quickly in a hot car), and 36# tarred bank line which bundles up smaller and has many of the same uses as paracord.

    • I have fire steels stashed all over, even included one in each mini grab bag. My eight year old is better with one than my fiance. I'm a big believer in the "one is none and two is one" mantra. Since these are small grab and go types of bags meant for 24 hours or less I didn't stress too hard on the contents. I made each of them similar with small differences for the type of person carrying it. The best thing about the Daka pouches is that they can be stashed in a bag, purse or since they have loops in the corners they can be attached to a belt loop via a carabiner or made into an impromptu shoulder bag using some cordage. I also cycle out disposables like the aqua tabs on a regular basis. We live in a Tampa Bay which is VERY urban, so in case of a small emergency we will be walking down streets not trekking through woods or mountains.

  4. For me, my BOB is my bare minimalist bag with several add-ons readily available! In the form of shoulder bags that are semi-specialized, such as an extra water/water procurement/treatment bag especially if I'm needing to providing water (for tea, coffee, etc.) for others. To me, a 'Altiods' micro kit is like carrying an extra ounce of water; not likely to do any real good. My mini kit is my EDC, in my pockets and on my waist belt so they're always there on me (except when I sleep), two knives, med kit, multi-tool, blast-match, flashlight, small scissors, with many items like dental floss (cordage), unlubricated condoms (water carriers), a metal mirror (for signaling and self-examination) and disposable lighters in the med kit, NOT ideal, but a lot better than nothing! Sometimes events go sour so fast (or quietly) when you're focused on something else like work or play; like a tidal wave when you're frolicking on the beach, that you don't have time to do more than react by fight or flight! Then that minimalist kit sitting in the trunk of your car may well as be on the moon for all the good it might do you! As they say, a gun not on you equals no gun at all! GLAHP!


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