10 Common Household Items Doubling As Survival Gear

Common Survival Gear

When many people think about wilderness survival they imagine a cabin with ten cleared acres out in the middle of nowhere, emergency caches of supplies when natural disasters hit, or maybe even large "survival kits" peddled from one website or another about being prepared. While none of these things are wrong or necessarily bad, the truth is that being prepared for any survival situation whether urban, rural, or wilderness starts with being prepared and knowing how to use what you have.

Many common household items can actually be extremely useful and versatile gear in a survival situation, and these all are easy to always have on you when traveling. Read on to learn how these common items from bandanas to chapstick can move the scales in your favor in life and death survival situations.


I don't care if you don't smoke – you should always have at least one lighter, and I'd even recommend having two. In wilderness survival situations having fire means warmth, protection from predators, an ability to purify water through boiling, an ability to cook food, and just psychological strength. Even in an urban survival because of natural disaster scenario, having a lighter to light a fire or small wood stove gives you the ability to cook or purify water when all the utilities are out. Always have one at home, in your car, and on you. If you're flying, buy them as soon as you land.


No, this isn't about looking your best for the apocalypse, though I suppose that can't hurt. Chapstick can be applied to chapped hands or feet, as well as small scrapes, and helps speed up the healing process. Chapstick also works for minor first aid in a variety of ways. It can help stop bleeding from small nicks, making it less likely to become infected, be applied to skin in danger of blistering, and even work in small amounts to protect exposed skin (to an extent) from frostbite or sunburn, depending on the weather. When empty, the tube is good for holding a few matches or small dry kindling.

Condom (Ideally Unlubed)

Condoms are actually surprisingly useful in survival situations. They can be stretched out and used to carry water (cover with a sock for additional protection since stretched condoms are a bit fragile, even if they are tied off), to protect matches or fire starting material you want to keep dry, tie items to a belt or back, or even bind down a bandage if you cut, gouge, or otherwise wound yourself. They're small, meant to be carried on you, and can be employed for multiple survival related uses.

Shoe Strings

Keeping your feet healthy is extremely important in a survival situation, but if you carry an extra set of shoe strings (or shoes) around, the spare laces can be used in a variety of ways. You suddenly have rope to tie branches together for a shelter, create a make shift fishing line, tie a splint for first aid purposes, or even as rope to tie together a spear or similar weapon for defense/hunting. If you're really good starting fires using the bow-and-drill method, this can even work for that, too.

Duct Tape

This is the handyman's secret weapon, as Red Green would say, so this should come as no surprise. Duct tape is incredibly waterproof, after all that's what it was made for, but it has some serious advantages for really heavy duty "it all hit the fan" scenarios. While not ideal for "stitching" a wound shut or wrapping around a leg to cover a gash, if it's between that and bleeding out duct tape is a top notch first aid option.

This tape can be used to make hammocks to sleep on out in the wild, to make a field stretcher, or even twisted in strands to make rope. Attaching a knife to a long pole via duct tape makes a spear and since they come in rolls you're not going to fall short. Let's not forget about making shelter. This is one item that should always be in solid supply.


There's no denying the medical benefits a bandana can have in first aid/survival situations, and if that wasn't enough there are many non-medical uses for a bandana. You can tie it around the forehead to prevent sweat from running into your eyes, use it to signal for help or mark a trail, grab something hot, tear into strips to get more cloth (whether marking your travels or tying together a shelter), tie into a pouch to collect berries, and more. This small piece of cloth can simply do so much when used correctly.


If you don't consider a flashlight a common household item, then you need to do some shopping. Good during normal power outages, after Katrina-level disasters hit a city, or in the wilderness when you need to find your way, a good flashlight is invaluable. Aside from its obvious uses, it can be used as a blunt object for self-defense, you can take the batteries out if you know you won't use the light and use the tube for fire starting materials or water, and you can signal for help. A good flashlight should be in every home and every car.

Note: Going for a small, cheap, plastic flashlight won't do. You want a heavy duty flashlight, like a police style. This means more durability, more storage space if you drop the batteries, and you get some self-defense use. Spend the extra money for a really good flashlight. In this case it does make a huge difference.

Empty Pill Bottles

Whether they're for a prescription or just from the basics like Aspirin, Aleve, or ibuprofen, you should never throw away those bottles. They are waterproof, easy to seal and re-open, and even come with cotton that would make an excellent fire starter. Store the medical pills that are so valuable during an emergency, matches so they won't get wet, fishing line, hooks, a flint and steel, etc. These bottles are great for carrying all the small stuff and although they don't make great water "cups" because of small size, if nothing else they can be used for a little bit more water or for collecting some berries and other edibles if you're moving from point A to point B.

Garbage Bags

Yes, simple household garbage bags become valuable pieces of equipment in many survival scenarios. Whether kept as one piece or cut in squares, they have many positive uses. Aside from the obvious of being able to carry a lot of gear and keep stuff water proofed they can be made into great rain coats, as an inner lining to keep rain out of a wilderness shelter like a lean to, and even as precious water catchers for when it rains.

Creative uses include wrapping them around limbs in cold weather to create a "thermal underwear" type of effect to help keep warm, as signals to air rescue, or they can even be layered with two poles to create a makeshift field stretcher.

Ziploc Bags

The uses for these are often obvious, but they are invaluable. Carry decent amounts of food or water, use to separate yourself from bodily fluids, including blood, put on a wound and wrap it to minimize the chances of infection – there are so many ways to use these. In a truly long term scenario, these are even ideal to carry seeds for planting. Since these are always useful for travel or at home, there's no reason not to have some on hand.

In Conclusion

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to household items that can be used for survival. In fact there are plenty of articles just on duck tape or just on garbage bags. The key is to think, to improvise, and to learn that many simple items can be life savers in the right situation – and then to surround yourself with those items.

Guest Author Bio

Shane's loved the outdoors since he was in Cub Scouts as a youth, and it's never wavered even after finishing as an Eagle Scout. Camping, fishing, hiking, traveling, or sharpening his wilderness survival skills, it's all fun to him! Feel free to check out his other work at Amazing Outdoor Adventures.

About the author


Colin is a freelance writer and editor. A fan of The Walking Dead. It led him to think what if SHTF and what does it takes to survive. Colin hobbies includes gears, tech gadgets and rehearsing different "End Of The World" situations in his head.

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