Surviving Armageddon: Creating an End of the World Survival Pack

The world will end some day, likely when the sun fries the Earth in a few billion years. If the end comes before that though, you can better your survival odds by packing the right gear. As the Boy Scouts say, "Be prepared."

It's pretty commonly stated that disaster can strike at any time and that to better your odds of survival, you need to be prepared.  Odds are you, like many others (and my old self included), heard this, nodded your head, and then promptly went back to playing video games on your PS3.  Perhaps if you lived in a disaster prone area, be it Tornado Alley, Hurricane areas, or Earthquake vulnerable California you took the first basic step and assembled a few things that will keep you comfortable in the event of a power outage.  Some water, some canned food maybe, but mostly flashlights and candles.

That's a fine start for the mundane, but what about the unthinkable? Pardon the punny word use, but if you think the unthinkable can't happen, think again.  Every country has faced a variety of disasters that have tried their citizenry.  A massive earthquake almost erased San Francisco from the map.  Terrorists have attacked major cities all over the world.  Hell, freaking volcanoes still explode and threaten lives.

If you're lucky, you won't ever face an epic tragedy, but if you find yourself in a strange, apocalyptic setting, taking a few precautions right now could mean surviving later.  At the absolute worst, you've bought a few things you won't end up using and spent a couple of hours putting a few things together.  Best case?  You don't starve or get killed by a roving band of bikers in 2021.

How to Build a Survival Pack

This is not your everyday earthquake kit or the kind of stuff you tuck into your overnight bag. This is an end of the world survival kit – meant to help you survive, even thrive, in all kinds of adverse conditions.  While it's impossible to plan for every eventuality, or please every survivalist (I will no doubt fail to mention someone's personal most essential object), but with the things in this kit, you'll be far better off should disaster strike than if you have nothing, or if you buy some travel safety kit from an outdoors outfitter.

In collecting information and items for a kit, I've made extensive use of two books from Chris McNab: The Boy's Book of Outdoor Survival and Special Forces Survival Guide. These portions have been reprinted with permission and where appropriate these books have been cited.  

The Pocket Kit

This kit, assembled by Chris McNab (SFSG, 17), won't save your life during the Apocalypse, but it does fit in your pocket.  Having this every time you head into the wilderness, or leave your base camp, is a great idea.  Essentially, this pocket kit is part of your larger kit that never leaves your side in an emergency.

  • A waterproof container to house your goods
  • Matches
  • A candle
  • Flint/striker or other non-match based fire starter
  • Sewing Kit
  • Water purification tablets
  • Compass
  • Signaling mirror
  • Safety pins
  • Wire saw
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Plasting bags
  • Snare wire

In the wilderness, your primary concerns are going to be water and heat – hence multiple ways of creating fire (and light) as well as ways to make drinkable water (tablets or boiling).  This kit is useful to have around at all times, but for the real deal Armageddon, you're going to need a lot more stuff.

This list will be long and the descriptions relatively short. As a smart reader (we trust you) you'll probably know what the purpose of most of these items without us explaining them (you sleep in the sleeping bag).  We plan to return to some of these topics in the future to provide more detail, so only the barest is given here.

The Armageddon Pack

Backpack – Your backpack should be lightweight, waterproof, and comfortable to wear over long distances (SFSG, 27).  It should be rugged and of decent enough capacity to hold everything you you intend on carrying.  I highly recommend a pack that has external webbing (PALS) or is otherwise MOLLE compliant, allowing you to attach your gear to the outside when prudent.  Check out this Maxpedition Condor II pack.

If you find yourself in an emergency situation with gear to carry, try creating a horseshoe pack.


Compass – A compass is a no brainer and a vital tool, make sure to select one of decent quality.  A lensatic compass will allow you to plot more detailed courses when used in conjunction with… (SFSG, 234)

Maps – The more you know about the area, the better. When disaster strikes, you may have to flee the area and you may have to travel far. You'll be best served by having a few maps, some of your immediate area, and some of nearby areas (ie a Southwest USA map, a Central USA Map and an Eastern USA map).  Store them in waterproof ziploc bags.

A Medical Kit – Many stores will sell put together kits that can be assimilated into your bag. They should include latex gloves, tweezers, plenty of bandages, pain killers, anti-diarrheals, sutures, needles, and antiseptics. Check out the Hunter Kit by Adventure Medical Kits.

Knives – A knife is an extremely important survival tool.  A proper, quality survival knife can aide in hunting, wood gathering, cooking, and defense.  The sturdiest knives are fixed blade models with a full tang. Straight edges are easier to maintain in the field than serrated ones, so get either a partially or non-serrated blade.  You should also keep at least one back-up knife, which can be a folding knife, in case something happens to your primary knife. (SFSG, 25) Check out our review of survival knives by Gerber.

A Multitool – It's just freaking useful to have.

Crowbar – When most people think survival, they think the woods, but it's not as though cities will disappear.  A crowbar is your key to urban survival, and in a pinch, can be used as a climbing apparatus with the right rope.

Hatchet – Whether you need to make fire, traps, or shelter, gathering wood comes into play. You'll find a hatchet, though heavier and larger, is more durable than a pocket saw and makes gathering decent sized bits of wood a breeze. (SFSG, 70, 98, 116)

Firearm – This is the end of the world we're talking about.  Ideally you'll already be versed in firearms (if not, seek out some training) and own two: a pistol for self protection and a long arm for further defense and food gathering. If you can only have one weapon, a pump action shotgun is reliable and accepts a wide variety of rounds, giving you options from taking down small or large birds, small game like rabbits, or larger mammals like deer, coyotes, and whatever else lives in you area. For more on the best weapons for self-defense, check out this Primer article.

Ammunition – A gun is useless without bullets. Unfortunately, ammo is heavy so you won't be carrying an armory with you, but 50-100 rounds of pistol ammunition and as much shotgun ammunition (of varying shot loads) as you can comfortably fit/carry is recommended.

Collapsible Shovel – Compact and useful for digging fire pits, shelters, and can even be used as a frying pan if cleaned.

Water Purification – The most compact purification system are iodine tablets, though if you think you'll be traveling with a group (roommates, friends, family), you may want to consider carrying a water purification jug and filter.  This comes in especially handy in long term survival, where you may establish base camp for days or weeks.  When necessary, water can also by purified.

Water Storage – Lugging around a 40lb jug isn't entirely feasible, so in between camp locations, you'll need a canteen.

Sleeping Bag

Collapsible Tent – Carrying a collapsible tent prevents you from having to create new shelter every night. With modern materials, you can find lightweight tents that fit four and fold down into a 24x6x6 area, which can easily be attached to the exterior of your bag.  If you don't want to carry a tent, you can try making one of these.

Fire – You should have many ways of starting a fire. A couple packs of strike anywhere matches, a five-pack of Bic lighters, and a magnesium block and striker will keep you business for a very long time. You can get a government issue striker for about $6.

Cotton balls or, ahem, tampons, make great fire starting material.

Climbing Rope – You can never have enough rope. Climbing rope is rated to handle both heavy weights and shock forces. Combined with climbing carabiners (not those junky keychain ones), 50-100 feet of rope can come in very handy when navigating tricky areas. I keep a length of rope that has a knot and carabiner already attached to one end.

General Purpose Rope – Great for pending shelters, making rafts, dragging and lifting game, creating traps, and many more things, you'll want to have plenty of non-climbing rope (not rated for shock) for general uses.  Paracord is popular, strong, and relatively inexpensive.

Knot Tying Guide – You can either learn a ton of knots or pick up a small plastic card set that tells you how to tie a bunch of different knots.  It's not the first thing that pops into your mind when you think survival. (BBoOS, 44)

Socks/Underwear – Unfortunately you're probably going to be stuck wearing the same clothes, day in, day out, but having dry clothing reserves is a smart idea to prevent infections, especially in the feet and groin.

Food – While you won't be able to live out of your pack, it is wise to keep some long lasting, energy dense food in your pack to help get you through lean times.  Dried pinto beans just need to be boiled, while tinned meats can be eaten straight away.  Nuts, chocolate, and peanut butter are also calorie dense for energy and many can be doubled as bait for animals if necessary.

Appropriate Clothing – This depends on where you are and where you're heading, but even in the heat, you'll want lightweight layers that can protect your skin from exposure, keep you warm at night, but not be sweltering during the day.

Bandannas – Wrapped over the head they protect from the sun, over the mouth they protect from dust, or soaked in water they can keep you cool. Also capable of serving as bandages and bindings. Or signaling which marauding tribe you've joined. (Just kidding.)

Gloves – In cold climates you'll want gloves to keep your hands warm, though in all climates a pair of leather working gloves can protect your hands and fingers from cuts and splinters while chopping wood.

Waterproofing – With either garbage bags or a tarp, you can create a waterproof pack or impromptu shelter.  Garbage bags are wise to have regardless of whether or not you've decided to pack a tent.

Radio – A hand crank radio for tuning into emergency stations is a great idea and a multiple band CB hand held may enable you to make contact with others nearby.  Or, if you think you'll be part of a group, radios for several members can make hunting and traveling safer and easier.

A Survival Book – Let's be honest, unless you spend a great deal of time training and studying to build fires, shelters, and snares, you're not going to remember any of it when disaster strikes.  Buy a decent survival guide that fits in your pack.

I'm sure many people will tell you many different things about survival packs.  What not to have, what to have, this is too heavy, that's not necessary, etc.  When it comes right down to it, it's better to have more stuff rather than not enough.  After all, if you master building a lean-to shelter, you could ditch the tent, or trade it for something else you need.

This is a pretty extensive kit, but if you think something's missing, pack it.  If you think it's too heavy, ditch something.  Customize the kit to your own body and geographic location.  But you can't go too wrong with the stuff listed above.  Good luck – but I hope you'll never need it.

Robert Fure is a fitness, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in Los Angeles. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and the Creator/Editor of Fit and Furious, an online outlet dedicated to the pursuit of a fit lifestyle. His entertainment work can be viewed at Film School Rejects.

  • Mark Roberts

    First thing I would do is grab my end-of-the-world pack! 🙂

    • Shaunte Baty

      I heard ‘shepherdsurvives’ guides are the best for it

  • Nolan Bryan Lynch

    Head for eastern Oregon.

  • Clay

    Grab my wife and kids and head to work (fire station two)

  • Shaun

    First thing I’d do is check for zombies. Then decide whether to sit tight, or head for the hills.

    • Breann Coel Tallent

      I hear ya! I would do that same. Though I have a disaster plan for zombies. but I suppose it all depends on if it’s Walking dead zombies or not.

  • Ed

    Stay off the interstate highways; get to high ground; keep the group together!

  • Stridar

    Assuming this is a zombie scenario and I hadn’t yet complied my survival kit beforehand, I’d grab my mate and loot the local hardware warehouse before setting out

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  • Matt S

    My first action would be to not panic.

  • francisco velazquez

    Grab my k-bar bowie and follow the railroad tracks to save time and distance in getting to other places.

  • Seth


  • Jeff Pile

    Load the go bag and moutain bikes in the truck and roll.

  • Lorin Wilkerson

    Gather a small group together of people I trust living nearby, pool weaponry/food/resources/start making long-term survival plans re: food/water.. That band of roving bikers will think twice before assaulting twelve people armed with twelve gauges…

  • Harry

    Contact my crew- family and friends I trust. A trustworthy and able companion is the best survival aid. Second is to secure my guns.

  • Hepu

    Store food and water for the long haul.

  • Clint

    grab my go bag and head to the Firehouse to be able to help others- being a man means taking pride and responsibility for your community.

  • Geoff

    First thing I’d do is tune up my guitar so I’d have something to soothe the hillbilly beast with once we arrive in the hinterlands.
    .-= Geoff´s last blog ..gcouncil- -kauguston -kauguston http-wwwyoutubecom-watchvDzPo2F8h298-NR1 =-.

  • Chris

    Gather the family and gear, and then check it again to make sure we don’t forget anything. Probably won’t be coming back home again.

  • Tim

    Pack family, friends, survival gear and get the hell out of there.

  • Chris

    Step 1: Double time it to Ted Nugent’s ranch.

  • OkieRover

    Armageddon? Gather my firearms and ammo. That way I can protect what food and gear I have. Second, is to execute our predetermined plan. There is safety in numbers.

  • Darrel

    Lock the door. And hope they don’t have blasters.

  • Ryan

    My first action would be to plan my first action.

  • mars

    fist of all, DO NOT PANIC.
    second, determine the type of catastrophe (flood, fire, earthquake etc.)
    then, I could determine my course of action. Bring only the BARE necessities.

  • DavidM

    1st thing I’d do is get my family & friends to the nearby helicopter hangers for defense.

  • Jackson

    Meet at the pre-determined rally point with my family.
    .-= Jackson´s last blog ..8 Ways to be a Terrible Listener =-.

  • Robert

    First: Check on my family’s, neighbors’ and friends’ safety and well being.

    Second: Organize the neighborhood to begin rebuilding the community.

    Third: Start using all the reloading components I have stored to reload ammo for the coming effort.

  • Ben

    Gather the team, load the guns, and figure out what’s going on.

  • Nathan

    Honestly, if the apocalypse happens and zombies aren’t involved, I’m gonna be pretty disappointed. First order of business will be to find out if zombies are a part of the chaos, if not, I’ll halfheartedly pack my things and be ready to get out of dodge.

  • Greg Schneider

    I carry a BOB (bug out bag) in my trunk, and the first thing I would do is asses my situation, and decide if food/water, shelter, or protection is most important. If I’ve got water and a firearm, it’s going to be shelter. Also, it could depend on where I’m stuck, and when. Mountains during the summer? Protection and shelter. Elements and animals out here in the rockies.
    My kit involves a few nice knives, plenty of ways of starting a fire, quick shelter starters, and ways of purifying water. Enough stuff to walk out into the woods and camp for a few days.

  • Ben

    Retire comfortably living on the abandoned stores that everyone else left behind. Hooray for Spam and Twinkies!

  • Oswaldo

    First to do:

    Get my zombie survival pack

  • Travis

    Grab the essentials and high tail it out of town

  • Jeriel

    I’m looting.

  • cisco

    pour a glass, wait a day and pick the bones of all the jack nuts that killed each other trying to get out of the city.

  • Dan

    The first thing I would do is ensure personal safety for my family, then food, water, and shelter.

  • Chris C

    Grab my daughter; grab my wife; then hunker down with my Ham radio.

  • Trevor

    First thing: take a few minutes, breath deep, and figure out what the first step should be. Is it necessary to grab the bag and leave? Or can I stay at the house a little longer?

  • Dennis

    wander out into the wilderness that currently surrounds me.

  • Dave

    Raid a supermarket !

  • Justin

    Contact closest family and friends and determine where to meet.

  • Ken C

    The first thing I would do would be to take stock of my surroundings and what I had on hand to survive with. based on the estimated time I believe I would have to survive, I would act accourdingly.

  • Jeremy C

    I’d gather my family and take them as far away from civilization as possible.

  • Tyler

    You left beer off the survival list. First thing is first: grab a beer and enjoy it. Never know when you’re next one will be.

  • Justin

    Secure a living area for my family.

  • Andy

    Grab my bag, family, and head into the hills behind my house….

  • AJ

    Make sure my family is ok, load the gun, and take inventory of our provisions. My other thought is to fill the car with as much gas as I can get a hold of and drive out into the country and set up camp.

  • Dustin

    Gather supplies(food, water, ammunition) and my loved ones and get out of Dodge.

  • Grizzly Adam

    load my gun

  • Noel

    Grab supplies (survival pack) my family, friends (creating a survival group) and head for a safe country (dependent on disaster)

  • Playstead

    Make sure my wife and kids are in a safe place, then look for shelter. Love the article — nice work.

  • PirateMunky

    As an avid Zombie survivalist- my first response would be to fly home, grab my go bag and weapons then head to the city limits and secure shelter within a building supply run distance from the city. PS This may be one of the best links I’ve ever seen pop up on my twitter feed. Well done!

  • JD

    I would grab my gun and get away from other people.

  • Sam

    I’d locate my significant other, grab our packs and head out into the countryside.

  • Andrew Carlson

    Use my natural man skills to make make a focused and confident decision.

  • Dean M

    Hit my knees for a short chat with the Man then get up, grab my bug-out bag//long arm/web gear and fade into the woods toward one of my caches…

  • MDS

    I would assemble my “always packed and ready” survival gear close to my truck and determine, based on the type of emergency, if my home or truck might still be a safer place to be prior to deciding to move into the woods.

  • Stan

    I would Immediately head tothe nearest grocery and convienece store to buy every scrap of food and water they would sell me, sincepaper money wil lbe close to useless, and then add it to the months worth of food i already have stored 🙂

  • Frank Hansen

    Hopefully I will be at home. First thing, gather family, gather survival gear, and try to find info on the radio to sort out the danger and make an intelligent decision (given what info I have) on whether to stay put or leave and where to leave to.

  • Adam Dummar

    I would first use the internet and news outlets to get any information I could while those sources lasted, supplemented chatter gleaned from local police and emergency response scanner. At the same time I would review my topographical and area maps to determine the best escape route (if needed) and prepare to fall back to my long-term locations.

    Of course, I have the luxury of working at home, so the family is generally always in the same general area. Otherwise that might change the game plan somewhat.

  • Wes

    Get home to gather the family!

  • Nico

    I would contact all the family members, find out where they are at the moment of emergency and see what condition they’re in at the time!

  • Willie B

    take time to gather my thoughts re the situation, check my shooting iron,
    head to my prestocked “safe ” place. Hunker down till things either cool down or zombies (folks that have not prepared) die off or are too weak to be a threat.

  • Jordan B

    Take the time to think about what I will need for this emergency. The last thing I want to do is rush off and be unprepared.
    I’d probably end up checking the internet for survival pack lists, just like this one.

  • combsy

    Grab my bug out bag and family and head for the hills ala red dawn.

  • Justin C

    Make sure my mountain bike is up and running smoothly.

  • Robert

    I’d probably try and gas up my pickup, just to make it last as long as possible.

  • John G.

    1. Hunker in the bunker, in our already remote and defensible residence. Set perimeter alarms/motion sensors. Watch for potentially hostile “visitors” who may be looking to help themselves to what we have.

  • Roger Nichols

    Get grab bag and guns, gas up, and head for the farm, far outside the big city. I’d still have half a tank of gas left. Hunker downn and listen to the radio.

  • Dan

    I watch the news daily so I would grab my prepared survival pack, wife and two dogs. I would head for my pre-selected site (cover, game and water available) and we would head out immediately without telling anyone.

  • Rob Smith

    Well the first thing I would do is get my family ray to go with packs ready. Then we would if we can drive as far north as we can on a cingle tank of gas and hick the rest of the way. I’m thinking 3 locations first Colorado secound Oragon last Canada. I would also avoid any major citys. Once we found a place we would try to live off the land.

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  • Portogear

    i am having same like that
    .-= Portogear´s last blog ..Women Black Leather Customize Motorcycle Racing Jacket =-.

  • Max Pedition

    Hey you guys should review a Maxpedition pack! Best tactical / survival gear out there!

  • john

    I don’t like to think of these things. However, given the economy, the fact that even Gates say “don’t worry about the J-20, we will probably maintain our air superiority over the Chinese for at least 10 more years”, and the general condition of America, it might not be a bad idea to seek life elsewhere or at least put together a survival pack.

    Realistically, we were a rag-tag nation up until WWI, then we went through a Depression and WWII. The folks who lived through that put duty above all…and raised a bunch of spoiled brats who became the “me me me” brats of the 60s and 70s.

    The guys all wanted to get in touch with their feelings, the women all wanted to be liberated and have careers….so while they grew up spoiled, they raised a generation of latch-key kids who felt obligation to no-one because most had been raised by sitters, teachers, and people who put them on prozac for being kids. Meanwhile, the spoiled brat baby boomers enacted legislation based on the value of “diversity”.

    They opened the borders wide to every illegal immigrant imaginable, voted in every b.s. social benefit imaginable for everyone but our own damn citizens, and acted like spoiled children leaving open the door to the house and giving out money and possessions to every passer by as though there were no limits because their parents (the WWII generation) actually earned it.

    Now we are rocketing toward 3rd world nation status…wealth disparity – check, skilled jobs being exported – check, crushing debt – check, hostile nations own our debt and are rapidly outcompeting us – check…so yeah…I’m gonna buy a pack and some water tablets.

  • [email protected] Tips

    The first thing I would do is grab the survival kit, the pocket kit sounds really good. Grab my wife and kids and RUN!

  • Unwilling_Realist


    your synopsis of our current crisis is right on! those are all the reasons why i’ve sought out this website, and yes i am getting my survival pack together

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  • Kirsten


  • Kirsten

    THE WORLD IS NOT GOING TO END. just saying… If it does i hope it goes fast.

  • ibby dibby

    I’d definitely call the cops.

  • Get-real..!!

    Well lets all think of it this way. (Plan A) Get a hold of family & friends and let them know if this happens a new home location outside the cities is best for a new mini safe haven for food, children, and defense. Have a box made to be buried in case a loot had taken place and all your survival stuff is now gone, items to have in this box (plan B); First aid kit, a lot of garden seeds, water purification tablets, ammo & a couple small firearms. Small fishing kit. rope, SAS Survival Handbook etc.(this will aid in eating wild plants if food has been looted) dried foods (roman noodles & etc.) pair of CB radios with a few sets of rechargeable batteries. Solar charging station for charging batteries, lighting & etc. knife. poison (to kill a gang taking over your food, women & children). Meds for heartburn, pain, epipen (if exp date passes but is not cloudy it can still be used). Note looters are the biggest issue. Someone should be on the lookout 24/7 if all hell breaks loose they will kill you for food & then rape your women & children, this is not fiction but only the sad truth. Be ready when they start looking for food. Nothing will be safe & chance are livestock & wild animals will be extinct within the first year. This box’s location should not be known to anyone but core family members only & let them know it just might come in handy someday, Vary close friends should not know of this box or location, people love to gossip so keep it a family secret in case you die they also know. Over time the gangs will be weeded out by the good side so be ready for trading have alcohol & a good med supply on hand for the other colony over the hill. If this never happens in our lifetime who knows maybe a family member will dig it up someday & see all the cool stuff that is in this box from 50 years ago…!

  • Guest

    Gun cleaning kit.

  • Mr. Death

    get your self a tactical vest to put your handgun in and mag clips and you can put a good sharp knife on the shoulder of the vest like i did it comes in handy when you need your knife fast or your gun or clips for your handgun or rifle

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  • That kid

    I would go and find Bear Grills. Not sure if I spelled that right.

  • Monique

    Notice that all the comments below are made by guys.

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  • Heinrich D. Bag

    Foot/goldbond powder to help with the fact you are wearing the same clothes day in and out. Helps prevent fungus, blisters, sores…

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  • jonathan

    If i have my AR and few thousands rounds of ammo then im good!

  • Minemilx

    I would head far into the woods and do it Bear Grylls style. JUst the easier way with way more gear

  • Ricci davidson

    How about first aid supplies

    • Ricci

      I mean first aid book

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  • Matt

    I would consider replacing the crowbar with a halligan. theres an officer sized one, good size, can be used as a pry bar and also rip off door locks and a decent melee weapon.

  • Hanko American

    As to the “end of the world” this won’t happen until God makes a new heaven & a new earth, which won’t happen for a VERY long time. The proper way to say this is “the end of times as we know them.” Being prepared will be simply to have a 2 year food supply, water supply & the proper defensive firepower to keep what you have. There isn’t any place that will be safe but there are some places better than others, like away from cities/towns. Good Luck Everyone.

  • 3dna

    Hi great list! I compiled a disaster / emergency checklist myself. I would love your opinion on that:

  • Alex Pyun

    Tampons and Pads should be on here 🙂 I’m serious you can plug a bullet hole with one to stop the bleeding. Another simple thing is sugar packets to coagulate the blood for major cuts.

  • Ella

    Umm if its doomsday. Chances are there will be radiation and chemicals. Get a gas mask!

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