If you’ve never gone into a military surplus store stop what you’re doing and find the nearest one to you. Seriously. They are so fun to spend time wandering around in. I could wander in the aisles of the one near me for hours, days even.

There’s a nice one in my town. But there’s an even larger surplus store in the next biggest town a couple hours from me. So if I’m in that larger town for any amount of time I always try to hit it up. Look around in your area because the one nearest you might not be the best.

Surplus stores get the best stuff based on the relationships they have with their suppliers, and larger stores that have been in business longer definitely have better stuff and better prices. Many of the items that you see in surplus stores are the same all over though, so here’s what I want you to look for next time you’re in one.

1. Wool Blanket

Wool never wears out. These blankets are large. The one I have is 60 inches by 80 inches. That’s 5 feet by almost 7 feet. They’re warm. In my area of the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a LOT, wool is a must for hats, gloves, jackets, socks and more. If the surplus store has wool pants or wool sweaters in your size, get those too. image from midwayusa.com

2. Fuel Can

military surplus fuel can

These military fuel cans, or jerry cans, are sturdy and metal. They can take a beating. They last longer than plastic when filled with fuel. And if you have a metal can and you want hot water, set it in the sun. Obviously, save a can that you don’t put gas in for this! These cans are not cheap. Compare prices, and make sure it’s quality material. Good cans can be $80 or more for one. image from roverparts.com

3. Duffel Bags


military surplus duffel bag

Duffel bags come in handy for numerous things and like other military gear, they are sturdy and last forever. When I was in my 20s before kids and didn’t have a car, I stuffed all of my laundry in a duffel and carried it on my back on my bike to the laundromat! I’m sure I looked a site riding down the street, but man, I wish I still had that bag. You’ll have similar memories of the duffel you get. image from sportsmansguide.com

4. Ammo Cans

military surplus ammo can

Ammo cans are great for many things besides storing ammo. They are strong, sturdy, come in different sizes from small to large and are stackable (because they’re rectangular). Use them to hold tinder to keep it dry or important documents you want to keep safe. You can fill them with sand to use as support or extra weight in your shelter. Keep your first aid items in one. Of course, they work great for holding ammo too! image from majorsurplus.com

5. Field Jacket

military surplus field jacket

Military clothes are well-made of sturdy fabric, and field jackets are warm. Surplus stores nowadays are getting a lot more imitation gear because the original, old stuff is in short supply on certain things. Just check the labels to make sure you’re getting high-quality stuff.

image from armysurplusworld.com

That’s my list. There are so many things though that you can find in a surplus store, from mess kits to tarps to boots. What is your must-buy list?

The kukri (pronounced koo-kree) is an intimidating curved blade knife/weapon that originates in Nepal.

Shown below is a photo of a a traditional kukri, along with a secondary knife commonly carried along with the kukri, and a sharpening tool. The kukri’s main feature is the curved blade that resembles a machete. It also has a notch in the bottom of a blade, which helps blood, or whatever, drip off the blade rather than run down and make the handle slick. If the kukri is used as a weapon, it can catch another blade on that spot. The notch also is said to have some symbolic meaning in that it resembles a cow’s foot.

Kukri knife from the author's collection. Nóż kukri z kolekcji autora.
A Kukri (top) with the traditional Karda (middle) and Chakmak (bottom). The Karda is used as a utility knife and the Chakmak is a sharpening tool.

The blade of a kukri is typically 10 to 15 inches long. It hacks like a machete, is lightweight, and the bottom of the handle, because it’s typically flared out and wide, can be used as a hammer.

Modern kukris are, of course, similar but different.

Khold Khukri
Khold Khukri from 511Tactical.com

The knife shown above, with the green handle, has a 17-inch length with a 10.86 blade, so it’s right in line with the traditional knife. But as you can see, it’s quite different. The handle, rather than being wood, is fiberglass reinforced nylon. It doesn’t have that flared base, so this would likely not be an appropriate knife to use in the event that you needed to hammer in a nail.

If you drop this bright green knife in the grass, chances are you’ll be able to find it more easily than the traditional wooden handle. It still chops and is lightweight (this one weighs 1.54 pounds).

A kukri is originally designed to both be a well-balanced weapon but also to clear heavy brush. If that’s what you want one for, maybe you should get the traditional model.

Let’s say you’re stuck somewhere for the night. Is it better to stay inside your vehicle or take your in-care gear bag and hustle out of there? Much of this choice depends on your own level of training, the gear you have, and the particular situation you’re in.

Being in a car gives a sense of security, because you’re protected from the elements and have some comfort. But . . . there can be detrimental reasons why you would not want to stay in your vehicle.

The vehicle could become a trap. If you’re surrounded by a mob, you might not have a way to get out.

If there’s a broken window, the car will let in the cold outside air. Can you patch up that broken window with a piece of cardboard or an emergency blanket?

The car holds in the cold. Cars don’t hold in heat, so not staying warm is a real concern. If you’re out of the car, you can possibly gather wood and use your fire starter to make a sheltering fire.

The vehicle is conductive metal. It’s a myth that the rubber tires on a car protect a vehicle from lightning strikes. A fully enclosed metal vehicle is safe, as long as you’re not touching any part of the metal frame in the event that there is a lightning strike–this means no touching door and window handles, steering wheels, gear shifts, etc. In order for this to be effective, the windows must be closed. Vehicles can still be damaged by a strike.

Close off part of the space. An emergency blanket doesn’t take up much space and they’re cheap. Get a few extra a keep them in the car. You can use these to close off the back or front of your car’s space to make it easier to stay warm. Plus, you might have extra people in your car (kid’s birthday party? or whatever) and you’ll need more than one blanket just for yourself.

If you have to vacate your vehicle, is your gear accessible? Get your bag out of the trunk and keep it nearby. Ahead of time, sort through whatever’s in there and make sure you know what’s in there and how to use it.

Think through scenarios. Based on where you live and the weather, think through what might happen and what you need. If it’s rainy or hot, think about those things and prepare for them. If you have to cross bridges to get home, think about what you might do if you can’t use the bridge. Thinking things through helps your brain to be more able to maintain when there really is an emergency.

The Canadian government took a survey of personal preparedness and released it on February 9, 2018. According to the survey results, only 13% of people in Vancouver, BC have what they consider a “fully completed plan” for earthquake, wildfire or flood resiliency.

We know that a major earthquake is going to hit the Northwest at some point. The predictions all say that sooner than later, a “big one” will hit the Northwest. The University of Washington simulated earthquake scenarios and found 50 different ways that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake could unfold in the Cascadia subduction zone.

According to this survey, 54% of people polled say they’ve started working on their plan, but haven’t completed it. “Personal laziness” was a top reason given as to why they hadn’t done more. Other reasons were “lack of knowledge” and “lack of time.” “Personal apathy” was also a given response. And yet, 80% of the people poled say that an earthquake is the most concerning hazard to them.

86% said that they have emergency food for three days. But only 60% also had emergency water for three days.

According the the poll, four in 10 British Columbians report they have an emergency kit in their car, while only three in 10 have a kit at work or a “grab and go” bag at home.

We know that young people, low income people, and people who are renting, and in particular city dwellers, are among the least prepared. What’s your excuse?


Like many of you out there, I have a variety of survival gear. I have duplicates of some things. I have multiples of other things. I have it organized fairly well…it’s in a couple of bags and some boxes in a storage area. I feel well prepared for a basic to mid-level emergency. Problem is, the bags that I have packed are too heavy!

I’m happy with one of the bags I have. It was a thrift store find of an insulated cooler backpack . . . I hadn’t seen these before but when I saw it I knew it would be perfect for a gear bag. It has a large main pocket and a smaller outer pocket that both close with zippers. Because it’s a cooler, it’s lined with waterproof fabric and the outside of it is plastic. And it has wheels. I liked that it was more waterproof than your typical backpack and it rolled, and I didn’t have to pay survival gear bag prices for it.

The other bag is a bowling ball bag that is also a plastic-y material making it more waterproof than typical fabric, but it doesn’t hold as much as the other one. One drawback to using these bags is that they aren’t fully MOLLE’d like “real” survival gear bags. But I like them, I’m using what I have, and I saved money on the deal.

I knew the cooler bag was too heavy. But I moved some things around in that storage room over the weekend and I realized that it were WAY too heavy. What to do?I know that I need to keep them lightweight, so I’m going to start looking for some new bags. Ideally, my husband could take the heaviest bag and our son can take the lightest bag. But SHTF situations are rarely “ideal” and we’re not going to plan for an ideal situation.

Keep it light

When planning your bug-out bag. Be realistic about weight. You might be along. You might be injured. You might have children with you that also need your help. If you have multiple bags, spread your gear out among the bags so that your bag is light enough for you to actually handle and yet also contains your essential stuff.

Pack large, heavy items on the bottom.

Put items on the bottom that you don’t think you’ll need as much, and also anything squishy that can handle being compressed by the weight of things above it.

Keep frequently used items at the top.

Items that I’d keep at hand are fire starting equipment, rain gear (so you’re not digging for it in the, you know, rain), lighting, and one serving of food or snacks and water.


Utilize bags or containers to keep things together. For instance, your fire starting material all in one pouch and your first aid all in one kit.

Review your pack occasionally.

If it’s been months since you packed your bag and stored it away, get it out and go through it. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have something but not being able to find it. Or thinking that you have something but then realizing it’s not there or not what you thought it was. It’s a good idea to continually edit and curate the items in your survival bag anyway. You may discover that you’re lacking something or you find gear that you like better than what you already have.

And, actually use the stuff.

That last point is key. If you get gear, use it. Try it out. Become familiar with it. Think about how you would handle a stressful situation if you were trying to get a fire built or filter water and you were trying to read a label or product instruction manual in the dark, in the rain, in the freezing cold, because you never used it beforehand and didn’t know what to do. Yeah. That’s genuinely a situation to avoid being in.

So repack your gear! And get out there and use it.


Those of you who have been reading this site for a while now know that I have written about and enjoyed a couple other Ron Hood survival videos. Read our review of “Ultimate Survival Guide” and “Advanced Survival Guide.”

His videos are not only funny but full of useful information all in one place. I know you’re going to want to watch these videos over and over again. I got a new one, “Survival Basics I and II,” and I wanted to tell you what I thought of that one as well.

I really liked this one because it covers the first 48 hours after an emergency as well as key things such as staying dry and minimizing heat loss. You may think you already know all there is to know about these basic subjects but somehow Ron hood finds a new angle. I mean, I don’t think I would ever have thought to fill a trash bag with pine needles as a make-shift blanket. The fact that he covers basics also makes these videos a great gift for your kids or your younger prepper friends who are just getting started. It’s great to read a book but watching a video has more richness to it. I only wish we hadn’t lost Ron Hood a few years ago because I think he would have been really great at maximizing the fun of a YouTube channel. There are a lot of those channels now and they’re fun to watch too, but Ron Hood’s personality is part of the appeal of these older videos.

Some of the basics that he covers is firemaking, which you can’t learn too much about in my opinion. The techniques on wayfinding were incredibly valuable. Watch these techniques and take notes in your offline prepper notebook. You can easily tell direction both during the day and at night with the techniques that Ron clearly explains.

It goes over what to include in your own mini kits and maxi kits and all kinds of other things. The coolest things to me were the wayfinding sections with shadows and a watch, and the figure 4 trap looked like something worth trying out. All you need to make a small animal trap is a knife and the diagram of this cool leverage-based trap in your mind. As in the other videos, Ron’s wife Karen helped out with sections on how to clean fish and how to cook maggots. These and other survival videos by Ron Hood and others are available at Stoney-Wolf Productions.

As you long-time readers know, I’m the guy with the gear who actually uses it through my role as a Search and Rescue member. Throughout the year I do video reviews of gear I’ve purchased or been given to test, so watch for those here on this site. Here’s a list of gear I actually like, so if you’re looking for a gift for the gear-head on your list, let these ideas guide you.

Gerber Center-Drive

Gerber’s Centerdrive took the gear world by storm with it’s innovative bit driver design. That placed the bits in the center of the tool when deployed rather than off to one side like traditional multi tools. It has quickly become a favorite of anyone needing serious work done and only wanting one tool to do it. You also get one-hand opening full-size knife and pliers, a file, serrated blade and other essentials. Futhermore, it’s made in the USA.


SOL Traverse Survival Kit

One of the newer survival kits on the market, the SOL Traverse survival kit covers 12 to 24 hour survival needs in one compact package. You get what you need for shelter, fire signaling and water purification. The container also doubles as a digging tool. I carry SOL kits as part of my hiking kit and enjoy having essential items for an unexpected overnight or spat of bad weather all in the top pocket of my pack. The Traverse may not satisfy the hardcore outdoors person, but is ideal for someone looking for the necessities to toss into their pack for day-hikes or short hunts.


Black Rifle Coffee

If you have any sort of social media account, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some ads for the high-octane and good-humored folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. The Veteran-owned premium roasters have a knack for creating media content with no shortage of firepower and absolutely fantastic coffee. I work an overnight shift for my regular job and I am somewhat picky about the coffee I use and how I brew it. My life changed when a coworker brought in some Black Rifle Coffee. The flavor is incredible and of course it’s as strong as you need it to be. The company also sells a variety of mugs, tumblers and brewing gear for your needs whether you’re brewing at home or camping.


Gerber Sharkbelly

I received the Sharkbelly right after my wedding and it has been a wonderful tool. Having just got married a few month ago, my house was chock-full of boxes from gifts and wedding supplies. I spent plenty of time cutting tape and cardboard in order to get everything into the recycling bins. The Sharkbelly’s sheepsfoot blade makes everyday cutting chores a breeze and the 420 HC stainless steel blade keeps a good edge without being too hard to sharpen. It’s also made in the USA, which is a big plus. The Sharkbelly is a great choice for someone needing a lightweight cutting tool for everyday carry or work on the job site.


Readyman Cards

What do you get the person who (supposedly) has everything? Chances are a Readyman card would be the perfect stocking stuffer. Readyman cards cover a variety of tools for someone’s wallet, survival kit, fishing kit, range bag or bugout bag. You can fit cards in your wallet or dissemble them and carry them in a survival tin, pouch or wherever else you want.

Everyday carry is a concept that most firearm owners know these days, however this should include more than just a firearm. I have had a few people ask me what my everyday carry load-out is and why, so I figured that this would be a great topic to cover.

Ask anybody you know, what are the things you have on you every time you leave the house? There will be a list, some shorter than others but the point remains; everybody has some sort of “everyday carry” items. Those of us that carry concealed do as well, ours just may be a bit more extensive. What should this list consist of though? What should we have on us at minimum, especially if we are carrying concealed?

First things first, something I was told a long time ago has really stuck: Bad guys travel in packs. What does this mean for us and how can I apply this concept to my everyday carry load-out? The first thing to touch on is also the first problem I encounter with everyday carry pistols. The three “C’s” of concealed carry are: Concealability, capacity and caliber.

You are always going to sacrifice in one of these categories. More often than not, I run into people that go out and get the smallest pistol they can find, because it’s easier to conceal. Now, with the smallest pistol you can find, you sacrifice in capacity, so I see people try to compensate by finding the smallest pistol in the largest caliber possible. While this is an option, there is a better solution that many don’t consider: carry at least one back up magazine. My general rule of thumb is to never leave the house with less than 25 rounds. With that I am comfortable in dealing with any situation that may arise, potentially multiple threats, and subsequently being able to control my scene until help arrives.

The next aspect of everyday carry that I see many people ignore or fail to consider is that roughly half of every day is night. Therefore, it would be wise to carry a light. I personally carry two separate lights on my person at all times. One is a weapon-mounted light and one is a pocket light. This allows me to utilize the weapon-mounted light in a self-defense situation in low light conditions. Not all situations are going to justify me drawing my firearm however, so if this is my only light I would not be able to utilize it in every situation that I may need a light. One thing to consider as well, both of my lights use the same type of battery. If one goes down I have uniformity, therefore I can switch a battery out and get my light that I need back up and running.

A few other things I always have in my everyday carry load-out are: a knife, some kind of medical or trauma kit, and pepper spray or some other less-than-lethal defensive weapon. If I am going to carry a firearm for self-defense purposes it would be advisable to carry a medical or trauma kit to deal with any injuries sustained in a situation should I need to defend my life or the life of another. There are a ton of places to get pre-made medical and trauma kits online, or you can build your own. There are also tutorials online that will walk you through what should be in a medical kit should you want to make your own for your everyday carry bag.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published article.

I grew up in Florida, where we were all told to prepare for hurricane season. June through September, and sometimes but rarely in May, people in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic States are at risk from hurricanes. My family were not anywhere near “preppers” and we never talked about emergency preparedness. The extent that I can recall from childhood of being prepared is that my Grandmother urged us all to have a suitcase packed that we could grab and go with if we needed to. I never packed a suitcase and I don’t think my mother ever did. And looking back, I’m pretty sure the only thing in my Grandmother’s suitcase was a nightgown and a change of clothes.

Well, now that I’m an adult, I take emergency preparedness much more seriously! Not only do we have supplies at home, each driver in the family (two adults and a 19-year-old) have their own cars with emergency gear bags in each car. We all work in different places across town and live a bit out in the country, so having a car bag is the minimum that I feel we need. I feel good about this, but I also have some random supplies that are in different places.

For instance, in my car’s glove box is a glassbreaker multitool and an LED flashlight. In a cabinet in our laundry room is a crank lantern and two Luci solar lights. These we keep accessible in the house in the event that the power goes out. My partner has medications that we don’t have backups of, that are on our dresser in the bedroom. (Emergency prep lists always tell you to take backups of medications, but insurance doesn’t pay to fill most medications more than once a month, so having extras of expensive meds is not likely for most people anymore.)

I also have sleeping bags in a closet and an envelope with a little cash. In the laundry room is a stash of candles and lighters. Does your bug out bag have a hairbrush and toothbrush and toothpaste in it? I’ve met many people over the years who focused on just the emergency supplies in their bug out bag and not little things like hygiene. If there was an evacuation call or some other emergency where I needed to leave the house quickly and take as much as I could in my car, I might not remember all of these things since they are all in different, separate places. While I could get by without them, if I had these things they would serve as backup gear or extra peace of mind.

Therefore, I recommend that you all take stock of the things you have around the house that might not be in your proper bug out bag but that you would want to have with you in the event of an emergency. Here’s a list of things that I would want to have with me that go beyond my basic bug out bag that I’d like to grab if I have time. What does your list look like? Print your list out and keep it in a handy place where whoever is at home can find it.

Extra lighters from candle closet
Magnifying glass – for fire starting (my kid likes to play with this so it’s in a drawer in the living room)
Glassbreaker multitool from car
Knife from desk
Complete change of clothes, with gloves, hat, jacket, scarf, etc depending on the season
Toothpaste, toothbrushes for everyone
Playing cards – there are some in my bug out bag but why not take another pack?
Notebook and pen/pencil
Phone and charger
Luci lights
Paracord – there is some in my bug out bag, but we also have some extra in the laundry room where the candles and other in-house emergency supplies are
Bug out bags from in the house
Water jugs
Sleeping bags and pillows
Hair comb
Lotion – I like soft hands, ok?
Sunscreen and lip balm – these are in my medicine cabinet but not in my bug out bag
Snacks – jerky, granola, cheese sticks, peanut butter, crackers, cans of soup, etc., that you may have at home that you can grab quickly.
What else?

It’s a pack I see a lot in airports across the country and for a good reason. The S.O.C Bugout Bag (ours is in the foliage green color) is a big backpack that can carry a lot of gear and take a beating. While it’s a popular option, there are some things to take into consideration before pulling out your wallet. We got this bag from Brownells, a company that has guns and ammunition along with gunsmithing tools and emergency and survival gear.

Construction: This bag is quite hefty, weighting in at 5 pounds 5 ounces. The construction is 600 denier polyester and canvas blend. Some of that weight also comes from the aluminum back-stays that give support while carrying heavy loads. The shoulder straps are connected by metal clips and can be stored for using the bag as a carry-on for air travel. While the pack is comfortable to carry and durable, there are some improvements that could be made to keep the pack in competition with more modern designs. That’s coming later.

Organization: The front pocket of the pack opens to reveal a light grey organizer panel, which helps identify smaller items. There are two mesh zippered pockets for storing small items as well as a pouch for a phone. There is also a document/map slot that is closed by a strap with loop Velcro. The second pocket has zippered organizer pockets that are ideal for storing cords or supplies that need dedicated storage. There is a hydration compartment that can store up to a two-liter bladder, but no laptop compartment. The main compartment can expand by opening a zipper that runs along the outside of the pack, increasing this pack’s capacity from 47 liters to 54 liters. While that gives you more room for your gear, it will change how the pack sits on your body, so pack wisely.

Needed Improvements: The hip belt was a big failure point for me. It loosened itself several times while walking on flat ground with a 25-pound load, and it became annoying quickly. Second, the metal clips on the straps should be replaced with quick release buckles for easier use with gloves. I also believe that the weight of the pack can be reduced while keeping the same level of durability. Using a light rip-stop nylon on the interior pockets will help lighten the load along with thinning out the aluminum stays. Using a plastic frame sheet with the aluminum stays can help maintain rigidity while cutting weight out. For me, the jury is still out on whether I think the pack needs the ability to store the straps for suitcase-style carry. I’ve never seen anyone traveling with this pack use it as a suitcase.

Ideal Uses: This bag is designed to fill several roles, but it is best suited as its namesake: a bugout bag. This bag would be best used as the bag you grab and toss into your car when you get an evacuation notice or when you need to leave home in the case of an emergency. It can easily hold and organize three days worth of supplies. But due to its heavy weight, I would not make this a long-range pack for those traveling on foot.

Check out the S.O.C. Bug Out Bag, and purchase it for $99.