The Right Survival Tools in Your BOB

Dear Fellow Survivalist;
Survival_ToolsI’ve seen a lot of different people’s ideas about bug out bags through the years. It seems everyone has their own idea of what’s needed to survive. That’s not really surprising really, as each person’s survival needs are as individual as they are. Regardless of what anyone does, it has to be something that will work for them, not for someone else.

But I see this causing some problems at times. As survival gurus read each others’ articles and blogs, they get ideas for modifying their own survival style. Basically, that’s healthy, as the cross-fertilization of ideas helps everyone find more new and better ways of doing things. But some things seem to be carried over from one person to another, without the necessary thought going into it. That means that bad ideas, as well as good ones, get passed around.

Such is the case of survival tools. While there are some things that are absolute essentials, I don’t particularly like some of the ideas that are being propagated. More than anything, I think that those ideas aren’t necessarily as helpful as they could be. Survival tools should be simple and effective, or they aren’t going to help anyone survive.

Let’s take a look at some the basic survival tools which everyone seems to include in their kit, with an eye to making sure that what we’re carrying is what we really need.

Wire Saw

Of all the survival tools around, I’d have to say that the wire saw is about the worst. Have you ever really tried to cut a tree branch with one? Can you imagine cutting enough tree branches to build a shelter? I wouldn’t want to even try. But if I did, I doubt the wire saw would last.

What’s needed is something stronger, while still being light. That’s a tough combination to come up with. Ideally, I’d love to carry along a bow saw or a bucksaw with me, but those are a bit big; even though they aren’t all that heavy. So I found something lighter and still fairly effective; a folding pruning saw.

Pruning saws are designed for cutting tree branches quickly and easily, just what we need for survival. But they aren’t all that portable… at least, most aren’t. There are a few manufacturers out there who make folding pruning saws, which look like oversized pocket knives. They are a perfect solution for a bug out bag, being compact, lightweight, but still cutting like a champ.


Somehow the handy dandy camper’s hatchet has been replaced by the tomahawk. Since both look roughly the same, I guess this is somewhat understandable. Besides, the tomahawk beats the hatchet hands down in a coolness contest. So, if what you want is cool survival gear, grab yourself the baddest tomahawk you can find.

But the purpose of a hatchet isn’t supposed to be to be cool, nor is it really supposed to be a weapon. It’s supposed to be a tool. A good hatchet not only cuts wood, but it serves as a hammer and some even have a built-in pry-bar as well. But when it comes to being a tool, the tomahawk is sadly lacking. So people who are carrying a tomahawk instead of a hatchet are making their survival tasks harder, not easier. Sorry guys.


Somebody decided that a multi-tool was a survival tool, and since then, everyone has put one in their bug out bag, their EDC and their survival kit. There’s only one thing… it’s not a survival tool. While the multi-tool is an amazingly useful device, it’s really not designed for survival. The knife blade is only good as a backup, the saw is too short to cut much and where are you going to find screws in the wild?

In reality, the multi-tool is better suited to urban survival, than it is to wilderness survival. However, like everyone else, I’ve got one in by BOB. It’s probably going to be the last thing I use, unless I need it to fix one of my other tools.


The shovel is clearly an important tool in anyone’s BOB. But what kind of shovel? Other than weight, I’d say that the military perfected the idea of a portable shovel with their entrenching tool; especially the version that comes with a pick as well. A lightweight version of this is just about perfect.

But if you look at some of the shovels that are being sold today as camping or survival shovels, they look like Cadillac versions of the old military standby. Many come with a host of built-in tools, most of which aren’t really all that good. In an effort to one-up the other guy, I’d say that some of these guys have perhaps gone a step or two too far.

There are two things I’d say about a good camp shovel. The first is that it needs to be big enough. Some are too small or too short to really work with. The second is that it needs to be strong enough. Watch out for some of the el-cheapo versions out there, because they probably use rather cheap steel in them. That cheap steel might not hold up all that well.


Surprisingly, few people bother with a machete in their BOB. But the machete is an ancient tool, which has been proven effective in a variety of environments, over and over again. For that reason, I’ve got one strapped onto the side of my bug out bag. I can use it to dig, cut wood, cut leafy branches to cover my shelter and even clear a path. No other tool offers me so much versatility, besides the knife.

The machete I have has a saw blade on the backside of the knife blade. While not as good a saw blade for cutting branches as the folding pruning saw has, it works fairly well. It’s also long enough to give me a good stroke when I’m cutting; which means I can actually cut a branch with it.

So, maybe it’s time to take another look at the tools you have in your bug out bag as well. Think through how you’d use them in a survival situation and then try using them like that. If what you have works for you, that’s great. But if it’s hard to work with, then maybe it’s time to look for something else.

In the mean time, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich


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