Tools You Need For Survival

I’m a bit of a tool collector. My garage isn’t really a garage; it’s my workshop. The only way my cars get to see inside it is looking through the door. With all I’ve invested in tools over the years, it would be easy to assume that I’ve got all the tools I need for survival. After all, I’ve got tools ranging from woodworking to auto mechanics, with a little machining and welding in between.

However, the reality of a survival situation is much different than the reality of everyday life. The tools I have are mostly focused on being able to build things and repair them. While those are useful skills and will probably continue to be useful an almost any survival situation, they aren’t necessarily the primary skills that I’ll need in that survival situation. You see, being able to build my own AR-15 doesn’t mean that I can do the simpler tasks of survival.

Most modern workshops are built around power tools. We use electrically powered tools for everything we can, and only turn to manual tools when the power tools can’t do the job. However, all those power tools aren’t going to be the least bit of good in a world where electrical power doesn’t exist.

If you try and run your power tools off your solar power grid or wind generator, you’re going to find that your power won’t last all that long. Electric motors consume a lot of power in order to function. While you might be able to use those power tools once in a while for a true emergency, there’s no way that you’ll be able to use them regularly. For that, you’ll have to count on manual tools.

Most of us don’t have the manual tools we need to survive. We’re so used to using our power tools that we don’t even bother buying things like crosscut saws and manual drills. But if we want to be able to do things when the grid goes down, we’d better buy them.

Survival Tools for Bugging In

Survival tools can be broken down into two categories; those needed for bugging in and those needed for bugging out. While there might be some crossover, in most cases we can’t carry the larger heavier tools we would use for bugging in along with us.


Saws are one of the most diverse categories of power tools there are. Because of that, most of us don’t own a manual saw anymore. But that doesn’t mean we’ll never have to. In a disaster situation, saws will be necessary for a wide variety of purposes, from making repairs to our home to cutting firewood. We should have at least three different saws in our collection:

  • A crosscut saw – for cutting lumber and making repairs
  • A hacksaw – for cutting metal
  • A bow saw – for cutting broken limbs and cutting up firewood

A chain saw wouldn’t be a bad idea either, especially if you have a good stock of gasoline to go with it. Even otherwise, some gasoline may be available, albeit at exorbitant prices.



The manual drill has long since been done away with. In fact, they have become hard to find. Nevertheless, if there is no power, they can be extremely useful to have. Make sure you buy one that will be compatible with your current drill bit collection, so that you don’t need to buy a new collection of bits as well.


For cutting wood, cutting down trees and splitting firewood. Actually, a maul is better for splitting wood than an axe is. The difference is that a maul has a much wider angle than an axe does, making the downward force of the swing turn into much more sideways force to split the wood.


Unless you’re really into gardening, you may not have a shovel or may not use one much. However, in a survival situation you’ll need one for gardening. They are also useful for such things as digging an outhouse and making a root cellar. You might want to get a couple of different kinds, as not all digging is the same. You would also be well advised to get a mattocks, especially if you have extremely hard ground where you live.

Hand cart

There will probably be countless situations where you need to move things from here to there; such as brining water home from the stream, working in the garden and doing home repairs. A two or four wheeled cart, such as a dolly for moving boxes or a wheelbarrow, can make this a whole lot easier. Make sure that it has fairly large wheels and not just casters, as you’ll need to be able to move it across your backyard at least.

Good knife

Most people have knives, but not necessarily good knives. I define a good knife as a sheath knife made of high quality carbon steel, which will hold an edge and not break easily. There are countless situations where you need a knife, both when bugging in and bugging out.

Survival Tools for Bugging Out

If I ever have to bug out, I’d love to be able to take the same tools listed above with me. In fact, that’s my plan; as long as I can take my vehicle. I don’t look forward to the idea of building a survival shelter with the tools I can carry in my bug out bag. For that matter, I don’t even look forward to cutting firewood with it. But if I have to abandon my vehicle along the way, I’ll still need tools that I can work with.

As you can see, this list is shorter than the list above. The one thing that’s exactly the same is a good knife. In fact, I plan on using the same knives (because I have a spare) whether bugging in or bugging out.

Camp hatchet

A camp hatchet is your basic wood cutting tool. I like the type of hatchets which combine a hatchet, hammer head and even a crowbar. That makes the tool usable in a wider variety of situations. A lot of people are opting for a tomahawk instead of a hatchet, but I don’t like losing the added functions of a hatchet. I also feel that if things get to the point where I have to depend on a tomahawk to defend myself, I’m probably a goner anyway.

Camp shovel

Camp shovels are folding shovels, designed to provide you with the capability of digging a hole, without the size and weight of a full-sized shovel. The idea started with the military “entrenching tool” which is intended for digging a foxhole. While it is harder to dig a hole with a small shovel like this, it is actually the most usable of all the portable versions of larger tools.

Wire saw

The wire saw takes the place of a bow saw in most circumstances. However, to be honest with you, wire saws aren’t all that great. If all you have to do is cut a two inch sapling to make a shelter, they’re okay. But if you have to cut limbs for firewood, they’re too small.

There’s a new type of wire saw which is essentially a piece of a chain saw chain, with loop handles on it. While needing a lot of force to use, these are much better than any other portable saw option I’ve seen.



This is probably the least important tool on this list, but one that I wouldn’t leave home without. You never know what you’re going to run into or whether you’re going to have to fix something. A multi-tool gives you the best option for making sure that you have a compact toolbox to work with.

Good knife

The same knife I mentioned for bugging in. If anything, a good knife is even more important for bugging out than it is for bugging in. Make sure you have a small honing stone or knife sharpener as well.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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