5 Discreet Survival Items You Can Take Almost Anywhere

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Author of What to Eat When You’re Broke and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Sometimes it’s imperative not to look like a prepper or survival-minded person. Especially in this day and age, when people are jittery, you may not want to go around with items that could make you seem suspicious. Gray is the new black. Four of these items can be taken anywhere, even through metal detectors and on planes. The fifth is dependent upon where you’re headed.

These are five discreet items that I always have in my purse. If you don’t carry a purse, but you have big pockets, they could mostly be stashed in there. They cover several of the pillars of survival and can get you through a lot of different situations.

Obviously, if you’re in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard, this won’t save you – this is more to keep you prepped for day-to-day needs. Of course this will not see you through anything and everything. But it’s a good start and will help you to become more creative with finding multiple uses for your everyday items.

Water filter

It’s pretty trendy to carry around a water bottle these days, as many people are trying to reduce their dependence on single-use plastic. So it’s not going to raise any eyebrows at all to lug your water around in a filtration bottle.

If you are carrying a bottle for a survival situation, you want something that filters out more than a standard tap water filter. I suggest a Lifestraw bottle (least expensive), a SurviMate bottle (moderate price), or the holy grail of water filtration bottles, the GRAYL. (Pun absolutely intended.) The GRAYL bottle is awesome and filters out far more than the others, but it’s expensive and only filters about 60-70  gallons before you need to replace the filter.

Nobody will even look twice at you for having one of these.

When I’m traveling outside the country, depending on the state of the water where I’m going, I tuck a little Sawyer Mini in my purse for survival situations and use a metal wall Brita bottle for day-to-day drinking.

Lighter

The ability to make fire can mean the difference between life and death in many situations. Fire means you can boil water to purify it (if you can locate a vessel to put it in), you can have warmth, and you can make a signal. I never go anywhere without at least one lighter. Generally there’s one tucked in my pocket and a couple thrown into the bottom of my bag.

These don’t have to be super expensive. Grab a few lighters at the checkout stand from your gas station or WalMart. It may end up being the most useful few dollars you ever spent.

First Aid kit

This really varies with your needs. If you take medication required for life, you need to have extra with you at all times. If you’re ever stranded someplace, you’ll want to be able to keep taking your medicine. If you have life-threatening allergies, an epi-pen should be included in your personal first aid kit.

Barring that, I keep bandaids for blisters, a small Altoid tin of OTC meds, and this little vacuum-sealed kit that has what I need to stop heavy bleeding. That specific kit is no longer available on Amazon, which is a shame because it being vac-sealed means it is very compact, stays clean, and is easy to transport. If you have a Foodsaver or other food vacuum-sealers, you could easily make your own version using this kit or this more advanced one. At the least, you’ll want shears for cutting away clothing, a compression bandage, a tourniquet, an emergency blanket, some extra gauze, and perhaps some chest seal. Being able to stop bleeding might be the most life-saving skill you could ever have.

Mini flashlight

Nearly any situation is better if you can see. That’s why I am never without a flashlight.

I have one on my keychain, and I keep one in my purse. I like these little ones for my bag – I strongly prefer the kind that takes common batteries like AA or AAA. You can get rechargeable ones or ones that need hearing aid batteries, but they might be hard to replace or recharge during an emergency. You can nearly always find something that contains AA or AAA batteries to pillage from if you need to replace your batteries in a pinch.

Flashlights can also be used to signal for help. Brush up on your Morse Code or at least learn the signal for SOS. (Three short, three long, three short.)

Pocket knife

Finally, last but definitely not least, is a pocket knife. There are some places that you cannot carry a knife these days. If you’re traveling by plane or a method of public transit that requires you to go through a metal detector, you most likely cannot take your knife. The same thing holds true if you are going into a courthouse or other secure facility.

But everywhere else, a pocket knife is unlikely to raise any eyebrows. I pack a small one in my checked luggage when I’m traveling and clip it to my bra when I’m able to carry it freely. (Women don’t always have pockets, you know.) Here’s my everyday carry knife – it is legal in almost every country, even ones with incredibly strict laws. You might prefer a multitool to a penknife – everyone has their own favorite.

I use a knife regularly for things like opening packages or mail, prying something out of a tiny space, and other day-to-day tasks. I’ve also taken multiple courses to learn how to use one for self-defense. A knife can be incredibly multipurpose, but I strongly advise you to learn from someone qualified to teach you if you plan to deploy it to protect yourself. (Go here to see Greg Ellifritz’s schedule – he’s my go-to knife guy, and he teaches all over the country.)

If you cannot carry a knife sometimes you can carry something similar if it looks like you have a good reason to be in possession of the item. A pair of sharp embroidery scissors and some embroidery supplies can at least get you a sharp pointy thing in your carry-on bag for the plane but it would be unlikely to be allowed in a courthouse. I’d hate to have to use embroidery scissors for self-defense, but it would be better than nothing if you know how to use it. I would never take expensive embroidery scissors anywhere that I might end up having them confiscated.

Additional things

Of course, these are your bare minimum supplies to have on your person or in your purse. In the US, I carry a firearm and ammo, but outside the US, I can’t do that. I also like to have things like snacks, a map of my area, and my phone for comms, information, and navigation. I carry this book too. It’s about 3.5″x4.5″ and will fit in nearly any bag. It doesn’t go in-depth, but it provides the information you need to know to get through just about any situation that you might be unprepared for, like a snake bite or a tsunami. I bought a copy for each of my girls and have found it useful many times. And never forget that in bad situations, cash is king. I keep small bills in more than one currency on hand outside the US and small US bills within America.

Obviously, your kit should be dependent on you: where you live, what you might encounter, and what your restrictions are. Having the bare minimum to get you through a rough day or a crisis is incredibly important. Learning to be flexible and find multiple uses for the tools available is even more important.

What do you keep as a bare-minimum survival kit? If you could only have five items, what would they be? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • My every day carry consists of my firearm 9mm or .40 depending on what I’m doing that day (East Texas hogs get big), a normal sized pocket knife and a TSA compliant less than 5 cm blade pocket knife, i always have a multi tool on my belt, then depending on which vehicle I’m driving that day i either have a small pocket sized first aid kit or a large wilderness medic kit. Also on my key rings i have different small pocket tools the kind that are one piece of flat steel that can do a multitude of tasks, also keep a monkey fists in all my vehicles that have a steel ball bearing in them, i also have a credit card knife in my wallet i usually buy them in bulk of like 10 or 20 I’ve had 2 confiscated by TSA or they have been in my wallet so long that they degrade and the plastic breaks. I also keep Sawyer life straws in each vehicle and my hunting pack, There are probably several more items that are in vehicles that I am forgetting about.

  • Lookup and read about the Ten C’s of Survival and get a copy of Bushcraft 101. Pretty much covers what you might need for a weekend camping trip and down to a minimum for emergencies. Grey Bearded Green Beret, on uTube, has a Lot of info on ultralight gear, and Corporals Corner has very practical how to’s.
    I have a gadget pouch from Condor that is stuffed with a minimum of small gear and is about the size of softball. Hook a shoulder strap to it with D rings and it is easy to carry. Life may have a destination, but the journey is what gets you there.

  • My EDC consists of a flashlight, folding knife, leatherman multi-tool, zippo lighter carried in a belt pouch (no skin burns for me!), and a 9mm with an extra magazine. On my key chain I have a small swiss army knife and a P-38. The key chain is paracord and I have a paracord bracelet. Looking to get a small first aid kit.

  • If your EDC includes a firearm, don’t forget to have some kind of camera with you. Things can change quickly after a defensive situation. After 911 has been called, document everything with pics and video.

    • Not a bad idea. However, if I’m in a situation where I need to pull out my firearm, I’m pretty sure the attacker won’t stop what they’re doing while I get my camera/phone out so that I can record the attack.

      • Haha, true. However what was meant by my comment above in which I said numerous times “after”, is to get pics if the bad guy had a weapon pulled; get pics of the weapon laying on the ground. Get pics of anyone standing around that may be a witness, vehicles and license plates, etc.

        A great organization with a lot of great vids on YT about CCW and things to consider and do if you need to defend yourself or others is USCCAOfficial. They have a boatload of vids, most recent ones are more about the current firearms situation. Dig back for the what to do vids.

        Another great YT to watch for things CCW is gowilsoncombat. Dig through the vids for the CCW ones by the legendary Massad Ayoob.

        As I’m sure many of you know, it isn’t always bad guy does bad things and another person makes them assume ambient temperature… you’re free to go.

  • Today’s article is not about a complete list (regardless of item size) of survival prep gear nor even about addressing all the pillars of survival (as listed in the Toby Cowern article that Daisy linked to). Some of the commenters to that article were convinced there were more pillars than that article addressed. So the theme of today’s article seems strictly about survival prep gadgets or supplies that will fit inside small pockets, purses, bags, concealable body sacks, or any container not too large to carry on a neck chain, etc.

    So here are a few more small items that have good reasons to carry.

    1. Small compass, whether a button compass or a magnetized washer on a string. Whether you are out in the sticks or merely traveling through an unfamiliar city … and the sky becomes overcast and you didn’t bring a map …from personal experience I do know how miserable it is not to have any kind of compass (or the high strength magnetized washer from Home Depot on a string) while in an unfamiliar city with no clue which way is north.

    2. Tiny pocket sized pencil sharpener. Whether being used on a wooden pencil or some small diameter wooden sticks … it’s a very practical way to make some feather stick shavings for easy fire starting.

    3. Fresnel lens. Whether the tiny credit card size that fits in your wallet or the larger book page size version that Dollar Tree sells for about $1.25 … as long as there’s sunlight you have the ability to set tinder materials on fire. Admittedly the small credit card size works best during fewer hours (when the sun is closest to being overhead) than the larger book page size that can work during earlier sun hours or later sun hours in a day. Also this is a useful way to conserve regarding your matches or lighter fluid (which Zippo is notorious for leaking).

    4. Loud whistle. Whether you need to warn off a possible predator or call for help for much longer than your voice can last (and that can be heard much farther than your voice), this is another no-brainer carry item.

    5. Backup light and a backup flashlight battery. For when at night you first learn that the battery (whether alkaline or rechargeable) has gone dead, trying to change out that battery in the dark (when you can’t even see the keyhole to get into your house at night) is difficult at best. I always carry a spare light. My favorite is a tiny Swiss Army knife model Signature Lite that has a built-in push button light for such emergencies. Besides its daily function of being chained to spare keys, it even has an emergency ball point pen insert. So carrying a backup light AND a backup flashlight battery gives you enormous mathematical odds against being caught with all your portable pocket light sources going dead at the same time.

    6. Signal mirror. You have many choices. The military issues both pocket size and larger glass mirrors with a small hole in the center of the silvering. That lets some sunlight through that lets you accurately aim the sunlight to rescue people whether on the ground or aboard aircraft. There are plenty of civilian versions as well. Even the classic stainless steel Boy Scout playing-card sized mirror can be converted to a signal mirror by drilling a small hole in its center.

    7. Orange T-shirt. Those are easy to make an emergency flag from so you can wave at rescuers a long way in the distance. Also such a flag mounted up high could be a big help in finding your way back to camp when out in very unfamiliar territory.

    –Lewis

    • Lewis, I really like your comments! Not only are they informative but they are thoughtful. They are a pleasure to read.

      Now to respond to the article:

      I have a couple of neck knives that I use when out and about. Since I don’t always have sturdy pockets, it’s nice to have something that I can just slip under my shirt. I also have a pocket knife that clips inside my purse. It’s pretty large but slim enough that it doesn’t get dislodged by a bunch of other things. I also have a ultrabright mini flashlight with some cute little “skullcracker” stubs around the face, aluminum body and some nice grippy knurling. It uses special rechargeable batteries, but I have extras of those and I’m still on my first battery, it has lasted a hell of a long time. Fantastic for going out and checking on my worm farm at night. I have a lighter too, and at times carry a multitool. Also a pen.

      Also, here is a small cautionary tale: I was given a snowflake shaped “multitool” by my folks. It looks neat and had a bunch of screwdriver heads and hex heads, plus cutouts to serve as wrenches, and was just a few inches across. I thought it was great and for a while it was in my EDC. Then I needed to do a really light task (removing a license plate from my car) and on the first try, the Phillips tip sheared off! I actually had to dig the soft metal out of the screw head with a dental tool. Real pain in the butt. On closer inspection the silly thing was made of zinc or some other really soft metal. So that just goes to show, always test out your EDC tools so you know they are reliable. I should have known better – the darn thing had mold lines and that’s usually a really bad sign!

  • I strongly agree with testing such products BEFORE needing to depend on them — unless you can spot obvious defects up front. In the case of the “snowflake” design multi-tool … when I first saw ads for them they appeared to be designed to poke holes as quickly as possible in one’s pants pockets. And there was no case for them in those ads to protect one’s pockets. So I had ruled them out before learning about the bad metallurgy problem.

    Other examples of defective survival products might be some ferro rods from Walmart that no matter how hard I tried … I could not get a spark from them despite having a properly designed scraper and the experience of using it successfully. Other ferro rods from Walmart worked just fine — where the quality had not been “Walmarted” out of them. The point is that until you test a new-to-you item … you can’t know if it will work and be dependable for you. There are multiple and excellent how-to videos on YouTube about what works and what doesn’t. They are worth watching BEFORE going shopping. Just an FYI — the bayite brand seems to consistently be reliable.

    And sometimes the problem may be in a related item instead of the one you were testing. An example might be some poorly chosen wood (from which the shavings you skillfully cut — for example with a tiny pocket pencil sharpener) would not respond to decent sparks from the ferro rod you thought you were testing. There’s much difference between poorly chosen tinder and dependable easy-to-light tinder. The kinds of blunders that a newbie might make (during a first ever attempt out in the sticks) ought to make the rest of us shudder.

    –Lewis

  • We carry life straws in our backpacks when we go hiking and extras are in our emergency stuff. We like the Berkey sports bottles when we’re traveling or out and about with access to so called drinkable water. We have a Berkey in our kitchen and let me tell you once you drink that water everything else will taste horrible.

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