So the modern world has met its demise, or at least the modern world we’ve come to enjoy, leaving you needing to scoop up your go-bag and head for the hills.

Hopefully, you’ve already packed the essentials, but in case you haven’t, below you’ll find a list of must-have survival items when SHTF.

Since I’m a bit of a minimalist, these items are only ones you can carry, but they extend beyond your EDC. Everyone should know food, water, and shelter are necessary for survival, which is why I left them off the list, but this SHTF gear will help you get food and water and build a shelter.

“SHTF” is an acronym that stands for “Shit Hits The Fan,” a colloquial phrase often used in survivalist and prepper communities, as well as in military circles. It refers to a sudden, unexpected, and often catastrophic event or series of events that disrupts the normal functioning of society on a local, regional, or even global scale. Such events could include natural disasters, economic collapses, widespread civil unrest, pandemics, or war.

When SHTF, conventional services such as electricity, transportation, communications, and law enforcement may be compromised or become completely unavailable. For those who anticipate or prepare for these scenarios, the focus is often on acquiring skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to survive and thrive when the existing social or governmental structures break down.

So, without wasting any more time, grab the following items.

SHTF Go-Bag Gear in Hong Kong, Urban Survival Backpack | TRDCRFT Tradecraft

A Bag to Hold All Your Gear

A durable bag is a must. Unless you have eight arms and hands, you’ll need a way to carry several items easily. That’s best accomplished with a:

+ Backpack

+ Duffle Bag

I prefer a backpack because it stays out of the way and distributes the weight evenly across your back and shoulders. However, something is better than nothing, so if all you have is a plastic sack, that’ll do for now.

After hunting and hiking a lot, I’ve come to prefer a backpack with a few pockets and one main compartment. I forget which pocket I put the item I need in and spend too much time searching for it.

The downside to one primary compartment is that you’ll have to take everything out to get some items, but that will be needed as you take personal inventory of everything.

Pro Tip: Put the things you use the least often at the bottom; hopefully, they’re the heaviest.

The bag size will depend on how much gear you want to bring. A compact backpack will allow you to fit into places others can’t and keep you much more mobile than a large bag. However, you won’t have the option to carry everything you might want to bring along for your mission.

SHTF Equipment and Shelter in Hong Kong, Urban Survival Backpack | TRDCRFT Tradecraft

Tools to Build a Shelter and Get Food and Water

Humans survived for thousands of years without modern electronics and tools. However, we should take advantage of the tools available to us today.

I’ve looked back into history and visited the tools I use while hunting or camping off-grid to refine this list of essentials.

You need a variation of the following items:

+ Blade

+ Knife Sharpener

+ Rope/Wire

+ Tape

+ Fire Starter

+ Containers

+ Radio

+ Extra Material

I can’t keep up with how often I’m asked if I have a pocket knife on me, which is why it’s one of the first things I make sure is in my go-bag. A knife sharpener is a nice-to-have item once the edge of your knife dulls. Scissors are another blade I have thrown in my backpack when the room allows.

Rope, wire, and string have so many uses. If I had to choose just one, it would be rope because I use it more often than the other two. It can be used for making splints, helping you carry additional gear, setting snares, fishing, and countless other things.

I find a lot of people overlook the usefulness of a duct or electrical tape. Growing up in the country, we had a saying, “Duck tape and bailin’ wire fixes everything.” While it might be a slight exaggeration, I’ve fixed many things with duct tape and wire.

A fire is a must unless you’re a fan of drinking harmful water, eating raw food, and freezing. A lighter is okay and will last you for a while, but eventually, it will run out of juice; that’s why I recommend using a flint & steel fire starter. Remember, a fire might keep away some animals, but it signals where you’re at to others… so build with caution.

You’ll need a container for food and water; these can be plastic, but if you don’t have access to clean water, and who does when SHTF, it’s best to boil the water before you drink it, so you’ll likely need at least one metal cup or bowl. You might even be able to find more containers or make your own out of “trash.”

Whether you need to patch your clothes or another layer for warmth and protection, extra material is a must. A sleeping bag may be too bulky, but pack according to your local climate.

SHTF Weapons and Hunting Gear in Hong Kong, Urban Survival Backpack | TRDCRFT Tradecraft

Weapons for Protection and Hunting

While we hope you’re never forced to fight for your life, you want to stack the odds in your favor as much as possible, so you should have a readily available weapon.

Here are the weapons I’ll have when SHTF:

Guns & Ammo

Bow & Arrows



I love my guns as much as the next guy, but I’m not convinced a firearm will be the ultimate survival weapon. Guns and ammo have the advantage of rapid fire and a longer effective range than other weapons. Still, they also alert others to your location, scare off prey, and you’ll eventually run out of ammo. That said, I’ll use my guns and ammo as long as they last.

America’s rifle, the AR-15, chambered in 5.56, or its counterpart, the AK-47, are my first firearm choices because they’re built to handle harsh conditions, they can shoot a reasonable distance, and I can carry quite a few magazines at a time.

I think bows and arrows are the best survival weapons because they’re quiet, and you can reuse them if you don’t hit a rock or tree. You can also make a bow and arrows using a blade, rope/string, and feathers.

If you can’t make a bow, a spear is the next best thing. It will help keep animals and people out of arm’s reach, or if you’ve thrown a javelin, you can always throw the spear at your soon-to-be dinner.

I know I mentioned having a blade in the tools list but having a separate knife specifically for self-defense or hunting will help keep you healthier and safer.

Parting Shots

This might seem like a lot, but these items are just the bare essentials. However, don’t let this list overwhelm you. Start by purchasing a few things at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have the essentials checked off your list and packed in your go-bag.

Stay safe, and watch your six, my friend.

About the author: Sam Jacobs is a 2nd amendment advocate, lead writer, and chief historian, at Ammo. As a self-proclaimed outdoorsman, it’s his responsibility to use his knowledge and experience to educate others about ammunition, the outdoors, and conservation.

[INTEL: CIA ‘Urban Survival’ Concept]