When it comes to preparedness and survival, there are many items to consider in terms of tools, resources, and materials to incorporate into your kits and overall preparedness plan. But in a real SHTF scenario, it's simply not practical to pack and carry everything. Traveling light and fast will put you at an advantage over being weighed down with too much heavy gear. You have to have to make some tough yet informed choices about what should and should not go in your kit(s).
So what is the best way to strike a balance between being prepared for anything and everything but not overloading your pack (or yourself) with survival gear and supplies? What should your criteria for what goes in your kit and what doesn't? Well one way to do this is to heavily prioritize items that you can use for multiple things in multiple ways! If you can't use it in several ways.. don't pack it or carry it.
Another way to cut down on weight and save space is to avoid packing items that are commonplace and you can easily find during your travels or once you reach your destination. We are talking about common every day items that, in a survival scenario, you will simply find nearly everywhere you go. Don't be tempted to grab everything within arm's reach just to figure out how you can use it later. Just for an example, don't pack cast iron cookware in your bug out bag. It's too heavy and because so many people have this stuff, just find some near your destination. Stick to the stuff that is more specialized and will be a bit more difficult to come by later. It's just a good idea to know in advance the value of certain items so that when you find them you know exactly how they can come in handy.
One thing to keep in mind on this topic is that "multi-use" is often far less an innate characteristic in a particular tool or material. "Multi-use" is actuallly more of a creative mindset possessed by the individual observing said tool or material. In other words... "multi-use" is actually the observed potential in something as opposed to being a quality possessed by the tool or material itself. It is a mindset of creativity and resourcefulness and can be applied to virtually any object. As preparedness-minded individuals, we should all be looking at everything we encounter on a daily basis and think of creative ways to get even more out of what is around us in unconventional ways. It's a terrific mental exercise to continually challenge yourself to do this on a daily basis. We like to refer to it as the "Angus MacGyver Challenge"!!
Most of us are familiar with the term "force multipler", where... And we all know basic multiplication, right? So... when we multiply something by a larger number, we obviously get a much larger outcome, correct? The same is also true in a survival scenario. When you have carefully chosen items that can be utilized in multiple ways and you know how to leverage those multiple uses... you, my friend, have just "force multiplied" the crap out of your survival situation!
This is one of the most obvious and most discussed survival tools. The value of a good survival knife is familiar to all of us in terms of its many uses, such as creating fire, shelter, fashioning tools, and many more. Since survival knife usage is so well covered on so many survival websites (including this one), we'll not go into great detail here.
Duct Tape is also familiar to all of us in terms of its value in a survival situation. Repair, securing items, building shelter... uses for duct tape are nearly endless. AGAIN, since duct tape usage is so well covered on so many survival websites (including this one), we'll not go into great detail here.
Aluminum foil is also infamous as a survival tool/material. Aluminum foil can be fashioned into a container to boil water, used as a signaling device, used as a reflector for a solar oven, can be fashioned into a pouch for storage, used to cook food, wind screen for camp stove, used to make a funnel, to make fishing lures, fireproof base, and sharpen scissors.
Surgical tubing can come in handy as a multi-use tool as well. It can be used as a drinking straw to collect water from hard to reach crevices or from the cup at the center of your solar still. It can be used as a tourniquet, used to make a slingshot, as an "engine" for your traps (instead of bent saplings or weights), fishing lures, fish snares, blow tube for fire making (use a metal tube on end exposed to heat) and more!
Dental floss is not only handy for flossing, but it can also be used as light duty cordage, sewing thread, fishing line, tinder, hanging items, fastening, clothes line (doubled or tripled), cutting soft foods, sutures, and more.
Sewing, repair gear, splinter removal, lancing a blister or boil, stitching up a wound, fabricating bags and containers, make small holes, magnetize and use as an emergency compass, and more!
In place of missing buttons and broken zippers, repairs, tiny light duty carabiners, organizers, fishing hooks, traps, fashion an arm sling, secure bandages, splinter removal, gear hangers, clothes pin, shelter making, and more!
Condoms are not only compact, but they are far more versatile than many realize. They can be used as a light duty water container (can be reinforced with a sock, bandana or other), can be filled with a bit of water and turned into a "lens" to start fire with in sunlight, waterproof case for gadgets, carry pouch for small items, gun barrel cover, sterile wound cover, mini individual finger "glove" for wound treatment, fishing bobber, tourniquet, and more!
Rubber Bands / Ranger Bands
Keep bags and containers closed, attached items to other items (like a sharpening stone to a knife sheath), keep things together/organized, hang things, tinder, pad/protect things (like small glass bottles), keep things from sliding around (the rubber grips hard surfaces), keep things from banging (put ranger band on outside of item/items), keep things water tight, help grip (put rubber bands around a glass jar), make shift lid (put plastic bag or fabric over top of container and slip rubber band over top),
Tampons and Feminine Pads
Dressing wounds, stop bleeding, tinder, crude water filter, fishing bobber, fluff can be used as fletching (feathers) for blowgun dart, cordage, candle wick, and more!
Tinder! (Petroleum Jelly Cotton Balls) lubrication, chapped lips, chaffing, lube o-rings on fire piston, lubricate and protect knife blades and axes from rust, moisten chapped hands, restore leather, protect cuts and sores, prevent lids from sticking, stop squeaking doors and hinges, push birthday candle into jar of PJ and it will last for hours!
Combine with petroleum jelly for the ultimate home made tinder! Tinder, wound cleaning, padding to prevent rattling, make a wick, pad blisters, hearing protection and more!
Besides killing germs and preventing disease, this stuff can come in real hand when you need to start a fire as well. Being alcohol based, just apply to a cotton ball or some other kind of tinder, strike with a spark and you will have instant flames. You can also clean gear such as knives or surfaces with it before you use to prepare food. Great for removing pitch from hands. Can use to sanitize cuts and small wounds. Adhesive removal. Also great for removing zombie remnants. ;)
Like hand sanitiser, not only are these compact little guys terrific for killing germs and preventing disease, but they can also be terrific little fire starters with their alcohol base. Large ones are also made for full body hygiene that don't require water or rinsing!
Repair things, keep cordage ends from fraying, emergency sutures (not recommended),
This stuff is incredible for waterproofing a shelter or as a ground cloth
Channel Lock Pliers
Besides the intended use for this handy tool, it is also useful in many unintended ways as well. Channel locks make great pot holders and pan handles allowing you to lift hot things without having to use your hands.
They can also give you a better grip when needed for making shelter, repairing and fabricating, and turning valves, knobs and levers that are rusted or haven't been moved in a while. They are simply amazing for gripping and turning things that are a bit too large for regular or needle nose pliers.
Wire (copper, brass, stainless)
Improvised wist ties, fasteners, clips, hooks, shelter building, bail for handing bottle over fire, trap making, cooking, repair, fabricating, hanging things, booby traps, wrapping things, keeping things organized/together, binding and so much more!
In the survival realm, steel wool is famous for being a great tinder when used with a source of electricity or even a spark from a firesteel. It is also great for removing rust from gear, cleaning metal pots and pans, cleaning, polishing (like the bottom of an aluminum soda can for a fire starting parabolic reflector), sharpen scissors, and so much more.
Vise Grip Pliers
Five Gallon Buckets
Baking soda is another versatile resource. You can use it as an alternative to toothpaste, as a polishing agent,
Zip Lock Bags
Ziplock bags are a survival staple due to their convenience, compact and water proof (resistant) qualities. They are easy to roll up and stick anywhere. They are great for carrying water, keeping things like tinder dry, it is easy to see what is inside them, and because they are flexible, they take on the shape of what is inside of them, they are air tight... they are truly a versatile little tool. They are great for organizing, stashing, keeping things sealed up, and so much more. When it comes to Zip-Lock bags, DON'T SKIMP and go generic!!! Get the highest quality bags so you can really depend on them when you need them most!
Carabiners (various types)
35mm Film Cannisters
Breast Milk Bag
This list could go on and on (which honestly could be fun), but the real point in this is not to necessarily make a comprehensive list of multi-use items (but by all means keep your own suggestions coming!). The point here is to look at EVERYTHING through a "multi-use lens". Multi-use items are all around us every day, we just have to be creative and look for those uses.