I Will Survive: Everyday Items in Your Purse That Can Save Your Life

By Tim MacWelch

We all have things that we carry around every day, believing that they are essential to our daily survival. But are they really necessary? Like life-or-death necessary? I have made a living distinguishing the difference between wants and legitimate needs, as an emergency preparedness writer and instructor. And while phones, keys, and forms of payment are essential to modern living, they are not the only things you should be carrying in your purse, pockets or backpack.

The punchline for emergency preparedness is that we never know if or when some scary incident will befall us. Although we hope that the time is never, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have any room to spare in your bag, then consider adding these things to help you out in an emergency – and to help those around you.

We never knew lip balm had these uses

We never knew lip balm had these uses

Lip Balm This may not seem like an important emergency supply, but a plain lip balm is made from a greasy combination of waxes and oils. Both of these substances burn great, if you needed to make a fire. They also act as a lubricant, rust preventer, and you can apply lip balm to dry cracked skin to facilitate healing. It’s also effective at sealing off abrasions, scratches and small cuts to hasten skin repair.

Lighter Even if you don’t smoke (or spend time around anyone who does), a simple butane lighter can last for years and create both light and fire. Select a brightly colored lighter to help you find it when you need it most. With just a flick of your thumb, the lighter can be a back-up light source and provide a flame.

A Tool A pocketknife or multi-tool may seem unnecessary in modern daily life, and it may even seem like paranoid overkill to carry around. But think of all the times you wished you had a cutting tool available to open containers and packages, to cut cords and string, and to perform other everyday chores. Now imagine how much better you’d feel if you had a tool for self-defense as well. A knife can do all of these things, and more. And if you aren’t sure about walking around with a knife, then start out with an easier-to-justify multi-tool. These handy gizmos have scissors, screwdrivers, knives, and pliers all rolled up into one compact item.

Vodka A little airplane bottle of vodka, or similar liquor, could serve many emergency purposes. High-proof alcohol can be consumed as a mild pain reliever, it can also be used as a disinfectant, deodorizer, fungicide, and a mouthwash for sores and dental injuries.  

Yes, it's a great idea to carry some first aid supplies with you. But some other items that may help in an emergency may surprise you. Vodka, anyone?

Yes, it’s a great idea to carry some first aid supplies with you. But some other items that may help in an emergency may surprise you. Vodka, anyone?

First Aid Supplies As an emergency skills instructor, I really do enjoy performing a lot of outdoor skills. But outdoor skills are nowhere near as useful as first aid skills. Medical skills (and a little bit of gear to support them) are the most likely “self-reliance” skills you’ll ever use. I’m not talking about a few Band-Aids,

although that is a good idea. I’d recommend carrying the supplies to help you deal with one significant injury or dangerous event. A few gauze pads, some tape, wound ointment, a few antihistamine pills and pain relievers, and a pair of tweezers can handle many medical issues by themselves, or help someone while the professionals are on their way. The gauze pads and tape (with some pressure from you) can help to stop dangerous bleeding. The antihistamine pills can help treat allergic reactions. The pain relievers and ointment can help you manage your patient if help is delayed for a long time.

Of course, my deepest hope is that these items lie unused and unneeded in the bottom of your purse. If that’s the case, then it means you’ve been lucky and careful. And you can still be glad you had these items with you, just in case.

And for more ideas on preparedness for emergency situations, as well as DIY survival skills, check out my new book, Prepare For Anything, which is available now.

Tim MacWelch has been an outdoor writer for numerous publications over the past ten years. He has also been a professional wilderness survival instructor for the past 18 years. Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch. For info on his school, visit

This entry was published on June 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm. It’s filed under Travel Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “I Will Survive: Everyday Items in Your Purse That Can Save Your Life

  1. Vodka? How interesting. I don’t drink but you have given me a new reason to keep some on hand. Surely a tip I will pass along.

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