Protective Survival Clothing & Footwear
Planning your emergency clothing and weather protection needs are quite obviously region specific. Southerners probably don't need full winter jackets in the summer, while those in the northern climes are probably good without water-shoes or bathing suits during the winter months.
First-hand experience here is important. If you've never spent a full day in the rain trying to do something (like pitch a shelter) you have no idea how soaked you can get, even with a good parka and boots.
Be prepared for each season you may encounter, and practice being outside in the extreme temperatures doing some of the survival tasks you may be one day called upon to use. Its quite an eye opener as to what you can and can't accomplish.
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Having the right kind of socks is a critically important part of your survival clothing and footwear considerations.
People tend to overlook them entirely. That's why we put them at the top of this list.
The cheap cotton tube socks you got from the local store are garbage. Sorry to be harsh but it's true. They don't belong as part of your bug out bag clothing choices in our opinion.
Proper care of your feet is an absolute must. It cannot be overstated. Those cheapo socks are going to get wet, create blisters, then it's game over.
Make sure to read our guide on how to prevent and treat blisters, it's a real eye opener.
There is only two companies that we trust with our feet, Darn Tough Vermont and Injinji.
Darn Tough Socks
Price: $15 - 30
Don't skimp on socks. Good ones can seem pricey, but one pair of good socks can outlast 8 - 10 pairs of the cheap ones.
Couple that with the fact that companies like Darn Tough offer a lifetime warranty for their products, and you end up saving money over the long term.
Nearly all of their socks use Merino wool, which is exceptionally comfortable and will keep you from getting blisters and foot irritation, even when wet. This is very important as blisters can turn into infections, and infections can lead to death.
Read our detailed article about Darn Tough, and why we love them so darned much!
Some Darn Tough Favorites:
Darn Tough Tactical Series
Darn Tough has a Tactical Series of socks. If you are just starting out, start here.
What we like about this line-up is that it keeps it simple. You have different sizes based on the boot/shoe you wear in both Men's and Women's and the materials stay more or less the same. We think these are the best survival socks.
One other sock we really love, especially if you live in warm climates, want something to run in/work out it, or your feet tend to get hot with wool:
Coolmax Vertex No Show Tab Ultra-Light
Where we live it gets very hot. So we need lightweight socks that don't trap in heat. We've looked everywhere over the years to find something that works: cotton is too thick, nylon by itself falls apart.
Darn Tough cracked the code, and made a bombproof sock that breathes. Thank you Darn Tough. We now have 10 pairs in our family that are over 6 years old, and are worn nearly every day and are still, STILL, going strong as the day we got them.
Typical Price: $15
These might seem a little whimsical, but I can swear by Injinji socks. By keeping the toes separated you are reducing the possibility of blisters forming on them. I also feel like these socks are more supportive that other socks and are padded in just the right places. Try a pair, they are pretty amazing.
Bear with us for a moment here, but we need to discuss what you are wearing underneath your clothes. This might seem a little too personal, but need to discuss your under garment choices, as we have found that the wrong kinds of underwear can cause discomfort and even injuries or sores.
Soffe Men's Compression Boxer Brief
Typical Price: $18
These are my favorite briefs, hands down. They breathe well, prevent chafing (which can easily occur when walking long distances and become really painful) and dry amazingly fast. I've worn them under bathing suits to see how they handle being soaked and they are still very comfortable. They don't move around or bunch up either. A+.
For ladies, check out the Soffe Juniors Dri Cheer Boy Shorts for the equivalent.
Soffe Authentic Ranger Panty Run Shorts
Typical Price: $15
These are nylon shorts with a liner inside. They can be worn like underwear, but make great PJ's and camp shorts, as they feel like boxers but don't look like them. They come with a little key pocket on the inside. We love these, and wear them around the house and keep his & hers pairs in our emergency kits full time.
For ladies, try the Soffe Juniors Her Ranger Short.
Have you given serious thought to the type of survival clothing you are putting into your emergency clothes bag?
Material choices are very important. Merino wool and synthetics are good choices. Cotton is not.
We think that the best types of survival shirts to get for an emergency kit are synthetics that are flexible and can dry quickly.
Should you find that you are on the move from place to place, you might need to wash clothing items in a sink or stream.
You will need those items to dry overnight so you can hit the road again the next morning if need be.
There have been dozens and dozens of times I've washed clothing (especially shirts) in a sink with a bar of soap and had to hang to dry.
If you have every traveled around for more than a week at a time or done some backpacking trips you know what I'm talking about!
Columbia Men’s PFG Tamiami II
Typical Price: $50
These shirts are great for both warm and cool environments. Vented and fast-drying moisture wicking with UV protection for those warmer days. Fits loose enough to add a base layer underneath.
For winter and colder climate suggestions, see our article about Preparing for Winter Storms.
REI CO-OP Sahara Shirts
Typical Price: $50
I love these shirts, i have a handful of them. Lightweight and vented to keep you cool on those hot days. Fast drying and they don't stink up on you. Stretchy too so easy to move around in. Work great on the trail or even out to dinner.
Buy them on eBay and save some $$
Pants & Shorts
5.11 Fast-Tac Urban Pant
Typical Price: $40
These are amazing pants. We've worn them in complete down pours and they dried quickly and stayed comfortable the entire time. They are very light but durable, using a 4.7-oz. polyester ripstop fabric with a water repellent finish.
These are perfect for hot and damp places. They pack down small and light. They also come in a cargo style with thigh pockets as well in men's and women's cuts.
5.11 Taclite Pro Pant
Typical Price: $50
If you are looking for something a little more substantial or for colder weather, then the 5.11 Taclite material is the right choice. It's still lightweight and breathable, but with a heavier build. Great all-season use and comfortable enough to sleep in.
You can wear these pants for days on end and not feel dirty or smelly (I know, I have!) They also come in women's sizes.
5.11 TacLite Pro Shorts
What do you know, 5.11 makes shorts too! All the goodness of the Taclite Pro pants in a smaller package. I've got 4 pairs of these shorts, and keep a pair in my get home bag and in my bug out bag.
See our full 5.11 Taclite Pro Shorts review here.
It should probably go without saying that you'll want to have a durable pair of shoes or boots at your disposal during a survival situation like a natural disaster.
You'll need something durable yet lightweight and comfortable enough that you can walk around in for miles if need be.
There is a huge variety of quality out there, so we have tested a few brands and styles that we can say assuredly will perform and last you when you need them to the most.
Salomon X ULTRA 3 GTX
Typical Price: $150
These are great technical hiking shoes that keep your feet positioned snugly and balanced.Both the wife and I have pairs (thankfully they come in wide sizes) and they are my favorite everyday shoes.
Very grippy, even in wet conditions, and sturdy without being heavy like a boot. You can run and maneuver in these very easily. GoreTEX water protection.
Vasque JUXT Men's Hiking Shoe
Typical Price: $110
Here's another pair of my daily wear shoes that I have beaten to death and still look like the day I bought them. See our full Vasque Men's Juxt Multi-Sport Shoe Review.
These have some unique features, like the way the toe box is designed (the laces go almost all the way to the end.) I wore these exclusively for an entire year at the gym and have put hundreds of jogging miles on them - they are a little but heavier than athletic sneakers but they make up for it in durability.
Here area a few more suggestions to help round out your kit, some items you can shove in there and forget about until you need them.
Shemagh Head Neck Scarf
Typical Price: $14
Shemaghs are very useful with over 33 different ways to use one. Available from any army navy supply store or online. They make great head and neck coverings and have been used for many years around the world. Offers both thermal and dust protection. Really comfy and they make you look like one bad dude...well...maybe.
DeWalt Dominator Safety Glasses
Typical Price: $8
ANSI Z87.1 compliant, these sunglasses can protect you against debris and impacts, and are sturdy and comfortable as well. We've had ours for years, and use them all the time so we bought a bunch and threw them in our emergency kits. Check out our review.
STS Mosquito Head Net
Typical Price: $13
If mosquitoes are a problem where you live, then a mosquito head net isn't a bad idea. This net from STS is the best mosquito head net we've tested. They are small to pack but will save your sanity if you are stuck outside when those little bloodsuckers are!
Waterproof Ripstop Hooded Poncho
There are several things to consider when buying a waterproof poncho. Most of the ones you see are cheap and have zero-durability. A ripstop poncho can stand a few holes pokin' into it and wont fall apart on you after a few uses. You want grommets (aka eyelets) so you can attach cord or bungees to it and use your survival poncho as a shelter or tarp.