Tablets For Survival


Putting tablets into the larger survival kits has been something I’ve been thinking about for while. Sure, we all have phones, and in an emergency our phones will always be with us. At the very least you’d want to have the right apps installed, and you’d want some extra micro SD cards with offline maps, survival books, etc.

So I think the way you’d configure your phone and the way you’d configure a survival tablet would be different enough to where I think it’s a wise idea to have a dedicated survival tablet and extra micro SD cards with everything you would need for an emergency.

Tablets for Survival: A random assortment of our family's tablets
A random assortment of our family’s tablets


An emergency may be bad enough to put you and your loved ones on foot, and still leave you lucky enough to get 3G/4G or Wi-Fi service on your emergency tablet. And that of course gives you great powers of communication, from weather and news to text messaging.

Some smart phones and tablets even have built in FM radio receivers. Even if all cell communication is knocked out, you still have the ability to receive FM transmissions. Many folks put small radios in their emergency kits, and this is one less thing to carry.


Unless all the American and Russian navigation satellites get knocked out of the air at the same time, any emergency you face is going to be with a GPS by your side if you want one. There are no shortage of navigation apps which let you store maps offline, sometimes even on your micro SD card.

Even without maps, there are hiking GPS / compass apps that will let you navigate trails and find your way between stored way points.

Tablets for Survival: GPS Hiking And Compass App

Survival Books

A micro SD card can hold every survival book you would ever need. Books are easy to store offline and there are many free reader apps for Android that can read multiple formats straight off the card.

Medical Books

Books take up very little space compared to multimedia like music or video. Theoretically you could probably fit all the medical knowledge of mankind onto a handful of these cards. Either way, there’s no reason not to have a few high quality first aid books saved onto the same card as the survival books. And that still leaves plenty of room on the card for Beavis and Butthead Season 8.

Backup Power

A tablet can relinquish its own charge to charge other devices and even run a USB light. Below I am charging a couple Sanyo AA Eneloop batteries from my $30 cheapo tablet. Most of the time you will be putting charge into the tablet to use it, but in a dire situation it’s another power source to draw from. I believe this tablet has a minuscule 2000 mAh battery in it, that still translates to a fully charged Eneloop AA which could give you a hundred or so hours with an efficient flashlight running on low. Or enough of a charge for your walkie talkies to call for help. Power is power.

Tablets for Survival: Micro USB to Female USB Adapter and USB AA/AAA Charger

Tablets for Survival: Tablet Charging 2 Eneloop AA Batteries

Emergency Light

Not only do most tablets and phones come with an LED for the camera flash that can be co-opted into being a flashlight with a simple app, but the USB port on a tablet can power most USB devices, including a USB “nightlight chip” as shown below.

Tablets for Survival: With LED Nightlight Chip


Any dire emergency with young kids is going to be much more difficult to deal with. Young kids being distracted can allow adults to be more focused, and focus is exactly what you want in that situation. Also, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a prima donna, so even in a dire emergency, I’m going to have something to distract myself, like offline TV shows and music.
Because a micro SD card weighs less than a gram, there’s no reason not to have an extra one loaded with movies, TV, books and music. In fact, there’s no reason not to have a separate memory card for each if you can afford it. Most players and readers don’t have a problem with offline content. If you are resourceful, then you can load up on any kind of media you want for basically no extra weight.

It’s A Computer

The primary things you need in an emergency are shelter, food, water, warmth. Having a computing device in dire situations is a luxury in a way, but in a way it’s not. From interactive first aid apps to a simple calculator, having a computer in your emergency bag gives you a world of possibilities. 
It’s impossible to precisely predict the exact circumstances we will face in an emergency, so I like having options, and a computing device in my bag gives me options I won’t even realize I have until the need arises.

Unlimited Use

Since my disaster bag has the ability to charge USB devices with solar panels, I could theoretically run my emergency tablet forever, though in practice it would probably compete with other devices for charge, such as flashlight / walkie talkie batteries.
At the end of the world, I’ll be sitting by the camp fire watching re-runs of the Walking Dead on my tablet. Oh, and I’ll also know what plants are safe to eat, how to build a makeshift shelter, how to tie knots and make snares and so on…
They say knowledge is power, so I think that carrying a small tablet can multiply the power of my ability to handle an emergency, which makes it worth its weight in the bag.

Tablets for Survival: Solar Panel Charging Phone


I found and purchased what I think is pretty close to the perfect tablet I have been describing in this article, but the problem is that I like it way too much to put in the bag, so I’ll eventually have to buy another one. Though I’m pretty sure in an emergency it’ll be one of the first things I grab.

It’s light, powerful and has a pretty good sized battery. I got one of those cool cases that puts the tablet to sleep when you close it and wakes the tablet when you open it. But the case adds some pretty good weight, so for the survival bag I would probably just tuck it into the bag somewhere where it won’t be damaged or get wet. In fact, I would probably put it inside a zip-lock bag. I have a nice cheap tablet that would be great for the bag, but it doesn’t have GPS. It’s pretty rare to see a tablet anywhere near the $100 range that has both Bluetooth and GPS, so I think Asus nailed it. 


  1. Hi! Would you care to recommend your favorite tablet-friendly navigation apps that let you store maps offline? Love the blog, in particular your meticulous knife/flashlight reviews. Invaluable! 🙂

    1. Thank you for the kind words. For offline GPS navigation I normally use NavFree USA and Sygic, which has more features but sometimes crashes. I like NavFree a little better. There's two versions of it, both free: A USA version and one for the rest of the world.

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