Surviving the Fallout Wasteland: Gear for the “Vault Dweller”

“War, war never changes.”

An opening line that many Fallout fans will remember and a chilling comment about the nature of humanity. Based some 200 years in the future, the Fallout universe offers a striking look at what could become, if a nuclear apocalypse were to occur. Filled with witty one-liners, brutal imagery, and a splash of romance, Fallout has come to life in a live-action interpretation available to stream now on Amazon Prime. Based on the original video games, the new series features a unique perspective on “Vault Dweller” life and offers new lore about the beginning of the end. I’ll stop before I spoil anything, but as a fan of the games, sci-fi, and dystopian imagery, I can’t recommend this show enough. While I hope that this universe stays science-fiction, it did raise a question in my mind: What gear would I trust to keep me alive in a world like the one portrayed in the series?

While several different scenarios could play out in a post-nuclear world, I’m going to stick to one that most follows the show: You’ve survived for many years in a vault, and are now leaving home in search of something important (remember, no spoilers to the show here). All of these items would have been acquired and stored within the vault since it was built. In this scenario, I’d need to carry all of my gear in my pack, and gear failure is not an option.

These are the pieces of gear I’d trust in this extremely hypothetical scenario. 

Knife – Giant Mouse GMF4



In a survival situation, there’s no substitution for a great knife.  If you have the right knife, you can process wood for a fire, prepare food, hunt, make a shelter, and more. Featuring a solid tang construction, dual lanyard holes, micarta scales, N690 blade steel, and a gorgeous Italian leather sheath, the GMF4 is an iconic and accomplished design capable of any camp task you send its way. If I could only have one blade with me in any type of survival situation, I’d feel confident that I could rely on the GMF4.

Watch – Master Of G Rangeman GW9400-3

Picking out a watch for the “end of the world” was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Of course, there’s no shortage of good options, but I wanted to find something that made sense. Like the other gear on this list, it needed to be indestructible, rugged, and useful. I first thought that an automatic would be the best choice, but then I remembered that autos need service, something I’m not skilled enough to do. Much like automatic watches, I quickly ruled out traditional quartz watches as I’d have to scavenge and store batteries to keep it running. With battery powered and mechanical watches out of the picture, there’s only one type of watch left: solar-powered.  

While researching some of the most rugged solar-powered watches, I came across the Rangeman, specifically the GW9400-3. Featuring G-Shock’s “triple sensor”, this model can tell you which direction you’re traveling, your altitude, and the atmospheric pressure, and is water resistant to a depth of 200 meters. Another feature that I think would be super useful is the sunrise/sunset display. If you’ve ever gone camping and got stuck on the way, you might know just how frustrating it can be to attempt to set up camp in the dark. By having a dedicated display, you’d easily be able to see just how much daylight you have left and can decide to set up shop as needed. Now, this last feature is as important, if not more important than all the features above: the color it comes in of course! While I’m out scavenging the wasteland, I have to make sure I look stylish, and this watch checks all the boxes! By combining earthy tones (a mix of olive green and khaki), the yellow and stainless accents draw attention to the wearer’s eyes, without being too flashy. 

Backpack – Mystery Ranch Overload

It’s no secret that I love Mystery Ranch backpacks. Given their heritage of designing packs for outdoor and military purposes, you can find a pack that will fit any need you have. Searching through the various military and outdoor models, I’ve selected the Overload as my pack for this wasteland excursion. While the 50 liters of capacity, the iconic tri-zip design, and the N.I.C.E frame make this pack amazing, the true reason I selected this pack is the OVERLOAD feature. The Overload has the unique ability to carry heavy items by “sandwiching” them between the frame and bag sections. Using this feature, you can easily carry pelican-style cases, longer objects, or even another person (as seen in the pack reviews on Mystery Ranch’s site). The pack itself has multiple compression straps, and an open main compartment allowing you to store your gear in various pouches, organized as you desire.

Water Purification – Grayl GeoPress Ti Purifier

One of the most important things to consider in a survival situation is maintaining a supply of clean, decontaminated water. While there aren’t many (if any) filters that will remove radiation from water, it would be important to remove any other kinds of bacteria and diseases. Even in “normal times”, waterborne illness is a real issue all across the globe. If there were to be some kind of nuclear event, I’d imagine that clean water would be almost impossible to obtain, and you’d need to purify any water source you did come across. Assuming I was able to find a non-radioactive water source, I’d choose to have a 24oz GeoPress® Ti Purifier from Grayl. The TI model of their GeoPress filter looks amazing, and would also provide me with a metal cup to boil water/cook in as needed. Holding 24oz of water, this bottle would allow me to filter a large amount of water each time, and I could easily decant it into other bottles for storage as needed.

Shelter – Big Agnes Battle Mountain 3

I’d want a tent that could handle the harshest conditions, no matter what the wasteland throws at me. As such, I’d want a heavy-duty, four-season tent, something like the Battle Mountain 3. Made with winter camping in mind and targeted towards a mountaineering crowd, this tent is designed to withstand rugged, high-alpine excursions. Given that this tent is a true, four-season tent, it will dominate the elements in any situation. The Battle Mountain 3 has dual entrances (each with vestibules), color-coded webbing/ poles for easy setup, and multiple interior options for gear storage. Being a three-person tent, there will be plenty of space to store items inside the tent and in the vestibule, as well as extra room for any companions you meet along the way. My one complaint (and it is minor) is the golden yellow color of the tent. Given the unknown conditions of the wasteland, I’d ideally want a tent in a more natural color (tan, green, brown, etc) that would blend into its surroundings. The golden yellow color of this tent would cause it to stick out, but I think all of the other features make this the ideal tent for this thought experiment. 

Flashlight – Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

While thinking about what kind of flashlight I’d want, three factors came to mind: multiple brightness levels, red light-only mode, and it must run on a common battery. Ultimately, I decided upon a headlamp, allowing me to have illumination while keeping my hands free, as you never know what you’ll be doing when you need light. Considering these factors, the Actik Core Headlamp from Petzl was my favorite option. Petzl is known for creating high-quality climbing and caving gear, with their lights being no exception. While comparing Petzl’s catalog of lights, the Actik stood out with its adjustable light angle, dual power options (rechargeable battery pack and 3x AAA batteries), tooless method of changing the batteries, and lockout function. 

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Garrett is an avid photographer and seasoned collector of many things, including backpacks, bourbon, EDC gear, and watches. Originally born in Kentucky, Garrett recently moved to NYC in search of new adventures. When he's not enjoying his existing collections and hobbies, he spends time planning his next adventure.