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Leon's View

What good is a mini survival kit? Five things they can’t do

What good is a mini survival kit? Five things they can’t do

Mini, pocket sized survival kits are in every outdoors store. But, really, what good are they?

by Leon Pantenburg

Several years ago, the editor at the newspaper I worked at tasked me to write a practical winter survival guide for Central Oregon. It was an investigative reporting assignment, and I interviewed local experts from the Deschutes

This survival kit weighs about as much as your IPod. Carry it in a waterproof container for added security.

This Altoids tin survival kit weighs about as much as your IPod. Carry it in a waterproof container for added security. Don’t waste space!

County Search and Rescue, as well as local survival equipment tester, the late Jim Grenfell, and internationally-known survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt.

The end result of months of research and testing was a system that included a personal, pocket-sized kit as well as a complete backpack setup for hardcore winter survival. (No survival kit system is perfect, and no kit will work for everyone. View any system as a baseline for developing a kit that will work for you.)

The pocket-sized kit, which was designed to fit into an Altoids tin, drew some fire from the local “survival guru” due in part to his not reading the entire story and the warnings.

But dumping a canoe in some rapids a few years back proved to me that you must have gear on your person at all times. You could fall out of a canoe, get thrown off a horse, be in a vehicle accident etc. and end up separated from your equipment. Your only equipment may be what is in your pockets.

But there is a real danger with any survival kit. It may give the newcomer a false sense of security and self-confidence. A beginner may think the kit is a substitute for learning important survival skills.

The worst danger, IMO, is that a person will pick up a commercial mini kit, toss it in the daypack, and never learn how to use the components. Then, during an emergency, the kit may prove to be inadequate.

Here are five  things a mini kit can’t do:

Save your life: No survival tool, or collection of tools, can save you.  You will save yourself, according to Kummerfelt, and you can’t rely on anyone else or a single piece of gear. A cell phone might not work, the battery may run down, or there is no coverage. NEVER depend on being able to dial 911. Don’t rely on a GPS as part of your mini-kit – a GPS is as reliable as its batteries. You may break your compass, or drop your butane lighter into a creek or snowbank.

Be your only survival gear: A tiny, pocket-sized survival kit, at best, is a bare minimum selection for survival that is better than nothing. Carry a full-blown, complete Ten Essentials kit as part of your every day carry.

Replace skill and training: Training and experience trumps equipment every time. You must practice with every item in your  kit. If you can’t use an item or it doesn’t work, discover that in your garage, not during an emergency.

Be a long term survival solution: You can’t rely on any kit for a long term solution to a flood, earthquake or other natural disaster. Long term survival requires long term prior planning.

Replace pre-planning: Leave a note before you go somewhere, so SAR knows where to start looking.

Looking for a pocket kit? You can get a tried and tested one here.

Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel – thanks!

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1 Comment

  1. Jarhead Survivor

    10/11/2013 at 05:30

    Great post, Leon! Lots of very pertinent information here. I especially like the tip,”No survival kit system is perfect, and no kit will work for everyone. View any system as a baseline for developing a kit that will work for you.”

    Preach it, brother! We’re listening.

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Leon's View

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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