It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a quick snowshoe trek or an hour-long stroll along a wooded path. Common sense dictates that basic survival tools be taken along.
Above all, this gear, or kit, must be lightweight and convenient to carry, or it gets left behind.
That said: BEWARE! If you don’t know how to use the materials in the kit, and don’t practice with them, you may develop a false sense of confidence. This attitude could get you in a lot more trouble!
Mention survival kits among recreationists and an argument/discussion will follow.
At one end of the spectrum is the guy who takes the heavily-loaded backpack full of gadgets, doo-dads, knick-knacks and neat stuff. He may not go far, because of the pack’s weight, but he’ll be safe. Unless, one time, he decides to leave all that stuff at the car, since he’s never used anything and it’s damned heavy. And he’s just going a little way…
Then he becomes the optimist, the guy at the other extreme. Since he’s never been in an emergency situation, then it stands to reason that nothing will ever happen. He denies the need for survival gear, because he’s never been in an emergency.
Somewhere between these extremes is the common sense approach.
Here’s my take (and of course, this opinion may place me squarely in the survivalist wacko camp!): Everyone should have a collection of survival tools with them at all times.
As I type this, I have a butane lighter in my pocket, a whistle, knife, fingernail clippers, LED flashlight, small knife and magnesium stick on my belt clip, and a Swiss Army knife in my belt pouch. My wallet has firestarter, charcloth and a signal mirror in it. This gear goes with me everywhere it’s legal.
Suppose I have to run out of my house, right now. Let’s say an earthquake just hit and all the pictures are falling off the walls and it’s in the middle of January. If I have to sprint for the door and can’t grab anything else, I have the minimum tools on me to build a fire for ourselves and the neighbors, stay warm, help others and signal for help.
If I can grab my jacket on the way out the door, there is an Altoids tin mini-survival kit in the pocket. And if I can get to my car there is a full component of survival gear in there, including food, water, a sleeping bag, and several tarps. I won’t waste any time looking for equipment, when the walls may literally be falling down around me. This will come in very handy for a quick evacuation due to a forest fire, urban natural gas leak, tsunami warning, or a forced evacuation of the neighborhood or city.
Any personal survival kit will ultimately boil down to opinion, knowledge, skill levels and the season.
Let’s start here: Many experts agree that a MINIMUM KIT should contain the following materials. Here are my suggestions.
- survival knife
- fire making tool(s) plus the fire starter
map and GPS
- mirror (for signaling)
- signal whistle
- Some form of emergency shelter, like a tarp with rope.
- Food and water, plus water filter.
- Layering Clothing (fleece, wool, polypropylene)
- Waterproof pack able shell
While commercial survival kits are available, the quality of some items is sometimes reduced to cut costs. Some things, such as fishing hooks, sinkers and line are included because people think they need them. And some items are included in commercial kits because they’re cheap and take up space.
The safest bet is to make your own survival kit. Start with a realistic assessment of your skills and needs, then start researching. One size doesn’t fit all – a survival kit that works in the cold winter of Oregon, will be different than one designed for Florida, and vice versa.
Every town has a survival guru with a website, but that doesn’t mean they know anything. In fact, be leery of any survival website – a lot of people are out to make a fast buck. Start by contacting the people who work with emergencies every day: police, sheriff’s departments, search and rescue, the Red Cross and see if they have recommendations for necessary gear. They will also have a pretty good idea of who is good teacher and who is a fraud.
If you have certain medical needs or conditions, make sure the kit includes the appropriate medications.
Then, educate yourself. Practice with your survival tools. Don’t take any recommendations at face value, unless the source has been proven to be reliable. Then, make your survival kit, and take it along.
Check out the many other articles about personal and wallet sized kits, plus car kits, home kits, etc. by browsing the survival kit category on this site.