Practical Survival Kits

If you spend time outdoors without some basic survival gear, you’re asking for trouble. What seems like a simple, safe hiking trip or training exercise can change at a moment’s notice. Weather or an accident can transform an easy walk into a life or death situation, and then you’re going to need the equipment to provide yourself with a bare minimum of shelter and fire, probably water and maybe food too – it depends how long you’ll be stuck there.

One popular solution is to carry a survival kit, with the classic example being the SAS-style tobacco tin stuffed with useful items. These can hold a lot of essential gear, but they’re not ideal for everyone. For a start, we’re not all in the SAS. A lot of the items packed in kits like this can’t be used effectively without some training; others are meant for long-term escape and evasion and aren’t all that relevant to the typical outdoor survival situation. Do you expect to be stuck long enough that you’ll need to snare rabbits to survive? Do you even have the skills to snare rabbits? Probably not. Is your life going to depend on a tiny fishing kit? Or would it be better to have a kit more tailored to the situations you’re likely to be in?

For the average backpacker, something like a Gerber Bear Grylls survival kit is probably a lot more useful than a military-style tin. These contain a couple of ways of starting a fire, cord for help with building a shelter and an emergency whistle to boost your chances of being rescued. They also have the most important survival tool of all – a quality knife. True, they contain snare wire and the big one has a fishing kit, but Grylls was in the SAS and probably couldn’t help himself. The wire and fishing line can always be used for repairing your kit or as additional shelter-building materials. Best of all, these kits come in waterproof zippered pouches with space to squeeze in a few items of your own. Some extra tinder is a good idea, for example, because you can never have enough of that when you’re trying to get a fire started.

KitYou can also make up your own survival kit, keeping the priorities in mind and tailoring it to suit the gear you already carry. If you know what you’re doing outdoors then you have a good knife already, so another one is just duplication. Instead, look at ways to cover the four priorities of shelter, fire, food and water. You can deal with all those using what’s in your pack, but your survival kit is there for when you’ve lost your pack – so think compact. For shelter, pack a survival blanket – it costs less than $3 and gives you an instant way to keep the wind and rain off. For building a more substantial shelter from natural materials, think 550 cord and some way to cut branches. If you don’t carry a machete or kukri, a wire saw is a light solution.

A gas lighter is the most reliable way to get a fire going, but they’re not foolproof. Fit in a firestarting rod and plenty of tinder – cotton balls are good. With that and your knife, you can start a fire just about anywhere, but practice; you don’t want to be learning how when the wind’s rising and your body temperature is a degree above hypothermia.

Boiling can give you safe drinking water, and so can purification tablets, but a filter straw is quicker and easier. Stick one in your pocket. Simplicity wins. The same goes for food. You can spend time setting snares or dangling a worm in the river waiting for a fish. Then again, you might be better off with a couple of lifeboat bars and a waterproofed card listing the way to identify edible plants.

When you need a survival kit, you’re going to be stressed, perhaps injured, probably cold and tired. A kit that needs Special Forces experience or SERE training isn’t going to be a lot of use to you. Think simple, pick a few basic items that get the essentials done, then make sure they’re always packed in your pockets or on your belt. If you do that, you have a good chance of surviving anything the wilderness can throw at you.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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