Instructables
Picture of Pocket Survival Kit
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Most of the time our outdoor activities don't take us more than a mile or so in any given direction from a road or know trail.  However, many of us occasionally take the path less traveled (actually my preferred path) and we venture into wilderness areas, large tracts of forest, or great acres of open prairie.  Anyone who has spent much time in the great outdoors will tell you that Murphy and his Pandora's box of misfortunes is likely on your trail and laying in wait for you.  To keep Mr. Murphy and his furies at bay, I keep this pocket sized survival kit on my person whenever I'm in the woods.  It contains essential tools and materials to help you survive an unexpected outdoor experience.  Good planning, some common sense, and good equipment will normally keep you out of trouble.  However, even the best laid plans often go astray and this kit may help turn an unexpected situation into an amusing camp story and not a tragedy.
 
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Step 1: The Components

Picture of The Components
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I will spend close to a hundred days a year in the field hunting, fishing, camping, or working and I've found it essential to have good equipment.  I'm not saying that you have to spend a lot of money or buy the newest gadgets on the market, but get good quality and keep it in good working order.  That being said, most of the over the counter commercially packaged "Survival Kits" leave a lot to be desired.  Many of the components are low quality and not always very realistic.  I've tried to keep my kit simple and practical.  I've used just about everything in this kit at one time or another and the components have not failed me.  The following list of items is what I keep in my kit.  I'm constantly adding, deleting, changing, and trying new items and different configurations.  If you choose to replicate this setup please feel free to modify it as you desire.  This kit will not replace good planning and sound judgement but it might help you overcome some mistakes and unforeseen circumstances. 

A survival kit should be developed to help you survive a specific scenario or a range of situations.  In example, a cold weather kit would have many of the same components of a hot weather kit but each would have different items specific to the climate, season of the year, or geographic area that you plan to be in.  A kit that has everything you might need for any given occurrence would be so large and heavy as to make impractical to carry.   A great comprehensive kit left back at camp because it is too heavy to carry won't do you any good when you're lost in the woods or get drenched by a sudden down pour.  My kit is made up of groups of components designed for basic needs.  It is light weight (about 10 oz) and is designed to be carried on your person.  It should be supplemented with additional supplies and equipment as needed based on the activity you participate in.  This is a simple bare essentials kit with with some redundant features.  In general, the kit is made up of 6 groups of components:

1.  The container.
2.  The signaling group.
3.  The fire making group.
4.  The sharps or cutting group.
5.  The food gathering and repairs group.
6.  The medical group.
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rayoverde11 year ago
Very well thinked kit. I only include this items:

- On the medica group: a small cyanoacrylate vassel like "Crazy glue" for sealing minor cuts and some antihistaminic ointment for skin allergic reactions.
- Also I will include a garden size trash bag. It does not add too much weight and it doesn't requires too much space. It can be used as a poncho or as a sleeping bag or mat.
I'm Sure you seen this but shouldn't you have a compact fixed blade
like the CKRT mk5?I don't think you would be able to have enough
This is a great survival kit but couldn't you just use a knife and still be able to open a can?
diyoutdoorsman (author)  Ghosthost54682 years ago
The P-38 is more than just a can opener. It can be used as a flat tip screwdriver, it will work as a striker for the flint rod, it can be sharpened to a cutting edge, it can be used to pry open a container, it can be used as a scraper, and a myriad of other uses. You can open a can with a knife blade, but you risk cutting yourself in the process. It will certainly dull the blade and may break it. Is opening a can of beans work breaking one of your most valuable tools when you could carry a P-38 that takes up very little space and weighs very little?
Your right,that just tells me I need to improvise and think outside the box.But did you know that in China,most of the imported goods are usually 10x more expensive in our currency and the only way to get it is by ordering online.

Thank you for your time.
This is a great survival kit but couldn't you just use a knife and still be able to open a can?
DconBlueZ2 years ago
Great kit and very similar to what I carry - though I also have one or two of the tiny anti-diarrhea pills tucked into a strong corner to keep them from turning into powder (like inside thread spool).

Mosquito wipes. Gnats in the eyes and skeeter bites all over make an annoying situation miserable, harder to think.

Your kit is heavier on various cordages, I just have about 50' of braided line wound around a small piece of cardboard (which doubles as tinder and notepaper.)

tried the wire saws, they're more trouble than worth IMO. A good medium knife can do wonders - deeply score branches and break 'em off. If the branch is already off and you want to cut off a chunk then roll the knife to act like a tubing cutter. It's amazing how thick a branch you can cut.

I learned a lot of knife tricks from Don Paul's "Everybody's Knife Bible"

I like the carry pouch, I may trade my hard case for one to try it out, though I do like having everything protected from external crushing and internal abrasion on other items. On second thought I'll keep the hard case. Different strokes... :-)
awesome book
diyoutdoorsman (author)  DconBlueZ2 years ago
I keep the imodium and the wipes in my first aid kit. This set was beginning to get too big and bulky. I think you're probably right about the wire saw. There is a saw blade on my multi-tool and I can always beaver a pretty good sized limb with my knife blade if necessary. I have a couple of variations of this kit that I do keep in a hard case, one in my truck and another in my kayak. I keep this one in a cargo pocket, I tried the hard case in my pocket and found it noisy and uncomfortable. I think a hard case would be fine in a pack though. This is what is best about this site, the feedback and exchange of ideas.
clasof562 years ago
thanks for the thoughtfully-written instructable...its appreciated
punkhead582 years ago
This is very similar to my survival kit. I experimented with many different item choices, cases/containers, and organization "techniques", until I was satisfied with that one.

But enough about me, now onto your kit. :D

These are my comments and suggestions for your kit, so please do not be offended. It is merely constructive criticism:

A) Signaling is well covered - this is probably the most important aspect of the kit

B) Fire is also well covered - another important aspect

C) Water Collection is one of the most important elements in any survival kit, next to first aid, signaling, shelter, and fire...and yours needs improvement - you have the tin foil, but say you don't get a fire going...then you're screwed. Add some chlorine dioxide tablets, and then you can either add a ziplock bag, or use your waterproof container for purification/storage in a pinch.

D) Food Collection is not really a priority - most people with a properly functioning brain are found within 72 hours of being lost, and that would be the worst case scenario. If you live in the United States, "extended survival" situations are about as frequent as plane crashes. Ditch the fishing kit and snare wire.

E) First Aid is also important, since, if you are sick or injured, you want to live long enough to get rescued - you have the thread and needles for makeshift stitches, and duct tape as a covering. But, I would replace the regular band-aids with a gauze pad and steri-strips. Also, add a packet of antibiotic ointment (infections = bad), Imodium (this is not good for you, but is better than dehydration), and Benadryl (in case you discover a new allergy in the wild).

F) Repair is well covered - your clothing is your primary shelter

G) Shelter definitely needs to be addressed. Cordage alone is great, but building a rudimentary debris/brush shelter from raw materials is both difficult and time/energy consuming. Save yourself the trouble and get an orange garbage bag, OR better yet, a Mylar space blanket, and stuff it in your kit. There should be room once you remove the food collection items. String it between two trees and nail it to the ground, and you have yourself both a quick shelter and a signaling device. *Remember, you want to be found, so living in a tree house is not going to help your cause*

H) Tools - It maybe a personal preference, but I have always preferred lockbacks to liner/frame locks; they are more durable. The small Kabar Dozier is a great high value knife. Get the one with the orange handle, so you don't lose it at night. Also, get a wire saw: it's not necessary, but it will allow you to collect larger pieces of wood, so you are not forced to burn twigs all night.
Punkhead58.
I disagree with your dismissal of the fishing gear and snare wire, as well as with your assessment of having little need for certain things simply because you are in the 48 states. Many areas of our Rocky Mountain states are still wilderness, sometimes circumstances can leave one stranded and not expecting rescue in the STATISTICAL average of 3 days. Survival is simply that, staying alive, not statistics.MOST people are found in 72 hours, what if you are not one of those "most" people? Knowing that you made it the 3 days and were NOT rescued will be of little comfort to your hungry belly.I would recommend ditching the float(s), plenty of little pieces of wood around for that. The addition of a mylar blanket is a must, but don't plan on it as a primary shelter in colder weather. All the talk about how much body heat it reflects is great, but it is still only a few mils thick. Mylar is tough, but once it is punctured or torn it rips badly. A structure of limbs or branches with a mylar sheet sandwiched in will offer much better protection. Plastic trash bags are good, but especially bulky for a "pocket" kit. Definitely correct on the need for water disinfecting tabs and plastic bag for water. Most persons are not going to be able to do the Rambo thing and stitch themselves up. Besides, they will most likely only stitch infection into their wounds, Thin strips of tape, holding the wound together would be better, unless one is actually trained on the right way to stitch it, AND has STERILE materials, not just thread, needle and alcohol. I am fully trained and legally qualified to do such things and would not attempt it without the right stuff. I have seen too many infected wounds and even a few amputations caused by the "Rambo Repair". Also, building a basic shelter from available materials is not difficult, IF you have the training and experience.If you do not, go out and learn, and PRACTICE !! Before you need it.
First of all, I’d like to say that I appreciate your response. It annoys me when people DON’T respond to my posts. But anyway, before I answer your replies, let me just say that I explain everything in greater detail on the page for my survival kit. Now, to begin:

1) I agree, extended survival situations are, in fact, very possible, but not likely. Now, I only live in Illinois, so correct me if I’m wrong, but the only extended survival situations that I have ever heard of, within the contiguous United States, concerned avalanche victims who were snowed into caves and such – so obviously, fishing and hunting gear would be irrelevant in a circumstance like that. It would be much more realistic to just carry some non-perishable food.

2) Now, before I go on, keep in mind: this is only a pocket kit. You can’t possibly prepare for every possible situation in a pocket kit, nor can you expect it to last for more than three days, that’s what your main gear is for. Because, if you are going on a trip into the deep wilderness, a pocket kit should only be a supplement to your main gear, to act as a temporary security in case you are separated from it. A pocket kit should only encompass the supplies to address problems that you WILL encounter if you are separated from your gear, not hypothetical problems that you MIGHT eventually encounter. If you get lost, you WILL need navigation, SIGNALING, fire, shelter, and water. You MIGHT need first aid and food. (Obviously though, you would include first aid, just because it is an imminent danger.)

3) Yes, people with the adequate amount of training can easily build a fire and a bush shelter. However, the type of person who gets lost easily is not the type of person who has survival training, or even common sense for that matter. So without a quick shelter, they are screwed. Besides, even if they do have the training, why bother? You know in advance that you will eventually need a shelter if you are separated from your gear, so why not prepare for it? A simple garbage bag will quickly get you out of the rain, and a space blanket will keep you off the ground and relatively warm. And if it rips, patch it with duct tape – it’s only temporary.

4) No, water purification tabs aren’t necessary at all…for people like you or me. But once again, the type of person that I described earlier can’t rely on their (lack of) fire-building skills to disinfect their water of pathogens, assuming, of course, that they have enough common sense to not drink the filthy water in the first place. Besides, it’s a waste of time: in the 30 minutes to an hour that it takes to collect deadwood, build a fire, set up a rig to heat the water with (assuming you already have a container), and bring the water to a full boil, you could’ve been that much closer to civilization.

5) Crude stitches are not at all sanitary, but an infection will take days to kill you, while blood loss will take you in minutes. Now I’ll be honest, I don’t have any formal medical training, but I assume that you’d be more likely to lose your limb from lack of circulation by leaving the tourniquet on for too long, if that is what you meant. Because, I can tell you from many personal experiences that tape alone rarely stops the bleeding, because the adhesive tends not to stick to the slippery surface of the bloody skin. Cauterization would probably be best, assuming that you already had a fire going. But once again, my medical knowledge is very limited.

Don't know what "many experiences" with bleeding you are basing your opinions on regarding bleeding and the control thereof. I'm basing mine on 25 years of medical practice, with license and specialized residency in Emergency Medicine. The primary means of stopping bleeding is, and has always been DIRECT PRESSURE> NO, the tape I referred to had nothing to do with a tourniquet. I was referring to the use of narrow strips of tape use as a substitute for "steristrips" Sutures, or stitches, are not used to stop bleeding, as a rule. On occasion one might use a suture to tie off a bleeding vessel, but it would usually require instruments you are not likely to have when dealing with a survival situation. If bleeding is so severe as to be concerned with dying from blood loss, shock would be more of a concern than trying to stitch up a wound to stop the bleeding. Shock and bloodloss would most likely render you incapable of repairing your injuries with a needle and thread. Any bloodloss that a few stitches with needle and thread will stop, will not be enough to worry about dying over. A tourniquet is rarely advised for trauma anymore. \
Fire is and always has been one of the first priorities of survival, both for heat, cooking or boiling water, and even more significantly, for a signal. In military survival courses I have taken AND taught, pilots are taught NOT to start fires if the are in hostile areas, because it leads the enemy right to them. In the same way, a lost person will greatly increase the likelihood of being found by lighting a fire. SMOKE BY DAY, FIRELIGHT AT NIGHT.
No, one cannot prepare for every possibility, but a pocket kit for the sake of a back up "just in case you are separated from your main gear" is a silly notion. A pocket kit is to carry all the time, for those times when you end up in a survival situation and you were not necessarily planning on roughing it in the wild.
Many more people end up in survival situations than you may think. Many times it does not make the news nationally, but spend some time in wilderness country, and talk to those who volunteer for search and rescue units, or the hunting guides. To presume anyone who is lost or stranded is stupid or untrained, as you suggest, is very uninformed. Things happen all the time. I have attended numerous conferences and training sessions on wilderness survival and wilderness medicine. I have had the privilege of speaking and teaching at several. If a pocket kit is all you have, it needs to be the best it can be. Ideally, anyone going out into the wilderness knowingly, should take at least a good sized waist pack, even for a day hike. A fully stocked backpack if expecting to be overnight. Each should carry as much basic survival gear as is reasonably possible. But MANY times, it just doesn't happen that way. But if they at least have a good pocket kit, they have a good chance.
By the way, one of the first principles of survival is STAY PUT !!! Your comment about wasting time with a fire or shelter, when you could be getting closer to civilization is very uninformed. It has been shown many times, persons who try to navigate their way out of a survival situation, usually get more confused and more lost. This includes many who had a compass and thought they knew how to use it. But then, they got lost didn't they? That is why they now teach youngsters to "hug a tree". Most adults should do the same.
A few fishhooks and some line, and a few feet of snare wire take up minimal space, nice to have for those few times you may go past the magic STATISTIC of 3 days.
1) Like I said, I'm not at all qualified to discuss the field of medicine, so I'll take your word for it.

2) I was not questioning the usefulness of fire, I was just reasoning that most average people do not possess firestarting skills. Once again, check out my article: I emphasize firestarting tools more than anything else in my kit.

3) First of all, I was referring to the building of a fire, while on the move, just for the sole purpose of water purification - that is a waste of time, if you're not going to use the fire for anything else. Secondly, I did not mean that shelter building was a waste of time, I meant that it takes time and energy away from other tasks. Plus, it is inefficient. If nighttime is approaching and it has just begun to rain, and you have yet to build a brush shelter, then you are in a bad position. Brush shelters are only good if you have them built in advance, which should've been done anyway, if the person had any common sense.

4) There is no way to generalize whether or not you should stay put or move, it is completely dependent on your location and situation. If I get lost in a local forest preserve, I know it's only a day's hike to the nearest road. But if I'm in a very large state park, then I would definitely be more apt to stay put and signal for help.

5) You say that "things happen" to trained people as well. But what things? Nothing is completely random.

For example: I have about 18 or 19 years of camping and hiking experience, give or take, but I am only self taught - I'm NOT an expert by any means. Nonetheless, I have never actually found myself to ever be truly "lost". Is this just dumb luck? I don't think so. I think that it's because I plan everything in advance: geography, topography, weather, local plants and animals, the route I'm going to take, all of the possible problems that I may encounter - ways to avoid them, ways to solve them, etc. It may take me months to plan a week long trip. I would even go as far to say that I am overly paranoid when it comes to this subject, but regardless, nothing exceedingly bad has ever happened to me as a result of it. Now, accidental injuries do happen, and there's no way to avoid those besides just generally "being careful", but I do honestly believe that anyone who has ever gotten "lost" did so either because of lack of training and/or lack of planning. Both are equally important, but if anything, the planning part is dominant.

5) By the way, I did include fishing and trapping supplies in my kit, however, my kit is a little bit bigger than this person's. That's why I recommended that he discard some of his to make room for more important gear.

Once again, thank you for your input, it was greatly appreciated.
A smartphone would give you gps and a way to call authorities and to track you down. It can also give off emergency light. Etch your name and address into the back of your cell phone and leave the brass tags a home. Always put an ICE in your phone: I n C ase of E mergency.
Photons are so small and reliable, you can attach them to your tent zipper and carry an extra.
It is said that a mirror is totally useless in the woods, except for shaving, which is also totally useless.
diyoutdoorsman (author)  TogetherinParis2 years ago
Phones rely on communications towers, no signal, no phone. Phones need batteries, again, no power no phone. They're great if they work, but many of the places I go there's just no reception, which is mostly why I like to go there.

The tag doesn't weigh anything and doesn't take up much space. It came in handy once to mark one of my bags on a trip. It can also be fashioned into a fishing lure.

As far as the mirror, I'm not always in a triple canopy forest. in the mountains, on the open prairie, or in the desert, they can be seen for miles. Besides a signaling device it sure is handy to get a speck of dust out of your eye while you're on the trail.

But, this is why there are sites like this one. You get a wide variety of perspectives and opinions
I've read of too many cases of lost dummies being found because of their cell phones, either through them trying to connect or because of the light from the screen at light to cotton to the idea that you should leave your cell phone in the car. Why single out this one piece of technology?
Smart phones can be loaded with localized maps and digital compasses. They can mimic GPS units. Software can tell you what stars are in your sky even if you can't see the stars. They can tell the temp and when the sun and moon rise and set. You can take pictures of each trail split to prevent wandering in circles. You can d/l survival manuals, how to tie knots... The most minor thing a modern cell phone does is to make calls
Alas, they are power hungry and my mini Mag doesn't have a USB port for recharging... yet.
And if all comes to naught the voice recorder can make your final wishes clear. Much better than scratching out a "I kilt the bare that kilt me" on a piece of scrap leather for J.J. to find

Just out of curiousity, being a former Scouter myself, how many coffee cans were mostly full of candy and junk foods?
diyoutdoorsman (author)  Orbit33382 years ago
I'm not opposed to cell phones per se, I just don't think they should be relied on as an all purpose survival tool. Mine drops calls on the interstate in the middle of Kansas City. It doesn't work at all in most of the places I hunt. Mine theory is that you shouldn't rely on an unreliable piece of technology. Your map and compass don't need batteries and will function anywhere.
Another chiming in here. Cellphone service is spotty here in Tx/Ok too, due to the hilly terrain and the cellular companies' unwillingness to spend money upgrading their towers. Your smartphone would be useless unless you were lucky enough to get to a very high spot and pick up one of the intermittent signals from one of the area towers. If you were to be injured (say in an automobile accident on one of the country roads or through some mishap) you would be out of luck. Since we are plains/ranchland/some timber a mirror could work here. Items in a survival pack should be tailored to your intended destination's environment I guess.
The problem with the phone is you rely on the ability to communicate with the outside world. This is not only not always possible (at least where we live in BC), but it can give you completely incorrect information when it does. So for us here, that's not really a feasible solution.

Cheers
I was told first of ICE a couple of years ago and it formed part of corporate HSE policy. At the time of mobile phones it was a good thing. Now, when 70% of mobile phone users have smart phones, it may not apply. Why? Because security concious people change their PIN / security codes from 0000 or 1234. Having said that, this is still being practised en masse. I would rather advise putting a sticker at the back of the phone (unless there is a solar battery!) with ICE name/number.
I totally agree with the fire idea and also fires keep a lot of people much more calm than in total dark mostly due not to the dark but what may be in the dark.
So which sould be used, the 500 para cord or the 550?
diyoutdoorsman (author)  KwartzKitten2 years ago
550 cord. The 500 was a typo.
Thanks for clearing that up! :)
tim_n2 years ago
The best survival gear you can carry is in your head. Learn before you go out :)
Great kit! Lots of thought and I would assume lots of experience has gone into it! I keep a kit like this in my car, as you never know what you might have to deal with, and I live in one of the extreme climates. My dad was an Eagle scout, and in the army, he taught us all to be prepared for things we could not always control. My kit has saved my butt more than once, but I think I might just use a few of your ideas and update it a bit! Thanks you so much for sharing your ideas and experience. Wish you could come and talk to my girl scout troupe! Do you mind if I share your kit with them?
Please share it with the girls. I'm a Scouter myself and the wilderness survival merit badge counselor. Every year we have a wilderness survival weekend. The scouts must prepare a survival kit that will fit into a 1 lb coffee can. The can and whatever is in their pockets is all they are allowed to bring with them on the camp out. You would be surprised at what some of the boys bring and what some of them forget! I hope the girls have fun with it.

If you liked this mini kit, you might enjoy looking at the auto emergency kit that I made for my wife's car.

Auto Emergency Survival Kit
I looked at the car kit... it's pretty good... I was only missing a few things, like the canned ham! LOL Many years ago as a scout our troop (well some of us) did a winter camp. We had a great time. Thanks!
Our troop camps out at least once a month except for November & December. November is deer season and I would just as soon not be in the woods unless I'm hunting myself. In December we have a lock-in at the scout camp and let the boys bring all the electronics that we don't let them have in camp the rest of the year. We go on a troop ski trip in January and camp out at the ski slope, Last year it was 2 below when we turned in. In February we have a Klondike Derby with the home made dog sleds. I think those are some of our best camps.
chabias2 years ago
Being a subscriber to a few survival blogs, I've got to say that this is the most awesome, complete little kit I've seen to date. I plan to make a few of these for myself & my family. While we keep our vehicles stocked and have BOBs at the ready at home, I think this kit is a MUST to keep close by. Thanks for sharing!
tsepp2 years ago
I also like Gerber, and have two of those, but tend to carry Swiss Army Spartan knife (mostly due to the UK knife law). It has all the basic tools, like one of my Gerbers - the divers' version that also has a two-LED flashlight on it.
Great little kit you have there. Something I always carry in mine is an MRE Tabasco bottle filled with lamp oil and an 1/8'' wick stuck down inside it that's just a little longer than the bottle. It makes a GREAT little 70-80 minute liquid candle. You will need a small piece of your foil with a VERY small hole in it to put over the flame to regulate the flame height.

I planned on using this as a quick way to add heat while I'm wrapped in my space blanket. Just light it and stick it in a small hole in the ground between your legs.

If you're like me, you won't stop to build shelter and gather fire wood when you're lost while out hunting, hiking or whatever. You will walk and walk and walk until midnight and always thinking that your camp, shelter, car, home or whatever is just another 5 minutes away. By the time you're too tired to walk anymore, you're too tired to build shelter and gather fire in the DARK. So this is a nice way to give you a little heat right away while in your space blanket.

Also, dip the cap, and neck of the bottle in wax to seal it up good.

I'm not a fan of wax candles because unless they are bees wax, they have too low of a melting point and depending on the time of year and how hot it gets, they can melt and make a mess in your kit. If you do put a wax candle in it, go to where the churches get their candles. Those are bees wax and have a long burn time with a higher melting point.

Love this lamp oil idea!
Those little bottles are a great way to keep many things in a small kit. I also use one to keep bug juice in. It holds more than enough to get you through an unplanned night out in the bush. There's no sense making a bad night worse by getting eaten alive by bugs. I also use an old bottle from water treatment tablets to carry bug juice if I have room in a little larger kit container.
diyoutdoorsman (author)  1_BIG_BUNKER2 years ago
Great oil lamp idea. That's why this site is so good. You get all sorts of ideas and feedback.
old_code2 years ago
I've seen the idea of compartmentalizing the needs of a "get-out-bag/make-it-home-bag" on another site, and like the idea of defining the size of the bag by the number of days or persons; you've got an other great idea of compartmentalizing this according to need, and making it always on your person.

Well thought out; thank you.

A saw would also be useful.  I got one of those chain survival saws a while back and it did a pretty good job of cutting through wood.


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diyoutdoorsman (author)  killersquirel112 years ago
That particular saw would be a little too big to fit into the pack. I have thought of adding a commando style wire saw but I just haven't done it yet. I'm trying to keep the bulk and weight down as I keep the kit in my cargo pocket. I do keep a folding saw in my daypack though.
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