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.
Step 1: The Components
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.
Step 2: The Container
Step 3: The Signaling & Navigation Group
1. Vector 1 signaling mirror: Use for signalling search & rescue personnel. Used properly, it can be seen for miles. Make sure it has a functional retro-reflective aiming circle. Many cheap models do not have this feature. It is a must to accurately aid your signal flash. Practice with this tool before you go out on your adventure.
2. ACR rescue whistle: Any loud whistle will do. A shrill whistle will travel farther and can be heard easier than a shout and can be maintained longer. Three sets of 3 blasts on a whistle is an internationally recognized distress signal. I chose the ACR model because it is loud (SOLAS approved), very slim and pealess so it will work in freezing weather. There are several other good models to choose from.
3. Mini Maglite LED flashlight w/ AAA battery: The LED light gives out good illumination and has good battery life. Another good choice would be a Inova mini led light or a Freedom Photon model.
4. Brunton liquid filled button compass: This should be a backup to the map reading compass and/or GPS unit that you should carry. It is small (approx 25mm dia) and is liquid filled. It will help give you general bearings and will work in low temperatures.
5. 3 sheets of Post-it note paper. Can be used as tender to start a fire, record information, leave a note, record your experience, etc.
6. Small lead pencil. Use to write your notes or can be whittled into a fuzz stick to start a fire.
7. Brass trap tag with my name and address. I included this item that records my name and address to identify me in the event I'm not able to do so myself. Hopefully, this will never be necessary.
Step 4: Fire Making Group
1. Fresnel magnifying lens. This lens can by used to magnify the suns rays to start a fire. It can also be used to read a map, or see to remove a splinter or tick.
2. Military damp proof matchbook from an MRE packet. I got these at a gun show, but they are available on Ebay or you can eat an MRE and save them. I used these because they are moisture resistant (not waterproof) and fit well in the kit although any book of matches will do. I seal them in a small zip lock bag. You can get the small zip seal bags at most hobby stores. They really come in handy for a variety of uses. These matches are a backup item as you should have a matchbox with waterproof matches in your left breast pocket, right?
3. Mini Bic butane lighter. Again the size is convenient for the pocket sized kit. You've got a full sized butane lighter in your right breast pocket next to your body to keep it warm, right?
4. Magnesium bar with an attached ferrocerium rod and steel striker. You can shave a pile of the magnesium bar into a pile about the size of a dime and use the striker against the ferrocerium rod to make a shower of sparks that will ignite the pile. Magnesium burns at approximately 4000 degrees F and will start even damp tender. I purchased this one from Survival Resources ( www.be prepared to survive.com ). It is large enough to grip and small enough to fit on a key chain. It also has both the magnesium and fire steel in one piece.
5. Spark Lite Tender-quick tabs. This commercially prepared tender works great. It will catch fire from just sparks and will burn for about 2 minutes. You could use any commercial brand or even make your own from cotton balls or dryer lint. Sparks from the ferrocerium rod or even an empty butane or flint wheel liter will ignite them.
Step 5: The Sharps or Cutting Group
1. Gerber slimline folding knife. This stainless steel folder will perform most light camp chores, cut cord, skin and dress small game, whittle a snare trigger, make a fuzz stick, used as a fire steel striker, dig out a splinter, or just about anything else you will need to do.
2. Folding surgical prep razor. A back-up to the Gerber folder. Will cut cord, cloth, & leather. It can be used to lance a wound, or shave an area around a cut or puncture wound for first aid dressing. I find this razor is much easier to use and safer than the plain razor or scalpel blades that are commonly found in off the shelf survival tins or pocket kits.
3. Military P-38 can opener. This may be one of the best inventions ever devised by the military. It can be used as intended as a can opener, or as a screw driver. It can be sharpened to a cutting edge, used as a fire steel striker, or a small pry bar. When I was in the service I kept one on my dog tag chain and another on my key ring. It seems like I used it for something just about every day.
Step 6: Food Gathering & Repairs Group
1. (1) 18"x24" heavy duty aluminum foil sheet. This sheet can be used for cooking, sanitizing water, making fishing lures, as a solar reflector, food storage, or a signaling device.
2. 40' spool of military surplus trip wire. I got this particular spool on eBay. It is about 2" long and approx 1/2" dia. plastic spool with 2 nails inside the spool. This wire can sometimes be found on the internet or at local military surplus stores. If you can't find this kind of trip wire any light gauge brass wire will do. You should have at least 10' in your kit. It can be used to repair gear, make snares, lash limbs to make a shelter, replace boot laces, secure equipment, and many other uses.
3. 10' to 12' feet of 100 lb test braided fishing line, the kind you would use for catfishing wound on a floss bobbin. Cordage is very handy for a variety of purposes. You can get plastic floss bobbins at you local craft or fabric store. The bobbins are about an 1-1/4" square and have ears that hold the line nicely. They hold quite a bit of line and don't take up much space. I use a piece of scotch tape to keep them from unraveling inside the pack.
4. 25' or so of 30 lb test Spider Wire braided fishing line wound on a floss bobbin. Spider Wire is very thin and strong. The 30 lb test Spider line is the diameter of 8 lb test monofilament. I like Spider Wire better than mono because it is stronger per diameter, it has less memory on the spool, and it doesn't get brittle with age. It can be used for fishing line, sewing thread, lashing cord, or in a pinch even sutures.
5. (1) #6/0 Stainless steel O'Shaunesy style fish hook with a carpet tack. This hook can be used for fishing on a line or as a gaff. You can attach the hook to a limb with the carpet tack driven through the eye and the shank whipped with cord to make a simple gaff.
6. Small styrofoam fishing float. People have used a cork and a line to fish for centuries.
7. About 6' of 2" duct tape. You can use duct tape to fix just about anything.
8. Various sizes of safety pins. Use the pins to repair tears in gear, replace lost buttons, attach gear articles to you jacket to keep them from being lost, use them as a field expedient fish hook, or even in an emergency, to close a wound.
9. (1) 1/8th oz crappie jig. A proven fishing lure. Choose your favorite color.
10. Spare carpet tack for the gaff hook, just because they're easy to drop and lose.
11. Fish hook and sinker assortment. I include (2) each size 6, 8, &10. and (6) split shot sinkers.
12. (1) sewing needle and a spool of nylon thread. The nylon thread can be used for repairing torn clothing or gear and is strong enough for light fishing. I actually caught several brook trout in Colorado last year using this thread tied to a limb with one of the #6 hooks and a grasshopper. Make sure the thread will fit through the needle you select. In an emergency you can use the needle and thread as sutures (just like Rambo).
13. Small plastic vial. This vial holds the small safety pins, crappie jig, tack, fish hooks, sinkers, and needle. It makes a great little sewing and fishing kit.
14. 15' of 100 lb test waxed braided fishing line (like is used for trot line fishing). You'll find cordage of all types very handy and should be kept close at hand for lashing, fastening and carrying purposes.
Step 7: The Medical Group
1. Standard 3/4"x3" adhesive bandages. Use these for minor cuts and scrapes or to cover a foot blister.
2. (2) Alcohol swabs. I keep these in the kit more for additional fire tender than anything else. A spark from the fire steel or lighter will lite them. They can also be used to clean wounds or to sterilize suturing materials.
3. (1) packet of toilet paper from an MRE accessory pack. This can be used for fire starting tender or more important paperwork.
4. One thing that is missing from this kit that I normally keep in it are water purification tablets. Normally there would be 4 to 6 tablets in this kit. The ones I had were old and I haven't replaced them yet.
NOTE: If you require medication it might be a good idea to include a dose or two in your kit.