Step 2: The Contents
Here are the contents. Most items should already look familiar, but I'll go over things in detail for the ones that need it. Many of these items are found in the Doug Ritter "Pocket Survival Pak" from Adventure Medical. If you must go out with only a purchased off-the-shelf kit, this is the one to get! You can find them for under $30. Since I wanted to include more items in a slightly larger container, all the contents from the Doug Ritter kit are incorporated into mine.
1. Instructions from the Doug Ritter kit. Small and waterproof, these cover the basics from building a fire, signaling, and building a shelter.
2. A small, folding pocket knife. In my case it's a Benchmade Eclipse. I added the lanyard and bead to make the knife less likely to slip out of a pocket, plus more cordage is always a good thing to have. Make sure the knife is SHARP! A dull knife is more dangerous to have, since you have to exert more pressure to make it cut.
3. Heavy-duty aluminum foil, folded, approximately 3 square feet. This is useful as a container, a make-shift pot lid for the container, or a wind shield for your fire.
4. Oil-filled button compass. It's not good for much else than judging general direction, and is finicky when not level or near metal, but it's a good compass that won't burst if frozen.
5. The container. Go back to step one if you missed it ;-)
6. These are three fire-starting straws. Inside each is a cotton ball saturated with petroleum jelly (Vaseline), and the ends heat-sealed. To use, simply slit one down the center, pull out some cotton goo and fluff it up, and put a spark to it. They take a spark readily and have about 30 seconds of burn time each, plenty enough to get a proper fire going. Since it's petroleum jelly, they can double as a first-aid item.
7. Cotton ball. Additional fire starting, gauze, ear plug to keep the bugs out...you're limited only by your imagination!
8. Howler whistle. Pealess style so it won't freeze, isn't prone to break, brightly-colored in case you drop it, and about 120 decibels for it's compact size.
9. Spark Light fire starter. Think of this as a Bic lighter without the fuel reservoir, as it works the same way to produce a shower of sparks. You can use these one-handed and in all conditions.
10. Maglite Solitaire flashlight. These are tiny, cheap and readily-available. Maglite makes the same model in LED now if you want the extra expense, but I prefer common lights that are cheap and easy to find parts for. There's an extra bulb in the butt cap, and the very common AAA size is easy to find. Since mine is dark-colored, I wrapped yellow electrical tape around it so I can find it again should I drop it somewhere. The tape doubles as a bite grip, and you can never have enough tape.
11. Spare AAA battery. For these don't get the cheap brands...Duracell actually holds up the best under all conditions and long-term storage. Rotate these out at least every 6 months or so. It's best to put a piece of tape with the date you bought them written on it.
12. Vial with fishing items and safety pins.
13. Five strike-anywhere matches, waxed and in plastic wrap. These have been dipped in melted paraffin wax, which helps water-proof them and adds a few precious seconds of burn time. Make sure you get the "Strike Anywhere" instead of the strike-on-box matches, since you can flick these on a rock or fingernail without a striker bar and they'll work.
14. "Tinder Quik" waterproof tinder. These will work even if wet, although a few choice words will help them get going. To use, pull them apart until "fluffy" and add a spark to them.
15. Fitted polyethylene container lid. Back to step one if you missed it!
16. Piece of hard candy. Some may scoff at this, but it's a good morale boost and a great way to get that "gamey" treated water taste out of your mouth. Every calorie counts, so here's a tiny amount you've packed in. A bullion cube would work well here too.
17. Fresnel lens. Useful as a magnifier for splinters and stingers, and for fire starting.
18. Ultraslim pencil, for taking or making notes. Pinning a note to a visible location is a great way to let rescuers know which way you went.
19. Mini rescue signal flash mirror--one of the good kind with one-hand use and an integrated sighting hole. Don't remove it from the plastic wrapper until you intend to use it, though, as the housing can get scratched and reduce its reflectivity. You can practice with the plastic on. Plus, you never know if your rescuer could be your future Mr. or Mrs., so its never a bad idea to have something to primp with handy.
20. Swiss Army "Swiss Card", containing several mini tools by itself.
21. "And on the eighth day, God created duct tape..." There's no limit to the usefulness to this stuff, so here's about 10 feet of it wrapped around a pen core. Field repair clothing, have a makeshift bandage or cordage...use your imagination!
22. Emergency "space" polymer blanket, great to use as a blanket, A-frame shelter or bivy. This also doubles as a signaling device, both visual and auditory since it crinkles like mad in even a gentle breeze. Unless you have a PhD in foldology, don't unfold it until you need to use it.
23. Spool of nylon thread and 10' length of steel wire. Use the thread for fishing, repairs, or last-resort sutures. The wire is most useful as snares.
24. Lip balm, which is oddly enough one of those things you don't think to have until you actually need it. Get some with SPF! If you need more fire-starting materials, pinch some off and rub it into your tinder bundle.
25. This is about 25' of nylon cordage--not nearly as good as 550 cord, but a fair amount folds into a small package. Cordage is one of the things most lacking in the wild, so its always safe to carry some in addition to your 550 cord belt and bootlaces. You have those, right?
26. "Little bit of everything" first aid kit, clearly marked in case you need to direct someone to find it.