Introduction: Introduction to Building Individual Survival Kits
Hi Instructables Community,
thank you very much for the positive responses and feedback, favs & subscriptions for my previous projects. One thing I realized through messages and comments for my previous Pocket Survival Kit Deluxe and Comprehensive Altoids Survival Kit was how opinions differ when it comes to building/compiling/making survival kits.
This Instructable is my attempt to give an introduction to those new to the subject and maybe give a few new tips to those involved with survival for longer. This Instructable is not focused on urban survival and therefore the main focus lies with survival in the wilderness. Each step will present a certain category of items with pictures and a few videos as well as descriptions for each item.
In the end the reader should be able to build his own survival kit tailored to his specific needs and purposes.
Due to the complexity of the subject I will not claim that this Instructable covers everything into the last detail and I'm certain that there are many of you who will have additional remarks about what should be included or in which category certain items should be. If you have suggestions and ideas I would like to invite you to make comments. If you would like to contribute with pictures, items etc. that have not covered please write me a PM and we can discuss a collaboration to include your ideas.
If you notice differences in the style of writing in between steps/chapters that is because creating this Instructable took me over three weeks (or something around 40 hours of work). I hope it was worth the effort and you like it.
Take care & stay safe
UPDATE 18th Oct 2015:
Step 1: Container
The first thing you should do before building a survival kit is to think about the following questions:
- How well developed are my survival skills and my abilities to improvise items that I will need to survive in a survival situation?
- Well trained and experienced:
- Your kit can be rather small covering just the basics
- Basic training and experience:
- Your kit would be medium sized and containing additional items with your basics
- No training and experience:
- Your kit would be rather large and has to be comprehensive. However to be able to use you have to familiarize yourself with the contents and their uses.
- Well trained and experienced:
- Will the kit I'm going to build be an every day carry (EDC) item?
- If yes what other items do I already carry as EDC?
- How can I supplement what I already have?
- Which other items do I need to cover?
- The kit would have to be rather small and light to be carried on a daily basis.
- If no what are the basic needs I need to cover and when will I carry it with me?
- E.g. will I carry it only when going hunting, hiking or fishing?
- What are terrain, climate etc. like where I'm going
- If yes what other items do I already carry as EDC?
- How will I carry the kit?
- Always on my body (In my shirt or pant pockets)
- Your kit should be small and light, robust and waterproof
- Always in a jacket, purse or belt bag
- Your kit can be medium sized and weighted, robust and waterproof
- Always in my backpack
- This kit can be larger and comprehensive, it should be waterproof.
- Always on my body (In my shirt or pant pockets)
Once you have answered the above questions you can select the container for your kit. There a number of pros and cons for each of the various available containers. Some have been purpose made to be used as containers for survival kits others are improvised from whatever is available.
Tin cans come in a variety of sizes from small to large and are available in most shops or supermarkets as containers for peppermints, chocolate, cigars etc..
- Weight: Tin cans are usually very light
- Size vs. Volume: Compared to most plastic containers tin cans offer more volume in relation to their size due to thinner thickness of the used materials.
- Metal surfaces: When polished the outer metal surface of a tin can can be used as an improvised signalling device.
- Sturdiness: Most tin cans are built robust enough to protect their contents
- Inexpensive: If you use an used peppermint tin they are practically free
- Fire resistant: Depending on the container it is possible to use it as a cooking device to boil water or cook food.
- Most tins have to be waterproofed to protect the contents from moisture. Either by sealing them with tape or wrapping/packing in a plastic bag.
- Risk of corrosion/oxidation depending on the used materials and surface protection (e.g.
Rigid Plastic Containers
This world wouldn't function anymore without the wide array of plastic items that are available. Most plastics such as PE (HDPE), PP, PET are suitable for use as containers for a survival kit. Depending on your choice they can be free (e.g. an used chewing gum container or photo film can) vs. expensive boxes such as the ones produced by Pelican)
- Waterproof: There are plenty (Not all) plastic containers available that are waterproof (and some even airtight).
- Cheap: Most containers are relatively cheap (Not all of course).
- Rigid & sturdy: The containers are able to protect its contents against external influences.
- Size vs. Volume: Compared to most tin containers most plastic containers have to have rather thick walls to achieve the same rigidity as their tin counterparts. This means that although a container might be large the usable space is actually rather small.
- Weight: Some plastics are rather heavy/dense and to achieve a certain rigidity the walls have to rather thick which results in a heavy container.
Plastic bags can be a cheap alternative but can be also used to improve characteristics of the above containers. When used with a vacuum sealer they can be used to make your kit waterproof and minimize its size. Plastic bags are however not sturdy and only thick plastic bags can provide some minimal protection against mechanical impacts. When empty plastic bags can also be used to gather and transport water.
Step 2: Fire
Making a fire in a survival situation is one of the four most important along with making/finding a shelter, finding/purifying water and gathering/hunting food.
Although there are many ways to make a fire without the use of modern tools you should always have the means to start a fire quickly and safely. Having a fire early in your struggle to survive will give you a psychological boost as well as the physical advantages of fire such as warmth and the ability to purify water and cook food, repelling insects and signal for help.
The first item on the list is going to be one that is being constantly underrated and neglected for survival uses by a lot of people:
Chances are that most of you already have one or more of these at home. There are plenty of arguments from people trying to discourage you from adding a lighter to your survival kit. I have collected a few of those arguments and will start of with the:
- They don't work when wet.
- This is only true for the ones that use the wheel & flint method but not for the ones that use a piezo system. My counterargument would be that you would keep your lighter in a waterproof(ed) container until you are going to start a fire. Make sure your hands are dry and you have prepared a dry area to start your fire. If the wheel & flint get wet you can dry them and use them later.
- They can break.
- It is true that prolonged use can melt parts of the lighter that keep it together. Try to avoid this by preparing tinder & kindling so they catch a flame quickly.
- When not in use keep the lighter in your survival kit.
- Buy lighters of good quality (e.g. BIC or Clipper)
- If they run out of fuel they become useless.
- As long as the flint is still working you will be able to create sparks to light tinder.
- They are limited in their uses.
- Well so are most other items as well. A good quality lighter will work between a couple of hundred times up to several thousand times. If you didn't get a fire started by the time it runs out of fuel you have qualified for the Darwin Awards.
- They don't work well in extreme cold and heights.
- As for the cold climate use I suggest you keep the lighter in your pocket and use your bodies warmth to get it to or keep it at working temperature.
- As for the heights - That's why you select a secondary fire making item for your kit.
- They are cheap.
- Most lighters won't cost you more than $1-$2.
- Simple to use.
- There is hardly an easier way to create fire with a single hand.
- They are small and light. You can easily keep several lighters on your body in addition to your survival kit.
When choosing a model I would suggest you go for a model with a flint & wheel starter rather than a piezoelectric one. Gas lighters are usually cheaper than "Zippo" or Peanut Lighters but are less reliable at higher altitudes and in cold weather. Other advantages are that the internal cotton can still be used as tinder when the fuel has been depleted, more flexible with the choice of fuel since you can use most flammable liquids.
Just like lighters most of us have a couple of matchboxes or matchbooks in our homes. We can differentiate between safety matches and strike-anywhere matches. Whilst the former require a special striker surface to ignite the later can be ignited on most dry & frictional surfaces. There are more specialized types of matches such as storm matches and waterproof matches.
- Cheap: You will get hundreds of matches for a few dollars.
- Reliable: Matches will work even in extreme cold and/or heights.
- Simple to use
- Small and light: You don't have to carry the entire matchbox with you since you can take matches out as required.
- Strike-anywhere matches
- Can be ignited on a lot of surfaces as long as they are dry and offer some friction.
- Safety matches
- Require a special friction surface - most compositions are heat sensitive and can be ignited by heating them through friction (e.g. bow drill).
- Strike-anywhere matches
- Unsafe as they can ignite through friction (e.g. match against match in the box)
- Become useless when wet - some matches will work again once dried but this depends on the quality of the composition. Dip the matches in candle wax or seal them in plastic straw containers to keep them dry.
- One shot only - You will have to be extra careful not to waste them and use them as a last resort only.
Harnessing the power of the sun to start your fire is one of the most impressive and satisfying methods. Using magnifying glasses, Fresnel lenses or parabolic mirrors you can focus sunlight into a small focal point to create an ember that can be used to start a fire. A Fresnel lens can be as thin as a credit card but as effective as medium sized magnifying glass. Remember that the larger your lens surface the more sunlight(=energy) can be focused in the focal point.
- Almost infinite uses: Since there is no mechanical wear and tear with this method you can use it as long as you keep your lens/mirror in good shape. Well that is of course as long as there is a sun of course.
- Cheap: A magnifying glass or Fresnel can be either scavenged from optical instruments or bought for a few dollars. A parabolic mirror can be improvised by polishing the bottom of a soda can.
- No sun no fire: This method obviously depends on the availability and intensity of sunlight. It won't work at night or when overcast.
- Practice required: You require a certain amount of practice to be able to start a fire with this method.
- Scratching: Be careful that you don't scratch the surface of your device as this will reduce its efficiency.
Ferrocerium rods & magnesium blocks
Ferrocerium rods and magnesium blocks have been around the survival communities as well as the military for quite some time now and it would seem that anyone showing off his survival kit has at least one. Its the ancient flint and steel method brought to our time with modern materials. Replacing flint stones with the man-made material ferrocerium the idea is simple. Strike two items together to create sparks which in turn will create an ember and a fire. Adding magnesium to the mix will give you a flammable metal that burns hot enough to ignite most tinder instantly.
- Long term use: An average sized ferro rod can be used several thousand times.
- Can be customized: Using a hacksaw & sandpaper you can cut ferro rods to the size required for your kit. The same goes for the magnesium blocks. Replacing the factory striker with a cut to size hacksaw blade gives you another tool to your kit.
- Price: Most ferro rods are relatively cheap ranging from $5-$20 depending on size and quality.
- Practice: Although it is very easy to create sparks with a ferro rod you will require some practice to use it effectively. The same goes with most magnesium blocks, practice is required to ignite the shavings.
- Finite uses: Although each rod will give you several thousand uses there will be that day where you will have to look for a new way to start your fire. This again depends on the size & quality of the ferro rod.
Candles & wax/Vaseline based fire starters
Candles offer you a sustained flame that can be used to start a fire. Most manufactured candles are based on wax and/or paraffin with a wick. Candles come in all shapes and sizes but most popular for survival kits are tea candles, Christmas candles and birthday cake candles due to their compact sizes. You can cut & trim candles to fit your needs. Since it is very simple to work with wax a lot of people started to make their own fire starters made from wax, paraffin and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) in conjunction with a flammable solid that can soak up the liquid wax. Popular are:
- Cotton balls mixed with petroleum jelly - This mix can be ignited with sparks from a ferro rod and burn for a few minutes. Seal it in a plastic straw and you have a reliable tinder source.
- Cotton wicks soaked in molten wax/petroleum jelly mix - This mix can be ignited with sparks from a ferro rod and burn for a few minutes like the previous mixture.
- Rolled up card board with wax - The card board acts as a wick for the wax but produces a larger flame.
- Dryer lint - Can be mixed or used as a standalone tinder
- Combinations of the above with strike-anywhere matches will produce a fire starter that can be ignited without other tools.
Most of the above are one shot fire starters which is why they should be only used as a last resort.
You can also use an empty cosmetics tin, fill it up with molten wax and place three tealight wicks inside. Along with a few matches this fire starter can be used a number of times also as a standalone heat source for cooking small amounts of water.
Fire Piston (No pictures...yet)
Fire pistons are another fire starting tool that has been around for a few centuries now. This fire starter consists of a tube that is sealed at one end and a rod that fits snugly and airtight into the hole of the tube. By slamming the rod into the tube the air inside is compressed so rapidly that it heats up and is able to ignite a piece of tinder that is inside. This can then be used to ignite kindling for a fire. There is a variety of models available on the market but also as DIY projects here on Instructables.
Commercial Fire starters
Whether it is solid fire starters for your BBQ or specialized fire starters for survival and expedition uses. The industry offers a wide range of fire starters. This ranges from ecologic variants like fatwood (Light My Fire Tinder on a Rope) to chemical mixtures that might as well work as a rocket motor ingredient. The prices here range from very cheap (e.g. wax/sawdust BBQ fire starters from the dollar store) to expensive. What you should always keep in mind is that any fire starter will take up space in you survival kit and most can only be used once. So you should think twice whether it is worth carrying a fire starter or use the space for something else and improve your skills so you do not have to rely on a fire starter.
Char cloth is popular since it can be made with little effort at home at small to no cost. By heating organic fibers (such as cotton) in the absence of oxygen. The result is a charred piece of cloth that can be ignited with a spark creating an ember to start a fire.
Step 3: Water
As one of your main priorities of survival water should always be on the top of your list. And so should be items for the collection, filtration & purification of drinking water. As with most outdoor related subjects the industry has developed a number of devices for easy filtration & purification of water. The main disadvantage for most of them is that they are to large and bulky to be fitted into a survival kit. One exception may be the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter (Since I don't own one I can't provide pictures) which is a small filtration device that is compact enough to fit into a large survival kit.
There are a number of ways how you can filter and purify water in an emergency situation. One would be to boil whatever water you've found. To do so you will require a heat resistant container. Depending on it's size you might be able to use the container of your survival kit if you've chosen to go with a tin version. Another way is to form a bowl from tin foil which when placed near a fire can be used to boil water but you should only do this as a last resort since Aluminium is a know neurotoxin. Some studies have shown a relation between aluminium intake an dementia & Alzheimers disease in older people. Whilst not immediately dangerous your aluminium intake should be minimized to avoid accumulation in the brain.
Before you get to boil water though you should at least filter it. To help you improvise a filter you can add simple coffee or tea filters to your survival kit. They are relatively cheap and can be folded into a very small format. If you are careful you can use them multiple times.
In addition to filtering you should also purify the water to kill micro organisms that might be harmful. One way as described above is to boil water. Another is to use water purification tablets that can be iodine or chlorine based. There are various different brands on the market but I prefer to use Katadyn Micropur tablets. I suggest you try and decide for yourself. If you want to safe yourself the time to cut out tablet blisters with scissor I recommend the method I describe in one of the pictures.
To transport and store water I recommend the use of small plastic bags or non-lubricated condoms. Both will easily fit into any size survival kit.
Another alternative are solar and conventional stills although they are expensive and bulky they are worth their weight in gold. Depending on the operating mechanism they work either placing them over a heat source which will turn the liquid water (this can be alt water as well as fresh water) into steam which will in turn condensate into a cooling chamber which also stores it. Solar stills work through a similar system but use sunlight to evaporate (sea)water and again condensate it to fresh water.
UPDATE 13th Oct 15: Water purification systems such as the Berkey Sport Bottle might be too large to fit into most containers but could be used as survival kit containers themselves. Add a small plastic bag to keep the contents together when you have to use the bottle. (Thanks to dmwalsh568 for the suggestion and picture).
Step 4: Shelter
Most environments will provide you with materials to improvise a shelter or natural shelter like caves. Getting out of the elements and having a "base" on which you can build the rest of your survival strategy is immensely important. A night in the cold or in the rain without cover will reduce your chances of survival rapidly and drain your spirits.
To make it a little less time and energy consuming for you to build a shelter there are a number of items you could add to your survival kit. Depending on the size of your survival kit you will be able to include some cordage. Although paracord is very popular there are plenty of other alternatives that are cheaper and will take up less space in your kit but will get the job done. There are some people who suggest to wrap your survival kit with a few meters of paracord. I disagree and argue that you will only make your kit bulkier apart from that fact that you would have to unwrap the cordage each time you need something from your kit and then wrap it up again. Using paracord in various items for example as a zipper pull tab, bracelet or shoelace will give you plenty of cordage you could use in an emergency situation (or until you found the materials to improvise cordage).
Another item you will find useful when improvising a shelter are plastic bags. It will again depend on the space you have available in your kit. Even large garbage bags can be folded down to a very small package and will become useful when employed as a roof for a lean-to shelter, as a poncho or when stuffed with leaves as a sleeping bag.
Mylar blankets aka space blankets aka emergency blankets have been around for several years now and are most commonly found in car emergency kits. They are folded to a very small package, are very light and can be stored in medium to large sized survival kits. Mylar blankets are also available as sleeping bags for one or two people. Folding them back to original size after use is very tricky and should be kept in mind before use. Apart from using the blanket as a heat reflecting blanket, survival shelter heat reflector or sleeping bag the highly reflective sheet can be used to signal for rescue.
Step 5: Food
Although food is one of your main priorities in a survival situation it isn't your most pressing one. With that being said you will have to get some nutrition into your stomach at some stage to keep going. There are a number of ways you can feed yourself in a survival situation.
In order to be able to catch fish you will need a few items in your kit that will assist you:
There are plenty of different types of fishing line available on the market today. You can choose between nylon mono-filament, fused "superline", or even braided steel wire. Each type has special properties and uses so most people would argue that there is no universal all purpose line. Ask ten fishermen which line they would recommend and you'll get ten different answers. I would recommend that you try to get a few options for your kit. Stick to basics like monofilament nylon line with a draw weight between 15-20lbs. Combine this with braided line and some steel wire leaders will cover a large spectrum of fishing scenarios and should help you to get some fish on your dinner table. Using small reels from sewing machines will enable you to keep your lines organized and compact. Store your fishing
As above there is a huge variety of hooks available for various fishing scenarios. Get yourself a small selection of hooks and prepare a few of them with some nylon fishing line. Remember that you can catch a big fish with a small hook but you won't catch small fish with big hooks.
If you have enough space you can add some split lead sinkers to your kit. These are used to drag your line to the ground whenever you are trying to catch fish that live closer to the bottom. You can improvise sinkers with other dense materials though such as pebbles. When storing them in your kit I suggest you either wrap them in some cling film or seal them in a plastic straw to avoid lead contamination of your kit and reduce rattling.
Swivels and snaps
Swivels and snaps (Small carabiners) are used to avoid tangled lines and to connect the leader with the main line. You can also use swivels and snaps for improvising snares & traps.
I've seen quite a few people adding lures to their survival kits. Although I'm not a big fan of this I thought that I should include this idea. If you check Amazon you will find plenty of Lures for the various game fish and environments. And here lies one of the main problems: Lures are too specialized to be carried in an survival kit that should cover a wide range of options. However if you know to properly employ a lure you may consider to add one or a few of these to your kit.
Another way to get some protein for your survival diet is to set traps. Although most environments will provide you with most resources to improvise traps there are a few items you may want to add to your survival kit that will make things easier.
Fishing line & wire leaders can be used to create snares for small prey such as birds & squirrels. Snares in general can be improvised with cord and/or wire so adding some small gauge wire won't take up too much space but you will be able to create several snares.
Other items such as the swivels and snaps can be incorporated into your release mechanisms.
Step 6: First Aid
I'm not even going to pretend that the limited space in a survival kit will be enough for a comprehensive survival kit. However in this part I will attempt to present you with a few items that you can add to your survival kit in order to cover some basic first aid needs in case you have lost your main first aid/medical kit.
So what are the basics? Well you will want to have some basic medication to treat pain, fever, diarrhea & allergic reactions. When buying medication always read the patient information leaflet and check for possible side effects as well as allergies information. If you have any medical conditions and allergies I would suggest you add a number of doses of whatever medication or antihistamine you regularly require to your kit.
To treat diarrhea I would recommend that you have a number of Imodium and/or activated charcoal tablets in your kit. Depending on the size of your kit I recommend you add around ten tablets to treat acute diarrhea.
As a pain relief, fever treatment and anti-inflammatory you could use either Aspirin or Ibuprofen. When preparing your kit you should visit an allergist to check for allergies and resistances to certain medications. You should always avoid mixing different medications to avoid cross sensitivity.
When it comes to other first aid items opinions also wary widely. Keep in mind that most first aid items are rather bulky and will take up lots of valuable space. Consider to build a dedicated individual first aid kit as an every day carry option. If you still want to add some basic i would recommend you add some sort of bandage and or band-aids to treat minor injuries. Keep in mind what the limitations of your kit are, keep tabs on expiry dates an check regularly whether all items are still packaged sterile. Bandages, Band-aids and cotton triangular bandages can also be used for fire making if other tinder is unavailable although this should only be considered as a last resort.
Alcohol and iodine preparation pads are usually small enough to fit into any survival kit and disinfecting even small injuries help prevent unnecessary infections.
To close medium sized cuts & gashes I would recommend you add some wound closure strips. Unless you have the necessary training a suture won't be of much use to you.
Foldable resuscitation masks and vinyl gloves are useful but I would recommend to add them to your EDC pouch/kit as they take up valuable space.
One of the most useful items you could add are tampons. These can be used in various ways to treat cuts, gashes & puncture wounds & stop bleeding. They also double up as tinder when trying to start a fire.
Tourniquets have saved thousands of lives in conflicts and should be part of any individual first aid kit. I highly recommend you attend first aid courses (First person on scene - FPOS and the Medicine In Remote Areas - MIRA course) if you have no previous training in the application and use of tourniquets. Only use a tourniquet if necessary and if you have received the proper training.
To summarize this category, having medication and some basic first aid items in your survival kit is a good thing. However this does not replace a properly build individual first aid kit that should always be part of your first line/tier equipment/gear.
Step 7: Signalling
If you find yourself in a survival situation you will usually try to find your way back to civilization. If you are lucky enough there will be people coming to look for you. If they do or even if there is a plane/ship passing by chance you want to be able to signal them.
We can divide signalling devices into electromagnetic (e.g. distress radio beacons), optical (e.g. signal mirror, flares, lasers etc.) and acoustical (e.g. whistle).
Whilst a distress radio beacon such as the ACR PLB-375 ResQ Link Personal Locating Beacon can be extremely useful in most emergencies were you depend on a quick rescue their are usually to large to fit into a survival kit. If you have the money to buy a radio beacon and you have a certain risk of getting lost in the wild (e.g. bush pilots, hunting & hiking in remote areas etc.) I would encourage you to spent the few hundred dollars.
Something that should fit into most survival kits are torches (I'm talking about a flashlight not a burning stick ;) ) and laser pens. There is a wide range of flashlights available on the market with some tailored for outdoor uses. One disadvantage is that most require a power source (i.e. a battery) although some like the RubyTec Kao are powered by a small crank and solar panel. Whilst it is easy enough to signal a SOS signal with a flashlight some products like the Glo-Toob offer built in signalling modes. From personal experience I can recommend the following micro flashlights Nite Ize SpotLit, Inova Microlight and Fenix E05. Each of them is small enough to fit into small survival kits and can be used for signalling and navigation at night. An interesting add on for the Inova Microlight is the flashstick which essentially transforms the tiny flashlight into a lightstick.
Although the laser pen does not have as many uses as the flashlight it able to pinpoint your position and signal for help over several kilometers/miles. Be careful though not to point the laser at any aircraft if you are not in an emergency situation as this is regarded as an unlawful act in most countries around the world. Even in a survival situation you should avoid to point the laser at an aircraft for prolonged periods as you risk to blind & distract the pilot. One thing you should consider when buying a laser is that green light is easiest seen in day light and at night followed by yellow, blue and at the end red. So going with a green laser seems like the most sensible idea.
An alternative to regular flashlights are chemical light sticks such as the SnapLight® made by Cyalume. The main disadvantage is that they are one shot use only. Once you activate the snaplight and the two chemicals have mixed you will have light for 6-12 hours (depending on the type as well as environmental conditions). Smaller chemlights are also available and are mostly used by fishermen as bite indicators at night these are just a few centimeters long and will fit into any survival kit.
Last but not least are pyrotechnical devices. They are pretty effective and are widely used as distress signals on board of ships & boats as well as aircraft. There is a wide pallet of products available from smoke cartridges over bright handheld flares to flare guns. You could even consider to use fireworks & sparklers as signalling devices. But here comes the main disadvantage: In many countries the sale, possession & use of pyrotechnical devices is restricted and in some even banned (save on some holidays) in other places you are restricted in where you are allowed to carry them (e.g. banned from aircraft through the dangerous goods regulations). When it comes to flare guns some countries regulate you because they might be classed as firearms. Make sure you check your local and federal laws before considering to add pyrotechnics to your kit. If you have them you could also use them as a last resort fire starter (if all other methods have failed).
Step 8: Orientation
If your survival would depend on your ability to find your own way back to civilization it would immensely useful to have a navigation tool in your survival kit.
It is possible and not overly difficult to determine the cardinal directions from the position of the sun, stars, vegetation growth, with your watch etc. but when on the move however it is extremely useful to have some sort of navigation tool.
One item that probably most already know is the compass. Now there is an amazing variety of compasses available on the market and the choice is yours. If you are going to spend money I would recommend to spent a little more on a good quality one (e.g. from Recta, Brunton or Silva) instead of saving money in the wrong place. In this Instructable I will not explain how to use a compass as this would be subject of a separate Instructable. You will be able to fit a regular compass into most medium and large survival kits but require something else for your compact and small kits. For these you could either use a small button compass and again rather try to spend more than less (e.g. Brunton Tag Along Zipper Pull Compass). Alternatively you can add a small neodymium magnet to your kit which you can use to magnetize a sewing needle and improvise a compass.
Even easier to use than a compass are handheld or wrist-worn GPS receivers like the Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS Watch or Garmin Fenix 3. As usual it will depend on how much you want to spend but at least you save the space in your kit as you can use it as an EDC item on your wrist. Their main disadvantage is that they rely on a power source and become pretty much useless when they run out of juice. Most smartphones nowadays are also able to use the GPS function even if they do not have network reception. Ensure that you have alternatives (such as a compass) in case your GPS goes flat or the US government decides to scramble or restrict it.
Step 9: Tools
Almost any task will require some sort of cutting tool whether it is processing wood and creating tinder for a fire or building a shelter. Like many of the previous items it will depend on the size of your survival kit and on how much you are willing to spend. If space permits it I like to have a multitool like the Leatherman PST in the kit (Regardless whether I have another multitool as my EDC). However if space is limited you might want to consider smaller blades such as produced by CRKT, Gerber or Victorinox. Even less space is used up by utility knife blades and surgical blades these however are less ergonomic to use and more difficult to keep sharp.
Sawing & Drilling
In order to process wood for shelters and fires you will want to have a compact saw. One possible choice are wire saws since they are very compact yet effective. They are however susceptible to break when overheated or bent. Smaller saws like the ones used in jigsaws can be considered for small kits however they are less effective to use. Hacksaw blades are less useful to cut wood but can be used to cut metal and can be used as a striker along with a ferro rod.
Consider to add a small drill bit to help you improvise weapons and tools.
If you have still space left in your kit you might want to consider to add some tinder making tools. These will make it easier to produce large amounts of tinder quickly and thus saving you energy and time. A pencil sharpener will produce thin shavings from small twigs that are dry even when the outside was wet from recent rain. A small cheese grater can quickly produce large amounts of small tinder when used with dry wood. It is however difficult to keep the grater sharp.
From repairing or improvising clothes to closing wounds or as part of trigger mechanisms for your traps and to remove small splinters there is a ton of uses for needles, safety pins and paper clips.
Nails & Screws
Need to securely fasten your snare or fix your shelter? Why not use a nail or a screw? There should be enough space in any size survival kit to accommodate a few assorted nails and screws.
Use zip ties for repairs, for lashings and cordage or for a thousand other things. Add a few of these, if you can of varying sizes to your kit. If you want to save some space (Although it wont make much of a difference) you can snip off the ends of the zip ties that don't have teeth.
Step 10: Miscellaneous
This chapter is going to deal with any items that didn't really fit into any previous category.
Being able to glue things together in any situation is helpful. Being able to close a cut or attach an arrowhead to your arrow might save your live in a survival situation.
Superglue or cyanoacrylate can be used for permanently bonding two materials together. You could use it for repairs, improvisation of weapons & tools as wells as for first aid uses to close wounds. If you intend to get superglue specifically for that first aid role I recommend to invest the money into medical glues such as Dermabond to avoid the side effects of regular superglues.
A hot melt adhesive can be transported without the risk of leakage or unwanted curing. On the other hand hot glues are more difficult to apply accurately. When close to a heat source the hot glue will become viscous and can be applied to the desired area.
Tape and in particular duct tape would probably deserve a whole Instructable or competition due to its endless applications in any scenario. From repairs to shelter, to clothing to cordage to first aid, to water transportation to fire making there is hardly any task in a survival situation that can't be accomplished with the help of some duct tape. Cut it to shape and roll it up to fit into any size survival kit.
There is a reason why I put money at the very end of this Instructable. Most people would think that money can solve all of their problems but in a survival situation there are actually not that many things you can use money for. If you are in an urban environment you can of course use coins for phone calls and vending machines as well as a nice crisp banknote to get some food and a taxi home. In the wilderness you could try to use a polished coin as a small signalling mirror, fishing weight or when sharpened as a cutting tool. Some banknotes can be used as tinder for a fire (Although most will only smolder and not burn as they are not made from paper anymore). Rather have a number of smaller bills then one large (e.g. Rather have five $20 bills than one $100 bill).