PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT / How to design a kit you can actually use.
PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT - HISTORY
What is a Personal Survival Kit? As I understand it, the Personal Survival Kit was developed as we know it today, in World War 2 by air crews, military personnel and SFs for when separated from their main kit. Or in the case of the air crew when they get separated from there airplane.
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|PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT LOAD-OUT|
As boy and finding out about the Personal Survival Kit as a concept for the first time, my imagination was pricked and I had to make one for myself.
FULL SIZE IS GOOD
Bases around a traditional 2oz tobacco tin, my friends and I would spend many happy hours, sat on the bedroom floor, packing and unpacking our survival tins, in an unspoken competition to see how much tiny, tiny, miniature, quit useless kit we could squeeze into a tin of 5” x 4” x 1”!
Quite quickly I came to 3 conclusions:
- Miniature kit was next to useless when I actually try and use it
- Why did everything have to be packed in the tin?
- Carrying the kit in a pouch might be a good idea
I never acted on the suspicion that full sized kit might be the way to go, somehow I thought it was cheating so never tried the idea. Until about 6 years ago (2012) when I thought it was time for a survival kit upgrade. Full sized was how I was going to do it and as time has passed I think of the kit as less of a survival kit, in that it’s only for the purpose of survival, I see it as a useful kit with easily accessible items that are just as likely to be used at a family picnic as they are after the apocalypse.
WHAT TO CARRY?
As a civilian in the 21st centre, with a mobile phone and GPS what should I carry a survival kit?
I think the answer to this is a personal one. In this post I will talk about what is right for me and leave it you to interpret and apply to your own needs if you wish.
|TOOLS ORGANISED IN THE MAXPEDITION CAP. EVERYTHING EASY TO SPOT, EASY TO GRAB|
I have designed and built my Personal Survival Kit around a scenario that has happened to me. Picture this, I could be out hiking or mountain bike riding, maybe snowboarding and I injure myself, I badly sprain an ankle or blow a knee cartilage and I wouldn’t be able to walk out. If this happens earlier in the day and the weather is good, the chances are I can find myself some help but if this where to happen later in the day or if the weather was poor, then the outcome could have very been different. On the occasion this has actually happened to me I was able to get help but afterward, when I was safe, I started thinking that I was lucky this time and wondered what gear would I need to make myself comfortable or even survive if things had got more ugly?
If the injury wasn’t too bad a large elastic bandage would be very helpful I did this when I injured my knee, I was able to strap it up enough to be able to hobble with my 60lb rucksack to a family enjoying a picnic. But if this had happened mid winter, which is when I most of my hiking, shelter may well have been paramount therefor a Mylar space blanket is what my kit starts with.
At the core of this kit is the tin I have replaced my original tobacco tin with a BCB Mini Mess Tin. This is made from aluminum has a removable rubber seal in the lid and excellent roller clips to keep the lid shut and watertight.
|EXCELLENT ROLLER LATCHES AND REMOVABLE WATER PROOF SEALS DETAIL|
|THE BCB MINI MESS TIN IS IDEAL FOR A PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT, WATER TIGHT AND TOUGH ENOUGH FOR BOILING WATER|
I no longer try and stash everything in the tin it’s job now is keep kit dry or fresh and be robust enough to boil some water and make hot drink. In the past I have polished the inside of the lid for use as a helio mirror but over the years I’ve let that slip. I keep the outside of my tin slick. So nothing stuck to it and no paracord coiled around it.
THE POUCH - MAXPEDITION CAP
Some might not agree with the pouch theory but here’s why I use one:
- More room to carry organise and therefor make items easier to access find and use
- Full size kit can be carried outside the tin but inside the pouch
- This kit is a bit more bulky then the usual effort so a pouch can be worn on a belt etc
- Concept inspired by the SF / SAS Escape & Evasion kit
The pouch for this kit has changed back and forth other years but as I write this I am using and really like the Maxpedition [CAP] Compact Administration Pouch. It’s perfect for this task. Big enough for the tin, Mylar blanket and tools but small enough to be able to throw it in an EDC bag or glove compartment. It has plenty of attachment points so a shoulder strap could be added or it could be attached to a belt. It even has a carry handle and as my CAP is black, to the civilian eye just looks like a camera bag : ) It has 2 zipper compartments, the first having elastic organisers for tools the second is big enough for the tin a note book and even a power brick or two. The interior of the Maxpedition CAP is light grey! A really clever idea as it makes tools, gear and kit very easy to spot, especially if we are cold wet and scared. I have customised my pouch with silent zipper pulls to match the GORUCK GR1 that I use every day.
FOR ME THE CORE ESSENTIALS
MYLAR SPACE BLANKET
I prefer blankets over bags, in this case a BCB Hypothermia Blanket, as I find it’s easy to use and less likely to rip. It can also be used to make a shelter. It is about 8ft x 8ft and folds up nice a small. A tip here is buy based on its packed size as well as fully open then only ever open in an emergency, you will never be able to re-fold as well the factory did.
FIRST AID / THE ELASTIC BANDAGE
3” wide x 8ft long a great general purpose bandage I’ve found good for sprains, breaks and big gushy cuts. I’ve had several of these through-out my life, I use them or I lend them, they get washed, they wear-out I replace them. I have 3 in my kit right now an odd item to include for some but as discussed before key piece of emergency kit for me.
|BACK-UP FIRE LIGHTING OPTIONS|
Life boat matches are kind of water proof but can get damaged so the MATCHCAP is for protection. The lifeboat matches are backed up with a full sized FireSteel flint and steel.
|FULL SIZED FLINT AND STEEL TAKES A LOT OF STRESS OUT OF FIRE LIGHTING AN EMERGENCE|
|THE TIN KEEPS FOOD FRESH, TINDER DRY AND STOPS IT ALL GETTING CRUSHED|
In this case I’m only looking to carry enough food to get me through a night and even then I expect to get hungry. As a human being I can survive about 3 Weeks without food, this is more about the psychology of having the means to make a hot drink or something fruity to suck to help make you feel better about your situation My ration do change but I usually carry tea bags, beef stock cubes (OXO) dried milk, fruity sweets and a Clif Energy Bar These can have up to 240 calories so worth the space in your tin. The trick is to get one that tastes nice and you like : ) In my limited experience being able to make a hot drink, even if it’s just hot water and having something to nibble, if nothing more can help to pass the time until daylight or rescue comes around. Most of this food will last a very long time, in my experience I swap rations out once a year and all is good. The exception is the energy bar. These do have a 10-12 month (approx) shelve life so I make a note at the time of purchase and swap out or eat when the time comes.
KNIFE / MULTI TOOL
|BRUNTON TRUARC COMPASS, GREBER LST AND PHOTON II FLASHLIGHT|
I carry 2 knifes in my kit, the first being a blade on a Leatherman Micro Mini multitool, the other is a Gerber LST lock knife This is a great knife and I think was designed for survival kits. It has a stout locking, 420HC stainless steel blade and fibreglass-filled nylon scales, making this excellent little knife very strong and very light and just the best size to fit a Personal Survival Kit.
|LEATHERMAN MICRO MINI TOOL|
The Leatherman Micro Mini blade is small like a scalpel so is kept very sharp. The tool includes a range very useful implements including scissors and tweezers for removing those very annoying thorns and splinters. These key tools are kept organised in the pouch for easy access for when every, not just saved for survival situations.
|GERBER LST LOCK KNIFE IS SMALL, LIGHT AND YET STILL A VERY USABLE SIZE, IT'S PERFECT FOR A PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT|
|BRIGHT, POWERFUL, EXCELLENT BATTERY ECONOMY AND ONLY THE SIZE OF YOUR LITTLE FINGER|
OK so I’m injured, I’ve broken an ankle, it’s mid winter and it’s getting dark. I’ve bandaged my ankle to give it some support and relieve the pain. I’m rapped up in my blanket so should survive until the morning when I can start to think about getting help.
"Give me light".
A good robust and waterproof flashlight used to be out of reach for a survival kit because they were massive but now, with LED and advance battery technology it's really easy to carry a flashlight no bigger than a little finger and for it to have 120 luminous +! I carry a ThruNite Tis flashlight, these are available in black but I want to be able to find my kit if I drop in the mud so I went for chrome. It’s tiny, reliable, tough and easy to use, I really like the twist to switch on and off and between modes including strobe This makes it very unlikely to switch on by accident and waste battery. Breaking my rule that mini is not good, as a back up, I also carry a Photon2 Micro Light.
|THE PHOTON II CAN DOUBLE AS A ZIPPER PULL|
Given it's size it's pretty easy to use, in that it has a big button to operate and a somewhat more fiddly button to lock to switch on. The Photon 2 is tough and waterproof it has sat in my kit for years and the battery, which is replaceable is fine. These little flashlights are so small and robust I could attache as zipper pull. Small and a bit fiddle but still has a place in my kit .
I’ve already mentioned the bandages but as well as these, other essentials need to be included. Assorted water proof plasters in individual easy to open packets. Pain relive: paracetamol for inflammation and swelling and ibuprofen for a more general pain relive. Imodium tablets for diarrhea relief. This isn’t something I particularly suffer from in civics but in the wild where hygiene isn’t what we’re used to... better safe than very sorry. This is the only medication I carry but you should really think about what you might need especially and including meds for alleges and other conditions specific to you.
For my emergency scenario as I described earlier, I don't need a compass. I’ll have a good idea of location, including maps and If pushed, I have a compass on my watch and my smart phone but these rely on batteries and would earmark the smart phone for emergency comms only.
|BRUNTON TruArc COMPASS|
But despite this a traditional oil filled compass is a prerequisite to any survival kit. This is a Brunton TruArc 3. Small light but full sized so easy to use. It can be calibrated for use in north and south hemispheres and I practice with this compass all the time. Compass navigation was a really hard skill for me to learn a long time ago but now acquired, I’m not about to let it slip. I keep my Brunton TruArc 3 with gutted 550 paracord attached so it’s ready to go as soon as I need.
If you are not familiar, this is as described. A flexible wire with serrations that can be used to saw really quite large logs.
|WIRE SAW IS VERY EFFECTIVE FOR CUTTING LARGER LOGS AND TAKES UP NO ROOM IN THE KIT|
This one is by BCB and originally came with nylon loops at each, this is a more comfortable option to others that have a split rings, especially if you are cutting over a long period of time. Blisters indeed any injuries are to be avoided. Currently I have removed these loops to save space but intend to replace with paracord as, when and if needed. For my scenario I probably don’t need a wire saw but given how little space it takes-up, I can’t leave it out.
Why do we need signalling if we have a mobile phones with us, which we probably will have? Quite often there won’t be signal and if you see someone on the next hill, chances are we won’t have their number. Obviously if there is a signal we are just going to call for help and allow the rescue services to zero-in on the phone signal. So this is when a whistle kicks in, when we have no phone signal.
|IF YOU CAN STILL BREATH YOU CAN PROBABLY BLOW A WHISTLE|
I have one attached to the shoulder strap of my rucksack I take snowboarding for when buddies get lost in a white-out or fog or a blizzard! I use a JetScream whistle. It has a one piece construction and as it’s made from tough plastic it won’t get stuck to my lips when it’s really cold. Is knowing the international distress signal important? I’m not sure but if you are injured and you can blow, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to see what the noise is about.
|A GOOD IDEA TO WRITE YOUR NAME, ADDRESS AND OTHER IMPORTANT PERSONAL INFORMATION IN THE COVER, IF THE WORST SHOULD HAPPEN THIS WILL HELP RESCUERS CONTACT YOUR NEXT OF KIN|
My farther was an advocate of always carrying some cordage on ones person. As an EDC this in the form of a cobra weave bracelet which in this situation, I may well be wearing but I would also carry in my Personal Survival Kit probably about 25ft of 550 Paracord. We must not underestimate how key cordage is to a survival kit. As a child I thought I would use it to build a shelter or make a spear but we are just as likely, as I did just the other day, to use it to fix our boots i.e. mend something. Really important and one of the truly multi tasking items in your kit. Make sure that it's milspec 550 Paracord as this type has a cord made up of 7 off small strands of cord that are still very strong and once stripped out can be used for sewing, fishing, or just lashing more stuff together. In effect if we carry 25ft of Paracord that's actually 175ft of very useful string.
We die in 3-4 days without water! It’s as simple as that, it’s that important. As I write this I live on the south coast for Britain and even in mid summer water is every where. However the chances of it being contaminated in one way or another is pretty high so that is the issue, water, water everywhere can’t drink any of it. Collecting water purifying and storing it ready to drink is a task that if we have to be prepared for and master if we are to survive for any length of time. I like to site on the side of caution with regard to the subject so I would be inclined to ;
- Find water
- Filter it
- Boil it
- Add water purifying tablets
- Then store and carry it
So I carry coffee filter papers, Katadyn Micropur MP1 purification tablets and x2 Whirl-Pak Emergency Water Bags. One to collect water the other to store and carry water once it’s ready to drink. This is a much easy foolproof way of doing this then the old condom in a hairnet routine. I could never get used to drinking out of a condom and I did try : )
LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST
Magnifying glass by Fresnel Lens. Flexible credit card size, can be used very effectively for fire lighting if it’s sunny enough but as I now where glasses for reading this is great for, well, reading stuff, spotting thorns and splinters anything tiny that you need to see. This is something we might not think of but in practice, is really, really useful.
THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON RESTOCK
This kit is a living breathing animal, it must be looked after, restock, updated and maintained. The Personal Survival Kit before this one was put together in 1990ish before a trip to Canada, on opening it some 15 years later I found that everything in the tin was beginning to break down and was wielding itself together to become one, big, rooting lump of uselessness! so now I check my kit over quite regularly and make sure all is good especially food, fire lighting kit and the flashlight. I do this at the beginning of my hiking season; September / October.
|PERIODICALLY IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO DO A LOAD-OUT TO SEE IF ANYTHING NEEDS REPLACING|
PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT, GEAR LIST:
Below is a quick snappy list of what I carry in my Personal Survival Kit.
Tried, test, used and relatively unchanged in 35 years.
• Pouch [Maxpedition CAP Compact Admin Pouch]
• Tin [BCB Mini Mess Tin]
• Mylar Survival blanket [BCB Hypothermia Blanket]
• Coffee filters
• Tin / bakeofoil
• Water bags [Whirl-pak Emergency Water Bags]
• Water purifying tablets
• Lighter [Clipper]
• Flint and steel [FireSteel]
• Tinder [WetFire]
• Magnifying glass [Fresnel Lens]
• Lifeboat matches [UCO]
• Exotac MATCHAP Waterproof Match Case
FIRST AID -
• Elastic bandage
• Assorted plasters
• Imodium plus
• Notepad [Rite In The Rain]
• Lock knife [Gerber LST]
• Multi tool [Leatherman Micro Mini]
• Flashlight / Torch [ThruNite Tis]
• Flashlight 2 [Photon Micro Light]
• Wire saw [BCB]
• Whistle [JetScream]
• Compass [Brunton TruArc 3]
• 25ft 550 Paracord
• Tea bags
• Dried milk
• Oxo cubes
• Kendal mint cake
• Salt & Pepper
• Clif Energy Bars
The million dollar question.
In my experience nothing bad ever happens when it is planned for or expected or consider as possible. Bad things happen when we are commuting home, walking the dog or just out for a quick walk in the local neighborhood on a winters afternoon. Adversity befalls us when we’re about the mundane and our guard is down. So this is when I carry my kit. Basically when I don’t have my rucksack or EDC with me and when I’m absolutely sure nothing bad can possibly happen that’s when I must stop and remember, that I know nothing at all and carry a Personal Survival kit.
ABOUT THE LINKS WITH-IN THIS POST.
I've included links to GEAR featured so you can find out more or even purchase. In some cases items have been upgraded or discontinued so I have linked to equivalents, I hope that's OK.
Condor Elite Frontier Rucksack EDC
GORUCK GR1 Rucksack, EDC No1.
EDC Admin / Organisers
The Every Day Carry [EDC]
CtA [Call to Action]
Leave a comment. Tell me what you think. What does your Personal Survival Kit include? It would be great to hear. Thanks very much for taking the time. Enjoy the rest of the site.
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