Rethinking a Personal Survival Kit

in outdoors •  2 years ago  (edited)

A personal survival kit should change depending upon risks, skills, climate and activity. This article outlines how I recently changed my personal survival kit to suit my changed circumstances. This particular kit is the basic gear what I carry for all outdoors activities. Depending upon the length of trip or other risks, then I would add other gear as needed. This article is not intended for you to copy my items and think you're covered; you should know how to use the gear you carry and have thought through your own needs. Articles like this are useful because they show the thinking behind the choices that one particular person made to suit their needs. Don't copy, think, because this kit could very well be the death of you if you are in conditions different to mine.

I found that I would often arrive at a day-walk and then spend too much time messing about getting my gear sorted before I hit the trail. I am also still nursing a leg injury and so my walks are within an hour or two from my car. For these reasons my philosophy has changed; I have a tool bag in my car with more gear and so my car is my base camp. The Personal Survival Kit is designed to get me back to the car, and in a pinch, help me live until help arrives.

This is the contents of my present kit. It fits into the black ditty bag at the top-left but does flop about quite a bit. If I put it inside a utility pouch (i.e. such as the one in my Light Belt Setup) then it doesn't leave much room for other things.
The contents, going from top-left to bottom-right are: The drawstring bag that contains the kit, a Bic mini lighter with an MRE beverage bag wrapped around and secured with a ranger band, a wire saw, two tinderquicks, 2ml or super glue, a button compass and a chap-stick, a credit card style magnifying glass, a tea-light candle, ferro rod and striker, roll of duct tape, latex gloves in a bag held down with a ranger band, a small bag containing my backup headlamp and spare batteries with terminals taped, a whistle on a type 4 paracord lanyard, a mini-swiss army knife on a lanyard, a bright LED light on a lanyard, a spare battery with terminal taped for the LED lightm a mini-carabiner (non-load bearing) to hold the lanyards, my first aid kit and a bag containing a foil survival blanket, a trash bin liner and a sachet of drink mix from an MRE. That's a big list of items but all of these have some use. 

I would like to add my PLB and a metal container for cooking and boiling. The cup I selected is the cup from the  Swiss Army M84 canteen. It is  9cm H x 9.5cm W x 6.5cm D and weighs about 100 grams. The Personal Locator Beacon is the PLB1 from RescueME. A PLB basically sends a distress/location signal via satellite and works almost anywhere on the planet. It also has a short-range radio pinger to help rescuers zero in on your location. These things aren't cheap, but what value a life (it might not be yours that you're saving).

This is the current contents of the mini-first aid kit. I have a more comprehensive kit in the car. From top-left to bottom-right: A mini-sewing kit, 2x Diarrhea pills, 2x 500mg Paracetomol, 3x 12.5mg sodium diclofenac, 3x Omeprazole, an electrolite sachet, 3 band-aids in 2 sizes and a sachet of blood clotting agent (Celox). The mini sewing kit contains small safety pins and needles in a drinking straw that has one end closed with hot pliers and the other end secured with duct tape. I have mono-filament thread wound around a flat card and a medium-sized safety pin for extra. The contents of the medical kit deal with likely problems on the trail; pain, stomach issues, dehydration and minor cuts. Remember this isn't a trauma kit - it's a kit for a quick patch up and get back to help. My first order of business was to minify the first-aid kit.

I kept the sewing kit, and all the medicines except I reduced the sodium diclofenac and omeprazole to a single tablet/capsule each. I kept just one band-aid and added two sachets of sugar I lifted from a cafe. The sugar is so that I can remove the sachet or drink mix. It might seem stupid, but I often see people morribund or refusing to move and a bit of a kick in the blood sugar sees them on their way. It doesn't take much sugar either and in this form it's easier to eat if there's limited water available - because the drink mix is way too powdery. Some people prefer to carry hard candy or chocolate.

And, here's everything removed from the kit and why it was removed:
MRE beverage bag: the kit contains ample plastic bags and a cup. Also, I have carried water in latex gloves before. No need for this bag.
Credit Card style magnifying device: yes, it's another way to start a fire and useful for removing things stuck in the skin. Most likely, if I need fire urgently then there'll be no sun and I can wait to remove things from the skin when I'm back to the car.
The neoprene cover for the PLB: In New Zealand, PLBs must float and so the neoprene cover both protects the PLB and helps it float. I'm not doing deep water stuff and the kit will be packed to protect the PLB. Not heavy, but very bulky.
The striker for the ferro rod: Any rough/sharp edge will do. The Swiss Army knife has a file that works just fine for striking sparks. In a pinch I could use the blade or the scissors.
The LED torch and its Batter: I like to carry two light sources. But, this light, while bright, doesn't last long. One battery is about 30mins and I'm banking on at least an hour. More than likely I'll have another light source on me (my phone, the candle) anyway. Don't get me wrong - this is a great little torch and I'll probably carry it elsewhere in my gear but not in my PSK.
Omeprazole in a case: One capsule is enough. I protected the capsule by placing it inside the safety pin in the sewing kit.
Tinder-quick: It's good stuff and really light, but not really necessary given the other things I carry.
Super glue: I have enough repair options and there's not really enough glue to consider this a first aid item. Yes, you heard correctly: super glue was developed as a method to gluing together wounds.
Head lamp bag: I got this cute bag from a Cantonese speaking woman in Ho Chi Minh City when I bought some small bottle of mint oil from her company. You'll see how I manage the elastic head bands from that lamp later and so this little bag is not needed. I should tell you about that woman one day - I met her again about five years later.
Card board: This cardboard wrapped the survival blanket. I kept the blanket in its tough plastic bag to protect it, but ditched this unnecessary cardboard
Wire saw: Not useful for a short trip. Hunker down with what you have and wait for help. Snap branches if needed.
Trash bag: I couldn't make this fit. However, I am carrying a survival blanket and my kit always include a poncho. If there was one item I could add back into the kit then the trash bag would be it. I've made shelters, sleeping mats and all sorts of these.
Mini carabiner: not needed to manage lanyards and I have other ways to attach things
MRE drink mix: Originally carried for the glucose hit - but this is too bulky and powdery for what I need. A couple of teaspoons of raw sugar in two sachets from a cafe will do instead
Band aids: honestly - except for a blister - anything that a band aid fixes can wait until the car. I have other items for bandaging (a shemagh/scarf) and have been known to use duct tape in a first aid role.
Sodium diclofenac: One tablet is sufficient. These tablets are brutal on the stomach so you don't want a higher dose than necessary anyway. By the time one does wears off I should be back to the vehicle or rescue won't be too far away. It's only pain.

And, here are the items that remain. I've introduced them elsewhere, so I won't go through the list again. The bic lighter has moved into a ziploc to help protect and manage it. Just to the left of the headlamp are its spare batteries all taped up. I've kept the chapstick because of its myriad of uses; sunblock, chaffing and blisters, flame extender, candle, and ... chapping. I also forgot to mention that the pocket knife has a blade, file, scissors, tweezers and a tooth pick.

This is what the kit looks like packed. The main part of packing this is that the mylar blanket goes in first, with the first aid kit going on the opposite edge. Then the PLB goes in between and everything else stuffed in where it fits. The headlamp bands help contain everything within the cup. I can hold this cup upside down, give it a shake and nothing falls out. The kit then slides into a drawstring bag.

I have carried this kit on a few excursions. It fits easily into a US Army MOLLE II buttpack with amble room for other gear. The kit fits into a British Army MOLLE Utility Pouch with plenty of room for a light lunch and some other kit.

How does this perform; well, if I'm honest, a PSK is a carry and forget item so I never paid it much thought. However, a couple of days ago I went out for a walk in a storm with my light belt kit. I tried to erect a poncho shelter on a storm-swept point overlooking the ocean and was having trouble; the ground was too hard to drive in improvised stakes from the softwood trees and there honestly wasn't much in the kit that could've helped that. While I wasn't in any danger due to my clothing and acclimatisation to such conditions, it did make me wonder if the kit really was that useful. In the kit's defense, my leg injury kept my off the gnarlier terrain where better wood was available for making pegs, and there's no way I would've erected a survival shelter in that spot - it was much too open - and so I wouldn't have had the same trouble. The reason for me picking that spot was because I wanted shelter while I pondering some things while enjoying the view. And, the ground being that hard and harder woods being too risky to harvest are not usual conditions for me. Even still, I might want to consider the shelter options a bit more.

PSKs should be reviewed as needs change. So, look for a future update. I hope you found this useful in the way you think about your own kit.

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  ·  2 years ago (edited)

A couple days ago you received a transfer of SBD from @minnowpond, which seems to have taken funds from users without providing their promised service or a refund. Given that it looks like @investegg accidentally transferred 500 SP to a scam @minnnowbooster account (three n's), could you sympathize and please make sure that people's funds are returned?


  ·  2 years ago (edited)

I'll contact the owner and see what they say. I'd be interested in getting the users refunded and my rent arrears paid. FWIW, at the end of the month, my SP rental with them ends and will not be renewed.
UPDATE: I'm told that minnowpond will be making an announcement post soon. Their dev has been working to improve the stability of the service. I'm also told that they are working on refunds to users but this will take some time as they manually audit the voting logs.
I have also offered to return the last rental payment I received if it will hasten refunds to the users, but I have not yet received a response.
UPDATE: minnowpond has said they can cover the refunds. I leave my offer open.

I have post with more VIC videos, but I want to ask youabout something else. Do you lease SP? I scanned through the comments in your posts..

I'll check out the SAK post.
I used to lease SP via private arrangements but now I'm exiting that market by running out the leases I currently have. I hit some issues with some leasees and I'd rather have MinnowBooster and their #abuse reporting channels deal with that.
I do still lease via the MinnowBooster DLM; but I have a policy of no-side-arrangements. Basically, when I have spare SP, I go to the DLM and take the leases from the top of the market by APR.

MinnowBooster is too expensive for me. Thanks for the info.

Just to emphasise one of your excellent points which so many people dont understand or believe.
Always carry a tube of superglue. Its not medical grade but in an emergency
it could seal an otherwise unsealable wound and save your life.
Thanks for a great article. What makes it great is that so many articles of this ilk are just silly lists. You give reasoning and indepth explanation.
Best wishes and i hope you never have to use it!

superglue - thats a good suggestion. Something that can save life!

You're right about the superglue. I really thought hard before I relegated it to the car first aid kit. The reason is that the 2ml tube isn't really enough for anything that a pressure bandage can't handle and Celox (if you can afford it) deals with more types of wounds and I have other ways to bind and stabilise wounds. I would definitely be adding superglue to a group first aid kit, or to an extended kit for a longer trip where my base camp car isn't so close.

man that is some serious thought you put into that. I never even heard of The Personal Locator Beacon before reading this.

PLBs apparently come from life-boats and small marine vessels that might not have long-range radios. Recently advances in miniaturisation mean they're now man-portable in a not too inconvenient package. The real pros carry the PLB on their person just in case they get separated from their kit. I opted for carrying mine like this because I'm less likely to forget it this way.

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Good post, after 4 months in steemit I found post dedicated to EDC and survival ... hah :)

I am fen of victorinox and have some modded knifes.


Thanks for the link - I will check it out. I'm a big fan of Victorinox knives too. I have at least four, but I don't yet have the perfect one. As you can see, my PSK went with Victorinox because, although tiny, I know it won't let me down when I really need it.

Haha thank you. To keep yor post, my links are gone now...

What a sensational list of items. I do a fair buy t of hunting, and while it’s a relatively controlled environment for me, a kit like this would still be invaluable. Awesome.

I glad you found the list interesting. Though, please do adapt it for your own risks, climate, skills and activity. Happy hunting.

very complete equipment for survival.
do you often pass through survival?

Actually, I try to see potential survival situations coming and avoid them instead. So, I can talk about several dicey situations but none of them were a survival situation - thankfully. But, you never know; a slip or a fall or getting lost and suddenly you're in a survival situation.

I always include a Bic lighter or three in any kit. I wrap the lighter with Duck tape, maybe 6 feet, any mpore and the lighter gets too thick.

I'm with you on the duct tape! So many uses. I'll have at least 1 mini bic and a ferro rod in the PSK. That's minimum: i'll normally have a couple more lighter in my regular kit too. Duct tape makes decent tinder if shredded.

Everyone needs a good bugout bag, safety kit, and plan. Not just as a crazy prepper, but for all the weird shit life my throw at us.

Re shelter options. If you include a wad of twine, heavy nylon or hemp stuff is better than cotton that falls apart when wet, high tensile strength fishing line could serve here, you wont need stakes, you can corner tie your shelter material (poncho, tarp, trash bag, etc) to trees or even some rocks to make "stake" points. I've done it.

Tell us about the Cantonese lady, that sounds like a good story, and I have a sneaky suspicion I know where it goes, maybe?

Speaking of the fishing line, anyone heard of those survival bracelets made of that military grade line, which unravels a few meters? Some come with extra features like a whistle, flint lighter, mini knife etc.

The paracord bracelets are available for sale almost everywhere. It's not really enough stuff for my risks/needs. But, better than nothing provided the wearer isn't overconfident about what those kits will provide.

You're correct. I did wonder if there was enough cord in the kit. I have the monofilament thread and can gut the type 4 paracord (275lb) if I need to. My shelter kit includes long guy lines for exactly this use. In this particular case the shelter was situated for the views and so there were no tie points around - not even clumps of grass.
The Cantonese speaking lady in Vietnam is one of those human connections you have if you travel and don't rush about. What made this one remarkable is that I had some followup five years later to see how things had gone for her.

Paracord in the form of a survival bracelet, that's what I meant.

Ah I thought it might be someone closer to you. ;) Good call on the lines...

I'm going to go Google the Personal Locator Beacon. I'm curious about how much it costs initially, whether or not there is ongoing fees, and generally how it works, as in, whether someone always listening for a distress signal or is it only helpful after someone is missing you.
I always enjoyed short walks in the woods, stuff almost any age and fitness level can handle. I became terribly frightened after getting lost for several hours with my sister and young daughter. I still don't understand how we managed to get lost and cannot explain it. That itself is frightening. It was a rough experience because we had no intention to "hike" and had nothing at all with us. The worst part was the fear though and that has lasted over a decade now. I've hiked with a group a few times, which is a pretty good solution for me, considering my fitness level and lack of expertise. However, the fear of going into the woods by myself, anywhere past visual contact with the road seems more like a phobia than something to truly be afraid of. This was reinforced last year when a co-worker got lost and died of exposure last year. She wasn't far from the path when she was finally found but had somehow died in some shallow water, likely in the dark after being lost just the first day.

A PLB is worth it if you can afford it. AFAIK there are no ongoing fees, but your particular location might have rescue fees if you use the beacon. The beacon communicates with satellites to a global centre that then sends your details off to both the national centre where you registered the beacon and to the national centre where the beacon went off. When I registered the beacon I supplied the contact details of a few people. These are the same people I tell my plans to when I go somewhere. The signal includes your GPS coords down to a hundred metres if the GPS can get a good fix. This particular model also has a radio pinger to allow rescuers to zero in on you once they get close. That's super awesome if you go non-responsive after activating the beacon.
It is frightening being lost and much easier to do than people realise. I sorry to hear about your colleague. Exposure is a massive killer in the outdoors here too. I've been changing my outdoors clothes to wool baselayers and including some warming solutions. In this particular kit there is a tea-light candle. Light that sucker, place it in the canteen cup and then put that canteen cup between your legs and sit under the poncho. It's surprisingly warm!
My own lost story is on steemit: Lost in the dark, mistakes were made.

Good read!

One more thing about beacons. Apparently there's a new kind of Beacon called a SPOT that allows you to send short text messages with a location ping. That message goes to a website and I think emailed to people you nominate. It also has a distress mode. I think you have to pay a subscription fee.
Our rescue services don't yet recommend these devices over a SPOT. Though any beacon is better than no beacon.

I think the solution for me is to stick with group hikes in well marked areas. It would be unwise to rely on a beacon at this point, it would be a false sense of security and a disservice to whoever has to come rescue my dumbass, lol. It would be better for me to build skill and confidence in a safe/controlled way. I would be irresponsible to get myself into trouble on a whim to face my fear. Better to prove to myself that I'm committed by learning how not to get lost, then decide to look into beacons before testing myself. I'd feel ridiculous setting the thing off 100 yards from the road.

My approach too. I don't want to burden anybody either.

Just love the way you think. Reminds me of my life in general. Since all I own can fit into one bag! lol. Actually just stated doing a series on what's in my bag and what you need to "travel pro!". I used to carry many things you have here like para cord, fire starter, tabs to make water drinkable. Still have the tylenol and bandaids. I'm certainly impressed with the tinder, magnify lens, and LED torch. You've got ALL the bases covered.

When I was mountain biking for 6 months through the andes in Ecuador then the coast. I even carried a machete and light weight hammock with mosquito net attached. Now I've gone very minimalist backpacker and carry so little I often just rely on the hotels for soap. So I don't carry much at all now.

Like you I love hiking and camping. So glad we've connected on here and have so much in common. Your support to my blog is always so appreciated. Glad to see you doing a post from time to time. keep up the great work on steemit! -Dan

I relegated the specialist tinder to the car. I'm carrying duct tape, a candle, paracord, chapstick, paper around the band-aids if I need tinder.
The little LED torch lives elsewhere in my kit. I use it all the time - but it's not a survival kit item because the batteries don't last long enough.
But yeah. The more you know the less you carry. I might do an article on what I carry "survival/utility" wise when I fly places. The needs are quite different since the risks are different. And, sometimes travelling with only carry on luggage really restricts what you can carry.
Keep up the blogging!

Good to hear from buddy. Totally see what you mean. Well thought out, and that's what I like most. I'm blogging away from Guayaquil Ecuador! I'll be in touch. -Dan

Great idea...

Couple of days ago I came back home and discovered that we didn't have electricity at home as there was a storm and no way to know when the electricity will come back... As my home is fully electricity dependent I saw that I could even boil water... I have a fireplace but it is not adapted for cooking but still I found to way to prepare some tea there... That's fine... and I found that I don't have light and candles.

So I told to myself that I need to be prepared in case of electricity doesn't come back (in my case it was like for 6 hours without it... it's fine...) but for 2 or 3 days it could be less fun...

Went to buy led lights, more matches and candles and now thinking to get a generator and some gas in stock)))

Who knows when shit is gonna happen!!!

We went for 5 days without electricity. Thankfully, the weather after the storm was incredibly pleasant, no heat or AC needed. I do worry about losing power in very cold weather.
One item that I was happy to have was Sterno. We had a gas grill available, but the Sterno was really convenient for heating up coffee, soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches. (Sterno is
flammable hydrocarbon jelly supplied in cans for use as fuel for cooking stoves or chafing dishes.) It is available for $1 a can at the party store. Each can is good for about 2 hours. I put the can of Sterno inside a small Pyrex mixing bowl and then set my old cooling rack above the flame. This wasn't a survival item, though I suppose under different circumstances it could be, but it did make life easier for those few days.

Fire gels are great. There's a great number of other flamable items you can cook with too. I once, for a challenge, made lamps of bacon grease and used that to cook bacon and eggs. The same tricks work with almost any kind of fat or oil. I'd do that in a power out situation - but if it was SHTF then I'd be saving the fats/oils to eat.
You can also cook on candles - but you either need a bunch of them to get it hot enough or you need to turbo charge the wicks (try corrugated card with the corrugations running upwards).

Maybe this would fit in your survival kit ;)




That looks like a fun piece of kit.

I've seen that before, might be useful if you can't find anything combustible for cooking by fire, or if you don't want the attention of crooks caused by the smoke.

You made one VERY important comment in your post, "Don't copy, think"!
I normally consider writings like this as downright dangerous because too few people actually THINK, they just blindly go out and buy stuff, stuff it in a kit, and believe they can survive. Survival isn't about your stuff it's about the person. If the person isn't prepared then no amount of gear will change that.
So the question is:

How do you know if your person is prepared ?

A simple test is to have a friend drop you off for a 24 hour hike from point A to Point B in terrain you've never hiked before. Take only a hunting knife and maybe something that will let you drink. When you get to point B you will know two things: 1) If your person is prepared and 2) Exactly what you'll take with you next time. Twenty-four hours shouldn’t kill you unless you really haven't thought about it. Good luck!
PS - Think of this as a thought experiment as I'm not encouraging anyone to do something; but then again if you think your a survivor then ... ;-)

If the person isn't prepared then no amount of gear will change that.

Amen. Gear you don't know how to use is dead weight.
I like your test, but only for those with some basic skills and clothing suited to the environment. There's a lot of wind and rain here and temperatures, even in summer, can get into the hypothermia zone. I prefer to build up skills by trying things out in less risky situations: I didn't actually need a shelter in that storm - my clothing was sufficient for me to remain warm even though I allowed myself to become wet through (yay for merino wool). It was more of a "can you do it - what challenges will you face?".

I just wanted to get the point across ;-)
Besides, here in Florida we have alligators, not weather, unless you try it during a hurricane.
Point is, following good advice will get you killed if you don't know why it's good advice.

Excellent post with thorough and detailed discussion of all the items. I love that it's a work of art and changing based on need, and experience. Like you, I never allow myself to fall so in love with gear that I'm not open minded enough to make a change when it shows itself to be valuable. Great stuff!

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

I'm forming a theory that some regular change in the PSK is probably more beneficial for the mental refresher than the exact items that are carried. The brain is the best tool and all that.

I agree wholeheartedly. The thought exercise of evaluating, rethinking, and prioritizing gear keeps the mind keen. I always teach that the most important piece of gear is the mind and the training within.

Thank you for this wonderful publication
Truly the life of the outdoors requires special equipment and equipment
The days I used to be more active in scouting.
We have a group of 5 people each taking his equipment with him to spend time in the forest
We bring with us a knife, a stick, cooking utensils.

I too fondly remember my days in the Boys Brigade (similar to scouts). I'm getting back into the outdoors lately. Though, if you're going out in a group, then most of this gear can be divided amongst the group.

What a complete survival kit! I just always have a headlamp, poncho, swiss army knife, whistle, water bottle, and lighters...I learned my lesson.

That's a really solid list! No need to over complicate things! If I could only carry 6 items, it'd be those six. I do have the poncho and water bottle elsewhere in my even my lightest kit. And, you've been in more life-threatening situations than I.

I really want my kid take part in one of the survival course. I think it's neccessary

wow is a impresionant advise

good stuff! happy to upvote and me a Yankee-statman

wow amazing kit

Thanks for your wonderful post and things you told about in this article.
All these things are necessary if you are going somewhere like climbing, hiking or some other places like these where you could found a problem in finding these things.
thanks for alerting.
I like your post.
God bless you and have a safe journey.

Good post

Very Nice

Your article is rich and very helpful. It really open my eyes on a lot that has to do with the content.

Excellent information and some great tips on ideas I wouldn't have thought of. Glad I found you on here and I surely continue to follow you. Thanks for sharing!

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing this in-depth information.
I never knew this:

Super glue: I have enough repair options and there's not really enough glue to consider this a first aid item. Yes, you heard correctly: super glue was developed as a method to gluing together wounds.
For the first time it makes perfect sense why my fingers got glued together when using super-glue.

Your post about the witnesses was also very insightful and helpful.

It has been long you posted. I really love your posts. Expecting one from you soonest friend