View Full Version : Personal Survival Kits

The Reaper
03-02-2013, 00:22
I started this thread after I was asked to on another thread.

IMHO, you need to layer your survival gear the same way you do your fighting load.

I carry an unusual amount of items in my pockets. Tactical pants, vests and jackets are good for that. My son is amazed at the things I have on me. The smallest and most critical items are carried on your person. You would also have additional survival items in your LBE, and even more in your ruck or vehicle.

My EDC consists of a good pair of walking shoes or boots, good socks, and a heavy belt. I wear a knit shirt, tactical pants, and a vest. I have a couple of gold rings, a Casio Solar ProTrek watch on my wrist (watch functions, barometer, altimeter, and compass), and a Leatherman Charge with a set of tool inserts and a small ferrocerium stick in a pouch on my belt. I have a Large Sebenza, and an assortment of keys in my pocket (including a cuff key) with a Photon Light, along with a couple of pens, a small flashlight, a cravat, a cell phone, a couple of safety pins, change, an ID billfold with enough cash to get home, credit cards, and a Fresnel lens. In my vest or jacket pockets, I have a BIC lighter, a hank of 550 cord, dental floss, antibiotic ointment, earplugs, cough drops, Tylenol cold pills, antacids, a Band-aid, analgesics, paper towels, a measuring tape, a pistol, a spare mag, a Sharpie, a pencil, a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook, reading glasses, a comb, a concealed handcuff key, another Photon Micro-Light on a zipper pull, my passport, a couple of Zip-Loc bags, and a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. My jacket pocket contains an Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Kit, which I consider to be the basis for my survival kits, and a retractable lanyard with another Bic lighter, another Photon Micro-Light, a small Silva Compass (with mirror), a ferrocerium rod, and a whistle. If I am in the woods, I have my dog tags (chain inside a piece of gutted 550 cord), yet another Photon Micro-Light and a P-38.

The AMK Pocket Survival Kit contains the following:

Duct Tape
1 Duct Tape, 2" x 26"

1 Pencil
4 Safety Pins

1 Sewing Needle, #18, Chenille
1 Sewing Thread, Bobbin #69, Nylon

Survival Instructions
1 Waterproof Survival Instructions

Survival Tools
1 Aluminum Foil, Heavy Duty, 3 Sq. Ft.
1 Compass, Button, Liquid Filled
4 Fish Hook, #10
1 Fresnel Magnifier
10 Nylon Cord, #18, Braided, (10 ft. 100lb test)
1 Pocket Survival Pak Contents List
6 Safety Wire, Stainless Steel, (6 ft of 0.020")
1 Scalpel Sterile, Disposable, #22 Blade
1 Signal Mirror, Rescue Flash
1 Snap Swivel, Size 12
1 Spark-Lite
2 Split Shot, Lead B
4 Tinder Quick
1 Waterproof Paper
1 Whistle, Rescue Howler

I normally add a Bic lighter, a P-38, some water purification tabs, some Spectra or Kevlar line, a piece of hacksaw blade, a straight edged razor blade, a signal scarf, a compressed washcloth tablet, a prepackaged suture, a couple of Band Aids and a Steri-Strip or two. It would be nice to have a survival blanket and a few matches in it as well.

If I didn't already have one on me, I would consider adding a Leatherman multi-tool and a large Ziploc type bag, or better yet, a Platypus water bag, a contractor grade trash bag, a few bouillon cubes, an instant coffee packet or tea bag, and a few hard candies.

No, I don't think all of my items, or the SEALs, will fit in the size container they are looking at. Mine will, however, generally fit in my pockets, if not on my gear.

While I like redundancy and multi-purposing, I believe that the SEAL kit has is trying to get too much stuff in too small a container.

The first item needed for survival is a blade. The steel needs to be hard enough to hold an edge, but soft enough to sharpen easily. These two factors are normally at opposite ends of the spectrum, but some modern steels have made the compromise easier. If you plan to survive more comfortably, you need a knife large enough to fell saplings, construct shelters, break firewood, etc. You can sometimes do most of that with a folder, but a good fixed blade will make the job much easier. Do you want to wear one to the office every day? Not if you plan to keep working. On the other hand, a small blade or better yet, a multi-tool, is the better tool for small survival tasks. The Leatherman Charge has pliers, knives, scissors, a metal file, a wood saw, a hacksaw blade, a can opener and bottle opener, and a couple of holders with a screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver. I have accessory bits in the same holster with additional screwdriver blades, hex wrenches, Torx drivers, etc. If you spend a few days in the words with one, you will find it hard to leave home without it next time. I like to have both a large knife, and a small one (or a multitool) when I go out. In lieu of a large fixed blade knife, a machete or a hatchet can suffice in their specific environments, though they are bulkier and weigh more.

The best way to determine the optimum contents is to analyze the needs of the user. Shelter and making fire are near the very top. The best survival tool takes up no space and is contained in the area above your shoulders. For example, the knowledge of how to make fire with a number of different techniques is better than a sack full of matches and lighters and no knowledge. I have seen people use a book of paper matches trying to light a log.

The ability to build a shelter and get dry, out of the wind, and warm(er) can be critical to life. A large trash bag makes a decent emergency poncho, overhead cover, or ground cloth. The kit needs to contain a waterproof windbreak of some sort, cordage to attach it, and at least one, if not two fire starters that the user can properly employ. Obviously, once you have mastered fire-starting with dry tinder and gradually larger twigs and sticks, using a lighter to start the fire is pretty much basic to adults who have used a lighter before. A fire steel (ferrocerium rod) is a bit more complicated, especially without the magnesium bar. Some prepped tinder (or some Vaseline coated cotton balls, or even dry pocket lint) will make it much easier. Practicing starting a fire, especially without a functioning sparking device, has a steep learning curve and is best learned before having to do it in sub-freezing weather with wet tinder and an empty lighter. A Fresnel lens is handy, but is not much use for fire starting at night. Obviously, if that is all you have, you need to start your fire well before sunset. Remember, fire and smoke are not a good idea if you are being pursued.

The ability to signal rescuers can be critical, but a military evader needs to also watch his signature to potential bad guys looking for him. For a compact kit, I like a small signal mirror and a pilot's signal panel. Pen flares and pyrotechnic devices are nice and effective, but take up more space than a pocket kit will allow and are not really directional (to mitigate the chances of enemy detection). A whistle is better than yelling, if you want to be found, and takes a lot less energy.

Conservation of potable water is essential. Some water, may not, in all cases, be better than no water, as those who have experienced diarrhea or dysentery from contaminated water can testify. Any filter system is going to be excessively bulky for a small survival kit, so water purification tabs or boiling are the way to go. You also need a container to hold the water, and to boil it in if that is your purification technique. A canteen cup works well for this purpose. You can also boil water in a bowl of aluminum foil. A plastic bag, properly supported, is a marginally adequate storage container for a few uses, and is one of the few containers that will fit in a small kit. Most areas have discarded containers near any inhabited areas. I used a discarded soft drink bottle, a tin can, and an old hubcap for water and cooking when I was going through our survival course.

Most survival kits contain only a very few first aid items due to its compact requirement and the bulky nature of medical supplies. I would probably want a few analgesics, a couple of Band-aids or Steri-Strips and maybe a small packet of antibiotic. Perhaps some APCs and a Vicodin or two. Space permitting, a small container of Betadine is another good multi-purpose item to have.

You are going to need to be able to see things at night for almost every task, so a flashlight of some kind is essential. Battery life will be problematic, and most survival tasks (other than signaling or target illumination) do not need a large amount of light. The pinch type lights are probably the optimum compromise of size, weight, output, battery life flexibility, price, and functionality. You can use the strobe mode or tie a couple of feet of string to one, lock it On, and spin it in a circle if you need to be noticed. That technique makes it visible for a surprising distance. Batteries are nickel sized and inexpensive. Red is a good color for night vision and does not carry very far, so it is good for tactical survival.

The Reaper
03-02-2013, 00:22
Cordage is essential. Tying knots, lashing, sewing, fishing, construction, trapping, snaring all can require some sort of cordage. 550 cord is a great survival multipurpose item, and it handily bridges the gap between thread (the seven strands inside 550 cord are great, but do not tie well and tend to float) and rope (which you can braid from 550, if you need to). I have replaced my bootlaces with 550 cord for a couple of shorter lengths that I always have with me. At the same time, Spectra or Kevlar fishing line is great for smaller uses, as is dental floss (multi-purpose, again), and they don't take up much space. Cordage is difficult to fabricate, in most environments. Carry it with you. Speaking of which, do you know your basic knots, or have you tied any since Boy Scouts? The time to learn and practice is at home one day, where you are comfortable, well-fed and rested, and your life does not depend on it.

You may need to navigate while surviving, or you may need to hole up in place. If you need to move, there are a number of means to determine direction during daylight. Under an overcast sky at night, it is much more difficult. Tactically, you may need to move primarily at night. That is where a compass with a luminous dial comes in handy. A map is also good to have, if you know how to use it.

You may need to repair gear. A few inches of 100 mph tape, wire, floss, or a needle and some thread can go a long way to fixing things and making life more comfortable. You know, that survival blanket (or your precious Zip-Loc of water) is pretty easy to puncture, and that tape might be a lifesaver. Or it might just stop that rain from leaking and dripping on your head at 0300.

Food gathering is challenging, even with proper gear and hunting or fishing a prime area. Even if you have a gun, ignore the game laws, and don't mind being heard, game can be hard to find. Trading a 12 gauge shell or two for a small bird or squirrel is probably a poor deal. The .22LR is hard to match for meat delivered for the ounce of cartridge. Most people fail to realize that trapping is normally much more productive (and economical) and requires a lot less energy than hunting. Fishing (in the right place) can be better yet. How do you fish, trap, snare, or hunt? Those skills are best learned now, rather than when catching a meal is something your life depends on. And if you don't know how to skin, prepare, and butcher game, now is the time to learn. You don't want to be learning and wasting meat while you are starving. Plucking and preparing a chicken is a lot more difficult than it appears, especially if you have never done it before. You also need to know how to cook the game with the resources you have available. Traps, snares and fishing tackle are relatively light and easy to improvise with, as long as you know how to do so and where to place them. A few small hooks or a couple of feet of wire are handy, lightweight, and have multiple uses. Learn how to use them now.

I think that you can last a long time with almost nothing, if you have the experience. If you have some experience, the kit will make life a lot easier. If you have no survival experience, the kit may not be particularly helpful.

Sorry if this was a bit long to read, I hope it gave people some room for thought.

Just my .02 based on my experience. YMMV.


03-02-2013, 13:53
Sorry if this was a bit long to read, I hope it gave people some room for thought.

I found it very useful.

My bug out/get home bag is nearly complete, but I have need of a PSK, so the timing of this thread was a happy coincidence.

03-02-2013, 14:57
Thank you Reaper, this is all very useful information to me as well.

03-03-2013, 10:05
Have thought long and hard about the conversation we had about equipment one pulls out from pockets, even have some pieces based on that now. The Browse bags at 2oz and 4oz fit into sandwich Ziplocks and some of the New Shells weigh the same. As said in the posts about these survival kits, skill sets are the most important. I miss seeing what 100 guys in the field come up with when applying the teachings....was that a Rabbit or a Chicken? :D

03-03-2013, 12:47
Thanks, TR. I find this thread very useful. On the AMK pocket survival kits, I discovered then a few years ago at aeromedix.com. I was so impressed with them that I bought a couple of 5 packs and sent them to guys I knew deployed with 2/20 and 3d Force Recon Co. Another thing that they sold were Alok Saks. Ever use these? When sealed correctly, they are absolutely waterproof, to hold water or keep your cellphone, maps,etc. dry.They come in multiple sizes. I use them when I teach the Widerness Survival Merit badge. Much better than ziplocks and not really expensive. They used to sell Photon Freedom Micro lights that were yellow and very water-resistant. I've one (on my keyring now)that I wore on my dogtag chain at Philmont and Northern Tier Canoe Base with my Scouts , along with a Spyderco H-1 Ladybug Salt (countycomm.com). Both weathered rain, sweat and submersion very well. They are both almost 4 years old and still good to go.

03-03-2013, 13:02
This is an excellent post. I have asked this question many times with students. What would you do if you had to leave "NOW"? What do you have in your pockets? What do you need/want? They usually have dumped everything at their shelter and have only fatigues and jackets. They are standing around staring at the fire. I try to get them to think, to be aware always.
There is always a trade off between weight, and desire. I found the post well thought out and very informative. I like to see how others think, specially those who "have done the job". Nothing beats training better than experience. It's the learning curve that can be a killer.


03-04-2013, 16:55
Travel light freeze at night!:D