Survival kits are much more than bags needed to survive the harsh conditions in some nameless wilderness, they are actually useful for a variety of applications. The term “survival kit” is somewhat misleading, as it implies that the kit contains everything that you need to make it out of the woods or some such thing. They can be used for much more than that.
These are useful for having a stash of tools and supplies that you can easily take with you. They are great for any sort of emergencies and can make life easier, maybe even extend it in the worst of situations.
Do not buy those pre-made survival kits in stores and assume that they contain everything that you need, because they usually have incomplete supplies. It is important to visualize where you are going, what you are doing, and what the natural hazards are in that environment when making a survival kit.
There are a few general rules that should be followed when creating a survival kit:
- It’s always better to be have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Too many people report being lost and forgetting some important piece of gear that they had and thought they would not need. They didn’t pack it because they thought they could do well enough without it.
- The survival kit should be portable.
Portable ideally means under twenty pounds. The first rule should probably be applied to all situations, but your master pack should be small enough for you to carry easily. If you overload the pack (say forty pounds or so), chances are you will be carrying other gear, and will be tempted to drop the survival kit, or to take more out of it next time to reduce the weight.
- Always carry a spare.
By this I do not mean carry an extra survival kit of the same size, I mean carry an extra tiny one, something that could fit in your pockets. This is important if this scenario were to happen: You have a survival kit, a pack, and various other supplies and are extremely well prepared. You camped near a river and grabbed a canteen to refill your water supply, and got turned around on your way back to camp. Now you are stuck with no survival kit, camp in some direction, and nothing but your clothes and a canteen of water. Carrying an extra tiny survival kit makes this situation a bit more bearable.
So with these three rules in mind, it is important to create a general purpose survival kit. Here are some things that you should include no matter where you are planning to be. Estimated prices for items are located at the end. Keep in mind that these are the median prices for goods commonly found in Wal-Mart and other retail stores. Actual prices will of course vary.
In your large, “master survival kit”:
- A good bag, one that preferably has a water pouch built in and therefore makes carrying it easier. This should be a backpack of some kind, and a small one at that, with good suspension that is comfortable. This should be water resistant if possible, or have a rain cover to keep everything dry. ($35-55)
- A set of water purification tablets. Get the kind that kill protists and bacteria. ($20, should be enough for around 60 gallons of purified water).
- A stainless steel mirror. Good for signaling and shaving. ($5)
- Some dried food. Try for high calorie, high energy foods that will not spoil easily. Examples include trail mix, nuts of any kind, beef jerky, or protein bars. Keep enough for several days (so you can eat it if you have nothing else, $20). You can even make some of it at home and it will be much cheaper. Try to make pemmican for example.
Recommended reading: How to make pemmican, the ultimate survival food
- Waterproof matches. You should get at least 30. ($7)
- Fire-starters. These come in all shape and sizes and will burn very easily. You should get at least 20. ($12)
- Fire paste. This comes in a large yellow-looking tube. It makes nearly anything burn, even if wet. ($10)
- Bring at least 2. They are good for lighting, and you can nearly windproof them by getting those party trick candles that relight when they are blown out. ($7)
- A good knife, try to get one with a saw back to maximize usefulness. Also bring a sharpener. ($20-55)
- A space blanket. These should be of the aluminum-looking variety. They reflect and retain 70-90% of body heat on average, and are crucial when weather is expected to get cold or wet. ($7)
- A fishing kit. This should include rolled up line, at least 3 fish hooks, sinkers, and some sort of plastic grub bait. ($10)
- A plastic bag, preferably two. Of the large, heavy duty, garbage bag variety. These are handy for collecting rainwater, improving shelters, and many other applications, not the least of which is they can keep you warm ($1)
- A hand saw or hatchet. Preferably both. These are good for cutting down trees, making shelters, and in an emergency, the hatchet can be used for self-defense. ($30 for both)
- A survival guide. You should default to one that is environment specific, but if there is a comprehensive, general purpose one grab that. This is extremely important if you are new to prepping. ($20)
- A first aid kit. You should probably bring two just in case, or a super-extra large, family variety one. You can never have too many medical supplies and health issues become real problems during an emergency. ($17-60 for the biggest ones)
Suggested article: Step by step guide to make a first aid kit
- A waterproof pouch, preferably several. These are used to hold all of the items, especially if your bag is likely to get wet.
- A long cord of rope, preferably nylon. ($10)
- A good jacket. Try to get one of the soft-shell variety. These are good for all-purpose use, and will keep you warm and dry. (you can get one for less than $50, but the best ones can be over 200, I’d recommend meeting in the middle at around $80-100.)
- A rain poncho. These also double as emergency shelters.
- A pup tent. These are usually made out of plastic, but can really make living easier if you can carry them. ($20)
- A compass. Try to get one with map-finding functions.
- A flashlight, preferably several, and extra batteries. You can also opt for a LED lantern with alternative charging options (solar and crank).
For your “tiny survival kit:”
You should always carry these items on you as a backup solution.
- The knife from above with a sharpening stone.
- Two plastic heavy duty garbage bags
- The jacket.
- Food, preferably three to five energy bars or pemmican rations.
- Water purification tablets
- A water bottle or canteen of some variety. I recommend choosing the Lifestraw Go bottle.
- The space blanket
Suggested article: 15 survival myths that could actually kill you
- A weather-proof lighter (or the matches from above)
- Some bandages or a super-compact first aid kit.
- A flashlight and a spare change of batteries.
These should all go into a fanny pack if you have one. If you don’t you should purchase one. The kind with water bottles on the side is especially handy, ($20-35)
No matter what is happening, carry this survival kit with you. Bring it with you in your car or boat. If you own multiple vehicles, transfer it between them. It can really help you out in a pinch, and it’s always better to be prepared.
If you can afford the investment, a G.P.S. or emergency locator beacon is a great idea. It can make your stay wherever you are stranded much shorter.
Always leave a note about where you are going, and when you expect to be back. Call a relative or friend before you plan your next trip. They can send emergency services if something goes wrong, and are often the first to notice when you are not back in time.
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