Pocket survival is living in extremes. It is the ability of an individual to live through unusual conditions of deprivation, emotional shock, and hardship for an indefinite period of time. He does this with only the clothes he has on and a few basic items in his pockets.
Many survival experiences happen after an accident or a disaster. No one can predict when, where, or how one may occur. A wrong turn on the hiking trail, a faulty throttle in the Cessna, a rain-slick highway, or a brakeless runaway car on a mountain road are examples that could lead to a survival situation.
Cut off from outside help, the traumatized survivor is forced to rely solely upon himself to escape to safety. He must quickly adapt to the conditions of the emergency or die. Nature is not gentle to the innocent or to the ignorant.
A sprained ankle or a broken leg in the woods, and you may find yourself in deep trouble with no rescue in sight. Intense thirst will drive you to drink pond water, while painful hunger compels trying any leaf or root that does not taste bitter or burn the tongue. Without a means of starting a fire, you will gladly eat raw tadpoles or crayfish provided you can catch them, and curt up into a ball for warmth at night.
Everyone should be forced to sleep in mosquito country for a couple of nights with only their clothes as bed-roll and shelter. Such previous experience tends to encourage planning ahead for the next time. Who wants to suffer as he did before?
The clothes you have
What you are wearing at the time does influence how you will come out of any life-threatening ordeal. Clothing is the best means of protection between yourself and the elements. It is the sole difference that separates comfort from misery, life from death. Indeed, what you have on gives you that extra edge needed in survival.
Dressing in layers is the main theme. In this manner, the body is allowed to adapt itself to changing day and night temperatures. Once you get cold, and there is nothing to put on for warmth, or there is no shelter, death by exposure becomes a real threat.
This is why shorts and other skimpy clothing are not recommended for the outdoors. They may feel comfortable, but in reality, offer little in the way of protection from biting insects, the sun, or any sudden changes in the weather. They belong to closely controlled environments and indoor activities.
Anytime you venture outside, take along a sweater or a hooded sweatshirt as insulation from cold drafts. If the social scene does not call for a sweater, stuff a pair of feather-weight poly knit, thermal ski-shirt, and punts into the pockets of your jacket. In the cold of an unexpected outdoor bivouac, the sweater or skiwear’s insulative value could save your life or lessen your discomfort.
A water repellent, wind-resistant jacket is utilized in pocket survival for its warmth, rain protection, and as a carrier of bulk items. It should come with a raised collar, a hideaway weather hood, a sewn-in inner liner, and several flapped pockets for storage. More pockets can be added on the inner-liner side if necessary.
Extra clothing for weather adaptations includes a plastic pocket poncho, a poly knit balaclava, a bandanna, gloves, and a pair of nylon rain pants. These adaptors are carried in pockets or in the space between the inner liner and the outer fabric of the jacket.
People who do a lot of air travel should heed this advice. While in flight, never wear a nylon windbreaker or parka shell over your clothing. Should an accident happen, a flash-fire may follow and in a split-second tragedy engulfs the wearer. Easily ignited, nylon melts, and burning torch-like is next to impossible to remove. It is safer to wear a wool or leather coat for its lower inflammability.
Pocket survival for injuries
Injuries must be expected during and in the aftermath of an accident. The four areas of the human body most likely to be damaged are the shins, the eyes, the head, and the hands. A severe wound to one or all may seriously reduce your chances.
There are preparations that may help to lessen injuries.
- Wrap an elastic bandage around each lower leg extending from knee to ankle, shielding the shins from abrasions, cuts, flash-burns, muscle strains, contusions, and animal bites or insect stings. The bandages can be removed when needed as sup-port to sprains and broken bones.
- Wear protective eyewear, either safety or prescription, to prevent blindness or eye injury from flying debris. Attach an elastic restrainer strap to eyepieces to avoid loss.
- Always wear a cap or hat for its shade and insulation. Although a soft cap lacks complete head protection, it does provide a surface that slides away from glancing blows. This is better than leaving behind valuable parts of the scalp.
- Leather gloves are a must-have item, whether driving or riding as a passenger. In the fury of a violent mishap, the hands are used involuntarily to ward off injury, to cushion the falling body, and to grasp at any avenue of escape. Gloves are the best means of defending against cuts, burns, animal bites, slashes, and crippling wounds to the hands.
Basic tools for pocket survival
The primary tools of pocket survival are a police whistle (worn around the neck), lip balm, compass, alarm wrist-watch, pocket knife, matches, safety pins, first aid pack, adhesive tape, 30 feet of paracord, snack foods, a thin plastic sheet, balloons or condoms, tissue paper, a pen flashlight, money, plastic garbage bags, a pair of socks, and a gillnet.
All are carried on the person or in the pockets of a shirt, pants, and jacket. Large items are stashed inside the pouch made by a jacket’s inner liner.
The whistle for your pocket survival kit
The police whistle has usage as a distraction in escapes from danger, signaling, or to broadcast warnings. Three long blasts in succession is the universal plea for assistance. Picture yourself for a moment lying badly injured in wreckage. Well-hidden from rescuers, you can hear them yet are unable to call out. The agony is unbearable as you pull out the whistle. A shrilling pain-filled blast or two, and you are receiving life-saving attention.
Read next: Signal For Help – Wilderness Survival Tips
Could this happen to you? While taking a shortcut across an open field, you suddenly find yourself trapped by a herd of wild cattle with young calves. What can you do to save yourself?
There are few animals that will stand their ground if you will suddenly advance towards them with whistle-blowing, feet stomping, and throwing well-aimed rocks. Most herd-oriented animals will retreat in a frantic stampede.
Just make sure your line of attack is angled towards some cover or a fence, in case they regroup. Getting above an animal’s line of sight will usually defuse the whole confrontation.
There are exceptions to remember. Large solitary animals, such as bears, mountain lions, alligators, etc., should not be approached for any reason. Use great caution in exiting from their vicinity.
The alarm wristwatch and compass, preferably a combination of the two on the same wristband, are used for directions. The correct time, date, and the soft, familiar musical tone of the alarm emitted by the watch may be the trigger that draws the shell-shocked survivor back to the present realities.
It may even stimulate him into action and save his life or other lives, too. The wrist compass is utilized to determine, at a glance, the direction to travel. Knowing the way home is useful, whether in the woods or in the darkness of unfamiliar neighborhoods of the city.
The useful pocket knife
As a cutting tool, the pocket knife is depended upon to improvise wooden tools (hiking stick, digging stick, etc.), to build shelters, treat wounds, and to prepare foods. A variety of knives are currently on the market, but one of the best is the Swiss Army knife. Weighing less than five ounces, it has multifunctional blades and wider applications beyond everyday utility.
Shelter from the elements is first on the list of priorities in basic survival techniques. Lacking one, you may die as cold temperature saps your strength and exposes the body to hypothermia. Insulation must be found or improvised from the environment.
A wickiup or brush but is easy to construct from the materials close at hand and the gillnet. The easiest way to build one is to pull over it low shrub and tie its tip down with cords and stakes. Use a knife to trim off the branches pointing skywards. Spread out the gillnet and tightly stretch across the arch-ing pole and downwards brunches to form a lattice.
After cutting away offending branches inside the frame, pile dry or wet leaves, grasses, ferns, mosses, pine boughs, bark, or anything available in layers atop the netting. Pack it very densely around lower sides of the hut. The thicker the insulation, the more warmth the hut will retain.
To be completely waterproofed, cover the hut with a plastic sheet, a 12×9 feet, 0.3 mil thickness, three-ounce paint cover. Place logs or rocks on edges of the sheet to keep roofing in position regardless of strong winds or pile-driving bursts of rain.
Pocket survival and fire-making
The ability to make a fire for warmth, security, cooking needs, drying wet clothes, signaling, fire-hardening tools, and in first aid or medical care is second in importance. A fire helps to ward off dangerous animals, too.
A matchpak containing wax treated matches and fire-starter wicks or a butane cigarette lighter works well in almost every circumstance to start a fire. Perhaps, the safest method is to carry both but in separate pockets to prevent untimely loss.
Suggested article: Making A Proper Campfire In The Wild – 10 Campfire Designs To Build
A sparking flint or magnesium bar can be sewn into the hem of the jacket or pants for emergencies. Over 4,000 ignitions can be carefully made with a single magnesium bar.
The Swiss knife’s hacksaw or metal file blade is the perfect striker for the flint. Also, the saw blade can be used to roughen up suitable tinder from any piece of dry wood. It takes only minutes to spark a warming fire with these limited materials.
No fire is ever made inside the plastic roofed wickiup because of problems with smoke ventilation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, rocks are heated steaming hot in an outside fire-pit and raked in. A brick-sized rock will release up to six hours of pure life-giving heat. Be careful not to collect rocks from sides of streams as they may explode in the fire.
In snowy conditions, the wickiup is warm and cozy under a thick layer of snow. Interior temperature can be kept at a pleasant level with natural body heat, whereas, outside the hut, temperatures may be raging in subzero ranges and arctic wind chill factors.
For warmer weather, an overnight bivy can be made by rigging the gillnet into a hammock. Slung between two trees, a hammock puts the sleeper high above the ground and away from wet, boggy terrain or where the topsoil is heavily infested with ticks, fleas, chiggers, scorpions or worse, stinging ants.
Triple secure all anchoring ties and clear the ground of rocks or protrusions before attempting to board the hammock. Loose or weak lashings means an unexpected crash-landing in the middle of the night. For rain protection, drape plastic sheet on a cord suspended above the hammock in a pup tent design.
To sleep virtually free of flying insect attacks, wear the weather adaptors (poncho, rain pants, and gloves). Pull the T-shirt overhead of hooded jacket to cover the face and insert socked feet into a plastic bag. The sleeper will not be bothered by biting insects, thus enjoying a good night’s rest fresh and ready for tomorrow’s journey.
You may sweat under the jacket and other wear, but sweat washes off or can be dried jungle-fashion by the camp-fire to prevent a chill. Numerous mosquito or blackfly bites could cause a feverish allergic reaction and further weaken the survivor.
Plastic trash bag for pocket survival
Plastic garbage bags (1.6 mil thickness) have many uses in pocket survival as tote bags, bedding, shelter, and a variety of other needs. In cold weather, they can be worn under the clothes as vapor barriers to keep body warmth next to the skin. Leaf-filled bags have been used as hut doors, wind-breaks, bolsters, pillows, or as sleeping bags.
Folded flat and into narrow bundles, plastic bags are placed either in pockets or into tops of socks, resting against the shinwraps and held firmly upright with rubber bands. Five bags per shin are seldom noticed when packed around the lower legs above the ankles.
There is an added benefit in carrying the bags next to the shins. Personal experience can attest to their effectiveness in absorbing and repelling bites from poisonous snakes.
Out in the untamed wilderness, finding water can be a problem for the survivor. One of the biggest hassles is how to carry it with you when you do find it.
For the pocket survivalist, the simplest way is to insert one plastic bag inside another. Up to 12 quarts of water can be toted in one water bag by using the gillnet as a shoulder carry sling-pack. Lash the top of the water bag with a balloon for u tighter, almost dripless seal.
Upon arrival at a campsite, tie the upper portion of the water bag to a tree to prevent spillage. Still resting on the ground, it becomes the main tank for camping needs. The camper draws what will be used for the evening into other bags.
A plastic bag can be used as a basin to bathe in or as a pot to cook foraged foods. Dropping hot rocks into the bag of water rapidly brings it to a boil, and without melting the plastic. This is due to the cooling effect of the water. In many refugee camps of war-torn Syria, cooking in plastic bags has reached its zenith as an unmatched art.
Having a gillnet in your pocket survival kit
The gillnet (12 x 4 feet dimensions) made of a fine line or nylon twine, has multiple uses. It can be rigged to catch fish, adding rock anchors or socks filled with sand and inflated balloon floats. Situated between two points of open water, the gillnet snags swimming fish. A pond or a stream may provide several meals for the survivor.
The gillnet can be used to snare birds by erecting between trees bordering water holes, intersecting their flyways. It can be set across game trails to intercept and trap animals that bumble into its mesh.
It rolls up into a palm-size bundle for storage, weighing less than three to four ounces. The gillnet can be used in lieu of a rope, as a net wrap, camouflage netting (add foliage), scarf, and in many other ways. No woodsman should be without the handy gillnet.
In tick or flea zones, stuff pants cuffs into sock tops and wrap improvised gaiters around the ankles. A gaiter can be made from a strip of plastic or a bottomless plastic bag, taping to pants and tops of shoes. This is useful in snow-filled environments, too.
Interestingly, a no mess or fanfare method of picking off crawling ticks or fleas on the skin is to use a piece of well-chewed sticky, bubble gum. Trapped in the gum, they are entombed forever.
Hook ten or more safety pins to each inseam of pants high on the underside of the cuffs. Torn clothing is deadly in survival conditions, permitting entry of parasitic insects and loss of weather protection. Pinning and patching both sides of the rip with adhesive tape will keep the tear from becoming larger.
Grabbing a meal using pocket survival
One of the easier ways of grabbing a meal in the wilderness is with a sweeping broom. Look for a tall leafy shrub or a straight sapling and saw off its base. Cut away all branches except those at its topmost part.
Pulling pant cuffs above the knees or stripping naked from the waist down and wearing sockless shoes to protect the feet, the hungry survivor wades into shallow water. With the broom, he vigorously sweeps the shallows, literally lifting mud and prey (tadpoles, minnows, crayfish, prawns, or mud-dwelling fish) ashore to strand it. Several pounds of food can be collected with this method.
Another way is to make a dipnet out of a T-shirt by closing off sleeves and neck-hole with safety pins. A hoopstick, made by flexing a tree limb’s smallest end back onto itself and securing with cord or tape, is overlapped by the bottom of the shirt. Six or more safety pins can fix the shirt to the hoop stick.
Using the dipnet to catch minnows or tadpoles is much slower than the sweeping broom, but shows greater efficiency in the lake. Few prey will escape the dipnet when used properly.
The dipnet can be utilized to sweep tall grasses, gathering grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects dwelling there. Toasted in hot ashes, insects are a rich source of proteins and fats. A good supply of insects can keep you alive indefinitely.
An extra pair of socks are a priceless commodity to pamper cold, wet, or tired feet. Also, they can be used as bags, mittens, bandages, pads, and other functional uses. In escapes, socks are worn over shoes to improve traction for climbing or descending moist, slippery rock faces. An improvised sap can be made with a sock and the Swiss knife to repel physical assaults. Use a whistle to distract attention before whacking with sap.
Dealing with injuries in pocket survival
All injuries must be promptly attended. The contents (iodine swabs, wound preps, antibiotic ointment, butterfly tapes, adhesive bandages, aspirins, and antacid tablets) of the pocket first aid pack are used to clean, disinfect, and protect wounds, relieve pain, and to case the stomach distress that may accompany trauma.
Additional survival aids to consider are: a tiny bar of soap, 3 feet of tin-foil (cooking/trail-blazing), pencil and paper, water purification tablets, survival information cards, chemical lightsticks, hand mirror, 8 x 20 monocular (to scan direction of travel), a pocket-size metalized plastic sheet, and a slingshot.
In dark, unfamiliar terrain at night, tape an activated lightstick to end of a hiking stick. By keeping the light several inches above the ground, enough illumination is produced to see the trail ahead. This is especially useful for nighttime desert travel, as you can walk without fear of stumbling over unseen obstacles or risking injury.
Recommended article: Wilderness First Aid Basics
Dressed in layers and carrying weather adaptors, you have improved your chances of surviving an unforeseen emergency. Your pocket survival items help to make a potentially traumatic situation more bearable, allowing instant adaptation to the extremes found in nature.
Weathering a rainstorm is less a problem when wearing a hooded jacket, cap, rain pant-shell, gaiters, and a plastic poncho. Should night descend and the storm is still brewing, the pocket survivalist can always rig the roofed hammock and sleep high and dry.
Caught in a rapidly approaching blizzard, you can dress in vapor barriers, balaclava, skiwear, bandanna scarf, gloves, sock protection. More important is the ability to erect an insulated wickiup shelter to wait out the storm.
Once assembled and utilized in daily activities, the pocket survival concept is, in essence, a mini-life support system. In your pockets are the makings for escapes, shelter, bedroll, water collecting, food, health, warmth, directional, signals, food-gathering, and defense.
Learn to depend upon your pocket survival gear, your clothes, and your own abilities to meet any emergency that may arise. Be ready for anything, and you will survive.
Suggested resources for survivalists: