Survival kits suit preppers. Survival kits offer 30 to 50 percent savings so you can buy more gear for the dollar. Kits let you add custom features so you can hide weapons or add other special touches to exactly suit your needs.
However, the biggest advantage of kits is repairing. If you build it, you can fit it. Survival kits last longer than many store-bought items too.
Engineers design kits for durability even without careful assembly. So if you do the job according to directions, you get maximum durability. You know the materials are first-rate. You see gear before it goes together, so defects cannot be hidden.
Since survival kits store compactly, you can buy them and stash them until needed too. Survival kits add one final advantage, they offer the satisfaction of a total job so often lacking in today’s fragmented world.
🧰 Survival kits of many traits
Kits come in more flavors than Baskins and Robbins. You can smith up a black-powder weapon, assemble a crossbow, put together a knife, or make your own mocs and came gear. You can build 2WD and 4WD two, three, four, and more wheel vehicles. You can build canoes, kayaks, skiffs, johnboats, or even ocean-going power or sailing craft. You can build ultra-light aircraft and other planes. If you like, you can live in kit homes or cabins. All sorts of electronic kits meet survivalist needs.
As always, intelligent selection keys value. Except for aircraft and a few vehicle kits, specialized skills are not needed. At least not for the 50 or more kits I have assembled. I should note here that I am a reasonably skilled handyman and relatively familiar with mechanical and electrical work. Even so, I have built vehicles, boats, depth finders, electronics, and other items by following directions one step at a time. Any procedure that takes special skills or tools is done at the kit factory.
📊 Quality is key
Before we look at individual kit classes, let us look at kits from the consumer’s viewpoint. Since you see the “innards” of your gear, manufacturers must provide top-grade materials.
Manufacturers can provide such materials because they sell direct and do not split profits with middlemen and retailers. They also change models less frequently and can carry a smaller inventory of materials, so their finance cost is low as well. You pay for the shipping and supply much of the labor. So they enjoy a decent profit margin. They also depend on word of mouth advertising for much of their sales.
One test of quality is the willingness of a manufacturer to refer you to happy buyers. Another is the duration of the kit company; those in business three years or more should be around if you later have problems.
A good test of quality is the guarantee. Look for a “no questions asked, send it back if you don’t like it” guarantee. Ask about the phone and online help, and favor manufacturers near your home to cut shipping costs,
I find quality the key to results. For example, you can buy cheap black powder rifle kits for under $500. It takes one or two hours to put it all together—top-grade gear often assembles faster. I find quality costs less in the long run as it implies durability and, if you find you need something else, improves resale value. So consider price, but realize the real cost of an item is the purchase price divided by the number of times it is used.
🏷️ The price may vary
Price means the total price. Some survival kits only require assembly. Others require additional outlays for finishes, Some, such as vehicles, aircraft or boats, sink budgets with options or special tools. Don’t forget the shipping costs.
While you require very few exotic tools to assemble kits, I have found manufacturer’s recommendations sound. If they say “X tool makes assembly much easier,” you can bet the same job with the standard tools you have in a home workshop takes forever.
You should carefully consider your workspace and time before you order any kit. Every year builders need to use cranes to hoist boats over houses. A buddy even built a massive gun rack in a room with an undersized door we had to remove. I couldn’t complain, I installed a solar hot water heater in my basement and then discovered the heater was two inches larger in diameter than my crawlspace door.
If possible, set up a workspace where you can work in sunlight—this is most important if sewing dark fabrics—and try to set up work so it can stay up until the project is complete. Otherwise, you spend too much time putting things away.
Once you know you have the desire, space, and the tools you need, it is time to consider survival kits. Try to check as many catalogs and offers as possible so you can see exactly what you get for your dollar. Compare features closely. Realize that “suggested completion times” like everything else, need to be doubled in the real world, except for the mechanically gifted.
Insist on referrals of satisfied customers if you consider any big-ticket kit. Other builders help you over rough spots and suggest short cuts, local suppliers or optional gear, and more. Then call the help number and use plastic money if you like.
The day your kit arrives—you might want to be there on big-ticket items—immediately check the container(s) for damage. Damages in transit seem the responsibility of the carrier, but manufacturers need to know immediately to get replacement parts on the way. Next, open the packages and check off their contents against the packing list. Clothing and other kits with lots of parts seem most likely to omit pieces. Most include a replacement parts listing. I figure this is their fault and call their number for immediate replacement.
Now sit down and read the instructions at least twice. I like to underline any sections that do not seem transparently clear. Realize that instructions are written for those with no technical knowledge. Don’t assume that assembly is the same as the methods professionals use.
Try to separate small parts such as bolts and screws. Use the pictorials most survival kits provide. You might store parts in empty egg cartons marked with a pen.
Finally, plan assembly in sections so you can work for a few hours at a time. If you work nonstop, you get tired and make mistakes that—at least in my case—take longer to rectify than doing it right.
Now that you see how to shop and set up for kits let us see what is available and the specific advantages and potential pitfalls of major survival kit classes.
While not as glamorous as guns and such, survivalists know clothing and footgear are the keys to comfort in the field. Both wear out fast in a survival situation. General considerations that apply to clothing also apply to soft goods such as packs or tents.
Clothing kits come with all sorts of special features, such as removable sleeves. Most companies offer a free or low cost “customizing” booklets in addition to informative illustrated catalogs. Vests and pile garments seem the easiest approach. Save multilayered fill parkas and such for second or third tries.
All standard fills, and state-of-the-art materials such as Gore-Tex come in kit form. However, piles and other “solid” materials sew up faster and more easily than fill garments. Fills require baffled inner and outer layers and more complex designs. Piles only need edge sewing to prevent raveling and edge seams.
Survivalists do have special requirements. Nylons tend to be noisy in the woods, and any slick finish flashes in sunlight. Cordura offers more durability. Pile, while it lets breezes cut through if not topped with a shell, seems the quiet choice just now available in camo.
As a rule, garments with a single function, such as weatherproofing or insulation, get worn more often than insulated weatherproofing garments. Layer on the functions you need; remove those you do not, and carry the extra in a waist pack or knapsack if you like and you survive with a smaller outfit.
Kits mean choice. For example, I replace snaps with velcro fasteners that are quiet and more secure. I avoid hoods, even removable hoods on parkas, and replace them with wool or poly watch caps with Gore-Tex waterproof inserts. Hoods reduce hearing levels—like many survivalists my hearing is damaged from gunfire noises—and many do not turn with the head.
Pockets represent another area of choice. I sew a waterproof turn-under pocket onto the back hem of parkas. The inside top unfastens, so the parka drops to form a dry seat. I sew shell loops inside cargo pockets and on the breast of my jacket and add a no-slip shoulder pad. Velcro strips that hold handwarmer, pockets shut keep pockets dry and reduce snagging. Soft, nap fabric insulating pocket inserts help keep hands warm.
The main problems with sewn kits involve thread selection—sometimes, you need to change thickness—and stitch spacing and tension. Practice on scraps, so stitches neither cut nor bunch the material, and you avoid problems. Avoid dark blue or green, and you can eliminate eyestrain.
You can find survival kits for CB radios, programmable robots, drones, computers, stereos, speakers, depth finders, and a host of other items. Basic soldering skills may sometimes be required, but easy to learn with a practice package if needed. Not to mention that retailers offer a troubleshooting service for a reasonable fee or even free of charge if you have a problem.
I find an electronics temperature gauge a great help when fishing and a graph depth finder a must for safe boating in unknown waters. You can also buy electronic intruder alarm systems that kit together reasonably easily. Those with wireless sensors remain the choice to avoid complex wiring. Kit versions of infrared, pressure mats, and other options easily attach to such systems. The computer literate will find programs that utilize various add-on alarms to home computers.
🎣 Fishing kits
Many rod manufacturers offer kit versions of their ready-made rods. Try the latter in tackle shops, and you know what to expect. As a rule, you need one evening to build a rod grip, one evening to wrap on guides, and two half-hour periods to complete the job.
Even greater savings come from lure-making kits. Spinners and trolling blades, spoons, sinker, and jig molds, plug bodies, and popper or fly tie kits all save 70 percent or more.
The most important “kits” in the weapons field remain reloading kits. Given the number of options in today’s market, this area deserves a complete article. However, you can’t go wrong with a simple shotgun reloading kit complete with adjustable charge bars and a basic metallic cartridge reloader from respected manufacturers. Just make sure you buy a complete set or more of parts such as wad fingers that need replacement.
While you can find kit add-ons for conventional weapons, survivalists realize the advantages of renewable black powder. If you do plan to enjoy primitive hunts, now pay careful attention to caliber, ignition type, and barrel length regulations that vary from state to state. Otherwise, go with percussion caps that ignite more often than flints. Stash Pyrodox too. It fouls less and keeps better than black powder that requires careful storage well away from your home.
Given the choice, Hawkins and other shorter barreled weapons in .45 to .50 caliber work well. For all-around use, it’s difficult to fault a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun you can load with anything from bird shot to ball. Smoothbores aren’t as inaccurate as some think out to 50 yards or so.
Assembly isn’t difficult. One year when I needed a Hawkins in a hurry, I got a kit ready to shoot the next day, shot a deer at a special hunt, then spent a couple of weeks redoing the job. Pre-fitted metal parts need filing; wood gets sandpapered. Then metal parts get a browned dull finish, and wood can be oiled or varnished.
Recommend article: 5 Considerations For Packing Firearms During Disaster
Expect to spend 10 to 30 hours for a decent result; more if you are picky. Knives deserve a complete article. Some survivalists flaunt 12-inch blades. I still own my Randall but find a sheath knife with a quality four-inch blade and a small pocket folder useful. All agree that the majority of users would find more control if they opted for a smaller blade. It also seems clear that many stainless steels lack the fine edge of carbon steels.
In shapes, a four- or five-inch drop point sans blood grooves and other decorative oddments works nicely for all game skinning and boning. A four-inch fillet or boning knife helps here too. Do pay attention to the handle shape that should be comfortable, so it does not slip even if slippery with sweat or blood.
🧑🌾 Garden, Greenhouse
You can also find a variety of greenhouse kits that let you grow vegetables year-round. Glass and plastic weatherproofing and metal, wood, or plastic frames seem usual. I prefer wood frames to the metal ones as wood seems easier to fix. Glass would be more easily replaced than plastics too.
One thing seems certain, no greenhouse is ever large enough after a couple of seasons, so consider a large model. Models with self-venting systems repay their increased costs with improved efficiency. Some lean-to greenhouses act as solar collectors to help heat your home. All functions more efficiently with the addition of solar mass, such as water-filled drums or special panels, which heat during the day and release heat gradually at night.
☀️ Heat, Power, Water
Wood seems an ideal fuel for survivalists who find kits that convert 55-gallon drums into inexpensive, if rather inefficient, stoves a decent investment. More expensive wood stove kits that include special hot water generating inserts offer an excellent alternative or complement to solar hot water heating systems.
Low flow hydroelectric generator kits work well with modest flows. Solar roof panels seem less cost-effective in all but desert areas due to the high cost per watt. In windy areas, a host of windmills can generate power as well as pump water. Diesel-powered generators are doubtless the most efficient option if rather noisy.
Water remains the basic survival need. Even where power pumps work, a hand pump backup kit seems worthwhile. Ram-type pumps can also push considerable amounts of water uphill in many situations. Time-honored windmill kits fill ponds for stock too. Solar water heating panels also work. Thermosiphon types or closed Freon systems require minimal piping.
Hang gliders, ultralights, and a flock of special-purpose aircraft are available in kits. Most require specialized riveting, welding, and other mechanical skills. So unless you already have a pilot’s license, a few thousand dollars, and a few hundred hours and the desire to be your own mechanic, engineer, and test pilot, check this area carefully before you invest and make certain you talk to satisfied buyers.
Canoes, skiffs, and prams get you across a stream or lake to excellent hunting and fishing out of range of the shore-bound. Besides, you can’t beat an island for survival! Some builders even opt for a powered ocean-going kit craft capable of ocean trips.
Build a pram first. Then consider larger projects. Kits with prebuilt fiberglass hulls assemble the fastest. Wooden hulls have obvious advantages of easy repair with hand tools and replacement materials. Except for fiberglassing or welding steel hulls which require special skills and the use of a well-ventilated area, kit boat construction isn’t that difficult.
An extra pair of hands to assemble larger pieces comes in handy. Building larger craft in a yard where you can hire tricky jobs done remains the best approach.
🔧 Odds & Ends
Of course, these are only a few of the many survivalist kits on the market. You can buy log cabins, a geodesic dome, and earth shelter building kits. You can assemble furniture, food dehydrators, and smokers and a host of others
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