Making Your Own Survival Kit by Gary Benton
Each summer thousands upon thousands of people attempt to spend some time with Mother Nature. They may hike, fish, hunt, walk, boat, or participate in any of a number of outdoor sports they enjoy. Often, they may be miles from other people and in some very remote corners of the country. Some people even have emergencies come up in designated campgrounds. A few, yes, just a few, will become lost, or maybe forced to survive. Often they are ill prepared for even an overnight emergency, much less for longer periods of time. Most emergency response teams, professional outdoorsmen, and survival instructors, highly suggest that anyone who spends much time with in the field carry a survival kit.
While there are professional survival kits available commercially, for less than fifty dollars a small compact survival kit can be made. Also, for a little more money a larger survival kit can be assembled. While many of you may have a lot of experience in the woods, constructing a survival kit takes a lot of preplanning. Your first consideration is the type of kit you want to construct. It is obvious that a large kit will have more components (great for families), and thereby make survival easier, but at the same time a large kit will weigh more. While smaller kits will weigh less, they will not have the creature comfort items you may want. So, step one is to decide two things; first, how experienced are you in the woods, and second, based on your experience, select the components for a kit. The more experience you have the less items you need to carry.
In all situations you should have a minimum survival kit on you at all time. For only a small investment you can buy all of the components needed, or you may find some survival kit components in your home (especially the bathroom). However, I suggest you never skimp on quality. Get the best components you can afford. Here are the absolute minimums I would recommend.
A good quality pen or jackknife.
Two unlubricated condoms, or un-powdered vinyl disposable gloves, for water storage.
A metal match (magnesium striker) and/or flint and steel (I carry both).
Half a dozen assorted band-aids.
A small disposable lighter.
Small button sized compass.
Scalpel blades, two different sizes, or single edge razor blades.
Very small flashlight, key chain size and type.
Four tablets of a pain reliever (acetaminophen, 500mg).
Six fish hooks of various sized, but mostly small.
Approximately thirty feet of 2 lb test fishing line, wound around the disposable lighter.
All of the components listed above will easily fit into small container. I use an old metal band-aid container, but any rigid, water resistant, container will do. I have seen military mess kits, plastic containers with snap on lids, and many other containers used for storage of this survival kit. I then tape the kit closed, using a length of electrician’s tape, which can also be used in the field as well. In an emergency, this minimum survival kit will keep you alive. Granted, it will be rough, but you have what you need to start a fire, store water, and procure a meal. However, I only suggest this kit to the most experienced woodsmen. This kit depends more on the user’s knowledge, than it does the components to survive.
If you want, or need a larger kit, there are a number of options available to you for containers, as well as components. But, let’s consider the containers first, because you have to decide how you want to carry a larger kit. Two of my favorites are fanny pack survival kits and survival vests. If you are backpacking, a survival vest may not be comfortable under the straps of your backpack, especially if the pack is heavy. In a case like that, I suggest you use a fanny pack worn backwards, with the storage case in front of you. If your upper torso is free, then a survival vest is by far the easiest and best way to carry all you may need.
While there are professional survival vests available (like the US Air Force 21/P), I suggest you save some money and make one from an old fishing vest. Or, even a new fishing vest is less expensive than a commercial military survival vest. If you use a fishing vest, all you have to do is maybe sew a couple of the pocket flaps with Velcro closures on them (just add the hook and pile to the pockets). Additionally, you may want to sew two large pockets inside the fishing vest (left and right sides) to hold your large soft items.
Regardless if you use a fanny pack or a vest, you will need the items I have listed above along with these:
A plastic whistle, with a lanyard for your neck.
A large plastic trash back for water condensation.
A large plumber’s candle.
A bottle of water purification tablets.
About fifty feet of parachute cord, 550 cord.
An emergency strobe light.
A space blanket. A casualty blanket.
A first aid kit.
Soap, bar, small hotel size.
Needles and thread.
Powdered sports drink of some kind, in a zip lock bag.
High-energy bars, or a dehydrated ration, or Meal Ready to Eat.
Additionally, you may want to include items that you feel you would personally like to have. I have added a poncho (I hate being wet), a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil folded up, a small aluminum cup, and six beef flavored bullion cubes, snare wire, flexible thumb saw, anti-diarrheas tablets, and a small survival manual. For me, this kit does the job. Also all of the components will fit easily into a vest or a fanny pack, with room to spare. I have some suggestions for packing a vest that will add to the overall comfort level of the wearer. Place the soft flat items (casualty blanket or a poncho) on the inside pockets. Keep all bulky or items with sharp corners on the outside pockets. After a few hours, if your vest has been packed incorrectly the components will start to “dig” into your body. Keep the soft items near the body and this is not a problem. Also, keep the nice to have items to a minimum. Don’t get carried away, or your survival kit will become too heavy.
As you head out to the woods this fall, take a couple of minutes to prepare a survival kit. A fanny pack is the easiest survival kit to construct, while a survival vest is simple and inexpensive to make. All it takes is a vest, some very basic survival gear, and a sewing machine (you can go with just the standard vest pockets if you don’t have a sewing machine). In less than an hour you can have a survival kit you can wear. A survival vest or fanny kit is always ready to go and you can just pick it up as you walk out the door. Within no time you will even forget you are wearing it. While survival is never easy, it does get easier when you have the needed gear along with you. Prepare for emergencies and you too will survive.
Take care and I will see you in the field.