I am a person who believes in being prepared. Sure, I have to deal with those out there who call me paranoid, but I just ignore them. Inevitably they seem to come to me to ask for something I have. It goes to show that preparedness is something that everyone can appreciate.
People can call me a survivalist nut, paranoid and other terms of endearment, but I have gotten into the habit of carrying a Personal Survival Kit during my daily routine. Personally I prefer to call the PSK my Preparedness Situational Kit. I call it by that name because I rarely carry the exact same one every day and in every situation. I have several kits that fit the situation I might face during that day’s particular activities.
Let’s work down from the largest kit to the smallest kit. Depending upon my personal needs I may carry any one of several kits…or even a combination of two or three. It just depends on my foreseeable needs.
Perhaps the largest of my kits is in my Maxpedition Fatboy S pack. The Maxpedition Fatboy is a pack designed to carry over the shoulder or across the chest with the bag hanging to your side. I bought mine at AG Russell’s store and it has proven to be one of the most useful items I have ever purchased. The Fatboy has numerous pockets, compartments, gear attachments, buckles and snaps to carry your needs. It is truly a hiker’s dream.
In my Maxpedition bag I have lots of gear to fit my daily needs…wherever the day might take me. In the main pocket I carry a PSK packed in a small Otter Box. I will share more information about the contents of this smaller PSK in a moment. I also carry a small first aid kit complete with bandages and gauze and I have included a Victorinox Executive for cutting tasks.
I also keep a “space blanket” in the pack for unexpected overnight stays. It takes very little space but it can pay off big time. I have a Brunton LED flashlight that doubles as a lantern, sewing kit, Victorinox Multitool and SwissChamp SOS kit, a large blaze orange cloth panel for signaling, an extra loud whistle, survival manual, notebook, magnifying glass (fresnel lens), a pen, fire starting material and a digital camera.
One of the great things about modern gear is that we have gotten better at making things compact. I have a small monocular in my Maxpedition bag that is highly effective, yet takes up little room. Most gear out there can be found in a smaller iteration if you look hard enough.
The Maxpedition bag gives me enough room to load extras, as I might need them. I often pack one of my FRS radios when hiking. Many people use these radios, especially rescue teams that might be looking for you if you are lost, and mine has a weather radio built in. Needless to say, I rarely go out without my cellular phone.
Of course the Maxpedition pack may not always be practical to take along. If I am already carrying a fair load of gear, I am not going to add to the burden by packing the Maxpedition also. In those cases I simply what a PSK that I can throw into my pocket in case I lose my gear or have an emergency that requires the goodies within.
For those times I take my Otter Box kit along. As you can see from the picture I have quite a bit loaded into the little box. Most of my kits were made around the Swiss Army Knife I have packed in them. In this case it is the coveted Lumberjack model. This is an 84mm Victorinox that has excellent “economy of size.” It is simply a main blade, an aggressive wood saw and a combo tool that opens bottle, cans and screws. It is a little knife with a HUGE heart.
I chose items for my kit based on usefulness and size. First, I packed implements to make fire. When you are wet and cold (which you usually are when “surviving” in the wilds) having the ability to make a fire becomes a huge priority. Fire not only warms and gives the ability to cook, it can also affect your morale. One cannot afford to slide down the slope of negativity.
If you look at the picture you will see several red foil packets. Those are foil packs from Folgers Coffee Singles. I have found them to be a very efficient way to pack fire making material as it is waterproof and my cotton ball and Vaseline tinder will not dry out in them. They also keep the petroleum distillates from messing up my matches. In those packs I have the Vaseline/cotton balls, some jute cord (makes excellent tinder and can be started with just a spark) matches, a lighter and I also have a magnesium fire starter nestled in the kit.
I have needle and thread in my kit because I have found that ripped clothing can become a major problem in the boonies. Minor repairs, stitching shoes or boots, or even making clothing can come in handy. I have even used a sewing kit to stitch myself up once…and no, I would not recommend it unless you HAVE to do it.
I also added some fishing line and hooks. In my area there is plenty of water to be found and some fish can make a very welcome meal. The fishing gear also makes great traps, lashings and sewing material in a pinch.
I have a small LED keychain flashlight in my kit. The LED lights last a very long time and having a flashlight can make a huge difference to you when lost. If you have ever gone camping and forgotten a light, you know what I mean. The light I chose allows one to squeeze it to activate, but it also has a permanent switch that is welcome when your hands are cold. One of the most useful things my light has ever done, is helping me get a fire started on a pitch black night. It was much easier when I could see my fire starting tools.
I added some cordage to my kit because it is just so darn useful. One of the most prized skills to Native Americans was the ability to make cordage. You do not have to do much primitive living to start missing rope and string. It can do everything from feeding you, to making fire to making shelter. I also packed some wire for additional lashing and for making snares.
A small Suunto compass rounds out my small Otter Box kit. If push comes to shove, I might have to get myself out of a situation. The Suunto is incredibly accurate for its size and fits my kit well.
Since this kit is packed away in an Otter Box, I can carry it regardless of where I am going or what weather conditions I might face. I can ever pack it in my vest when I go canoeing or rafting.
Another kit that one can easily make is what I call the Tin Kit. This is simply a small PSK packed away in a tin like the kind Altoids mints come in. This is a very small simple kit that can be thrown into a pocket or glove box and it will be there when needed.
With this type of kit one must think of the items that he or she will most LIKELY need. First, will this be a kit for hiking or hunting? If so you might want to consider going to the waterproof box kit. Will this kit be for everyday use? If so, it may be packed a bit differently.
Personally, my Tin Kit is what I call my “Urban PSK.” I have the kit built around my Victorinox MiniChamp knife. It is a tiny knife that has a large array of tools. I then packed my kit with items that I feel will be useful around the office or around town. I have my sewing kit packed along with a small assortment of safety pins for emergencies. If you wear glasses you might consider a small repair kit for them. I supplanted the screwdriver for one of the corkscrew models from Victorinox because it take up much less space. I included a lighter as it often proves a valuable item whether you smoke or not. I also packed a small flashlight in the form of an Inova LED key chain light.
Another type of PSK I sometimes use is the Medicine Bottle PSK. As the name implies this is a small PSK packed away in one of the larger medicine bottles one can get from a pharmacy. Once again I usually build this one around a MiniChamp, a Midnight Manager, or a Classic…all by Victorinox. I like to choose models with LED lights built in to save space in my kit. This kit does not allow the same volume as some of the others, so economy of size is VERY important. Usually this kit will fit in the Urban PSK category for me. I keep it packed with material that will come in handy around the office or around town. I like to throw some bandages in mine because I have children, and they often need bandages for scraped knees and elbows. I also throw in some Tylenol or Ibuprofen for cases where I might need it.
Finally, I sometimes have pretty much NO room and find that taking extras along is not in the cards. I have a mini survival kit built around a Victorinox Hunter…or rather built ON the Hunter. I attached a lanyard with several implements added on that come in handy. I have an Inova LED light, compass, a Kershaw ferro rod and a waterproof capsule containing matches.
I know it may look foolish to some, but keep in mind that the lanyard is set up to be quickly removed by use of a barrel lock. If you have a cutting chore in which the lanyard would be in the way, simply press the lock and pocket the lanyard. It is just a simple way to carry gear that may become essential in a worst case scenario.
The latest issue of Tactical Knives has an excellent article on Bug out Bag (BOB) kits. The article can be found on page 54 of the May, 2006 issue. In the article we find that the lessons learned from recent disasters like Hurricane Katrina have prompted the Red Cross to suggest that we all have a higher level of readiness for unforeseen disasters in the future. With that in mind it may not be a bad idea for each of us to have a little kit there to help us along the way.