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Monday, March 30, 2009


Survival is kind of a buzzword right now and there is a lot of talk about survival preparation and survival kits. It seems to me that when you think "Survival", you better set some guidelines. I guess I split survival up into three categories: short-term (hours to days), mid-term (weeks), & long-term (months or years.) For long-term survival, you need a community and a lot of prior preparation. For mid-term survival, you need to have a carefully filled pack or bug-out bag. For short-term survival, you will probably have to make do with whatever you have. When TSHTF, your "survival kit" is going to be whatever you happen to have on your person, and might be just the contents of your pockets. Since short-term survival is the most common and usually deadliest situation, I'm going to lay out some of my thoughts on it here. You can be dumped into a short-term survival situation quickly, easily & unexpectedly in this country. All it takes is a vehicle mishap, a power outage or a wrong turn and you might have to be self-sufficient for a couple of days. The most important things in your survival kit are knowledge and confidence. Add a cutting tool, a fire source, and a few other items and you are well on your way to "Happily ever after." Your biggest short-term need is warmth. You can get by a week or so without food and a day or so without water,but hypothermia is your worst enemy & can kill you in hours. You need either a small fire, an efficient shelter, or both. A habit of carrying a pocket knife and a disposable butane lighter in your pocket is a step in the right direction toward shelter & warmth and life. Carefully used, the knife prepares the materials for a fire and aids in building a shelter. The butane lighter is better than nothing, a little vial of matches is better, and a magnesium fire starter is probably best of all. A fire is vital for heat & perhaps to use as a signal for help. Smoke and fire always attract attention. I carry a little Fresnel lens in my billfold that can start a fire if the sun is bright enough, too. Any pocket knife is better than none at all, but the ideal knife would have a locking blade & perhaps a saw blade. The saw blade is handy for cutting limbs, and the locking knife blade prevents nasty accidents like having the blade fold shut on your finger while you are cutting with it. The German Army version of the Swiss army knife would be great, and a Leatherman is even better, though bulkier. A small flashlight can be a lifesaver. An LED light that runs off of one or two aa cells is ideal. This is my personal preference, with selectable power & an SOS feature. A few bandaids in your purse or wallet can be useful, as can a few big safety pins. They are cheap and small and worth carrying. If you have to walk out of wherever you are, knowing your directions can be vital. Marble makes an excellent tiny compass that can live on a key chain. If you need food, fish line and a few hooks that carry easily in a wallet can work quite well for birds and small game, as well as fish. (Yes, you can catch birds with a fish hook. You bait it, they swallow it. Dinner is served.) There are several good books on survival. This one & this one are two of the better ones. I need to reiterate this, though -- the most important things in your survival kit are knowledge and confidence. Stop. Think. Stay calm. And live. (Me) (Blacktail Books)


Jean&Vic said...

that is a very good start. The itemization of survival is a good one too. I am not sure if I have seen it referred to in such a way, but it is worth noting few people distinguish it in such a way.
The best bug out bag I have seen is usually one carried in a the trunk of a car. it has shelter (pup tent), warmth (thermal clothes, and sleeping bag) Food(enough canned goods for 7 days) and water (enough for 2 weeks). The tools vary from kit to kit, but the better ones usually have some form of blade (knife, hatchet, or other cutting tool), a utility can opener (remember those canned goods?), fish hooks are a great idea, and of course a spool of line to go with it. Rope is also handy, but in different circumstances finding a place to carry enough rope to be of use is not always prudent. Twin also works well in a pinch and some form of cordage should be considered. utensils for eating with, and from; Spoon and bowl are most common, and if they are metal can be cooked in too. Fire starting equipment is great to have, but knowledge comes in very handy if you lose it. Waterproof methods of starting an emergency fire are a good thing to have here. Flares work quite well for this, but are not always practical to carry (except in a vehicle). The term waterproof matches is not one to be trusted, though that magnesium block is a great starter, once it has reached ignition temps. Lighters are nice, and handy, but often times will break if they get too hot. A good old Zippo lighter works very well in this regard, as long as you keep it fueled. If not, all you will have is a flint, and nothing that will ignite (care to figure out how I know that one?)
there is one last thing you might need in a survival kit, though it is often times not thought about, and that is entertainment. A good book, or something like a pack of cards is a good thing to have, especially if you are not able to move around during the day due to weather conditions (high heat, or extreme cold) Getting bored while needing to survive can be a hazard to your health too.
Taking a page from some one elses book is to put together a bag, and use it one weekend (or to the max time you can allow for the bag to be used. then when you have experienced it, you need to figure out what is missing, and what is not needed. Make you adjustments from experience and it will pay dividends if you ever need to use it in real life.

Jim Handcock said...

A guy I knew ALWAYS carried a thick paperback in a baggie. He would get several uses out of it: Reading. Fire starting. Toilet paper.

I'd forgotten that -- THANKS, vIC!