Time and time again, we hear news reports of persons involved in a survival situation of one type or another. The situation may have been caused by adverse weather, simply becoming lost while out of doors, or it may have been a tragic event such as a plane crash or an act of terrorism that brought the victims to their destiny. Sometimes we’ll hear of a happy ending, but more often than not, we hear reports of tragic fates that might have been avoided with basic knowledge and by having a few simple tools at hand.

alive2.gifFor the most part, modern man has lost the ancient arts of survival to the hustle and bustle of everyday life in a civilized world. Typically, man isn’t prepared for the unexpected loss of modern comforts and isn’t prepared to cope without those comforts.

While nothing will take the place of good training, proper practice and experience, you can improve your chances of survival by assembling and getting into the habit of carrying a well-thought-out and appropriately stocked personal survival kit (PSK). In preparing to “roll your own” PSK, take the following considerations into account:

A human can live:
3 minutes without oxygenated blood
coursing through the veins 
3 hours without appropriate shelter
from the elements 
3 days without water, and/or
3 weeks without food.

The implications of the Rule of Threes are clear. You need first aid equipment, tools for providing shelter and fire, gear for making and storing water, items for promoting your own rescue and a means of procuring food, in that order. 

Your personal skill level may indicate the type and amount of equipment you add to a survival kit. Someone with strong outdoors skills might pack less than one with less developed skills, relying instead on nature’s bounty. Your personal condition might also affect your choices. Do you have a nagging medical condition that requires special medicines? Do you have an arthritic condition or loss of use of a limb? If so, those conditions should clearly be reflected in what you add into your kit. Your condition could indicate buying larger items for ease of use and that are easy to manipulate with one hand.

If you trudge the streets of suburbia, your selections might be far different than one who haunts the woodlots, lakes and streams. Further, a seasonal selection like insect repellant might be great in the spring and summer, but be of little or no worth when cold weather comes. Regardless of season, location, or mode of travel, a map and compass are always a worthy addition to your gear.

Building Your Kit
So what do you add to a kit? The checklist sidebar will help you determine your specific needs; but, first and foremost, add training. Seek out skills training from reputable sources. Need first aid and CPR training? Check out your local Red Cross Chapter, your County’s Office of Emergency Management, and/or the American Heart Association. Need some wilderness skills training? There’s a host of good survival schools available. You can research survival schools on the Internet and select the one that seems to fit your needs, lifestyle and budget. Looking for personal recommendations or references from former students of the school can be a helpful guide to selecting a good school. 

Secondly, subscribe to the concept of EDC—“everyday carry.” EDC items will provide a level of redundancy to your survival kit. Redundancy provides options and in a survival situation, options are a godsend. Hence, make it a habit to throw a few essential items into your pocket or purse and have those items immediately available at all times. Add a quality LED flashlight like the Photon Freedom to your keychain or a SureFire E1L to your pocket. Be it Zippo, BIC, SparkLight, or FireSteel, have a means of one-handed fire starting available. Carry a bandana or two. Throw a few band-aids in your wallet. Carrying a good cell phone is a great measure of problem avoidance and problem solving. However, most importantly, select and carry a good quality knife or multi-tool. A good knife is man’s most basic tool.

How do you make the selection of a knife or multi-tool for everyday carry or kit purposes? There are scores of good knives and multi-tools currently available. Figure out your budget. Find something that is comfortable for you to carry and easy for you to manipulate. For EDC carry, knives with “jack-of-all-trades” blade designs like a plain-edged drop point, spear point, or clip point offer maximum utility. Whenever legal, you might select a small- to medium-sized fixed blade of full tang construction. Whether fixed or folder, opt for a knife that is of good steel, made by a reputable company that is known for properly heat-treating their steels. The heat treatment of the steel can be more important than the steel selected. Some excellent steels for EDC knives are 1095 carbon steel, S30V, VG-10, AUS8A, 440C, 12C27 stainless steels, and O1 or A2 tool steels. If you select a multi-tool for EDC, opt for a model with all locking tools and tools that don’t bunch up and cling together when you try to open one tool. When choosing a multi-tool for survival use, opt for a tool that has a well-made wood saw. The wood saw makes quick work of many survival tasks that would otherwise be harmful to your primary blade or which would expend too much precious energy to use your primary blade to accomplish.

Next, assemble the items necessary for survival in your area of operation. While camouflage has its place in the outdoors, it doesn’t have a place in a PSK. Consider selecting items in high visibility colors to reduce the chance of loss and improve your ability to find them in low light conditions. Also, consider that a survival situation is most likely to occur when your mental or physical condition is impaired. Select items for your PSK that are easy to use. Always think of energy conservation!

Here’s how I categorize the selections, based on the considerations above, and a few suggested kit components to consider for each category. You can substitute, add or subtract items as necessary to meet your tastes, skill level, budget, or available kit space. 

Lastly, once your selections have been made, find a decent container to house your choices. Waterproof hard cases, such as those offered by OtterBox, Pelican and Witz offer a comforting degree of crush resistance. Lock & Lock containers available from the housewares section of your local supermarket make an excellent choice for the budget conscious. Waterproof soft pouches make for comfortable carry in a cargo pocket. A clear container will help you identify what’s in the kit. Regardless of your choice of container, make it second nature to grab your newly made kit every time you leave the house.

Pre-Made PSK Options
There are a few worthy pre-assembled PSK’s on the market. One of the finest is the Adventure Medical Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pack. It makes one of the best starter kits I’ve seen. I use several of Doug’s Pocket Survival Packs that have been modified to meet my specific needs.

Whatever your choices are for EDC or PSK, buy the best you can afford to replace. This practice will allow you the ability to take the gear out under controlled conditions before an emergency exists to practice with them until your skills are strong. Keep in the routine of replacing that which you’ve used and re-inspecting the remaining components. Look at the listed expiration dates on any perishables and use the earliest date as a re-inspect date. Mark the re-inspect date on the outside of the container used. 

The simple fact of the matter is that if you were to walk out of your house today with a Mini BIC lighter, a Photon LED light and a Case Peanut pocketknife in your pocket, purse or pack, you’re probably better prepared than 99 percent of the population of civilized society. However, you can better your odds by compiling and habitually carrying a well-stocked Personal Survival Kit and having the good common sense to leave an itinerary with a competent adult every time you venture out.

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