When Glorious Leader Obama blabbed that the US Navy’s Seal Team Six killed UBL there were countless newspaper and magazine articles about the mysterious men and their gear (whether any of it was factual or conjecture is irrelevant as there were some pretty good ideas that can be applied to civilian prepping). An article in USA Today showed a photo of a Navy commando and described their gear. The article suggested that regardless of the mission and whatever mission specific gear and weapons they carry, they always carry a very basic survival kit in one of their pants cargo pockets and a blowout kit or first-aid kit in the other cargo pocket. The logic is that if they lose all of their other gear, deplete all of their ammo and ditch their gear to lighten the load while they are on the run, or have to lose their gear to blend into the local populous while they attempted to E&E (escape & evade) that they would still have the means to survive, and to patch up any extra holes that they acquired on the mission. Included in the pocket survival kit was a means of illumination, a way to make fire, and enough of the local currency to bribe their way out of trouble.
The USA Today article really got me thinking. The Seal philosophy can be applied for civilians that enjoy the outdoors. Examples: You are on a hiking/camping trip/hunting. Of course you carry a ton of gear in your backpack and have everything that you need setup at camp. Maybe you have trouble finding your way back to camp in the dark after climbing down out of your tree stand (been there, done that). Maybe you stayed too late looking at that spectacular water fall and aren’t going to make it back to camp before dark falls (been there, done that too). What if you are going out trail riding on your dirt bike or 4-wheeler for just a couple of hours. You break down, get a flat tire, or you get lost before it gets dark and you realize that you are going to have to spend the night in the woods. Having a compact, easy to carry survival kit in your pocket can really make the difference between a major inconvenience and a total catastrophe.
I started researching pocket-size personal survival kits (PSK) on the internet. I found lots of articles and YouTube videos featuring pocket-size kits made out of old Altoids candy tins. Below are a few of the videos that I found. Some of the kits are pretty elaborate and I am very surprised at how much micro-sized gear that is crammed inside. I think that some of it might be a little overkill. In my pack I have enough gadgets to keep me fat, dumb, and happy for an unintentional extended stay in the great outdoors. My philosophy with a PSK is that it needs to be compact and small enough that there won’t be any reason that it won’t be in your pocket at all times (like a good old pocket revolver). Its purpose is to keep you alive should you lose or be separated from all of your gear and need to stay out in the woods for a night. If I know that there is a good possibility that there might be trouble then I carry a more substantial firearm, but otherwise I always have a pocket pistol in my pants or jacket pocket. There isn’t an excuse for not having some type of firearm on you at all times (well…most all of the time). Likewise, if I expect to get lost then I’ll have a more substantial survival kit on me, but otherwise I can just carry a small compact kit just in case. If it is small and compact then there is not an excuse to have it on all of the time.
What to carry? Some of the kits in the videos are pretty elaborate. Mine is simple. I want a way to be able to see when it gets dark, a way to start a fire, and a way to call out for help. In mine I have a small Streamlight brand LED light that runs on a single AAA battery, a Bic mini lighter, a small whistle, a couple of Band-Aids, and a folded up piece of aluminum foil. All of the contents fit into a small size Zip-Lock plastic bag intended for arts and crafts (like you see drug dealers carry their drugs in on the TV show Cops). The bags can be found in the arts and crafts section of Wal-Mart. They will keep the contents (especially the lighter) dry should you take an unintentional dip in a creek or get rained on. The kit is held closed by several “Ranger bands” that are discussed in one of my other blogs. Ranger bands are simply made from a bicycle tube (mountain bike size tubes work best) cut into one inch bands. They are basically thick, heavy-duty rubber bands. They are great for starting a campfire in a survival situation. Even soaking wet a one inch wide band will burn for an average of two minutes (yes…I actually have timed a couple of burns).
If you are tailoring your PSK for more of an urban environment you might include coins for vending machines or pay phones (I can’t remember the last time I saw a pay phone), and some “get home” money for a taxi or to buy food.
However you design it, and what ever container you use, your PSK should be compact enough that you won’t ever be out in the wild without it in your pocket, and contain enough items to keep you alive for a night. Keep it light and simple or you won’t carry it. A simple kit in your pocket is better than an elaborate kit back at camp or back at home when you need it.