The best survival kit is a usable survival kit
First off let me say that before you try any of the things in this article, that I am in no way responsible for your own actions, use this info at your own risk. Survival is nothing to take lightly.
This is common sense you may say to yourself. But how many people go into the woods and don't come back to tell what they wish they had and what they did wrong. WITH THAT IN MIND I COME TO MY FIRST RULE IN SURVIVAL: NEVER GO ANYWHERE UNLESS SOMEONE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE GOING AND WHEN YOU SHOULD BE BACK!!!
I have been a survivalist for many years now and have found that all the knowledge in the world is no good to you in a survival situation if you don't have the equipment or more importantly if you don't know how to use the equipment you have. Now I am sure there are types of people out there that can live in the woods forever without all the new "stuff" survival companies have come up with, but why spend a few nights out in the cold when all it takes is a little preparation and a lot of practice. Yes I said a lot.
The best survival kit is a usable survival kit
Contrary to popular belief, survival knowledge does not come over night or just because you have read a few books and got a shiny new survival tin full of goodies. The information that follows will help you buy or make a kit that you can use and also give you the necessary knowledge of how to use that kit in a manner that promotes self reliance, I NOR ANYONE ELSE CAN LEARN FOR YOU! That being said here is how I did it for myself.
Step 1. CAMPING. That's right camping. The more you camp the more you find out what you can or cannot do without in the woods. Try leaving 1 or 2 pieces of gear at home that you did not use on the last trip. This may be as big as a tent or as small as a can opener. The less equipment you find that you need to camp in comfort, the more knowledge you will gain about yourself in the wild. Now I am not saying to go out in the wild in 10 feet of snow without proper cold weather gear, just make yourself uncomfortable enough to say to yourself "Hey I could do this if I had to". Once you have obtained self awareness you are ready to move on. You will know when the time is right, you will find confidence you never had before. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT MY WAY TAKES TIME, BUT IN A REAL SURVIVAL SITUATION, THE MORE PRACTICE YOU HAVE THE MORE OF A CHANCE YOU WILL HAVE OF MAKING IT OUT ALIVE!
Step 2. The list. All survival kits should have these major groups of equipment scaled to the size you feel comfortable using. Start out big, maybe a backpack. Then go smaller as you gain confidence in your ability. More on size later. The major groups are KNIFE,SHELTER, WATER, SIGNALING, FOOD, FIRE, AND FIRST AID. I wont go into every little piece of equipment that you could possibly use for each of these, but I will however go over a few of the best of each. Since a survival kit is designed to be something you can carry on your person and we are going from big (beginner) to small (skilled) we will discuss the 2 extremes of each piece of equipment and you can find a middle ground if needed for the journey from beginner to skilled.
FIRST OFF GET A GOOD KNIFE, AND LEARN TO USE AND SHARPEN IT WITH COMMERCIAL SHARPENERS AND ON SMOOTH ROCKS (yes it can be done) YOUR KNIFE IS THE BASIS OF EVERY OTHER ITEM IN A KIT, NEVER BE WITHOUT A KNIFE. Go with fixed blade single edge full tang and don't skimp on the money, you won't regret it. Research this VERY thoroughly. Now on to the other items.
SHELTER: Shelter is your first priority in the wilds. It not only protects you from the elements, it also gives you a place to call home in a time you need it most. Since you can get quite a bit in or on a backpack, your first survival shelter should be a small tent that is easily transported and set up. Quality of gear is the key. As for our smallest kit (that's going to be a survival tin of one form or another) you may only be able to fit a sheet of plastic or survival blanket or poncho to work with. In both cases you will need insulation for cold weather, and even in a backpack you will find little room for a heater.
Hopefully you will have learned in your camping exercises that proper dress and use of natural insulation from plants and the like is all you need to make it through the night. Extreme situations, for example frozen wilderness or desert conditions will call on the knowledge of that environment. I can't tell you where you will be going to spend your survival life, but reading up and experiencing it is the major key to that sort of thing. I myself have never had the opportunity to be in those extremes but practice in the weather I do get in my home state and follow up reading and the like will account for more than you know. EXAMPLE: Once I built an Igloo just to see if I could and let me tell you no matter what the natives say it is a cold night. But it showed me I could do it. Read and practice.
WATER: Don't take a chance on your first trips and bring more water than you think you need. The body only lives for a few days in nice weather without it. In harsh weather you may be DEAD in minutes. In a backpack you can use bottles or hydration systems with tubes for efficiency. BUT you should always have a way to boil or chemically purify water that you WILL need to replace in your containers. With a big kit pump purifiers are the best. They are easy to use and reliable. In your pocket/tin kit you may have to use the tin itself to boil your water in and use purifying tabs in a pre-measured measured bag for the amount of water a tab will handle. Never take a chance with water, filter it through a cloth if you have to, then boil it or use tabs to purify it before you drink. The only time you should even take a chance is if there is no other way to go on. And even that is a risky idea. Once again READ AND USE your equipment to get to know it.
SIGNALING: This one is simple, both large and small kits have basically the same devices in them, a signal mirror, a flashlight, and a whistle are the items I have come to never be without in the wild. All of them are best to have and in a small kit they won't take up much room. Once again quality. LEDs are best for flashlight because of range of light and use of little battery power, also no bulb to change. They come in very large to the size of a quarter. If you can't fit all 3 in a kit at least have the mirror in and the other 2 on a necklace or key chain. Also learn distress signals and maybe some Morse code.
FOOD: You would be amazed at how long you can go without food. You shouldn't even eat if you don't have a good supply of water for that matter. At first carry your food in. Not every state allows practice survival food gathering (if any state for that matter). For practice purposes bring food you can cook over a fire, so you can get the feel of it even though you did not kill it. When it comes to gathering food in the real deal, pack fishing, and trapping items for example a small rod and reel and prefixed fixed snares in your big pack or even a small gun if legal (but hey in a real survival situation who cares). This is where I again stress that your actions are your own and I am not responsible for your actions.
As for the tin kit you can get away with a few hooks, several feet of good fishing line, and thin military style trip wire. There are more items you can use like 550 para cord that has 7 inner strands that make great thread, fish line and the like. Learn to make spears. And other ways of getting live game. When it comes to plant life that is your call. I find it troubling at best, now don't get me wrong you may have to use them if there is no way to get game, but that require a lot of reading and bring that info to the field to practice. I have done it but try not to use it if I don't have to. There are more poison plants than animals in my book. Everything that flies crawls swims and slithers can be eaten with a few exceptions. LEARN THEM.
On to FIRE: always carry a Bic lighter. They are better than matches and will not take up much more room. You can carry matches (I do) but a lighter is fool proof. Next to that a magnesium fire starter with a flint built in is the way to go. I have never needed to use any thing else but these 2 items. BUT in both kits bring as many cotton balls and fire starting sticks that you can find. I don't like to rely on a fire spindle and dry grasses if I don't have to. READ READ READ then DO DO DO on this just like everything else. It is easier than you think to use these items.
When it comes to FIRST AID: In a big kit bring the best and most comprehensive first aid kit you can get. Then before you try to use it take a class or read SEVERAL books on first aid. When you rely on a tin, you have to do with duck tape, band aids, stitching items (needle and thread or sutures) and maybe some pain killers and stomach pills, also a scalpel or razor blade and some tweezers come in handy. Of course if you need special health items take as much of these items as you can. I need glasses or contacts just to make it through the day. I keep both in a large kit and just contacts in my small tin. As with any trip anywhere you need to be as careful as you can and don't take unnecessary risks. That way you won't need to do field surgery. Learn Learn Learn. I can't stress that enough.
Now that we have discussed some, (but by no means all), of the items that should be in a kit. I suggest you look at other people's books and articles on kits and build for every piece of info you can. I am not the authority on survival, I have just had experience. Just Google and you will get as much info as you can handle. Beware of tips and information that you don't see a lot of, this may or may not be entirely true to life. And when you feel you can make it on a trip with a small tin, buy or make 2 so you are practicing with same thing you keep whole in your pocket. Never stop experimenting with new ideas and ways to make it better. Get as much good gear in the space as you can and then carry other items in your pockets. Always double or triple up on items if you can. Never stop practicing and trying new things.
I am sure I have left out something so don't stop with this info, go on and be like a sponge. Soak up every bit you can before you need to use it. Even if you never have to use it, you will have the time of your life in the woods ether by yourself or with family or friends. Once again I stress the importance of letting someone know where and when you are going and coming back. Please be safe when you practice and when you go out in the wild. Don't take it for granted. It is a wonderful thing.
-Written by Jimmie Foster
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