As a retired military survival professional, who has instructed thousands of US Air Force aircrews as a Life Support Instructor, I'm often asked a very complex question, "What kind of survival kit is best?" It's not an easy question to answer and for a lot of different reasons. During my military career, which lasted over 26 years and carried me to the four corners of the world, I lived in some very different environments. I've been in the arctic snows of Alaska, jungles of the Philippines, floated in a raft in the Gulf of Mexico, and walked around mountains in the state of Washington. I'm not even considering my numerous camping trips in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, or Mexico. Many thoughts go through my mind each time I'm asked this question and I've never really given a good answer, in my opinion.
The individual asking the question is my first consideration. If the person is well experienced in the art of hunting, camping, hiking, or fishing, they will most likely need less gear than an inexperienced person. Hunters who camp are usually the best qualified, in my opinion, because many of them hike to where they hunt, then camp and hunt, which makes them more outdoors qualified. It's important when you're looking for a good survival kit to fully understand your limitations in the field. It's also crucial to be honest and don't make the mistake of thinking you can get by on very little, when you really can't. Additionally, don't confuse comfort with survival, because survival is not a comfy situation. It's being able to do what it takes to stay alive, with what gear you have, and that will mean some discomfort.
Also, the environment you're attempting to survive in has a lot to do with your survival odds. It's easier to survive in a jungle than it is the Arctic Circle, or a burning desert. Each area requires a different survival kit, with the environment considerations as a motivator. In the desert you'll want more water, sun screen, wide brimmed hat, and so on. While in the arctic you'll want gear that will assist you in staying warm, such as hot foods, shelter, and a good sleeping bag. The environment plays a key role in your survival efforts and should always be considered as you assemble or purchase a survival kit. So, keep in mind your knowledge, environment, and gear you think you'll honestly need.
An experienced person outdoors can survive with very little, compared to those without experience. For instance, in most cases, I carry the items listed below and know I can survive for days using the gear.
- A quality penknife or jack knife;
- Good quality first aid kit;
- Plastic whistle - to signal with;
- Two zip-lock freezer bags for water storage;
- Water proof matches;
- Signaling mirror;
- Flint and steel or a metal match;
- Water purification tablets or bleach. I prefer bleach, because it's the best way to purify water;
- A long strip of heavy duty aluminum foil folded up to cook with;
- Fishing kit, i.e., hooks, sinkers, and some line. Nothing fancy;
- Commercial back packing first aid kit (with instructions);
- One small pack of gum and one of hard candy (energy);
- Also, I carry three other things on my person. I carry a good quality space blanket, dry socks, and about twenty feet of nylon cord.
You may have noticed, I did not say I would be comfortable during my survival situation. You'll notice the lack of a meal or real food and that's not an important issue for most healthy individuals. We can go weeks without food, but only a limited time without water, depending on the temperature. In the desert, for instance, a temperature of over 100 degrees can kill you in just a few hours, but that also depends on a number of variables. In this article I don't have the space to expand on desert survival.
Now, a good minimum survival kit has: A knife, whistle, magnesium match, signal mirror, water treatment tablets, small fishing kit, compass, and water container of some sort. You can order a good minimum survival kit from the Simple Survival Store, and the prices are pretty low, but if you're like most folks, you'll need a lot more gear than a minimum survival kit.
At Country Sporting Goods you'll find a complete list of survival kits that are sure to meet the needs of anyone experiencing an emergency. The store carries car survival kits, blackout survival kits, emergency survival kits, food and water, and the list goes on and on. The gear is made in the US and not cheap imports, so you know you're buying quality survival gear. All of your survival gear should be the best you can afford and cut no corners in gear quality. Remember, you're betting your life on the survival gear you have with. When push-comes-to-shove, your survival gear is your life insurance policy.
William L. Benton has previously authored two books on Survival. You can visit his site http://www.simplesurvival.net to download a free E-book titled, 120 Outdoor Kids Recipes.