Categories
Phillosoph

Survival Kits: Bringing It All Together

Today I am going to try and bring together some of my ideas regarding survival kit and selection of contents. When possible, I try to approach topics from a different perspective to that echoed on most websites.
Regular readers may know that I have my reservations about the “little tin of gizmos”. Thinking that you are covered because you have a couple of band-aids and a couple of loose fishing hooks and swivels is a recipe for disaster.
Survival kit may exist on several levels. On your person you will have your skin-level EDC. Most of mine is in the pockets of my trousers, although some items are on my trouser belt or key-ring. If you are carrying a bag, it is prudent to have some additional items in your bag. You consume the items in your bag in preference to your skin-level items. Military personnel often have an intermediate level in their webbing load-bearing equipment. Ideally this should only hold ammo, weapons, some water and immediate first aid items but the tendency to add additional gear is common. A larger pack or vehicle may provide higher levels of survival gear. One should always plan for the contingency that one may get separated from bags or vehicles. This is why your skin-level gear is important.
My current planning list looks like this:
Seven Tools of EDC
Hat, Towel, Rope
Medical, Writing, Fire, Knife
Foundation Survival Kit
Blanket, Fire, Knife
Poncho, Water, Toilet Paper, Canteen Cup
Travelling Kit
Navigation, Signalling, Illumination
Washing, Repairs, Food,
Documentation, Money, Clothing, Armament
The item names are memory aids and should be taken generically rather than specifically. “Knife” represents other tools, “blanket” represents sleeping bags and related items and so on.
The Seven Tools of EDC
The Seven Tools of EDC were inspired by the roguku or Six Tools of Travelling. I remember these as three flexible things (hat, towel and rope), three multi-part things (medical kit, fire kit and writing kit) and a knife.
Hat” represents other protective clothing, such as gloves, goggles and sun-glasses. At “skin-level” this will be whatever headgear and other items suits the current or expected weather. If I am taking a bag I will probably have two hats. One will be to protect from the sun and keep the rain off my glasses, probably a boonie hat. The other will be a warm hat such as a watch cap or headover. If it is really cold spare gloves and headover are a prudent precaution.
Towel” in this context is a multi-purpose piece of cloth. At skin-level this is a bandanna in my pocket but recently I have also been wearing a shemagh. If I lose or did not bring my hat these can serve as head coverings. Any bag I carry usually has a spare bandanna and/or shemagh in it. In colder conditions the shemagh is replaced or supplemented by a woollen or acrylic scarf.
Rope” for the ninja may have meant a grappling hook and rope. For me this reminds me to carry some cordage. At skin-level this is a couple of armspans of paracord, a hank of string, a container of dental floss and a retaining cord for my glasses. Packs contain longer lengths of paracord. If heading for the deep wilderness I would have a toggle rope or the modern equivalent.
Medical Kit. On my person I have a small number of plasters, alcohol wipes and pain-killers, plus some personal medication. I have a more extensive medical kit I carry in daysacs, plus a bigger kit in my travelling bags. Medical also includes such items as insect repellent and sun cream. These are usually bag items but certain conditions may require a small supply to be carried on your person. Whenever possible items are consumed from the larger kits before the skin-level kit.
Writing represents communication and recording. In my pockets I carry a pen, pencil and two pieces of chalk (one light, one dark colour). Usually have a phone on my belt. Daysac may contain a notepad in a plastic bag. When on holiday I keep a journal.
Fire Kit. For everyday use this is simply a disposable lighter riding in the bottom of a pocket. I carry a plastic bag with a couple of tissues in, which could be used as tinder. If straying further afield I would add a container of tinder, fresnel lens and spare lighter to my pockets. Daysac has a couple of spare lighters and some candles.
Knife” represents tools and related hardware. My Swiss Army Knife goes nearly everywhere with me. I also have a Leatherman Squirt and pocket prybar on my person. A diamond impregnated metal card is carried for sharpening.
Foundation Survival Kit
The items on the Foundation Survival List are mainly bulkier “bag” items, with a couple of significant exceptions.
Blanket” represents sleeping items in general. It includes poncho-liners, sleeping bags, cloaks and long coats. These can keep you warm, even when not sleeping. This category is called “blanket” to remind us about the survival blanket, which is compact enough you can easily fit one or more in a trouser cargo pocket. They are reasonably priced so you can buy a dozen and stick spares in coat pockets and any bags you might carry. As well as keeping you warm, they can keep the rain off, spread out as a signalling panel, possibly even used as a heliograph. One is in the little medical pouch that carries most of my skin-level EDC. For decades now my daysac has carried the survival blanket’s larger cousin, an All-Weather Blanket.
Fire Kit. A fire kit was included in the original Foundation Kit list. It is repeated since the ability to create a fire is an important component of survival. Have a means of making fire on your person, and additional means in your bag. Consume the bag supplies before that on your person.
Knife. Another duplication, but repeated for much the same reason. In this context it can be read as “a bigger knife”. Useful as a pocket knife or muli-tool are, they can only get you so far. This category also reminds us to remember other, larger tools such as a crowbar or entrenching tool. Have a fixed-blade knife on your trouser belt. If you lose your pack, webbing or even your jacket or shirt you will still have a useful survival tool.
Poncho includes other forms of rain-proof clothing and shelter items such as tarps, tents, shelter halves, basha-sheets, groundsheets and so on. Any bag of sufficient size should include a means of rain protection.
Water represents a means to carry water, and the means to ensure that it is drinkable, such as water purification tablets. In rural areas a supply of water and purification tablets should be both on your person and in your pack. Consume the water in your pack before that on your person.
Toilet Paper. A roll of toilet paper in a waterproof bag is a prudent addition to any bag. A small bag with a couple of paper tissues rides in a cargo pocket of my trousers. A bag with additional tissues will be added if I am heading off the beaten track. As well as intended use, such tissues can be used for nosebleeds, nose-blowing and as tinder.
Canteen Cup. A metal canteen cup or similar small cooking vessel is a useful addition to the above items. Boiling water to sterilize it will conserve water-purification tablets. It can also be used to sterilize instruments or blades intended for medical uses. Even if you wear a water bottle on your person, the canteen cup is probably best carried as a pack it. The interior can be packed with some of the smaller items listed above.
There is a survival adage that says you cannot live three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter can kill you, you can last three days without water and three weeks without food. The Foundation Kit contains the essentials towards keeping you alive beyond three days.
Travelling Kit
What I have chosen to call the “Travelling Kit” are mainly “very useful” rather than essential. Food is obviously essential, but you can last several days or more without it.
Repairs. If away from home, a small repair kit is worth putting together. My compact little sewing kit has seen many uses over the years. This is supplemented by a couple of rucksac buckles, dental floss, a roll of electrical tape and a tube of superglue. A small screwdriver that fits in my Swiss Army Knife corkscrew has been used to repair several pairs of glasses. I have seen it suggested that a piece of glue stick of the type intended for hot glue guns may also be useful. You can even add a little repair capability to your skin-level kit. A small bag of safety pins can deal with tears and zipper problems. Around the pencil I have wrapped a length of electrical tape then bound two threaded needles to its sides.
Food includes food procurement and cooking means. Put together a small fishing kit, with some wire traces that can be used as snares in extremis. Assemble as much of the kit as is practical before hand. Sitting in the wind and rain as the light fades is no time to be tying on swivels! Add the fishing kit to your trouser pocket items if heading into the wilds. The food you carry should include some items that can be consumed without heating or rehydrating. Some boiled sweets/ hard candy is a useful addition to any daysac, giving a quick energy boost when it is needed.
Illumination. There are numerous small flashlights that are suitable for skin-level EDC. The little Photon lights can be added to a keyring, dogtag chain or whistle lanyard. A larger flashlight is a suitable addition to a daysac or larger pack. My daysac has a handcrank model in it.
Navigation. Personally, I have found a small compass a useful addition to my EDC. Even in town it is sometimes useful to know which direction is which. A number of guidebooks have information such as “…the hostel is to the northwest of the piazza”. If travelling away from civilization better maps and compass are recommended. GPS is nice, but you should plan for when it stops working. Without a compass there are other ways to determine direction, which is why these items are under “very useful” rather than essential. Worth repeating is that in most cases where rescue can reasonably be expected your chances of survival are better if you stay put rather than walking out.
Signalling. Signalling assumes there is somewhere out there to signal to. Flares are not much use if no one is likely to be in line of sight. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be overdue. Signalling overlaps with Illumination and Fire, and mobile phones have already been mentioned. Your skin-level kit should include a whistle. Mine is on my key-ring. A small heliograph is easily fabricated. The back of my phone is mirror-polished, so I would use this instead.
Washing. If you do any travelling you should put together a lightweight wash kit. How to put one together is detailed on another page. I prefer mesh bags over the more elaborate, heavier and more expensive wash bags.
Documentation. Travelling may require visa, permits, passports and other documentation. Make sure you have it all before any trip, and store in a waterproof bag. Make photocopies of important documents, such as your passport, and carry then separately to the originals. I prefer to carry some of these things on my person rather than in a bag.
Money. In some environments, one of your most useful tools. Includes credit, debit and ATM cards. Have information on what to do if you lose the latter. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
Clothing. How much spare clothing, its type and quantity will depend on trip duration and conditions. 
Armament. Carry if you can. The world is full of nasty people who will rob you or hurt you just because they can.
Categories
Phillosoph

Travel Wash Kit.

Once, while I was in Saltzberg, an American lad asked me to pass him his daysac. It nearly wrenched my arm from its socket with the unexpected weight.
“This is heavier than my entire kit!” I complained “What have you got in here?”
“Just my gel and moose and shampoo and conditioner and…”
You get the idea
Choice of wash kit is personal, but I’ll describe mine as a guide.
Like many travellers I used to use a washroll or zippered bag for my wash kit. The last one I used was quite an ingenious in that it had lots of pockets and compartments, a hook it could be hung up by and a little mirror that attached to a pad of Velcro. One day it occurred to me just how much unnecessary bulk and weight all those thicknesses of condura contributed. Now I just use a mesh drawcord bag.
Contents:
  • A screw topped plastic bottle of shampoo. I use a 50 ml plastic screw-topped tube. I’ve taken trips of a month or more and never managed to use up all this shampoo. Older I get the less hair needs washing!
  • A flannel, though half of one will do. Always give this a good wringing out before packing away. In actuality I seldom use a flannel so this is an item that could be omitted. I mainly use mine for scrubbing stains on clothing.
  • A bar of soap. Soap can be used as an antiseptic, laundry agent and for shaving. Hence I have no need to carry a shaving brush or foam. Many of the soap cases available in the shops are made of too brittle a plastic and therefore of little use for travelling. Nowadays I keep the bar of soap in a small PU nylon drawcord bag, which is simpler and lighter.
  • A disposable razor or two, depending on the length of the trip. I have a beard these days but still pack a couple of razors.
  • One of the most useful things I’ve carried on my travels is a little nail brush, just an inch or so long and brought for a few pence in a supermarket or cosmetics shop. I think my second one was from Body Shop. I don’t think I’ve ever used it for my nails. What it has been used for includes:
    • Brushing dried mud off my canvas and suede summer boots -a lot easier than washing them and scrounging newspaper to pack in them to dry.
    • Using with hand soap to scrub away collar grime or food stains. Laundry is then simply done in a wash basin or shower, for free!
    • Brushing dried mud out of clothes. One of the most popular clubs with travellers in Jerusalem has a floor not unlike a farmyard. Every morning in the hostel my little brush would pass through a score of hands as garments were restored to a more presentable condition. So appreciated was this item that someone stole it from me!
  • A “fit anyhole” sink plug. You often encounter sinks without plugs. This is such a useful item I have had them stolen from me by other travellers.
  • A small mirror. The one that came with the wash roll broke, being glass. My current one is made from a piece of polished door finger plate –brought from a hardware store. Add a short length of fishing line so you can hang it up.
  • A spare comb.
  • A packet of dental floss. I have mainly used this as heavy thread for repairs. If you look at my self-built rucksac you can spot some dental floss repairs!
  • A couple of moist napkins in foil packets. These are used to freshen up when washing is not possible.
These are the contents of my mesh bag. Also in the same rucksack pocket is a travel towel. A thin cloth such as a bandanna or shemagh can be used instead.
Travel towels made of Pertex are not only small packing but dry very rapidly. I think I acquired my actual towel on a trip. It seems to be something like polyester. Not as fast drying as Pertex I expect but still quicker and less bulky than cotton. Add a loop of cord or string to your towel and make it big enough to pass the towel through. This lets you attach it to a rucksac hand-loop or strap to dry in the breeze.
I find it is more useful to keep the toothbrush and paste and the deodorant separate from the rest of the wash kit. You tend to need these at different times to the wash kit, and it is just handier to have them in a side pocket of your rucksac. I use a mesh pencil case to hold the toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.
  • Deodorant/ Antiperspirant. I generally use gels or soft sticks. These are a lot less bulky that aerosols and probably last longer.
  • A toothbrush and paste. You can get folding travel models of toothbrush, but I just use a normal one. I intend to replace this with a child-size brush.
In addition to these items my daysac has a toilet roll in a plastic bag.
You can improvise to overcome the loss of several of these items. Soap is mainly a lubricant so a lot of the dirt can be removed with just water and more scrubbing. In the past sand or oils have been used, and certain leaves, grass or straw may make good scrubbers. In cold dry conditions you can wash yourself with handfuls of snow. Snow is very absorbent so can be used to dry you but should not be kept on the skin too long. It is cold so you wouldn’t want to do this!
Salt has been used in place of toothpaste but in fact it is the mechanical action of brushing that is more important for cleaning. Using a fingertip is well known but chewing a stick and using the frayed end is more effective.
Some hikers clean their teeth with baking soda or a mix of baking soda and salt. Apparently this does not attract bears like flavoured toothpaste can.
Plug holes can be plugged with blobs of toilet paper.
Splashing around in a river can be great fun but it’s better you carry some water away to wash with. Your soap may be biodegradable but before it degrades it’s still contaminating a water supply and many creatures, environment. Better to pour it on the soil where the organisms there can degrade it more usefully.