It’s always a good idea to have a small survival kit nearby, especially when in the backcountry or traveling. One issue with survival kits is making sure that the contents inside stay dry and safe — especially knowing that they will likely sit untouched for long periods of time. When you do finally need a kit, your life or someone else’s will likely depend on it. That would be a really bad time to discover your gear has become damaged or destroyed.

With that in mind, I’ve moved the small survival kit contents from a GORUCK zippered pouch to a more sturdy Pelican 1120 waterproof case. While the Pelican case adds quite a bit of bulk (and weight), it can be easily thrown under a seat in the car, in the front of a kayak, in another bag, etc. You can stow it and basically forget about it (sans occasional gear checks).

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This small kit really isn’t designed to cover everything you might need for an unexpected night in the wilderness. It’s missing important things like first aid, food procurement, and shelter (which are going to be carried elsewhere). It’s really designed to make sure that you have a way to signal for help and provide for very basic survival needs.

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The signaling and lighting gear, shown above, includes the following:

  • Cyalume 12-hour green light sticks x 2.
  • 18″ x 18″ Marker panel (Battle Systems LLC).
  • Compact 2″ glass signal mirror (Battle Systems LLC).
  • Fox 40 whistle.
  • Glo-Toob AAA marker light (high, low, strobe modes).
  • Pak-Lite 9V flashlight with lithium battery.

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Next up is the fire-starting gear. You’re going to want multiple ways to start a fire, just in case something gets waterlogged or lost. Here’s what is stashed in this kit:

  • Small candle in tin (Exotac).
  • Bic lighter.
  • Polystriker ferro rod (Exotac).
  • Metal match safe (Exotac) with UCO stormproof matches.
  • Spare match striking pads, sealed.
  • Various tinder pieces, vacuum sealed — TinderQuik, WetFire, and Zippo.

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Finally, we come to everything else, a mix of navigation, water treatment, and utility items. Here’s a breakdown of the gear shown above:

  • Water resistant notepad 3×5″ (Rite in the Rain).
  • Golf pencil.
  • Suunto baseplate compass with magnifier.
  • Spare AAA lithium batteries — for Glo-Toob marker light.
  • Frontier water filtration straw.
  • Micropur MP1 water purification tablets.
  • Gerber milk storage bag.
  • Victorinox “Picknicker” Swiss Army Knife.
  • Kevlar cordage (Vigilant Gear).
  • 550 Paracord.

So there you have it… hopefully this inspires you to create a survival kit, or even tweak your own existing one! It’s always best to put something together yourself, rather than reach for an off-the-shelf kit. You can have quality gear and know how it works ahead of time, instead of ripping open a bag and trying to figure things out when you’re already stressed or injured.

If you’d like more ideas, here are a couple of books that I would highly recommend:

“98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive” by Cody Lundin (ISBN 978-1586852344)

“Build the Perfect Survival Kit” by John D. McCann (ISBN 978-1440238055)


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