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Survival Kit: getting prepared for $10, or less

By Posted in - Equipment and Health on May 20th, 2014 survival_kit

Survival Kit: getting prepared for $10, or less

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out for a day of hiking or paddling I rarely consider that I’m potentially one slip, one fall, one thunderstorm away from a survival situation. And why would I? On the hundreds of hikes I’ve been on, how many have turned into survival situations? None. And because the likelihood is so small for most of us, it’s easy to neglect basic precautions–like bringing along a simple survival kit. But, as life reminds us again and again, our situation can change in an instant. Therefore, I thought an introduction to building a basic survival kit might prove valuable. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need it, who knows, this $10 setup might just save you or the life of someone you know.

A Basic Survival Kit

(10)Wooden Matches–$0.10

(1)Tea Candle–$0.25

(1)Magnifying Glass (small)–$0.75

(1)Needle and Thread–$0.25

(1)Fishline, Hook and Sinker–$0.25


(1)Button Compass–$0.75

(1)Magnesium and Striker–$3.00

(1)Mylar Survival Blanket–$2.00

(1)Container for Everything (nylon bag, tin, plastic case, etc.)–$2.00

For most of us, finding the first few list items should prove easy. For the magnesium striker and mylar blanket, an online search might be required. Once you’ve compiled your items, you might be wondering, ‘now what’. Instead of delving into the ins-and-outs of each item and how they’re used, it’s more helpful to consider why these tools are on the list and how they serve the prioritization of an emergency situation.

In most survival situations, the most pressing needs are typically: shelter, warmth, water and food. While finding shelter is often the highest priority, it’s by no means a rule. For example, if you’ve just taken a dip in an icy lake when the ice gave way, your priority might be starting a fire to warm yourself and dry your clothes. Building a shelter might come next.

And while the situations in which someone could end up in a survival situation are practically limitless, we can assume that if you’re traveling in the north eastern part of the United States, you’re within 2-3 days of a regularly traveled road. This is helpful because it helps you prioritize staying warm and dry over, say, collecting food.

Now, let’s review our kit. Looking over its contents it’s easy to see that they’re geared towards starting fires and staving off the cold. The matches, magnesium striker and magnifying glass are all great for igniting tinder (consider adding a bit of dryer lint to your emergency kit–a couple of grams work as an effective fire starter). The mylar blanket is for retaining heat. While weighing only a few ounces, when wrapped around you these sheets reflect the body’s heat, making it one of the most effective ways to keep warm if forced to spend a night without a sleeping bag or insulating clothes.

Fine Tuning Your  Survival Kit

While this sample emergency kit is a good place to start, it’s only that–a start. Depending on where you plan to travel, and the time of year you plan to go, its contents will likely change. For those of you who’d like to build a custom kit, I’d suggest reading The Backpacker’s Field Manual (Three Rivers Press) or Les Stroud’s Survive! Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere (HarperCollins).

It’s important to keep in mind that the equipment discussed here is only helpful if you know how to use it, and more importantly, if you have the ability to stay calm and assess your situation. Thinking clearly should be your most pressing task in a survival situation. It’s hard to build a fire, determine your location or choose a direction of travel if you’re hyperventilating. So, if you find yourself, regrettably, in an emergency situation one day, stop, sit, and breath for a few minutes. Get some clarity. In a sense, your assessment of the situation is the part of your emergency kit that’s with you even if you lose everything else.

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