Survival is a popular topic these days. Some of the highest rated, most watched TV shows are those that chronical folks left to their own devices in extreme wilderness settings. Some of the individuals on those programs are true survival experts, while others know little more than how to start a campfire…barely. And, while some survival shows are quite educational, others are focused mostly on the ridiculous drama that unfolds between feuding costars. Whatever the case, the fact remains that the general public is fascinated with survival scenarios and skills. In the rather crazy, unpredictable world in which we live, one never knows when disaster may strike. As the old Boy Scout motto teaches, “Always be prepared!” Those, indeed, are words to live by.
Whether one is a serious outdoor adventurer or someone who rarely leaves the house, it’s essential to be prepared for emergencies. Danger is always present in a multitude of forms. Everything from life-threatening weather conditions and automobile accidents to venomous insect bites and long-term power outages can and do happen in both rural and urban settings. And, the consequences can vary from mild to deadly. When one is in a situation where the only helping hands are the ones connected to your forearms, you must know how to use them to survive.
The Four Essential Elements of Survival and the Rule of 3’s
Sustaining our lives on planet earth depends on four things (not including the air we breathe), often referred to as the “sacred elements of survival.” They include shelter, water, fire, and food. Being able to acquire and produce those four things as quickly and efficiently as possible, especially when disaster strikes, is vital. Along with that, when an emergency/survival situation arises, one should always prioritize their actions according to what is known as the “Rule of 3’s,” which dictates that one can generally survive for three minutes without air, three hours without proper shelter in extreme exposure situations, three days without water, and three weeks without food. It’s a good idea to carve these two principles into your brain and revisit them often. It’s also a good idea, based on the four elements of survival and rule of 3’s, to compose an emergency action plan for your household, place of work, and a specific plan for any time you head out on an adventure of one kind or another. Based on those plans, you can then put together a survival kit that will be appropriate for your location and/or the specific adventure you’ll be embarking on.
Survival/Emergency Kit Items and Basic Uses
There are many prepackaged survival/emergency kits on the market to choose from. However, in my opinion, most of them are junk, put together from very cheaply made, toy-like items that I sure as heck would not trust my life with. And, while there are some high-quality kits out there, many of those are loaded with things that are really not essential for genuine survival, or items that may not be appropriate for your specific situation…resulting in wasted space and having to pack unnecessary weight with you. I highly recommend building your own kit, based on your own, specific needs, for your specific location, and with trusted, high-quality gear and professional-grade materials. I have several different survival kits that I assembled for my own customized use. I have a very large kit at home which includes everything I would need to survive an emergency situation for up to several weeks, I have a car-sized kit that I keep in my vehicle or at a campsite, which would keep me alive for up to several days, if not longer, and I also have a handy dandy mini kit that I keep in my backpack when out in the wilds, which provides the basics for shelter, water purification, fire starting, and emergency food rations. Keep in mind, too, that it’s a good idea to have several means of acquiring/producing the four essential elements of survival. For example, I have three different means of making fire and purifying water in my kit. To get you thinking about some things you may wish to include in your own survival kit or kits, I’ll share with you my survival gear list. Below are the items I have in my kits and what I use them for. As always, I only recommend and promote what I firmly believe is the best gear in the world. If you’d like to order any particular item for yourself, just click on the photo.
- Large, wide-mouthed stainless-steel water bottle – A stainless steel water bottle can be used as your primary water container, for boiling/purifying water, as well as cooking.
- Two to four heavy-duty, puncture resistant ziplock bags of various sizes- Used as miscellaneous containers, UV water purification, scoop, biohazard-mitts/gloves, waterproofing material for vital gear, etc.
- Tincture of iodine 2% and/or water purification tablets – Used for water purification and wound disinfection.
- Space blanket – Used as a compact emergency blanket, signaling material, heat reflector, tarp, and shelter material.
- Large and small sewing needles – Used for sewing/repairing clothing & equipment and wound stitching.
- Small diameter braided fishing line – Used for sewing thread, wound stitching material, fishing, fine cordage, snare trap material, etc.
- Industrial strength, high visibility duct tape – Used for fixing everything, bandages, signal flagging, trail marking, etc.
- Emergency whistle & signal mirror – Used for rescue signaling.
- Strike “anywhere” matches & waterproof container – (Fire)
- Weather-proof lighter – (Fire)
- Magnesium block fire starter kit – (Fire)
- Survival fire tinder (Vaseline saturated cotton balls) – Used as fire tinder in wet, windy conditions.
- Waterproof AA Flashlight and 2 extra (fresh) batteries – (Working in the dark, rescue signaling, etc.)
- Carbon steel fixed blade knife & small sharpener – (Cutting, chopping, carving, skinning, filleting, etc.)
- Multi-Tool – Used for wide variety of repair work and bushcraft.
- Heavy duty 55-gallon, 6.0 mil, contractor bags –Used for shelter material, rain poncho, water collection, windbreak, bedding material bag, sleeping bag, large miscellaneous container, waterproofing material, etc.
- Brightly colored bandana – Used as sediment filter, dust mask, head protection, signal flag, washcloth/towel, bandage, sling, etc.
- 50-100 ft parachute cord and/or braided nylon line –(Billions of cordage uses.)
- Compact First aid kit – For medical emergencies (Be sure to include extra medication, glasses, contacts, etc.)
- Fishing hooks/pinch split shot – (Catching fish, birds, small mammals for food.)
- EPIRB – (Emergency position-indicating radio beacon device for summoning rescue.)
Survival Skill Books
There are hundreds of survival books out there, but again, just like many of the prepackaged survival kits on the market, many of those books are incomplete, irrelevant, or just plain worthless. The following three books are the best around. I have read them and can highly recommend all three. They teach how to survive with minimal gear, and also go over a variety of primitive survival techniques for when one does not have a survival kit or the proper tools.