Have Basic Survival Kits Become Passé?

I ask this question because I don’t hear much today about “survival Kits” in general. I seem to hear a lot about Bug-Out Bags, Inch Bags, and Get-Home Bags. I hear about Bushcraft Packs and Haversacks, some of which require canvas tarps and wool blankets.  

Of course, all of these bags have a purpose, but not everybody is a Bushcrafter, Survivalist, or camper. So how about the day hiker, members of a search and rescue team, or those who just want to enjoy a day of adventure in the woods? They need to be prepared in the event of an emergency situation. However, most want to travel light, have those items that will assist them if something goes wrong, or are required to spend a night in the woods. They need to be able to handle basic medical situations. But, they don’t plan on building a cabin, carving a spoon, or processing a ton of fire wood. Basically, if something goes wrong, they want to get home, and as soon as possible.

A small day hike survival kit can fit inside a water pouch providing basic essentials.

Over the last several years the term “The 10 C’s of Survival” coined by Dave Canterbury, has become the go to way to be prepared in the event of a survival situation. I can’t argue with its premise, and it certainly would get the job done. I never seem to be able to memorize what all the C’s stand for, but then, that’s probably just me.

I personally would like to see people understand the concept of building a personal survival kit. In 2005, I wrote the first book that dealt exclusively with survival kits. It was called “Build the Perfect Survival Kit.” Its purpose was to teach people how to build a survival kit that would be perfect for their needs.  I understand that no survival kit would be perfect for everybody, as we all have personal needs. But if you understand the basics of kit building you will end up with a kit that is right for you.

A small butt pack is another way to carry the essentials for a day hike.

I am often asked, “How do I know what to put in a survival kit?” I have always explained that you should understand the specific functions that you might be required to perform in an emergency or survival situation. By understanding those functions, you gain insight into the type of items, or “components” as I call them, which should be in your kit in order for you to accomplish your goals.

Although I wouldn't want to depend totally on a belt pouch survival kit, it can certainly provide you with
basics in the event you lost a larger kit.

For a basic survival situation, I consider the following functions you will most likely to be required to perform.

  • Build a fire using more than one technique.
  • Construct a shelter in various environments.
  • Signal for help using more than one technique.
  • Gather and purify drinking water and possibly gather food.
  • Navigate back to civilization.
  • Carry out basic first aid.

Now that you know what you might be required to do in a situation, you can select components that allow you to do them. I use the following component groups to select the items for my kit.

  • Knives & Tools
  • Fire & Light
  • Shelter & Personal Protection
  • Signaling
  • Navigation
  • Water & Food collection or preparation
  • Medical
  • Multipurpose items

Of course there are various sized kits you can build, depending on what you are willing to carry. The advantage of using component groups is you can select items of a size and shape that will allow you to build a kit in a size that will suit your needs. Of course a kit may change depending on seasonal or environment factors. But the component groups will remain the same.

For colder weather, you might want a larger kit such as can be carried in a side shoulder bag.

If you are going to build a small kit that is easily carried, you would obviously select the components of a smaller size. As a kit gets larger, so can the size of the components, if need be. 

As an example: If you are making a small kit that can be carried in a butt pack, or over a shoulder, you might select a survival blanket and emergency poncho as shelter items. But if you have a small backpack you might select a rain jacket or poncho and a larger heavy duty survival blanket with grommets. Even a small ultra-light tarp could be carried. Of course, cordage (a multi-purpose item) should always be part of your shelter component.

Injuries can happen when least expected, so always carry basic first aid supplies in your survival kit.

I could go on and on about selecting components for a survival kit and I do in my book which is now in its 2nd Edition. A kit is important, but it should be noted that people must be proficient with the skills to use their components. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how to use the components you have selected, in order accomplish your goals. 

Let me close by stating that I hope basic survival kits have no become passé. For those who just want to enjoy a day in the outdoors, carry a survival kit. You just never know when you might get lost, fall and injure yourself, or for other reasons, are required to spend a night or two with only what you are carrying.

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Copyright © 2018 by John D. McCann