The KitI have been doing a lot of reading lately about building a kit on the bushcraft sites. It seems like everyone has an idea of what items are needed for the perfect survival kit. Some say you just need 5 items, others say 10 items and some say as many as 15 items. So what do you really need? What things do you just have to have in your basic kit? I don't really know. I'm not a survival expert, I don't even play one on TV. I can take a guess though, or at least list the things that I have in my kit.
1.) A cutting tool Sometimes I think there are too many options in this category. They range from knives to saws to hatchets. You can cut trees down with a saw or a hatchet and make a shelter or use them to cut firewood. Some knives are big and strong enough to be used for batoning (a fancy word that means pounding the knife blade through a stick of firewood to split it) and are able to perform most of the functions of a saw or an axe. I think the point here is to bring the right tool for the job you need to accomplish. If I had to pick just one, I would pick a good quality knife. I almost always have a knife with me.
2.) If you are planning to be outside overnight, you need to have some way to make a fire. Now some folks would lead you to believe that lighting a fire is as easy as rubbing two sticks together. Trust me, it isn't that easy. There are as many different ways to start a fire as their are cutting tools. Matches, lighters, ferro rods, two sticks, bow drills, magnifying lenses, the bottom of a coke can shined with chocolate, you know, all the regular stuff. If I was going out for a night or two I would take matches, my strike force ferro rod, and some char cloth or a hand full of lint from the dryer. If for some reason the matches got wet I would have a way to start a fire. Most of the time If I am out for a hike or scouting I don't take a fire source with me. Its just extra weight that I have to carry for no real reason.
3.) You need some cordage. How much do you need? 100 feet of 550? I don't know the answer to that question either. It depends on what you are going to use it for. I have 100 plus feet of 550 cord that I take along if I am going to spend the night. I use it to set up my tarp, my hammock and a few other odds and ends. I guess there are a thousand other uses for cordage. Everything from tying poles together for a raft or shelter to making a trap.
4.) A container. I think this is one of the most important items to have along. It can be a pot or an old bean can or whatever else you can find. It should be metal so it can be placed over a fire. I have a US Army canteen and a stainless steel cup that I take with me all the time. Containers can be used to cook your dinner, boil water to sanitize it, carry stuff in, etc.
5.) Shelter, or something that can be used to make shelter. There are several types of shelters you can carry with you. Tents, trash bags(the 55 gallon ones), or even a tarp. Shelter can be a hard one. It has to be a place or a way to get out of the elements. A way to keep dry and warm at night. I personally carry a nylon hammock and a tarp if I am planning on being out overnight.
6.) Food. Again, some of the 'experts' in the field of bushcrafting or survival would like you to believe that you can easily gather the food you need to survive. In some cases this is true, but it takes a lot of experience and skill to be able to identify wild edibles that won't kill you or make you sick. That has never been something that I felt the need to worry about. When I go out for a night or so, I bring my food with me. It is usually something simple like a packet of noodles or some other prepared food. No need to go into a lot of detail here.
Those are the 6 items that I bring with me when I am going out into the bush for an overnight stay. The more items you decide to include in a kit means there is more junk that you have to carry around. You will need a larger pack or at least have access to one that you can use to carry everything. I use a US Army belt and a US Army butt pack to carry my 6 items. The more time you spend reading, the more you think you need. Camp stoves, space blankets, wool blankets, ponchos, hammocks, a compass, a GPS, extra socks, and the list just grows and grows.
Camping experts have been making lists for years on what to carry. The fact is that it boils down to common sense. Carry what you think you will need for the time you plan to be out. For me, most days its a walking stick, some water, a knife and my cell phone. Take along items that will make you feel the most secure. Now it is very possible that I could fall and break my leg and need to be rescued. Will I have all the items I need? Probably not. I'll have enough to keep me going until someone comes looking for me. I always tell my wife Lisa where I am going. I think that is probably the most important thing to remember. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be home. If I'm not home when you expect me, just look for the old red truck and follow the trail. That's where I'll be, spending time enjoying the woods, the beauty of nature, and not worrying about if I have the latest and greatest survival gadgets.
See? This is solid, practical advise that anyone can follow. One of the biggest traps that people fall into is that they think they need a list of the best gear that money can buy. They are fooled into thinking that the items that go into your kit are more important than the knowledge and experience that goes into your head. I find it interesting that native people managed to survive a very very long time without a $500 knife on their hip and the latest survival items strapped to their backs. Be smart, don't do stupid things, tell people where you are going and how long you are going to be gone. Bring items you will need and actually use. Enjoy your time in the woods. Thanks for the post Jim, I can't wait to get the next one you decide to send my way!