If done right, a survival kit is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re prepared for an unexpected over-nighter in the wild. Properly designing, stocking, and maintaining your survival kit is not only good insurance against the unexpected, it’s also fun for the whole family, and it teaches the kids — in a fun way — basic principles like self-reliance and responsibility.
Watch the video to see what’s in my kit:
Essential contents of a good survival kit
At the very least, your survival kit should provide you the means to make fire and to communicate over long distances. If stealth is not necessary, your kit should be a bright yellow or hazard-orange. If you need to be more discreet, you should go with a dark color. The problem then is that you’ll be more liable to lose the kit. You can reduce this risk the way I’ve done — attach a Tooblite Mini glow-in-the-dark light stick. It uses no bulbs or batteries, and it lasts forever, recharging by exposure to any bright light.
The very most convenient fire-starter is a butane lighter, but it’s bulky in a small case and it can discharge without your knowing it. So you should have matches or a striker, dry tinder to take a spark, and a whistle. A whistle carries a lot farther than your voice, never mind the fact that you could make yourself hoarse calling when no one is around, and then find yourself mute when help is near. With a whistle, all you have to do is blow.
A signal mirror is good for very long distances and noisy environments, but it will only work if you have direct sunlight, or maybe a light haze. In the dark, or trapped in a cave or crevasse, you’d rather have a whistle. But if a plane or helicopter is searching for you, you’d rather have a signal mirror. Fortunately, Rescue Flash makes a signal mirror so tiny you can carry both, even in a very small case like the model T1000 from S3 Cases. I actually keep the T2000 in my EDC bag, but for the purposes of this article I’m experimenting with a smaller kit that will fit in a pocket.
The T1000 is light, rigid, waterproof, and buoyant. The rigidity is important because it helps prevent crushing the contents. (Be sure not to pack your kit too tight — you might break something inside, like your matches).
Survival kit packing list
There are as many survival kits as there are survivors, but here’s a list of recommended contents for your survival kit:
- waterproof strike-anywhere matches. (Note: the matches linked here are not waterproof. I waterproofed them by painting them with clear nail polish).
- cotton tinder to take the spark
- liquid-filled compass
- sterile surgical steel blade
- mini signal mirror
- pencil and paper (e.g. taking notes about the terrain or calculating river crossing distances)
- flat magnifier
- 15 feet (4 meters) paracord (get the mil-spec 550 stuff — it really does matter!) Note: This is a link to a 1000′ spool of paracord. It’s the best value I can find, and if you’re like me, you’ll use every inch of it. It is tremendously useful, and an absolutely essential part of your preps, so buy 1000 feet of it!
- whistle This is an outstanding whistle. It’s flat-ish, very loud, and has a trill that helps the sound carry very long distances.
- razor blade. This is the razor I wish I had in my kit
- mini hacksaw. You can just cut off a piece of hacksaw blade to fit your kit
- snare wire
- fish hooks and sinkers
- safety pins
- 6-inch strip of duct tape
- jungle-training cards (optional)
- Tooblite Mini — this helps you mark the case in the dark, and provides light for finding or examining the contents of your kit.
The more we learn from each other, the better off we all are, so please, share your kit contents by commenting below, or sending pictures or even a video link via the contact form.