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· fan of analysis
86 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My takeaways from most survival stories and advice are: be flexible and improvise. (I am thinking wilderness survival / stuck in car survival / etc)

I'm concerned that relying too heavily on a big pile of precisely the right emergency gear may give a false sense of security and lead to inflexible thinking and panic.

In real life nothing goes as planned. When (not if) some of that gear you're counting on is lost or damaged, it may be all too easy to despair and get focused on what you don't have instead of what you do have (or can find).

How do you address that when putting together an emergency kit? Or when practicing survival skills? How do you make sure you always have the kit when you're likely to need it?

Do you figure out a way to disperse the necessary items across your pockets rather than carrying a single container kit (all eggs in one basket)?

Do I include gear with overlapping functions? E.g. fishing line + 550 paracord + snare wire? Or e.g., lighter, matches, flint/magnesium?

Do you rate stuff according to utility or previous experience? And include only the highest rated?

· Registered
1,559 Posts
I wouldn't worry too much. Pack what you think you need. You'll be able to improvise when the time comes. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The survival stories where people have the proper gear never make the news. The people aren't really in danger if they are well equipped.

· Out In The Sticks
98 Posts
I don't think you can take or pack the "Precise" gear all the time. Start with the basics and build from there. I always tried to adhere to the multiple use idea myself that everything in your GO bag should do double or triple duty if possible and things that don't should have 1 or 2 backups. For example the para cord could be used for boot laces, tying down a tarp, lashing together a field expedient tent pole even a tourniquet etc........ 1 item, multiple uses....but a good wind proof Zippo lighter sealed in a baggie is only good for one thing, starting fires, so it makes sense to carry backups, another lighter, some lifeboat matches that have been dipped in wax to make them waterproof and then sealed in a baggie with some cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.

The improvise part you can't plan for. That will happen when you are in the moment and have to rely on your brain. But that's where the real survival is anyway. Stuff just makes it easier...................

· fan of analysis
86 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
That's an interesting point. It's the ones that are woefully unprepared that make good stories I guess.

I don't want to get all wrapped around the axle getting some big perfect list of stuff for every eventuality. So I guess the right way to ask the question -- where do you draw the line between absolute "need" and "really nice to have" in your emergency kit?

Plus, I'm more likely to carry a small pack everywhere outdoors versus a giant bulky pack.

I figure a belt, flashlight, lighter, knife, duct tape, space blanket, water tablets, should cover medical, shelter, fire, water in most circumstances I'm likely to be in outdoors. Anything else would be a bonus.

· Amateur Radio call sign KM4GDU
55 Posts
Well I think of an emergency as just that. Somthing very unplanned that happens with very little notice if any notice at all.

you might have a basic kit and add or remove some depending on for seen conditions or events

I would think tht most of the time you will know what to plan for.

· Registered
190 Posts
There's a bit of a contradiction that you may not be seeing in your thinking about the woafully unprepared stories. While it's true that ingenuity, the will to survive, flexibility, and other skills will get you out of many tight pinches, you don't read about the guys who packed in the right equipment because they didn't need search and rescue in the first place. I've had years where I spent as many days in a sleeping bag as at home, yet I have never needed search and rescue yet (touch wood). That's not because I haven't had close calls. I certainly have, but on several occasions I had the space blanket, compass, magnesium firestarter, or proper clothing that kept the situation from going from bad to tragedy.

I like to try to always be minimally prepared. Sometimes that looks silly. Here's the pack that I carried on every single mtb ride in 2007:

It included:
Sam Splint
First Aid kit (bandages, dressings, pain relievers, antihistimines, sinus meds, tweezers, bandaids)
3 yard roller gauze (cling or curlex)
Nitril exam gloves
Eye drops
Trauma scissors
Small bar light
visor led light
space bag
magnesium fire starter and striker
Spare batteries
Shock pump
tire pump
Epi-pen (epinepherine for anaphylactic emergencies)
Empty toothpaste tube (for repairing sidewall cuts)
multi-tool w/ plyers and knife blade
Derailleur hanger
Chain quick links and pins
Crank Brothers tool
Fleece hat
Deuter pack
bags to contain contents

Not shown is the contents of my seat bag which includes a tube, CO2 (big air), Tire lever, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm wrenches, patch kit and chain tool that always stay with the bike.

My 2008 kit grew even larger. Do all my riding mates think I'm a little over the top? You betcha, but they also borrow my crap all the time. Last summer I needed iodine tablets on three occasions because we ran out of water (one ride was over six hours long in 85-90 degree heat). I use a disposable poncho at least 2-3 times a year and those are the times when it didn't look like rain so I didn't bring my proper rain gear. At least once or twice a season I end up needing my emergency lighting because somebody got not one but two or three flats and that after work ride turned into a night ride.

Sure, most of these aren't end of the world disasters, but if you don't see the cascade that can happen if you're unprepared to spend the night out in the field, you're putting you and others at unnecessary risk. The story is simple; you and the GF/wife decide to take a walk up Mt. Falcon after work. A family asks you for help to locate their lost dog so you help them for an hour or so and sunset approaches. Your GF turns her ankle when a deer spooks her and you stop to assess the injury. An afternoon thunderstorm comes up and you've got a problem. If you have a poncho, some cloth tape, and a small flashlight, it's no big deal. Without it, you have hypothermia and potential death just a mile from the car (if she can't walk fast, that's a 45 minute hike with 32 degree hail hitting you with 25mph winds). Get the picture?

I know I'm a little over the top, but I do carry a cell phone with GPS, analog watch (any analog watch can be used as a reverse sundial to tell north/south), pocket knife, magnesium firestarter, and Photon light. It all fits comfortably in my pockets. In my jacket pocket I have a Qwik Clot dressing, nitryl gloves, condom (not just for that, also a 1 quart water container), and film canister with vasolined cotton balls.

You have the right idea about what's important. I prefer space bags to space blankets because then you have a ready-made shelter. Also, a tip worth noting is that a space blanket can be cut into pieces and wrapped around your arms, legs and torso (using either your clothes or tape to hold them in place) for added warmth while on the move. An adventure racing friend of mine uses this technique regularly. I'm currently a first responder, formerly an EMT, so I feel obliged to have the tools to treat injuries, so that's why I carry gloves and a trauma dressing. Put together a basic kit you always have available and slips easily into a fanny pack or bdu pocket so you're never without the basics. Have additional items available to meet the expected conditions and planned activity (food, water, proper clothing) and you'll never be in a situation that will make the evening news.

· Registered
696 Posts
My takeaways from most survival stories and advice are: be flexible and improvise. (I am thinking wilderness survival / stuck in car survival / etc)

I'm concerned that relying too heavily on a big pile of precisely the right emergency gear may give a false sense of security and lead to inflexible thinking and panic.
That would be correct!

Most of the 'Extremists' sit around all day doing nothing and thinking about what government conspiracy *MIGHT* pop up next.
They never get any field experience with actual situations.

This fall, right after this forum opened, I would come back from camping out at the river or lake, and find a dozen new 'Conspiracy Theories' posted up in detail.

In the mean time, we were actually camping, hunting, boating, practicing woods craft...
Learning to do for ourselves instead of buying into the swill that chokes talk radio and pollutes the internet!

I post up threads on how to turn old cans into stoves, heaters, ect.
They post up the latest conspiracy about fluoride in the drinking water.

I post up threads on distilling water with nothing more than a couple of containers and plastic sheeting,
They post up threads about Obama rape and murder squads.

We discuss how to get a fire started in rain, cold or with wet wood,
They post up about the lasted 'End Of The World' (12.12.12 or 12.21.12) dates.

We post up on what parts of a fish you can eat raw,
They post up about religion...

The 'BIG PILE OF GEAR' doesn't have to be so 'BIG'!
Mine fits in a small belt pouch and I take it about everywhere!

SO, lets try this again without the stupidity...
And the need for 'Consumerism' and dedicated usage.

Whenever possible, make your gear pack components do double or triple duty!

Plastic Sheeting.

I carry two kinds, 'Emergency Space Blanket' and a 'disposable' rain poncho.
(one under, one over)
Both under a buck and take up virtually no room, and weigh virtually nothing.
Mine are so handy I won't leave to go hunting for fishing without them on a belt pouch with some other things.

Keeps the moisture from ground or bedding from wicking into your cloths,
Keeps the rain off your head, moisture out of your cloths,
Reflects heat back to your body,
Works for sealing up injuries, like sucking chest wounds or severe burns or compound fractures,
The Mylar blanket works for reflecting heat back to you from a fire,
The Mylar blanket works for signaling help,
Either one will work for building a solar still for fresh water,
Either one will work as a makeshift water carrier...
The list goes on, but you will have to get into situations where you need them before you will find that out.

Zip Lock Baggies
I also take one or two quart, and sometimes gallon zip lock baggie or two.
You should pack your trash out, and these help for that,
Or in an emergency, they can become first aid supplies, make shift canteens, food storage bags, ect.

It's REAL difficult to make splints, braces, shelters, ect. without cordage and a lot of it!
Cordage is a MUST, and you will find it secreted throughout my gear, on flashlight handles, knife handles, light but strong 'string' and Parachute '550' cord I could use for repelling in a pinch...

3 kinds of fire starting.
I've tried the 'Grizzly Adams' ways of starting fire, and I think one should know how to use a fire drill, or a flint and steel, but it's about the most inefficient way to start a fire!

Personally, I use a cheap butane lighter to start fires with!
Cheap, easy, effective.
I also carry matches sealed up waterproof.

Tender that will dry out wet kindling enough to start burning is mandatory in my book!
That's as simple as cotton balls, steel wool, or one of the commercial fire starters cut into sections.

In really cold climates, or when I'm around cold water, I carry flairs.
Highway flairs are cheap, effective, and will start a fire when nothing else will.
They also double as rescue signaling devices,
AND, the powdered sulfur kind can provide an antibacterial protection for wounds when opened and the sulfur applied to wounds.

Add a little petroleum jelly to the cotton ball tender
, and the cotton balls are water proof!
They also double as first aid for cracked lips, cracked knuckles, insect bites, ect.

Insect repellant is worth it's weight in gold, and I'll never be without it and a head net.
Military in desert and jungle, and hunting in mountains and in Alaska have taught me the value of a head net!

There is no way you can rest, no matter how tired, if you have bugs in your nose and ears, so a head net is mandatory.
And you could use it for other things, like minnow dip net and collection basket for forage you might find.

Insect repellant will keep you from being eaten alive in many locations, and the healthier you stay, the better off you will be.

A compass is pretty well a must...
A good compass and even a general idea of where you are at will get you out safe and sound!

All these things are small, and I take them everywhere, along with a good sheath knife and if I'm out for more than just recreational camping, I take along a canteen...



You might try this thread, this is where we discuss the minimum you should probably have and how to store it.

· Registered
696 Posts
Now, In a True 'DISASTER' like a plane crash or getting into an accident on a mountain road and getting stranded, you will have to improvise!

What you can scrounge is what you will have!

Improvised knife from a can lid,
Surprisingly, it works quite well! So well in fact, the 'Little Woman' brought it home to use!



Volcanic rock can easily be broken to make sharp edges if you need a crude cutting tool to help make shelter, ect.

Look for broken glass, shards from bottles make the best cutting tools.
Many commercial vehicles have Plastic window material, and that stuff makes GREAT tools!

Wiring from a vehicle will work as 'Cordage' to erect shelters, bind wounds, ect.

Seat cushions, or the foam out of them makes WONDERFUL, high insulation bedding to keep cold from creeping in from below.

Wrapped around broken limbs, the insulation will make a fair splint without cutting off blood supplies to the feet or hands.

Sharp tools can also be made by splitting wood (Limbs).
Just break them off slowly, and the will 'Green stick' fracture, or if already on the ground, stick them in the fork of a tree and break them off...
You will usually get a sharp edge...
If you don't, you just get splintering, stick a flat rock in the splinters and bind the top/bottom around it and you have Hammer/Axe.

Quick 'SNAP' of limbs will give you the cleanest breaks for making crutches, walking sticks, spears, lodge poles, ect.

If you can find material that doesn't suit your purposes of clothing or medical supplies,
Try to use it as a 'Pack',
or try to cut it into strips for 'Cordage'.

These are potential tools, canteens, fire making glass, cutting tools, ect.!!!

A man with a clean survival instinct and a sharp eye can equip himself VERY QUICKLY!
Primitive, yes,
Effective, marginally to very effective,
Difference between laying down and dying and surviving,

· fan of analysis
86 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Your approach to mtn biking sounds like my approach to 4-wheeling. I have spare fluids, spare parts, and tools, honed over the last 10 years of four wheeling and wrenching on my rig. People chuckle at me as the guy who is over the top prepared, but it is all in good fun because we all know I'm the guy they borrow stuff from when their vehicle breaks. Not that I carry everything or think of everything. I've had to borrow this or that from others. And I learn what to add to my stuff for next time :D I'm usually reasonbly prepared to get stuck overnight on the trail.

Thinking about this just now -- it hit me.

I prepare for the most expected SHTF outcomes of my recreation and activities.

Not for some outlandish scenario that has a 0.0001 probability of happening given the activity at hand (ie, having to stay 2 weeks in the wilderness while fly fishing a stream 100 yards from the highway)

When I four wheel I typically have enough stuff to make it through a night or two. I always carry the big first aid kit in the Jeep when I go camping, wheeling, or fishing. I never go alone, so there's always contingencies if bad stuff happens. I always wear clothes that have pockets for the basics. Could I prepare better? Sure.

When I go hunting I carry basic stuff, but am never all that far from car or civilization (at least not yet). I think the worst that could happen is getting caught in a blizzard, but the truck is always within a pretty short distance. Could I do better to prepare? Maybe so.

When I go camping I bring all the stuff to stay warm, hydrated, fed, happy. So if a freak blizzard rolls in or massive rainstorm, or am otherwise stuck 'out there' (altho I never seem to camp alone...) I should be good for days. Could I be better prepared? Could be.

The point is... as one gets farther away from help, one prepares for more extreme scenarios. This is a more 'organic' approach. Your preparation is based more on experience and can be more focused.

For example, I tend to carry more spare parts (the ones I know are more likely to crap out in my rig or others') when going to Moab or Ouray because I want to maximize my chances of getting home in the vehicle I drove out there. If I ever start backpacking, or mountaineering, or hunting in remote locations, it would be a different ballgame of preparation. I'd put together a kit that would let me ride out bad weather and/or being lost for several days or more.

The preparation ends up being an outgrowth of activity/hobby/experience. So that in mind I need to make sure I have the right kits for different activities in a form that is easy to take with. Best to get out of the mindset of "it's just a _____" (short hike, quick four wheeling trip, etc) and get into the mindset of "what if I have to stay overnight or even past dark". I've been stuck on the trail in the mountains hiking after dark fairly unprepared a long time ago. Not fun. What you say about the cascading of events is brilliant.

Thanks for the ideas for what you bring and how you carry it, and thanks to all so far for helping me "talk" through this.

· Registered
190 Posts
We're all in the same boat to one degree or another. I ride alone probably 20-50% of the time, so I try to make up for that with a wider margin for error. I also always ride with a SPOT now just to reassure the GF and add to that margin. I figure if you're prepped for spending the night, you're set. In all my years in the outdoors I've never "needed" a fishing line, hooks, or weights, but most kits have them. Would it be fun to have and have I used the one I've had just to kill time when I was camping? Yes, but it's not a matter of survival. Things like safety pins, flashlights, ponchos, and water bottles are far less flashy on the packaging, but they're way more useful in the real world.

If you want to be a superhero in the eyes of total strangers, always carry a roll of the cheapest 30 gallon trash bags in your car. The next time you see a poor cyclist drenched in the rain, hand him a trash bag out your window and you'll have a friend for life. If you hike, carry a couple spare trash bags or $.99 ponchos and you just might save a life. When I worked in Summit County, I'd guess that the number two killer of outdoor adventurers could have been prevented by a trash bag 100% of the time. Number one was avalanches and that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, but number two was peak baggers (14er hikers) that would get caught in thunderstorms two hours from the car and freeze to death. A trash bag could have prevented every one of them, IMHO.

Anyway, you sound like you're well prepared already, just in need of a little tuning up. I used to 4x4 myself until I did too much damage trying to get up the Holy Cross City road and couldn't justify it as a hobby anymore. Not a cheap sport, that's for sure. I see you guys out at Moab every year and we exchange headshakes. You think I'm an idiot for riding when I could be driving, I think you're of questionable sanity tearing up your $1,200 tires trying to get up a step that could easily be walked up while carrying your bike... ;)

· Registered
2 Posts
Like a lot of lifelong outdoorsmen, I like having all my survival toys to play with but I was taught a long time ago as Boy Scout to rely on knowledge, skills, and situational awareness more than gear to deal effectively with an emergency. Life has a way of catching us with our pants down leaving us only with what we have in our pockets anyway.

One of the best written and well illustrated survival books to come out recently is "98.6: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive", by Cody Lundin (CODY LUNDIN: outdoor survival, Â primitive living skills, and urban preparedness courses). Cody's main premise is that regardless where you might find yourself on the planet during a emergency situation, your mission in life is to maintain your body core temperature and the purpose of the of the gear in your survival kit is to accomplish this end.

· Registered
190 Posts
Daniel, I agree that life has a way of catching us with out pants down, that's why it takes both good skills and always having with you at least enough to get through the night.

I'm reading 98.6 right now and I'm not that into it. Obviously a lot of survival books are the same information in just a different format than the last guy who wrote a book on how to do what we've been doing for the last 40,000 years. I've probably read too many in the last 20 years to be fair to any of them.

The only thing that's rocked my socks off lately has been the Prepared to Survive DVD available from Life View Outdoors. They also have a package deal if you look at their 72 hour outdoor survival kit where both are only $99. If you don't already have a solid outdoor survival kit, it's a bargain for what you get. I think the only thing I added was a good quality saw, a 5" Air Force Survival knife, and a 3600 kcal food cube. The DVD is very comprehensive covering both the psychological aspects and the various needs to survive. It has a section on how to put together your own kit, too. I found it from Doug Ritter's site which is just loaded with well thought out lists of supplies, kits, and things to consider if you're planning for just about any disaster or outside accident.

· Registered
696 Posts
That's kind of odd...

I always figured I could 'Survive' like the indiginous people did, that wasn't the issue.

My 'Gear' was simply to make my life more comfortable by making what I had to do easier.

In the military, we didn't say 'Survival' was a 'PASS/FAIL' thing like it was for the basic 'Grunts' , because failure meant death, and none of us were going to die if we could help it...
For the 'Advanced' troops, it was a contest to see who could do it with the most 'Style'!

Gaining weight on a two week survival circuit was always worth big 'Points'...
So was coming in with clean cloths.

You 'CAN' eat bugs and come in 3/4 dead (Like the TV morons), but WHY do that when you don't have too?

What's the point of 'Search & Rescue' if you are prepared and aren't 'Lost' long enough for them to Deploy?
(besides not looking like a rookie monkey on the local TV station?)

Anyone know the story about the Mountian Man 'Hugh Glass'?
Mauled by a grizzly, left for dead by his traveling companions...
No gear, barely any cloths, every part of cloths and skin shredded, broken bones-- torn up by a sow grizzly...
Left alone in the rockies to die, but he DIDN'T!


Hugh Glass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hugh Glass: Legendary Trapper in America's Western Frontier » HistoryNet
Story of Hugh Glass The Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man: John Myers Myers: Books
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