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A Basic Survival Kit
Part 1: Emergency preparedness
By Tim Siewert

"Be prepared" has been my motto for over 45 years; a basic survival kit is a good thing to have with you even when commuting to and from work. I have never claimed to have all the answers; but I have worked with, and supported myself using tools my entire adult life. Because of this experience and other experiences in life, I am thoroughly familiar with tools and their proper uses. The following 15 points are my suggestions for the contents of an adequately equipped survival kit, mostly based on my experiences in the Scouts, Marines, and life; possibly some may have other ideas or these suggestions may give some people other ideas; I welcome any feedback.

1- To begin with: see "If I had one" and "Defensive Handgun 101"; a 4" .357 magnum revolver w/ 50 rounds (1 box) ammo and two "speed-loaders"; optional: additionally a .22 cal. revolver w/ 1 box of ammo. I know that many people do not have a "government permission slip" commonly referred to as a "CCW" license and I would never advocate breaking any laws. I have put the carrying of a gun first for general principles and because I wholeheartedly believe that it is a dangerous world we live in and each person should accept the responsibility for his/her own security. When I lived in FL in the 80s, I did not go to a "range" when I wanted to shoot informally. At the time there were not very many dedicated shooting ranges in the area where I lived. Instead, I went to a remote area referred to as "the boonies". It was at least five miles from any buildings or main roads. You had to have a truck to get to this area; a car would not make it. Whenever I ventured out to the boonies, I always had a sidearm [typically a 4" Ruger Security Six] with me on my belt even if I didn’t plan on shooting it. I was not the only person who knew of this area; its’ existence was virtually common knowledge. On more than one occasion I was glad I had that Ruger on my belt.

2-A disposable lighter, matches, and a flint kit, while carrying all three is best, the very least should be some matches or a lighter. When I was in the Scouts, we were taught to be able to build a fire that could be lit with only one, or at the most, two matches. Being able to build a good fire that will start with only one match is a knack that takes a bit of practice to perfect; particularly in a survival situation; this is something that should be practiced in your backyard before a dire need is at hand; if you live in an apartment or location that does not permit open fires then may I suggest you find a park that allows open fires or visit some friend that lives in the country and start there. It is also wise to have some newspaper, at least six sheets, with you for starting fires. Plain newspaper (not "slicks") and brown grocery bags are the best fire-starting material. Note: see "Heating with Wood".

3-My favorite NCIS rule is #9, "never go anywhere without a knife". In conjunction with my favorite NCIS rule: a flashlight w/ extra batteries and/or a "head-light"; and it is prudent to check the batteries regularly. These first three things: a gun, "fire", and flashlight should be considered "never leave home without" along with your #1 knife (see "Blade 101"). When I was in the Scouts, we were also taught to never leave home without a dime; in those days [the 60s] pay-phones were everywhere and to place a local call cost 10¢. Today, everyone has a cell phone and pay-phones are a thing of the past. While I may not have to say: "never leave home without your phone", I will say make sure your battery is charged before leaving home.

4-Rain gear: at the very least a poncho; what would be best would be a high visibility rain jacket and matching pants. Note: even at 60º F, if you get wet without proper attire you are susceptible to hypothermia.

5-First aid kit: A first-aid kit is definitely a necessity; even if it minimally contains "bandades", pain-reliever, and some disinfectant wipes; along with tweezers. A good, field-expedient, bandage for minor cuts is a small piece of toilet tissue (white only) folded several times and held in place on the wound with some duct tape; been there, done that more times than I can count. Sometimes, it is easier to remove foreign objects from the skin like thorns and slivers with a pocket knife opposed to using a tweezers; also been there, done that more times than I can count.

An adequately equipped first aid kit should contain: an assortment (all different shapes and sizes) of self-adhesive bandages (bandades); butterfly bandages; sterile gauze; alcohol for antiseptic (note: only alcohol kills 100% of germs, it may burn, but it works) and disinfectant wipes and/or a small bottle of "hand-sanitizer" solution; iodine solution to apply to dressings because iodine does not evaporate like alcohol and is the next best disinfectant to alcohol; burn ointment; pain reliever- Aspirin, Tylenol or Acetaminophen (same stuff), Ibuprofen, & Naproxen Sodium, a supply of all four is best; eye wash cup; blood-stop powder (available at any farm supply store); penicillin and syringes and tetracycline tablets (also available at farm supply stores) these two broad-spectrum antibiotics will handle 90% of infection problems; first aid tape (you can just use duct tape but first aid tape doesn’t stick to the skin as much); snake-bite kit (if bitten, sucking the venom out by mouth is not a good idea); an ear syringe; horse leg wraps (to immobilize fractures), shrink wrap works well for this also; no need to carry splint material, if you have a hatchet and knife, you can make splint material; and two clean bandanas. Believe it or not, all of this can be contained in a medium sized coffee can. I also highly recommend everyone take a good first aid course and know CPR. A good first aid course should be a minimum of 16-24 hours of instruction.

The hierarchy of wound management is: 1) stop the bleeding; 2) start the breathing; 3) treat for shock; 4) immobilize fractures. This is first aid 101. A person can bleed to death in less than 30 seconds when a major artery is cut. They can go for 5 minutes without oxygen before permanent brain damage occurs.

6-Basic knife sharpening gear; a small (2"x4"), two-sided (course/fine) stone is a minimum. A round, two-sided, stone called "The Puck" is available (because it is the size and shape of a hockey puck). While I do not recommend daily use of The Puck for two reasons: 1-it is designed to be used in a circular fashion and 2- when used as designed there is a significant risk of injury because it has no handle; it may be good to have a "Puck" in your kit for putting an edge back on your knife, axe, or machete because of its compactness.

7-A basic tool kit: multi-bladed screw driver to include flat, Phillips, and common-sized nut drivers (the two most common nut-drivers needed are ¼" & 3/8"); 6" & 10" adjustable wrenches; 9" lineman’s pliers; 6" needle-nosed pliers; 6" file; electrical tape, duct tape, tie-wire (the steel, annealed type that iron-workers use to tie re-bar), and "zip-ties". I am not a fan of multipurpose-pocket-tool kits like the Leatherman®; to see why see "Blade 101". Many things can be temporarily repaired with duct tape, tie-wire, and/or zip-ties unless it is really destroyed. I have used zip-ties as a substitute belt on an engine; tie-wire to hold a damaged exhaust together; and duct tape with tie-wire to repair a leaking hose. Note: according tape manufacturers, duct tape is not a proper electrical insulator like electrical tape.

8-A folding camp saw and a hatchet. A machete is also a very useful tool but some may consider it optional. See "Blade 101" again.

9-One or two each "space" blankets and 8’x10’ light-weight tarps; 6 large, plastic garbage bags; and 50’ of "para-cord". A large plastic garbage bag can be used as a rain-poncho in a pinch; cut holes in the corners and center of the closed end for arm and head access. There are different grades of "space blankets"; invest in the best and you won’t cry like the rest; food for thought.

10-You should have at least one extra pair of socks and extra clothes depending on the time of year and expected weather conditions. I have extra clothes that live in my car year-round; extra sweatshirts, overalls, etc. Note: women should also have feminine hygiene products. In addition, I would also suggest that any woman who is of menstrual age have some feminine deodorant when in the woods. Bears are attracted to the odor of menses.

11-At least one canteen/water bottle w/water; I think two smaller canteens/water bottles are better than one larger one. Anyone can easily survive for two weeks+ without food (yes, you will be very hungry but you won’t die) but only a few days without water. If you plan on an extended stay in the wild, a means of water purification is also advisable. If you have gone to the trouble of assembling and carrying a survival kit, then you are already aware of "Murphy’s Law" and prepare for its’ inevitability; therefore I recommend metal (preferably food-grade stainless steel) canteen/water bottles instead of a new-fangled "hydration bladder". It is much easier for a plastic bag/bladder to develop leaks. A metal bottle can be used as a weapon in a pinch.

12-I habitually wear safety-glasses on the job to protect my eyes from flying debris and I wear sun-glasses outside year-round when not on the job for the same reason in addition to shading my eyes from sunlight. I also wear a hat with a brim in warm weather to not only shade my eyes but to keep the sun from baking my brains. When I am not wearing a hat, I have a bandana on, usually under my hardhat.

13-I prefer a compass and a map. You could carry a GPS gizmo but compasses and maps don’t need batteries. Map reading and using a compass are skills that anyone who is survival oriented should learn.

14-Toilet paper in a sealed, plastic bag (this also lives in my car); you never realize just how handy this is until you need it and don’t have any. When I was in the Scouts, we carried our TP in a small coffee can. A bar of soap and wash-cloth; water to wash your hands does not have to be drinkable, just clean. You can always sanitize your hands, if necessary, with some hand sanitizer after washing the dirt off.

15-A basic sewing kit: when I was in the Corps, we were issued a very small sewing kit. It contained three needles; a small amount of green and black thread each; and a needle threader which is especially useful if you have large, fat fingers. Something along these lines would be handy for a minimum.

Optional, to be added to the original 15: a small AM/FM/SW radio.

When I was in the Boy Scouts in the ‘60s we all carried little transistor radios. If you find yourself a considerable distance from civilization and not in a vehicle, then it is wise to have a small radio to listen to weather reports and be forewarned of possible impending storms. I will always remember a weekend camping trip that I was on that did not end well; I had been in the Scouts for about nine months at the time. It was July, we camped on the side of a small river, the first day, Friday, was very hot. About 12 midnight a very strong storm rolled through our area, it poured for hours, an honest to goodness frog-strangler, the river rose over four feet and flooded our campsite in a short time. Then the temperature dropped, a lot. No one was hurt or injured but several of the boys lost much of their gear. One of the other boys had a radio, but it wasn’t until after dark that we heard of this impending storm. We were in the real boonies, there were 13 of us boys and only one adult (a violation of Scout rules: one adult per ten boys); he had a ’56 Chevy car. This was long before cell-phones (1969) and it was a several mile walk to get to a pay-phone. In the morning all of us boys stayed in the car and our adult leader (he wasn’t the scoutmaster or anything like that) walked to a phone because the car was stuck in mud. By the time I got home Saturday evening I was still wet, cold, tired, and hungry. It was a good lesson. I have a radio marketed by Radio Shack®; the DX-375. It is 5.5"x 7.25"x 1.5", runs on two "C" batteries, and receives the full range of AM/FM/SW bands, just a suggestion.

As far as what else lives in my car: two spare tires (one full size); a compact floor jack; a "T" lug wrench; jumper cables; and in the winter a small, collapsible shovel and ice scraper. Factory supplied car jacks and lug wrenches suck. What if you have a considerable distance to drive on the spare and get another flat? I also have one quart of oil (which gets used every oil change), windshield washer fluid, a can of WD-40, and lock de-icer in the winter (this goes in my pocket upon exiting the car).

I recommend obtaining a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook and Field Manual, one each and study them; there is a wealth of information contained in each of these books about fire-building, first-aid, land navigation and a plethora of other outdoor/survival topics. The Boy Scout books circa 1970ish contain more useful info, therefore are better, than later editions due to political correctness. I have seen these vintage books available on Amazon for reasonable prices. A few other books that I recommend are the SAS Survival Manual; a series of small books entitled "The Ranger Digest", twelve in all; the U.S. Army field manual of map reading/land navigation and U.S. Army manual of First Aid for Soldiers (both of these should be 1960-70 vintage also); and Petersen’s guide to poisonous and edible plants and poisonous snakes (two separate books also). Studying these books and practicing the techniques outlined in them will get you well on the way to being mentally prepared.

In part 2: I will delve into the "Bug-out Bag".​​