Nothing Is More Terrifying Than Being Caught In The Woods Without The Tools Needed To Get Through The Night. At Least One Of These Tool Arrays Should Meet Your Short-Term Survival Needs.
Prepping and survival equipment came to the forefront of public attention about 15 years ago with the expansion of the popular zombie film and TV genre. In fact, it got to the point where there was at least a two-year industry-wide emphasis on zombie merchandise, guns, ammo, and equipment.
While that remains a fond memory for many, what it really served to do was appeal to the broader masses, and many people began thinking about just what they would do in a real, non-zombie emergency.
Since then, the world has experienced no shortage of natural disasters, from massive wildfires to coastal tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, and more. The world is no safer a place now than it was before. However, in lieu of zombies and green goo, the public has taken a keen interest in survival and its tactics.
Shows like Alone, Survivorman, Life Below Zero, and others captured the interest of many, and bushcrafting, foraging and fieldcraft exploded in popularity. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of specialized equipment to better your odds in a bad place.
What Is A Survival Kit?
I break down survival items and kits into four categories: full kit, partial kit, last-ditch and, knife-only. I would classify our trio of review kits as last-ditch in that they contain a variety of small items not meant for extended use but rather as a single-day advantage. The items can save your life in a pinch but by nature of size and weight will likely not last in a long-term survival situation.
Examining the survival kit theory requires considering the context of just what a survival kit is. The category I identify as a full kit is exactly as it sounds: likely a backpack setup with excellent weight distribution. This includes weapons and ammunition, ideally a rifle or shotgun, or a modern bow. Like it or not, survival in a bad situation increases dramatically with the presence of a firearm.
When I go into the woods, I have a rifle and a handgun at minimum with 100 rounds for each, usually in magazines. For the non-American readers out there this amounts to around five boxes of rifle ammo and two of most handgun loads. Hunting use is the primary idea but signaling and self-defense from large predators are also valid uses. If you have the ability to own a gun, you absolutely should, even if that gun is an antique design or black powder cartridge.
A partial kit is what you need for a minor excursion, the type of kit you may put in your vehicle if you are far from home but not too far from civilization or a gas station. In the kit I would prioritize a single firearm, typically a pistol of .22 caliber up to .357 Magnum (99 percent of all game can be taken with these rounds), medical supplies, and equipment to take down saplings or branches, such as a folding saw or hatchet. Unlike a full kit, this is to get you through an area as opposed to intentionally staying in one. Clothing appropriate to the short-term environment would ideally already be on your person.
The last-ditch kits reviewed here are for if you have already screwed up, failed to bring a suitable weapon, or are fully out of ammunition or supplies. Baseline, when you break open one of these kits, you are already on your last legs as far as survival goes. The kits in this article are short-term, almost single-use in nature. All three come with materials enough to work on small pieces of wood and at least signal or start a fire.
Lastly, if you have a single knife good enough to spark with and know how to use it, I’d say that you stand a pretty good chance of survival. I say this because, unlike a last-ditch kit, a good, heavy-bladed knife can be used to move a surprising amount of material, often quite quickly.
A thick blade can easily take down small trees with minimal exertion, baton firewood, make kindling, spark, and be lashed to a shaft to use as a spear. In a pinch, you can use a knife to make a bow, though that takes skill and time. For fishing, it can make spears and clean your catch.
Picking The Right Survival Kit For You
Understanding the theory of use behind these levels of preparedness, as well as their limits, is crucial to making it through a situation into which you may or may not have intentionally entered. In looking at the review kits I am assuming that we have run out of all other equipment, say a kayak tipping over in the river after hitting an underwater tree on a hunting trip. You, being a forward thinker, slipped one of these kits into the dry bag you stowed in your kayak before you fell in.
You’re wet, you’ve lost your gun, and you don’t have the rest of your gear. You’re in normal temperate conditions, but nightfall will be cold. To make matters worse, your kayak has cracked and has taken on water.
Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit
At first glance, the Colonial Pocket Size Survival Kit looks like a Boy Scout put it together in his dad’s garage. The items are simply tossed into a thick baggy and are mostly off-the-shelf. The kit, however, is extremely well thought out and is almost entirely usable. It is the only one of the test entries that is waterproofed, and the baggy can be used to keep your tinder dry.
It consists of a signaling whistle; compass; waterproof matches; a military general-purpose pocketknife (containing a blade, can opener, screwdriver and pick); a survival blanket; aluminum foil; small candles; firestarter brick; fishing tackle; floss; adhesive bandages; gauze; and alcohol swabs.
Of note is that this kit did not come with a striker rod or visual signaling device. While not a disadvantage, the kit relies on matches as a source of fire making. I typically will always have matches on me if outdoors, but I try to use them as a last resort. In the present scenario, you would immediately begin gathering branches and medium kindling like grass or leaves, knowing you have dry matches and can immediately get warm and dry.
Building a shelter with this kit isn’t really going to happen, but at least you can build a fire fast and try to catch fish in the river. You get your fire going, get your socks and boots drying, and you luckily caught a fish with your tackle.
Using a flat river rock and aluminum foil, you wrap it up and fry your catch. You survive the night warm and dry and set out back to the guide camp the following morning, stopping to fish by hand as you go, expecting to cook your catch in the early evening. You must be mindful of your health and dehydration on the walk because you have no ability to make water safe to drink, though, knowing you’re close, you figure you’ll just take some medicinal drugs when you get home.
Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit
Start over at the point of your crash, this time with the Fox Knives BlackFox Survival Kit. It contains a fire starter and striker, candle, compass, whistle, tackle, a tiny Swiss Army-style knife; safety pins, a wire saw, razor blade, sewing kit, wire, match carrier (but no matches, none came with the kit), bandages, repair tape, cotton balls, and a notepad and pencil. It is all packed in a sealed metal can.
You take a different approach to your night in the woods. You know you must get dry first, and this kit has a rod and striker. You set about gathering kindling and starting a decent fire to get warm and dry. You set about fishing as well and make a good catch. You have to cook it on a stick over the fire but had no issue gutting it with the razor blade. You use your wire saw to cut saplings to make a shelter. You end the night warm and dry in your shelter, and with a full belly.
In the morning, you use the repair tape on your kayak and harvest sap from the trees you took down to smear it on the outside of the craft for waterproofing. You paddle back to your basecamp and then return to the spot with your friends to retrieve your gear from the river. Because you knew you could paddle back, you didn’t risk drinking river water, so your hunt continues.
Lansky P.R.E.P Kit
In this scenario, you have the Lansky P.R.E.P. (Preparedness, Resource, Equipment Pack) Kit and its survival blanket, first-aid kit, tackle, a small multi-tool, flashlight, paracord bracelet, survival guide, fire striker with compass, collapsible water bottle, LifeStraw water filter, Lansky UTR7 Responder knife, and Blademedic sharpener. All are packed in a black nylon bag.
Upon dragging your kayak back to land, you need to make a fire. Your kit is waterlogged but the items inside are not damaged. You need to gather wood and kindling, and it takes some effort, but you get a fire going using the bracelet to start the initial burn.
Once warming up, you catch some fish and gut them with the knife. You build a rudimentary shelter using the knife to cut down small branches, and rest until morning. You’re hydrated thanks to the LifeStraw and thus won’t need to see a doctor when you get home.
However, you failed to check in with your friends, so they come looking for you in this scenario. You hear distant noises and get out your flashlight and signal them. Your friends arrive after dark and take you back to camp. They brought a retrieval magnet and you get your rifle and equipment back that night. You clean the firearm and test it in the morning, ready to resume your hunt.
Tempering Your Expectations
None of the review kits are going to assuredly get you out of trouble. They can, however, offer you a stay on the inevitable and get you to a point where you can signal for help or make it to a safe location. Survival isn’t a guarantee and the scenario changes dramatically if you were injured in the accident. These kits can be the difference between life and death, make no mistake about that. Having one on hand is cheap insurance if things take a turn for the worse.
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