Survival

GOAL: Stay alive for a short period of time if exposed to the elements.

All the parts in this series:

You need to have a VERY basic survival kit with you, in case you get stuck on the way home or have to abandon your vehicle and hoof it. Your survival kit can be as basic or as exotic as your needs and skills require, from baby seal to Navy SEAL.

Our baseline assumptions and what they mean for this kit are that

  1. You’re dozens of miles from home, at worst. You therefore don’t need food or a way to get food. (You can last weeks without any food. Some of us look like we can last for months. Ahem.)
  2. You’re in an urban, suburban or populated rural environment. In other words, you’re not deep in the wilderness, so you don’t need rugged shelter, fishing line, etc.
  3. Your goal is to get home, not prove you can live off the land for a week. Therefore, the gear is simple and designed to keep you alive for a day at most. No water purification tablets and such.
  4. You're smart enough to understand that you'll have to augment this, depending on where you live (e.g., AZ vs. AK).
  5. You’re not actually Bear Grylls. But if you are Bear Grylls, hi Bear!
If you have the skills, this + the utility pouch provides enough for you to survive for quite a while. Even without skills, these will at least give you a better shot at getting home.

Here are the items in the picture for quick reference:

Let's discuss the survival items by category so you better understand our reasoning. (The bandana will be covered in the Utility section.)

Warmth

You’ll want two mylar blankets in your truck bag. Additionally, you should keep a light blanket in your vehicle at all times, one that you don’t really care about. It provides warmth and you can throw it on the ground if you need to do repairs or decide on an impromptu picnic. It should go without saying that if you live or travel in colder climates, you should also keep a jacket (down packs nicely), warm beanie and gloves in your bag as well.

Fire

This is pushing the boundaries of our assumptions above, but if it’s winter, you’re on foot, you have 25 miles still to go and snow is starting to fall, a fire is going to be really welcome. Pack one ferrocerium rod with striker, like Exotac’s Polystriker or Polystriker XL. (You’ll use the spine of our recommended knife to create the sparks.)

We recommend you include some fire-starting material, like cotton tinder. Dryer lint also works great, as long as you keep it dry (see our high-end Altoids tin in the picture).

Finally, next time you get gas, go inside the store, buy a Bic lighter and throw it in your bag. There's no easier or cheaper way to start a fire.

Signaling

You want to get someone’s attention, an emergency whistle is the best way.

Knife

You need a fixed-blade knife. Hopefully you carry a folding knife on you every day, but you should always have a strong backup.

There are as many options for a good knife as there are opinions on which is best. You want something that can hold an edge and that you can beat on, so bushcraft or survival knives are the best categories to check out. If you have a preferred brand or model, go for it. Otherwise, our suggestion is a solid value, especially considering the relatively light use it will get in a get-home bag.

The Morakniv Bushcraft or Garberg is a great option since they both are durable and relatively affordable. The primary difference is that the Garberg has a full-tang blade the entire length of the knife, which gives it additional strength and lets you beat on the butt end of it. (Get the multi-mount sheath if you get the Morakniv Garberg. You’ll see why when we get to the bag organization section.)

Water

Just a water bottle. This isn’t a long-term survival bag and you’ll likely have access to potable water. If you like the added security of knowing you could drink from any water source you come across, get a GRAYL Geopress, our favorite portable water purifier.

Food

Pack a Clif bar or something similar. You’re not going to starve but if your stomach is growling, it’s going to distract you from what really needs your attention.

Weather

You have to know what weather you’ll be facing, whether to know when to hunker down or how to dodge inbound storms. If you still have mobile service, check weather forecasts and especially radar frequently. If you took our advice in the comms section and bought a Garmin inReach device, you can get hyper-localized weather forecasts via satellite. Invaluable.

Put everything in a Magpul DAKA pouch or two and there you go! First aid and survival items checked off and ready for your get-home bag. Layer on professional training and you’ll be Ready Rated to make it home healthy.

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Read on to see what to put in your bag to fix all the little things that might break on your way home in Part 6, Utility.

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Posted 
Apr 23, 2022
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