Now, the reason I came across these posts was because I was actively looking for survival kit ideas. I thought it was high time I re-visited my personal kit. Given that it’s covered with duct tape that hasn’t been removed in years, I have no idea what’s in my Altoid’s tin, or if it’s even useful. What I bring with me on a daily basis has changed, my skills have changed, and so have my perception of needs.
No, this isn’t the same old discussion about how to pack fishing gear into a hollowed-out walking stick handle, where to buy equipment, or even what to put in your EDC survival kit. Those topics are covered quite well in other resources on the internet, and in an excellent book on the subject, Build the Perfect Survival Kit.
No, these bloggers are taking the (controversial?) stance that the much-revered survival kit has no place on a walk in the woods.
Ross, (aka Wood Trekker) brings up some good points. I’ve enjoyed reading much of his writing thus far, and this is no exception. His take is that a person prepared for a night or more in the wild has no need for a “Survival” kit — you just have your kit, as this is what you’ve planned to do from the start. As Alex (from The Oak) says, when you’re in the woods, you have the tools you’ve brought, not survival or specialized equipment. Those tools are chosen to be appropriate for the task and trek.
Let’s look at a day-to-day example. I have some basic equipment in my truck at all times. Some might say it’s too much, but I’m not at a loss for space in there (my home is actually quite small, so it works out well), so it’s not a problem to store things there. In the truck I have a blanket, flashlight, tools, more tools (it’s over 17 years old, so I’d have to be crazy not to have some tools at least), fuses, jumpers, first aid kit, gloves, crowbar, fluids… all standard stuff that you’d expect to find. This can make a difference in an emergency, ranging from providing comfort to life-saving assistance.
Things can go wrong. And when they do, you want to make sure you have the tools to recover.
Now, it may sound like I’m about to disagree with the stance that both of the above bloggers have taken, but that’s not the case. Too many people hear that one should have the tools to survive in an emergency, but very few understand that those tools aren’t necessarily things. Your best tools are your planning, knowledge, and the flexibility to deal with your situation. Besides, a well-organized person already has all of the physical tools – why the need for smaller, less-ideal versions? Because when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what a survival kit is.
I have all that equipment in the back of the vehicle, but don’t have another pack with a subset of the same equipment tucked under the driver’s seat, or in my backpack.
In that sense, I think my colleagues are dead on when they say a survival kit is of little use. However, I also believe that it comes down to balance. If you can afford the space and weight, there is value in a bit of redundancy that can make a difference in an emergency situation.
Does that mean taking duplicates of everything, in case you lose it? No, of course not. Like I said, it’s about balance.
I think the only way to pack is to think about the possible situations, their likeliness, and how you can deal with the consequences.
For example: I don’t always tie my pack into the canoe. I can dump in choppy water, or it can get dropped when loading. This is a reasonable possibility. The possible consequence is that my stuff gets wet. For everything except for food and clothes, I’m fine with that. Since most of my food and clothes are already packed in waterproof bags of their own when I canoe, I don’t have a waterproof pack. I don’t bring a set of clothes that I never intend to wear — I just ensure that the ones that I have are appropriate and protected.
So, when it comes to a so-called Survival or Emergency kit, I think the question you have to ask is what situation you are likely to encounter that would require more equipment. That scenario would mean that you don’t have access to some or all of the regular equipment that you already brought, and that you cannot deal with its loss or breakage.
What situations can you think of? Perhaps a territorial moose or bear takes over your campsite, preventing you from getting to any of your equipment?
Sounds pretty rare, don’t you think? Now on the other hand, it’s quite possible that something might happen to some of your equipment — a lost knife, a ripped tent, etc.
Survival kits are full of useful items, but it’s time to start thinking of them as more than just items in a “survival” kit… They’re just… kit. Think of it like some people’s good china or silverware that never gets used. You use your dishes and utensils every day, and the “good” stuff just gathers dust. Make “the good stuff” the stuff you use every day, including special occasions.
Don’t leave your compass at camp when you go on a day hike, and you’ll never need to have a magnetized needle or button compass in an altoids tin. There’s a saying I’ve heard before: “You are good enough to use your good silverware.” In other words,
use the gear you bring for its intended purpose, and make sure you have it when you need it.
What will help you then is proper planning (and yes, spare equipment in some cases), but above all the skills to improvise and innovate. And if you walk away from your camp without your knife, what makes you think you’ll have your survival kit on you?
Silverware image from http://www.silvergiftstore.com/zipdrawlinpa.html