Testing Your Survival Kit

tents on a mountain

Testing a Survival Kit: A Few Ideas from Many
by Varian Wrynn and Dr. Marcie Goodman

  1. Freeze-dried foods are great! Freeze-dried foods of all types are light and easy—but pack sufficient water to use them!

  2. A rock works as a hammer—good thing! Most areas outdoors have lots of rocks. By using a natural hammer, save pounds in a backpack. Make sure you find a smooth rock as the rough rocks have a tendency to scratch up aluminum tent pegs.

  3. Emergency fire starters are not fast fire starters. Building fires takes the right tools and some practice. You may have success with fire starters with built-in ignition or fire making systems.

  4. A cell phone is vital, but watch the power! Best bet is to turn it off and use it when necessary. Use a watch for your alarm.

  5. Bring required medicines. On my first trip, I forgot my allergy medicines. Since I’m allergic to dust, this made the weekend of desert living rather miserable. I brought the medicine on the second trip and life was good.

  6. Use workable fuel for a cooking fire. Charcoal briquettes are good and so is wood, but some fuels burn faster than others.

  7. Gloves are vitally important. Even cheap ones are useful, but may not last long, so buy/pack gloves carefully.

  8. Redundant cutting tools are important. I lost my Leatherman, but had my skinning knife and scissors. I later found the Leatherman, and on a subsequent desert hiking trip, lost the skinning knife. Planning for these types of mishaps is important.

  9. Solid fuel stoves will not heat a pint of water to a rolling boil in 8 minutes, despite the claims by the manufacturer, It will get pretty hot, though, almost to the boiling point. Your altitude will definitely affect this.

  10. Powdered Gatorade/Pedialite is wonderful for quenching thirst and restoring energy, and is light to pack, but can be expensive.

  11. Rolled up clothes are not comfortable pillows—nice idea but it doesn’t work well in reality. Pack small pillows when possible.

  12. Pack several Shemaghs (“Schmog”). A length of material of material wrapped around the head, worn to protect from sun and sand. Adopted by military as a standard issue garment because of its sheer functionality. Use as a pillow case, for warmth, to protect sharp points.

  13. Two person tents aren’t, unless both people are small. A two-person tent is barely big enough for one and a backpack. However, it is light and works well to keep the crawling, stinging critters out.

  14. Water consumption will vary. It can easily approach 2 gallons per day in the sun, but can be as low as 3 liters per day in the winter, even with the same activity level.

  15. A 16 oz wide-mouth plastic bottle is very useful for mixing and also accommodates many size water filters.

  16. Paracord should be used to secure bags, not tape, that becomes sticky and stretches in the sun.

  17. Newspaper has multiple uses, so pack some.

  18. Ensure your scissors and knives are sharp. Dull knives are almost useless, irritating and dangerous.

  19. Setting up camp takes longer than you think . . . unless you’ve done it several times. Add an hour or two for first time. Allow ample time to find a suitable place to pitch your tent, and carefully choose the spot—not in water-prone or other dangerous areas.

  20. Hot chocolate can be pre-mixed and vacuum sealed using FoodSaver bag. Heat a bowl of water and add to mix. A FoodSaver Bag can be used to seal and waterproof multiple items for your pack, including medicines and other small items.

  21. Pack a change of underwear and extra long-sleeve shirt. The shirt can be used for warmth on cold days.

  22. Casio makes a watch with a digital compass. It provides a reading to one-degree of accuracy—not bad for a $42 watch.

  23. Bring many small tubes of sunblock prevent sunburn.

  24. Lansinoh or baby cream is used to treat rashes and blisters—it works well on chafed skin.

  25. floppy hat or outdoor cap protects the scalp and ears from sunburn and insects.

  26. Consider buying Molle packs (try Ebay)—Infinitely more configurable and can be configured for a lower price than standard survival packs. Ammo pouches can hold all types of small items and Grenade pouches can hold a compass and paracord. 9mm clip [magazine] pouches can hold flashlights (when on Ebay, don’t get in a rush—prices vary from outlandish to unbelievably cheap).

  27. Pack an army surplus poncho. The poncho will keep you mostly dry but is like a windbreaker for warmth.

  28. Consider a 10 liter (2.5 gal) Dromedary Water Pouch—it weighs 21 pounds when filled. Tie it up high on the pack. Two lessons here—put the heavy stuff as high in the pack as it can go, and you can never have too much water.

  29. The trick to storing paracord and rope. To avoid tangles, fold it in half, then tie the folded end into a loop. Pull the cord through the loop into a slip-knot, repeat until all cord is consumed in a series of slip-knots. A store serving rock-climbers can be of help.

  30. 25 feet of rope is enough. Use nylon strap—it’s much smaller and has the same load capacity.

  31. Minimize cooking utensils. Try a Spork and a Leatherman/skinning knife and a bowl. Ditch the extras and keep it simple.

  32. Test your medical kit. Carry alcohol swabs, Neosporin, gauze, tape and pain relievers. A medical kit is typically the 4th heaviest item in after the tent, sleeping bag and air mattress.

  33. Build your stamina to survive an evacuation. Walk/hike/practice with a loaded pack (consider a rolling luggage cart). In a disaster, FEMA will not assist for several days and advertise that the delay could be 4–7 days. Count on being on your own!

  34. Periodically check BOB (Bug Out Bag) and your GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) kits—Rotate your food and water.

  35. Pack your kit for the most probable mission/scenario. Evaluate the most likely situations that would require the BOB and GOOD kits. Every person/family has unique needs during the work/school week and weekends. Plan and practice for such conditions. Do not be surprised if you continue to update, modernize, systematize and streamline as your tools and abilities improve over time.camp fire camping site

    The key is to actually test your kits. You can read government preparedness literature, other preparedness websites, and watch preparedness YouTube videos. However, without actually getting out there and testing your kits, you won’t know what you’re forgetting and you won’t know how to use your equipment. Testing builds self-confidence, which will inspire confidence in those around you, and that is pretty important.

    *This article was written by Varian Wrynn and Dr. Marcie Goodman


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