I’ve been doing quite a bit of research recently on the variety of survival kits available as I work to build survival kit. There is an almost overwhelming array of choices available. Just as a brief example, there is a UST S Deluxe Survival Kit that should cover just about anything you need while camping. There is the altoid tin survival kit that is home made, inexpensive and customized. Closely related to that is the pocket size survival kit – again something that, in and of itself, has almost too many choices. There are wisdom emergency survival kits for specific events like earth quakes and wilderness survival kits. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in survival kits – it doesn’t really begin to cover disaster kits or anything needed for long term survival. So, I’ve decided to devote some time to looking into the pros and cons of each of the various types of survival kits available to see how my own, custom built survival kit is holding up against the competition.
Variables to Build Survival Kit
In general, there are three basic variables that need to be considered when selecting or building a survival kit – time, intensity and location.
- How long you expect to need to use the survival kit?
- What is the expected intensity of the event that you are needing to survive?
- What location do you expect to be in when the event occurs?
Most commercially available survival kits seem to be aimed at short term needs – a few days or maybe even a week. Very few include any provision for food – most seem to be focused on protection and health. Low or medium intensity events also seem to be the most popular – accidents of various sorts up to being lost. Finally, most of the commercially available survival kits seem to assume that you will be either in a specific type of location – wilderness survival kit – or mobile – pocket size survival kits.
The choices are endless and, it seems to me, that you have a basic choice to make prior to deciding which way to proceed – are you going to buy a commercial survival kit and trust the wisdom of someone else or are you going to put in the time, thinking, planning and effort to custom build one for yourself? I’ve taken a combination approach myself, using a 1 week emergency survival gear list combined with a small survival kit list as a basic approach, it seems wise to evaluate a few of the commercially available survival kits and types.
UST S Deluxe Survival Kit
The UST S Deluxe Survival Kit seems to be aimed primarily at outdoors adventures. It contains very well made tools and equipment that will help you survive if you find yourself in a short term, medium intensity event in the woods. It contains
- fire starter
- signal mirror
- carrying case
It is a great combination of nice and useful tools and is very compactly packaged to fit easily in a backpack or other camping bag. The UST S Deluxe Survival Kit seems well suited to be very useful if you find yourself lost in the woods somewhere.
Altoid Tin Survival Kit
You can’t buy and altoid tin survival kit. I don’t think you’re supposed to buy an altoid tin survival kit. They are designed to be a 72 hour survival kit and part of the appeal is that they are very personalized to your particular needs. There are a ton of examples on the internet and all of them seem to be for a short term, low intensity event at any location. In general, they include things like:
- altoid tin
- parachute cord wrapped around the outside of the tin
- shelter foil
- bleach powder
- safety pin
- fish hooks and fishing line
I like the customization available with this approach but the limiting factor of packing it in an altoids tin severely limits what it can contain and therefore, it’s usefulness From what I’ve been able to tell, the altoid tin survival kit was a popular rage several years ago that has passed it’s time. It sounds very interesting but I think that it’s true value, relative to the effort to assemble it, is very low.
Pocket Size Survival Kit
The pocket size survival kit seems to be the next generation of the altoid tin survival kit. There are many commercial versions available and it appears to be much easier and cost effective to purchase one of these rather than build your own. Most of what I find available commercially seem to be aimed at medical emergencies with the balance being very specific to a type of event or location. One advantage of a pocket size survival kit, especially the medical emergency kits, is that they appear to have good quality ingredients that are well thought out for a particular type of application. I actually have two of these commercial pocket size survival kits – one in my vehicle and one in my hunting backpack – both places that seem to make a lot of sense in those locations for the types of events and durations that I’d find myself.
Wisdom Emergency Survival Kit
Another type of survival kit is the Wisdom Emergency Survival Kit. This is a kit specially prepared, in advance, for a very specific type of event. An example would be an earth quake – where you would want something easy to grab and go that would provide most of what you’d want to have at hand during a specific type of emergency. A typical earth quake survival kit for two people for three days includes:
- emergency blankets
- first aid kit
- light sticks
- masks and gloves
As you can see, those items, in a wisdom emergency survival kit in the event of an earth quake, would be very helpful.
Chicago, Philadelphia & Los Angeles Wilderness Survival Kits
Wilderness survival kits come in a bewildering array of sizes and flavors! I didn’t realize that many people went to the wilderness! People seem to be looking for them from all over the United States. You can find people looking for wilderness survival kits in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and even Chicago! Honestly, while these kits appear to be robust and very useful, unless you’re truly adventuring at quite a distance from civilization, I just don’t understand how beneficial they might be to most of us. After all, one of the best pieces of wilderness survival advice is to find running water and follow it down stream – soon enough you’ll find some sort of civilization. Otherwise, if you are hurt badly enough that you can’t move, then stay put, get comfortable and rely on your back country notification plan to work for you – you did file a back country notification plan, didn’t you? That said, here’s what most of the wilderness survival kits seem to include:
- food rations
- water purification
- shelter foils
- knife, saw, matches, tinder
- signaling devices
- fishing tackle – why does everyone assume that you will need to fish?
- first aid
- illumination devices
I completely understand the need and value of a wilderness survival kit if you’re going into the back country. Be smart and get your wilderness survival kit from an expert and make sure it meets the needs of your ability level and the specific location you are going. If you are looking for a wilderness survival kit, whether you are from Chicago, Los Angeles or Philadelphia, I recommend that you find an expert and then talk with them in detail about where you are going, how experienced you are and what other equipment you will have available. But, if you aren’t going into the back country, I think there are better ways to assemble more useful items at a lower cost and higher value.
Summary to Build Survival Kit Vs A Survival Gear List and Survival Kit Priority
Update 7/12/11: It’s worthwhile to consider that there are a number of factors to consider when building or buying a survival kit. One of those factors is the timeline – how quickly might you need it and for how long will you need it? If you envision a very short timeline then an every day survival kit may suit your needs. If you envision a longer timeline then planning and building from a survival gear list may better serve you. A timeline is only one factor to consider – there are quite a few others. Once you’ve established the timelines that interest you and address your concerns, you can begin developing your survival kit priority.
Summary of Deluxe, Altoid Tin, Pocket & Wilderness Survival Kits
Just based on some brief research, another very interesting notion became evident. Most of what is available on the internet is either no longer available or sold specifically by a company that sells survival kits. The UST S Deluxe Survival Kit is still made and appears to be well made and supported. Altoid tin survival kits really can’t be purchase – nor should they given their very custom and personal nature. Pocket size survival kits come in a bewildering array of choices, over 50% of which are no longer available or sold by companies who package survival kits. I do understand the wisdom of purchasing a survival kit from a company with a reputation and expertise. That said, I’m not convinced of the wisdom of allowing someone else to determine what I’m going to have available if, when and where an event occurs that requires that I have survival equipment readily available to me!
I have over a year of experience planning, assembling a personal, custom survival kit, with an urban survival checklist, on a reasonable budget. I’m learning how to build survival gear. There is no easy cheap survival kit – unless you really don’t care what happens! I have some very particular notions about what is valuable – where the benefits exceed the price, and what I’m going to want and need to care for myself and my family. I want to build my own survival kit! If you don’t want to put the health and safety of your family in the hands of a stranger who just sold you something, then take a look at what I’m doing to build a custom survival kit and how I can help you.