How to Make a Survival Kit

On my birthday in 2005, I read a Slashdot article discussing what things you might want to take with you if you had to evacuate your home. This was only a few months after Hurricane Katrina leveled southern Louisiana and Mississippi, so quite a few people had given this a lot of recent thought.

The article started off talking about which personal documents you should take copies of (driver licenses, marriage certificates, passports, etc.) — in other words, an electronic survival kit. However, the topic soon veered off into the kinds of things you need to physically stay alive. That made me realize that I've never made any such preparations, short of putting some bottled water in our tornado shelter. Below is a summary of the recommendations I came across.

Note: This isn't meant as a list of things you'll need to form your own private society out in the desert. I have absolutely zero interest in "survivalism"; I just want to have the stuff needed to keep me and my family alive until the National Guard arrives.

Second note: I primarily wrote this for me and my family. It's biased towards scenarios that I might have to cope with, but completely ignores things that I could never hope to deal with anyway (such as being lost at sea).


How To Carry It

There are two schools of thought here:

  1. Pack everything inside a small metal pan that you can use for cooking, carrying water, etc.
    • Pros: no wasted space or weight
    • Cons: small metal pans can get crushed or soaked
  2. Put everything "fragile" inside a hardened case, like an OtterBox
    • Pros: your gear stays dry and intact
    • Cons: the box isn't probably very intrinsically useful

Your application affects your choice very heavily. If you plain to carry mainly camping gear that's pretty durable, the first option is probably your best choice. If you expect to carry many fragile items, such as an electronic survival kit or other small electronics, then the second is likely better. I personally use an OtterBox.

The List

Note, some of this is blatantly, word-for-word plagiarized from the above sources. My goal is to condense their ideas into one handy list, and there are only so many ways to say "strike anywhere matches".

  • Instructions

  • Tools

    • Good, metal knife
    • Small multi-tool (for the scissors, screwdrivers, etc.)
    • Compass
    • Thermometer
    • Magnifying glass — possibly a Fresnel lens
    • Flashlight with batteries, preferably with a blinker
  • Metal dining utensils (that can be sanitized before and after use)

  • Fire starters — at least one of:

    • Strike anywhere matches in a waterproof safe
    • Firestarting piston
    • Disposable lighter
    • Magnesium/flintbar
  • Water

    • Personal water filter
    • Water purifying straw
    • Water purification tablets
  • Several sheets of paper and a pencil

  • A bottle of alcohol. Distilled, drinkable grain alcohol is best.

  • Medicine / Health

    • Anti-diarrheals
    • Aspirin
    • Antihistimines — to counter allergic reactions
    • Any other drugs you personally need to stay alive
    • Scalpel blades
    • Sunscreen
    • Suture kit
  • Homemade soda can stove

  • 5 pounds of gorp ("good old raisins and peanuts")

  • Emergency blanket

  • Ziploc Baggies

  • Camelback water reservoir recently filled with known good water

  • 100 feet of parachute cord

  • Wool cloth. Two shirtweight pieces 45"X 72". One heavier weight 60"X108". These are your clothes, your hammock, your chair, your carryall, etc. Do not substitute cotton!

  • Three yards of 36" wide cotton could come in handy as well. This is your hat, your belt, your shoulder bag, your sling, etc.

  • Clothing

    • Two pair of wool socks
    • Waterproof, windproof shell or parka. Yes, even if you're in a tropical zone.
    • Work gloves for digging through post-disaster rubble
    • A warm hat
  • A pennywhistle or any other tiny musical instrument. If you can turn a disaster into a party, your odds of survival will go up.

  • Signalling

    • Referee's whistle
    • Mirror
    • Mini LED flashlight
  • Money — your eventual goal is to get back to civilization

  • Repairs

    • Mini roll of duct tape
    • Sewing needle and thread
    • Safety pins
  • 9'x7' painting tarp (to make a tent) or a few trashbags

  • Slingshot kit — can be used to kill small game or fish

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