It goes by many names. Survival kit. Go bag.
Ok, maybe just the two. But this is what I want: a kit that contains everything a person needs to survive (for a time) without access to modern infrastructure, technology, or emergency services. Something that keeps you alive long enough to get help, if there is such a thing as help to be gotten.
I don’t have one, so I’ve decided to make one.
A survival kit can save a lost hiker, but I prefer to think of it as a “world-fall-down-go-boom” kit. Aside from societal collapse, I’m not sure what scenario I would use it in. There is no uninterrupted wilderness where I live. I may occasionally travel to uninterrupted wilderness for vacation hiking, but those times are few and far between.
I recently got my hands on the classic SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman, which offers survival lessons for almost any situation you can imagine.
I searched the book index for “alien attack.” It wasn’t there, but there was an entry for “unexpected events” which I believe qualifies. The following also had entries:
In addition to “jelly-making” and “explosives for fishing,” Wiseman offers advice on what should go into a survival kit. I decided to build my own kit before reading his list. I wanted to see what my instincts came up with.
Shouldn’t be hard, right? I have lived on this Earth for some decades. I’ve had experiences. I possess the power of logic and imagination. I have a blog.
It should be noted that you can also buy a survival kit. There are tons out there. But I’m not going the easy route; this is about SURVIVAL. I want my kit to be hand-made by ME.
After much deliberation, difficult choices, and several naps, I ended up with the following in my survival kit:
Giant floppy hat
All six volumes of the Saga comic
Two bags of marshmallows
Cat food (48 5-oz cans)
A bottle of ketchup
Checkers board and pieces
Analog map of the region
12 oz. bottle of butane lighter fluid
This seemed reasonable to me. Maybe not to everyone, but if fits my profile (and probable mental state) during an apocalypse… or even just a few days alone in the woods.
The hat and sunscreen go without saying: my skin is really more of a suggestion than actual skin. On the bright side, when standing in direct sunlight I can be seen from a distance of up to 20 miles, so that will help rescuers find me (if they still exist).
The Saga comics will help keep up morale, and I can trade them to other wandering survivors. Everyone needs entertainment, and Wiseman lists boredom as one of the chief stresses on a person during survival situations.
The marshmallows are delicious and will be great for sugar bursts of energy when I need to escape attackers or wild animals. The ketchup is an all-purpose garnish for whatever rotting animal corpse I have to eat to survive. Or—shudder—edible plants.
The cat food goes in because if this is an end-of-world scenario, there is no way I am leaving Bullet behind.
The checkers board and pieces will be essential once I go crazy, my personality divides, and I begin having complex conversations with myself. I expect this to happen during the first 12-24 hours, and there is only so much to talk about. Checkers will help pass the time. I considered bringing a chess board, but I don’t expect to be sane enough for complex strategy.
Analog maps: Sure. I have good ideas sometimes.
The butane fluid and lighter will be used to start fire—but also as a weapon. I know what you’re thinking; shouldn’t I just bring a knife or a gun? Sure, if I wanted to be like everyone else. Pffft! Anybody could use those. But people will stay away from the guy who uses a makeshift flamethrower for self-defense.
I was happy with my survival kit, but I knew there were problems. It weighed over 50 pounds by the time I was done, which presents difficulties during societal collapse. You gotta be mobile.
It was time to find out how I matched up against Wiseman’s survival kit. I opened the SAS Handbook and read his recommendations.
For his core survival kit, Wiseman argues that everything should fit inside a 2 oz. tobacco tin.
Hmm. Already quite different than what I came up with. My kit has to be spread across two large duffel bags.
needle and thread
fish hooks and line
condom (to carry water)
plasters (that’s a kind of sticky bandage for us yanks)
I have a hard time believing some of these items will fit inside a 2 oz. tobacco tin, but he argues that even the larger ones (like the flexible saw) can be found in tiny sizes. He also recommends a separate survival “pouch” that fits a few larger items like signal flares.
I suppose he did ok with his list. You can trust him over me if you value things like experience or intelligence. I think my list is more fun.
But visionaries must recognize other visionaries, so I’ve decided to strike a compromise between my list and Wiseman’s.
My new (and final) survival kit contents:
48 cans cat food
NOW I’m ready.
What would be in your survival kit? Is there anything you consider essential even though it might weigh you down?
Or do you prefer to wing it, dodging attackers and eating the brightest-colored berries, hoping for the best?