Seven Emergency Kit Essentials

Jun 27th, 20121 Comment

Yeah, I know, every “expert” on the planet has an “emergency kit essentials” list posted on the internet, but taking the time to think about the five or ten most important items in your emergency kit is an instructive exercise.  Most commercial survival and emergency kits just plain suck.  Band-aids and fishing kits don’t excite me in a survival kit, and if I am going to trust my life to a kit, I don’t want the cheapest crap that China has to offer.  When it comes to survival, quality counts!  With a little thought and effort you can easily put together a more functional kit at a lower price than anything you will find on a store shelf.

The requirements for the items on my list are:

  • They must support critical survival functions (shelter, water, first aid, signaling, or food)
  • They perform a function that can’t easily be performed by items scavenged from the environment
  • They are multi-use items
  • They are appropriate for all types of emergency kits from pocket kits to car kits to evacuation kits

OK, in no particular order, here are my seven emergency kit essentials:

  1. Ziplock Freezer Bags:  I really don’t know how our ancestors survived without plastic ziplock bags.  They are just so darned useful.  Use them to carry water, foraged food, or to keep your gear and tinder dry.  Nothing in nature comes close to doing what you can do with plastic.  Fill the bag with water, lay it in the sunlight, and within 6-24 hours (depending on the turbidity of the water and intensity of the sun) the sun’s UV rays will purify the water for drinking.  Make sure to use the thicker freezer bags and avoid the ones with the sliders, they tend to leak.  An unlubricated condom in your wallet will work, but doesn’t have the durability, volume, or sealing capability of a gallon freezer bag.
  2. Fire Starter:  Fire is the ultimate survival tool.  It can keep you warm, sterilize water, cook your food, signal rescuers, and keep ravenous monsters at bay.  The ability to start a fire is also a huge psychological boost for the survivor.  I’m sure all of my readers can get a blazing bonfire going in just seconds with an impromptu bow and drill, but I’m rather partial to Bic lighters and Firesteel for my kits.
  3. Blade:  Never underestimate the usefulness of a sharp, sturdy blade.  In general, a 3 to 5 inch blade is the most useful for a wide variety of outdoor tasks and I prefer fixed blades over folders.  Shop around and find the best blade for your needs.  For pocket kits, I love the Derma-safe folding razor, and for general camp use, it’s hard to beat a Mora knife.
  4. Duct Tape:  Duct tape, or hundred mile an hour tape as we called it in the Air Force, is another modern marvel our pioneer forefathers would have killed for.  Use this for clothing repair, shelter building, patching pinholes in your ziplock bags, or one of a million other tasks.  Duct tape is also a fantastic addition to your first aid kit and can be used to hold dressings in place, as a sling, and to close wounds.  Wrap 10 to 20 feet around a drinking straw and drop it in your kit.  I guarantee you’ll find a use for it!
  5. Cordage:  Parachute cord (also known as 550 cord) is, hands down, the most useful cordage available for survival and emergency kits.  Use it as is for maximum strength or pull it apart if you need thinner cords.  I could easily come up with a hundred uses for this stuff in just a few minutes, from shoelaces to fishing nets.  Paracord bracelets are all the rage these days, unfortunately they only provide few strands of cord between 4 to 6 feet long.  It’s better than nothing, but I’d rather have a single cord that is at least 15 feet long.  Believe me, it’s hard to have too much cordage.
  6. Whistle:  This is the only single use item on my list.  Signaling rescuers could very well be the difference between living and dying, and there is absolutely no reason not to have a whistle on your body at all times.  They are small, cheap, and very effective.  As long as you are conscious and breathing, you can whistle much louder than you can yell.
  7. Light:  I started carrying a flashlight daily a couple of years ago and I’m still amazed at how often I use it.  Emergencies don’t respect the daylight and even simple tasks are exponentially harder to accomplish in the dark, so make sure your kits are well furnished with flashlights.  The little Photon lights are perfect for pocket kits.  My everyday light is a Browning Alpha Max.  This handy little light is only 4 1/2 inches long and spits out over 100 lumens with a single AA battery.
  8. Honorable Mention:  Here are three more items that almost made the list.  Water purifier (bleach, iodine, or tablets).  Space blanket (good signal and shelter, just don’t think a space blanket is all you need to stay toasty when the temps plummet towards freezing).  50 gallon trash bag (compact, light, and incredibly useful as a carry sack, poncho, or sleeping bag).

These seven items are a powerful starting point for your emergency kit and are equally useful in the wilderness or an emergency shelter.  They certainly aren’t everything you may need, yet they can provide for your basic survival needs in an inexpensive kit that you can slip into a pocket.  Regardless of what is in your kit, take some time to train with it!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put together the perfect kit only to find that one or more items didn’t stand up to real world use.  Experience helps you learn how to improvise and is the only way to determine if a particular piece of gear will work as advertised.  So get busy, build your kit, and put it to the test!

Did I forget something on my list?  Let me know in the comments below.

© 2012, mjshozda. All rights reserved.

One Response to “Seven Emergency Kit Essentials”

  1. SchemaByte says:

    Nicely done! Supplementally, folks might want to check out the official FEMA list:
    http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/checklist_1.pdf

    This (your list) pretty much mirrors what I’ve got going down, only of course I have to have a pistol and first-aid kit alongside. =)

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