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Personal Survival Kits - Theoretical and Practical Discussion
I am sure most, if not all, Hoodlums have constructed a PSK of some kind.  I think I made my first one when I was about 13 years old.  I have used stand-alone kits the size of an Altoids tin which are taped shut and only touched in the event of an emergency, and I've used others that rode on the sheath of a knife and were purpose built for constant use and replenishment much like a possibles kit.  

Though I have used several variations and sizes of survival kits over the years, every time I make a new one it is different that the last.  Whether the difference is small and relates to a minor equipment change, or large and due to a significant skill development or to fill a different role, no two have ever been alike.

My intent in starting this thread is to open up a discussion where we can share knowledge, experience, and theory that will help improve each other's kits.

Please feel free to post photos of your kits, lists of the contents, information about the items and why you chose them, and your experience with how they worked.
Here is the kit I built most recently.  It is quite obvious that this kit is larger than the usual pocket kits built around an altoids tin.  As a matter of fact, I built this kit to address the two main gripes I have about all of the little kits I have built and used in the past.

Reason #1

In my experience, the small kits that I have made and used require extreme sacrifices just for the sake of fitting into a small container.  If the container must fit into a pocket, that's understandable.  However, this kit is designed to ride in my backpack or on my belt.  

Some may say that the PSK stored in my backpack is a bad idea because if I become separated from my pack I have nothing.  I operate in such a way that I am mindful of where my equipment is.  If I am in a canoe I make sure my pack is in a drybag and will float.  If I am crossing a river on foot, I will not be doing that in such a way that I will become separated from my PSK.  If drop my main pack for a short hike away from camp, the PSK is on my belt or in my patrol pack.  If...  you see where I am going with this.  

Also, with smaller kits, I have found that even in a dire survival situation I'd never want to open the darn thing because I know its like a Chinese puzzle to try and get everything back in there.  The items that are in the kit are often the least useful variations because usefulness was sacrificed to get it to fit.  For example, PSK knives are usually extremely small.

And most importantly, the tin itself is small.  This brings me to...

Reason #2
Water Purification

I am at a point where I am confident enough in my abilities that I am willing to sacrifice carrying a lot of things.  I used to romanticize about going out into the woods with only my knife and surviving forever.  As my skills advanced and I gained a more realistic view of survival I realized something.  If I had to go out into the bush for an extended period of time with only a few items the FIRST thing I would choose is A POT!

That's right.  No frills.  No glamour.  Nothing exciting. A metal container in which I can cook food and BOIL WATER.  

I can probably craft a stone knife or improvised cutting tool if I need to.  I can probably make natural cordage, scavenge some, or sacrifice some clothing to reduce it to string.  I can build a primitive shelter with no tools.  But if I'm thirsty and the only water around is questionable, I want to boil it.  Purification tabs and rolled up plastic bags are great but they run out.  My little stainless container is going to allow me to boil life sustaining quantities of water indefinitely.  That's why this particular kit is built around the container I wanted it all to fit into, considering the container itself as one of the most important tools.

Here she is.

Weight: Just under 2.5LB
Pouch:  Rothco ammo pouch
Container: U Konserve Divided Rectangle, Lime, 25oz

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Inside the outside pocket is a shower curtain from the dollar store and a large Mylar blanket.  The blanket is tucked into the shower curtain's original packaging for protection.  I kept the original packaging because a little plastic bag has about umpteen gazillion uses in the bush.  It even has a little metal eyelet on it which I am now realizing I could use to make a fish hook or a trap trigger or...

This portion of the kit is primarily for shelter.  Whether that's as a temporary rain poncho or a longterm shelter roof, these two items can be used for a lot of shelter options.  The mylar blanket can be used for signaling.  Both can be used to gather or carry water, etc.

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Inside the larger pocket is the PSK container and a whole bunch of 550 cord.  We all know the billion uses of 550 cord so I'll skip that.
The container lid can be used as a cutting board and does a fairly good job of keeping the kit water resistant.  I am sure I could come up with more uses for it if need be.

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Although I think I do have a lot of stuff crammed inside this thing, It is not jam packed and the items don't jump out like a snake from a trick can of peanuts.

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Good to see you back, D....

My experiences mirror Dashing's. Many, many kits since I was a kid, more complete kits after seeing the Hood Wood's video. None of them perfect, all of them too small. My entire camp on a pack mule's back plus a Starbucks franchise still don't seem to cover all the potential bases.

And I think that is the crux of the matter: trying to cover all the "potential" issues. Ain't gonna happen, just stop it.

Make your kit to cover the essentials, and call it good.

Carry on.....

As I stated earlier, I am considering the stainless container one of the most important tools.  Here you see it with some water purification tabs and water bags.  The kit also contains a military triangle bandage which can be used to filter the water before purification or boiling.

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For first aid, the kit contains steri-strips, knuckle bandages, bandaids, triangle bandage, duct tape.  Other items have potential first aid uses such as fresnel lens and needle for removing splinters, two signal mirrors which enable me to look at my back and the back of my head to remove a tick or broken glass (both have happened).  Worst case scenario I could use needle and thread to suture after boiling them in water.  

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The rest of the items include:
Fishing Kit
Metal trinkets kit
4" Channelock pliers
SAK Farmer
Ferro Rod
Bic Lighter
Leather strop with grey and green sharpening compounds
Ikea paper measuring tape
Fresnel lens
2 signal mirrors
Large Nail Clipper
Triangle bandage
Duct tape

My options for fire in this kit include the Bic, fresnel lens, nail for flint and steel, candle, ferro rod, cordage and knife for bowdrill or hand drill kit construction.  The fish kit tin and triangle bandage can be used to make char cloth or other charred material.

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The metal trinkets kit holds:
Fishing line and thread wrapped around the outside
Sail needles
Sewing needles
Paper clips
Safety pin

The uses of small metal tools like these are endless.  I can go into detail at a later date.

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The fishing kit contains:
Hooks of various sizes
Split shot

It is important to note that the fishing kit and metal trinkets kits are both kept in their own containers for ease of access and use.  I don't have to open my whole PSK while I am standing near water, rigging up an improvised fishing pole or handline.  The PSK is put away and only the fishing kit comes out of my pocket.  The sinkers and smaller hooks are also contained but easily accessible.  There is also room inside the fishing tin for other fishing items I may craft.  The Snus tin can be used to make charred material for flint and steel fire.  It can be polished for signaling.  Etc. etc.

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This last photo shows everything BACK IN THE KIT.  It was easy to get it all back in there and I didn't pull my hair out.

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I chose the SAK Farmer for this kit for several reasons.  I spent most of my youth doing everything I needed to do in the woods with only a small cheap pocket knife.  This one is sturdier, made of better materials, and has a saw which makes it 1000x more useful in my opinion.  Chances are, if I was not stripped naked by ninjas and then somehow managed to escape into the bush with only my PSK, I probably have a fixed blade knife (or two) strapped to my body and at least one other folding knife stuffed in my pocket.  If not, in my experience the SAK is one of the most versatile knives I can get in this tin with all the other stuff.

I should add that this kit is designed to cover my basic survival needs and the kit would do a good job of that if it was all I had. However, its design and planning takes into account my comfort level, delusions of grandeur, knowledge, etc. and is even more valuable as a supplement to the other stuff I carry in the bush or on a daily basis.

One thing I am already planning on adding is a wire saw. I asked for 5 of those for Christmas.

Disclaimer: I have not seen Ron's PSK video. I will have to check that out.

I hope this post will spark some discussion which may help me improve my kit or do the same for others.
Dashing great kit, great post!! Man great minds do think alike, glad ya got a Bic!! (except my stuff does jump out like the snakes in a can of trick peanuts hahahaha)

Anybody 'member this little gem?? (great post if I do say so meself Big Grin )...I think we had like 6 pages of responses and dialogue going... when you come to the term "super she man survival trip" try not to die laughing....

The concept of survival kits has been done on the forum many times, but that don't mean we shouldn't do it again, cuz I always end up learning something Mr. hay stated everybody has a different experience--my mini and maxi kits improved vastly once I watched the Ron and Karen Hood survival kit video. But I too, as Bill, have found...mine were too small to begin with, now I have found the right combo of space, weight and items that would allow me to survive in this desolate hard country....survivalin" items for Northern Ontario is a helluva lot different than for Arizona or wool!

The information I gleaned from a combination of real world survival stories (my own and others such as Archers fall in the river and loosing his pack) as well as TN Ridge Rovers EXCELLENT article in SQ mag about the layering maxpedition pouches PSK he well as little tidbits like Kid Coteau's flare suggestion and the one who told me forget the foil if you fold it--it cracks and is useless-- have all shaped what I carry and how I carry it today.

A few thoughts for everyone: One of the most important ideas I got from Ron's Vid was the heavy duty contractor GARBAGE BAG!! 1001 uses and more I have used it for a: hat, skirt, poncho, sleeping bag, tarp/shelter, water carrier/collector...socks, backpack, trap, mattress, chair, hammock, and much more.  They are invaluable, if I had to choose 3 survival items only other than my clothes (and I wasn't allowed a gun) I would take a knife, a bic lighter and a garbage bag.

One surprising thing I had left out of my kit before my little mishap called "recognizance canoe day trip turned survival situation" was water. I mean I didn't leave it out, I had some purification tablets and a canteen but I found #1..the tablets literally make the water taste a heavy chlorinated pool...#2 they run out VERY quickly when you have 3 people lost in the wilderness with no water for 3 days carrying 100+ pounds of canoe bushwacking.

I also learned another important lesson that trip---after 3 days of heavy exercise in the bush and only 1 L of water and half a liter of whiskey--you will break down and drink unpurified water (as you should)....

On that trip one of those little 2$ hand-warming heating packs saved me from hypothermia so I always carry those now-as well I always carry at least a personal filter : frontier or life straw...trioxane bars start a fire just as sure as a road flare but are smaller and lighter...

I have rarely needed the band-aids except they are a must have for blisters but...I recently added a package of quickclot and some duct tape wrapped around an old gift card though...after some guy stepped on a bear trap near us and nearly bled to death trying to walk out...

Mosquito repellent, coils and head net a must here or else you'll commit Big Grin suicide ...also candy and energy wonders..

Love your fishing kit...only thing I will add (careful it's illegal in some places) if it really is life and death survival fishing like for food that you need---you can spray your hooks, ect with a little WD-40--not only does it keep them rust free, but fish cant resist it...

"When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."--Thomas Jefferson

"Buy land- they are not making it anymore"- Mark Twain

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile €”hoping it will eat him last." -Winston Churchill

"Wilderness is in our hearts first and always. All of us can't have a cabin in the mountains. It's the wilderness within we must strive for first."- R. Sullivan
Lots of good info there AOC. Thanks.

The bandaids are a funny item. Any cut small enough to be treated with a bandaid surely is not life threatening. However, cuts and other injuries to the hands (based on my training and experience) are more detrimental to morale than any other part of the body. I have seen minor injuries to the hands have severely debilitating effects on capable individuals simply because they begin to feel like they can not manipulate their environment without pain. This quickly leads to depression which is deadly in a survival situation. (A very good reason to throw a cheap pair of work gloves in every vehicle, get-home bag, emergency kit, etc.)

The contractor bag is something I have used in my kits before and I have spent a few rainy nights under a contractor bag tarp shelter. The reason I chose to go with the shower curtain in this case is because it provides a greater area of coverage. Although the material is far less durable I think it can still be used for a lot of the same things as the black bag. One of the things I should have mentioned is that this kit was planned knowing that I might have to provide shelter for two. I should revisit this item though.

WD-40 on the fish hooks. Good idea. I had never heard of it's use as an attractant.

Bug dope is something I will think about adding, even though I have had unsatisfactory results with anything but max-deet or permethrin. A lot of my dirt time over the last 4 years has been in northeastern swamp and marshland so I'm very familiar with mosquitos (asian tiger type) and ticks. After a recent run-in with chiggers, my second and worst by far, I don't think I will ever mind mosquitos again. Those buggers even put Paris Island sand fleas to shame.

I will check out the thread you linked. Hopefully the idea for this one isn't redundant. I'm hoping others will post different variations of kits or even levels of spread-loading separate kits.
Ohhhhh boy  Cool

If you are thinking bigger than an Altoids tin I think that any survival kit you build should start with two things. A stainless Nalgene bottle and a Swiss army knife, either Farmer or One hand Trekker.

These two things will aid you well in water purification and shelter.

After that fire

After that cordage

After that is your call
Live with honor, ride with truth.  Be friendly to others.  But always carry a gun on your side and a knife in your boot because there are those that do not feel the same as this.

@Kid Couteau

The kit I posted has an SAK farmer. I agree that is is a good choice.

The focus of this kit was to incorporate a stainless container for water purification like you said. I'm usually carrying a Klean Kanteen or a water bottle anyway so building a kit around one wasn't the goal for this one. I think if I was building a kit that large I might as well strap a fixed blade to the outside rather than a folding knife. This kit covers fire and cordage pretty well I think.

I hope you'll show us some of the kits you have used.
I always think about PSK’s when I am actually out camping.

I do “what if” scenarios in my head in the current conditions I am experiencing and ask myself what I would need or want at a minimum. I concede that many items I think of are chosen for moral boosting rather than outright “survivaling” Smile
{  "Trust in Jesus but carry a sixgun in the bathroom."€  Phantom  }
If I had a nickel for every time I packed, unpacked, modified, repacked a PSK.........

Unlike Sensei, I don't need a pack mule and a Starbucks franchise...I only need a 16 foot trailer and a Tim Horton's franchise..... Smile

I have found that my PSK changes with my attitude, confidence and whatever interest has currently captured my fancy....

At present my PSK is a small pack I purchased a few years ago from National Parks Depot, I am able to carry pretty much everything to get me through and uncertain 72hr period. However, at this point in my life, were I to stray too far from my F150....I may be in a pickle..

Some mornings it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps!

Agreed totally on the metal container to boil water/cook food. It's often overlooked. Gone are the days where I carried a blue enamel cup and no canteen or means for purification. Those were great days, but one can't simply do dirt time that way anymore.
Flunkis Moritani - When in doubt - Play dead  - Red Green
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.
The last few times I camped, I confirmed to myself that I would only really need something to make me comfortable for an unplanned overnight and a way to give me clean water if I did get stuck out where I go. I am never REALLY more than a few miles from a roadway.

I always have a blade and a way to make fire on me anyway.

I prioritize a small tarp, some line, and water purification tabs. My go to idea for a shelter is debris kept in place and covered by the tarp. The tarp is also the vessel for holding a quart of water for the water purification tabs when you gather it up and hold it “just so...” Wink

Fire would be nice. Food, fish hooks, compass, a beer, etc. would be great too. When the SHTF by me though and I have to choose just a few items to elevate me from misery,  I wanna be covered and drink water as my bare minimum. Sitting in a thoroughly rained out canoe camp confirmed this to me 2 summers ago. I imagined how royally sucky and dire my situation would be w/out my spartan cover.

The PSK I assembled has items that go into the built-in stuff sack of a commercially available 5’x7’ tarp. It is not as tiny and compact as an Altoids tin type PSK but I wants me a danged tarp if I’m planning ahead.

FWIW Smile

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{  "Trust in Jesus but carry a sixgun in the bathroom."€  Phantom  }
Good stuff! My current strategies are a waterproof pill bag kit which I have a mod for, and a drop leg watercraft kit.
Message of Insight and Unity 

We go into the wilderness to fulfill our hearts and empty our minds of life's garbage.
The gear we leave behind and the challenges we encounter, 
Are methods we use to cleanse our spirits.
Of Survivalists and Bushcrafters, Primitive Technologists too, we are one.........

It is the wilderness within, we strive for first and always.
Not everyone can have a cabin in the mountains.
The thread that connects us, is fine like silk and strong as steel.
Together, the song of the wilderness is the song we sing!

"And can I say something else?"
Bushcrafting is "doing what you want to do." 
Survival is "doing what you have to do"
Primitive Technology is about all of the above........

By TNRR aka "Survival Sully"
Plan to layer your equipment
Essentials in your pockets or on your belt knife, compass whistle firelight etc. a map of the area and GPS if you have one.
Day survival equipment in a lumbar pack cup, construction bags mylar sheet snacks and headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.
Food shelter light sleeping bag and cook pot in a small day pack.
When you may spend the night in the mountains you can drop the pack in a likely spot and continue on with the lumbar and the essentials in your pocket if you are fishing or hunting nearby. If there is a chance you will not make it back to your pack it will be light enough to take with you.
What extras you put in are a matter of personal preference, but you should consider always having shelter, water, map and compass, fire kit, first aid soft tissue treatment and adequate clothing and footwear for the terrain.
Guns and fishing kit to suit the occasion.
You can't expect to be totally comfortable in the wilds, you should  however be able to get by.
James Ayers in his book 100 deadly skills also discusses the layered system

Hopefully the S won't HTF and I pray every day that it won't. It would not be fun.

I have a high art..I wound with cruelty, all who wound me...Archillocus; 650 B.C.
One thing that stays close at hand, at work that means in the car.

An axe. Up here in Northern Maine an axe will carry you a long way towards a better time.

Live with honor, ride with truth.  Be friendly to others.  But always carry a gun on your side and a knife in your boot because there are those that do not feel the same as this.


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