> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Building a Great Pocket Survival Kit - Planning



Building a Great Pocket Survival Kit - Planning

Build a great one o' these.
We've had a ton of fun looking at the various survival & EDC kits that have come in over the past month, and wanted to give some thoughts and perspective on what it takes to make a great pocket survival kit (PSK). As you guys and gals know, it's a lot more than chucking some junk drawer left overs in an altoid tin; there's actually something behind it.

Professionals of all sorts have been carrying pocket-sized survival kits for a long time now - heck, the SEALs who took down Bin Laden a year ago had E&E kits in their BDU pockets. They aren't a silly thing, but they are generally a last ditch kind of measure. They're for use if you are separated from the rest of your gear and left with only what's on your person (or less!). They're meant to help you get out of whatever trouble you've gotten yourself into and survive over the short term. A pocket kit is never going to be capable of long term sustainment--they're for keeping you alive and getting you to safety as long as possible.

As with all kits, PSKs should be designed with a specific use scenario and environment in mind. From there, you look at the problems you would need to solve and the capabilities that your kit needs to have.

PSKs pose an especially interesting challenge due to the size constraints--you really have to focus on what would be essential in a given scenario. That's one of the reasons I enjoy PSKs so much.

What am I preparing for? - The Use Scenario
The use scenario is the kind of situation and environment where you would need your kit, and will dictate what you pack inside your kit.

You can't really plan for how you end up in the bad situation--you would avoid it if that were the case! But you can describe the kind of bad situation and, from that, the associated problems that your kit needs to deal with.

The classic pocket survival kit is geared towards Dual Survival-style wilderness survival. In this case, potential use scenarios would be something like:

"I am lost, stranded or injured in the forest." (or desert or wherever)
For urban survival/E&E preparedness, other potential use scenarios could include:
  • "I am at work when a wide scale disaster strikes--I can't get to my vehicle and I'm left with what's on my person."
  • "I am traveling in a foreign country when there is a regional disaster or instability."
  • "I am being pursued by people who want to do me harm."
What problems might I need to solve? - Capabilities
Your use scenario will drive the capabilities that your kit needs to have. Think through the challenges that would be associated with that scenario--the problems that you would need to overcome in order to make it out alive.

Write out and prioritize the capabilities that your kit needs to have, and hold onto that.

Taking the first use scenario ("Lost, stranded or injured in the forest.") the problems quickly come to mind. Navigation. Fire. Shelter. A container for water. First aid for broken bones. Need to signal potential rescuers. Dave Canterbury's 10Cs of survival are a great guide here.

But wilderness survival is what we're probably all used to looking at, right? Let's look at something a bit different - the at work/disaster strikes scenario, something more "urban" in nature.

The problems change. Fire and shelter are probably not as big of concerns. Potential containers are fairly abundant, but purification would be an even bigger problem. Defense becomes a much bigger priority (see U.K. riots, Katrina, etc.). Signalling potential rescuers may still be critical (buried under rubble, stuck in a burning building). Navigation may or may not be important. A good light may be more important than in a wilderness scenario. Cash or other compact wealth could be critical.

If we look at the E&E scenario (pursued by people who want to do harm), things change again. The kit itself may need to be concealed on your person or cached somewhere safe. You may need to escape restraint. Defense again is a big deal. Ability to alter your appearance may be big, as is the ability to prove your identity and credentials. Communication may be hugely important. You've probably got a functional economy, so cash would be an essential.

Capabilities Drive Gear Selection
When you've got your prioritized list of "must have" capabilities, it's time to start picking gear.

For critical capabilities - say fire starting in a wilderness survival kit - I like to build in redundancy in case my primary method fails (usually a small Bic lighter). And go with the critical "probably die if I can't do this" stuff first; make sure you can accomplish those things before you move onto less important stuff.

Also, keep in mind that if you've got to resort to a PSK, you're very likely injured or in terrible conditions. Fragile gear or gear that requires fine motor skills might be just about worthless. You want simple and you want tough.

Finally, the actual container or size of the kit, as well as your carry method, should also be thought through with the scenario and problems in mind. If you find that you can't fit the kit in your pocket and you don't want to compromise on gear selection, it's time to start looking at belt pouches and other on-body carry options like the HPG Kit Bag. Really, a pocket survival kit is a big time compromise, and if you can step up your kit in size and still reasonably keep it on your person, then you'd be better off for it.

If you don't build your PSK with these kinds of constraints in mind (scenario & must have capabilities), your kit will end up lacking or disorganized. Write our your scenario, prioritized problems and associated must-have capabilities, and begin building your kit from there!

A note on EDC kits - I view these as different from pocket survival kits. Much of the contents of these kinds of kits (stacks of bandaids, OTC medication, nail clippers, etc.) is more for convenience than anything critical, life-or-death. It's generally comfort stuff, and I tend to carry it in my EDC bag, versus filling a pocket with it. Your mileage may vary, but pocket real estate is valuable stuff :D.

So, there's my thoughts on planning out a pocket survival kit. In upcoming posts, I'll go through a couple different scenarios, what I think are the must have capabilities, and my gear picks. Stay tuned!