I was surfing the internet one day looking at miniature survival kits and noticed that most kits were contained either in a tin, or sometimes in a can, or other bulky container. I stumbled upon an interesting kit from Ranger Rick at www.equipped.com/rangerrick_necklace.htm. and, while the kit to me looked a little light in material and quality, I was intrigued by the concept of a neck-worn survival kit. Over the years I have designed and tested many kits – I have also left many of them in the car as I did a final weigh-in and equipment check at the trail head just before taking off into the wild, due to weight and bulk. At a little under 1 lb., (15.5 oz.), this kit is not as light weight as I would have liked – of course, as you will be able to conclude by the end of this article, I am prepared to suffer some pain to ensure that I have what I need to survive if that time ever comes! I can also state after field testing each component, and the kit as a whole, that you quickly get used to the weight. However, it is not a kit that you want to wear while stalking game, as it is somewhat noisy. But, you can assess the kit based upon your own tolerance for pain (and noise) and then add or subtract items to suit your own specific needs. And that’s what a personal survival kit is all about anyway, no?
This is not a cheap kit to construct – I never tallied up the investment but would guess it would be somewhere north of $100 if you wanted to put it together from scratch. It probably cost me much more than that, as I have a small shoebox full of rejected items that I bought and tested that didn’t make the grade for one reason or another.
Some readers may point out that it does contain some items that are likely redundant to anyone traveling in the wild for any period of time. For example, it contains a small knife. I ALWAYS carry two pocket knives with me at all times, and while in the woods, I would most likely have a third, special purpose knife (such as a fillet knife) with me in my pack. So, the argument could be made that I really don’t need another one hanging on my neck. True. But when going into the woods, I also ALWAYS carry a compass with me, and at least two ways to start a fire – so, using the logic, that one need not to add redundant items to a survival kit, I guess I could leave these items out of the kit too? Not on your (rather, my) life! The kit was purposefully designed to be comprehensive in nature, and not designed to augment what I would “normally” be expected to have on my person while in the wild. I wouldn’t wear this kit to backpack around the mountains where I live, here in Pennsylvania. But I grab it every time I hunt bear by myself in the far backcountry of Northern Ontario. Ditto on fly-in fishing trips to remote Rocky Mountain and Canadian lakes. That’s what I like about it – I don’t have to think. I can just “grab and go” and know I am covered. I used to carry a full-sized SOG multi-tool into the wilds – and was very appreciative of that tool on many occasions. With the mini-tool on the kit, I now leave the SOG at home – it weighed 8.0 oz. The way I look at, I just cut the weight of the kit by 50%.
The kit was designed to ensure survival in non-hostile environments. It was not designed for the desert or ocean survival, or for deep winter outings. For those environments, I would have to reconsider the contents and make some adjustments, although I am sure that the core of the kit would remain the same.
However, that is a nice thing with a necklace-style kit – since everything is in full sight, items can be added or deleted quickly by simply clipping (or unclipping) them from the chain necklace. No more rummaging around in a small bag or having to unpack a tin that is stuffed full of things. For example, if you are doing a long desert hike, and you decide to leave the survival fishing equipment off of the kit, simply unclip that unit.
KIT CONTENT (It’s a lot for 15.5 ozs!)
One Pair Pliers, Wire Stripper, Wire Cutters, One Pair Scissors, Tweezers, 1 ½” File, 1 ½” Knife Blade, Can Opener, Skeletonized Skinning Knife and Sheath, Digital Thermometer, Awl, 6” Ruler, 3” Sharpening Steel, X5 Magnifying Glass, Heavy Duty Sail Needle, 28” SAS Commando Wire Saw w/ Thumb Rings, 6” Coarse Hacksaw Blade, LED/Lithium Flashlight, 9/64” Drill Bit, Pencil.
2) Signal Mirrors, Liquid-Filled Dial Compass, Emergency Whistle, Flashing LED Night Signaling Device, 5’ of ½” Orange Trail Marking Tape
1) 5 X Magnifying Glass (very optimistic), 1) Magnesium Steel Fire Starter, 3) Petroleum-Soaked Cottons Ball for Tinder), 7” Blow Tube (Doubles as a sip tube to extract water from tight places such as between rock crevices and seeps).
6’ Heavy Braided Nylon Cord (Gray) suitable for Bow Sting, 20’ Heavy Nylon Braided Cord (Olive), 11’ 3- Ply Nylon Cord (White), 3’ 300 Lb Test Steel Wire, 6’ Bailing Twine Wire, 30’ 24 Gauge Copper Wire, 36’ Heavy Flat Waxed cotton cord, 26” 30 Lb Test Beaded Chain.
2) 30 Lb Stainless Steel Wire Snares, Hunting Sling Shot, (3) Colored Pins to use as Weapon Sights, Fishing Kit: 48’ 10 Lb Test Monofilament, Assorted lead weights, (8) Assorted Hooks, (4) Dry Flies, (5) Wet Files, (2) Black jigs and (1) Mini-Popper
3) Tbs. Beef Bullion Powder, One 18” X 6” Nylon Mesh Bag, One 2-Micron Water Filter w/ Collapsible Drink Tube, One Latex Non-Lubricated Condom, 4) Heavy Brass Swivels, One 6 ½” Cigar Tube, 1) Water-Proof Plastic Container, One 56” X 42” Space Blanket, One 1 ½” Hat Pin, 7) 2 mg. Imodium AD Tablets (2 Caplets/ Dose for Diarrhea), 2) 200 mg. Ibuprofen Tablets, 8 – Water Purification tablets (1 per Quart), 1) 21 Mg Nicotine Patch (Cut into quarters for 4 – 8 days coverage), One 5” X 10” 3mm Waterproof Plastic FoodSaver™ Bag,, 12” Electrical Tape, Eyeglass Retention Strap, 2) Rubber Bands, $50 Cash, Kit Content Listing, and 8 Page Full Color Survival Guide.
DESIGN CONCEPT AND RATIONAL
The design concept of this kit dictated a fairly light weight, yet comprehensive survival kit that could be worn around the neck with minimal discomfort. The whole idea was to design a kit that would be taken along into the wild when its potential need was called for, and would not be left behind because of its weight or bulk. Too, the fact it was designed to be worn around the user’s neck helps to ensure that it stays on the body as opposed to being loaded into a pocket or backpack that could become separated form the owner. Because of weight requirements, contents were selected very carefully and were scrutinized for their overall quality and effectiveness, in addition to their potential to perform multiple duties. For this reason, some explanation of the contents may be helpful.
Kit Contents (Clockwise From Top)
- Beaded Necklace with Slingshot Rubbers and Drink Tubes
- Snares wrapped in 3’ of 300 lb. test Wire
- Cigar Tube filled with Space Blanket, Mesh Bag, Trail Marking Tape, 36” Waxed Cotton Cord, and wrapped in 25 ga. Wire, Nicotine Patch, and Survival Guide.
- Kershaw Match inserted into Water Filter
- Eyeglass Retainer Strap
- Tupperware Container filled with Signal Mirror, Condom, and 3 tbs. Beef Bullion Powder
- Knife Sharpening Steel and awl
- 6” Course Hacksaw Blade, Sail Needle, drill Bit, Pins, and Pencil wrapped in 26’ Nylon Cord
- Slingshot Leather Pouch
- Fishing Kit, and Multi-Tool (shown closed)
- SAS Wire Saw wrapped in 11’ Nylon Cord
- Highgear™ Adventurer Plus Multi-Tool
- CRKT Ringer™ Series Skinner Knife (Not shown)
The kit includes an enviable tool set, which when used with the wire and cordage material will allow for expedient production of traps and other useful primitive tool production. The multi-tool is made by Sheffield, and while not of the premier quality of some better known brands, it is more than adequate. I choose it because it had exactly the tools that I wanted: a small set of pliers and wire cutter, a decent knife blade, tweezers, scissors, can opener, and a good file. SOG, Leatherman, Gerber, Swiss Army and many others all offer mini-sized multi-tools. Invaluable. Pick the one you like.
Here is a fantastic little survival knife. Originally designed as a hunter/skinner, this knife is just too good to pass up as a survival knife. Made by CRKT, this knife weights a scant 0.7 oz. The blade length is 1.875” (4.8 cm) with a thickness of 0.12” (0.30 cm), and an overall length of 4.5” (11.4 cm). Its steel composition is 3Cr13, HRC 52-55. The sheath is Kydex®, and weighs in at .08 oz., making the total package 1.5 oz. Perfect!
I don’t find much use for a dull knife, so I want to make sure that I could keep the knife blade in the multi tool sharp. I choose a miniature sharpening rod that came as an accessory with a Swiss Army knife. Small and lightweight, I doubled the use of this tool by sharpening the end on a grinder to make a perfect awl. The hacksaw blade (scored in ½” increments to double as a tape measure) and drill bit will allow me to do field work with metal, bone, and stone in addition to hardwoods. The 28” SAS commando wire saw is of very high quality (don’t even think of scrimping here – the cheap ones are useless) and will allow the construction of more serious shelters, since fair sized tree limbs can be easily cut and formed to shape. Try: www.bestglide.com. Another nice thing about this set- up is that the thumb rings that come with the wire saw are used on the survival rig to attach additional equipment, as shown in the photos.
The other major “tool-set” that is included in the kit is a multi-purpose survival product made in China and marketed under the name Highgear (model: Adventure Plus). This is a sweet piece of equipment retailing for under twenty dollars, and includes:
- Bright white LED light
- Compass with liquid-filled, freeze resistant floating dial
- Digital thermometer with read-outs in Fahrenheit and Celsius
- 5x magnifier
- Safety whistle
- Safety mirror
- Dry storage compartment for matches, cash, etc.
- Dimensions: 4.375 x 1.5 x .75 in. (11.1 x 3.8 x 1.9 cm)
- Weight: 2 oz. (56.7 g) empty
- Consumer serviceable battery (2 CR1616)
This is the only kit of this size that I know of that has the capability to carry a significant amount of water. This could be a life-saving factor in and of itself. The condom serves the purpose of a bladder. It can be filled over running water using a “bouncing” motion, or by dunking it into calm water, filling it, pulling it out and stretching the neck, submerging it, then allowing water to flow into the stretched section, and repeating these steps. Sounds complicated, but it really is not –you’ll figure it out!
Once filled, it will safely hold 1.5 Liters of water (almost 2 quarts)! It will need to be supported though, if it is to be used as a canteen. This is what the black nylon mesh bag is for. Actually, it is a woman’s stocking. Get the knee- high version. Like the condom, the nylon is amazingly strong and virtually weightless. Aside from using it as support for the water bladder, it can also be used as a container, to carry tubers, fruits, and other items). Here is how this rig works: insert the 2 micron water filter into the filled bladder with the drink tube extending from the top of the bladder.
Simply tie an overhand knot on the top of the bladder to secure and close it. Insert the filled bladder into the supporting stocking. Filtered water can be taken from the bladder while traveling without having to untie and tie the bladder and bag each time it is used. It is handy to just hang this device up while in camp and use it this way. What you have just created is the “camel back” hydration system so popular over the last few years! Use the Iodine tablets if the water is particularly suspect, as the filter is mechanical (contains no silver or iodine resins).
At 2 microns though, it will remove our old friends Giardia and Cryptosporum. With care, the bladder should last many, many days, perhaps a couple of weeks; but once it does break or develop leaks, it can still be used to construct a slingshot.
Speaking of slingshots, the rubber tubing and leather pouch will make a dandy slingshot when combined with a “Y” stick. In fact, these are actual replacement rubbers for a hunting slingshot (get them at Walmart). Small round stones, about 1/3 the size of a child’s marble should be used for ammo, and can be carried in the cigar tube, once emptied, when a good supply of these stones are found.
This weapon will bring down small game with some luck and practice (look at the bright side – ammo is cheap). The surgical rubber bands can also be used to propel a “sling-gig”, which has its origins as the “Hawaiian Sling”, a device used by skin divers to counter the resistance of water to secure fish while diving. For use above the oceans, construction of the device remains the same. The sling is constructed of a long straight pole about 5 feet long. The business end is either sharpened, or some sort of a barbed spear point is attached. The point can be made of metal or stone if suitable material can be found. At the other end of the pole, a hole is drilled, and the rubbers are passed through the hole to form a loop. To use the sling, the user passes the rubber between his thumb and forefinger and then grips the pole. As the user moves his hand down the pole and grips it tightly, the rubbers are stretched providing the potential energy to propel the sling when he lets go. This is a very effective weapon at short ranges (3’-5’), and can be used to spear fish, frogs, and other small amphibians (and mammals if they stray too close).A quiet walk around a small lake or pond usually produces a day’s worth of protein in just a couple of hours.
The surgical tubing bands actually store on the beaded chain that make up the necklace, and really help to cushion the whole survival rig when worn around the neck. Note that there is also room on the chain for a small piece of plastic tubing that can be used as a sip tube (to gather water from rock crevices), or a blow tube to assist in fire starting.
By the way, I used beaded chain for the actual necklace because, while durable and strong, it will break if stressed enough – which is exactly what you want if you are going to run around the wilderness by yourself with something tied around your neck. Think about it.
Looking closer at the tubes around the necklace chain, you will also notice a small piece of ribbed plastic tubing that looks like an accordion. This is the collapsible straw that goes to the miniature survival filter (large blue tube). It is made by Frontier, and known affectionately as The Suck UP™. It weighs about 1 oz. and is a great buy at about 10 bucks. Check it out at www.giardiaclub.com.
I am not sure why more survival kits don’t include some kind of water purification. I guess that most people figure that drinking dirty water is the least of your problems if you are lost in the wilderness. Not me. Give it a couple of days, especially in hot weather, and you’ll drink anything. Now, sometimes you can get away with it, and sometimes you can’t. The last thing you need though is a case of “Beaver Fever” (Giardia infestation).You will be absolutely miserable – I mean really miserable – and you’ll end up dehydrating yourself – oh, yeah; you won’t be walking for help either. Really, it can be that debilitating. Carry the 1 oz., spend the 10 bucks.
Fishing Kit: Extra monofilament line (48’) is included due to its multiple uses. Combined with the heavy-duty sail needle, you now have the ability to mend and construct clothes and other useful items from animal hides. The kit contains an assortment of fishhooks of different sizes and styles, along with a nice selection of small wet and dry flies. The fishing kit is also equipped with larger “double” fish hooks (as often supplied on pre-packaged lures), which can be used to hunt and collect water fowl (and the occasional turtle) and other birds that “woof” down food. Simply securely stake baited hooks (fish entrails work really well) using strong cord or wire and place in shallow water where birds are observed, then add a small stick to the business end of the line to keep the bail afloat. Stay close by – birds hooked this way are amazingly powerful when trying to get free, and will make quick work of your line and/or stake in their attempt to fly away.
The cigar tube can be used to heat water and make natural teas and other drinks. The lack of something to heat water in is another one of the big shortcomings I have noticed in many other kits. Granted, the cigar tube will only hold a few gulps, but then again, it doesn’t take long to heat that much water! The 3 tbs. of beef bullion powder included in the kit is enough to make 3 cups (24 oz.) of hot soup. The cigar tube holds ¼ cup (50 ml.) of liquid, thus allowing for 12 “servings”. Admittedly, this may be more of a psychological comfort than fulfilling a nutritional need; then again, maybe not.
Among other things, the cigar tube holds a 56” X 42” piece of space blanket – pretty generous for a survival kit – big enough to easily cover you if in the fetal position (naturally assumed on cold nights), or use it to reflect heat from a campfire back onto you, or a ground cloth, or a signaling device. The cigar tube, wrapped with the 24 gauge wire, the bagged survival manual, the woman’s stocking, and its other contents, weighs in at 4 ozs. And let’s not forget the bag that waterproofs the survival manual – these FoodSaver™ bags are tough…really, tough. While you can’t cook in it over an open fire, it will take and hold boiling water, meaning that you can cook in it to an extent. And you can certainly eat from it!
Fire making is made possible by a Kershaw magnesium match. This handy tool makes starting a fire a lot easier. The alloy shaft includes magnesium to produce sparks reaching a temperature of 3000 degrees. The plastic handle makes it easy to grip and it came with a lanyard to keep it convenient, and tie the striker and starter together – the striker, of course I pitched, as my knife works just fine to produce a shower of sparks. I keep tinder (Vaseline impregnated cotton balls) in the dry storage compartment of the Adventure Plus). Good for 3000 strikes, it weighs only 1.1 oz. Magnesium fire starter bars work well too, but they weigh more.
And here is a neat fact. If you decide to replicate the products I am discussing here, you will find the diameter of the Kershaw match will exactly fit into the tube opening of The Suck Up™. It is a tight friction fit, and has yet to come apart in the field. Thus eliminating the problem of “how do I attach that little blue tube to the necklace.” Don’t you just love it when stuff like this works out?
If you wear eye glasses like I do, then you might find it interesting that I have included an eyeglass retention strap as part of my essential equipment. I am near sighted, and should I loose my glasses in the wild, I am pretty much dead. A stupid way to die. If you don’t wear glasses, you can of course delete this item.
If I were tempted to add more to this kit, it would probably be in the way or cordage as one can never get enough of this stuff. I found some really great braided nylon, well suited for survival cord. It is very, very strong, and I have used it to cover that nasty, sharp hacksaw blade. Actually, it is window blind cord. No kidding. Next time you see a high-quality blind hanging in a window or on display at the local home improvement store, check out the line that is used to raise and lower the blind. It’s great stuff. Hint: don’t cut it off the blinds in your home if you have them – the wife will notice (I know this as a fact), and then you have some serious explaining to do!
The SAS wire saw is also covered in cord to reduce the abrasiveness of the saw when making contact with the skin or clothes. This is just standard twisted nylon cord – but it is 3-ply, giving me the option to untwist it if I want more cord of a thinner diameter but longer dimension. You may choose to use 550 paracord – another great choice. The wire included in the kit is worth mentioning too. Since the kit includes a wire cutter and pliers in the multi-tool, the addition of wire really opens up possibilities for some creative fabrication in the field: making traps, primitive tools (such as a stone axe), attaching arrow heads and stone spear tips to shafts and shanks, etc. This is why I have included what some may consider an overabundance of wire, and in three different gauges. This is one material that is impossible to recreate in the field.
I spent several months refining the kit’s Survival Guide by going out to the internet and finding reference material on various survival topics, and then condensing that information into very, very, very small print to create a comprehensive 8-page survival manual (with over 100 illustrations) which is included with the kit (now you know the real reason why the kit’s 5 X magnifying glass is so important!). The manual is water-proofed in the FoodSaver™ bag, and then wrapped around the cigar tube.
- Shelter Construction -Illustrated*
- Edible and Poisonous plants of North America – complete with over 75 identification color plates**
- Making Stone Tools*
- Snares and Traps – Illustrated*
- Specialty knots and Marlinspike – Illustrated
- Field Expedient Direction Finding – Illustrated*
- Order of Priority in a Medical Emergency
- The Psychology of Survival*
- Religious Material
- Picture of Family (Motivational)
In short then, this survival kit offers some real advantages over the “tea bag and band™-aid” stuffed Altoid box” approach for the following reasons:
- Kit contents are fully visible at all times
- Kit can be constructed in “modules” allowing quick and easy adjustment to current need
- Real tools allow for expedient production of primitive tools and weapons
- A full-sized wire saw for shelter production and field craft
- A way to purify and transport water in significant quantity
- A ready-made hunting weapon (slingshot)
- A container in which to boil water
- A realistically-sized water-proof, heat reflective blanket
- Very in-depth and detailed survival guide
- Fundamental medications
- Multiple signaling options
I hope this article has given you some ideas – no kit is perfect for everyone (your mileage may vary), but this one works for me. Part of the challenge in formulating a successful survival kit is to trying to anticipate the answer to a question that has yet to be asked. And a question that one hopes never will be.
Oh yeah, for those that are wondering about the $50 bill on the content listing…well, I figure that not all rescues make the 11 o’clock news with dramatic shots of helicopters and search teams. Sometimes, folks simply walk out under their own power. A cheap hotel room or a hot meal might just be the last piece of comfort that this kit provides!
* Much of this material was taken from Survival, United States Army Field Manual; FM21-76 June 5, 1992
**The Survival Club, The Survival Club Field Guide, www.anglefire.com.
Copyrighted Material, 2010 All rights reserved.
[From Rourke: Thank you Fullclip]