Make a Common Sense Urban/Wilderness Survival Kit

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One aspect of  the “prepper” philosophy is  “Common Sense.”  After all, it is just common sense to plan for the future, regardless of what may or may not happen. That’s why we have retirement funds, car, home and health insurance and regular well-checks with the doctor. Planning ahead is also why you may stick an umbrella in your brief case or carry a light jacket on a sunny day. And it would be stupid to not carry a spare tire and tools to change a flat!

So when it comes to wilderness or urban survival, being prepared is just common sense, and you should insert a healthy dose of that commodity into any disaster or emergency planning.

Carry survival gear in your wallet. I always have (from left) firestarter, charcloth (in a waterproof, plastic bag) and a signal mirror with me.

So, I propose that you, a prepper, should also make a compact, easy-to-carry wilderness and/or urban survival kit to include with all your other survival gear.

Are you committed?

Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Can I dunk a basketball? I can’t. Never could. But watch any NBA game and you’ll see the guys slam the ball home at every opportunity. If you watch the survival “reality” shows, you may also see incredible techniques done routinely, under the worst circumstances. So what? Use the common sense filter. Just because somebody can dunk a basketball or perform wondrous survival techniques on TV doesn’t mean you can, or might be able to learn. Don’t rely on gee-whiz technology or esoteric aboriginal survival techniques. The idea is to survive, and during a disaster: You won’t have time for on-the-job training!
  • Do I know anything? Be honest! It doesn’t matter how much survival stuff you have.  It’s worthless if you can’t, or don’t know how, to use it. Take a good look at your skills and abilities, and face your inadequacies. (See on-the-job training, above.)
  • Will I make a commitment to learn? Again, be honest, and don’t put this off. If you don’t know how to perform first aid or make an emergency shelter, learn now. Sign up for a community college course, read good survival books, and talk to folks like the Search and Rescue people who are actually using these skills. If a disaster happens this afternoon, maybe all you will have to work with is what you’ve got.
  • What gear is practical? I am honored to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop in Bend, Oregon. Over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed a lot of “survival gear” that is nothing more than expensive junk. Talk to someone in the know, and find out what urban or wilderness survival gear they use. Assess those items with your skill level and then decide what you need.
  • Will I make a commitment to carry this survival kit with me? The best gear in the world does you no good if you don’t have it with you! Your survival kit must be compact and convenient to carry or it will get left behind.

Making your kit

Here’s one way to keep some of the basic survival tools with you at all times. On the keyring: LED flashlight, fingernail clippers, whistle, Boy Scout Hot Spark firemaker and Classic Swiss Army knife. The other knife rides in a pouch on my belt, wherever it is legal.

Here are a few suggestions, once you’ve made a survival kit commitment:

  • Make your own: Commercial kits may include cheap and worthless things in them to keep the cost down. The components in my pocket-sized Altoids tin kit would cost about $50 to $60 to replace. My life is worth that to me!
  • Can you use everything in the kit? Using some suggested items (remember that dunk shot?)  may be beyond your skill levels. Your choice is to learn how to use everything, or replace that particular component.
  • Don’t let your survival kit give you a false sense of confidence. Gear doesn’t replace knowledge.
  • A survival kit is not a substitute for your Ten Essentials: Every survival book or website has some variation of this basic list of essential outdoor tools. Some of the items are common sense, such as a survival knife, fire-making gear, extra clothing, and a map and compass. Always make sure you have all the recommended items with you!

Finally, apply the common sense filter to anything associated with your survival. Beware of “survival experts” websites, TV shows and articles. Just because someone has a website, logo, book or magazine column doesn’t mean they know anything!

View any information with your eyes open and apply the common sense filter. If your BS alarm starts to go off, there is probably a good reason for it! And how about that dunk shot!

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Leon Pantenburg

A journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff’s departments, natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon Pantenburg learned many people die unnecessarily or escape miraculously in outdoor emergency situations. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters.

9 thoughts on “Make a Common Sense Urban/Wilderness Survival Kit”

  1. You make such a great point in this article. I'm trained as an EMT and I'm in the proess of revamping our medical kits. I find most premade kits to be useless unless you're dealing with minor cuts and scrapes and just a few of those. Common sense would tell you that in a true survival situation, you would need a lot more than alcohol pads and bandaids, but that's the limit of what they contain.

  2. This reminds me of a funny incident. Ladies were comparing the fire starting implements they had in their Bags. They had a contest to see which nifty item worked easiest and quickest. It was all over when I whipped out my Bic Lighter. Why make it complicated? Who needs flint and tinder when Bic has done the work for you?
    I'm waiting for someone to come up with dehydrated water. So light and easy to carry. When called for, just add water to re-hydrate! ; )

  3. Leon,

    As you stated, a number of off the shelf disaster kits contain a lot of cheap equipment. During an emergency situation the last thing you want to have to worry about is your kit. It really is best to make your own, if you can.

    1. Right, Security Guy. I checked the contents of many commercial kits, and some of them had cheap stuff that's only value was to take up space! Some of these "kits" are basically worthless in most emergencies.

  4. The idea of an urban survival “kit” hits home for my family on two fronts. First, we live on a small suptropical island which is densely populated. Secondly, we are a military family and cannot stock up on things many people would take for granted as moving regulations prohibit them (mainly, food).

    The way I deal with this reality is by keeping the bulk of our longer-term survival gear in a backpack in a single closet and the remainder or the survival gear throughout the house, because those are the only two realistic scenarios we can prepare for in our situation here. I would love to see some other ideas about surviving with children in an urban setting, especially since families would need to carry extra supplies for the children and would be vulnerable to thieves. I also find that here, the fear of guns (other than those of the military) isn’t as significant as the population isn’t allowed to own guns.

    This is unrelated…I do like this website, but I would like to see something about dealing with the psychological aspects of surviving with children. I look at my kids and cannot fathom having to take care of them in any situation other than our current one. The reality is, we may be forced to have only ourselves and our kids, and as mothers, helping to prepare for that mentally in advance might do a world of good to your readers, if you haven’t already.

  5. Good article and comments.It's interesting to see what various kits include because that can give some good idea prompts for what you might want to include in your own kit(s).

  6. Pingback: INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: 7 Things Your Child Should Have in His Bedside Table | WROL Newsfeed

  7. My girls aged 8, 6, and 4 all have a whistle and nightlight/ torch on their bedside.
    At the foot of their beds is a dressing gown and a pair of crocs.
    Their favourite teddy is always in their beds.

    This is good for going to the bathroom in the middle of a cold night, as well as being good if they had to get out the house in an emergency.

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