Pocket Survival Kit

The devastating earthquakes and tsunamis that hit Japan have many people thinking about survival techniques. Especially here in California, where we’re constantly wondering when the Big One will hit. I’ve discussed various aspects of survival in other columns, including Your Gear Is Not Complete Without An Emergency Packet! and Get Layered Before The Big One Hits

Reading those you’ll notice that we discuss preparedness on a larger scale. That is, we start on the outside and work our way literally closer to your body.

In this column we’ll discuss survival at the micro level: creating a survival kit that you can tuck in a shirt or pants pocket.

You can never be too prepared nowadays. You may not face an earthquake and tsunami where you live, but other types of disasters can hit. Tornadoes, blizzards, severe storms; even civil unrest can cause a disruption. Are you prepared to go it alone for a few hours or longer? Because I spend so much time off road, I have multiple survival kits, including stuff I carry in a pocket. This column will show you how to create a viable pocket-sized survival kit. Take the time to build one. It could save your life someday.

The first challenge we notice is finding the proper container. As you know, pockets aren’t very big. Yet we still want to pack a lot of useful items in this survival kit. You’ll want something that’s roughly 3” x 5” and no more than about 1” deep. I like Altoids® boxes, but they’re rather shallow. Metal is better than plastic, as you’ll see in a moment. If you decide to go with plastic, take a look at the line of Pelican micro cases. They are easier to acquire and are water tight.

What do you include? Here is where we review the basic components. A good survival kit includes matches, a flashlight, water, whistle, map and compass, knife, 1st aid kit, extra food and extra clothing. Some people like to add a water container, paper and pencil, and toilet paper.

As you can see, we won’t be able to fit all of that in a pocket-sized kit. So let’s zero in on the truly essential items. By examining the most crucial needs of survival, we can see which items have to be in our kit. Then it’s a matter of determining quantity and/or size to fit the limited space.

  1. Fire. Crucial for providing heat, cooking food, and as a signaling device via the smoke. Matches are great, but store them in a watertight container or get Storm Matches that are individually waterproof. A Butane lighter is also OK. Just make sure it’s full or nearly full. You never know how many times you’ll need to use it. I like Fire Lite. They offer a mini version that’s rated to 5,000 strikes. You want 3 ways to make fire, if possible.
  2. Signaling. A small whistle will do the trick. Many are surprisingly loud, and the shrill tone cuts through most background noise. Another way to signal involves using the box to reflect light. This is why I don’t recommend using a plastic container. Make sure at least one side of the container is unpainted. The bare metal will reflect far better.
  3. Navigation. A button compass is sufficient. Don’t bother with maps. You’ll never know where you’ll be when you get stuck. No point in trying to guess. Plus, you just don’t have room.
  4. Water. Another critical component; even more important than food. Of course, you won’t pack water in your pocket kit. Here, we’re interested in a container to carry water you may find. A gallon-sized plastic bag is sufficient. To save space we will use the Reynolds Oven Bags cut down a bit. Include about 20 water purification tablets. They’ll probably get crushed over time, but will still work. We cut out the instructions for purification and included it in the bottom of the box.
  5. Cutting tool. You’ll need some way to cut material. A multi-purpose knife would be too large. Consider adding a cable saw to your kit. They come in numerous sizes, and can be used to cut branches and other material.
  6. Tinder. Tender Quick Fire Tabs work well. You can buy additional packets at most camping outlets. You can use them to fill in the voids in the tin. If you want a cheap alternative, cotton balls embedded with Vaseline are great. Just a fingertip’s worth of jelly worked into the cotton is sufficient. Create three or four, and wrap in plastic. These will ignite any kindling or other material you use for your fire.
  7. Flashlight. Nite-Lze is a single LED designed to put on your jacket zipper so it fits nicely into the pocket kit. Photon Micro-Light II is another small LED.
  8. Something to write with. Space permitting, include a chunk of pencil and a couple scraps of paper. Those can also be used to place markers along your path in the event you leave your vehicle, which is not recommended.
  9. Extra string. An all-purpose tool, you should always have some string handy. Make it fishing line, add a few split shot sinkers, a few hooks and you can use it to fish or build a shelter. For something more substantial, grab about 10’ of parachute cord. To save space, we’ll wrap it around the box. I left the ends out in the picture so you can see how I wrapped it.
  10. If you have any space left, toss in a couple Band-Aids and perhaps 2 feet of aluminum foil to make a cup.

Wrap the seams of the Altoids box with tape. Put as many layers on as you like. You might need some tape!

Take the time to create a pocket survival kit (or two with the extra supplies). If you ever need one, you’ll be so glad you did.

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