Everything You Need To Know About Purifying Water

Purifying-Water

purifying-water

One thing that gets hammered into your skull as a budding survivalist is the importance of water. Water is crucial for your body to maintain it’s processes and without it you will die. It’s that simple. So how do you go about securing this resource when the water stops coming out of the pipes or if you’re lost in the wilderness? How do you go about purifying the water so you don’t shit yourself silly from a virus strain or other waterborne pathogen?

What’s lurking in the water?

Water that has been contaminated with either human or animal waste is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, protozoa and viruses. These microbes wreak havoc on your intestinal system and the body reacts explosively with diarrhea that serves to further dehydrate you. Here are a few examples of the type of pathogens I’m talking about:

Protozoa

Your garden variety protozoa
Your garden variety protozoa

I don’t know about you but I don’t like the sound of this already. Protozoa is an enteric pathogen that relies on water and thrives in fresh water environments. Even more terrifying than the name is the typical life cycle of this pathogen. The protozoan oocysts (eggs) enter your body where they hatch open inside your intestines and begin furiously reproducing. Symptoms of infection begin roughly two days after exposure and include diarrhea, vomiting and intestinal discomfort. Some protozoa are ultra-resilient and resist treatment from chemicals like chlorine (water parks anyone?)  Symptoms can be treated but are generally not unless you have a more serious infection. Expect to ride this one out for 1 – 6 weeks.

Bacteria

Bacteria is structurally distinct from protozoa so it’s grouped into a completely different class of pathogen. Everybody has heard of the heavy hitting bacteria E. Coli and Salmonella. Creeks, rivers, and streams are fertile breeding grounds for these microbes. Symptoms from ingesting bacteria riddled water appear anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and include diarrhea and intestinal discomfort.

Viruses

Like protozoa and bacteria, viruses are born from the ripe environment found in human and animal fecal matter. Viruses like hepatits A, otavirus, enterovirus and norovirus are some of the more common viruses waiting patiently for a host to infect. Viruses love cold water but disintegrate when exposed to UV light or intense heat. Viruses are structurally smaller than protozoa and bacteria which makes them resistant to filtering devices.

[c5ab_box title=”Note:” type=”alert-info” ]Viruses are rarely found in North American rivers and streams.[/c5ab_box]

4 Ways To Purify Water

I have some good news: Despite all this doom and gloom it is very rare to die from a waterborne bacterial, protozoan or virus infection. Those most at risk for serious health issues include individuals with immune disorders. In a survival situation, however, it is possible that due to the diarrhea you will become dehydrated to a very severe point. Let’s not take that gamble and learn about 4 ways you can purify water.

Filtering

Filtering dubious water sources is the most popular method of purifying water. Water filters like the Sawyer Squeeze can filter up to a 100,000 gallons of water and remove harmful bacteria and protozoa down to 0.1 microns. Water filters work by filtering the water through a layer of fine porous material. This material allows water to pass but traps anything larger than 0.1 microns – the size of most harmful bacteria and protozoans. Filters can’t remove viruses however because of their microscopic size. Filtering water is a fast, lightweight and convenient method to obtain drinkable water in most locations.

Sawyer-Water-Filter
The Sawyer water filter is the standard for filtering dubious water sources

Chemical Treatment

Treating water with chemicals like iodine is another effective way to remove protozoa, bacteria AND viruses. Iodine purifies water by oxidizing the membranes and organelles of water-born pathogens, upsetting their biological functions and causing them to die. Iodine tablets are extremely cheap, effective and lightweight. Downsides of using iodine include a long wait time for purification (up to half an hour) and a less than pleasant after taste. Iodine tablets also don’t keep their shelf life as long as other methods and their effectiveness degrades when exposed to heat, moisture and humidity.

[c5ab_box title=”Note:” type=”alert-info” ]Pregnant women and individuals with a thyroid condition should not drink iodine treated water.[/c5ab_box]

Ultraviolet Light

UV light destroys protozoa, bacteria and viruses by destroying their DNA. UV light can rapidly treat 32 oz of water in 90 seconds. Downsides of using a UV light solution include a reliance on batteries which can die and a requirement for a clear water source. If you have cloudy water the light cannot fully pass through. Finding clear water is essential when using UV light.

Camelbak-UV-Water-Purifier
One of my favorite hi-tech methods to purify water.

Boiling

The classic method that never fails. Intense heat structurally destroys the pathogens rendering them inactive. Bring your water to a rolling boil for one minute. If you are above 5000 feet elevation the EPA recommends you boil the water for 3 minutes. This method is effective but very slow and inefficient.

General Rules of Thumb

High elevation streams can be safe sources of water
High elevation streams can be safe sources of water

Firstly, I wouldn’t trust any water source in an urban environment unless it’s coming out of the pipes. (Depending on the scenario even this water might not be trustworthy.) Standing or flowing water next to any city is sure to be polluted with all kinds of pathogens from years of industry. You MUST purify this water. The rules in the wild change. As you go deeper into the wild, water sources become safer. If you must drink water and you don’t have a method of filtering try to find a water source that doesn’t appear to be frequented by humans or animals. Higher elevation water sources are safer because this water is closer to the source and hasn’t flowed far enough to pick up contaminants. Springs are the best because they are the literal source of the water. High elevation streams are a good second choice and still-standing lakes and ponds are a last resort because stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria.

Final Thoughts

I recommend that you pick a method of purification and immediately include the appropriate gear in your survival kit. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to include multiple methods. If you have a cook kit you already have a method of boiling water. Pairing this with a bottle of cheap iodine tablets and a water filter will give you redundancy and a more versatile kit. Don’t drink bad water if you don’t have to.

Leave a comment below and share your own thoughts on purifying and drinking water.

14 Death Defying SHTF Tips

14-shtf-tips

14-death-defying-shtf-tips

Live to see another apocalyptic sunrise with the following 14 SHTF tips:

1. Use a guitar case for your bug out bag – Effective tactic for bugging out under the radar. Pair the guitar case with some clothes from Goodwill and you look like a transient who’s just passing through.

2. Purify water with household bleach – 6 drops purifies an entire gallon.

3. Make dry shavings from wet material with a pencil sharpener – These shavings will be dry enough to make fire.

4. Place living green material over your fire to create a thick white smoke signal – The green wood and leaves creates dense plumes of white smoke. This smoke is highly visible from the air.

5. Pine sap is a natural antiseptic – Wound a pine tree by slicing into the trunk or branch. The tree will produce it’s own sap to heal the laceration. Collect this sap and apply to wounds of your own. Thanks mother nature!

6. Get in shape – Surviving is going to be a grueling and uncomfortable task if you’re fat or you get winded easily. At the very least grow accustom to walking long distances. Anybody can walk to the grocery store or around the block.

7. Use abandoned railroads to escape the city – If you live in the city you most certainly have abandonded railroads running in and out of your province. Find out where these tracks are and where they go. They just might be your ticket to safety.

8. If you feel you’re getting a blister, stick a piece of duct tape right over the hot-spot.

9. Stuff leaves or other insulating materials into a trash bag for a make-shift sleeping pad – Sleeping directly on the  ground will steal your body heat like a thief in the night. Sleeping on an insulating layer can make a miserable night slightly less miserable.

10. Carry spare cash and a pack of cigarettes – Use the cash to buy store items when electronic credit card processing is unavailable. Use the smokes to make friends and barter for survival goodies. Addicts will part ways with very valuable equipment when they need a fix.

11. Guitar strings make great snare wire 

12. Use a sillcock key to tap into commercial water sources – Built in to most commercial buildings are water faucets you can only turn on with a special “sillcock” key. Even if the power is out there is usually enough pressure in the pipes to extract many gallons of water.

13. Take your bug out bag camping or spend a night in the city – What the hell is the point of amassing all this gear if you don’t know how to use any of it? Bug out for a night or two and experience a small slice of what a survival situation feels like. You can do this in the city or in the wild.

14. Learn to Meditate – Probably the hardest tip on this list but easily the most important. When the SHTF do you think you’re odds of survival might be improved if you’re calm, cool, and collected? Freaking out and panicking is only going to accelerate the process of digging yourself an early grave. Meditating is a tool that builds focus and allows you to take a cool step back from a chaotic situation to formulate a solid game-plan.

Do you think these tips will help you stave off the grim reaper? Let me know what you think below.

 

 

 

 

5 Glamorized Items You Don’t Need In Your Survival Kit

Putting your first survival kit together is an exciting time. You have undoubtedly spent a lot of time researching the best and most effective survival gear – and there are a lot of ideas out there. It’s easy to get overzealous and include gear in your kit that sounds cool but actually provides little value. Let’s dive into some of these survival impostors.

1. 9v Battery and Steel Wool

Here is a classic “firestarter” that has been wasting precious space in survival kits for years. I won’t lie, when I first came across this crafty combo I felt a little Macgyver-like toiling aimlessly to get a fire started. I eventually got it going but I realized the process was way harder than it needed to be. If all you have is a 9v battery and steel wool and you need to make a fire by all means do so; but I can’t imagine a scenario where you would have these items but not a lighter or something better. Yes, this is a legit way to get a fire going but don’t make your life hard if you don’t have to.

2. Button Compasses

Just as useful
Just as useful

Another shoddy survival item hogging space and giving people false hope. These buttons are complete crap and rarely work as a functional navigation device. It’s also a good idea to avoid anything that has a button compass built-in. With the emergence of popular survivor shows marketers have been slapping these buttons on everything in the name of “survival.” Beware of the button compass!

3. Knives with hollow handles

There are lots of knives with handles you can unscrew in order to stash stuff. You might be thinking “wow, I can use this space to stow my 9 volt battery and button compass!” I am here to save you from making this grave mistake. These knives break the moment you try to do anything useful. As I’ve outlined in my guide to choosing a survival knife, you want a knife with a full “tang.” This essentially means a knife where the blade runs the length of the handle. This adds strength and resilience to the knife so it won’t break easily. You can’t have a full tang with a hollow handle. Do yourself a favor and avoid hollow-handled knives.

4. Cheap Multi-Tools

Multi-tools are versatile and I recommend that you have one; but this is one piece of gear you don’t want to cheap out on. The variety of cheap multi-tools from off-brand companies are garbage. If you’re going to get a multi-tool, just make sure you buy from a reputable brand like Leatherman.

5. “Survival” Credit Cards

I was going to give this thing the benefit of the doubt until I noticed the button compass
I was going to give this thing the benefit of the doubt until I noticed the button compass

Now we’re getting to the truly useless crap. I don’t know who cooked this stuff up but the internet is flooded with these things. They aren’t completely useless however; I’ve gotten more than one chuckle at some of tools they try to cram into these things. They’re more of a novelty “fun” item than anything else. These might make for good stocking stuffers but you certainly don’t want to be in a survival situation with one.

 

Conclusion

Don’t realize the uselessness of these items until after it’s too late to buy proper gear. Stick with the tried and true gear that pulls its weight in a survival situation!

What do you think about these survival items? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Choosing The Best Bug Out Bag: Military or Civilian?

military-vs-civilian-bug-out-bag
What is the best choice for your bug out bag?

Heated debates surface rapidly when the subject of bug out bags enter the battlegrounds and for obvious reasons; you want your gear stowed in the most practical bag possible. You have two choices available when choosing a bug out bag: The Military style ALICE/Molle packs or the civilian backpacking varieties like something you’d see on the wall at REI. Both certainly have pro’s and con’s but as I will show you – making a decision is not as black and white as many of these discussions would have you believe.

The Argument

Opponents of the military pack suggest that using a camouflaged pack draws too much attention to yourself – especially in a city. In a survival scenario others might take notice and assume you have important resources. This could result in a violent encounter with individuals desperate to survive or acquire resources. Proponents of the military pack think this argument is overblown and a non-issue. They cite the durability of the military pack and its other advantages which I will cover in this post.

Military Packs

Lets take a look at your garden variety military pack. These packs have literally been battle tested. Mil-spec packs are issued to all branches of the military and designed to withstand the pressures of a combative environment. This makes them extremely durable and resilient. Two styles of military packs are available: the ALICE and the Molle (pronounced like “Molly”.)

ALICE

Alice-pack
The Military issued ALICE pack

The ALICE (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) packs were introduced to the military in 1973 but have been phased out in favor of Molle. ALICE packs spawned from the radically different fighting conditions present in the Vietnam war that weren’t seen in WWI and II. Conditions had switched from trench warfare to jungle warfare and this meant soldiers would be carrying their packs greater distances. In 1965 the military began working on a new load-bearing design that eventually became the ALICE.

The ALICE introduced a number of changes from previous military packs: Water absorbing cotton material was replaced with nylon and all of the steel components present in older models were replaced with aluminum. These changes made the pack lighter and extremely water resistant. ALICE packs work with a specialized external frame designed for heavy loads. ALICE packs are easily had for cheap online or at your local military surplus depot.

Molle

molle
The Molle pack is the new standard for the military and noted for its external webbing system

Molle (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) style backpacks are the latest iteration of load bearing backpacks used by British and U.S. military forces. Molle packs use a specialized webbing system known as PALS (pouch attachment ladder system.) This webbing is used in a modular fashion to attach gear to the outside of the pack giving the Molle increased versatility over the ALICE.

Pros of using a military pack:

  • Extremely durable
  • Built to last
  • Lots of space
  • External webbing system is very convenient
  • Camouflaged (if you’re going woodland stealth mode)
  • Water resistant
  • Dirt cheap
  • External frame allows you to carry massive loads

Cons of using a military pack:

  • Not as comfortable as civilian packs
  • Less pockets for organization
  • You can’t easily get to your gear with it on
  • Looking military might draw unwanted attention
  • Beware of Chinese knock-offs!

Civilian Packs

Many individuals choose to keep their bug out gear in a civilian backpack. Backpacks like the Kelty Redwing are durable, offer lots of space and come fully loaded with a variety of organizational pockets for all your gear. The options available for civilian packs and all the various designs can be mind boggling. If you have requirements civilian packs give you many unique options. I’ve experienced both military and civilian packs and I can say this; civilian packs can rival the durability of their military counterparts while offering increased versatility and comfort.

Kelty-Redwing-32
The Kelty Red Wing 32 Liter backpack is a roomy and sturdy pack that won’t draw attention from desperate citizens.

Pros of using a civilian pack:

  • Comfortable
  • Many options to choose from
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight
  • Blends in well with the city

Cons of using a civilian pack:

  • Expensive
  • Less durable than a military pack (marginally)
  • No external webbing system (Molle)

So which to choose?

At the end of the day it’s all about surviving. Whatever pack you choose make sure it’s strong, comfortable, large enough for your gear and suited to the pressures of a survival situation. In a rural area with lots of woodland available you might opt for an ALICE for it’s durability and storage capacity. In the city you might choose a civilian pack if you think the argument I mentioned above holds water.

The 5.11 Rush – best of both worlds?

The 5.11 Rush is a bag I really love and use. It features all the best aspects of a civilian bag with the strength and durability of a military pack. The external Molle webbing system on the outside of the pack is an absolute game changer. Webbing isn’t something you see on civilian backpacks. The pack is pure black so even in the city it looks like your run-of-the-mill day pack.

The tactical 5.11 Rush bag is a great hyrbid option
The tactical 5.11 Rush bag is a great hybrid option

 

What do you think?

Let me know what you think about this debate in the comment section.

 

 

 

Choosing The Best Survival Knife In The World

best-all-around-knife

I know it sounds like a tall order; Choosing the best survival knife in the world. Nobody will argue however with the fact that the knife is the most important piece of gear in your survival kit. If you are putting together a survival kit for either an urban or wilderness environment, it makes sense to choose the best. In this post I will cover what factors need to be considered before you make a purchase.

Parts of the knife

Parts-Of-A-Knife
Anatomy of the standard survival knife

 

Lets examine what we are working with here full circle starting from the tang and working our way counter-clockwise:

Tang – The tang is the part of the blade secured into the handle. Tangs come in a few varieties: full, tapered, hidden, partial, rabbeted, or threaded. For all intents and purposes, choose a knife with a full tang. (see below)

Pommel – The pommel terminates the knife and secures the tang to the handle (Partial tang only.) The tang is threaded or sealed onto the pommel which strengthens and bolsters the knife. On some knives the pommel functions as a balancing piece although this is mainly seen in swords. The Pommel is strong and it’s a great part of the knife to pound with. It should be noted that on a full tang knife this part of the blade is simply called the butt.

Quillon – The quillon is the curve in the handle that keeps your hand from sliding onto the blade. Sweaty hands make this a common injury on knives without one. Cuts inflicted in a survival situation can become infected and you may lose the ability to use one of your hands. Your hands are too important to buy a knife without a quillon.

Bolster – The bolster does exactly what it sounds like. It strengthens the crucial point of the knife where the blade meets the handle. This part of the knife is very strong.

Ricasso – The ricasso is the unsharpened length of the blade between the blade itself and the bolster.

Choil – The choil is the area between the cutting edge and the tang. The choil often designates the specific point where the blade begins to take an edge. Even though many choils appear grooved out to fit a finger, this is not the case and shouldn’t be used this way.

Edge – The cutting edge of the blade.

Tip – The end point of the knife often used to start a cut. Also the part of the blade most vulnerable to fracturing.

Spine – The spine of the blade is especially strong and serves to strengthen the whole knife. Parts of the spine are thicker in crucial areas like the area between the blade and the handle.

Thumbrise – this part of the knife allows the thumb to apply exact pressure and precisely guide the blade for the desired cut.

Fixed Blade VS Folding

These are the two common varieties of knives you will come across. A folding knife might sound convenient (and they are) but nothing beats the strength of a solid fixed blade knife. Folding knives have a joint that makes them vulnerable to breaking. The folding knife can easily stow away in your pocket but doesn’t have the resilience needed to handle many of the tasks around camp. With your survival knife you will have to baton wood, make shelter, cut cordage, dig holes, prepare wild game, and a host of other tasks crucial to surviving. If your knife breaks these jobs become extremely difficult. Choose a fixed blade knife and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget the sheath!

Handle

Handle material varies widely but most are very strong and robust. Avoid knives with hollow handles designed to stash small pieces of gear. If a knife has a hollow handle you know right off the bat that it’s not a full tang knife (which you want.) Hollow handles sound cool but they don’t stand up to the pressures of survival. As I mentioned above, a handle with a quillon will prevent your hand from slipping down the blade. Consider a handle with a quillon when selecting your knife.

Tang

Full tang all the way – and by tang I’m not talking about the delicious orange drink with the monkey on the container. A full tang blade runs the length of the knife including the entire handle. This makes the knife extremely robust. Even if the handle breaks you still have a usable blade.

tang
A full tang blade runs the length of the handle

Carbon vs Stainless Steel

There are endless debates online about which type of steel is better but here are the raw facts: Carbon steel will take an edge easier than a stainless steel blade but is prone to rust. Stainless steel won’t rust and is virtually indestructible but doesn’t hold as sharp of an edge and is harder to sharpen. If you get a carbon steel knife you must maintain it and keep it dry. You won’t have to babysit a stainless steel knife but you trade off for a duller edge on the blade. However, as knife manufacturers begin to use proprietary steel blends this debate is becoming less of a hot issue.

Length

As a rule of thumb your blade should be large enough to handle larger jobs like batoning wood and small enough for the smaller tasks like carving up small game. In an ideal world you would have multiple knives on your person but this may not be practical. A 5 – 6 inch blade is a well rounded length that can handle most survival tasks.

Flat Spine

A flat 90 degree spine on the back of your blade works well with a ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium rods with a good knife provide an effective way to make fire even in wet weather. A rounded or beveled spine on your knife will make this nearly impossible and ineffective.

Top Contenders

Kabar Bk2

The BK2 fixed-blade knife from Kabar is widely regarded in the survival community. Outside of the survival niche the BK2 has also been issued to all the branches of the military including police forces. It features a 5.5 inch blade made of Kabars specialized 1095 cro-van steel. The BK2 has been well tested in many environments and remains an extremely competitive and affordable knife.

BK2-Ka-Bar
The BK2 from Ka-bar

 

 

Cold Steel SRK

I have met die hard fanatics who absolutely swear by this knife. I will admit, I’ve never personally held one but the internet is flooded with positive feedback and rantings from raving knife lunatics. I have to admit, it does look really clean.

cold-steel-srk-survival-knife
The Cold Steel SRK

 

ESEE 6P-B

This knife looks good, feels good, and the edge is sharp as hell. Baton some wood and turn right around to slice into a nice summer sausage. You can feel that this knife won’t be going flaccid anytime soon. A Well balanced and well rounded knife from a reputable company.

esee-6-survival-knife
The ESEE 6P-B

 Conclusion

Choosing a survival knife is a no-brainer if you stick to a few basic principles. If you remember anything remember this: Fixed-blade, FULL-tang. A good survival knife could be boiled down to those two characteristics. Everything else is an added bonus.

Did I miss anything? Let me know what you look for in a survival knife in the comment section below!

DIY Earthquake Survival Kit

Make-an-earthquake-survival-kit

earthquake-survival-kit

The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur each year worldwide. Granted, many of these earthquakes are benign but a sizable portion are magnitudes of 6.0 or above. Earthquakes packing this amount of power leave a significant amount of destruction in their wake. If you live in an area vulnerable to earthquakes it’s crucial to own an earthquake survival kit. Having the proper gear will give you an advantage to move yourself and your family out of the red zone and into a safety.

Earthquake survival kit considerations

An earthquake survival kit is only useful AFTER the earthquake is over. There’s nothing you could possibly include in your kit that could benefit you in the middle of an 8.0 magnitude super-quake. During an earthquake it’s important to get to the safest location you can. If you are in your house move away from the exterior walls where there are windows and broken glass. Move towards an interior wall or get under a table. If you are outside get to a spot that is clear from powerlines and anything that could fall on you. Not surprisingly, most earthquake related deaths result from falling objects and structures. Do the best you can to get to a safe spot. Once the quake is over, get to your kit.

Essential Survival Gear

Backpack 

Expect that after a large quake your going to have to leave your house. It’s practical to keep your gear in a backpack for increased mobility. Many survivalists advocate a backpack that blends in and doesn’t look like you are armed to the teeth with survival goodies. In a catastrophic situation, unprepared citizens and criminals will be scrambling for resources. Perhaps more important though is that your bag is strong, comfortable, and roomy enough to stow 72 hours worth of food, water and gear. The 5.11 72 hour Rush or the Kelty Redwing 32 are high-quality/versatile options to stow your gear.

Kelty-Redwing-32
The Kelty Red Wing 32 Liter backpack is a roomy and sturdy pack that won’t draw attention from desperate citizens.

 

 

Food and Water

A rule of thumb is to include at least 72 hours worth of food and water in your earthquake survival kit. This will give you a 3 day buffer to find a safe location where these resources are easily available. Include at least 3 liters of water (per person). The food you pack should be non-perishable and packed with nutrients. High calorie ration bars are good choices. You can also make your own trail mix. Nuts, seeds and fruits are loaded with fats and proteins that make a great source of energy. Remember, you may be walking a long ways to safety or forced to camp while order is restored.

Gloves

A pair of gloves will protect your hands from broken glass and debris. There’s a good chance your going to be required to move away obstructions. This debris will include sharp nails, glass and other hazards. Besides physical protection from scrapes, gloves will keep your hands warm during cold nights and you can easily handle hot cookware or other items that have been in a fire.

Poncho

A poncho will protect you and your gear from the rain and form a light barrier against the elements. It’s versatile enough to be used as a ground layer and could also be used to rig a small shelter. You wan’t to to do whatever you can to keep dry while in a survival situation.

Boots

Nails, staples and other sharp objects will go right through a regular shoe. When you’re tromping through the rubble left behind by an earthquake you’re going to appreciate the protection and sturdiness of a good set of boots. Give me the clothes on my back, a poncho, and my waterproof gore-tex boots and I’m good to go.

Flashlight

We all forget how black it gets when the power goes out and darkness descends on the earth. Navigating to safety at night is next to impossible unless you can see where you are going. Flashlights are cheap for the most part but I spend a little extra for the tactical varieties. Tactical flashlights like the Fenix PD35 are powerful, lightweight, and won’t break just because a little 9.0 magnitude earthquake decided to roll through town. Alternatively you could opt or include a headlamp which would leave your hands free to work with gear or setup a night camp.

This tactical flashlight from Fenix is nearly indestructible and throws a serious beam of light
This tactical flashlight from Fenix is nearly indestructible and throws a serious beam of light

Firestarters

This ones a no brainer. Fire becomes an essential resource when you don’t have access to power and order hasn’t been restored yet. Fire will cook your food, boil your water, keep your body temperature normalized and provide a morale boost for you and your party. BIC lighters are a solid way to get a fire going. My second choice is using a knife and ferrocerium rod to throw sparks on a willing bundle of tinder. I like this method because these tools will produce sparks no matter how wet they get. This method takes skill so either practice during a non-survival situation or make damn sure your BIC’s don’t get wet. It’s a good idea to keep all this gear in a plastic Ziploc.

Me making a nice meal with my steel cooking cup from Stanley
Me making a nice meal with my stainless steel cooking cup from Stanley

Cookware

A basic stainless steel cup is a good piece of gear to have in any survival pack. You can easily boil water, cook food and collect whatever water is available around you. I use this one from Stanley and use it to cook all my soups while I’m off camping in the backwoods.

Portable Smart Phone Charger

The cell towers (which have backup power generators) may or may not be down in the event of an earthquake. This means you can call out to friends or family for help and communicate with loved ones around you. This isn’t going to work if your phone is dead. This device when fully charged can charge your Android or Iphone to full capacity from its built in battery bank. Keep one in your pack just in case.

First-Aid Kit

Including a quality first aid kit will help you treat cuts, scrapes, sprains and a few extreme injuries. Your first-aid kit might just save your life or someones else’s in a survival situation. Any medication you or your family needs should be included as well.

Military Can Opener

Cheap, light and takes up virtually zero space in your pack. It’s very possible you will run across food canisters as you make your way to safety. Take advantage of the extra calories whenever you can!

Knife

Ask most survivalists what piece of gear they would take if they were forced to choose one item only and they all answer the same: The knife. The knife is the most versatile tool in your pack if you know how to use one. Even in the city the knife still comes in mighty handy for many day to day survival tasks. Batoning wood, making shelter, cutting cordage, and defending yourself are a handful of uses that make having a blade so crucial to survival. The Bk2 fixed blade knife is a well rounded blade suitable for a variety of applications. See my post on choosing the best survival knife.

Bk2-wilderness-survival-knife
The Bk2 knife from Kabar

 

Spare Cash

Keep some cash in your kit in multiple different denominations. Cash can be used to barter items and purchase supplies at stores that can’t process credit cards without power.

Portable Radio

Crank powered radios are a good way to tune in to local emergency broadcast frequencies. This information is valuable in any survival situation and will provide you with valuable intelligence to figure out your next move.

Toiletries

Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, feminine products and anything else that will make it easier to take care of yourself without the comforts of a bathroom.

Learning to use your gear

I always wrap up my posts by stressing the importance of knowing how to use everything in your kit. For instance, when I say a knife is a versatile tool I should really say it CAN be a versatile tool. If you don’t know how to use a knife then you will be limited. Developing an intimate level of knowledge and comfort with your gear will give you a big edge in surviving an earthquake or any other kind of disaster. Remember – Knowledge weighs nothing!

Did I miss anything?

Let me know in the comment section below what you would include in your earthquake survival kit.

 

Urban Survival Kit

urban survival kit
Could you survive here if you needed to?

Living in a city when disaster strikes presents a unique survival situation. It’s a common misconception that “bugging out” means heading straight for the woods. Many of us live in major cities where it’s not possible to simply head for the hills. Events like extreme traffic congestion, rioting, martial law and other scenarios can limit your ability to leave the city. Including gear that takes this into consideration is crucial to building a practical and reliable urban survival kit.

 

 

Urban survival kit considerations

The contents of an urban survival kit are unique. The gear you include will be specific to surviving in an urban environment. An urban survival kit will have less of a need for shelter gear because of readily available buildings and structures. Because you will be surrounded by people you need gear for self protection. You will need tools to manipulate locks, break into buildings and access the city water supply. There is a good chance you will be on foot so keeping your kit as light as possible is recommended.

Essential Gear

Backpack – You will need to store your gear in a backpack for mobility. Backpacks are easy to throw on and go. Your urban survival backpack should blend in. You don’t want to look like you’re loaded to the teeth with useful items. People get violently robbed for less in normal conditions. Packing your gear into a tactical military bag screams that you have tools and equipment made to survive. Blend in the best you can by packing your gear into a civilian backpack. The 5.11 72 hour rush bag is my backpack of choice:

 

urban-survival-backpack
The 72 hour “RUSH” bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.

 

Smart Phone – If the cell towers are still up you can call for help. There is no reason to stay in the city unless you have to. Your Smart Phone also has access to maps, emergency updates and many of them have a built in flashlight. There’s a good chance you will already have yours on you.

Multi-tool – A good Leatherman multi-tool is a very versatile piece of equipment that should be included in any urban survival kit. The built in tools can be used in many scenarios: Cutting up cardboard for shelter, opening food canisters, removing secured items, cutting cordage, etc. Don’t leave home without one boys.

Sillcock key – Ever seen a water faucet with no handle to turn it on? These water sources are on every commercial building and are accessed with a tool called a sillcock key. Even if the power was offline there’s a good chance there is enough pressure left to fill your water bottle. On large buildings these sources could amount to hundreds of gallons of water. This tool is easily acquired at any hardware store.

These water faucets are built in to the walls of many commercial buildings and accessed with a special "sillcock key"
These water faucets are built in to the walls of many commercial buildings and accessed with a special “sillcock key”

Water Bottle – A good water bottle will store any water you come across in the city. Using the sillcock key above you can easily keep your bottle filled for a good while. Opt for the stainless steel varieties to boil water in a fire. Stainless steel containers will add extra weight to your pack but are more versatile than a plastic bottle.

Knife / glass breaker – In the event of a complete system breakdown everything will be up for grabs. You can easily escape the streets by breaking into buildings or abandoned cars for shelter. When you start running low on supplies you will need to access the resources around you to resupply and continue surviving. There are many tactical solutions that fit the bill for this application. A highly regarded solution is the Smith and Wesson SWMP4LS tactical knife. See my guide to choosing the best survival knife.

Tactical-Knife-For-Urban-Survival
Smith and Wesson police/military issued tactical knife with serrated blade and integrated glass breaker

Gloves – You want to protect your hands from all the sharp edges and glass you will be handling. A good set of gloves will give you a better grip if you need to climb structures and prevent cuts and scrapes. Your hands are too important not to protect. Pick up a pair at your local Home Depot or hardware store to get ones with a good fit.

Tactical Flashlight – The city is going to be ungodly dark at night. A solid flashlight will be crucial to navigate streets, dig through dumpsters (with your gloves), traverse catwalks and search buildings with the cover of night. Tactical flashlights are waterproof, extremely durable and designed for military and police use. You don’t have to worry about these flashlights breaking if you drop them. They are also high-powered enough to temporarily blind an assailant. Some of them come with a serrated bezel for breaking glass and self-defense purposes. The Fenix PD35 tactical flashlight is currently the industry standard.

Fenix-PD35-Urban-Survival
The Fenix PD35 – The only tactical light you’ll ever need for an urban survival situation.

Spare batteries – You’re going to need spare batteries for all of your electronic gear. This includes your tactical flashlight and your communications gear. Granted that most of these devices will hold you over for 72 hours but they will become dead weight if you are caught in an extended survival situation and they run out of juice. Pack spare batteries to recharge these crucial pieces of gear.

Pepper spray – If you aren’t trained to take down an assailant with your bare hands then pepper spray is a great tool to include in your urban survival kit. In desperate situations you can’t rely on people being civil. A face-full of pepper spray will stop an attacker right in their tracks.

Food and Water – Keep 72 hours worth of food and water in your kit. This will hold you over until normalcy is restored or until you get to an area where food and water is readily available. Go for high calorie foods like nuts and seeds. Foods with high fat and protein will keep you satiated. High calorie ration bars can be purchased and easily stowed or you can make your own trail mix. Ideally you won’t bring anything that you need to cook and nothing that will perish.

Water purification tablets – Use water purification tablets to purify any water source that might be contaminated with bacteria. You might come across pooled up water in the street from a recent rain or catch some run-off from a building that might be dubious. The water purification tablets will purify these sources of water so you can stay hydrated and keep moving.

Plastic Spork – Use the spork to eat any food you find along the way.

BIC Lighter – Having a lighter in your kit gives you the ability to make fire. This becomes very important in cold weather. Fire can also cook any food you that you find. Natural food sources for hunting will be scarce but other sources will be available. BIC lighters are high quality and continue to spark even when they run out of fluid.

Basic Toiletries – Toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste will cover your basic hygienic needs during a survival situation in the city.

Dust Mask – Put on the dust mask if you’re going to be exploring abandoned buildings for shelter. The dust mask will help protect your lungs from inhaling harmful particles. This becomes more important if you’re surrounded by collapsed structures or buildings that have recently been destroyed. They are also useful in the event of an influenza outbreak. The dust mask is a very light piece of gear and extremely affordable.

Cash and Cigarettes – These items are great for bartering. The cash can be used to purchase items at stores that can’t electronically process your credit card because of power failure. Cigarettes can be traded for useful items. Sometimes individuals addicted to cigarettes will part with very valuable gear to satisfy their cravings.

Garbage Bags – Industrial strength garbage bags are versatile pieces of gear. They are waterproof so you can use them as a make-shift rain coat. Garbage bags can be laid flat to create a dry sleeping system and they are durable enough to collect and hold water.

Garbage bags - The unsung heroes of the city.
Garbage bags – The unsung heroes of the city.

Communications Equipment – Having a way to receive transmissions that alert you to the current state of the situation is important. Hand-cranked radios will you keep you in the know and allow you to make an informed decision about your next move. Radio scanners can loop through emergency broadcast frequencies and HAM radios allow you to access and transmit over radio frequencies. Communications gear is essential for communicating with family who might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Note that you would need a HAM radio license to do this normally.

Learning to use the kit

These are the basic items you need in your urban survival kit. Unfortunately most of these items will be useless to you unless you learn how to properly use the gear. You can’t expect to whip out your radio and easily communicate with your family if you have no experience operating it. Spending quality time with your gear gives you the advantage of knowledge – and knowledge weighs and costs nothing. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the entire kit to maximize your chances of survival.

What would you include in an urban survival kit?

Leave a comment below and tell me if I missed anything or suggest a piece of gear that you think would be helpful. Thanks for reading!

Wilderness Survival Kit

wilderness-survival-kit
The wilderness is beautiful but unforgiving. Can you survive with only the items in your wilderness survival kit?

In my last post I covered what gear you need for an urban survival kit. That pack is great if you live in the city. But what if you live in a more rural area? A wilderness survival kit will have gear that is more effective in this environment. This kit will include many items that wouldn’t make sense to have in other kits. In the wild there are resources available to you if you know how to properly acquire them. The tools in the wilderness survival kit will maximize your chances for survival in the wild and give you an edge to make it out alive.

Wilderness Survival Kit Considerations

The weight of your pack is a crucial consideration. You must be able to easily carry your pack for miles if you have to. Your physical condition and limits will determine how much gear you include. Keep this in mind as you put your kit together. The list below includes must have gear for any wilderness environment. It is also a good idea to include gear specific to your location. A field guide to local wildlife and edible plants and a map of your geographic location are items that won’t be on this list but are important to include.

Keep your backpack light to avoid the fate of this donkey
Keep your load light or risk the fate of this donkey.

Essential Gear

Backpack – It makes sense to stow your gear in a backpack so you can easily grab your supplies and bug out in case of emergency. Your backpack must be sturdy in construction, comfortable to wear and large enough to hold all of your gear. There are two types of backpacks you will consider when building your kit. One is the standard civilian style backpack. The other is a military issued pack like the ALICE. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Civilian backpacks are ultra-light but more expensive. Military packs are heavier but you can pick them up for a fraction of the cost. Military packs have the advantage of being battle tested and have held up to the scrutiny of the military. These packs will not break easily.

The 72 hour "RUSH" bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.
The 72 hour “RUSH” bag from 5.11 is a nice middle-ground between a civilian and military bag.

Fixed-Blade Knife – You’re not going to easily Rambo your way to safety without a good knife. The knife needs to be fixed blade. Fixed blade knives are more durable and will hold up well against the work you will put it through. Choosing a knife that isn’t too big and not too small is crucial. Smaller blades won’t baton wood effectively while bigger blades make smaller tasks like carving up game difficult. You also want the blade to run the full length of the knife. This is known as a “full tang” knife. Even if the handle falls off a full tang blade you still have an effective tool. Make sure your knife is single bladed with a flat spine. This allows you to use your knife with a ferro rod to make fire. The Ka-Bar BK2 fixed blade knife is widely regarded as one of the best knives on the market. See my guide to choosing the best survival knife.

Bk2-wilderness-survival-knife
The Bk2 is issued to all branches of the military and widely considered one of the best all around knives on the market.

Cordage – Perhaps the most important piece of gear second only to the knife. The versatility of a good length of rope or paracord cannot be understated. Use cordage to rig up a tarp for shelter, lash wood together, string up large game for cleaning, bear-bagging food, making fishing line, rigging traps, making bow-drills, extra boot laces etc. This stuff is light and cheap.

Rope: "Ya never know what you're gonna need it for, you just always need it!"
Rope: “Ya never know what you’re gonna need it for, you just always need it!”

Space blanket – A space or “mylar” blanket will reflect 90% of your body heat back to you. This is important to keep your body temperature at optimum survival levels. The blanket can also be reversed to reflect sun away to keep you cool. As an added bonus, the reflective material functions as a signaling device for alerting passing aircraft or distant hikers. These blankets are extremely light. More durable versions are available at the cost of added weight to your pack.

Fire – Your kit must include a primary and secondary method for making fire. I like using BIC lighters as my primary method and a ferrocerium rod/knife for my second. If my BIC lighters get wet I know I can always throw sparks with my ferro rod. Waterproof matches are also a good alternative and it wouldn’t hurt to include these as well. Make sure you are well versed in fire-making before you find yourself in a survival situation. I’ve seen friends fail to make fire with a propane torch before let alone a basic BIC!

life-straw-wilderness-survival-kit
The LifeStraw is a proven and effective filtration device now being distributed worldwide as part of a humanitarian relief effort.

Water Purification Device – In the wilderness you’re going to have an easier time finding natural sources of water. Rivers and streams are good sources of water but may contain bacteria and contaminants from fecal matter and dead animals. You don’t want to run the risk of getting sick in a survival situation. Include gear that will purify these water sources. One method is boiling water with your cook kit. Another method is using water purification tablets or a filtration device. The Life Straw is a very cheap and effective product and consumes little space in your pack.

Tarp – A good quality tarp is an essential survival item in your wilderness survival kit. I opt for tarps over a tent for many reasons. One is weight. A tarp is extremely lightweight compared to a tent. A tarp is also versatile and can be used for many applications. Use your paracord to rig a shelter and shield yourself from outside elements. If your environment calls for increased protection you can use the resources around you to make one. Knowing how to utilize the wilderness to your advantage will limit the things you need to pack.

Cooking kit – At the bare minimum you should include a stainless steel cup in your kit. This gives you the advantage of boiling water and cooking any food you come across. Stainless steel is stronger than aluminum and holds up well against the fire. Pine needles can be boiled into a tea. This tea will be packed with nutrients like vitamin C. You can also use the cup to store any water you purify and collect rain from your tarp. Other basic items in your cooking kit include a spork, a larger cooking pot and various spices.

Stanley-Cooking-Cup
This stainless steel cup from Stanley is an effective piece of gear to purify water and cook food with a fire.

First Aid Kit – Your wilderness survival kit will need a few items you can use to treat injuries inflicted during a survival situation. At the bare minimum include gauze bandages, tape, antiseptic and antibiotic ointment and a compression wrap. This will cover cuts, scrapes and sprained joints. Any medication you take regularly should be included as well. The Red Cross has an article detailing the contents of a comprehensive first aid kit.

Toilet Paper – When nature calls and you’re in the wild it’s better to use a roll of good ol’ fashion Charmin rather than trust the local shrubbery. Poison oak looks pretty but it’s the last plant you want to use to wipe your bottom.

Headlamp – The woods are ungodly dark at night. You will need lighting to operate around your camp or navigate rough terrain when it gets dark. A quality headlamp leaves your hands free to use your gear properly. You can also use the light to signal other hikers or passing aircraft.

Fishing and trapping kit – I almost didn’t include this on the list. Reason being is that fishing and trapping take quite a bit of skill. We romanticize the idea of living off the land and easily catching fish from the stream but reality tends to smack you in the face with the brutal truth; Fishing and trapping is very difficult and requires years of knowledge and practice. In the hands of a novice, even the best fishing gear isn’t going to help them catch fish. Do most people even know how to tie a proper fishing knot? However, the items in the kit take up virtually no space at all so it’s worth including. Canned kits can be purchased or you could scavenge what you need around the house. At the minimum you’ll need at least 50 feet of 20 lb mono-filament line, various hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and a lure or fake worm. Cram all of this into a small can and you have yourself some basic fishing gear to add to your kit.

Communication Radio – This is another item you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with before you can expect to use it properly. Your radio gives you access to emergency broadcast frequencies and gives you the ability to contact other radio operators. In a rescue situation this could literally be a life saver. Note that using this gear requires the proper license under normal conditions.

Practice using the kit

Practice using the kit so when the time comes to implement the gear nothing surprises you. Good gear alone does not guarantee your survival. Having the knowledge required to effectively use everything in your kit is the most important aspect of survival. Go out camping with your gear and see if you can get a fire started with your knife and ferro rod for example. Experiment with rigging shelter with your paracord/tarp and learn how to forage edible plants and berries. This is not only a great way to bond with friends and family but practicing outdoor skills will give you an edge if you ever find yourself in a survival situation.

Did I miss anything?

Leave a comment below and tell me what you pack in your wilderness survival kit.