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There seems to be a big increase in the number of disaster preparedness and survival stores online these days, and I've been looking at a few of them. Mainly seeing what they offer, checking quality, and prices. I'm always in the market for more survival gear, so I'm fascinated by them, besides some the survival items are new and I have a real interest. I could spend hours looking at knives, survival foods, cooking gear, survival kits and a long list goes on in my head. Having spent most of my free time in the woods, I love nature, but I'm smart enough to realize things can go bad quickly and only a good survival kit will keep me alive. Remember, if you don't have with you in the field, if things go bad, you'll have to either make it, or do without. The same thing can happen if you're surrounded by floodwaters, blizzards or other natural disasters. So, as a result, I'm well prepared both at home and in the woods. Also, depending on the type of disaster, such as flash flooding or a wildfire, you may be forced to leave your home. You may not have time to grab much more than the closest survival kit you have available and run. These survival bags are sometimes called “grab and run kit's” or something similar, but they're designed to allow you to take the container and run to safety, thus having what you need to survive. Additionally, all of the small kits that I saw used a backpack to store the survival gear and that's great!
In the military, when I was a Life Support Survival Instructor, I always addressed what I thought were the key parts of a survival kit that will help keep a pilot or aircrew member alive:
Shelter – It's important to shield the human body from severe heat, hard rains, or cold weather. I carry 50 feet of parachute cord, often called 550 cord by the military, so I can use the poncho I have in my kit to construct an emergency shelter. Most of the survival kits online have two or more ponchos. The shelter will not be large nor as warm as your home, but it'll keep you alive and out of the wind. In cold weather, wind can easily lead to hypothermia, the lowering of a person's core (inside) temperature, which can kill. Stay out of the direct sunlight in hot weather, potentially fatal heat related illness can result, and seek shelter when it starts to rain. Stay as dry as possible, because it helps retain body heat and you'll be more comfortable as well. Additionally, many of the kits I viewed also had two space blankets that can also serve as a sleeping bag.
Fire – Used for heat and signaling rescue forces. Fire is a very important item in a survival situation and I always carry matches, lighter, and flint and steel. In my personal survival kit, I also carry a magnesium match, because I once spent a cold night surrounded by falling snow and I'll not do that again.
Water – which without you'll very likely to die in less than a day in hot desert climates, but in as few as three days in temperate weather. Most of the kits I saw had enough water for a couple of days, but you can never have too much water. I'd suggest you count on around a gallon day per person, including any cooking you may do. That's too much water to carry, if you have bug out, so purchase a couple of water filtration straws which are usually good for about 50 gallons of water each. The better survival kits have them and you can find the straws in any quality survival gear store. Remember, water is much more important than food when you're facing a survival situation.
Food – Actually very little is needed and as American's we usually eat too much as it is, but something to keep the eating urge down is important. I carry hard candies and instant coffee for snacks, but depending on how much you want to spend on a survival kit, I saw them with complete meals or just energy bars. I think I'd have one good meal for supper and use the energy bars for breakfast and lunch. Just remember what you grab and run with, you'll have carry as well and maybe over some rough land.
First Aid – This is a critical item to have along with your survival kit and I always carry one with me in the field. In fact, everyone who goes into the woods with me also carries a small individual first aid kit to treat minor cuts, scrape, or burns. To me, a survival kit is just not quality survival gear without a good first aid kit. Most of the kits I viewed on line pretty much had first aid kits covered, with the exception I'd add a small tube of triple-antibiotic cream or ointment to any kit.
Signaling Gear – this can be as simple as whistle or if you have the funds, an emergency radio. I'll not get into what needs to be carried, because it all depends on where you'll be attempting to survive, but I'd make sure my kit had a signal mirror, whistle, and some bright international orange material. The basic secret to signaling is being seen, smelled (smoke from your fire), and heard. It's rare rescuers will see, smell, and hear you, all at the same time, but all you want to do is draw their attention to you. You must decide what you need, see if it fits your budget, and then decide to buy it or not. Oh, and cell phones don't always work deep in the woods or following a natural disaster, so don't count on it too much.
Comfort Items – dry socks, candles for light at night, sleeping bags, AM/FM radio, backpacks, or portable stoves. While they're nice to have, you can survive without them, provided you have the other items I've listed. As I said earlier, you may have to carry the survival pack, so consider weight -- it's an important issue.
Remember, commercial survival kits come is various sizes and weight, so it's important for you to decide where is the kit to be used (home or grab and run). Cost is also an issue for most of us, so purchase the best survival gear you can, while still getting quality items. Make sure the kit has gear for a shelter construction, fire making, water, food, quality first aid kit, signaling, and few comfort items. In closing, remember in most survival situations the survivors are rescued within 48 hours, but longer periods are not unknown. Carry the best survival gear you can afford, it's you and you're families life assurance policy.