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The best U.S. military field gear to consider for your loadout can give you an advantage in the outdoors. Military surplus gear is a favorite among many people. Whether you are an urban prepper or an expert outdoor adventurer, military field gear will be part of your loadout in some way. Therefore, as we consider the best U.S. military field gear to consider adding to your packing list, it is acknowledged that there are many opinions about the equipment in this list. Nevertheless, the gear in this list has stood the test of time. The gear is durable, reliable, and available in most military surplus stores.

1. The U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife

The U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife tops the list of U.S. military gear to consider for your kit. The knife is not a favorite of bushcrafters. However, for those with limitations on their spending, the pilot’s survival knife (PSK) is the best way forward in assembling your loadout. Outdoor and survival experts agree that a knife is the most critical tool that you will have at your disposal in a survival situation. You will not go wrong with this knife.

The knife is currently produced by the Ontario Knife Company (OKC) as the 499 Survival Knife. It carries the national stock number (NSN) 7340-00-098-4327. However, the knife is no longer part of the U.S. Government inventory. OKC sells the knife for around $50-60, in most outdoor stores like Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse. If you are interested in more information about this knife, you can read my article on the history of the U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife.

2. The Gore-Tex Bivy from the Modular Sleep System (MSS).

Another piece of field gear to consider for your packing list is the Gore-Tex Bivy sack from the military modular sleep system (MSS) produced by Tennier Industries. There are two versions available on the market, woodland camouflage and Army Combat Uniform (Foliage) camouflage. I prefer the woodland camouflage version. However, the camouflage pattern does not matter because the bivys are identical except for the coloring. As of this writing, I am not sure if they have started producing an operational combat uniform (OCP/Multicam) version.

Gore-Tex is an excellent material for the field as it is waterproof, windproof, and abrasion-resistant. That does not mean that it is immune from tearing. It means that with proper use, it will last a long time before any holes or tears appear. Furthermore, the bivy can be used as a hasty shelter in an emergency in conjunction with an emergency blanket or bivy. Thus, as a piece of survival gear, you will not be disappointed by the Gore-Tex bivy sack from the military modular sleep system.

3. The Medium/Large ALICE Rucksack

Second to knives, backpacks are always a favorite topic of conversation among outdoorsmen, bushcrafters, or preppers. It seems everyone has their preferences about backpacks for everyday carry (EDC), backwoods hunting, through-hiking, a Get-Home bag (GHB), or a bugout bag (BOB). A piece of military gear that has stood the test of time is the U.S. Army and USMC ALICE rucksacks. ALICE is an acronym for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. The ALICE rucksack was issued in a medium and large version attached to an LC-2 Rucksack Frame. A small ALICE rucksack was issued, but it was not widely accepted or used, so it was quickly phased out of U.S. Government inventories.

The medium and large ALICE rucksacks have a lot of storage space for their size. They are made of heavy-duty nylon and strapping. The medium ruck has a capacity of roughly 2400 cubic inches or about 39 liters. By contrast, the large ruck has a capacity of approximately 3800 cubic inches or about 60 liters. There are some advantages and disadvantages with these military rucksacks. However, overall, they are an excellent start to your prepping or outdoor adventuring activities.

4. The Gen I ECWCS Parka and Trousers

A third military gear item that you should consider is the Gen I Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) parka and trousers. Some commercial replicas are just as good. However, for the price, the surplus Gen I or Gen II parka and trousers are a bargain. If your budget can only allow for one item, I would recommend purchasing the parka before the trousers. These items are bulky. So, for space and weight considerations, I would take the parka over the trousers.

The Gen I ECWCS park and trousers are durable and reliable. The main difference between the Gen I and Gen II parka is that the Gen I parka has an inner liner. The Gen II parka has no liner allowing it to have a dual function as a rain parka. The primary color of the Gen I parka and trousers are woodland camouflage. The parka has a national stock number of NSN 8415-01-228-1306 to 8415-01-228-1322. The trousers have a national stock number of NSN 8415-01-228-1336 to 8415-01-228-1352. The Gen I ECWCS parka and trousers are becoming more difficult to find. Therefore, if you can find one in your size, purchase it.

5. One-Quart Canteen with Nesting Cup and Stove

Military canteens are favorite items for most people. They are readily available in most surplus stores. The U.S. military 1-quart canteens that are the most common on the market are made of heavy-duty plastic. It is rare to find a U.S. military canteen that is stainless steel. However, there are some companies producing replicas in stainless steel with a narrow mouth. These represent World War II and Korea War versions.
The U.S. canteen comes with a stainless steel nesting cup and a stainless steel stove insert.

Therefore, if you purchase the plastic canteen, I recommend purchasing the canteen cup and stove to make it a complete field worthy kit. One disadvantage with the plastic canteens is that they are more susceptible to getting mold on the inside. Surplus stores do not clean the canteens out before they sell them. Therefore, ensure they are bleached out, washed, and dried before using them. All U.S. 1-quart canteens will fit in the ALICE or MOLLE Canteen cover.

Final Thoughts

Military surplus field gear has been in use for generations. Remember that you have already purchased U.S. military field gear indirectly through your federal income tax. Part of your federal income tax goes to purchasing this rugged and reliable gear for our military service members. You will not go wrong adding some of this excellent gear into your packing list. It has stood the test of time. It is reliable, practical, and will continue to last if it is properly maintained.

You can modernize the SAS survival mess kit for the twenty-first century. The SAS survival mess kit has been around since the 1970s. John “Lofty” Wiseman, who is a retired SAS Sergeant Major, popularized the use of the survival mess kit in his book, SAS Survival Handbook (1986). Wiseman calls it the Survival Pouch in his book.

As with the survival tin, the contents of Wiseman’s survival mess kit reflect the technology and practices of the 1970s. The kit functions as a complementary element with the survival tin. Therefore, one can understand the survival tin as “part A” and the mess kit as “part B.” How can this piece of survival gear be upgraded to address 21st-century concerns?

The Container

The SAS survival mess kit utilizes the standard issued British Royal Army mess kit. They call it a “mess tin.” The mess tin has two nested parts, a large and smaller piece with folding handles to secure them together to form a box-like look. It measures roughly 7 x 5.3 x 2.4 inches. The modern versions of this item are made of kitchen-grade aluminum rather than stainless steel. I prefer stainless steel items when they are available.

The mess tin fits into a large military pouch, such as the ones that hold a box of ammunition for a squad automatic weapon (SAW). The ESEE Mess Tin Kit is the closest equivalent on the market. However, the ESEE kit has a lid rather than a smaller mess tin to fit inside of it. Additionally, there are stainless steel lunch boxes of similar size on the market that can function as a modern upgrade to the British mess tin.

The Purpose of the Container

The mess tin has purposes beyond being a container for survival gear. The primary purpose of the mess tin is for preparing and eating food. As such, Wiseman suggests putting food items in the survival mess tin. The British mess tin is a better mess kit than the U.S. Army one because it can collect and boil water more efficiently. A bushcraft cook pot functions in a similar way to the British mess tin.

Assessment of the Container

The British mess tin is a practical item for enabling survival in an emergency. Therefore, the survival mess tin is a wonderful addition to your survival gear if you are looking to enhance your wilderness, vehicle, or urban survival loadouts.

The Contents

The contents that Wiseman recommends for his survival mess tin are fifteen items. However, these items can be sorted into eight categories of consideration: fire making, illumination, emergency food, food preparation, emergency signaling, and additional contents. As with the survival tin, the size of the mess kit will influence what kinds of contents to store in it.

1. Fire Making

Wiseman suggests putting more survival matches into the mess kit. The principle of incorporating redundancy into your kit considerations is at work here. Again, understand that the mess kit is a complimentary item to the survival tin. Therefore, including extra survival matches is prudent. The best survival matches on the market are the UCO Stormproof Matches. However, the UCO Survival Matches are smaller and come with a waterproof plastic container.

However, if you wish to stay with the military-grade matches, then the NATO Survival Matches by ProForce® should be a consideration. Additionally, there are other fire-making items to consider as substitutes for the matches. You could include a UCO Fire Steel, a regular-sized Bic ® lighter, the SOL Fire Lite Sparker with Tinder, or a NATO Spark Lite kit with extra tinder tabs.

2. Lighting or Illumination

Lighting and illumination in the SAS Survival Pouch is a small LED flashlight. The mini-MAGLITE® flashlight is an example of the flashlight illustrated in the SAS Survival Handbook. However, MAGLITE® and other companies make smaller flashlights that use alkaline batteries, lithium batteries, or have rechargeable batteries. Therefore, when considering a more modern upgrade to a small flashlight, my preference is a MAGLITE Solitaire. Others may recommend O-Light or Streamlight® products. Those are equally good flashlight products.

3. Emergency Food Items

Wiseman recommends putting food items in the mess kit. He also suggests putting a “brew kit” in the tin. The “brew kit” would be tea or coffee bags. However, many beverage companies currently make single-use instant coffee or tea packets, as well as flavored drink mixes like Kool-Aid or Wyler’s® drink mixes. An even better drink mix besides instant coffee or tea would be the sports drink mixes in single-use packets such as Gator-Aide or Propel mixes. A local health food store can assist in helping you find healthy tea or electrolyte drink mixes in single-use packets.

Wiseman makes a strong recommendation for high-fat foods. One of the best items for this is the peanut butter or cheese packets that come with the current Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). However, there is a growing number of people with peanut allergies, so be careful about what kinds of food items to put in your mess tin. Trail Mix nut packets, beef jerky, or Cliff® Energy Bars are good items to consider for the survival mess kit.

4. Food Preparation Items

The SAS Survival Pouch calls for a pocket-sized folding stove and hexamine fuel tabs. The folding stove that is illustrated in the SAS Survival Handbook is the Esbit Compact Folding Stove. There are more up-to-date substitutes for the pocket folding stove, such as the Vargo Titanium Hexagon Backpacking Wood Stove. The Toaks Titanium Alcohol Stove Pot Stand also is a good option. The Toaks and Vargo stoves fold into a more flat configuration, which makes more room for other items in the mess kit.

5. Emergency Signaling

One of the differences between the survival tin and the mess kit is emergency signaling items. Wiseman suggests the inclusion of a pen flare kit and a signaling panel in the mess kit. The pen flare kit available in the U.S. is the Orion Pocket Rocket Signal Kit. The pen flare kit illustrated in Wiseman’s book is an issued item for the survival vest worn by military pilots. Therefore, the exact one shown in the book is unavailable to most personal. Again, this fact demonstrates the trouble with using military items for non-military purposes.

The signal panel also is a military issued item. However, some alternatives would be just as useful, such as a blaze orange bandana or the small ResQBrite™ panel by Survival Metrics.
Another aspect of signaling is writing messages and keeping notes. Wiseman also suggests keeping writing material in the kit. Some excellent considerations would be the Rite in the Rain Mini Notebook with a golf pencil, small ink pen, or miniature Sharpie® marker.

6. Additional Items

There are some other items to consider if there is room in your mess kit. An emergency whistle such as the rescue howler sold by the Orion company is a good addition. The Best Glide Aviation Survival Equipment Compact Emergency Signal Mirror is an excellent complement to the kit. A good backup compass to consider would be the Sun Company MiniComp II – Miniature Orienteering Compass with Rotating Bezel. A backup knife also should be an option if there is room in the kit. The SOG Instinct fixed-blade knife would be great in the survival mess kit as an additional item.

Final Thoughts

The survival tin and mess kit discussed by John “Lofty” Wiseman are great starts for thinking about resourcing your survival. Your preferences on items will mean your kits will be customized for your unique needs. One can view the survival tin and mess kit as a two-part survival system that will be useful to the outdoorsman, prepper, or survival enthusiast. Therefore, take the time to explore and experiment with different configurations with these kits to find the best one for your needs in the 21st century.

You can modernize the SAS survival tin for the twenty-first century. The SAS survival tin has been around since the 1970s. John “Lofty” Wiseman, who is a retired SAS Sergeant Major, popularized the use of the survival tin in his book, SAS Survival Handbook (1986). The book is currently in its third edition. Additionally, The survival and prepping worlds have made use of Wiseman’s suggestions for the construction of a survival kit.

Consequently, there are many commercial and private versions of this survival item currently available. The primary purpose of the survival tin is to enable survival in an emergency. As useful as Wiseman’s survival kit is to wilderness survival, its contents reflect the technology and understanding of survival from the 1970s. How can this kit be upgraded to address 21st-century concerns?

The Container

A typical survival-type tin utilizes a simple metal box that measures around two inches in width by three inches in length and three-quarters of an inch in depth. It is sometimes called an Altoids® tin. The current SAS Survival Tin being used is 3.5 x 4.625 x 1.25 inches. Therefore, it is larger than the commercial Altoids tin. Moreover, there are arguments about the practicality of using such a container for emergency survival purposes. These arguments reflect the trouble of taking a military item and adapting it for non-military uses.

The Purpose of the Container

The tin box has purposes beyond being a container of smaller items. For example, the use of such a small box allows for making charred cloth for fire-making. Similar boxes on the market have a rubber or foam seal under the lid to make them watertight or waterproof. These features defeat the purpose of the box. The survival tin box has more than one purpose or function. A sealed version of the tin can still be placed in a fire to make charred cloth, but the seals will melt and become useless to keep out water.

Secondary Uses of the Container

Another purpose of the tin is for water collection. A soldier escaping and evading the enemy is always on the move. The tin can be used to quickly gather water from a stream or during a rainstorm for quick consumption. The survival tin also can be employed as a simple stove to purify water or cook a simple meal of edible plants, insects, or small fish. Wiseman suggests wrapping duct tape around the edges to help make the tin watertight until it needs to be used. Unfortunately, the contents become vulnerable to moisture once the tape is removed

Assessment of the Container

The survival tin should not be disregarded as a legitimate container for a survival kit. Its small and compact size makes it ideal for backpacks, cargo pockets on pants, glove compartments in vehicles, toolboxes, or tackle boxes. However, there are some things that you can do to keep the contents dry. The first is using a small Ziploc-type bag. The second is vacuum sealing the contents. A third option would be to put a Ranger band around the edges instead of the duct tape.

The Contents

The contents that Wiseman recommends for his survival tin are fifteen items. However, these items can be sorted into eight categories of consideration: fire making, land navigation, illumination, food procurement, water procurement, wood processing, first-aid, and equipment repair. Furthermore, the size of the container dictates what kinds of items to place into it.

1. Fire Making

The first category of consideration in a survival tin is that of fire-making. How will you make a fire? Wiseman suggests a “matches” and a “flint steel.” Flint steel is a ferrocerium rod. The author suggests the storage of simple wood matches dipped in wax with the stems trimmed. The flint-and-striker that is pictured in the diagram is still available on the market. However, the idea is to have a mini-Ferro rod in the kit. What would be an upgrade to these fire-making items?

One of the most popular replacements for the matches and ferro rod is the miniature Bic® lighter. You can find many survival tins being discussed on YouTube® that have the miniature Bic® lighter in them. However, in sticking with the military nature of Wiseman’s tin, a simple mini-ferro rod with a striker would be sufficient. An example of such an item would be the Bayite® mini-ferro rod. The NATO Survival Matches by ProForce® are a significant upgrade to the simple wooden matches.

2. Lighting or Illumination

Lighting or illumination is a genuine concern in a survival situation. Wiseman suggests a tea candle and a “Beta Light.” Does anyone know what a beta-light is? A beta light is a self-illuminating light using tritium. These are not an item on the market in the United States. A U.S. equivalent version of this U.K. item would be the snap lights or chemlights produced by Cyalume®. Therefore, an option to consider is the micro-flashlight or a mini chemlight by Cyalume®.

Tea candles have been a suggestion for survival kits for many years. There have been improvements to the tea candle. One such improved tea candle is made with bee’s wax. An example of bee’s wax tea candle is those sold by Best Glide-Aviation Survival Equipment. Exotac® also offers a version of the tea candle, the candleTIN™ Nano. These can be a consideration for an upgrade to the SAS Survival Tin.

3. Food Procurement

Food is an essential part of survival. A person’s ability to procure and process food in an emergency survival situation can determine the difference between life or death. The SAS Survival Handbook suggests placing snare wire and some fishing items in the survival tin. These items continue to be a recommendation for survival kits. However, your food procurement items must be tailored to your environment. For example, a fishing kit may not be necessary for a metroplex environment. Nevertheless, an excellent upgrade to the fishing items in the SAS survival tin would be Readyman’s® Enhanced Wilderness Survival Card or the Fisherman’s Survival Card. You can also read my article on making an emergency fishing kit and place that in the tin.

4. Land Navigation

Land navigation is an important skill to know when you are outdoors hunting, fishing, or backpacking. Interestingly, land navigation also is essential for an urban environment. I recently had an experience with OnStar®, where I came within 300 yards of accidentally crossing into Mexico at night. It turned out that the operator put the wrong destination into the directions as it led me through the city where I live.
The SAS Survival Tin calls for a button compass. A button compass is still a good option if you have no compass at all. However, some excellent wrist compasses would make a significant improvement over the button compass. The Suunto Clipper wrist compass is an example of such a compass.

5. Wood Processing

The early survival kits contained a wire saw. The wire saw, or flexible saw is part of the SAS Survival Tin recommendations. However, the quality of the commercial saws tended to be substandard and often failed when employed in the field. BCB USA/UK still sells a wire saw that is constructed using the military standards and specifications for the U.S. Government. A secondary option for a saw would be a small hacksaw blade cut to 1-2 inches in length.

6. Equipment Repair

Equipment and clothing will always need repair. Many combinations of needles and thread will do the task of mending clothing or tears in a pouch or backpack. However, the best dual-use thread is the Kevlar nylon thread. It is useful for repairing damages or as a fishing line. Therefore, I recommend taking a plastic floss sewing bobbin and wrapping as much Kevlar nylon thread on as is practical for both fishing and equipment repairs.

7. First Aid

Medical treatment always will be a concern in a survival situation. Wiseman recommends several medical items to make up a small emergency first-aid kit. Many of the questions are still available on the market. Therefore, use your best judgment about what to put in your kit. The purpose of a survival tin is as an instrument of last-resort to enable survival in an emergency. As such, it will not hold everything that you may desire for your first-aid items.

8. Water Procurement

One of the more interesting pieces of the SAS Survival Tin is the inclusion of a non-lubricated condom to be used as a water-carrying device. The kits sold by BCB in Britain still include a condom. Yet, condoms can fail in the time of need. A more sure replacement for the condom would be the NASCO Survival 1 liter Water Bag. They are thin enough that two could be included in the kit.

Additionally, Wiseman calls for water treatment tablets. Water purification tablets used to come in bulky packaging, forcing them to be placed in a smaller container. However, water purification tablets now come in aluminum foil packaging in sets of ten tablets each. The new packaging makes it easier to put water purification tablets in a survival tin.

Final Thought

John “Lofty” Wiseman gives a solid starting point for thinking about resourcing your survival. One’s preferred content for a survival tin may vary. Yet, the concept of ensuring that you address the basic needs of survival will not change for any type of emergency survival kit. The answering of the questions about food, fire, water, shelter, and first-aid will characterize any survival kit configuration. The SAS Survival Tin is a great place to start thinking through these concerns. The recommended upgrade to the items in Wiseman’s kit will ensure that you have a kit that will address 21st-century survival in the outdoors or the city

Can you make your own MRE accessory packet? MRE stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat. The MRE is the replacement field ration for the older C and K-rations from the Korean War and Vietnam War eras. MREs come in a box containing twelve different individual meals. The individual meals have an accessory packet that has various items such as salt that help make the consumption of the meal more pleasant. The concept behind the accessory packet is a good one, as one considers spending extended periods outdoors.

There are three different versions of the MRE accessory packet marked as A, B, or C. The accessory packet has twelve items in various combinations among the accessory packets. For example, one packet may have instant coffee while another may have a drink mix. The following twelve items can be part of your own meal accessory packet that you can create for your next outdoor adventure, home emergency kit, Bug Out Bag, or EDC loadout.

1. Coffee

Coffee is part of the MRE accessory packet A. Modern advances in science and manufacturing bring instant coffee to the outdoorsman’s list of food considerations. Another consideration for carrying coffee is the coffee bags. Furthermore, coffee is a favorite drink of choice for many backpackers. Many thru-hikers and multi-day hikers carry some ability to make coffee.

There are two kinds of instant coffee available on the market, regular coffee and gourmet. For example, Maxwell House® instant coffee and General Foods® International Coffee are an example of these categories of coffee. Folgers® and Starbucks® make the most popular forms of instant coffee that can be carried in your MRE accessory packet.

The best instant coffee packaging to carry in an MRE accessory packet is the slender tubular ones. Folgers and Starbucks sell this kind of instant coffee, and they can be purchased in most grocery stores. Folgers® sells both regular and decaf instant coffee in the tubular packets. Another way to carry coffee in your accessory packet is in the form of an individual coffee bag.

2. Tea

Some of the older versions of the MRE accessory packets would have a tea bag instead of coffee. The tea would be in accessory packet B. However, in recent years, the tea has been replaced with a drink mix. If you are not a coffee drinker, then a tea bag or two is a great option when making your MRE accessory packet. Additionally, there are many kinds of teas to consider, such as medicinal or therapeutic teas.

3. Drink Mix

Energy drink powders are a popular item to carry by many people. The last few years have seen the availability of energy drink powders and flavored drink powders in the singular tubular packaging similar to the instant coffee packaging. The best energy drink powders available in this kind of packaging are the Propel™ drink mixes made by Gatorade®. Wyler’s®, Crystal Lite®, and Hawaiian Punch® also make drink mixes in the single, tubular packaging.

4. Non-Dairy Powdered Creamer

Non-dairy creamer is part of the MRE accessory packet contents. The A and C accessory packets contain non-dairy powdered creamer. Some people like to have creamer with their coffee. Others want to stir it into their instant oatmeal. Still, other people want to put creamer in their hot tea.

Nevertheless, non-dairy creamer can be used in several different ways when eating food in the field. The best non-dairy powdered creamer on the market is Coffee Mate® by Nestle®. However, there are some other varieties of powdered creamer available such as organic creamer that can be part of your accessory packet. The best way to include non-dairy creamer into your accessory packet is as an individually wrapped packet or tube.

5. Sugar Packet

The consumption of sugar is a controversial topic among many people. However, the U.S. Army uses sugar in the MRE accessory packet for both quality of life considerations but also because it can be mixed with salt in a canteen of water to make a quick, field-expedient electrolyte drink. Sugar can be part of your accessory packet by using the individually wrapped packet or tube.

There are two kinds of sugar to consider for your accessory packet: refined and raw. Organic sugar can be either refined or raw. Refined sugar is also known as white sugar. Raw sugar is sometimes called dark or brownish sugar. The best raw sugar to consider for your packet is Sugar In The Raw® that comes in the individually wrapped packs. Refined sugar packets are more widely available and can be obtained almost anywhere.

6. Sugar Substitute

A sugar substitute is a popular alternative to regular sugar. Some people cannot consume sugar for medical reasons. A sugar substitute alleviates the concerns for those needing to limit their sugar intake. As with regular sugar, sugar substitutes come in many forms. Some examples of sugar substitutes are Sweet-n-Low®, Splenda®, and Stevia®. These also can found in packets that are similar to that of regular sugar.

7. Salt

The most ancient type of food accessory carried by humanity is salt. Salt is considered a commodity and was once used as money when trading with others in the ancient market places. Frontiersman and the pioneers of the old west carried salt as one of the staple items next to flour and sugar. Therefore, it is no surprise that current U.S. military MREs have salt in their accessory packets. A packet of salt combined with a pack of sugar mixed with one liter of water in a military canteen makes a quick electrolyte drink.

Salt helps the human body retain water. Thus, when salt is sprinkled over one’s food from an MRE, it will be both more pleasant to eat but also puts a vital nutrient back into the body. The consumption of salt also increases thirst, and therefore one will drink more water to alleviate the thirst created by eating salt.

8. Hot Sauce

The MREs that I consumed while in the U.S. Army had a miniature bottle of Tabasco® Hot Sauce in the accessory packet. I later learned that red pepper and cayenne pepper has health benefits. Hot Sauce is not part of the current MREs at this time. The newer MREs have a packet of red pepper flakes for a seasoning item. However, as you consider what to put in your MRE accessory packet, a miniature bottle of Tabasco® Hot Sauce would make a great addition.

9. Chewing Gum or Hard Candy

MRE accessory packets usually contained some type of chewing gum or hard candy. The candy’s purpose was to provide some level of quality of life in the field and keep morale high. The most common chewing gum was Chicklets®, and the most common hard candy was Charms®. The newer MREs no longer have these particular brands but offer similar gum or candy, in general, like Tootsie Rolls®, M&M®, or Skittles®. If you do not like gum or candy of any kind, then do not include them in your packet. You may want to add a more healthy food choice.

10. Toilet Paper

The toilet tissue paper that has been part of the MRE accessory packet was not intended to be used after a person defecated in the field. The more likely purpose was for drying hands after using the moist towelette or tinder to make a fire in the field.

11. Moist Towelette

The moist towelette has been part of the MRE from the beginning. The towelette helps to clean the hands before or after eating. The best towelette that you can place in your accessory packet is the Purell® hand sanitizing wipe.

12. Matches

The military MREs have always carried a book of paper matches in the accessory packets. Like other items, a book of matches is not present in some accessory packets in the newer MREs. The MRE matches were included during a time when cigarette smoking was more common among servicemembers.

MRE matches were not very consistent in giving a flame. Yet, during my time serving in Operation Desert Storm, one of our scout teams got lost during a practice maneuver. They used their MRE matches and toilet tissue to start a fire to keep warm before they were found. Consequently, our commanders required us to carry these two items on us at all times.  By contrast, you may not want to include the traditional book of paper matches in your MRE accessory packet. A good alternative would be to add five stormproof matches taped together with clear tape.

Final Thoughts

You can make your own MRE accessory packet from the twelve items discussed in this article. Your packet does not need to contain all twelve items. Once you have collected the items for your accessory packet, then you can vacuum seal them with a standard food sealer. Many people will use substitute items for their accessory packets. If your preferences in life are of an organic or holistic nature, there are comparable items on the market that meet that need. Therefore, have some fun putting together your MRE accessory packet.

There are five things to remember before going outdoors. A recent news article discusses the rescue of an injured hiker in Colorado back in July. Jeffery Ashby is a retired NASA astronaut who decided to go on a high altitude hike by himself at Colorado’s La Plata Peak. He slipped and fell 500 feet down the mountain. The location where his fall stopped put him in an area that required an airlift rescue operation. Somewhere during the fall, he broke both of his legs. He survived his fall and injuries and was later rescued by a helicopter crew from the nearby Army National Guard aviation training center.

Jeff is a retired military person in excellent shape for being sixty-five years old. He was well prepared and familiar with the area he was hiking. However, July 16, 2019, would not be an average hike. The story reminds us that on any given day, we can find ourselves in an emergency survival situation in the backcountry.

Many people love to go outdoors for recreational purposes. The early fall season brings many hunters to the backcountry to hunt deer and elk. People are trying to get those last multi-day backpacking trips in before the snows come. Other people want to take that last weekend camping trip before the weather turns bad. Therefore, we should remember the following principles to help increase our chances of rescue in an outdoor emergency.

1. Get As Much Knowledge As Possible About Your Outdoor Location

It is advisable to do as much research to gain as much knowledge as possible about the place you intend to go for your outdoor activity. One possible way to accomplish this is to search for news stories about the desired location. For example, some areas have a concentration of incidents of missing people. Is this a place you want to go for an outdoor adventure?

Another way to gain knowledge about an area is to talk to the local park rangers. My son and I went hiking in a nearby state park. The park ranger informed me that there were only two of them working the park and rescue in an emergency would require an airlift. That was a great tip and could only be gained by talking to someone at the site. He also informed me that there are areas where rock slides occur. Again, great insight from someone working in the area.

2. Prepare Yourself and Your Gear

It needs to be said to remind you to prepare yourself and your gear before going into the wilderness. Jeff Ashby was ready for his adventure, and he still experienced an emergency survival situation. His preparation saved his life due to having a working headlamp. It was used as a signal device in the pre-dawn darkness to gain attention from other hikers passing by his location. If Jeff’s headlamp batteries were dead, he might not have gotten noticed and eventually rescued.

Preparing yourself also means knowing your physical and health limitations. My dad related a story about a man that he worked with who died of heart failure on a hunting trip. The hunter was not the epitome of physical fitness. He was walking on a slight incline for several miles, then fell dead from a heart attack, according to one of his hunting partners. Therefore, know if your physical fitness and health can handle a particular location, especially if the area is above eight thousand feet in elevation.

3. Develop and Distribute A Communication Plan

A third thing to remember is to develop and distribute your communication plan. In a previous article, I discussed the PACE method for preparing your gear. The acronym PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. It is a technique developed by infantry and special forces personal to create multiple ways to maintain communication with each other and their field headquarters. This method is an excellent tool to develop your communication plan.

Your communication plan should also include a timeline for checking in and to whom you will make those checks. For example, you may wish to send a text message to your designated recipients every two or three hours. Additionally, your communication plan should also include how to contact first responders, the park ranger station, and significant others, such as parents or your spouse. Once you have developed your communication plan, distribute it to those with whom you will communicate. Everyone in your group should have a copy of your communication plan in case you get separated.

Sample Communication Plan

4. Develop and Rehearse An Emergency Plan

After developing a communication plan, it is advisable to create and rehearse an emergency plan before you head out to the outdoors. Your emergency plan does not have to be elaborate and complicated. It can be as simple as developing a first option and a second option if things go wrong in the field. The emergency communication plan should be part of your planning process. Everyone in your group should be familiar with and understand the emergency plan before heading out to your chosen location.

One particular story that I read recently illustrates the need for developing and rehearsing an emergency plan. A group of hunters was hunting near Rainbow Lake in Colorado when a sudden blizzard hit the area. The hunters were separated at the time. Three of the four made it back to camp. When they realized one of their friends was missing, they went out again to look for him only to nearly succumb to the weather themselves. The story relates the need to develop and rehearse an emergency plan.

5. Avoid Going Outdoors Alone

One of the more important aspects of outdoor adventures is not going out alone, if at all possible. Hunters like to go off by themselves, even if they are with others. It is even more crucial that an emergency plan is in place when such a scenario exists. Backpackers and recreational hikers also like to go out alone. Many of the disappearances, mishaps, and fatalities in the outdoors occurs when the unfortunate ones are by themselves. The US Army sees the need for soldiers not to go anywhere by themselves and developed the battle buddy method to ensure the safety and security of soldiers. Experienced or recreational outdoorsmen should always have a partner when going into the outdoors.

Final Thoughts

The fall season can be an excellent time to spend outdoors. The changing color of the leaves and the crispness of the cold morning air make being outdoors all the more pleasant. Remembering to be safe and prepared increases your chances for a great time outdoors. Knowledge of your intended location, preparing yourself and your gear, developing a communication plan, developing an emergency plan, and going out with a partner or group will cut down on the chances of a mishap outdoors. As we enter the end of the year, let us enjoy our outdoor adventures with friends and family.

Do you know the four levels of shelter? The topic of emergency survival shelter is an essential discussion in outdoor survival. It also is one of the core essentials for any survival planning, along with food, water, and fire. The Fall season is here. Camping, backpacking, hiking, and hunting are the activities winding down before the first winter snows begin to blanket the North American continent. However, before the snows come, there are the fall rains to contend with outdoors. Thus, shelter is an essential area to address for your end-of-the-year wilderness adventure.

1. Level 1: Personal Clothing

Most survival experts agree that the clothing you wear is your first level of shelter consideration. As such, it is essential to understand how your decisions about apparel can help you or endanger you in the outdoors. The principle of layering outerwear is useful when deciding what to pack and what to leave behind. A modified version of layering can look like the following:

The principle of layering is essential to controlling your body’s loss of heat while in the fall and winter seasons. Equally important are the kinds of materials that you consider for your personal clothing needs. There is much debate about natural fiber versus synthetic fiber clothing. Each type of material has its benefits and disadvantages. Therefore, it is best to do some research and see which kinds of clothing materials work best for you and in the environment that you will traverse.

2. Level 2: Hasty Shelters

The next level of shelter consideration is what I call, hasty shelters. These kinds of shelters are not meant to be a permanent solution. They are often associated with emergency outdoor survival or military escape-and-evasion techniques. They are temporary solutions to avoiding extended exposure to the elements, such as wind, rain, snow, or heat. Moreover, they can be a source of concealment in a military context. Examples of hasty shelters are caves, overhangs, lean-tos, debris huts, wickiups, various kinds of tarp shelters, tents, or portable hunting blinds. Furthermore, some hasty shelters can be a solution for several days to several weeks.

Generally, hasty shelters are formed from the available natural resources along with the shelter items that you are carrying and the tools you have in your pack. Some areas that you may be in will not provide much for sheltering material. Therefore, what you are carrying in your backpack may save your life and prevent you from getting hypothermia or even frostbite. It is advisable to bring an SOL Escape Lite or Escape Pro Bivy and a U.S. Army GoreTex Bivy Cover as a minimal emergency hasty shelter system.

3. Level 3: Semi-Permanent

The third level of shelter is those that are semi-permanent. Semi-permanent shelters take more time and energy to construct. Therefore, they are not the best solution to consider when you are lost in the woods. However, if you find one already built, this kind of shelter will enhance your chances of survival over an extended period. The main difference between semi-permanent and permanent shelters is the foundation. Most permanent shelters are built upon and anchored to a rock, brick, concrete block, or slab foundation. By contrast, some examples of semi-permanent shelters would be log cabins, trail shelters, sheds, or mobile homes. Semi-permanent shelters can be elevated off of the ground by sitting on concrete blocks, yet they are not permanently affixed to them.

4. Level 4: Permanent

Permanent shelters are the final level or category of shelters to consider as you are planning your fall outdoor adventure. If you are lost in the wilderness, you are not going to spend your energies constructing a permanent shelter to get out of the elements. However, one can potentially run across a permanent shelter while attempting to self-recover in an emergency survival situation. One survival personality once stumbled across a permanent shelter while trekking through the jungles of Costa Rica. Thus, it is possible to happen upon such an accommodation. As stated earlier, permanent shelters are built upon and anchored to a rock, brick, or concrete foundation. Suburban and Urban shelters are mostly permanent shelters. In the outdoors, sometimes a person’s weekend cottage or mountain home may be hidden away until a lost person discovers them.

Permanent shelters offer a longer-term solution to your shelter needs. They usually have central air and heating. There is often running water, food, and cooking implements to access. Therefore, it is best to have a working idea of what permanent shelters may exist in a ten to a twenty-mile radius of your operating area or hiking trail. For example, when I was in Virginia, I would hike a well-used trail system. I could hear in the distance the sounds of human activity.

Final Thoughts

Fall-time outdoor activities can be fun and memorable. However, this time of the year can also be fraught with its unique hazards. Therefore, you must take the time to think through the shelter requirements necessary to be safe while outdoors. Weather at this time of the year can change quickly. One story of a missing hunter that I read recently centered on his being caught in a sudden snowstorm in the mountains of Idaho in October. Therefore, you must have a good clothing plan and shelter plan before you head out for outdoor activity during this time of the year.

How is your physical fitness? There are seven areas of consideration to help achieve and maintain your peak physical readiness. Physical fitness is a critical element for long term survival in the outdoors. Survival and preparedness experts agree that staying healthy and in shape will give you an edge in a survival situation. The physical fitness movement that began in the 1980s is an extension of the organic lifestyle movement of the 1960s. Thus, health, wellness, and being fit physically have characterized much of American culture over the last fifty years. The military is no stranger to maintaining good health. There are seven areas of concern when implementing your physical fitness program.

1. Nutrition

The first area to consider is nutrition. Proper eating habits are a key element to any physical fitness program. Many people like diet programs such as Weight Watchers®, The Atkins Diet®, or The Paleo Diet. However, for some people, the short-term gains from engaging in diet programs never seem to translate into long-term and permanent weight loss. Some studies suggest that those who lose weight will gain over 10% more than their original weight when they stop dieting. Therefore, eating properly over your lifespan is central to maintaining proper weight and nutrition.

Healthy eating means eating balanced meals and in the proper proportions every day. Remembering the five food groups for daily nutrition will help to achieve your nutrition goals. The five food groups are meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy. Portion size also is an element of proper nutrition. Those who engage in vegan or vegetarian diets will substitute the meat and dairy for other items. Healthy eating will give you the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that your body requires.

Additionally, as you consider proper nutrition and dieting, it is advisable to consult a professional, licensed nutritionist recommended by your personal or family doctor. Do not attempt a diet or nutrition regimen on your own solely based on articles or books that you read. Those sources speak to the general human condition, not your specific health concerns or needs. For example, many health experts discuss taking chondroitin glucosamine for joint health. I am not able to take it because it comes from shellfish. I have been forbidden by my doctor to eat seafood or products from seafood because of my iodine allergy. Therefore, consult your physician before engaging in a nutrition program.

2. Sleep

Sleep often is overlooked as a component of good health. However, most medical experts agree that getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is part of being a healthy person. An adult person needs around eight hours of sleep every night, according to the experts. A famous general once stated that any soldier who could not stay awake for three straight days was lazy.

By contrast, medical science and research relate that sleep deprivation reduces mental alertness, affects decision-making, aggravates the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Some of the survival programs on television demonstrate that after a period of low food intake and lack of sleep, many contestants begin to faint or make critical mental errors. Therefore, when appropriate, do not be afraid to sleep when your body is telling you to get some rest.

3. Activity

The more obvious part and easiest to understand about physical fitness is activity. Generally speaking, an active person is a healthy person. An active lifestyle is more than just going for a jog every day or a day-hike on the weekend. An active lifestyle is one in which your mind and body are continually exercised in a positive manner. Getting outdoors is just one way to accomplish that reality.

However, as it relates to survival tasks, your body needs a balanced training routine to achieve functional physical fitness. Functional physical fitness helps you accomplish the tasks necessary to enable survival in any environment, such as climbing or hand-to-hand self-defense. A balanced physical fitness training program involves three key areas: strength, endurance, and mobility.

4. Strength

Strength training is a vital part of a physical conditioning program. It usually involves weight training to increase strength, power, and endurance in the major muscle groups. Strength training is an anaerobic exercise. An example of anaerobic exercise is lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, or grip strengthening exercises. Anaerobic exercises are those characterized by the use of resistance to build muscle mass in the body.

Additionally, it is best to get your doctor’s recommendation or approval before participating in a strength training workout. It is also advisable to get a training partner if possible. Lifting weights can be fun but also dangerous. I have heard about several accidents over the years in which an overconfident individual got killed or maimed for life because of doing something irresponsible in the weight room and without a partner. Don’t be that person. Be safe, go slow, start light, and get help if you want to get the most out of a weight training program.

5. Endurance

The fifth area of consideration in building your functional physical fitness is endurance. Endurance training also is known as aerobic exercise. These kinds of activities involve the intake of oxygen through the respiratory system. Thus, aerobic training exercises the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Some examples of aerobic training are running, jogging, interval running, skipping rope, bicycling, rowing, aerobic dancing, or spinning.

Consequently, endurance training helps with both muscle endurance and respiratory efficiency. For example, ultramarathon runners have to have bodies that have muscle endurance and can effectively get oxygen to those muscles during their runs. Moreover, an efficient cardiovascular and respiratory system helps reduce the time needed for muscle recovery.

6. Flexibility

Flexibility training is the secret to success in your training program. Stretching out your body before working out addresses your body’s ability to bend and stretch. There is some debate in professional circles about the viability of stretching before or after a workout. Some believe it is needful and others discourage it. However, my personal experience is that stretching out before and after a period of exercise helps to prevent joint, muscle, and ligament damage. When I was in the military, stretching out before and after a workout in the weight room, road march, or a run enabled me to stay fit-to-fight when others were succumbing to injury.

7. Consistency

Consistency is the ultimate secret to success next to flexibility training in your physical fitness program. Your fit-to-survive program should center on consistency. Inconsistency in your training routine is a sure way to injury. An inconsistent workout tears the body down rather than builds it up. If you are going to start a physical fitness program, be dedicated to it enough to be consistent. An example of a consistent workout schedule would exercising or working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. There are many great workout schedules by reputable organizations on the internet. Therefore, you should be consistent with your training if you want to reduce the possibility of long-term problems like tendonitis, pulled muscles, torn rotator cuffs, or similar injuries.

Final Thoughts

Physical fitness is an individual matter between yourself and your doctor. As stated earlier, do not engage in a program without your doctor’s approval. My doctor has approved walking, hiking, and backpacking for my physical fitness program. Running, obstacle courses, climbing Mount Everest, or adventure sports are off the table due to my knees and back. I could do them should I have a mind to; however, is the risk worth the reward? Therefore, be safe and keep fit and enjoy yourself as you get in shape or maintain your level of physical fitness.

Nine improvised survival items could save your life. Most news stories about lost or missing people give information on the gear or lack of equipment the person is carrying on them. It is interesting to read how the lost person is not taking some essential item like a compass. In the case of the missing hiker, John Donovan, everything he needed to survive was on him. However, he perished after becoming stranded in a box canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains outside of Palm Springs, California.

The topic of survival gear does bring up an essential aspect of wilderness survival, the skill of improvisation. In other words, the ability to create survival tools or methods from everyday items to enable survival is an essential part of wilderness survival.

There are many suggestions on the internet about creating survival hacks or improvised tools. This article will focus on those items that an average person carries when they go into a field location. Most people only go outdoors on a recreational basis. Thus, they are not thinking about bringing a complete survival loadout stuffed in a 50-75 liter backpack. They are only going outdoors for a short period and returning home. Therefore, a small day pack or waist pack is the most that they carry with them. Thus, these items can be employed in an emergency if necessary.

1. Smart Phone Signal Mirror

One of the essential communication devices that one usually carries on an outdoor adventure is their smartphone. The smartphone can be an improvised survival gear item by being functioning as a signal mirror. Most smartphones have a flat-screen that is large enough to reflect sunlight. The way to use the screen on a smartphone as a signal mirror is to turn it off, then employ it in the same manner as a survival signal mirror.

2. Camera Lens Fire Starter

A second improvised survival gear item often overlooked is the lens on a camera. Many people take cameras on their outdoor adventure. Small, pocket-sized digital cameras are popular with many people trekking outdoors for the day. However, the lens in the camera is an excellent fire-making source.

The camera lens is a magnifying glass. The lens is powerful enough to start a fire using the sun to focus light on a tinder source. Therefore, do not be afraid of breaking apart your camera to get to the lens in a survival ordeal, even if it is an expensive Canon or Nikon.

3. Bottle Cap Survival Whistle

Another great improvised survival gear item is that of making a survival whistle from a simple water bottle cap. One survival expert demonstrated this during a recent television program. I found a water bottle cap and tried the procedure myself. It works!

A water bottle cap from a Dasani or Aquafina bottle can be used as an emergency whistle. You hold the bottle cap by placing your thumbs over the opening. You create a small gap between you thumb knuckles and blow air through that gap. It will make a high pitch whistle sound that is very loud.

4. Sewing Needle Compass

Sewing needles are usually not considered an improvised survival gear item. However, in an emergency, they can be used as improvised compass needles to help determine magnetic north. A stainless steel sewing needle from your pocket travel sewing kit can be magnetized to become a compass needle.

You take the needle and rub it rigorously for a few minutes with 100% wool material. The static electricity created from the friction will magnetize the needle. Then you can tie the needle in the middle with a piece of shirt string. You dangle the needle on the thread with your hand, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.

Another option would be to put the needle on top of a leaf and float the leaf in a container of water, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.

5. Boot Lace Cordage

Survival experts will tell you that the most forgotten source of cordage is a person’s shoe or boot laces. Possessing and utilizing cordage is an essential survival skill. Laces for military-issued boots are made of a sturdy material similar to 550 parachute cord. Some companies are starting to produce survival boot laces. Nevertheless, in an emergency, remember that your hiking boots or shoes will give some quick cordage for a multitude of emergency needs.

6. Hand Sanitizer Tinder

One innovative way of your hand sanitizer is as tinder for starting a fire. Many people carry the small travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer in their backpack. Some people carry them in the pocket of their trousers or waist pack. Hand sanitizer is a flammable gel or liquid consisting of 60-95% alcohol. Thus, it will take a spark very effectively.

A more convenient way to carry hand sanitizer is in the form of a towelette. The towelettes are paper saturated with hand sanitizer. The combination of these two materials makes excellent fuel for making fires. I carry two of these in my wallet at all times to make an emergency fire when necessary.

It is important to note that the medical wipes containing rubbing alcohol or BZK are not flammable and will not catch on fire.

7. Car Key Saw

Your car keys can be a source for a cutting instrument. How many of us have used our keys to open packages received in the mail? In the field, your keys can offer a crude sawing device to make notches in branches for making traps or snares. Your keys do not provide the most efficient sawing edge; however, if that is all you have, do not hesitate to employ them.

8. Bandana Water Filter

A lost person in the wilderness needs a steady supply of water to maintain the functions necessary to ensure survival. The bandana gives a person many options in a survival situation. The bandana can be used as headgear, tinder source, carrying device, bandage, washcloth, or signaling device.

Moreover, another use of the bandana is that of a hasty water filter. The bandana, by itself, will not filter out waterborne pathogens. However, when it is used with an improvised filter using rocks, dirt, and charcoal, it is an effective means to gain drinkable water. If there is no other way to sanitize water, the bandana will filter out large particulates.

9. Duct Tape Bandages

There are many uses for duct tape. Some show that duct tape can be fashioned into a water carrier, waterproofing, and as fire tinder. However, one of the most common ways that duct tape functions is for first aid. A method of using duct tape is that of bandages. Bandages can be fashioned from duct tape if one does not have or has lost their first aid kit. Many hiker, hunters, and backpacker carry a small roll of duct tape for equipment repair. Duct tape is quite useful at bandaging flesh wounds in an emergency.

Final Thoughts

Improvising survival tools from those things you carry on your body is a great skill to cultivate. If you find yourself lost and separated from others, the stuff you have on you can help you to survive. These items in the discussion above are not an exhaustive list. People carry different things on them. However, in a general manner, the items above are the most common. Remember that emergency survival is about staying cool, calm, collected while simultaneously being innovative, flexible, and resourceful.

Are you ready to survive an emergency at your location? Is your survival context urban or the wilderness? In recent days, I have read a few articles and watched a few presentations relating to urban or wilderness survival. It is interesting to notice one preference over another. These preferences are due to the leanings of those making their case. One’s environment influences the preferred approach to emergency preparedness. My own experiences with outdoor recreational activities, weather emergencies, military field training, and combat deployments accentuate this truism.

Thus, there are two basic categories of survival that are the most common in the literature: urban survival and wilderness survival. My article on survival approaches further breaks these down. However, in this article, I will discuss the urban and wilderness methods for survival planning from a broader perspective.

The Urban Survival Approach

The contemporary interest in urban survival is a more recent development in the survival and preparedness world. The popularity in the zombie genre of dystopian movies and television program seems to have been the impetus for the interest. The concern about the sudden collapse of modern society intensified with the Y2K scare of the late 1990s. Lofty Wiseman’s book, SAS Urban Survival Handbook (1996) discusses urban survival and is a standard read on the subject. Thus, urban survival became a hot topic in the early decades of the new century. What is urban survival?

The name, urban, implies the context in which one needs to survive: a city, town, or metroplex. The urbanization of the United States is a byproduct of its Industrial Revolution (1865-1920). The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that close to 63% of America’s population lives in urban and suburban areas. Furthermore, strategic thinker and author, David Kilcullen writes of the increasing urbanization of warfare in his book, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (2013). Therefore, urban survival planning a viable exercise for those living in that context.

The Uniqueness of the Urban Environment

There are many contrasts between an urban environment and the wilderness environment. The concerns of the urban environment are unique. For example, a person attempting to survive in an urban or suburban context does not have to worry about building a shelter in the same manner as their wilderness counterparts. One can occupy an abandoned building or house if necessary and if it is safe. The stories of urban survival from the siege of Stalingrad to the killing fields of Sarajevo give ample evidence of the peculiarities of urban survival.

A feature of urban survival are the kinds of items necessary for an emergency kit. Thus, urban survival requires some different things that are not present in a wilderness survival loadout. For example, most urban survival kits include a sillcock key. A sillcock key is unnecessary beyond the rural survival zone. Why? There are no commercial buildings with secured outside water faucets in the backcountry that require a sillcock key to access.

It is common for urban survival kits to feature lock picking tools. Again, these are unnecessary in the deep backcountry for living off of the land. Lock picking tools assist in getting into buildings to obtain food, water, or shelter in an urban or suburban survival zone. The movie, World War Z, has a good representation of the importance of accessing a grocery store or hospital pharmacy during a societal collapse. Lock picking tools enable that activity.

Some Observations About The Urban Environment

Additionally, the urban environment offers some infrastructure that is not available to those living near or in the wilderness. Cities and towns provide a utility grid (gas, water, electricity), if operational, which allows access to potable water, refrigeration, communication, sanitation, and emergency medical care. Stable buildings offer shelter and protection from the weather, predation, and criminal activity.

The main weaknesses with the urban environment are the available resources, like food, medicine, and water. In an urban collapse, such as that after Hurricane Katrina, those resources dwindle very quickly. It is estimated that major grocery stores only maintain about a 30-day supply of food and water. However, in a panic, the shelves and coolers in those same grocery stores will be stripped clean in 48 hours.

I witnessed this in Virginia when a named snowstorm was going to hit our area in 2016. The local Kroger’s, down the street from my apartment, was a chaotic mess in two hours. You would have thought the zombie apocalypse was upon us. My oldest son was with me in the store. I pointed out the barren bread shelves to him. I told him that this is what happens when people fail to prepare. They become very selfish and animalistic towards others when they are fearful of their mortality. Therefore, the storage of essential necessities becomes crucial in an urban survival zone.

The Wilderness Survival Approach

The wilderness survival approach is the oldest of the methods. Wilderness or frontier survival is as old as humanity from the Otzi Iceman to the modern bushcrafter. As its name indicates, wilderness survival refers to surviving in an outdoor environment. There are different kinds of survival considerations for various outdoor activities. Wilderness survival preparation may be as sophisticated as a modern ultralight backpacking kit to an extended hunting trip into the Alaskan backcountry. It can also be as simplistic as employing the survival skills and tools of the Native Americans or the Mountain Men of the early 1800s.

The Uniqueness Of The Wilderness Approach

The outdoor environment offers its own set of unique characteristics influencing survival and preparedness. Outdoorsmen must be able to survive and sustain themselves in the field for extended periods in remote locations. There is nothing “remote” about the urban environment. Moreover, wilderness survival requires one to carry all of the survival necessities within the limitations of your pack, pack animal, or both. Furthermore, the wilderness survival approach implies being able to access and create essentials from natural surroundings. For example, flint napping a knife blade or spear point is not necessary for an urban context.

Some Observations About The Wilderness Environment

The main difference in wilderness survival kits and those for the urban environment are the tools. Those going into the outdoors need a fixed blade knife as their primary tool. Urban survival kits can function effectively with only a multitool. A fixed blade knife is a core item for bushcrafters and hunters. Ferro rods and strikers are the tools of choice for making fires in the backcountry. Whereas, urban survival kits usually feature a Bic Lighter. Thus, there are some differences in kit components to enable urban or wilderness survival.

Some Final Thoughts

Is it urban or wilderness? Your location and type of survival concern will dictate your requirements. However, for those living in the transition survival zones, it is prudent to take a hybrid or blended approach of both urban and survival techniques and kit mentality. Sigma 3 Survival School offers a great blend of both urban and wilderness survival training courses. It is best to avail yourself of that training if you are able. You may have to traverse multiple survival zones to get to safety during a mandatory evacuation. Therefore, it is wise to gain as much field time, formal training, and individual practice in both urban and wilderness survival skills within your budget and time limits. These will enhance your chances of a positive outcome in your survival situation.

Further Reading

Can you stay alive outdoors by assessing risks? The summer outdoor season sees an increase in reports about disappearances and accidents. A recent report from California discusses the disappearance of an experienced hiker at a campsite in the Bristlecone Pine Forest. She was later found alive after four days. The report reveals that she had to flee her location due to a threatening person. Another story relates the discovery of the body of a missing person on the Snake River in Wyoming. He was working at a KOA campsite. Outdoor activities can be great experiences. However, outdoor activities also have inherent risks. You should develop a risk assessment and reduction plan before you go on a wilderness adventure. The following principles can help you build your risk mitigation plan.

1. Assess the level of wilderness experience and field skills of yourself and others

It is terrific to have a desire to spend time outdoors. There is an increasing number of people heading to the wilderness to hunt, hike, camp, or fish. The growing popularity of survival-related reality television programs and the rising interest in survival and preparedness are motivating people to get outdoors. However, the reality of being in the wilderness is different from how it is portrayed in the mass media. There is a danger of overconfidence in one’s abilities.

It is prudent to be realistic in assessing the level of wilderness experience and field skills of yourself and those in your group. The less wilderness experience and skills that one has should be an indicator that they are a high risk to themselves and others. Therefore, it is imperative to take a partner with you into the outdoors. Your partner should be more experienced and have more field skills than you to compliment your weaknesses. As a matter of safety, you should never go into the wilderness by yourself regardless of how skilled and experienced you are with the outdoors.

2. Know the level of health and physical fitness of yourself and others.

It is vital to know your level of health and physical fitness. Health and physical fitness play an important role in determining the kinds of activity and locations that one visits. For example, people with high blood pressure might have limitations as to the types of trails that they can trek on a backpacking adventure.

3. Understand the natural or man-made dangers of the area of activity

One of the common characteristics of negative experiences in the outdoors is a lack of awareness of the risks. More specifically, there seems to be a lack of knowledge of the natural and man-made dangers in the area of activity. One type of natural hazard involves predatory animals, such as mountain lions or bears. Other inherent threats are those relating to the terrain such as cliffs, bodies of water, areas of deadfall, or unstable ground. Man-made dangers are those pertaining to human activity. These can comprise logging areas, areas of construction, or even previous criminal activity.

4. Analyze the local weather and weather anomalies of the area of activity

Weather is a contributor to outdoor risks. There are reports of sudden fog, rain, or dropping of temperatures even in the summer months in some locations. It must be remembered that some local weather patterns cannot be found in a national or local forecast. The people who live near the area of your outdoor activity can provide useful information on local weather activity such as afternoon thundershowers. Analyzing the local weather traits will help make decisions about what to put in your backpack, such as rain gear or a light fleece jacket.

5. Identify the level of access to emergency help in the area of activity

Sometimes people, who go outdoors, do not take into account the availability of emergency help. It is essential to have a good understanding of what kind of emergency help is available. Additionally, it is crucial to know how to access emergency help in your planned area of activity. The importance of knowing how to contact emergency help is a critical part of your outdoor planning.

For example, one of the areas near me does not have a large number of park rangers. They tell you when you come into the park that most emergency help will be by airlift. They do not have the personnel or transportation available to come to your aid if you call for help. Thus, an expensive life flight to a local hospital awaits, should you dial for help. That kind of information influences your activity and what you have in your gear.  Some wilderness areas have no cell phone access. How will you get help in an emergency?

It is recommended that you develop a first-responder contact card. This card should have contact information for park rangers, first responders, and area hospitals. You should include emergency radio channels on the card if you are carrying a handheld ham radio two-way transceiver with you.

Final Thoughts

Risk reduction is an important skill to develop and exercise for those who love the outdoors. Your risk reduction plan has its limitations. However, without one, you may find your activity being less than enjoyable. Once you have identified the risks for your planned wilderness adventure, then develop and implement measures to reduce that risk. One of the best techniques to consider for risk reduction measures is the PACE plan. Additionally, your risk reduction plan should take into account the kind of activity (Mission), local and area dangers (Enemy), time of day, month or day (Time), the people involved (Troops), location (Terrain), and accesses to emergency help (Civilian Considerations). Once you have your risk mitigation plan complete, give a copy to whomever, you will be making your communication checks while you are outdoors.

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