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There are five survival items that you should carry at all times. We never know when we will be in an emergency survival situation. One does not need to be going deep in the backcountry to prepare for an unplanned event. There are many discussions about everyday carry (EDC), bug out bags (BOB), and other solutions to address emergencies. However, emergency survival does not gradually creep up on a person.

An emergency survival situation happens suddenly and catches someone by surprise. It is similar to an ambush in combat. In the chaos of the initial minutes of a survival situation, the survival gear you are carrying will be the first items employed. Therefore, it is essential to carry these five gear items as a baseline in your emergency survival planning. These items are compatible in any environment in which a survival situation arises.

1. Triple Sensor Solar Digital Watch

 

The triple sensor digital solar watch is a versatile survival item that you can carry at all times. The vital aspect of these watches is that they are compatible with wearing business attire or rugged outdoor clothing. The triple sensor watch is also known as an ABC watch. These watches give you three sensors that display, (A) altitude, (B) barometer/temperature, and (C) compass readings.

Advantages

All three capabilities allow you to have situational awareness of your environment at all times. Most of these watches have a built-in light, so the watch display is readable at night. The solar cells in the watch face charge the internal battery. As a result, the watch stays operational at all times. For example, I purchased my watch in 2015 and have never encountered a need to change the battery.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage with a triple sensor digital watch is that the compass readings can be tricky to understand. Additionally, the compass does not constantly display for use like a baseplate or orienteering compass in the outdoors. Thus, the compass enables dead reckoning for gaining a bearing rather than shooting and maintaining an azimuth. However, during an emergency survival situation, the triple sensor watch can get you through the mad-minute until you can stop, observe, assess, reassess and reorient (SOAR) your situation.

2. Pocket Knife/Folding Knife

 

The pocket knife is a traditional survival tool. The history of the pocket knife spans human history from the Iron Age to the present times. However, the pocket knife in its current configuration came about in the 1600s. A pocket knife goes by another name, such as a folder or tactical folder.

Nevertheless, the pocket knife is a versatile tool to carry at all times. The environment that you function in every day will influence what kind of pocket knife that you carry on you at all times. Like the triple sensor watch, carrying a pocket knife works as well with business attire as it does with outdoor clothing.

Blade Length Consideration

The knife blade on a pocket knife does not have to be very long to meet your needs. The smallest blade length to of practical use is one that is between 2.5 and 3.5 inches. Some companies offer pocket knives with shorter knife blades. Consequently, those knives have a limitation in their use. However, a pocket knife blade that has a minimum length of around 3 inches will allow you to get through the initial minutes of an emergency. However, a pocket knife with a 4-5-inch blade is optimal.

Is a pocket knife a tool or a weapon?

The local laws governing the carrying of knives influences what kinds of knives one can carry. For example, the famous stiletto switchblade knives are illegal to carry in some places because they are classified as weapons rather than as utility tools. Some survival experts recommend carrying a knife to use as a tool and as a self-defense weapon. However, it is prudent to understand what your local laws allow and prohibit regarding the carrying of knives.

Recommended Pocket Knives

The Swiss Army Farmer by Victorinox is a good pocket knife to carry. Another decent pocket knife is the Stockman by Buck Knives. A budget-friendly pocket knife is the TecX® X-Pro I by Case Knives. One of these knives is a great cutting option to consider carrying as part of the baseline emergency survival gear that you carry at all times whether you are in the office or out in the backcountry.

3. Butane Lighter

 

The butane lighter is a standard fire starting method in most emergency survival kit configurations. Butane lighters have been around for a long time. The most recognizable butane lighters are the Zippo® and Bic® brands. Zippo® lighters are made of stainless steel and can be refilled with butane lighter fluid. Bic® lighters are a disposable lighter made of plastic. Therefore, either type of lighter can enable making an emergency fire in any environment.

Advantages

The advantages of carrying a butane lighter are the ability to produce a flame with relative ease. These lighters can be carried in the inner pocket of a suit coat or the trouser pocket of casual or outdoor pants. Therefore, if you need to make a hasty fire in an emergency, the butane lighter enables the completion of that survival task.

Disadvantages

A disadvantage with butane lighters is the limited amount of fuel they carry to produce a flame. Butane fuel also evaporates over time. The Bic lighter has a vapor release button that if depressed, will release the vapors of the fuel. Bic lighters are not refillable once the fuel is gone. By contrast, Zippo lighters have a saturated cotton batting on the bottom. The butane fuel evaporates from this batting and requires periodic refilling. Thus, one needs to carry a can of butane fuel to refill a Zippo lighter.

Survival Considerations

Despite their disadvantages, in an emergency survival situation, the butane lighter is reliable enough to enable you to start a fire when necessary. They are safe to carry in an urban environment or on the trail. They are simple to use.

4. Micro LED Flashlight

 

Micro flashlights are an essential item to carry on you at all times. These flashlights are sometimes known as keychain flashlights. There are two common types of these flashlights: tubular and flat. The tubular style micro flashlight looks like a miniature version of a traditional flashlight. It usually has to be twisted to be turned on. The flat style flashlight tends to have an oval or rectangular shape and operate with a button depressed switch.

5. Hand Sanitizer Wipes

 

Hand Sanitizer Wipes are a convenient way to carry a dual purpose survival item. In a previous article, we gave some discussion about hand sanitizer as a survival item. Hand sanitizer wipes are single-use wipes that can clean your hands or function as tinder to start a fire. These wipes fit easily into a wallet, purse, shirt, or trouser pockets. A hand sanitizing wipe used with a butane lighter will allow an emergency fire to be built.

Final Thoughts

Emergency survival planning involves decisions about the gear one carries. Sometimes these discussions transition into everyday carry, bugging out or getting home kits. The items in the list above are not comprehensive in nature. Instead, they are a simple baseline which allows for additions and modifications to fit your environment and needs.

However, one of the lessons that 9-11 teaches is the importance of carrying survival gear on you during an emergency. For example, in a mass casualty event in an urban setting, you may not be able to access that EDC bag or get to your car and pull your get home bag. Therefore, those survival items that you have access to in an emergency can influence the outcome.

Moreover, in an emergency survival situation in the backcountry, you may be separated from your main pack. Thus, what you carry on yourself, such as, in your pockets, may determine the difference between life and death. For example, you may suffer a mechanical injury that immobilizes you or severely limits your ability to move. Your pocket knife, microlight, or butane lighter may be the x-factor in your being rescued. The story of Aron Ralston reveals the value of carrying survival gear on you when emergency survival happens to you.

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.

There are four optional tinder sources that can help with making a fire in an emergency situation. The ability to make a fire is an essential part of survival in the outdoors or in an emergency situation. The experts usually discuss making a fire with the use of natural materials. Demonstrations of primitive fire making occupy the discussions in the survival and outdoor literature. One of the essentials of making a fire is the use of combustible materials to start a fire. Let us take a look at some optional tinder sources to consider for your fire-making kit.

Cotton Balls or Cotton Pads

The most common type of optional tinder source are cotton balls. Cotton fiber is a natural material from cotton plants. The fibers are harvested and processed into cotton balls at a cotton mill. If you happen to be going by a cotton field you may see cotton-like balls on the plants. These white balls are called, bolls. Cotton bolls are combustible material. Cotton bolls are not as dense as the cotton balls in the local grocery store.

Moreover, a simple cotton ball will take a spark very easily. It has one disadvantage; the cotton fibers burn very quickly. Potentially, the cotton ball can burn out before a tinder bundle can catch on fire. There are a couple of ways to help the cotton ball hold or extend a flame once the fibers begin to ignite. One method to help the cotton ball hold a flame is to saturate it in candle wax. Another method is to saturate the cotton ball in petroleum jelly. Candle wax and petroleum jelly produce the same affect on the cotton fibers as a wick on a candle. They help the fibers burn more slowly while retaining the flame. Thus, after application of the wax and petroleum jelly to cotton, they act as fire or flame extenders when the cotton fibers catch fire. In turn, the cotton ball now is an optional tinder source.

Hand Sanitizer

A second tinder option for your fire making kit is a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer contains both rubbing and ethyl alcohol at a concentration between 65% and 95%. The kind of ethyl alcohol that is in hand sanitizers is flammable. As a result, the liquid or semi-jellied hand sanitizer will ignite with a heat source such as a match, butane lighter, or ferro rod. The semi-jellied compound that forms the hand sanitizer does not evaporate easily and will hold a flame longer that just the liquid alcohol by itself. However, when liquid hand sanitizer combines with other tinder sources, it functions as an accelerant to create fire. Not only is liquid hand sanitizer a good consideration as an optional tinder source, hand sanitizing wipes are also a excellent options for a tinder source.

The best hand sanitizing wipes are those individually wrapped by Purell™. Hand sanitizing wipes are different from an alcohol wipe that is in a first aid kit. They are also different from a Wet Wipe®. The hand sanitizing wipes have a concentration of ethyl alcohol of between 50 and 70 percent (PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes Alcohol Formula, Safety Data Sheet, 2016). This makes them an ideal item for a personal emergency survival kit or to keep in your wallet, purse, or backpack as a multi-use component of your EDC loadout.

 

Alcohol Prep Wipes

The third household item that makes a great tinder for fire making are the alcohol prep wipes in your household first aid kit. These wipes contain up to 60% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol infused into a small paper or cotton cloth square. It is important to know that there is another kind of wipe in a first aid kit that is an antiseptic wipe containing .13% benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Benzalkonium Chloride is an antimicrobial soapy substance which makes it useless for making emergency fires.

Furthermore, the major difference between using a wipe that contains hand sanitizer and one with rubbing alcohol is burn time. Rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly and when it ignites it will burn off before the paper or cotton square starts to burn. Remember that experiment your high school chemistry teacher did by soaking a wash cloth in rubbing alcohol and lighting it on fire and the cloth did not burn? By contrast, the wipes containing hand sanitizer will burn more slowly and this quality makes them ideal for starting an emergency fire for survival.

 

Dryer Lint

A fourth household item that makes a wonderful optional tinder source for emergency fires is dryer lint. There are many blog articles and YouTube® videos discussing the various ways to employ dryer lint as a fire making item. Dryer lint has a similar quality to cotton balls. Loose fibers from the clothes that are being dried fall off of due to the rubbing and tumbling in the dryer. Those fibers collect on the lint catch. They, then, can be collected for later use to start an emergency fire. The major difference between dryer lint and cotton balls is that dryer lint sometimes has within it multiple types of fibers, such as cotton, wool, and polyester.

Final Thoughts

A major component of survival is being adept at improvisation. The homesteading community calls it “repurposing”. The list of optional sources of tinder are by no means exhaustive. There are many other kinds of materials that can function as tinder sources. The experts agree that being able to make a fire in an emergency is essential for wilderness survival. The same skill also is critical in an emergency in other locations such as a suburban or urban environment. Therefore, improvising tinder materials from household items is one way to think outside the box to prepare for an emergency.

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