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#11706 - 01/03/03 10:22 PM Interesting opinion about survival kits

Hello, everybody,
I like reading military books about survival experience of military people. I recently purchased book of Ken Connor "Ghosts: An Illustrated Story of the SAS" and read there quite interesting comments about survival kits (page 14): "The notional SAS escape kit. In practice soldiers in the Regiment only carried the escape compass. Living off the land is a full time occupation and escaping from the enemy means you must travel fast and far, not spend time searching for food." I also read some books of some ex-SAS guys who also wrote that they found not practical to use survival kits because they can be used efficiently only if you stay in one place for a long time. During my military training (I am from the former USSR) we were trained such things as finding north and south using stars, trees, churches and similar, but never been trained using survival kits. I remember asking one special forces guy why we are not taught how to survive if we, for example, get lost, and he said:" If you get lost you will bin most of your staff and run! This is the best survival technique". And I remember that when we had to run long distances even extra magazine seemed to be too heavy. Don’t you think that having too much of survival equipment may slow you down or give false feeling of security?

#11707 - 01/03/03 11:05 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits
M_a_x Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/16/02
Posts: 1066
Loc: Germany
There are totally different scenarios. As an escaping soldier you don´t want to be recaptured. As a survivor you want to be found and rescued. Most kits here are assembled for the latter scenario. So being slowed down by the attempt to survive isn´t a issue. If you know the limits if your skills and your equippment there is no false feeling of security just a bigger chance to achieve your goal.
If it isn´t broken, it doesn´t have enough features yet.

#11708 - 01/04/03 07:15 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits

I see your point. However, don't you think that the task of a lost soldier to get back is the same of a lost person? The difference is that the surviving person can be searched to be rescued while a soldier to be captured by the enemy and rescued by his fellows. And it seems to me that if people get into survival situation they would prefer to get out of it as soon as they can and would not have enough time for any delays, except situations when there is nowhere to run. I read somewhere suggestion that if you get into survival situation, you should not rely on possibilities that you will be rescued, but should try to get out by yourself. Regards,

Edited by Ebakeev (01/04/03 07:19 PM)

#11709 - 01/04/03 08:16 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits
M_a_x Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/16/02
Posts: 1066
Loc: Germany
I agree up to a point, but in a survival situation you can afford as many delays as you want. A minimalist equippment can help to keep a situation from getting critical. The extra weight doesn´t really hurt. My PSk and FAK each weigh a little less than half a pound and not having them wouldn´t make me much faster (if it would I could still leave them behind). I prefer having it and not needing it to needing it and not having it anytime.
As you said, it depends on the situation whether you should try to get out on your own or wait for a search party. When you should wait, it´s too late to assemble your kit.
If it isn´t broken, it doesn´t have enough features yet.

#11710 - 01/06/03 08:06 AM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits
Trusbx Offline

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 397
Loc: Ed's Country
I think the although the task for both the lost soldier and the lost survivor is to get back to civiliation and be saved, as you rightly pointed out, the soldier has the enemy to contend with. Hence the need to evade and escape.
The situation for the other is slightly different in that the survivor may be a lost hiker / archeologist etc in the wilderness. That's where the kit becomes useful in helping to keep the guy/gal alive & warm till he is found.
If you have the skill and the inclination you may want to try and find your way out on your own, but with the advent of cellular phones / gps and personal locator beacons, sitting and hugging a tree may be better to allow the SAR teams to try and locate you

<img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />


#11711 - 01/06/03 08:38 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits

I guess the issue is one of making sure that the kit is set up for that job at hand. I'm in the UK so there's no value in me packing food gathering kit for emergencies. We really don't have that kind of wilderness. Need to make sure I've got stuff to give me appropriate shelter, to alert rescuers and to give appropriate first aid. Of course knowing how to navigate is pretty important. I suspect much of continental Europe it's pretty much the same issue.

Now if I was in some parts of North America or Russia then it may be that distances are much greater. Feeding myself whilst either waiting to be found or making my to civilisation might be more important.

Reading some military history though shows that some soldiers have had to feed themselves from the land, for example British and Australians left behind in Malaya when the Japanese invaded. I guess that's where some of Lofty Wiseman's ideas come from. Most of the stuff I've read does emphasise that the SAS and such like do pack the kit needed for the area they are going into.


#11712 - 01/07/03 02:40 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits

Sorry for the late reply; I’ve been negligent in reading messages for awhile.

Unlike most here, I agree with at least some of the concept. Quite some time back I said so, which stirred up a little controversy here, but then someone ported my message to another forum where it stirred up a lot more, and was pretty much shouted down. I remain unconvinced and unrepentant.

I’ve taken all food-related items out of my kits. No snares, fishhooks, lures, trapping diagrams, aluminum foil, tea bags, candy, silly little bouillon cubes, etc. etc. If the PSK is intended for short-term, from a few hours to a few days at most, I think it’s all a waste of space. You can go a month without food, I’ve personally gone 7 days with no loss of energy (quite the contrary) or other ill effects, and some benefits. I view the PSK as being a set of tools to get me OUT of a survival situation to something better, not a starter kit to play mountain man and start a life in the wilderness (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a different goal). Procuring food is the activity that only works well if you’re not on the move, and, for the great majority of the situations, it doesn’t seem worth it to me- even if you’re stationary, and have lots of time to waste, it seems like it’s likely to burn up more calories than it gains, unless you’re pretty practiced at it. I think the tea bags and bouillon cubes are a cheap way for kit manufacturers to cater to your psychological needs, not your “real” physical needs.

Why waste time pursuing something you’re not going to really need for weeks?

Most of the shouting was from people who insisted that food and comfort is an important part of even short-term survival. I don’t really agree, but even if I did I wouldn’t be packing teddy bears, favorite magazines or toothbrushes in a PSK. If the point of the kit is survival, then every bit of space in it can be better devoted to just staying alive, rather than trying to be comfortable doing it.

The only remotely food-related item in my kits anymore is a P38 can opener that works nicely as a striker for the firestarters as well. I’ve thought about eliminating that too, but it’s tiny, light, and flat, and while optimum short-term survival strategy might mean NOT devoting time and energy to the pursuit of food, that doesn’t mean you should ignore any resources you come across. That simple little can-opener could dramatically reduce the time needed to exploit "found" food, and seems worth it to me.

#11713 - 01/07/03 07:24 PM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits
mick Offline
dedicated member

Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 134
Loc: England west yorkshire
I agree that the kit you carry does dpend on your circustances and the area that you are in. Everyone has there opinion on the psk. the guy mentioned above thinks it's rubbish but if you read one of barry davis's books then there will be quite a large chunk devoted kit. Personally i think it comes down to personal taste as well as the terrain that you are in.

#11714 - 01/08/03 04:22 AM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits

Presumed Lost,

This is a different point of view alright, at least from what Im used to reading. So I would be interested to know what you have in your PSK.

As you said "I view the PSK as being a set of tools to get me OUT of a survival situation to something better," I would very much like to know what tools you view as being important. Thanks


#11715 - 01/08/03 11:07 AM Re: Interesting opinion about survival kits

Hi Neal,

I don't mean to be the least evasive- I can detail the contents of my kits if you like, but it does get a little involved. I have one for sailing, one for hiking (it's been WAY too long since either of those was used) and a somewhat more complex arrangement for my every-day or "urban" PSK, sort of three-stages involving an Altoids-size tin, a larger Rubbermaid-style flat rectangular container, and a shoulder pouch. The reason for the complexity of the urban arrangement is that I'm currently a LONG commute away from home, and a long subway ride away from my vehicle all day.

It might help to know that I also carry no first-aid gear in the PSKs. For one thing, I have little training in that regard, but mostly I'm skeptical as to the real value of anything small enough to carry in an Altoids tin. I've been gashed up a number of times, and it sort of seems to me that if you can stop the bleeding with anything that small, it was going to stop anyway. I'm also very leery of carrying any loose medications, prescription or even over-the-counter, in an urban setting- too easy for it to be misinterpreted and get you "detained" at some critical time. I do carry a small first-aid kit in my pack when hiking. I consider the aid that it can provide more "comfort" than "survival", but "comfort" is a perfectly legitimate goal when hiking.

Those idiosyncrasies aside, my kits don't vary that much from what most people list. Every kit contains some sort of knife or blade, at least two ways to make fire, a compass, an oven bag or similar for an emergency water container, one of Barry's tiny vials of iodine tablets, a whistle, a Photon micro-light, tiny multiple-fold reading glasses (which I need for reading or close work), a P38 can opener, and needle & thread, safety pins. The sailing and hiking kits contain "Featherweight" signalling mirrors. The sailing kit has more emphasis on water-resistance, cord, etc... the "urban" kit has more emphasis on information (pen & paper, phone numbers, phone card number, maps and tiny radio in pouch) and money.

Does that help, or would you still like the full breakdown? I keep lists on my Palm, but they're always slightly out of sync with the real contents, it seems.

I guess I'm missing why it would be a mystery what I carry, just because I don't think food-related items are appropriate for a short-term kit.

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