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#88551 - 03/16/07 06:14 PM My Emergency Wilderness PSK
Evolute Offline

Registered: 09/12/02
Posts: 33
Chris Kavanaugh asked me to share my PSK with Equipped To Survive, about five years ago. Sorry I've been so slow!

Anyway, I'm putting together a series of articles about emergency wilderness survival, on my website. I've just put together an article which shows my kit, as a PSK example. I thought I'd share it with you folks, as was requested, so long ago.

I'm giving a link, instead of showing it here, because the picture is large, the text is lengthy, and the article is an integrated part of a series. Here's the link:


I hope you enjoy it, or find it useful. Any thoughtful feedback, positive or negative, will be appreciated.

[Please note that this PSK article is somewhat of an unfinished rough draft, as is each article in the unfinished series (and the entire website, for that matter)].


Edited by Evolute (03/16/07 09:25 PM)

#88572 - 03/16/07 11:14 PM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: Evolute]

Re - Evolute. A very useful PSK. Lots of ways to start a fire - excellent. Good to see a Butane Torch Lighter. Would be my first choice to start a fire. Some other very useful additional items might include some NATO Life boat matches and Striker and a small Citronella Candle. Other useful items might include the following,

Fenix LOD CE and spare AAA lithium Battery. The little Fenix can provide enough light for true night time navigation. This can be sometimes be extremely important and has an SOS function for night time signaling.

Esbit Titanium Wing Stove and 3 Esbit Tabs Pkt. Sometimes biofuel is not always available for a brew up.

A small bar of Soap. This item seems to alway be left out of most PSKs. The reason I always include this item is so that hands can be washed. Some research has pointed that many gastrointestinal problems could be caused by not washing hands correctly rather than water born infection.

A small packet of Tea bags, Whitener and Sugar and Salt - A brew up starts the STOP principle or the ABCDEF i.e.

A. Accept the situation.

B. Brew up a cup of sweet tea if time allows.

C. Consider all possibilities.

D. Decide on a Plan.

E. Execute your Plan.

A couple of small steel snap lock Lifeventure Carabiners.

A small Silva SERE Luminous compass backup would also be useful.

A Mosquito head net would also be useful. If space was tight this might replace the Hat in warmer summer weather. The Trasers can also be used as a night time fishing lures.

#88577 - 03/17/07 01:02 AM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: ]
Evolute Offline

Registered: 09/12/02
Posts: 33
Thanks, Ben.

I'll respond to each of your suggestions, individually.

Matches: No. I've decided that matches don't cut it, for me. Not even NATO Lifeboat Matches. As I explain, here (scroll down to about the middle):


"This goes against common wisdom, but... I place matches low in preference as a type of emergency firestarter. While they do have some interesting plusses, they also have a lot of serious shortcomings.

On the positive side, they can provide an instant flame. In case somebody needs to light a fire for you, everybody recognizes what they are and knows how to light them, and they don't take much skill to use with a high success rate. They can be combined to produce greater heat output, to start fires in difficult conditions. They can double as tinder. They can be split amongst several people in a party. They can be lit and thrown, if necessary.

On the negative side, they take up a lot of room for the number of fires they can start (especially if they are in a waterproof case). Twenty matches take up as much room as a mini lighter which can start hundreds of fires, and more room than a firesteel which can start thousands of fires. They also break easily when you strike them (and the "waterproof" ones are harder to light, requiring a firmer strike, thereby making them more prone to breaking). Most aren't waterproof. Even the waterproof ones degrade over time, due to moisture. Most aren't very wind resistant, either. Most require a special strikng surface (which must, therfore, not be lost, and must be kept dry) in order to work at all.

I wish I could recommend waterproof, windproof, strike-anywhere matches, on good quality, sturdy, water-resistant matchsticks... they would be easy to make... but nobody makes them, to the best of my knowledge. "

Besides, I've already got 5 other ways to start a fire in my kit. I think I'm covered more than well enough, without including matches.

Citronella candle: No, for a few reasons. It would quickly melt into a very problematic mess insde my kit. Also, I don't like to have anything with any added scent in my kit. Even though candles have a legitmate place in survival kits, especially larger kits for cars and such, I just don't think it is a worthwhile enough use of the limited space in my pocket sized kit.

Fenix LOD CE: No. I already have a flashlight in my kit, which works fine for navigating at night. I know it is more than adequate for this purpose, because I have the same flashlight attached to my belt, and have been using it hiking at night for years. Between the one on my belt, and the back up in my PSK, I don't think I would be better off carrying a larger, heavier, less long lasting additional light.

Esbit Wing Stove: No. I've seen those, and they are cool... but they don't make the cut for my kit. I did consider adding my Vargo Triad stove to my kit. I could run it on the pure methanol I carry for cleaning my lenses and camera sensor. I could also use the back side with a chunk of fatwood (which would work as well as Esbit fuel, and is a biofuel which is always available, since I carry it in my kit). I'm still considering adding the Triad to my kit, but my inclination is to think that a small stove doesn't make it as a critical survival item in a pocket sized kit.

A small bar of soap: Note that I carry a squirt bottle of povidone iodine, which can cover hand cleaning.

A small packet of tea bags: Definitely not. I don't put things into my PSK which can go stale, or rot, or easily tear and make a useless mess, etc. Further, (I'm sorry to disagree with the British bushcrafters, but) it doesn't have nearly enough worth to take up space in my kit. As for using it as part of the STOP principle or the ABCDEF principle... I'll do fine dispensing with the tea bag and boiling up a steaming cup of water. Besides, pine needle tea is usually an option, where I usually go out.

Lifeventure Carabiners: I'm not familiar with Lifeventure's carabiners. I have been seriously considering a carabiner or few as part of my kit.

A small Silva Sere compass: Between the compass I keep in my pocket, tied to my belt (mostly for setting up sunrise/sunseet photos), and the compass in my PSK, I think I'm covered well enough. I think it would be too much to carry a back up to my backup.

Mosquito head net: I have one. Sometimes I put it in my kit.


Edited by Evolute (03/17/07 05:26 AM)

#88642 - 03/18/07 12:26 AM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: Evolute]
garrett Offline

Registered: 03/07/03
Posts: 249
Loc: North Carolina
Mike, I would like to hear/read more about the homemade water bag you made. Is there a reference site you researched before you did it, or are you just familiar with that type of stuff.

On occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use. - Epictetus

#88648 - 03/18/07 01:13 AM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: garrett]

Re My Emergency Wilderness PSK

With regard to the matches, the quote is spot on but I find the plus sides outweigh the minuses. I also have a different number of ways to light a fire and these generally include matches. I carry approx 20 matches (10 strike anywhere and 10 NATO lifeboat) which will allow me to make 10 fires. I use the following method to store matches. Take some corrugated cardboard and cut it so that a rectangular piece is sized enough to carry 20 matches; the 10 Lifeboat matches are one at a time inserted every two corrugations with the 10 strike anywhere matches inserted into the opposing corrugations from the opposite side. The matches and card board are then dipped into hot candle wax. This is allowed to cool and any excess wax removed from the surface.
When I need to light a fire after the Butane lighter has run out and when lighting wet tinder is proving too difficult with the Firesteel I will cut from the match cardboard supply one Lifeboat and one strike anywhere match. After removing the strike anywhere match and exposing the head of the Lifeboat match I then hold the strike anywhere match just below the Lifeboat match then strike the strike anywhere match. This will ignite the Lifeboat match even in the most difficult circumstances. The waxed paper will also burn much longer than the Lifeboat match would even do and actually is a excellent tinder in its own right. The whole package is actually very compact, has a thin flat form factor, the matches are waterproof, the package will float, all the material mass is used in creating fire and therefore is very efficient especially for smaller PSKs. I know that the number of attempted firelights is small, but this package is reasonably small and at the end of the day extremely reliable.

The Citronella candles from UCO have a very high melting point and will not readily melt in your PSK. As DEET is a most powerful pesticide and is highly toxic I prefer using alternative methods especially in more temperate regions. Together with using the Citronella candle I like to use Nordic Summer

With regard to the new Fenix LOD CE flashlight, the specifications for this flashlight are outstanding and is comparable to the weight and volume of the Avexa Skunklight with the Fenix being only 14gms heavier when using a AAA lithium Battery. I also have an Exped Skylight (same solar light - different name). The main difference is in the performance. Although the Avexa can go for 2-3 hours the Fenix on its lowest setting can go for 8.5hrs but is still many, many more times brighter. The AAA lithium Cell has a storage lifetime exceeding 10 years. The real difference is the high power and SOS performance. This diminutive flashlight can equal the performance of a Surefire A2 Aviator (50 Lumen for 1hr). This is getting into the realms of tactical performance. The SOS function will last around 3-4 hrs. Even according to the published research on night time signalling with laser flares on the Equipped website this little light should be able to signal an SOS up to 20miles; i.e. this would be comparable to the Surefire 6P at 65 lumens mentioned. I completely agree with you that the Avexa is a certainly a worthwhile addition which is why a have both in my PSK.

The povidone-iodine solution instead of soap: I have not used this before in this way. Does it give you purple hands and or kill the fish?

With regard to the Tea brew kit - The British just can't help themselves.

#88654 - 03/18/07 03:14 AM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: ]
Evolute Offline

Registered: 09/12/02
Posts: 33
Hi, Ben,

Thank you for you considered reply.

your match set up sounds great. If I didn't go to hot places, and I wanted a good match system for my kit, I'd consider emulating your match set-up.

However, it won't work for me, in the hot climates I frequent. I go often to Death Valley, Anza Borrego, Alabama Hills, Joshua Tree, Red Rocks, Valley of Fire, and various scorching places. Wax just doesn't do well in a kit in these environments. It softens and gets into everything.

Citronella's efficacy is lower than DEET's, and the efficacy is most important to me, regardless of toxicity.

A Fenix LOD sounds like a great light, but not necessary for me. I'm not sure what accounts for the difference, but my Avexa Skylight and Avexa Skunklight provide way more than 2-3 hours on a charge. And tactical levels of brightness really aren't necessary for night travel. I'll take a look the Fenix, for putting on my keychain, for daily use.

I have to get ready to go....



#88660 - 03/18/07 04:49 AM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: Evolute]
haertig Online   content

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2269
Loc: Colorado
That is quite a well written and informative webpage you have there. Greate job ... thanks!

Only one thing caught my eye on first quick reading. Your recommended Spectra cord. While that stuff is great - I use it for my kite flying - I don't know how you manage to tie knots in it for routine tasks. This stuff's claim to fame (in the kite flying world) is that it's so slippery that you can wrap your lines over themselves many many many times and they still slide easily to let you control your kite. (That, and it has very little stretch - for quicker response when flying.) Unfortunately "slide easily" implies "doesn't hold a knot worth a damn". We sleeve Spectra line to tie knots with it ("sleeve" meaning add an extra outer wrap - like the outside layer of paracord is the sleeve for the inner strands).

I use kite line in my survival kit. But not the Spectra stuff. I use "braided dacron". Here's where I get my braided dacron:


Luckily the brick-n-morter IntoTheWind store is right down the road from my place, but I'm sure they're good mailorder too. Scroll down the page for the heavier weight lines.

Of course they have the Spectra line too:


... and you can also get your sleeving from them.

#88673 - 03/18/07 03:00 PM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: haertig]
ironraven Offline
Cranky Geek
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 4642
Loc: Vermont
I use spectra fishline for a lot of stuff- it is a little picky on the knots, but mark which ones are for it on your reference card and you'll remember. It does take bowlines perfectly fine, and if you can only learn two knots, the bowline and the shoelace are the two I'd look at.

When a man dare not speak without malice for fear of giving insult, that is when truth starts to die. Truth is the truest freedom.

#88695 - 03/18/07 05:43 PM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: Evolute]
teacher Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/14/05
Posts: 910

Very complete kit. Now I'm gonna suggest you add more. If I was in the woods frequently, alone and without quite knowing where I'd be going...Hmmm.

Would you consider moving to a waist pack (butt pack, whatever) to add food (1,000 cal in the form of granola bars) and water(16 to 50oz)? The advantage is that you can extend your comfort time while lost/hurt closer to 24 hours, and the weight is carried on your hips -- very comfortable and hardly noticeable.


PS A PLB might be a good chice as well -- depends how far into the wild you go. Otherwise I'd add some other signal gear -- an 18 mile grms radio perhaps?

Like this:


or this ( for$45!)


or a double bottle version for the Southwest:


Or a high tech version with the sinnin' hose:


#88801 - 03/19/07 03:14 PM Re: My Emergency Wilderness PSK [Re: teacher]
Evolute Offline

Registered: 09/12/02
Posts: 33


No, I wouldn't consider putting food and water into my PSK. 1) I want to keep it smaller than doing that would allow. 2) I prefer to only carry items which are less fragile and less perishable in my PSK.

However, I should note that I always have a lot of food and water with me in my pack. When the weather is fairly cool and wet, I have a 32 ounce Klean Kanteen full of water with me. When the weather is hotter, I have 100 ounces of water in a Blackburn water bladder, or 80 ounces in an Ultimate bladder. And when it's really hot, I'll have all three... and then some.

I also always carry lots to eat. When the weather is cool enough, fine cheeses and crackers. Often salame sandwiches, and tamales. Usually dried pineapple chunks, and trail mix. Always several energy bars, and always (mostly for emergency use) a few packets of powdered bodybuilding protein drinks.

Always in my pack. Just not in my PSK, in my pocket, and tied to me.



While the spectra cord I use is a bit slippery, as ironraven points out, there are knots it takes, and it really has never been a problem for me, yet.

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