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Organizing Your Pack

Personal Survival Kit

ORGANIZING YOUR PACK

By Greg Pettet posted February 02, 2018


Organizing your pack is as essential in your overall comfort and readiness as the pack and gear themselves. While each pack must be customized to the user, some common guidelines should be followed to allow the quickest and easiest use of your gear.

The layout of your gear should be considered when you research your pack choices and taken into consideration when purchasing your pack. The pack must have the ability to keep some items close to hand for immediate use, without removing the pack. Others need to be accessible easily and quickly to react to a hazard or threat. These items are not a replacement for the items kept on your person at all times.

The ability to utilize certain gear items without removing your pack increases safety. By removing your pack, most people will twist, turn or bend while moving a weight at odd angles than their body is accustomed to or stepping on a stone, log or other trip hazard can lead to a slip or fall, resulting in an injury.

o Map and Compass- You should be able to access and use your map and compass without removing your pack. Land navigation is a critical skill and the tools to carry out this task should be available while on the move.

o Water Bottle- You should be able to get a drink without taking your pack off, whether using a hydration bladder or a water bottle.

o Pack Balance- Heavy and bulkier items should be packed close to the middle and closest to your body for maximum balance. Also, keep the pack from resting on your gluteus muscles. This will keep the weight of the pack from hindering your blood flow and muscle movement while hiking, thus maintaining stamina and endurance for long hikes. Your pack should ride above the hips to allow the free movement of the muscles and free blood flow to your lower extremities. (They call it a “kidney pad” for a reason)

o Food- Trail food (food that is easily eaten while still moving) should be packed so you can reach it for consumption while still moving. A small snack can help replace burnt calories and maintain the energy to continue. Food items should also be kept packed as to be easily gotten once you stop. You will be tired and still need to establish camp (if an overnight trip) once stopped, so digging through your pack to find food is wasted energy and time.

o Water Purification- At least one main source (tablets, filter, etc) of water purification should be kept easily accessible for when water is located. Time spent looking for your filter is wasted time.

o Flashlight- This should be easily accessible even when moving.

o E-tool- Your digging tool will need to be accessible in a hurry in case you must dig a cat hole without much warning. You do not want to chance an accident or being unsanitary because your tool was in the bottom of your pack.

o Knife- You will want your knife available even while moving. You may need it to cut a vine or other obstacle.

o Food gathering- Traps, snares or fishing kits will need to be ready once you get to camp. You may be using the last rays of natural light to set your traps or trot lines, so time spent digging for these items can mean using a flashlight and thus using battery power.

o Fire starting- Your fire making kit should be easily accessible and in an outside pocket if possible. If you slip into water in freezing temperatures, you’ll need the ability to create fire as soon as possible and digging for your kit can mean the difference between life and death.

o Weather Gear- Your rain jacket, poncho, etc needs to be accessible in case a sudden storm rolls in. These can be adjusted day to day, but know exactly where yours and any children’s are in the group for ready use.

o Safety Whistle- This can have several uses that makes it needed while on the move. It can be used to make extra noise to deter predators or signal someone seen from a distance to save your voice.

o Field Guide- You should have a book or pamphlets available for quick identification of plants, trees, tracks, and animals while on the move. The best way to forage is to do so while on the move, so identification of what you find is ideal. You should be familiar with your local plants already but the hike you are on may be a training session.

o First Aid- You should have your kit (and everyone’s in your group) easily accessible without getting inside the pack. First aid needs can be an immediate need and time lost looking for the kit can mean life or death. *More on First Aid under Section VIII) Medical*

These are but suggestions and the reasons why we suggest them. Each person will make their own choice but groups should organize in a similar layout to allow each member to find another’s gear if needed. Also, create an inventory of each pack and where each item is located. Organizing each task’s gear into smaller pouches or bags will help keep things organized and from becoming “lost” in the pack. Ziploc’s can be used to organize many smaller items and keep them dry and offers uses to carry foraged items if needed. If using a pouch or other opaque method to carry items in the pack, make a label or write the items carried on the pack, even if using a standardized symbol for the items known to everyone in your group.

Tier Summary

Each Tier should be planned to add to the previous Tier and they should complement each other. The lists created are what the basics are and each person will need to balance their skills and need to the lists. You will also find many items are listed on each Tier. The idea is the item(s) is needed on every level of preparation and one should always have a spare, but the overall number (multi-tools are listed at every Tier for example) is up to the person/group packing.

The hunting and defensive tools have not been covered as much, as firearms use and ownership are an individual decision. Being able to provide food for yourself or your family is tantamount to being prepared and there are several options available to accomplish this need. While calibers and actions will vary by personal/group choice, this very basic “battery” will offer the widest range and probably the best options available for an emergency; a 22LR rifle/carbine with quality optics, standard caliber sidearm (revolver or pistol), shotgun, medium/high powered rifle with optics and open iron sights. The 22LR will offer the best and widest range of game animals to be harvested; the shotgun offers the advantage of a wider shot pattern for moving targets like birds in-flight, plus a wide variety of ammunition choices for hunting or defense; the sidearm should be sufficient to neutralize the predators in your area and act as a defensive tool; the main rifle should be able to take big game easily without destroying the meat and will be your primary defense against aggressors to maintain distance. Firearms considerations for emergency preparation will be discussed in more depth later.

We have written many different items of gear to consider but you must be the final decision maker in your purchases. What works for one person may be a liability or hindrance to another, so each kit/Tier is customized to the individual or group needs. The biggest item to remember is that gear will NOT replace skills and knowledge, so when you purchase the item you need (after much research…the knowledge), practice, practice, practice and when you have it mastered to a science, practice some more until it is an art form (the skill). The time to open your gear is NOT during a crisis.


PERSONAL SURVIVAL KIT

By Greg Pettet posted February 02, 2018

This is a small kit that has the very basics of life support. Some people with a military background may refer to these as "E&E" kits (Escape and Evade). Basically, if you had to cache all your other gear, this kit would offer the basics to keep you alive until you made it to a “safe” area.

o All Weather Space Blanket- The single use Mylar blankets can be used but they have very limited durability. The All Weather Space Blanket is a much better option, although it weighs more. The single use Mylar blankets, while not being great for use as a blanket can be used to create a very effective heat reflector for a campfire. For those who want the packability of the single use blankets, then you may use them in tandem with a poncho, poncho liner, or other blanket which will help in their durability.

o Fishing kit- a couple of small hooks; a few split shot weights; a couple small glow in the dark jig heads; 30 feet of 10 # test mono line; 50 feet of 250 # test braided set line at a minimum. The line can also be used for sewing chores as well. You won’t have a rod and reel, but a tree branch makes a good “cane” pole and trot lines are great food producers.

o First Aid- This should include some moleskin, a few bandages, antibiotic cream, alcohol wipes, surgical glue, pain reliever.

o Water- You should always maintain at least 1 water carrier at all times if at all possible. The Aquamira Frontier Straw or LifeStraw is a great item for this kit, along with a blister pack of iodine or chlorine based purification tablets. Heavy duty 1 gallon plastic, double zipper locking freezer bags can be used as water carriers or other purposes as well.

o Nutrition- A couple snares (1/16” x 4 feet) to catch small game, multi-vitamins (whole food preferably), and a small bottle of chia seeds.

o Cordage- 50 feet minimum (space constraints) of paracord allows you to perform many chores.

o Knife- The knife can be a small folder or fixed blade depending on size and weight constraints. A small Swiss Army knife, “muskrat” or “trapper” folding knife, a CRKT Ritter RSK, or a "Little Brother" custom knife from Shull Handforged Knives are examples of knives that can fill this need.

o Multi-tool- Even a small multi-tool or a full size tool that can replace the folding knife if you prefer.

o Signal Devices- At a minimum a signal mirror and whistle but a strobe light, hi visibility panel, etc needs to be available. *Note* Not all disasters or emergencies require staying hidden and out of sight. More discussion on this topic in a future post.

o Flashlight- A small LED flashlight and one change of batteries. A headlamp would also be beneficial if space and weight allows.

o Ferro rod- If all you have is this kit, you must be able to build a fire. Add a couple forms of tinder as well, such as jute twine or “Wet Tinder”. I would also recommend at least 10 “lifeboat/storm” matches.

o Can opener- A P38 or P52 military style can opener can make a difference. Although the woods is an unlikely place to find canned goods, there are locations or situations when you will find canned goods and your PSK is all you have to open them. A small lightweight can opener will allow easier access to this food source if available.

o Pouch- This should be sturdy, offer full and secure closure; is able to be attached to your belt or placed in a cargo pocket. A hard sided, water proof container would also be nice, especially one made of stainless steel which can be used as a mess kit, pot, bowl, etc and offer some protection for your items from being crushed.

Fire Making Kit

Your fire making kit should include at least 3 ways to start a fire and emergency tinder to be used if none can be found. While this kit incorporates 3 items to make fire, do not place all your fire building items in one pouch, pocket, or tinderbox. As you add your Tiers together to meet the situational needs, do not transfer your firestarters from your other Tiers into this kit. If you lose this kit, then you would be without the ability to easily build a fire. The 3 ways to start a fire should incorporate at least one of the more primitive methods. A disposable lighter, waterproof-matches, Zippo, etc are all modern methods of starting a fire. A ferro rod (firesteel), flint and steel, magnifying glass, bow drill, hand drill, fire piston, etc are primitive methods. This list is for the items to pack/carry with you and not necessarily for the items you make in the field.

o Ferro rod/firesteel- Get a reputable brand and highly reviewed firesteel like those offered by firesteel.com or the Swedish firesteels (among others). I like UST's "BlastMatch" and being able to use it one-handed adds to its value, you may have an injured arm when you need to build a fire. The others will work but can take much longer to catch a good spark in your tinder bundle. The great thing about these are they still work even when wet.

o Flint and steel- The pioneers used this method for centuries and it still works. This is a skill that requires practice but once you have this one mastered, it is incredibly easy. Having the steel striker allows flint to be picked up anywhere (it may need knapped to create the best sparks).

o Disposable Lighter/”Zippo”- Most people know how to operate these. They are easy to use but fluid runs out, flint wears out, do not work well when wet, etc, so have backups.

o Waterproof matches- “Lifeboat Matches”, “Stormproof Matches” are a couple examples. Keep them in a crush proof bottle, preferably one that seals tight and keep striking strips with them (usually a piece of light sandpaper works).

o Fresnel Lens- These work after being wet but require the sun to start a fire. Their light weight and long life makes them a handy addition though.

o Magnesium Block- Magnesium shavings will help dry wood as it burns extremely hot.

o Pencil Sharpener- The heavy duty sharpeners designed for carpenter pencils are a great addition. They make quick work of turning a branch/twig into easily prepared kindling/tinder. These are safe enough that even the younger members of the family/group can be doing something to help and feel like they are a productive member.

o Fire Paste- Comes in a tube much like toothpaste. Lights easily and burns hot. These tubes can be emptied into small bottles (like “5 hour energy”) and use a twig as an applicator. The twig can be fed directly to the fire.

o Egg Carton Firestarter- This is a homemade item that can be a real lifesaver. Take a pressed paper egg carton and fill each cell with woodchips. Then pour melted wax over into each cell. Some people add magnesium powder or shavings or coal dust to theirs when they make them. These will burn approximately 15-20 minutes so can help dry out your kindling to start the fire.

o Cotton Balls w/ Petroleum Jelly- Take a cotton ball and rub as much petroleum jelly into the cotton. Place these in an empty pill bottle or other container that seals for transport.

o Manufactured tinder- There are a few brands and manufacturers of emergency tinder available from outdoor stores r even sporting departments at discount stores.

o Candle- Tea candles are great for several reasons but they can be lit and placed under your kindling and other tinder if damp to dry it out and begin the fire. They are economical and easy to carry. Another type of small candle is the "trick" birthday candles. These are produced to relight if blown out by the wind and may help in less than ideal situations.

o Dryer Lint- By taking the dryer lint from the dryer; recycle it. Using pure cotton works best. Remember this when gathering your lint for tinder, as lint with polyester mixed in, melts rather than burns Roll the lint into a pencil shape and dip in melted wax. After it dries, cut these sticks to desired length and place in soap box, empty pill bottle, etc for transport. These work much like the candles, only don’t last as long.

o Char Cloth-Another item that has been around for centuries. It is made from any cloth of all natural fiber, linen, cotton, etc. This actually fairly easy to make at home. You will need a metal can with tight fitting lid (altoids tin. If the lid doesn’t fit tight, use aluminum foil to tighten the fit), cloth, and a heat source (do this OUTSIDE. Grills work great). First, poke a hole in the middle of the lid using a 4 penny nail (or something similar).Second, cut the cloth into as big of pieces as you can fit into your can and stack them in the can. After you get done grilling those tasty steaks you bought to celebrate receiving your order from Dan’s Depot, place the tin on the grill and leave it be (use a very low flame if using a gas grill). As the material heats up, you will see “smoke” coming from the hole in the lid; this is the moisture and the gases from the cloth being removed. Leave the tin on the heat source until it quits “smoking”. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool (if you open the lid, the heat with the sudden introduction of oxygen can cause it to flare and burn, thus your work will be for nothing). Check your work. Char cloth is great for catching sparks from a ferro rod or flint and steel. You should transfer the Char cloth to a water proof container that is easily carried. As an aside, you can follow the same procedure for punk wood and certain tree fungus (black capped fungi found often on Locust trees is exceptionally good for this).

o Pouch- This should hold all items secure and close fully. Having a water proof, hard sided container can be extremely beneficial if weight allows.

The kit does NOT need to include all the items listed but should include 3 separate ways to build a fire, with only ONE being modern. The tinder in your kit should be for emergencies, when you cannot find any other material for tinder, as it is a consumable. As you hike through the woods, you should constantly be scanning for tinder to grab for the night’s fire. Bird nests, mouse nests, punk wood, dried grass, etc are all natural tinder and should be collected during your journey to save your carried tinder for emergencies. More information will be covered in a future post.

Personal Hygiene Kit

 History has taught us that unclean conditions spread disease (think the Plague); so maintaining personal hygiene can help in minimizing the threat of a tornado being compounded by an epidemic.

o Oral hygiene- You should have a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouth wash to help minimize the growth of bacteria and germs in your mouth. An unclean mouth also helps introduce these germs to your body when you eat or drink. Why go through the work of purifying your water only to re-contaminate it from your own mouth?

If in the woods or after supply has been extinguished, you can also use the solution of water and tannic acid you acquire from making acorns palatable as a mouth rinse. This won’t leave you with “pearly whites” but the tannic acid is a very good antiseptic and will keep your mouth healthy. Learn how to make your own toothpaste with peroxide and baking soda. These items have relatively indefinite shelf life and will be available long term plus have many other uses. (Find and buy “food grade” peroxide)

o Soap- You will want unscented, biodegradable soaps like those offered by Uncle Bonner’s. These soaps should be able to be used for dishes, laundry, body, hair, etc. It allows one product to be stocked instead of several for ease of storage and multiple uses. Learn to make your own lye soap from wood ashes for a long term event. Learn plants that can be used like the “pot scrubber” plant to help clean dishes.

o Fingernail clippers- Remember to keep your finger and toenails trimmed and clean. An ingrown toenail can be incapacitating, along with painful and long nails allow dirt and grime to turn into a breeding ground for germs.

o Foot powder- Keep your feet dry. Many may have this listed in first aid, but using Foot powder can help in reducing fungal growth. Also remember to wash your feet and allow them to “air out”. For emphasis, we want you to pay strict attention to this helpful hint. History has shown many people falling victim to foot issue that were so debilitating that they could not carry on. PLEASE, take care of your feet.

o Hand sanitizer- This is a quick and easy way to help kill germs on your hands. Most say they are “waterless”, but you should wipe or rinse off the residue to keep from adding the unwanted alcohol to your food if touching it after cleaning your hands.

o Female Hygiene- Many do not consider this but it can become a needed supply. Tampons and maxi pads have other uses as well but for truly long term; look at products like the Diva Cup or Luna Cup. Tampons and pads will run out, but the Diva Cup or Luna Cup is reusable. Remember, like all other supplies and tools, 2 is 1 and 1 is none so have spares.

o Baby wipes- Get unscented baby wipes. These are very handy in cleaning yourself and even if you can’t take a shower or bath, you can at clean areas that grime tends to build up quickly. Regularly check your supply of wipes and keep them out of direct sunlight. This will help ensure your wipes are not dried out when you need them.

o Towel and wash cloth- The microfiber travel towels and washcloths are very handy. They fold up small, are lightweight and dry very fast, plus have a super absorbency.

o Hair care- Depending on your chosen hairstyle, brushes, combs, hair ties, barrettes, etc will be needed. Also, razors and shaving cream or learn to use regular soap to shave with. You aren’t trying to win a fashion show or get ready for a fancy ball, but being able to maintain some semblance of normalcy and able to put long hair up to reduce heat can be handy and a morale keeper. Like many aspects of hygiene, these ideas are huge morale boosters.