Photo: Headlamp
Photograph courtesy REI
My Survival Kit
By Laurence Gonzales
August 2008

My survival kit philosophy is this: Confident, not comfortable. Take care of your basic needs. Attract attention. Forget the Four Seasons. And don’t wait until you need your survival gear to use it. Go in the backyard and test it.

1. Shelter

I routinely carry 25 feet of parachute cord, a plastic drop cloth, and six titanium tent stakes (you can carve your own wooden tent stakes if you like). Stretch the cord between two trees, drape the plastic over it, and stake it down. Instant tent. Use slipknots that are easily untied when wet.

2. Fire

Fire may not be absolutely necessary, but for more than a million years of human history, it sure has been useful. Fuel + air + heat is the formula for fire. Any petroleum product will do for a starting fuel. Knead Vaseline into cotton balls and pull the fibers apart to let air in. Burns like a blowtorch. My theory of fire lighting is to start with flint and steel and work up to matches and lighters. I carry a BIC lighter, and I waterproof wooden strike-anywhere kitchen matches by dipping them in paraffin.

3. Water

I carry a plastic trowel for digging in places where water will collect beneath the surface, such as dry streambeds that show green plant life. Plastic sheeting can be used to line a hole to collect rainwater. An ordinary plastic grocery bag tied around a leafy branch will gather the moisture given off by the plant. Birds and animals can also be used to find water. Animals such as deer will make trails that converge near water. Birds whose diet consists of grains will skim along in a straight line at a low altitude when heading for water.

4. Food

In theory, food is not necessary. In practice, it’s awfully nice to have. Honey can be crystallized, gives instant energy, and will not spoil. I also carry tea bags (with caffeine), dried cocoa mix, and a powdered electrolyte replacement. But remember: Insects are probably the most reliable form of sustenance in a survival situation.

5. Must-Haves

- Bandages

- Blaze orange surveyor’s tape (marking trail, attracting attention)

- Compass

- Fishing hooks and line

- Folding knife

- LED headlamp

- Neosporin

- Painkillers

- Police whistle

- Scalpel blades (X-Acto knife blades will do)

- Sewing needles and thread

- Small notebook and pencil (keep a diary)

- Space blanket

- Water-purification tablets