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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughts on "Urban" Pocket Survival Kits

So I've been thinking through an "urban" version of the popular altoid/pocket survival kits (PSKs) out there. The current pocket kits are all well and good for deep exploration in the woods, but not so useful for getting you out of the jams and problems you may encounter in every day life. So, I decided to take a look and see what I could do to make the pocket survival kit concept relevant to me and the average prepared dude out there. So, let's take a look at the pocket survival kit concept in general, and then we'll take a look at whether this concept is relevant to EDC/daily survival, or, if not, see if we can pull out some useful concepts.

Pocket Survival Kits - An Overview
Altoid and various other pocket survival kits are a pretty old concept. I'm not sure of the origins, but it's a decades old idea; part thought-exercise, part Tetris-like fitting challenge and part preparation - what essentials can you fit into a pocket-sized altoids tin or similar container? 

These kits follow along with the old boy scout adage of being prepared. Slip the kit into your pocket and you immediately have have some very basic wilderness survival essentials with you at all times. No one would knowingly walk into a wilderness survival situation with only this gear, but if you DO get separated from your stuff for some reason, at least you've got some way to address some of the survival essentials.

Conventional pocket survival kits usually contain a small fire starting implement, some pre-made tinder, a blade of some kind, a few basic meds, a way to store/carry water, a few water treatment tablets, maybe a small fishing kit of some kind, a keychain-style LED light, a button style compass, a small signal mirror, some safety pins, a couple bandaids, and maybe a few other bits and pieces jammed in. Not a ton of stuff, but a definite boon if you need to keep warm, hydrated, fed and on course in the wilderness. 

There are numerous good examples out there that turn up via a web search, and even a few commercially available tins if you are lazy and don't want to assemble one yourself. The Doug Ritter-designed AMK Pocket Survival Pak is, I think, the best of the bunch and well worth the price of $26.02 that Amazon is currently charging.

Relevant to Urban Survivors?
Let's examine this from the perspective of a prepared person. You've got a decent EDC together - knife and flashlight at least. Those are in your pockets, right? Yep. The same place you'd put a PSK, right? Yep.

And that's one of the big issues that I see with an urban-geared PSK. If you've got a decent EDC, you've already got a lot of the relevant gear. Why worry about a minuscule folding knife and Photon when you've already got a real knife and flashlight? And if you want little backups, you've probably already got them on a keychain, where they will be more immediately useful.

Urban environments also offer a huge opportunity to improvise - lots of man made materials. Fire starting? Yep. Need to signal someone? Sure; mirrors, metal, compact discs, and so on abound. Need a container for water? Check the recycling bin. And so on.

I went through several different revisions of kits, but finally came to the conclusion that a full-blown pocket survival kit just isn't particularly relevant to the urban environment. You probably already got a bunch of the gear as your EDC and you can improvise, scavenge or buy lots other stuff without too much difficulty if needed. Throwing extra gear into a dedicated survival kit just takes up more space in your probably already too-full pockets.

The Kit You Already Carry
So, a full, dedicated urban survival kit will probably be of little utility/relevance to most of us.
But as I was working on putting together a dedicated kit, I realized that, hey, I already have a "kit" of sorts that I carry with me every day. My wallet.
"BWAAA!?" you say?
Think about it. Your wallet is pretty much a must-have for getting through your day in the real world. ID, cards of various sorts, cash and so on. Must-haves, right? Kind of already a kit, too. So why not figure out how to have it hold some added utility and tools, aside from the usual stuff stuff?

What kind of things, you ask? I'll tell you tomorrow in a follow-up post, Wallet Urban Survival Tricks!