Survival Bag – Gear, Prices, Theory & Practice
by Steve Graves
Section 1: Bug out bags and why its commercialized hogwash.
The survival movement is one that many of us embrace in our everyday lives. Whether we are military, law enforcement, emergency services or just a dedicated individual, we mold our entire lives around specific methods of living. We take certain alternating routes to work, school and the grocery store. We pay more attention to those around us and try and perceive potential threats to ourselves and those around us. Though not always a bag we carry pieces of kit on us, which we lovingly label as EDC or every day carry, to ensure that no matter what we will return to our loved ones. Though at the core most people are not altruistic, at times we carry these items specifically to help our fellow man, to ensure those around us are not caught off guard in a bad way.
The reasons vary for many people. Some do this simply as a personal comfort; others do this as their duty to their fellow man. Others do it to fuel their undeniable need to protect those around them, to be guardian of others in darker times. If closely examined, none of those reasons are to embrace a humanitarian ideal. Each one is psychologically linked to ego, or the personal need to feel above the common man, and to elevate ones status of worth. I know that this sounds horrifically harsh and may not fit all of the readers of this article who find their lives bound by duty and honor. However if you examine it closely, in your heart of hearts when working towards the greater good or a certain set of ideals you give up much of what allows you to embrace humanity. You may be the man or woman that stands in the face of adversity and pushes back, but at the end of the day it wasn't for them it was for you and what you believe is the greater good. The person you saved was a byproduct of what you felt was a misalignment of your ideals.
I mention the above because I truly believe it is what links the “bug out” ideology to its now commercialized poppycock. About 1% of people are actual heroes, less than 1% of the populace is active military, and about 2% of the US population belongs to emergency services, if you average the numbers of people in active vs administrative roles you will come to that 1% of people that are our nation’s heroes. This does not mean that I discount the jobs of administrative or support personnel in LEAF and EMS. Every one of those people have an important part to play, I simply mean that they are not on the front lines in harm’s way on a daily basis. Now don't get me wrong, there is always the x-factor of the unseen hero, however those people don't realize they are heroes until the challenge arises. What does this low percentage of active heroes have to do with anything? It's simple. People envy them, they want to be them. They want to be held on high and revered as heroes to those around them. They want the same adoration that servicemen and women receive, the same look that kids give firefighters and police, they just don’t want to, or can't, do the work to get there. Does this mean they are bad people? Not at all, often and sadly it means they search for their moment, and when that moment comes, they are ill prepared and end up becoming a statistic. Remember being a hero is great, but being a hero posthumously is not something that anyone should ever be excited about being.
Now let me clarify that I do not believe that there is anything wrong with the aspirations of these people. Occasionally they turn themselves into someone that enters the ranks of that 1% and that is great. The more people do that the better things get and the less amount of misinformation gets out to the public. It also acts as a road map for some to pull themselves out of mediocrity and become part of the brotherhood that is LEAF or EMS, because “If they could do it...I can do it”, which is great.
With this movement of people that want to be that 1% comes a desire to do everything that 1% does in order to gain that status that they crave. Unfortunately massive social media and reality TV has helped add fuel to the fire of this movement. People watch and learn from other people that don’t know and perpetuate misinformation. One of the biggest enemies of fact is social media and mass media. The other thing that happens with this is the purchasing of cheap gear. When you aren't part of a department or military organization you have to buy all of your gear. Stuff that the other guy can get issued to them you have to pay for. So it is only natural that someone would try and cut costs and cut corners, especially in the current economy. The problem is that cheap goods can't always be relied on, cheap clothing will not shield you from the elements as well and cheap carry equipment can and will injure you. Sometimes there is no way to do this on the cheap, or at least in my humble opinion, no way to do this efficiently.
This concept always comes under fire in reviews or in online forums. The words “gear whore” or “equipment snob” get thrown around a lot. The chairborne commandos of this world wait vigilantly from the confines of their mother’s basement at their keyboards itching to tear apart this level of comprehension. Believe it or not they do this for good reason, well at least good reason in their minds. They do it to justify product purchase. People never want to feel like something they have done was idiotic; they don’t want others to tell them that what they have done is a silly waste of money and wasn’t done correctly. More so they don’t want to admit that the information they learned when surfing the internet for their answers was wrong and that they made a bad judgment call because of widely spread misinformation.
Remember the only way to negate gear cost is ingenuity and training. So if you truly don’t want to be stuck in column “A” with the rest of the misinformed sheeple, you have choices join the military, become EMS, or get educated and trained. Only then will less gear be a proper replacement for the right kit.
All of this above is merely my opinion; however it is stated to help people force the mirror in front of their face, to show them why their half-baked ideals can in fact get them or others hurt. It really isn't that these people are idiots; in fact they should be commended for at least their effort to want to be involved in this level of living. They just need to get fed the right information and shown the proper way to go about things to ensure that not only they are successful, but that those around them and the community benefits as a whole.
Unfortunately, this is often negated by mass media; remember there is no money in truth. Truth is the enemy of mass media and advertising as a whole. When someone wants to sell you something that they know is sub-par, they aren’t going to come out and say “well the actual thing you need instead of this knock off Jansport bag for $39.95 is a $300.00 Eberlestock pack, but this is just as good.” believe me that isn’t a thing and it never will be. Hence why media and advertising as a whole is detrimental to the flow of information and the pinnacle of perpetuating misinformation, to me, this isn’t a subject that should be driven by money. Your safety and ability to endure should not have a price tag. Considering what most of us pay for insurance that we never use, it should seem cheap by comparison to purchase the gear that is the best quality to help us endure in harsh times. Check your sources, and recheck your sources. You should never take one man’s advice on any subject, there is a reason people go to different schools and classes for the same subject. Many outlooks on one subject help shed a new light on it, which in turn gives you more ammunition in your think muscle when making decisions that your life may or may not depend on.
Section 2: Bugging Out and Why I Hate the Term.
Definition: “Bugging out” Verb derived from the term "(to) bug out". To retreat or flee, especially in a panic during a battle. In current times in is used a means to describe rapid egress in order to recuperate and reassess a situation for further review and analysis.
In a non-military use, it means to depart quickly. Originated among GI's early in the Korean War (1950-1953) and entered civilian culture from there. Very similar to "bail out" used by aircrew in earlier wars and still in use today, sometimes as "(to) bail".
"Hey Sarge! They're buggin-out from the ridge over there. Wonder what they're up to now? Should we fall back?"
"Hey man, I'm buggin out, I've got stuff to do. Thanks for the beer."
There are a myriad of reasons why I hate the term “Bugging out”, however for the purposes of keeping this section short I will explain only my main issues, which indeed stem back to misinformation flowing to the ears of others.
The term is simple, it means rapid egress to a location off-site to recoup and reassess the situation, Or to simply retreat because you have lost the ground with no intention of coming back to it immediately. Why is this an issue? Well simply put when in the military if you bug out you are going to head to a “B” element and regroup with other soldiers at another location. For this reason bug out bags are a 72 hour pack that is small and is only designed to get you through to your “B” element.
At your “B” element you will find reinforcements, mobile armor, ammunition, fuel, food, communications, water, support staff and medical attention. Most civilians don’t have this, in fact I am guessing that only about 2% of the civilians within the “prepper, survivalist” community have the resources, knowledge and personnel required to have a fully stocked “B” element. This is where it is annoying to me. I hear the following:
Person “I have my bug out bag I'm good!”
Me “Where are you bugging out to?”
Person “The woods!”
OK so here is my annoyance, where exactly do you think you are going “in the woods”. Most of the time I get a blank stare and a bunch of indiscernible grunting noises of disagreement, However I am not exaggerating when I say about 90% of the people in this community that I talk to about survival all give me this answer. Is there some super-secret redneck bunker in the woods? Fully stocked with chewin' tobacca and busch light? No there isn't, there is no civilian FOB in the woods that is fully stocked with sustainable living for a large community of “I'm heading to the woods” people. The other fact is their gear; they are going to go live off the land with a bunch of Coghlans gear, no real training and 50 rounds of ammo. Not to mention with the amount of people that are “going to the woods” how long do they think the deer population will last? Of course this can be mitigated with training and the willingness to eat squirrels, skunks, nutria etc. but still it is an unrealistic goal.
There is no “B” element and there is no help coming for you. The quicker that becomes a reality and people face the facts that training and proper equipment is essential, the quicker they will learn that having no “B” element is fine, and that they aren't bugging out anywhere, they are surviving on the fly. Which when rose to an art form can be more than just surviving; it can in fact be living.
Further this mentality has spread through the “prepper” network as a term to simply get out of dodge; however they take it to the extreme of having time to pack all of their preps. In an emergency situation where you are trying to get out of town and away from harm as fast as you can, you don’t have time to prep several vehicles, move hundreds of pounds of food and equipment and move livestock and re-establishing goods. A “bug out” in these circumstances would take hours if not days to coordinate. Even when the military egresses it happens over a period of up to 18 hours with highly trained men and modular equipment, larger locations will take days or weeks; so these people pack “bug out bags” as well to help them go. The problem is, where are they going, they left their main preps behind are they mystically well-funded and heading to “Site B” and what happens if “Site B” falls?
On top of this, due to media hype and the sensationalism of survival, their bags aren’t packed correctly to begin with, with improper equipment, on an out of shape physique. All of the above reasons are why I hate the term “bug out bag”. It’s not at all that I think it’s a bad idea. Being prepared is the core of my being, it is what I live every day of my life. It’s the fact that due to outside influences largely populated by “experts” that don’t know, the survival movement is full of clowns that want the appearance of being a survivalist without any real training and no mindset for gear and why you buy certain things over the cheaper alternative.
The world would be a better place if everyone was prepared for the worst. It would fix some core problems with America, it would help alleviate some basic issues with the entitlement attitude that our country has embraced. Self-reliance is one of the best things you can teach anyone. The old saying goes “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”
People do not embrace that idea anymore, and worse they think they can spend their way into safety and use money or gear to negate skill.
Section 3: Equipment Costs and why it’s Hard to Mitigate Cost
We all want to save money; no one wants to spend their way into oblivion on equipment that they may never use. A lot of the time you can in fact find sale items, or cheaper alternatives, however when it comes to equipment that you stake your life on its hard to justify saving a few dollars for something that may potentially save your life. Think about it you spend tons of money a year on insurance, yet how often do you use it? When you purchase insurance do you get the crappiest coverage with the highest deductible? Of course not, because when you need it, having a high deductible may keep you from using it effectively. Survival items are no different, look at it from a dollars and sense point of view. What is your life worth to you? Certainly more than your car, yet you pay thousands a year in insurance to save your sweet Honda Prelude in case someone rear ends you. Why wouldn’t you pay that to protect your life when you have to survive on the fly?
Let’s first talk about the gear you can in fact skimp on. I will break it down to sections in your bag and let you know what I think you can or can’t get away with.
First let’s talk about shelter. Do you need to go buy an expedition tent? Or a Super sweet tarp? Maybe a super nice hammock? Of course not, if you have a good knife and cordage a heavy tarp will do just fine. In fact most shelters can be made out of windfalls and other items that are readily available in the woods. Hell in a true SHTF situation you can even settle down in an abandoned car, freeway overpass, shelled out building… the point is you can mitigate several hundred dollars right here. Would I do this? Nope, I would and do carry an emergency shelter rated for four seasons.
Second fire starting apparatus, you don’t need to go and buy a super lighter, a mega expensive metal match or stove kit. You can get a fire steel that works fine for about four dollars, and it will be all you ever need. Fire is not hard to create from nothing. Expensive items simply last longer and are more convenient to use when time counts. A stove like mine is great for hostile rapid egress, or occupation of a non-permissive environment. My stove gives no odor, no flame light and no smoke. It is easy and quick to use and light to carry. It only makes sense to have it as a backup.
Medical supplies, now normally this is where I wouldn’t skimp at all; however in this case it is fairly easy to buy cheaper clamps, to get deals on surplus bandaging and other small items. One thing that will save you a great amount of money and help your household in the process is something I recently discovered. Instead of heading to a grocery store or pharmacy to get simple meds, go to a medical supply store. Currently I buy cold/flu meds, pain management, electrolyte tabs, allergy tabs and all my ointments in bulk packs of individual color coded doses. Each box is 6 dollars with 1000 doses. It is amazing what you can find when you actually look for it.
Clothing is a harder thing to cheap out on. Normally I wear Arc’Teryx , Vertx, TAD, Crye. This stuff is insanely expensive. However good clothing can mitigate the need for a stouter shelter, a good set of clothes can be the difference in not just comfort and weight, but life and death when exposed to the elements.
Food and kitchen stuff is something you can save plenty of money on. My setup in particular is very scant as I depend largely on my knowledge to feed me. Normally a USGS survival ration, few clif bars, bouillon cubes, tobacco sauce and salt and pepper. The only reason I use the MSR titanium stove, and the Snow Peak titanium cup set is purely weight. Those items are extremely light and easy to pack and make your time cooking that much easier.
Tobasco is super useful; you can eat nearly anything if you douse it in enough tobasco sauce. Bouillon cubes are useful to make soups out of roots and game big or small in the woods. It’s something that everyone should take a good hard look at is simple, easy to carry food solutions that don’t cost a lot and don’t weight a lot.
Water preparation is another place that can be completely mitigated with knowledge. I carry a Katadyn pocket and MSR MIOX in case I don’t have the time or inclination to do the work to clean water the long way. You can also carry a small vial of bleach and put a few drops in water to make it clean and drinkable. Remember you don’t just use water for drinking; you use it for hygiene and cooking. Most water in the country can be made ready to drink simply with a handkerchief and a drop or two of bleach. My setup is what relief workers used when exposed to questionable water for long periods of time.
Utility tools are some of the most used things in your pack aside from navigation. Your everyday hard use tools are not something that you can cheap out on. A Chinese knockoff multitool will not survive you. Bad cordage will not be useful once wet then dried then wet then dried again. It will become frail and break very rapidly leaving you without shelter. Cheap duct tape doesn’t hold. Cheap bits strip out quickly. A cheap knife sharpener can damage your blades ability to hold a true edge. A cheap knife will not survive prolonged use or even short hard use.
To me aside from my brain my knife is the single most important piece of kit that I carry. In fact when I am going on short stints in the woods I only carry my knife, rifle and a small kit of fire, cordage and first aid.
Electronics aren’t made to be outside by design, so when you choose to have electronics in your pack they need to be far more robust than normal otherwise you may as well leave them at home. For this reason you can almost never duck the cost of personal survival electronics. It’s a sad but true fact. You can try and you will fail.
More importantly is anything you depend on electronics for, such as navigation or field manuals, you need to carry a non-electronic backup. E.g. Map and compass and notebook of information that you deem important to remember, I have amassed and scribed 25 years of experience in a rite n the rain binder. Writing helps me retain information. The combination of rite n the rain paper and sharpie pens ensure that it is permanently there in case I need the information.
Navigation is a perishable skill to begin with, so practice it. Do not rely on GPS and especially do not rely on cheap GPS. More people die lost in the woods following GPS than anything else in my area. Years of County Search and Rescue has taught me a simple fact. DO NOT RELY on gadgets to get you out of something. Learn to navigate, if you think you are going to have trouble in a location mark your trails to help aid your return to civilization. There is a reason we leave breadcrumbs for ourselves. It’s very easy to get turned around when you are enjoying a nice walk about.
Make sure your electronics are rechargeable, and double make sure that if you are carrying a solar charger it has the ability to charge you electronics. It will really suck when you have a 7.2w phone and only a 5.4 watt solar charger. Guess how I learned that.
Climbing gear is a no go when trying to cheap out. Either buy high quality gear or avoid places where you will need it. Day one stuff in survival situations is DO NOT put yourself in potential harm’s way. If it looks to steep, it is. If you don’t think you can safely climb down something, don’t. Simple rules to keep you alive, if you ignore them it won’t pan out for you.
Most importantly with climbing gear, none of it is self-explanatory. If you aren’t trained to do it, don’t do it. For any reason. Ever.
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Section 4: My Bag what it Costs and How Useful it is.
First things first, you need to pick a bag. When doing this spend a lot of time researching your bag, your physical level of preparedness, your size, weight and build, as well as your mission. This will by far be the longest process of this particular project.
Me personally I am a strong Eberlestock fan. There are companies out there that make great bags just like Eberlestock, e.g. Mystery Ranch, Hill Folk Gear, Tactical Tailor, Arc’Teryx, Kifaru etc. I am just an Eberlestock guy. I started out with a Gunslinger pack, quickly upgraded to the Gunslinger II and used it for years and years. Briefly I had a G4 Operator backpack that pack however is giant and I managed to fill it with 97 pounds of gear, which is totally against my philosophy of less is more.
Currently, because I permanently broke my Gunslinger pack falling down a shale hill, I use the Eberlestock Halftrack. I went this route because I realized I no longer had a need for a dedicated rifle scabbard on the pack. I may be biased when I say this, but to me there is no better pack made. This bag is absolutely amazing. My only complaint is I can’t get it in multicam and be truly tacticool and color coordinated with my other gear.
It has plenty of room, MOLLE for extra pockets, great interior design, super adjustable in every aspect of the pack. Truly a marvel of outdoor storage and toting, really like nothing I have ever owned.
The technical aspect of the pack is very deliberate to its mission. Even without a rifle scabbard you can easily place a rifle or shotgun in one of the breeze through pockets on either side of the pack. You can also purchase an add-on for the pack that allows you to carry a gun vertically on the outside face of the pack.
The main pack is comprised of 8 pouches for use. The top pouch used for ease of access to important or quickly needed gear. Two full length side pouches, one on either side, for hydration bladders, or other longer gear (sometimes I have extra clothes in these pouches or even an extended tarp system). Additionally the main pouch has a divider in it to help compartmentalize gear. It has a non-zippered “stuff pocket” on the outside flap, as well as two more non zippered stuff pockets at the bottom of the side placed vertical pockets. Lastly it has a small compartment along the bottom of the pack that holds a build in rain fly (that comes with the bag) and enough room to stuff a full size seal bag that the entire pack fits in. The overall capacity of the pack is 2150 cubic inches.
In between the main compartment and the side pouches are breeze through pockets. Perfect for trekking poles, a rifle, bow etc. The outside of the pack is covered in MOLLE webbing to allow for the addition of extra pockets. For the most part I try and avoid doing this; however like most expensive bags for elongated use, this one does not have an admin pouch. No worries though its easy to add one that suits your needs better than some generic pouch.
The pack itself is water resistant; I usually still take the extra measure to keep important things in the pack in their own waterproof compartments or pullouts. I haven’t found it overly necessary because of the added rain fly as well as the scotch guarding of the pack; however waterproof pullouts have a myriad of other uses they can be re-purposed for. Inside the pack are several other sewn in areas of organization along the sides, with a robust elastic top. There is a built in communications pouch with adjustments in the top part of the main compartment should you find yourself toting a military style radio system.
The harness itself, as said before is completely adjustable. How its mounted can be moved up and down. The shoulder straps are adjustable from both ends. The waist belt can either be adjusted or removed and replaced with another battle belt.
Overall I have yet to find a better pack for long term use. It truly is super well designed, very rugged and easy to pack all your gear without over packing your gear. The only discernible downfall I can find with the pack is that in itself...it weighs 6.7 pounds.
The pack itself isn't terribly expensive coming out to $249.95. As always the folks at Eberlestock are super nice and helpful. It is for the reason I didn’t make a fuss when my gunslinger finally gave out and simply bought a new pack. Eberlestock has a simple lifetime warranty. Which basically means if you wear it out that is on you, however they had already replaced my gunslinger once due to an unfortunate misjudgment of height vs. rope length, that is how awesome of a company they actually are, they didn’t have to do it and they did it anyway.
One thing that I bought extra for my pack are ITW Web dominators as well as some MOLLE mounted D-ring mounts. I went with a camelbak bladder like normal and that is it. Out of the box it is super capable.
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Section 5: My Climbing Gear
I will not ever skimp on climbing gear, and I am mega superstitious about what gear I do buy and use. It is just a thing that some climbers have going on. Oddly I am superstitious about different brands for different things... most of the time though I use Petzl. Carabiners range from Petzl, to Black Diamond, to Omega.
On top of the above rope is always expensive. Cheap rope is cheap rope. Not only does it not last as long, but it is heavier and harder to work with. Make sure you never climb with rope that is not made for climbing. Rope is not just about weight rating, it’s about kilo-newton rating.
The short version of this is simple. Don't go to home depot, by some nylon rope and some carabiners, though this may work in a pinch if nothing else is available, it is not the right solution for any kind of mountaineering.
Climbing gear, even minimal gear has all kinds of uses. Runners can be made into emergency harnesses. Carabiners can be made into emergency rappelling devices. Rope has a 101 common bushcraft uses.
With the above said, here Is what is in my pack as referenced In the below picture.
Climbing Gear Item 1: Agilite Sidewinder Riggers Belt & Loops.
First let’s talk about the harness I use, or should I say the riggers belt with leg loops. Normally you would use a harness. A riggers belt and leg loops are made for short stints of use and are not made for repetitive use when mountaineering. Remember in a survival situation you shouldn’t be taking risks that could potentially get you hurt, help isn’t readily available for you if you do get hurt. The harness that I do use, though not pictured here is a Petzl sport harness, very comfortable, sturdy and lightweight.
My particular riggers belt set up is an Agilite Sidewinder riggers belt with the companion leg loops. I particularly like this set up as it is far easier to use in most cases than other loop kits that are available. Most other kits are nothing more than a riggers belt and a loop of webbing, which by the way is very effective, however this set of loops has a stabilizer strap for the rear as well as cobra buckles on the front making it easier to take on and off quickly.
The entire unit itself fits a wide array of sizes and weighs in at less than 1 pound. It is perfect for quick use mountaineering or for rapid egress.
The belt itself is constructed of 1.5” width harness webbing and is one of the only riggers belts made that is certified as an actual rescue device. The material is the same used in Israeli SAR operations. The belt also includes an internal vertical stiffener to support over two tons of weight.
- Total weight of the belt is 240g or 5oz.
- Standard friction buckle with Velcro to hold the excess tail.
- US Made, forged steel fold-back hoist point.
- US Rescue EN Standards EN358, EN1498
The Agilite ARCH system, or the leg loops, are made from the same materials, however instead of a standard loop, they are constructed and sewn into place with thin line cobra buckles in the front to allow for quick implementation giving you a 100% rescue rated climbing or rappelling harness. This adds an additional 7oz to the harness as a package.
The price of the entire setup is $98.95 and, to me, is considered a must have for any survival bag.
Climbing Gear Item 2: Nylon Tube Flat Runners. (2) Medium (1) Large.
Runners are a very simple and inexpensive piece of equipment. Though they are inexpensive in themselves it is important to not buy cheaply made ones. There are many options ranging from $8.95 to $29.95 each. If you shop around on many outdoor sites you can find sales on runners, both flat and tube. I prefer tube.
Runners are used for several things, making emergency harnesses, safety lanyards, water filtration etc. Due to their overall construction and the nature of the materials you can also disassemble them and use them for a myriad of camp crafts, fishing, cordage and more.
I usually carry three runners at a time woven through the MOLLE on the outside of the backpack. Two of the runners are medium 36” runner and one is a larger 48” Runner. The particular brand of runner I use are Attack Op Gear runners in desert tan.
- Nylon Tubular Webbing
- Seven Bar Tacks
- FF Bonded Nylon Thread
- Strength: 22kN MBS
The prices of these runners are $6.45 each for the medium and $7.45 for the large one. They are indispensable for any package of climbing gear.
Climbing Gear Item 3: Rope… Charlie Bronson’s always got rope…
Rope is a tricky thing to choose, especially for a ditch pack. By nature rope is very cumbersome and heavy. Its tiring to carry and hard to pack in nearly every case, except when it comes to small diameter static line. This rope is great to carry and excellent for short rappels, it however is not ideal for actual climbing or mountaineering.
The reason I choose this rope is purely for its weight and packed size. It roughly packs up to 5 inches in diameter at 18 inches long and weighs only 2.1 pounds for 75 feet of rope. This makes it ideal for packing and carrying over distance. Also the ruggedness of static technora rope vs sport climbing dynamic rope is unparalleled when reuse may be frequent.
The rope I purchase is made by several companies and is usually called 7.5mm Technora Escape Line, NFPA. This is in fact its exact title of the product at attack op gear.
100% Technora Fiber.
Block Creel Static Kernmantle Construction.
5280 lbs (23.5 kN) Minimum Breaking Strength.
High Heat Resistance up to 932 Degrees Fahrenheit or 500 Degrees Centigrade.
High Strength, Low Stretch.
Smooth Firm Hand.
The only downfall to carrying this particular rope is that you are limited to 75 foot non recoverable rappel, or 37.5 feet double rope rappel to recover your rope. Carrying much more of this rope changes the useful dynamics of weight and packing ability, negating the need to use it instead of a common sport rope.
This rope is typically found at about $1.89 ($141.75 for 75 feet) per foot at Attack Op Gear, and isn’t essential, however it is the rope I choose to use to keep bag weight and size down.
Climbing Gear Item 4: Petzl Exo… Controlled Decent Emergency Escape Device.
The Petzl EXO is a wonder of modern escape equipment. Designed first for fire fighters and EMS, the EXO was inherited by tactical teams to mitigate the setup time of common rappel situations. The EXO is designed as a personal escape system in a contained unit made for one use. I however have used my EXO over and over, which by the way is NOT recommended by the manufacturer.
Basically the EXO is a 50 foot section 7.5mm technora static rope with a fixed hook or locking carabiner at the end of the rope and a sealed GRIGRI device with permanently attached carabiner directly behind the GRIGRI. The unit itself cannot be re-roped by petzl, however you can do it at home yourself, much to Petzl’s chagrin.
The beauty of the EXO is that it is a self-locking device. If you go hands free or fall it locks up and stops you from falling any further down the rope just like a standard GRIGRI. You can also use this to control your descent slowly or quickly depending on your actual mission, whether it is escape or simply scaling down a building to peek in a window.
The only downfall to the EXO is that it is a one use thing, if you use it to escape. Once the carabiner is hooked to wherever your anchor is and you use it to descend there is no recovering the device, you just unclip it and move on. This sucks for many reasons, one it’s a handy piece of kit and two its $500.00, which isn’t a big deal if you are LEAF or EMS and you have someone else paying for your gear. However if you use it, then ascend back up the rope you can take your EXO with you. I have used it several times in SAR operations when the timeframe or availability of proper anchors was not conducive to speedy recovery of an ailing subject.
The really crappy thing about the EXO is that you cannot ever find it used on the open market. SWAT teams, military personnel or EMS that are under contract with Petzl have to turn these back over to Petzl once they have been used, which sucks as they can very easily be used more than one time. With a simple prusik or other ascenders (most of which are NOT to be used with 7.5mm rope, though I have many times and still do) you can use this device over and over until the rope becomes damaged, in which case (as stated above) you simply re-spool it yourself.
The other upside to the Petzl EXO is that it is simple for people of all skill levels to use. You do not have to be a climber to effectively use the EXO. It is however recommended that you have at least the most basic of climbing knowledge to ensure that you understand that all of your standard reactions to falling (e.g grabbing the rope or rappelling device) should be avoided and to trust your equipment, after all the first hurdle of climbing is learning to trust your equipment.
- Two Ways to Use the Multi-purpose Anchor Hook (around a structure or windowsill)
- Technora (aramid fiber) 7.5mm Static Rope, Resists Abrasion and High Temperatures.
- Self-braking system for: Rapid Horizontal Movement, Going Through Windows, Controlled and Stop Descent, Limits the Transmitted Force to the User in Case of Fall.
- 50 feet of Rope
- NFPA 1983 Light Use Rating.
- 1700 Grams (3.74 lbs)
The unit cost ($499.95) is the only prohibitive part of this piece of equipment, and with the use of a harness and other equipment in this section you don’t actually need to own a Petzl EXO. Therefore it is deemed a luxury Item and not a necessity.
Climbing Gear Item 5: Petzl TiBloc
The TiBloc is an emergency ascending device, not typically something that is needed when you can tie a simple prusik; however I fell in love with the ultra-light device while watching a video on its use directly with the Petzl EXO. Though the TiBloc can cause rope damage with high heat technora rope it is unlikely that you will damage the rope, it should be noted that a prusik will never damage your rope. Another great note would be that Petzl says that this device shouldn’t be used with 7.5mm rope; I have however used it for years without any issues at all.
Basically when you get right down to it this device is quite simply a mechanical prusik, so instead of tying a knot, you use this device in conjunction with a runner and carabiner to rope walk. You can make quick work out of ascending with the Petzl TiBloc.
Its size, weight and cost make it a great piece of equipment to have, however it is not required, as previously stated you can just use a runner, tie a prusik and use that to ascend as many people have done for years.
- Weights 39 grams
- Chrome Plated Steel Construction
- Certifications: CE EN567, UIAA
- Chrome plated Steel Cam with Angled Teeth and Self Cleaning Slot Security to Grip in Icy or Muddy Conditions.
- Can Be Used As A Progress Capture Device In Hauling Systems.
At $32.95 this piece of equipment is a great addition to any emergency setup, but is not required for any gear setup.
Climbing Gear Item 6: Petzl Pirana & Locking Carabiner
The Petzl Pirana is a great device for descending or canyoning, basically it’s a very oddly shaped rescue 8 device; this does require a lot of training to use. Granted this particular piece of kit has far better braking capacity than a standard rescue 8, but it WILL NOT lock up if you let go of the rope. There are ways to tie it off and it comes standard with all of those instructions upon purchase. It doesn’t however come with the required carabiner to use it and most carabiners won’t work with this device.
This is one of the aforementioned pieces of kit that negates the use of the EXO, though it doesn’t lock up it is what you can use to rappel out of situations.
The Pirana is super light and strong, weighing in at 90 grams. It is more costly than a standard rescue 8, but it is well worth the money with all of its features.
Three Different Braking Positions to Select From Before Beginning Descent.
Two Supplementary Braking Spurs to Allow Friction to Be Varied During Descent.
A Carabiner with Cross Section of 12mm (Petzl Attache) Provides a Tight Fight in the Small Hole, Creating a Rigid Carabiner.
Stays Securely Attached to the Harness During Rope Insertion.
Reduces The Risk Of Leverage on the Carabiner Gate Due to Poor Positioning.
Hot Forged 6082 Aluminum.
Can Be Used to Double Rope.
Rated at 28 kN.
The Petzl Pirana costs $36.95 and can be replaced with a cheaper rescue 8, however I have found that the Pirana is far more useful than the rescue 8 and to me at least should not be replaced by the lesser alternatives.
Climbing Gear Item 7: Carabiners…both locking and non-locking.
A staple in the climbing arsenal is the carabiner, either locking or non-locking. As a rule locking carabiners are used anytime there is interface by the user (e.g. on a harness, ascender or descender) and a non-locking carabiner is commonly used on anchors where people aren’t directly messing with them.
The unfortunate part of the carabiner is that there are many cheap knock off alternatives out there made with substandard materials. To me, if you are staking your life on something, it isn’t a good idea to cheap out on something that is already fairly inexpensive.
Personally I lean to using the Omega Pacific line of carabiners, Attack Op Gear tends to have them for a fair deal for locking carabiners. The full name of the particular carabiner I use is the Omega Pacific ISO Cold Forged Screw-Lok Black “D” Carabiner. It is hailed as one of the strongest carabiners on the market and is used widely in LEAF and EMS circles. Standard it hails a massive 31 kN rating across the major axis of the carabiner.
- 71 grams
- 16mm Gate Opening
- Strength: 31 kN major, 9 kN Gate, & 9 kN Minor
Moderately priced there are cheaper quality alternatives, however Attack Op Gear sells these carabiners at $13.95 each.
The non-locking carabiner I use is also made by Omega Pacific and is fully titled the Omega Pacific Standard “D” Black. At 65g it boasts all of the same features as its locking brother above just lighter and without the lock! It is a great, robust carabiner that can be trusted in all climbing or rescue operations. They are also less expensive at Attack Op Gear coming it at $9.49 each.
My pack always consists of 6 independent carabiners. Two non-locking and four locking carabiners, often in an emergency pack you don’t need this amount of carabiners, however I use mine to make rappelling brakes, setup gear lanyards or anchors and use with shelter construction.
This is what my entire emergency climbing/mountaineering setup consists of, you will note that it is one of the most expensive parts of my pack and one that I will not go without if I have to ditch out and leave with just my pack. Good climbing equipment can be used for a myriad of things, getting out of situations when others can’t, making a shelter in a high place out of the reach of others or animals, storing items high out of the line of sight, large game trapping, security and more.
The total cost of the section of this pack is roughly $900.00 and takes up a total weight of 5 pounds to my pack. You can easily ditch this part of the pack, however it’s not recommended, and it can give you the advantage you need to keep you alive.
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Section 6: Water Purification
One of the staples of survival is water; you can actually get water very easily without any of this equipment if you use your brain and train yourself to find potable water from surrounding sources, before falling back on your equipment. Gear should make life easier, or should be there as a crutch when all other options are exhausted.
Boiling water, drops of bleach, using UV to sterilize water etc. are all options that are easily utilized before this gear. With that said here is the equipment that I used to process water in the field if I have no fire available to me.
Water Purification Gear Item 1: The Katadyn Pocket
OK, here is when I tend to get labeled a “Gear whore” is at the first mention of this piece of kit. The Katadyn Pocket though is a marvelous piece of gear. Is it the lightest? No. Is it the cheapest? Definitely not. It is however the best piece of water gear you can own. Why it is called the pocket I will never know as I don’t own a pair of pants with a pocket this size.
The pocket was developed for long standing use to relief workers in third world countries where water was almost always tainted. It has a super long life on the filter as well as one of the most robust builds you can imagine. Constructed almost solely out of stainless steel this thing is a beast.
Technically its way more water filter than any of us will ever need, but in a SHTF scenario you never know how long you will be processing your own water on the move, and it is always good to have a great, super strong piece of gear to depend on.
The technical specs of the pocket are amazing:
- 13000 gallon or 50000 liter water processing capability on one filter element.
- 10”x 2.4” in size.
- 1 quart per minute output.
- Silver impregnated ceramic element for use against protozoa and bacteria.
- .2 micron ceramic depth filter.
- 20 ounce weight.
- 20 year warranty.
- Includes prefilter, bottle clip and carry bag.
- Made for elongated use in extreme circumstances.
The only downsides to the pocket are its size, weight and cost. Though just over a pound its size prohibits the use of smaller bags, it will take too much space up. It is also very cost prohibitive to most people, coming it at $329.95, but again…if you are on the move it is completely worth it.
Water Purification Gear Item 2: The MSR MIOX – Military Version
The MSR MIOX is just another smaller water purifier that I use as secondary treatment on questionable water. You can of course boil; use a Steripen or drops of bleach; however the MIOX has a great advantage of processing large lots of water with small amounts of salt and a slight electric charge. The MIOX is issued to military personnel around the globe to purify water.
Developed by Mountain Safety Research (MSR) the MIOX was primarily designed as a small lightweight military water treatment tool, used on a personal level by each soldier in the field, it has since been released for civilian use.
Basically it was designed around the same principals of city water processing or commercial pools. The long and short of it is that it produces a chlorine oxidizer that treats the water. Using rock salt, a small amount of water, and an electric charge from a CR123 battery, it creates a chlorine oxide solution that you can add to your water. Your dose will depend on how many times you press the button to create a lesser or more powerful solution. Virtually all pathogens can be killed with the chlorine oxide solution within 30 minutes, up to four hours for 99% of cryptosporidium; also it eliminates bad tastes and odors.
The only downfall to this particular unit is it requires the power of a CR123 battery; no solar or power generation versions have been made. In all honesty I would settle for an AA powered version as I carry a Goal Zero Guide 10 with rechargeable AA batteries. One other downside worth mentioning is that this will not remove current chemicals that have already been introduced to the water. A filtration system will be required for this. Commonly this is not a problem when outdoors; however in city limits or urban environments it can be quite a problem.
The MIOX also comes with test strips to ensure that the solution has worked overall.
Priced at $159.95 it is another piece of kit that isn’t overly cheap to own, especially since fire is free, however it’s a great second measure when you are moving on the fly and need to purify water without starting a fire or having the time to construct other intricate filter solutions in the field.
This is what I carry in my pack for water purification purposes, and I refuse to compromise the quality of these items. Again this makes for an expensive section of the pack totaling around $550.00 for all of the above gear when it all actuality you can in fact find cheaper methods of sterilization with simple items such as a canteen and fire.
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Section 7: Electronics & Navigation Equipment
Electronics Gear Item 1: Goal Zero Nomad 3.5
This is the smallest solar panel kit that Goal Zero makes. Not overly useful for a lot of things however with the Guide 10 AA Recharging pack and spare batteries it is a very handy little piece of equipment for lights, headlamps, GPS Units, and cellphones.
This compact unit weighs about a pound with the battery charger and is easily packed into any bag with external dimensions of about 9x9x1.5
Currently I use this setup merely to recharge AA batteries, and it does its job very well, taking about 4 hours to charge 4 AA batteries at a time. You can also leave the batteries in the cradle and use this via USB to power your phone or tablet. This comes in very handy for me as I keep a myriad of useful publications on my Galaxy Note 3.
The downfall that I have found with the nomad 3.5 is I cannot use it to directly charge my phone or other gear of that nature, I would have to step up to the Nomad 7 which is larger and harder to pack.
Goal Zero makes a great set of photovoltaics that are very rugged considering what they are; this particular unit has been bounced around a lot and hasn’t given up yet. At 99.95 for the panel kit itself it is a very affordable unit and will give you the best bang for your buck.
Electronics Gear item 2: Goal Zero Guide 10 with Spare batteries
The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus recharger is a fantastic piece of kit. Its compact design, coupled with its light weight offers a great package for recharging AA batteries in the field. With an adapter you can charge AAA batteries as well, though none of my gear uses AAA batteries.
The unit itself has a built in light and can be recharged via solar energy or USB, which is also used to interface with your phone. It is ideal for phones, headlamps, or GPS units that use AA batteries or USB to power.
My personal unit has the silicon protection sleeve on it to just give an added little bit of protection from the elements in case I drop it or pack it poorly. Further I carry 12 Goal Zero AA batteries on me at all times. Four are constantly in the unit and the other 8 are carried in a Triple Aught Design AA battery carrier. Also my AA devices have Goal Zero rechargeable batters in them that can be rotated out.
Generally I hang the solar panel on my pack as I am walking charging my batteries while I am moving about, I make sure to rotate my batteries daily to ensure that they are always charged when I need them. I have yet to run into any memory issues with the batteries themselves.
11Wh, 9200mAh at 1.2v
181 grams (0.4 lbs)
This particular piece of kit on its own is $49.99, the spare batteries and battery holder is an additional $59.95 for 8 batteries and the case. This gear like all other electronic gear is not necessary, however it sure makes your life in the bush a lot easier to have these items, in most cases the simple act of listening to music can calm a person down when they are in the bush alone.
Electronics Gear item 3: Garmin Etrex 30 with National Map Packs
This is a very handy GPS unit on its own. An upgraded full color version of its predecessor that is far easier to use and navigate with than other handheld GPS units one the market today. Further the units map packs are fully updatable and storable on Micro SD in the unit itself, however the map cost is rather expensive when you have already paid $299.95 for the GPS unit itself.
Up to this point I had used a Rino 520 HCX for all of my GPS needs, but the unit just got to heavy and I never used the two way radio feature on the handheld as I am usually out the woods alone trying to get away from pavement and be as one with “not home” as possible. I actually had no intention of replacing the unit until I played with my friends Etrex. It is a very compact and powerful GPS unit, modeled after the same unit that US Military has used for years.
Normally I am all about the manual land nav, however it is far easier to move through and mark stuff to come back to later with the click of a GPS that you can compare on google earth once you get home. I still strongly feel that land nav should be something everyone learns BEFORE GPS, as GPS is not self-explanatory and still requires training to use while giving you the illusion that you can’t get lost when you have it.
The Etrex is extremely compact and easy to use once you have read through the manual with a myriad of features (some of which you will never use).
- 2.1” x 4.0” x 1.3” Overall size
- 2.2” Screen
- 65-k Transflective TFT display
- 141 grams (5oz)
- 2 AA batteries at a 25 hour runtime
- IPX7 water rating
- High Sensitivity receiver
- USB interface
- Ability to add maps
- 1.7 GB internal memory
- Micro SD compatable
- 2000 Waypoint memory
- Custom POI’s
- Sun and Moon info
- Unit to Unit Transfer
- Picture Viewer
- Garmin Connect
A GPS unit is always a good thing to have to use in conjunction with a map and compass but it isn’t a necessity when it comes to a bag. I prefer to have one on me for geocaching, climbing, routing through unknown terrain when I don’t want to draw on my map (USGS maps are spendy). However if you don’t want to spend the $299.95 then you don’t have to, but if you are going to spend the money on a GPS this or anything else in the Etrex line is pretty awesome, rugged, versatile and easy to use.
The other downfall is you can spend a grip on additional maps, I think currently in this GPS unit I am upwards of $300.00 just in extra maps that have different views for topo, landmarks etc. Still though, it’s cheaper, lighter and easier to pack than USGS maps.
Electronics Gear item 4: Surefire Minimus
Currently I run a Surefire Minimus CR123, this is only due to the fact that when I originally packed my bag the AA version of the light itself was not available for purchase. Though I can say with the utmost certainty that this headlamp is a great light to own, it doesn’t have a super high lumen output but it is in fact variable allowing you to leave it running for up to 40 hours in low light.
It has a high efficiency LED lamp that is brilliant white. It will go from 1 lumen to 100 lumens with a variable knob on the side of the lamp. Its refractive optic shoots a wide beam that is ideal for controlled spreading of light optimized for a person’s natural view. On the lowest setting it allows you to slightly illuminate your surroundings without completely destroying your night vision and giving you a lower and less detectable signature while moving.
You can set the light up to run as an SOS beacon, and you can tilt the head on any vertical direction.
- White light 1-100 lumen output
- Weight with batteries is 3.3 ounces
- Takes 1 CR123 battery
- Submersible to 3 feet for 30 minutes
- High strength anodized milspec hardened aluminum
- Virtually indestructible LED emitter
All in all it’s a great light; I still plan on replacing it shortly with the AA version to more efficiently control how well I can power it in the field. At $149.99 it’s not a must have but it certainly makes things far more convenient.
Electronics Gear item 5: Surefire G2 Nitrolon
Normally, as you can probably tell, I am a gear snob however in this particular case I wanted a light that I could lose and not care if I lost it. For the money this is a great little light. I should however mention that like the light above I am planning on replacing this light as well with an AA model of light due to the solar setup that I pack with me.
The G2N is an all-purpose rugged light, not the brightest light in the lineup but still plenty good for everything that you need to do with camp craft in low light. The stock lamp on this light is 65 lumen however you can upgrade it to a 120 lumen head, I left mine stock, again this light is for when my headlamp is dead or I need to hand someone a lamp.
- Coated tempered window resists impact, maximizes light
- Tough lightweight nitrolon body deep grid pattern for secure grip
- Tactical tail cap switch
- Weatherproof o ring
- Precision micro textured reflector
For the money this is a great light, right at $59.00, of course there are lesser lights, I am just a Surefire guy. As before said I fully intend on replacing this light with the more expensive outdoorsman, which runs right at $250.00.
Electronics Gear item 6: Surveyors Tape & Trail Tacks
Normally I would love to say “I don’t get lost in the woods, ever” and for the most part this is true mainly because I practice land navigation a lot. I also carry a GPS unit and area maps. The purpose of this set of materials isn’t just to ensure I leave a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow home but it gives a good reference for other SAR personnel or friends to follow.
I always carry a set of unique (well as unique as it can get for the choices) of surveyors tape. Usually I won’t buy it from Lowes, Home Depot or any other box store that a lot of people frequent; I tend to go to a logging or construction supply store where there are more color and pattern options. This is an old SAR trick, everyone team leader has a different pattern tape so we can identify who has been where without disturbing or replicating surveyors tape used by forestry personnel.
Trail tacks are simply tacks with a reflective surface that are largely used by Geocachers, however I have used them for night SAR operations or trail marking for a dusk or dawn team coming in to assist. They are super useful when utilized with a high lumen light; you can literally see them for hundreds of yards clearly marking any path that you wish to have seen.
Tactically you can use them to mark secret paths, as until they are deliberately lit, they are invisible to the casual observer.
Both of these items are super cheap, about $5.00 for the tape and $9.00 for trail tacks. Also these aren’t really necessary; however I always keep them with me.
Electronics Gear item 7: Suuno Compass & Area Maps
The meat and potatoes of all navigation is the ability to effectively use a map and compass, remember like I say it’s always training that will get you through things and map and compass training is highly perishable. You can get by with a crappy compass but no matter how you slice it proper maps are always expensive. I have a large format Roland Printer at my disposal so now days I tend to download the layers of the maps I want and print them myself on vinyl. If you are stuck to buying your own USGS or BLM maps it can get expensive fast to get element resistant maps.
I don’t use a crappy compass but I don’t use a great compass either. Years ago I lost my military compass and replaced it with the Suunto Compass. It’s an excellent little compass.
The Suunto MCA-D CM is a compact mirror compass designed for backpacking and mountaineering.
Balanced for northern hemisphere
Fixed declination correction scale
Mirror lid locked open at various angles
41 grams (1.45 oz)
The compass itself is only $50.00 and is great for nearly any user. Compass is not a piece of equipment that you can ditch.
The entire section of this pack is nearly $960.00, making it an expensive part of the bag, while not being all that necessary. This part of the pack can have its costs mitigated relatively easily.
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Section 7: Food & Food Prep Equipment
Food preparation and finding food in the woods or on the fly is a very important thing to learn if you feel that living is a positive thing for you to partake in. It is one of those things that many people have the hardest time with. We are used to having pre-packaged food or fast food at our disposal, we also have things spiced to the point of completely bleeding out any of the natural favor, though this is tasty and what we are usually looking for in food, it has destroyed our ability to enjoy food in its more natural state. This fact has also given us the inability to enjoy food in the wild as it does not have the flavors we are not used to. What does this mean in a survival scenario? Well for one it means we aren’t going to enjoy anything that we find… further it means that things that we should like we don’t which further perpetuates our disgust when faced with eating things that in the civilized world are deemed as “taboo” like squirrels, rats, nutria, dogs, cats etc.
This is also another form of training that we must get used to. We must get our brain to a place where we can accept unconventional things as a nutritious alternative to normal foods.
Food & Food Prep Item 1: Snow Peak Ti “Mini Solo” Backpacking Nesting Cups
This is a super great little setup for a light single person cook set, the two cups nest together for easy packing, also two gigapower stove canisters fit inside the set when its packed up and put in the bag. On top of this you can also store the titanium spork as well as the MSR or Snow Peak stove all in one tight, lightweight little package. We will talk about the stove in a bit.
The package is a cup, pot and lid with mesh bag. It is crafted out of titanium and weighs in at 155 grams total, or 5.5 ounces. It is super durable, super lightweight and very easy to pack. This setup is great for when you don’t have time or the inclination to make a fire to give you a light smokeless way to process water or food products on the fly.
Dimensions are 4x5.1x4.25 and 4x2x4.25
155 grams (5.5 oz)
28 fl oz pot
10 fl oz cup
For the money this is a great set, only $69.95, $79.95 if you add the titanium spork to the mix. Like most of the gear above this isn’t overly necessary, however it is very useful especially in high altitudes or severely inclement weather.
Food & Food Prep Item 2: MSR Titanium Stove & Igniter
MSR MicroRocket is a super small folding titanium stove that fits super nicely with the above cookset. This stove is affordable, lightweight, easy to use and very efficient at its use of fuel. Weighs a total of 73 gram or 2.6 ounces.
Robust arms that fold out of the way
Fits inside a mug
Wind Resistant focused burner
Boils 1 liter of water in 3.5 minutes
Piezo Ignition for reliable ignition
Again this isn’t totally necessary but it is cheap and effective. At $59.95 it’s definitely something that I suggest for everyone. It can be used in a myriad of tactical applications as well as in situations where fire cannot be easily constructed, giving you an edge over your field nutrition and water processing.
Food & Food Prep Item 3: 27oz Non Lined Klean Kanteen w/ Stainless Steel Cap
I chose this for a couple reasons, having a stainless steel non lined canteen doesn’t exactly make it easy to maintain hot or cold drinks however it does have the added benefits of being able to boil in the field without hurting the canteen. Tough I usually have a redundant camelbak or Nalgene bottle with me I tend to use this piece of drinking gear the most. The other reason is it is slim and has a myriad of different caps available to it. It is super durable and light. Albeit not as light as its titanium counterparts but it is a quarter the cost.
Another upside is there is a coffee attachment for this canteen, which is a gift from god in the cold outdoor mornings.
The only downside to this canteen is it makes everything taste metallic, it does subside overtime but for the most part that tint is always there. This particular canteen is also very easy to use with a tea ball. Something that we will talk about more later; and is invaluable in the field.
- No BPA, phthalates, lead or other toxins
- 18/8 food grade stainless steel
- Doesn’t retain flavors
- Slim design
- Fits large ice cubes
- Dishwasher safe
- Lifetime warranty
This is part of a pack that is really user preference, I have no real strong opinion either way about what is the better drink carrier, for all it really matters you can reuse a soda bottle. However at $24.95 (with extra cap) this is a great piece of gear that is durable, light and affordable for all of the options that it offers you in the field.
Food & Food Prep Item 4: Stainless Steel Tea Ball
Look, I know it is a strange piece of kit, but the tea ball can be used a ton when trying to get water infused with different plants in the wild. It is far easier to drink infused water when there isn’t a bunch of crap floating around in it. Much of nature is full of edible and good tasting things that are easily drinkable and can help calm, heal or assist your body when out and about.
I view the tea ball as something that is only needed if you have the knowledge to identify and process the necessary flora to take full advantage of it. But with its cost you can easily carry one with you as well as a guide that will give you the proper knowledge needed to utilize it fully. You can also carry dried tea with you and use that for your field drink needs.
I am a huge advocate of learning edible plants and wildlife.
The tea ball costs about $7.95 at almost any store, and I deem as absolutely necessary.
Food & Food Prep Item 5: Clif Bars, Granola Bars, Bouillon Cubes, Tobasco & Coastie Rations
This section is always preference aside from two items on it, the tobasco and the bouillon cubes. The rest is just easy quick food on the fly for energy, the others are used for long term nutritional survival that mitigates your gag reflex as well as helps with your morale.
Tobasco sauce, though I am a sriracha man, is super great for one thing, eating damn near anything. I would keep sriracha on me, but it doesn’t hold as well where tobasco does. You can literally eat the anus out of a rotting bear carcass with enough tobasco on it. Though it doesn’t mitigate bacteria etc, it can get you through the nasty flavors of some foods that are still safe.
The bouillon cubes are also useful for making soups that will still taste like home cooking, this can be super important for morale and overall survival. They are cheap, easy to carry and keep forever.
Clif bars, ranger bars, granola bars etc, are all preference foods for quick easy energy when you have a bad day hunting. This also goes for the emergency food rations that you see in the picture.
All of this stuff isn’t really necessary but I find very useful in the field. It also only roughly costs $30.00
This is a cheap part of the bag costing only about $200.00 to complete.
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Section 8: First Aid, Medical Equipment & knowledge
Train train train… I can’t say this enough, this entire section revolves around even the most basic of first aid training to be at all effective in its use. In fact if you don’t have this training it is likely that you will further harm or kill yourself or others.
Medical Equipment Item 1: The First Aid Kit or IFAK
This kit is almost always tailored to the user; it is nearly always something that is dictated by your particular skill level and medical training. For example it is probably not a good idea to carry a field surgery kit when you don’t have the knowledge to actually do field surgery. Let me be even clearer, DO NOT go buy the US Army field surgery manual and assume that you know can do an appendectomy in the field.
Nearly anything in the first aid kit can actually cause more harm than good if you use it improperly. Of course you can’t really cause too much damage with band aids and Neosporin but tourniquets and quikclot can be very harmful.
Personally this section will be fairly short and without much explanation because each kit is fairly different and requires a lot of training. I will however cover my kit and the things I have as well as what I think a standard kit should have without the specialized equipment.
My kit has the following:
1. Assorted Band aids
2. Butterfly Closures
3. Antibiotic Ointment
4. Burn Ointment
5. Alcohol Pads
6. Small Roll of coban and Gauze
7. Large Bleeder Bandages (2)
8. Ace Bandages (2)
10. Safety Pins (5)
11. Small QuickClot Pouches (4)
15. 36 Capacity Dermal Stapler
16. Upholstery Needle
17. Suture Line
18. Cold Medicine
22. Electrolyte Tablets
24. Small Syringes (5)
25. Scalpel w/ 5 Blades
26. Bug Spray
27. Super Glue
28. Flash Cards of Common First Aid
29. Flash Cards of Simple Procedures
30. Nasopharyngeal Airway
Most of the stuff on this list is great, some of it requires a great amount of knowledge to use, like lidocaine, scalpels, NPA and the dermal stapler… even the tourniquet and quikclot. These things are not anything that you are going to want to tackle without training, for instance the NPA is used to perform a trach on someone that cant breath, the lidocaine, though unlikely can cause lidocaine toxicity.
Really I guess I should just hammer the get trained more on this part of the bag. Medical knowledge is not self-explanatory. Further this is not cheap to do the above kit is roughly $500.00 and weighs in at a full 3 pounds.
Medical Equipment Item 2: Sewing Kit
This isn’t really a medical thing, but it’s where I keep it. My sewing kit is used for a lot more than I anticipated when first being an outdoorsy kinda fella. I have safety pins, upholstery needles, thread, heavy line, duct tape, buttons and patch material all in my little kit. I have used it plenty over the last few years and am constantly adding to it.
Sewing kits are super cheap. $15.00 at most and is not a negotiable piece of equipment, it is absolutely essential to keeping your gear and clothing operational against the elements.
Medical Equipment Item 3: Rite N the Rain Binder with Notes
This is not something you can buy… yet. I am working on getting this done and produced to sell to people that want a great set of practical knowledge from an outdoorsman with over 25 years worth of experience in the world.
This simple binder written in sharpie on waterproof paper is all of my collaborative knowledge. Everything from navigation, survival theory, edible plants, animal processing, trapping, signaling, shelter etc., It is all handwritten as that is how I process things best for memory and is something I use as a common reference over and over. I add notes to it constantly and it is forever with me.
It is heavy and hard to carry however, it is absolutely priceless.
There is nearly $750.00 dollars in this section of the pack. Which can be easy to offset if you aren’t trained to use it all properly.
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