A recent passion of mine is Ultralight Backpacking. The basic premise is to take what you need, and enjoy yourself comfortably. Articles exist that provide a perspective that UL backpacking is about doing without, to the level of silliness. This is not one of those articles. This series starts at the idea of building a survival kit, then adding just enough to make the kit a 3 day, 3 season UL backpacking list. Instead of trying to approach the backpacking list as, “how to shave down wight in your pack,” the idea here is one of, “starting from scratch, build a solid foundation.”
Let’s agree on a few rules to make this situation work. First, the idea is to get a job done in the minimum weight possible. An inferior product will not do the job. Maintain functionality when in outdoor situations. This does not mean that the products recommended are perfect. As always YMMV.
Second rule is that some tools may need some “rework” to lower weights . This is not required, but should at least be considered.
Third rule, no electronics or batteries. Simplify things and reduce points of failure. Batteries are an environmental contaminant, can do damage when made wet, and are a failure point. Simplify your system. It is more economical to use an LED flashlight with a battery. Lasts longer, reusable, and signals.
Fourth rule, no alcohol. Try to use products that do not have alcohol in them. Alcohol dries things out. There are other options.
Rule of three’s:
In any extreme situation you cannot survive for more than:
3 minutes without air – 3 hours without shelter
3 days without water – 3 weeks without food.
This is a 10 item kit constructed out of readily available items. It weighs 1 pound. Using it many can survive for 24 hours. Test if YOU can. YOU can make adjustments to suit you. This is just one way to do it.
- Shelter (2.6 oz) – SOL Heat Sheets Emergency Blanket – This product is water proof. It reflects body heat back to your body. You have a basic fundamental form of shelter in this product. Use this to provide for this need for 24 hours. Though this is not great or glamorous, you should survive.
- Shelter (1 oz) – Sun screen – This shelters you from the sun. It prevents sunburns that can cause pain, dehydrate you, and potentially become a medical situation. Use a partially emptied bottle in your kit to reduce weight. 2014 UPDATE – I have replaced this with a .25 oz eyedropper that has a mix of 100% DEET and sunscreen. This now weighs .5 oz
- Light (.75 oz) – Caylume light stick – Low weight, battery free way of lighting an area. Link connects to orange color. Orange makes it easier to find you. 2014 UPDATE – After much review on environmental hazards, and many comparisons, the a 1.25 oz Preon P1 replaced it. This will allow the removal of light sticks from the rest of the kit dropping the overall weight.
- Multi-purpose (1 oz) – 550 Paracord – Approximately 20 feet of paracord. The uses of paracord in a survival situation will be its own post.
- First-Aid (3.95 oz) – First-Aid kit in a zip-loc bag – Mine includes SPF 50 chapstick, duct tape, bandages and dressing, butterfly closures, adhesive knuckle bandages, adhesive fabric bandages, gauze dressing, triple antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, ibuprofen, antihistamines, anti-diarrheal, moleskins, benzalkonium chloride wipes, safety pins, splinter tick remover.
- Fire (.5 oz) – Ferrocium rod – Use with high carbon blade to throw sparks to start a fire. A fire offers heat, light, signaling and protection. Remove the cord and piece of steel that comes with it.
- Water (4.7 oz) – Titanium BOT – Water from a stream combined with the fire above creates drinkable water. This can make one liter at a time AND can store it while on the move. 2014 UPDATE – First, this can not boil water (it is plastic), but you can use water treatment chemicals to make drinkable water. Second, this fits in the BOT. This way you can use the BOT to store/transport/treat water while having a place to store your kit. XL GearPods weigh 4.25 oz.
- Navigation (.7 oz) – Brunton Classic compass – These are becoming hard to find. Brunton does not manufacture them any more. This compass will last, provide most navigation functions and does it for very little weight. Drill some holes in the base plate to decrease weight. Replaced by the Brunton Truarc3
- Communication (.3 oz) – Whistle – Multi tone, multi chamber (one has a pea), 120dB. Remove the REI label, drill a larger hole closer to the pea chamber, cut/sand down unused length. This decreases unneeded space and weight.
- Knife (.8 oz) – Gerber Curve – Provides a bottle opener for use as a pot lifter, a phillips head screw driver for removing screws from my Cold Steel Shovel, and an awl for making pilot holes for replacement handles.
This is a start for 24 hours. This kit represents nine of the ten C’s of survival. Those are; cutting, combustion, cordage, container, cleaning, communication, compass, comfort, and “candle light.” The missing one is collecting food (not required during the first 24 hours). We will address that with the additions to the kit on day 3/the third 16 ounces.
To review, this kit can actually sustain you for 24 hours. It provides the needs stated by several different survival methodologies. It weighs less than one pound. The BOT stores everything. Use the paracord to go around the BOT and make a sling and carry it over your shoulder. Distribute the contents of the kit into your pockets and use the BOT to carry water.
Total cost of this kit is approximately $150 U.S. Some may comment on “Altoids Tin survival kits.” While those are novel, try using one for 24 hours. Then try this kit. Which one is more comfortable? Which instills more faith that you will survive?
The next article will add 5 items to the kit, and extend survival for 24 more hours.
UPDATE 2012: This did not work. The gear list has a few changes. Lifting a pot full of boiling water off of a fire was no easy task. This required rethinking the material list. When one thing changed, the system changed. The Curve replaced this piece of gear:
ESEE AH-1 – High carbon steel for FireSteel use, small, light, multi-use (make a small spear with a straight stick and some of the strands in the paracord).
Gerber makes the lightest potlifter. It is a tool called the Curve. It weighs .8 oz. The knife (blade) that it is replacing weighs .5 oz. That is a loss of .3 oz for an ability to lift a pot. Hopefully some research will show how to replace the flat head screwdriver that comes on the Curve with a can opener blade. Replacing the screwdriver with a can opener means the tool will have a pot holder/lifter (using the built-in bottle opener), a knife blade (for starting fires), a Phillips head screwdriver (for dismantling a cold steel shovel), an awl for “pilot drilling” holes in cut down or scavenged branches to make longer handles for the shovel, and a can opener.
This is what the kit looks like in September of 2014. I just added tinder (fatwood), and that pushed a 16 ounce survival kit to 17 ounces. In the upper left corner are the two lids for the GearPod. Next to it is the large case with orange duct tape and orange 550 cord wrapped around it. The blue and white fabric is a UV Buff. The orange foil pack is an emergency blanket. The black bottle on it is a 50/50 mix of 100% DEET and SPF 50 sunblock. The next row shows 2 pieces of fatwood next to a mini Bic lighter. My second fire starter is an Exotac nanoStriker. Chapstick with sunblock will protect my lips, and have use to grease a stick to start a fire. There are ten water purification tablets that provide 10 liters of drinkable water. The compass is a Suunto wrist compass. I included soap for use as a first aid function (the Buff fills the need for a bandage, compress, etc). The AAA battery goes to the Preon P1. My sewing kit is Kevlar thread with a sail needle and some safety pins. This can easily become a fishing kit if needed. In front we have the Gerber Curve and a Ti whistle. I may remove the Gerber Curve and replace it as I am no longer using the Ti BOT. I may redesign the other two kits that follow this (part two and three in the series) to include the BOT and Curve later.
Part two of this series is located here.