Wingman Survival - Building the Perfect Survival Kit
In this post, we will talk about the pitfalls of pre-made kits, the benefits of pre-made or custom kits, and finally: how to assemble the perfect survival kit, along with some great examples for different areas and lifestyles. Let's get after it.
Why a pre-made survival kit may NOT be the best for YOU
When I set out to build my first personal kit, I saw a lot of pre-made kits for sale online. Most of them followed a pretty pathetic pattern:
- No-name crap backpack
- Cheap, super basic first aid supplies
- A trivial amount of packaged "survival" water/food
- Some tiny and CHEAP tools
- NO Trauma/Bleeding treatment
- NO Personal Defense items
- NO Urban Oriented Items
- NO Escape/Egress Tools
- NO Communication Tools
- NO Water Filtration/Purification (some include tablets that don't provide any ability to filter sediment, heavy metals, particlulates, and chemicals out of water)
If you want a pretty red backpack to throw in your car or closet for some peace of mind, by all means grab any of the multitude of available packs on Amazon or one of the "Extreme Prepper" type sites. Say goodbye to about $200 for about $15 worth of mostly useless junk. A few band-aids and 8 oz of water isn't going to serve you very well if you are in a car wreck, or if you are in the middle of some kind of real-world emergency.
But don't you sell pre-made survival kits?
Hell yeah we do! And they are some of the best for their simplicity, quality of components, and thorough coverage of survival basics. But even our kits aren't perfect for every individual. In fact, the instructions we send with complete kits encourage the user to add specific items as needed for their location and lifestyle. Only by USING your kit can you learn exactly what is right for you. The best option for a pre-built kit from us is to do a Custom Kit. For this, we consult with you and establish what your needs are, then build the ideal kit for you and your situation. This doesn't have to be expensive, we will work within your budget to get you the best bang for your buck. If this fits your needs, contact us today to get started! If not, keep reading below:
Enough Ranting - Here's how to start your Kit Build:
Don't. Get. Got. This is our mindset, same as don't get caught - Don't get caught unprepared, untrained, or without the right tools for the job. Also, don't get caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people -- this is something we will be covering in future posts on the tools and skills to gain and maintain situational awareness.
Go through the following questions and answer them to the best of your ability. At the bottom will be kit recommendations based on your answers. Questions are broken down into Urban / Disaster Survival needs and Wilderness Survival Needs. Answer the questions that pertain to you. (For example, if building a kit to help you survive if you get lost while out hunting, some of the urban questions won't apply to you.) If you are building a kit for aviation use - consider all the areas you fly over and where you could end up if you have to make an emergency landing!
Step 1: Location
1a. Where do you live? (Where do you fly, hunt, backpack, hike, climb)
- Is it Urban/Suburban or Rural/Remote
- What is the response time of emergency services (Law, Fire, Medical, Search and Rescue)
- What is the terrain like? (Mountain, Desert, Forest, Plains/Farms, Jungle, City)
1b. Where do you and your family members work/go to school/spend time away from home?
- Answer the same for each bullet above
1c. Often overlooked - what lies between you and your home throughout the day.
- Answer the same for 1a bullets
1d. What are the local laws concerning knives and firearms?
- Check length limits on fixed blade and/or folding knives
- Check limits on carrying tools like axes in your pack
- Do you need a permit to own/carry a firearm?
Note: we do not sell firearms or include them in our kits, but we do HIGHLY recommend that you equip yourself with a defensive firearm and pursue the necessary training to become safe and proficient in its use. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and will be adding posts to this blog to help guide you in this regard.
Step 2: Events
2a. What events are most likely to occur in your area?
- Traffic Accidents/Vehicle Crash (Most likely event to occur anywhere vehicles are present, even when hunting with an ATV or Truck)
- Riots / Civil Unrest / Criminal Activity / Terrorism (Can result in wide area lockdowns, martial law, damage to persons and property, need to displace or relocate your family)
- Natural Disaster - Hurricane, Tornado, Landslide, Wildfire, Volcanic Event
- Major Transportation Interruptions - Example: In 2017 an Amtrak train derailed near DuPont, Washington and blocked traffic on the only Interstate. This caused a 20 minute commute to turn into a 5-6 hour trip for several days.
- Epidemic / Pandemic
- Active Shooter, Home Invasion, Other violent crimes
- Isolation / Getting Lost
Step 3: Carry Method - How will you carry your kit?
This will depend on your activity, lifestyle, and on the size and purpose of your kit. Some options include:
3a. Car Carry - Good for larger kits with non-perishable items, hard-case kits, kits in multiple bags/containers, less portable than other options. Not recommended for firearms unless you have a car safe to keep it secure. If your car is disabled or blocked (protesters, traffic, law enforcement or military) can you take your kit with you?
3b. Backpack Carry - Good for public transportation, everyday carry, and for kits that go to work with you. Good for Backcountry and Aviation kits. Not recommended for firearms unless the kit is secured in another locked container when it's not with you.
3c. Small Organizer (Fits in another Bag, glove-box, etc) - Great for all kinds of kits, especially if you want to break up your survival kit into multiple containers like: Medical, Fire, Comms, etc.
3d. Pocket Kit: Works best for small essential items, usually very basic and only suitable for minor emergencies or as a supplement to a larger kit. Can be good for organization within larger kits. Great for the 10 essentials of wilderness survival.
Step 4: Set a budget
It's easy to start out buying only the best gear you can find. After all, it's your life on the line, right? While this is true, remember that the most expensive gear isn't always the best. A $400 custom knife looks and handles great. But, for under $200 you can get a solid knife that will last a lifetime of hard use. Sure, a titanium spork is nice and light, but that money might be better invested in a solid fixed-blade knife that will perform multiple functions in survival. Be wary of some of the fancier gimmicks out there and try to stick with solid pieces that serve multiple functions. Build a strong base kit first, then add the fancy stuff over time.
4a. What is the most likely incident from 2a to occur for you in your area and daily life?
Building a solid kit that prepares you for that event, right now, is more important than a kit to prepare for "everything" using cheap parts that won't really serve you very well.
Still reading? Good. That means you have one of the basic traits necessary for survival - perseverance.
Step 5: Situation Analysis - Long step, sorry!
Ok, let's break down your answers! This is a simplified version of the process we go through to build a custom kit.
5a. You should find that your needs fall into one of 3 categories - Wilderness survival, Urban survival, or a Mix of both.
5b. Next, within each category we will determine the support level - High or Low. (How fast can you expect to receive assistance from friends, neighbors, local government, or other entities. Also based on how much help they can provide.)
5c. Then, determine your Environment (Biome). This has nothing to do with whether you live in a city or not, but rather the environment in which your city or other survival location is located. Let's keep it simple and fit into one of the 5 major Biomes:
Your Biome will determine
5d. Freedom of Defense - This is not a political statement, but it is a fact that you have more freedom in some places to defend yourself against both man-made and natural threats. Because security can be such a variable, you should always prepare to defend yourself to the maximum feasible capability. A "safe" area is only secure until it isn't.
We will classify this as:
- High (Easy to obtain and carry most styles of firearms)
- Medium (Firearms can be obtained, with restrictions like waiting periods and other barriers.)
- Low (Restrictions on what you can own and who can own/carry defensive weapons.) If you have to get a permit to even OWN a firearm, you are in a LOW freedom of defense zone. (Looking at you, Chicago *cough highest rate of gun violence despite huge restrictions on 2nd amendment rights) Ok, getting a wee bit political, deep breath... And now we're back on track...
5e. Severity of Events - Again, this is a simplified version of our analysis process, so let's take the top 3 MOST LIKELY events from our list in 2a and classify their impacts:
Catastrophic - High chance of death or major destruction of property (years to recover) Examples - Earthquake, Home Invasion, Terrorism
Serious - High potential for serious injury / damage to property, moderate potential for death. Examples - Car wreck, Wildfire
Detrimental - Causes considerable hardship on you or your family (several hours to one day or more delay in getting home, chance of injury, impacts on health) Examples - Major transportation interruption, Getting lost
5f. Term of Events - How long is the event? We will break this down into 5 terms, but only use 3 for kit-building purposes:
EOTWAWKI (End Of The World As We Know It) - Years. An event with no clear end in sight, you are preparing to survive indefinitely in a chaotic and completely new world. This is beyond any "kit" and will involve an entire skillset beyond the scope of this article.
Long Term - Several months to a year or more. You have bugged-out to your weekend cabin to wait out events until returning to your main home. Again, no "kit" will suffice for this long, but a solid kit can help you get to your long term survival location.
Mid Term - More than a week, less than 3 months. A solid wilderness survival kit could have you set up to stay indefinitely in the wilderness, but not comfortably or with a huge safety margin. Without resupply your survival will be dependent on obtaining food. Certain medical supplies will be irreplaceable without outside support.
Short Term - 24 Hours to several days. This is where kits really shine. You can tough out a lot of things for 24 hours, but each day after that can and will put your body and mind in peril. This is amplified with children or others who depend on you for their survival. A solid 24, 48, or 72 hour kit can make a huge difference.
Emergency/Tactical - Minutes to several hours. A short-lived, often violent event that requires immediate response. This is the realm of Trauma kits, Active Shooter Response Kits, "Get Home Bags" and other types of kits that help you survive an immediate threat and get to safety or additional support.
6. Needs Analysis
Again, SIMPLIFIED VERSION but if you do the math, we now have 540 possible BASIC survival scenarios. Still think a pre-made kit from an online mega-store is good to go?
Let's compare your answers to the 10 Wingman Survival Essentials. Our 10 essentials are based on the classic 10 essentials first published by the Mountaineers in the 3rd edition of "Freedom of the Hills" in 1974. They are updated based on our experience in the modern world, both in urban/remote combat and in the backcountry. They are not in order of priority, since each survival situation determines the priority:
- Navigation (map, topo map, GPS and compass)
- Environmental Protection (Shelter, Clothing, Insulation, Sunglasses, Sunscreen) *Combines 2 of the classic 10
- Illumination (such as headlamp/flashlight)
- Medical (First-aid and Trauma Response) *Trauma missing from the classic 10
- Fire (Lighter, striker, tinder, fuel)
- Repair kit and tools (Multi-tool, cordage, tape)
- Nutrition (Extra food, ability to procure additional food)
- Hydration (Extra water, ability to procure additional water)
- Communication (Radio, signaling devices) *Missing from the classic 10
- Security (Personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, body armor, self-defense tools i.e. Firearm, Bear Spray, Combat Knife) *Missing from the classic 10. Without security, you can easily lose the other 9 essentials - and/or your life.
For some urban environments and for all combat environments, we will add an additional category:
11. Escape Tools (Handcuff key, lock picks, shims, metal saw, etc.)
Ok, here's where it all comes together:
Now you need to rank your survival needs (based on the 10 essentials above) according to your survival situation. We can't list every possible scenario here, but hopefully you can use this as a guide to analyze your particular scenario. Get your high priority items first, invest in higher quality for those items. If you have to leave something out due to space, budget, feasibility, etc. you should drop the lowest priority items first.
Here's a simplified example:
- Navigation - High Priority in Wilderness, Low in Urban. Increase priority based on event duration.
- Environmental Protection - High Priority in Wilderness, Medium to Low in Urban. Increase priority based on response time/event duration.
- Illumination High priority in Wilderness, Medium in Urban. Increase priority based on event duration.
- Medical Trauma - High priority in Wilderness and Urban. First-Aid medium to low priority in Urban environments. Increase priority based on response time and event duration.
- Fire - High priority in Wilderness, Low priority in Urban
- Repair kit and tools (Multi-tool, cordage, tape) - High priority in Wilderness, Low priority in Urban. Increase priority based on event duration.
- Nutrition - Higher priority for longer event duration both Urban and Wilderness.
- Hydration - Higher priority for longer event duration.
- Communication - High priority for any emergency
- Security - High priority for any emergency
7. FINAL STEP:
Clear as mud? If you made it this far, you should at least have a good picture of what your needs are. Again, start assembling your kit with quality items for the highest priority first. Now, the last thing to do (and the most important) is to start USING your kit! Don't wait for an emergency to find out that something is missing, or that you are missing the skills to use items in your kit. Practice with your kit, take it on trips, train with the gear inside it. If something doesn't work, or doesn't work well for you, replace it with something that does. If you are lacking medical or firearms training - seek it out! Not only will your kit improve, but also your ability to use it and adapt to any situation will improve along with it.
This process of use and refinement is the only way to truly end up with the perfect survival kit.
Example Kits: Coming Soon!
1. Urban, High Support, High Freedom of Defense, Emergency Kit (Example - Phoenix, AZ Get-Home-Bag)
2. Urban, Low Support, Low Freedom of Defense, Short Term (Example - New York City, NY Bugout Bag / Egress Bag 24 Hours)
3. Wildernes, Low Support, High Freedom of Defense, Medium Term (Example - Owyhee Mountains, ID Multi-Day Hunting/Backpacking)
What's in your kit? Leave us a comment below, and as always feel free to contact us with any questions!