There are plenty of options when it comes to picking up a survival kit, a kit that supposedly has all the latest and greatest survival gear all in one place. “Grab and go” was one advertisement, “buy now and never be caught in a survival situation again” was another marketing slogan. The marketers need a little help in some cases.
You can of course, be caught in a survival situation regardless of whether you have a kit or not, but once in a situation your survival may depend on whether you have a kit and does it have what you need.
Some experts consider a survival kit the “go to as a last resort kit”. It will contain what is needed to survive after you have exhausted the normal supplies you had packed.
The facts are hunters and anglers as a rule become lost or stranded more often than other groups of outdoor enthusiast. Campers and hikers make up the rest, along with people being stranded in a motor vehicle and so on.
The point is it would be extremely rare to find yourself waking up in the middle of a wilderness environment with no clue as to how you got there. Typically, a trip is planned and provisions are packed for the time you expect to be gone. In other words, you had every intention of heading off into the great unknown, and whether you prepared properly may mean the difference between surviving and not.
People do not plan to become lost, so they only pack for a few hours or a few days depending on the time, they expect to be gone. Once your supplies are depleted, your survival kit is there so you have the means to obtain what you need from your environment, when you do become lost.
The key word is environment, building your kit and keeping your kit relevant allows you to adapt to any environment in which you expect to find yourself. You will outfit your kit accordingly. If you were heading into an arid environment, for example, the focus would be on water collection and storage whereas if you know the area has an abundance of surface water then the focus is on, filtration and purification. It is assumed you would have started out with a supply of water regardless of travel destination.
The so-called off the shelf kits are well stocked but just how many button compasses do you really need, and then the quality is always questionable. You need a quality Lensatic compass and maybe one more in the event you lose or damage one. You need a compass regardless of your geographic location.
Retailers will “throw in” a survival knife. A survival knife is a priority and allowing someone else to choose it is akin to letting someone else load your firearm or pack your chute. Some things you just have to take care of yourself. The knives in most kits would be low quality, while any knife is a good knife if it is the only one you have, but why allow yourself to be stranded with a cheap one if you can help it.
Do you really need a wire saw and do they work? You have to decide but keep in mind they are probably only good for sawing through rope or plastic restraints if you happen to have one taped to your body where you can reach it if you do become restrained by some cannibalistic family living in the backwoods.
As for sawing wood, they generally do not get the job done and a good survival knife will do a better job of cutting through the log or limb. Pick up a good folding saw if you feel you need a saw.
Safety pins are ideal for fishhooks and pinning up your pants, if that is all you have. Is there a need for them however, if you have a survival fishing kit you put together yourself, and Paracord makes a great belt?
The retailers of survival kits will provide you with a dozen or so to increase the number of survival items they claim to be providing you, it sounds good in the advertisement.
The retailers will advertise their kit contains 101 items and this makes you think you are getting a bargain along with everything you need. What you are getting is a handful of safety pins, button compasses, 12 band-aids, cheap folding knives, poor quality Ferro rods advertised as magnesium sticks, and other things that you probably do not really need like a pencil stub and writing paper, and a few razor blades along with chewing gum.
Granted there is a psychological advantage to having what you think is a well-stocked survival kit but reality dictates you make sure you have what you need by doing it yourself.
Build your kit based on actual need. Do not be afraid of changing things up depending on your situation. If you are an angler and are looking forward to a few hours on the river or lake then your kit does not necessarily need to be overloaded with fishing tackle. Take the tackle out and add other items relevant to the situation. The ability to create fire and to signal for rescue personnel is important for example.
Hunters may think all they need is their firearm if they get lost and some may tend to think a weapon is all they need to focus on in the wilds. First off, having one does not mean you will not become lost or stranded. Once lost however, they can be used to obtain food, but then what, you still need shelter, fire and a clean source of water and other tools to find your way back or be prepared to shelter in place. “Survival in a tin” kits probably will not get the job done.
The off the shelf kits will have items that you do need but again the quality is a factor and why buy an expensive kit knowing most of the items cannot or will not be used. Put your own kit together, adapt/update it by keeping weather, geographic location and your own skill level and knowledge in mind, and never leave home without it.