Mini Survival Belt kit
Ive had enough gear left over from various projects to attempt to make up a mini survival kit, but no matter how I tried there was no way I could compete with price in purchasing one of Doug Ritters AMK Kits when trying to purchase bits and pieces from multiple stores and then including shipping. The only items I couldnt find much use in were the safety pins and the scapel blade, but left them in anyway, as you never know. The scapel blade is atleast sanitary incase of needing to remove splinters etc from skin. It took me a while to figure out what the black nylon cord was, almost 6 months actually. Dacron bow string line. Figured it out while making up some new strings for my bow and thought Id recognised it some where before. Having strings pre-made, they look different in multiple strands as compared to a singular strand base material.
Added to the kit which is stored in a Maxpedition 4’x6″ Pouch is a McNett Frontier Filter Straw for water purification. A small Sea to Summit Pak Tap water bladder, a Photon Micro light-attached to the zipper pull and a TOPS Bagdad Boxcutter knife. I did start off with a TOPS Ferret but found I could use the boxcutter to baton with being 1/4 inch thick and assigned the ferret to my Micro Fishing Kit. A mini TOPS harpoon could be substituted for a hunting tool, but then you loose the batoning advantage.
I do have a small chisel ground D2 Adze which Im thinking of combining with the spear head to have a chopping tool seperate from a hunting tool in case of actually catching something and having it decide to run off with an impaled spear head, loosing a cutting tool at the same time. The Mcnett Filter straw removes pathogens down to 2 microns and works on a charcoal filter system. Chemical types of purification tablets have short use by dates after opening and I find leave a foul taste after using. If happening to get a hole in the bladder, chemical sytems are no longer of any use without a container to use them in. The original plastic tube included with the straw has been replaced with a piece of surgical rubber tubing. This could double as a mechanism for a snare but makes it easier to pack into a small space, being foldable.
I prefer to have a bum bag kit with a first aid module included for most hikes but atleast having something attached to a belt, it will always be on you and not left in camp. It only takes a few moments to have an accident occur and not be able to reach equipment. Im also trying to figure out how to squeeze in a refective blanket. It may fit by removing the bladder from its protective pouch, but then I loose the carrying ability of the shoulder strap.�
Spark-Lite Firestarter – current U.S. military issue, waterproof, useable one-handed, over 1000 sparkings in tests
4 Spark-Lite Tinder-Quik – current U.S. military issue, waterproof, wax impregnated cotton tinder in zip-top plastic bag, each burns 2-3 minutes
Fox-40 Rescue Howler Survival Whistle – designed exclusively for this kit, triple frequency, exceeds U.S. Coast Guard and SOLAS specifications, bright yellow with dual mode lanyard hole
Rescue Flash Signal Mirror, 2 x 3 inches (5 x 7.6 cm) Lexan polycarbonate with mil-spec style retro-reflective aiming aid for one-handed use, instructions on back, protective cover to prevent scratches while stored in the kit, lanyard hole.
20mm Survival Compass – liquid damped with groove to accept an improvised lanyard ring
Duct Tape – 26 inches x 2 inches (66 x 5 cm), rolled around plastic mandrel, repairs, first aid, the ultimate repair and improvisation component, uses limited only by your imagination
Stainless Steel Utility Wire – 6 ft. of .020 inch (1.83 m x 0.5 mm) mil-spec grade, stronger than brass, won’t get brittle in frigid cold, multiple uses
Braided Nylon Cord – 10 ft. (3 m) 150+ lb. (68+ kg) test, won’t unravel, shelter building, repairs and much more
#69 Black Nylon Thread – 50 ft. (15.2 m), 10.5 lb. (4.8 kg) test, repairs, fishing line, light duty lashing and much more
Fishing Kit – 4 x medium Fish Hooks, 2 x Split Shot and 1 x Snap Swivel, in a clear plastic vial with cap.
Heavy Duty Sewing Needle – will penetrate heavy materials, easy to grip, large eye for easy threading
4 Safety Pins – repairs, secure items to prevent loss and much more
Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil – 3 sq. ft. (0.9 sq. m), make container to boil water, reflect fire heat and much more
#2 Pencil and Waterproof Notepaper – 2 pieces 2.125 x 3.667 inches (5.4 x 9.3 cm), leave notes, memory aid, keep log
#22 Scalpel Blade – stainless steel, in sealed foil packaging, more functional than a single-edged razor blade
Kit Specific Illustrated Survival Instructions – authored by Doug Ritter, 33 illustrations, on waterproof paper, detailed, easy to understand, practical information
Contents List – viewable through pouch back so anyone can see what’s inside even if kit’s owner can no longer assist, annotated, complements Survival Instructions, can be used as tinder
Fresnel Lens Magnifier – 2 x 3 inches (5 x 7.6 cm), in protective sleeve, read small type in survival instructions if glasses lost, start fire using sun
Pocketsize Clear Vinyl Pouch – 4 x 5 inches (10.2 x 12.7 cm), 4 x 3.25 inches (10.2 x 8.3 cm) with top folded over, waterproof zip-top closure, lanyard hole, it really does fit in your pocket.
Weight: 3.9 oz (111 g) – you will barely know it is there until you need it to save your life�
Spark-Lite & Tinder-Quik: I wanted a reliable and compact firestarter. Fire is just too critical to have anything but the best that would fit our packaging limitations. Ideally, it should be able to be operated with one hand and reliability concerns precluded matches and lighters. It had to be waterproof and we needed waterproof tinder to complement the firestarter.
The Spark-Lite is the current U.S. military issue firestarter. For the military it is packed in a small plastic matchbox size box with non-waterproof instructions and 8 pieces of tinder, available in OD or bright orange. We got rid of the box, included 4 pieces of tinder in a plastic zip-top bag and added the instructions to the waterproof POCKET SURVIVAL PAK’s Survival Instructions. We selected the orange version, so it is less likely to be lost if dropped.
This is an artificial (ferrocium) flint and steel firestarter, completely waterproof. If it gets wet, just shake off the water and it’s good to go. The wax-impregnated cotton tinder is also waterproof.
One of this firestarter’s big advantages is that it can be used one-handed, unlike most other flint and steel firestarters (the Ultimate Survival Blast Match being the exception, but it is far larger and heavier, almost as heavy as the entire POCKET SURVIVAL PAK, actually). Just rotate the sparking wheel of the Spark-Lite in the direction of the arrows and get a shower of sparks. It’s not unlike using a traditional lighter; the steel wheel and a flint rod under spring pressure do the job, but it generates a lot more sparks. It is rated for hundreds of sparkings and some random samples have been tested to over 1000.
The tinder is quick and easy to use, just pull it apart some to expose the finer cotton fibers and it’s ready to accept the spark. No need to waste time and effort shaving magnesium with your knife, nor do you then have to collect the small shavings, especially difficult if it’s windy. It has an unlimited storage life and doesn’t need to be kept in sealed airtight packaging, unlike Ultimate Survival’s WetFire brand tinder. Each piece of tinder will burn for two to three minutes.
Fox 40 Rescue Howler Whistle: When we started developing this kit, it was obvious that we needed a compact whistle; there wasn’t room for a full-sized one. Too many cheap kits include insubstantial novelty whistles that don’t perform well or stand up to any abuse, not something to which you’d want to trust your life. Metal whistles can present problems in cold weather; potentially freezing to a survivor’s lips, so they were also out of the question. The whistle had to be as loud as possible for the size, it had to be robust enough to stand up to abuse and it preferably would exceed U.S. Coast Guard and SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) specifications.
There were only two possible choices available that both fit the size requirements and met my minimum standards for performance and quality, the Acme 636 “Tornado” or the ACR “WW-3 Survival Whistle.” Both performed adequately, but neither had close to the performance of a Fox 40, the best performing conventional size whistles available. For years I’ve carried in my pocket a Mini-Fox 40 with the side plates cut down, resulting in a pocket-sized whistle. However, even so modified it was not small enough for our purposes. I spoke with Foxtron, manufacturer of the Fox 40 line and discovered that they had actually considered making a slim whistle, had even done some prototypes, but the project had languished on the back burner for some time.
Timing is everything and it was the right time to ask. My query, combined with the accompanying potential of a ready market for significant quantities of the whistle, was enough to move the project to the front burner. Now, all they had to do was develop a better performing whistle at a size that would fit in the kit and for a price we could afford.
The better part of a year later I was shipped a prototype. Its performance was very close to that of the full-sized Fox-40, they got that part right. Unfortunately, for our purposes at least, they got carried away with some design considerations for the mass market that resulted in a whistle a full 3/4-inch too long for our purposes. The basic whistle wasn’t too long, just the integrated carabiner style clip that they felt would give them a marketing edge. It sure did look sharp, I couldn’t argue that, but there was no way we could get it to fit. Would they make a special version just for us that was shorter with just a lanyard hole on the end? A sub-compact version of the compact whistle?
In a not inconsequential vote of confidence in the Pocket Survival Pak, they agreed to make us a special whistle. They even managed to add the feature of a dual-carriage lanyard hole so that the lanyard can be threaded side to side for comfortable flat carry around the neck, or it can be attached through a center slot for traditional or key chain carry. Either the heavy-duty nylon thread or the braided line in the PSP will work as a lanyard.
The Fox 40 Rescue Howler is a three-chamber, triple frequency whistle with the highest decibel level of any “slim” style whistle. The tested frequencies of the prototype are:
As for loudness, when measured in the same manner to the same weighted db scale (there is no industry standard), the Rescue Howler� achieved a db rating of 110. This compares to the Fox 40 Classic and Mini-Fox 40 at 115 db and the Acme Tornado at 107 db.
Bear in mind that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, so that each decibel of difference is significantly more than the db numbers suggest on their face.
This is all well and good, but the true test is in the blowing and in field tests I conducted the Fox 40 Rescue Howler� was substantially louder than the Acme and ACR whistles and could be readily heard from approximately 20% further away under a variety of circumstances. That’s an increase worth blowing your horn about, if you’ll pardon a bad pun.
The Fox 40 Rescue Howler is made of tough ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) polymer in bright Rescue Yellow so it will not be easily lost if dropped.
Like all the Fox 40 designs, it is pealess, so that it is utterly and completely reliable. It instantly blows free any water if immersed and has no chamber to collect water that could freeze.
Rescue Flash� Signal Mirror: No item of gear for this kit created more challenges than the signal mirror. I was determined that the kit have a “real” signal mirror, one with a modern, mil-spec style, retro-reflective aiming aid that allows easy one-handed aiming. None of the misrepresentation, from my point of view, of calling a mirror without an integral aimer a signal mirror. Yes, any mirror can be used for signaling, using the two-handed aiming method, but so can anything reflective; they are a signal mirror in name only.
Also, no lining up a dot on your face viewed in the reflective back side of the mirror with the aiming hole either; this style aimer is awkward at best and can be difficult to use. It’s an anachronism from before there was a better technological solution. It had to be a retro-reflective aimer where all you need to do is align the “hot spot” in the aimer with the target in order to flash it.
It also had to perform well, with a signaling range appropriate to the job. Glass, the best performing material for a signal mirror, was out of the question because of its weight and fragility. It would have to be plastic, and that posed its own share of challenges.
Commercially available plastic mirrored material is, at its best, less reflective than glass, and much of it is a good deal less reflective. While the best hand-made plastic mirrors by Rescue Reflectors approach the performance of glass, even they do not equal it and each is hand tweaked for optimal performance. Each also costs more than the entire Pocket Survival Pak.
Mass-produced molded plastic mirrors, such as the Ultimate Survival Star Flash, a consumer market version of a current mil-spec mirror, are significantly less effective than glass, but their reduced performance is still adequate and it is an acceptable exchange for the benefits that come from plastic–lighter weight and virtually unbreakable. Unfortunately, the cost for this mirror was still prohibitive and, besides, they were too thick to easily fit in the kit.
Other plastic signal mirrors we examined were all deficient in one way or another. We eventually came to the conclusion that if we wanted a decent performing signal mirror that would fit in our kit at a price we could afford, we’d have to develop and produce one ourselves, offshore.
Thus began another yearlong odyssey. Numerous prototypes arrived from a number of potential suppliers in Asia, many of which were so far from what was acceptable that at times we were very nearly ready to give up in frustration. We finally received a prototype that worked, a near duplicate of an old-fashioned mil-spec glass mirror done in polycarbonate.
The only problem was that it was too thick to fit inside the kit. The next iteration was half the thickness, with the expected somewhat lower level of performance, though still quite adequate, and better than almost any other plastic mirror available. The problem was that it was so flexible that simply gripping the mirror too tightly while signaling would cause distortion that would cut down on its performance. The third time, like they say, was the charm. Slightly thicker, it was much more rigid and the performance was better, virtually equal or better than the current mil-spec mirror in signaling performance, and in a thinner package.
In field tests under less than optimum conditions (December, signaling from an urban location with less than pristine atmospheric conditions, in other words a fair amount of smog) the 2 x 3 inch (5.1 x 7.6 cm) Rescue Flash� signal mirror was visible to an observer at approximately 3500 feet above ground level (AGL) in a light aircraft from a distance of 23 miles and was readily noticeable from 2000 ft. AGL at 15 miles. From a practical perspective, this means that if you can see a search aircraft, it will be able to see your mirror flash. It also means that you can signal the horizon or a distant ridge with a decent chance that some person or aircraft you cannot see may see your signal if they are there, out of sight.
The retro-reflective fiberglass mesh in the aimer provides a bright and distinct “hot spot” for aiming. The see-though mesh makes it far easier to aim than mirrors with more obscured retro-reflective aimers, such as the ACR Hot Shot, or a solid cut-out form, such as the StarFlash.
We also tested the mirror in an environmental testing cabinet from minus 40� to 176� F (-40� to 80� C).
The double layer design ensures that the mirrored surface and aimer are protected and cannot be damaged. The instructions on the reverse of the mirror are sandwiched between the layers of polycarbonate, providing protection from being scratched or obliterated.
These instructions were tested on numerous na�ve subjects. We tried a variety of pictographs in an attempt to avoid text instructions, but found that many na�ve subjects simply didn’t get it, while the written instructions were nearly universally understood. Space limitations on the small mirror prevented us from using both.
Obviously, non-English speaking survivors would be at a disadvantage, but that also holds true for the Survival Instructions themselves, so we decided this was an acceptable compromise. We will continue to investigate alternative means of providing instructions, but for now, this is it.
Even the best aimer has only a limited range of effectiveness, so I also included instructions for aiming using the two-handed method. This allows a survivor to hit targets at higher angles off the sun or for other group members without their own signal mirror to use any reflective item as an additional improvised signal mirror.
The polycarbonate mirror face is protected to prevent scratching in storage. It can be removed and replaced so that a purchaser can practice with the mirror.
The brightly colored background on the mirror back makes it easier to find if dropped and the high contrast makes the instructions easy to read. There is also a lanyard hole for added security as the mirror is not inherently buoyant.
20mm Button Compass: As with much of the gear in the kit, we tested a number of companies’ products until we found an affordable compass that was reliable. With a 20 mm (0.79 in.) diameter, our button compass is large enough to be useful for basic wayfinding purposes. It is liquid damped for ease of use, but the magnetism is powerful enough that it reacts reasonably quickly. The groove around the midsection can accept an improvised lanyard ring made from the POCKET SURVIVAL PAK’s included wire or thread.
Test units survived numerous flights to above 10,000 ft and back down in a Cessna 182 until we were satisfied that they generally didn’t develop a bubble, one of the Achilles heels of liquid damped compasses.
The compass is stored away from the ferrous metal components of the kit (the stainless steel wire is non-magnetic). (Please note that in some early production kits the scalpel blade was incorrectly placed under the compass and the surgical stainless steel used in that blade for improved edge-holding will affect the compass to the extent that it will appear not to work when stored in the pouch
26 inches (66 cm) of 2-inch wide Duct Tape: It’s been said that if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it isn’t really broken. Duct tape is one of the most versatile items you can have on hand in many emergencies. It’s much more useful than the 3/4-inch (19 mm) electrical tape used to seal some other kits. And, unlike other pocket kits that include only 3.5 or 12 inches (9 – 30 cm) of duct tape, we include over two feet. That’s enough to be really useful, as opposed to just being able to patch a small hole or mend a small tear.
This is the same small-diameter roll included in Adventure Medical Kits’ GearAid “Go! Repair” kit and it has proven itself up to the task in the field for short-term repairs and resistant to degradation in storage from extremes of temperature (as much as any duct tape is, at any rate; we can’t work miracles). AMK assembles these rolls themselves from bulk packaged large rolls of tape. It is wound around a 1/4-inch diameter plastic tube. The grade of tape was selected as a compromise between a heavy industrial grade or mil-spec grade tape that is much thicker and would have allowed less than half as much in the same size roll and the very lightweight consumer grades that do not have as much tensile strength or as strong an adhesive.
6 ft. of .020 inch Stainless Steel Utility Wire: This is mil-spec grade safety lock wire (Type 302/304 MS20995 C 20) as commonly used on aircraft, spacecraft and race cars. It is stronger than brass wire, both in tensile strength and in resistance to fatigue, so it is less likely to break in use or in twisting. It is also less subject to embrittlement in very cold conditions. Being tougher, it can be more difficult to break if the survivor has no wire cutters (multi-purpose tool – Leatherman, etc.), so instructions for breaking it are included in the annotated Contents List.
10 ft. of Braided Nylon Cord: This braided nylon line is rated a minimum 150 lb. (68 kg) test. While some of the line we tested went as high as 205 lb. (93 kg) test, we chose to list the lower number to be on the conservative side in case suppliers change.
Poly line is cheaper, but not nearly as strong. Twisted line is cheaper, but unravels badly when cut and isn’t as strong.
50 ft. of #69 Black Nylon Thread / Fishing Line: This is heavy-duty nylon thread, not cheaper and weaker polyester. At a minimum of 10.5 lb. (4.8 kg) test, it is strong enough to double as fishing line. I’ve caught some nice sized fish using this line and the rest of the fishing gear in the kit.
Fishing Kit: The fishing kit is contained in a clear plastic vial with a press-fit cap. The fishing kit includes 4 medium Fish Hooks, 2 Removable Split Shot and 1 Snap Swivel. These are stored in a plastic zip-top bag to prevent rattles.
The decision to include the fishing gear was not easy. One could easily argue that it is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things for a kit designed primarily to help support someone for a brief survival experience where sustenance, food, isn’t much of an issue.
In part, inclusion was a marketing decision based on the fact that most pocket kits include some fishing gear. It’s expected. And, there are plenty of hard-earned lessons in business that you ignore consumers’ expectations at your peril. When I researched what to include in my kit and how to set priorities for inclusion by surveying potential customers, a fishing kit was almost always on the list. Luckily, the cost of including fishing gear is relatively minuscule compared to almost everything else in the kit.
There is also another aspect to this. Having taken care of the basics such as medical issues, fire, shelter and signaling; a survivor is often faced with a potentially demoralizing psychological crisis–boredom. Fishing is one way to combat boredom, and again, it costs little to provide this therapeutic “escape.”
Some of this fishing gear can also be used for small game and bird snares.
Having decided to include some fishing gear, we decided to incorporate more than the one or two fish hooks commonly provided in many pocket survival kits. The assortment provides enough gear to get the job done, even if you lose a few pieces.
Fishhook size was selected to catch smaller fish within the weight range the tackle should be able to deal with. As the old saw goes, you can catch a big fish with a small hook, but you can’t catch a small fish with a big hook. But, too small is only asking to be frustrated. They are bait hooks because that’s the most likely way they will be used.
It was decided that a snap swivel should be included, despite the high cost relative to the rest of the fishing gear, as a result of advice from those more experienced than me who insist that a swivel makes for much more effective attraction of the fish when using improvised lures. It just makes sense to follow the advice of those with the expertise, so we did.
Heavy Duty Sewing Needle: Large enough to penetrate heavier materials and able to be used while wearing gloves, this needle also boasts a fairly large eye making it easier to thread. The needle is stored in the plastic vial, secured to the plastic bag of fishing gear to keep it from rattling and getting lost.
4 Safety Pins: A safety pin is often the most expedient way to repair clothing or gear. It is also useful in securing other gear so it doesn’t get lost. Instead of just a single safety pin that many kits include, and often a small one at that, we include 4 medium-large safety pins. These are also stored in the plastic vial.
(Again, I’d like to emphasize that we have taken extra precautions that the metal objects stored in the plastic vial do not rattle)
3 sq. ft. (0.91 m) Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil: Sturdier than standard lightweight foil, ours has enough substance that with care it can be used to form a container to boil water for purification purposes. It can also be used as a reflector behind a fire, to protect dry wood under a fire built on snow (if there’s no ready supply of green wood) as well as for many other purposes.
Miniature #2 Pencil and 2 pieces Waterproof Notepaper, 2.125 x 3.667 inches: Whether leaving a message for rescuers, writing yourself a note so you don’t forget something critical, or for keeping a log of your experience, it is a lot better if the paper doesn’t turn to mush if it gets wet.
#22 Scalpel Blade: First off, this is not a substitute for a real knife. The POCKET SURVIVAL PAK retail package “BONUS” Insert recommends a good knife always be carried in addition to this PSP. However, an ultra-sharp blade such as this can be very useful and it serves as a back-up for your primary blade. This stainless steel blade is packaged in sealed foil, preventing rust and corrosion. It won’t rust like the cheap single edge razor blades included in many pocket survival kits. Compared to the single edge razor blade often packed in lesser kits, this blade is more robust and has a real point and belly to the blade for more versatile functionality. The blade can be attached to a piece of branch using the wire in the POCKET SURVIVAL PAK to improvise a knife with a handle.
Fresnel Lens Magnifier – 2 x 3 inches: The primary purpose of this magnifier is to make it easier to read the relatively small print of the Survival Instructions, particularly if eye glasses or contacts are lost. It will also function as a back-up fire starter, if the sun is out.
Contents List: This list is visible through the back of the kit pouch, so anyone who picks it up will know what is included, even if the original “owner” is unable to assist. It is annotated with suggestions or instructions for use of some of the items and was written by me.
Pocketsize Clear Vinyl Pouch: At 4 x 5 inches (10 x 13 cm), this pouch is truly pocket-sized and features a waterproof zip-top closure. The top can be folded over to reduce the width to a mere 3.5 inches (8.9 cm). When sealed with the standard contents inside it will float. You can add up to 4 ounces (11 g) additional contents, double what’s there, and it will still float, even without purposely trapping additional air inside. The hole provided for pegboard display can be used to attach a lanyard for added security or alternative carry, such as around the neck. The hole will support 25 lbs. (11 kg) in tension with #15 twine before failing.
This is the same pouch Adventure Medical Kits has long used for its Pocket Medic and Blister Medic kits, among others, and is well proven in the field. The pouch is sturdy and will stand up to a good deal of abuse, but the entire kit is somewhat flexible (bearing in mind the rigid mirror that serves to anchor the kit), adding to the comfort quotient and ease of carriage in almost any pocket. It remains flexible even in frigid temperatures, we tested it to -40� F (-40� C).
The clear pouch is a compromise between the toughness of a metal or plastic hard container and the deficits they bring in comfort, bulk and cost. While it isn’t as durable as a metal or hard plastic container, the clear pouch allows the high quality contents to be seen in a retail display so there’s nothing hidden, and to also check on their condition to ensure they are all still there and in good condition. Since it can be opened and resealed (with one hand, I might add), a purchaser can practice with the firestarter and the signal mirror and there is plenty of room to add personal medications, some matches or a small lighter, or water purification tablets to name a few possibilities.
Contents list written by Doug Ritter
How to use a Star Flash Signal Mirror
Where to Purchase Kits