Mini Survival Kits - Travel Safer, Travel Smarter

Hawke talks on creating small, personalized and portable survival kits.

By Mykel Hawke

Photo by CatLane

Sometimes, things go wrong. When they do, how you respond can make all the difference. If you are prepared, even a little, it can help manage the problem better and resolve it sooner.

In Special Operations, we have a saying- “Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” I say, “the day you don’t have it, is the day you need it.” So, having a survival kit on you at all times means most likely, you will never need it. And there are no downsides to having a kit on you. However, size and type can be impactful, as most folks do not have the space to have a full-blown survival bag filled with everything they could possibly need. So, we are going to take a look at some smarter ways to travel safer.

Firstly, let’s talk about different kinds of kits. I recommend that folks carry a mini survival kit in their purse, briefcase or backpack every single day, without fail. If you frequently use a vehicle, plane or boat, be sure to have one inside whatever your mode of transport is. And if you have a regular destination like the office or a cabin, keep a full-blown kit there as well as at home. Make your kit tailored to the number of people under your care and the special needs of those people, such as elderly or children and even pets. These can be small sizes that fit into a small Ziplock or mint box, a larger satchel or container or right on up to even a full backpack.

Next, you need to consider what your contents should be. I teach that there are eight basic pillars of survival. The four primary pillars are what everyone needs all the time- Food, Water, Fire & Shelter, but the four secondary pillars are usually equally as important and often are completely overlooked. The secondary pillars are Communications (also called Signals) Navigation (often hand in hand with movement by any means, but usually by foot), Medicine (which includes both illness and injury needs) and Security (which includes, tools for safety such as knives, weapons, alarms and devices to help protect, defend or hunt, fish and/or trap if needed to survive).

Here are some ideas for what to consider packing:

FOOD- Jerky, Power Bars, MRE’s, Vitamins, Dried Foods

WATER- A durable bottle, Purification Tablets, Mechanical filters

FIRE- Lighter, Matches, Tinder, Fire starters, Mag Bar, Ferro Rod

SHELTER- Tiny Tent, Bivvy Sac, Large Trash bag, Space Blanket

NAVIGATION- GPS, Spot, Beacon Transponder, Map, Compass

COMMUNICATION-Phone, Radio, Mirror, Whistle, Flashlight

SECURITY- Knife, Gun, Tools, Alarms, Trip String, Pepper Spray

MEDICINE- Dressings for Trauma & Medications for Illnesses

Lastly, it is important to note that a medical kit is another form of survival kit and as such, I recommend making one of each. For all of these, you will also need to consider your skills and your situation. It is usually thought that the more you know, the less you need, and generally that holds true. However, even a pro like myself likes to have what I need when I need it, so I always have my two kits: survival and medical. I will have these in three layers: personal (on me), mobile (in my transport), and stationary (my main base or regular destination). Each reflects in size and content what I need to take care of myself and my loved ones in any exigency.

I have made many kits over the years, for FEMA, the State Department, Combat Search and Rescue as well as for friends and family. These are fun projects to take on and share with loved ones. Take some time to research your needs and make what you need, but also, play with them, use them and refresh them annually.

For more information on kits, readers can go to