by Ken Rasmussen


   I recently fulfilled a lifelong ambition by assembling a comprehensive survival kit. I’ve paid lip service to the wisdom of carrying one for most of my life, but I’ve never put together a really good one, and most of the time I haven’t taken the trouble to carry much more than a space bag, matches, and a knife--though those are three good picks. It is easy to purchase a survival kit. Some of them are as small as a sardine tin, and fit comfortably into a pants pocket. However, it you look at the items in those kits and contemplate the prospect of actually spending a couple of days making do, it is daunting. When I prepare for a couple of days outdoors I want a hiking pack full of gear in order to be safe and comfortable. How do you get enough equipment for safety and some degree of comfort into a packet small enough to take with every time you ski, kayak, hike or ride a mountain bike? It is especially difficult if one is a performance oriented athlete with an interest in traveling far, fast and light.
    My first problem was to find something to carry the kit in. I thought it should be a pot with a watertight lid so that it could also be useful for cooking. I spent hours searching the internet and shops for something suitable before I stumbled across the MSR Stowaway Pot. It is made in several sizes. The smallest is 475 milliliter volume, and though the lid is not completely watertight, it is nearly so. An added bonus is that the handle folds over the top of the pot and secures the lid. I was wondering how I was going to be able to pull my pot out of a fire, so I was delighted by the versatile locking handle. It is waterproof enough for most kinds of use, though I keep it in a zip lock bag or put tape around the lid when I carry it in my kayaking guide vest so I won’t get water in it if I roll. The dimensions of the pot are four and one half inches in diameter and two and three quarters inches tall, excluding a couple of projections of the handle. The weight of the finished kit is one and a half pounds. I’d like it better if it weighed two ounces and fit in a sardine size tin, but it is small and light enough that I don’t mind carrying it. I have extra motivation since I actually did spend three days and two nights in the mountains without equipment about twenty years ago. It was not very pleasant, and I would have paid anything for some basic gear. The contents are as follows:

space bag
1 gallon zip lock bag for water
24 water purification tablets                                                               
24 tablets for removing bad taste from purified water
match case with flint
14 storm proof matches with striker
10 pieces of tinder
disposable lighter
9 birthday candles, trick type that don’t blow out
sturdy lockback knife, sharp
coil saw
single edge razor blade
button compass
bobbin full of strong thread
12’ of heavy cord
3’ of copper wire for snares
30’ of fishline or cord
2 lead fishing sinkers
9 fish hooks
2 fishing lures
1 9’ tapered fly leader (tapered leader will probably break at the hook, losing less line)
8 Oatfields licorice toffees
2’ of plastic electrical tape
5 3” Band-Aids
3 antiseptic wipes
2 packets of antibiotic ointment
2 insect repellent wipes
2 safety pins
plastic signal mirror
can opener