Bushlore Topics > Wilderness Survival

Pocket PSK's and real survival ?

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Moe M.:
  It was suggested in another thread that this might be a good topic for discussion,  in it I posted my opinion that small pocket sized PSK's constructed around Altoid and similar sized containers were more flights of fancy than they were serious attempts at securing realistic help in the event of an emergency survival situation in which a person might face being stranded for day or more without necessary resources such as water, fire, shelter, food, or medical attention.
 I will stipulate that I do agree that anything that someone carries with them for such a situation is better than having nothing,  but I would suggest that in most real wilderness survival situations the size and quantity of the items able to be carried in such a small kit would probably not be enough for most people to insure survival.
 That said,  we are privy to quite a few reality survival shows today that depict survival specialist that get dropped off in harsh and often dangerous and remote places with nothing but the clothes on their backs and sometimes not even that,  and they manage though uncomfortable to survive for anywhere from several days to several weeks,  but it must be recognized that they are highly skilled and experienced  specialist in the field of survival (a fact that no doubt some of us might argue),  much more so than the average woods bum.
 So, with that thought in mind,  do you carry a PSK when you leave home,  do you carry one only when you're in the bush,  if you have a kit,  what survival items do you keep in it ?

 I've recounted on this forum a time or two of an experience I had when I was much younger while on a hunting trip,  I did a lot of things wrong,  got myself twisted in a freak white out snow storm and had to admit to myself that I didn't know which way to go,  if I choose the wrong direction I'd be really screwd, two directions would keep me in the woods for a day or two,  one direction would bring me deeper into the wilderness and across the Canadian border,  only one direction would bring me back to where I needed to be,  my compass had failed and all I could see around me was cedar swamp and a raging blizzard.
 When I left camp that morning I thought I was pretty well equiped for the day,  it was looking like a sunny day, temps in the +40's,  I was dressed for the weather, was going to scout in the morning and meet my three buddies for lunch back at the truck to discuss what sign we had seen for the afternoon hunt,  I had my rifle, half a dozen cartridges, my bird & trout knife,  deer drag line, some TP,  a couple of candy bars, half a pack of smokes, lighter,  canteen full of water, USGI canteen cup,  a couple of tea bags and a packet of hot coco mix,  what more could I need,  I was soon to find out,  it wasn't near as much as I needed and a lot less than I would have wanted.
 My kit today is a lot different than it was on that day in my life.

  I invite your views.     :fire1: 

Recently survived a miserable cold night soaking wet and not being able to reach land on a SUP.  Gear lost in the dark. 

Just got back from another 3 day Pot and Machete.  Pot, machete, clothes on your back.

yeah... yet another PSK change immediately.  No it won't fit in an Altoids can...LMAO.  Who came up with that?

Unless you live in Central FL, my kit won't jive with your needs.

Justin Pierce:
I think building an altoid tin psk is a hobby people enjoy, but for me it's not really  useful or comforting item to have. So I guess the short answer is, no I don't have one.
What I take varies greatly. My needs when I'm 3 miles off shore on the ice are way different than a July canoe trip.
Most survival kits are more about comfort and convenience than bare bones survival.
I can survive for a long time miserable and uncomfortable. I'd rather thrive in comfort, and an Altoids tin ain't gonna do it for me.


--- Quote from: Moe M. on February 01, 2015, 11:31:05 AM ---
 So, with that thought in mind,  do you carry a PSK when you leave home,  do you carry one only when you're in the bush,  if you have a kit,  what survival items do you keep in it ?

  I invite your views.     :fire1: 

--- End quote ---

I think this is a very healthy topic.  So let me start by answering your questions then move on to my philosophy and observations. 

Yes I carry a PSK of sorts.  Not one of those altoids tins stuffed full of items like razor blades and Gerber Shard Keychain Tool (my vote for most useless tool ever.)  Everything I carry is full size with the exception of the button compass and the squeeze light. 
- SAK Fieldmaster (whatever model I choose it must have saw, scissors, knife, and awe)
- Ferrocerium rod
- Jewelers loop (very powerful magnifying glass that will start fires on even marginal sun days.)
- button compass
- Proton squeeze light
- One liter Whirl Pack Bag
- Water purification tablets (chlorine dioxide type) 
- bug wipes
- wet wipes

I carry it all the time but mostly because I would forget it if the plan was to put it in my pocket as I was getting out of the car heading into the woods.  It really is just like my firearm and is a part of me.  Kit on one side firearm on the other balances thing out nicely. 

Now is this the only thing I take secure in the knowledge that I could survive for years in the backcountry on these few items?  Heck no.  It would suck to be stuck overnight with those few items.  When I am heading into the backcountry I have one of four packs that has better gear for survival if needed.  So my philosophy is my PSK is only if I get seperated from my pack.  I guess to be honest I have also used the flashlight out of it when the one I was using died due to my stupidity of not putting fresh batteries in it before leaving.  A side note on this is that little flashlight was better than nothing but it did not throw out light far enough to easily see where the trail went in the fall when covered by leaves.  My kit is intended to do only two things.  Let me know the directions and make a fire.

Back in the day I had one of those hollow handle knives with the gear in it.  Well I learned a lesson there.  The wire saw broke about about three strokes and the rest of the stuff in there was just as much junk.  I think that is what really turned me off to the idea of a altoids tin idea.  Really most people who are found alive are found within 72 hours.  Not much need for snare wire or fishing line as water and warmth is more of a requirement than food will ever be. 

Two of my packs are SAR packs.  One is intended for wilderness and one for urban.  However to my confusion most of the time they have us using the urban one even in wooded environments.  These are packed to specifications.  We have a blue plastic tarp for shelter.  I would put a better one in there but we use those for carrying victims and all kinds of things and I don't want to tear up an expensive tarp when I can just replace that one ever few uses.  Anyway those packs have enough to get by easily.  What is totally bizarre to me is they also require that we carry a PSK but the thing is in a quart ziplock bag and is too big to only carry in the pack.  If I have my pack why do I need this stupid bag of junk.  Up until just a couple of months ago you were required to have two quarters in the kit.  Quick deploy a search team to find a pay phone.  To me this is the most worthless PSK of all time.  And you are required to have one in both your wilderness pack and urban pack.  Added weight and little to no value. 

My backpacking pack is the ultralight long distance pack that has everything you need to survive for several days in pretty good comfort.  So during those trips the PSK would only come into play if a bear steals my pack or I get lost from camp while using the rest room. 

My daypack is the typical bushcraft small military style.  Right now it has two shelters in it.  LOL  It has that Gatewood cape I reviewed and a tarp.  It would not be as comfortable as my regular backpacking pack but I would be just fine if I had to spend a night or two with it.  At some point I should do a break down and let the experts here critique it. 

Call it want you want.  A PSK or just redundant gear but I want at least three items in my pocket just in case I get seperated from my pack.  Knife, way to make fire, and compass.  I guess maybe someone will say I am overly paranoid since I normally have my belt knife with a firesteel and my good compass in my pocket anyway.  It is not paranoia as I have no expectation of every needing those things but I like knowing they are there. 

I think it COULD be feasible, but why? Won't most pockets fit a ziplock?

After the Pot & Machete challenge, I'd say two critical pieces missing are a durable water container and at least a full sized knife (if not a big knife). A bag and tablets is a joke compared to a metal pot or bottle and a tiny SAK is not going to work like a bigger knife for firewood, shelter, etc (especially when time, energy and morale are key). Breaking down wood/collecting sticks won't cut it when your dependent on the fire for warmth all night...

Other than that, I suppose a ferro rod, a space blanket, a drum liner, some fishing tackle, a compass, water tabs, a small flashlight, small knife for light tasks, and some wire/small cordage would be sufficient for a couple uncomfortable moderately comfortable nights in the woods (with dry-ish, 32* or higher weather).

I'll say that any further complications make things much more difficult (wet, lost, immobile, below freezing, etc.).


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