Bushlore Topics > Wilderness Survival

Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?

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Moe M.:
   Along about four years ago I started a thread titled When survival turns serious,  it was a discussion about just how one small laps in judgement can have life changing ramifications, it's was framed around the story of a hunter who made a couple of small decisions that got him injured, lost, and finely ended up taking his life.
   The story I used was from Mike Barton's Bushcraft Barton's U-tube channel,  it was titled "The lost Hunter",  it's still up I believe and can be found using that title on his channel, this thread is a departure from the old one but along the same lines.

   I've been seeing allot of forum chatter lately on outdoor forums touting the usefulness of Personal survival kits,  the kind that packs away in an Altoids Tin,  Compass pouch, or even a cargo pocket,  they are truly an exercise in futility, everyone I'm sure is familiar with the size of the average Altoids and Sucret tins,  they are about a big as the average shirt pocket and they don't hold much in the way of survival items.
  The average PSK might carry items such as matches, a small Bic lighter, or a ferro rod, along with a small knife, water purification tablets,  dental floss for cordage, a few band aids for cuts, a piece of fatwood, maybe some lip balm, and other assorted survival items that can be fit into the kit.
  The idea being that with these small items carried on ones person as an EDC one would be in pretty good shape survival wise in most any emergency,  personally I'm more than a bit skeptical about such claims,  but I do try to keep an open mind about things like this.
  Most members that have been here for a few years have heard my story of getting myself "twisted"  in a cedar swamp in Maine while caught in a freak white out snow storm, it was one of those learning experiences that stay with you the rest of your life.
  What I learned was that schitt happens fast,  most survival situations don't always happen as planned, and what ever survival stuff you have in your survival kit had better be more than what will fit in a candy tin or a cargo pocket of your pants.
  I've no doubt that in good weather with allot of natural resources and time to act one of those little PSK can help you survive for a few days in the wilds depending on what you have in them ,  and then there's the standard arguments often used by PSK fans "Pocket survival kits are better than no kit at all",  "The more you know, the less you need to carry",  or "Skills trump tools".
  I just can't argue with that kind of logic,  but I can point out that in my opinion,  different environments call for different tactics and tools,  time is not always on your side,  bigger tools usually make tasks less difficult, usually get them done much quicker and often better constructed,  a construction trash bag is not a shelter by anyone's standard,  being caught in a fast moving storm, rain, snow, wind, and sleet can rob you of core body temperature pretty quick,  if all you have is a pen knife and a piece of space blanket you aren't going to get a suitable shelter up before it's too late,  you're also going to need a fire, ground wood is wet,  there is dry standing dead wood available,  an axe, folding saw, even a stout bushcraft knife would make the job go faster,  but for the  "personal survival knife" with a 2" blade that fits in your tin it's going to be a big job and take a long time to get your fire going, hypothermia can kill you in less than fifteen minutes.

  So, where do you stand on pocket sized survival kits ?     

For once we agree on something, Moe.  I put fire starting stuff in the Altoids tin but that kit is part of a much larger survival pack.

I think the benefit is in the thought processes of building the kit. Thinking things through to decide what goes in, some of it the inventiveness, hacking, repurposing necessary to make things fit. And, then perhaps the diligence in keeping on one's person.

The tin, being small, enforces limits on what can be added. It's cheap and easy to get-which makes it something anyone can try.
The utility is questionable if that were all one had in the world, but obviously better than nothing if something bad happened.

It can be kinda fun to put together as an exercise and imo what they are for- a thought exercise and experiment

Unk, I think the thought process is beneficial, it is the faith in a tiny can of tiny tools to save your ass that troubles me.  Water, Shelter/heat, and food does not fit in the Altoids can.  Unless you can live on curiously strong mints.

I don't limit what I take along in my truck or SUV when we go somewhere in the winter.  I am a little less prepared in the summer but do always carry a blanket and water.  In winter weather I carry a first aid kit, a knife, fire starter kit, a blanket, small tarp, shovel, and high lift jack in my truck along with a few other items depending on the weather.  A rain coat, stove, water, small food supply box, and winter boots.  I have not had occasion to use them. 

A friend, who lives over in Wyoming, did get to use his gear last year in a blizzard.  Returning home from a wedding or some similar family thing, he got stopped on the highway by deep drifts and a closed road.  He sat there for about twelve hours.  He cooked his supper on a white gas stove he keeps in the  cab, slept in his sleeping bag, and was generally as comfortable as being at home except for the bathroom.  He had plenty of water and food and could have easily stayed three or four days if the storm had not abated and the snowplows gotten through.  There were other motor vehicles stopped there as well.   


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