by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Most are absolutely useless...
Regardless as to whether they are the commercially assembled and sold ones or the instructions that are given to assemble your own “survival kit” most of them are totally and utterly useless and a waste of time and money, and in addition to that most of the kits that are cheap contain items that are of inferior quality and thus make the kit more useless still.
The great majority of those kits, whatever name they go by, contain first of all many items you never ever will have to use, and thus are but a burden to carry and secondly for a knife they often have a cheap, single edge razor blade included which is not just useless but dangerous. Most, if not indeed, all of the so-called SAS survival kits the SAS troops would not be seen dead with.
The so-called wire saw also is a waste of time and money, even though they are cheap. As is the fishing kit, the wire snares and such like. For, when you are lost in the wilderness you don't what to stay there, you want to get out.
I have seen so much garbage included in so-called pocket kits that made the mind boggle but people cannot – it would seem – understand and do not want to believe that those kits are all but useless because, they say, this or that survival expert recommends doing it this way. You do not get a decent kit for under $10 or even under $20. A really good small kit even costs you a great deal more and it will be but a few, but quality and really useful items. However, that is not what the vendors want to tell you or sell you. There is not profit in it for them.
On the other hand you should not, in my opinion, unless you really want to, buy a ready-made kit but compile one for yourself that really will fulfill your needs.
A good sturdy single bladed folding pocketknife – ideally with a lock that will not break – and the only one that I really would ever recommend for this purpose is the Opinel #6
Emergency whistle of some kind
A good small fluid filled compass with base plate (about the size of a large postage stamp) from Suunto or Silva
A folding bit can opener – P-38 would be the most common one
About 10 assorted safety pins, with the smaller ones threaded onto the pin of the largest one
A BIC butane cigarette lighter
A pencil (stub if you want to have a really small kit) and a small notepad
A small flashlight, such as a Mini Maglite might also be good to have in your kit.
And that is about it...
Fishing kit, wire snare, wire saw, and other gimmicks are not something that you will need, though a small heliograph (signal mirror with aiming hole) could be useful should you have to attract search aircraft or such like.
Also forget the multi-tools, even good ones like Leatherman and such in any small personal daily carry survival kits as you will tend to leave the entire thing at home because it is getting too big and heavy. And, I am sure, you do not wish to walk around town in a load bearing vest with all the pockets full of kit, especially not when you happen to be going to the office and neither do you want to carry it in your rucksack or briefcase.