Here’s a question I got recently. It applies to everyone and I wanted to share it with you here:
“If you only had 5 items to help you survive, what 5 items would you choose? Please leave out your brain as one of the items because having one is not a choice. Using it might be, but everyone has one!” -Bob
Well, Bob, I have to include my brain. Everyone may have one, but I’m sure you can think of people who don’t use theirs…and in a survival situation you MUST keep your head.
In fact, your brain will be your single most important tool in a survival situation. Your ability to stay calm, remember skills that you have practiced and execute them under stress will trump any wiz bang survival items that you have.
I cover this extensively in the survival course, but if you lose control of your mind, you can die quicker than if someone is holding your head under water. It is absolutely critical to train your brain for survival.
And, by training your brain, one of the things I’m referring to is inoculating your brain to handle stress like you would inoculate your body to handle a virus. I also mean getting your brain to think of non-traditional solutions to problems, keeping focus under stress, and thinking up solutions that are both strategic and tactical. And finally, training your brain means learning skills so that you know how to do without as many survival supplies as possible.
After my brain, my focus would be on multi-use items that can help with as many of the fundamentals of survival as possible.
Specifically, sheltering my body, making fire, making drinkable water, getting food, providing security, and taking care of medical issues…trauma in particular.
By far, the most important tool to accomplish these goals in both a wilderness and urban environment is a knife. And the best possible knife? You might laugh at this, but it’s the one you have with you when your life depends on it.
This is common sense, but when you’re 5 miles from home on foot after a disaster, the cheap folder that lives in your pocket will always beat the $200 fixed blade sitting safe at home.
What that means for me is that I always carry a good, solid folder that I have a few of.
When I buy multiples of the same knife, I beat the snot out of one of them to make sure I can trust it. I use it to split wood, throw it in the ground and into wood, hammer with it, pry with it, and of course cut a lot of stuff with it.
The particular knife doesn’t matter and my opinion on brands doesn’t really matter. This is something that everyone needs to do for themselves so that they know…not because of what I’ve said or anyone else has said…but because of what they’ve seen and experienced they know they can trust their life to the knife that they’re carrying.
With a knife and solid skills that you’ve practiced, you can take care of a lot of basic survival concerns.
After my knife, I almost always have a small multi tool on me or near me, regardless of where I am. They don’t do anything as well as a purpose built tool, but they do a LOT of things better than I can with my bare hands. I like Leatherman and Gerber multi-tools
The third thing that I always have near or on me is a small tactical flashlight. I keep it near me during the day and on me when flying or anytime I’m going to be out at night.
Those would be my first tier, and after that, most items can be improvised and they really depends on the environment, expected needs, and your skill set.
Here’s a few examples of what I mean.
In an urban environment, a lockpick set is right at the top of the list for me, but that doesn’t have very much value in a wilderness environment or if you don’t know how to use one. It’s also something that I can make a field expedient version of in a bind…especially with a multi-tool.
When I’m doing long distance trail running, I always carry a mylar space blanket, but that isn’t very necessary in an urban environment.
I usually have cord with me, in the form of laces, 550 cord, or rope, but I can make substitutes in urban environments with wire, torn bed sheets, or other items depending on the particular application.
Firecraft is important, but with all of the resources to make fire in an urban environment, it’s not nearly as important to carry firemaking materials with you as it is in the wilderness.
Even in the wilderness, once you know how to do a hand drill and/or a bow drill, you really don’t need much to make a fire, although a good firestarter and tinder bundle is VERY nice, especially when you’re cold, tired, and can’t get gathered tinder to light.
An important point to remember is that your particular top 5 is going to depend on your particular skillset, location, and even your physical and medical condition. Lockpicks are important to me because I know how how to use them, but they may have no value to you.
Lighters aren’t as important to me because I know several ways to make fires if I need to. I still carry lighters in my car, but I usually don’t carry one on me.
But my top 5 is going to be different from your top 5 and many other people’s top 5.
If you’re completely blind without corrective lenses, then they are going to be in your top 5. If you have a heart condition, one of your top 5 items will probably be a vial of nitroglycerin.
In GENERAL, you want to develop the number of skills you know and how well you can do them so that you need as little “stuff” as possible to survive, no matter what you face. At first, it’s natural to depend on “stuff,” because stuff is one way to help you survive until you develop the skills necessary to survive without “stuff” so don’t worry if your list of items that you need is 10 or 20 items long to start with. You can always develop more skills to pare that number down.
I’ll tell you this. It’s incredibly empowering to keep replacing the “stuff” that you need to survive with skills that can never be taken away from you and I encourage you to take consistent steps to do just that.
Unless you haven’t been on email this week, you know that Tim Larkin at Target Focus Training put together a “Lethal Weapons” empty hands combat training package at a 54% discount for my readers this week.
If you like the idea of being able to replace “stuff” with “skills,” you’ll really appreciate this training package. I was just telling a good friend of mine that even though I almost always carry pepper spray, a knife, and a firearm, I STILL consider my hand to hand skills to be my primary weapon.
The reality of the most violent attacks is that they don’t start with a standoff from 10-15 feet away. They start with you getting hit, stabbed, or having a gun pressed up against you.
I LOVE firearms, and they’re hard to beat when you have time to deploy them, but smart attackers are going to make you fight to even be able to get to your firearm or other weapons.