During the course of my career as a Green Beret, I was issued many things, some I was made to turn back in to the Army and others I was allowed to keep. My Pelican 1020 Survival kit was one of the items I was allowed to keep: originally intended to keep a soldier alive during an escape and evade situation, it was rendered obsolete by a more modern idea, leaving it to a list of items that the military no longer wanted. I was giddy and thrilled, finding out the news that I was able to keep something. The Army was finally paying out dividends (granted, old crappy outdated dividends but payments nonetheless.) So I set out on a quest to perfect my little military nest egg in a vain attempt to stick it to the Man. As if saying, “You gave me what you thought was a piece of junk, Mr. Man, and I actually have the proverbial Cadillac of today’s survival kits. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, DOD.” I finally got over on the military through decommissioned goods. I have no real need for a survival kit in my day-to-day life, but when staying out in the field you never know.
“I would rather have and not need than need and not have.” Sound logic to live by, people. I don’t want to call what I am doing preaching, but a few could take a note or two.
The survival kit as Issued to SF soldiers in 5th SFG(A) contains:
-One 1020 Pelican case
Water resistant, not proof. Used to house the following in a neat and orderly fashion:
-One small Write in the Rain pad (green)
To take notes with in case you slowly are going crazy in the field or you like coloring with a black pen (see the next point). In reality it is to take notes so as to not go crazy, make a calendar, or write down thoughts and ideas.
-One wrist band
To hold the compass (see next point).
-One wrist band compass
To navigate in an emergency, I repeat emergency, wrist compasses will get you going in a direction but are highly inaccurate. A wrist compass in trained hands is about as useful as a regular compass in untrained hands. Think I am wrong? Show up to Navigator and I or another cadre will prove it.
-One Leatherman Squirt multi-tool
Contains all the goodies that normally come with a Leatherman: knife, pliers, screwdrivers, scissors, you name it. Find a use for it; I’m not here to solve all of your problems.
-One signal mirror
This item is useful when signaling aircraft that are looking for you. Don’t go attempting to hail me on a Southwest flight going to my next Challenge because I will not see it. This is designed for low-flying aircraft that are looking down. There are much better ways to signal aircraft than using a mirror; I believe this was added to the kit to calm the lost person down.
-One flint and striker combo (spring-loaded)
This thing is a piece of junk. Yes, it produces sparks, but it sucks. There are many more on the market that are better.
-One blue light thumb flashlight
Flashlight, plain and simple. Don’t waste its battery, it will eventually go out.
-One snare wire
If you don’t know how to snare anything, learn. There are hundreds of books out there that will show you. Once you have learned from your reference, go put your knowledge to use and attempt to catch something.
-One laser pointer
I don’t know. It is stupid and useless; I just threw it away.
-One hand saw
Spooled cable with finger holds at each end. This thing is actually a good piece of equipment but be careful, it is delicate.
So, you have heard all my thoughts on what was issued to me. I try to carry this wherever I go in my GR1 except on airplanes, because TSA would blow a gasket if I tried to sneak this stuff through security. All of the items previously listed are extremely minimalist, which is important when packing into a Pelican 1020. There are certain components that are more important than others but they all serve a purpose. In order of importance: making a fire, then tools to make shelter/other tools like the Leatherman and cable saw, then everything else. It is that simple. Chances are that you will never find yourself in a survival situation with a survival kit; that is just the way things work, and it’s Murphy’s Law at its finest. So what you should use your kit for is the foreseeable future, like planned water purifications and fire starting when camping.
Getting into the “add to and take away section,” here are my upgrades, so to speak. I have taken away a significant amount from my kit, as should you if you have purchased a complete one (which will be a waste of money. It is a seller’s world in the survival kit game.)
Without further ado, my modifications:
Let us not be ridiculous and think we are going to be boiling water every night to purify; yes, you can do that, but then you have to drink hot water or wait. Iodine takes 30 minutes and is completely effective. Don’t be a weirdo boiling all the time.
-10ft of 550 cord
If you ask me why I have 550 cord, you obviously have no place in the field. Go home. I’m kidding, but really, 10ft is the ideal amount to fit in a 1020 pelican case and not take up additional space.
-A Bic lighter
What is it, something like 3000 guaranteed lights? How can you say no?
You don’t need a kit; you already have thread through gutted 550. Just bring the needles; they may become your best friend.
-Same goes for safety pins
If you have a headlamp, carry a spare set of batteries for it. I want to reiterate, this kit will best serve you as a semi-emergency kit, not an “Oh my god I just crashed my plane and just happen to have my survival kit with me.”
-Upgraded flint and steel, and waterproof matches
Here is where mainstream REI and EMS actually come in handy. You can never have enough ways to make a fire. Fire is awesome, it’s warm, it cooks stuff, and it keeps bugs away.
Those are my would-be additions to the “new and improved survival kit by Chris.” Certain things you have to take into consideration, such as the size of your item. Just because it comes in packages of a dozen does not mean you are meant to have twelve in your kit. It is easy to get carried away with survival items; I could easily fill a GR1 with just survival items, but that is not the point. The point is to have a small case of problem-solving items that each have a purpose and that the user is well versed in using.
For the removals, number one is the signal mirror. Though a good idea, it is only useful when there is a low-flying plane nearby that is on the lookout. The same signal effect could be accomplished with a large fire, and in the case of an emergency you could just burn everything around you until someone spots you. That’s what I would do; screw the environment, it’s not actively trying to save my life. Number two, the laser pointer. Do we really have to go over this again? Those are my deductions. I would love to say there is more to it but it is indeed simple, stupid.
*Article and photo were used with permission of GORUCK News and written by Cadre Chris
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