In every movie I’ve ever seen that featured a military aviator, the main character (a pilot) is always wearing a survival vest when he (or she) is on the ground after ejecting from their jet for whateve reason. For obvious reasons, the military won’t tell us what exactly is in each of those vests, but some items are only common sense. My thought is this: If a survival vest is considered so important by the military that they put one on every fighter pilot, how come many survivalists and “preppers” completely neglect this piece of organizational gear?
Given the survival value of the gear that can be comfortably carried in or on a quality equipment vest, it boggles my mind that so many people I know treat vests as something “only SWAT cops or a wanna-be would wear.” Let’s take a look at some of the items commonly found (that aren’t secret) on a military survival vest and briefly discuss the potential value of each. For the sake of complete disclosure, it should be obvious that the pictures used with this entry ARE NOT actual military issue items.
Handgun: Let’s see – what do we need to say about the survival value of a handgun. Um, DUH! A decent quality and caliber handgun can be used both to procure food (game meat) as well as defend against predators (two- or four-legged variety). While some handguns have pretty high capacity magazines (20+ rounds), at least one spare magazine should still be carried on the vest. My preference is to have at least 40 rounds of ammo (total) for the handgun on the vest. That’s a total round count including what’s loaded into the weapon and what’s carried in spare magazines.
Knife: This doesn’t have to be a BIG knife, but a knife is one of the most valuableand versatile survival tools you can have. The Air Force has long used a down-sized version of the KA-BAR Combat knife equipped with serrations on the spine. The pommel can be hammered with. My recommendation is that you have a knife with at least a 4.5″ blade but no longer than 6.5″. A serrated spine or section of serrated edge is valuable and that pommel you an hammer with is something I consider mandatory. Given the climate extremes you can never foresee, I’d recommend a synthetic sheath rather than a leather one, and if it incorporates – or has a place for – a sharpening stone/stick, all the better.
Hydration: The large majority (if not all) of today’s equipment vests are designed to accept and support hydration bladders. Usually this means a 3 liter soft reservoir with drinking tube attached that loops over the shoulder of your choice so you can hang the bite/mouth piece somewhere convenient on your front. If your vest doesn’t have a hydration pouch/pocket built in, there are hydration pouches you can attach via MOLLE loops. Additionally, you always have the option of attached pouches to hold 1-quart canteens. I recommend nalgene canteens rathe than the older plastic kind as nalgene is more environment resilient and doesn’t hold flavors. Also, be aware of how much water you have and ration it accordingly. The average adult needs one gallon of water per day but 1/2 gallon of that is for hygiene and cooking. For consumption you need 1/2 gallon per day. If you are exerting yourself heavily (like hiking rough terrain) that amount goes up.
Food: The minimum calorie intake per day for survival is 1,200. That’s not actually alot of food to carry unless you’re talking about carrying three days’ worth of food. A lot of people I know carry granola bars or other types of “power bars” as their food ration because they can carry plenty in a relatively small space. A dozen granola bars isn’t heavy and doesn’t take up a lot of space. The challenge is that most granola bars only have 100 calories or less in them. That means you have to carry a dozen just to have ONE day of food. I recommend Hoo-Ah Bars (now called Soldier Fuel) instead. Each one has 270 calories that are a proper mix of protein, carbohydrates ands sugars. Carrying ten gives you two full days of food intake.
Light: Humans don’t see very well at night, but that might well be when you find yourself needing to move or travel on foot. Get a decent LED-driven flashlight that runs on AA batteries. Many “tactical” lights use CR123 3V Lithium batteries that are both harder to find and about four times as expensive as AA batteries. Carry the light and at least one spare set of batteries.
Fire: For warmth and cooking, we need fire. You may not have the necessary cook pots on your vest (although you could carry an aluminum mess kit in a large utility pouch) but you still need to avoid hypothermia; the dangerous reduction of your body’s core temperature. Building a fire serves to put off heat and signal your location. I recommend that you have a magnesium/flint/steel combination fire striker set PLUS a small wateproof container of “strike anywhere” (also called ‘white tip’) matches. A dozon or so matches doesn’t take up much space. The most important part about fire starting is prepping the fuel/tinder prior to ever getting the match out. Never build a fire bigger than you need for your survival purposes. If it gets out of control, especially if there’s a wind, you can’t out run the flames.
Signaling: Fire (above) is one type of location signal. An emergency whistle and a mirror are two others that work well, are compact to carry, and are cheap to buy. The mirror should be polished metal; not glass.
Shelter: There are a number of companies today that manufacture “emergency space blankets” and “emergency space bivvys.” The space blanket can be set up as a shelter and the bivvy is (essentially) an ultra-light weight sleeping bag. To help form the space blanket into various shapes of shelter, include a length of fishing line (30′ or more of 50# test or stronger) and four small aluminum tent stakes in your shelter kit.
First-Aid: Given that the survival vest will primarily be used when you’re in a wilderness setting with little to no help available in otherwise emergency circumstances, you need to be prepared to treat your own first-aid needs. Some can be life-threatening but even the “common” cuts and bruises can cause issues if left untreated. Make sure you have a compact but sufficient first-aid kit, supplied to suit your skill level of treatment. Obviously, anticseptic and band-aids should be included. Don’t forget such things as fever-reducer, pain reliever, PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS, at least one tourniquet and a pressure bandage (or two).
A radio or cell phone might be a good addition but only if you anticipate service or having someone on the other end to communicate with. Otherwise you’re just carrying the weight for a fictional sense of self-reassurance.
What else would you add?
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