Survival Kit Basics – from guest blogger Jason Marsteiner

We all know that other than our knowledge and skills – our tools are one of the most valuable resources we can possess. So I am thrilled to have Jason Marsteiner from Colorado Mountain Man Survival guest blogging with us today on that very subject. Jason is going to teach you a great outline to build your survival pack off of. So read carefully and take notes so you can build the ultimate survival kit for your situation.


Hello, I am Jason Marsteiner, the owner and founder of Colorado Mountain Man Survival. Before I just start throwing out advice, I would like to tell you a little bit more about me. I was born and raised a survivalist. I am a Colorado Native and grew up in the mountains of Colorado. My father was a simple man but a hardcore outdoors-man. We lived off of hunting, gardening, raised chickens and the like and rarely went to the grocery store unless it was for milk or other food items we didn’t make ourselves. Our biggest form of entertainment was camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, off-roading, shooting or anything outdoors that required little to no money. Living the “survivalist” lifestyle was just normal for us. I live in the city now but the mountain man in me has never gone away. I have a family with four children and every day the sense that something is coming grows within me. If it were just me, I could live off of the land but because I have a family to worry about, I must prepare differently, for their sake. I am not a survival fanatic but feel the urge to be prepared and recently I began sharing my knowledge and experiences I have learned during my life. I am an active member of the Colorado Springs Preppers Network which is a branch of the American Preppers Network. I feel I can benefit people by putting together bug out bags/survival kits for them and by teaching them how to use certain items in the kit or by giving them advice on general wilderness survival. With a little bit of training or education, I feel that I could send a person out into the wilderness with my survival kits and they would survive for the length of time that the kit was designed for and beyond if they educated themselves properly.
That’s enough about me for now. Let’s talk about what I do. Colorado Mountain Man Survival specializes in “building” quality survival kits for both wilderness and urban settings. A good survival kit or bug out bag is going to cost you more than $50-$100, so don’t be fooled by the cheap, pre-manufactured kits that you can get all over the internet. I have purchased several of these kits to review their contents and while they may have some of the basics, they are of poor quality and will not suffice in a major disaster. I wouldn’t spend the night in my back yard during decent weather, with some of these prefab kits and I certainly would not have my life depend on them.
If you want a kit that will truly help you survive, don’t trust these prefab kits. You either need to build your own kit or consult a survivalist if you do not know what to put in them. You also need to know how to use items in your kit BEFORE a disaster strikes. There are several things that you must consider when you are putting your kit together. I will start with the basics.
I believe that you should always assume that you will be carrying your kit on your person. Cars break down, roads become congested, and public transportation is nonexistent in times of emergency. Expect the worst and prepare for a rough road ahead.
Let’s get started.
Who’s carrying what?
1) How many people must your kit sustain?
2) How many people will be able to carry the load? This is important when distributing weight. Keep in mind that someone may become injured and will not be able to carry their kit.
3) What is the weight limit of each person carrying your kit? You don’t want your 9 year old carrying 25 lbs of gear and you don’t want to be carrying much more than that either. Lighter is better. Only take what you need.
What are we going to put our gear in?
1) Backpack – I prefer a backpack as it’s the most comfortable over long distances and its hands free. If you are carrying a lot of weight, don’t go cheap on your backpack. I feel this is a very important part of your bug out bag and you need a backpack that is comfortable and durable. A normal book bag isn’t going to cut it.
2) Duffel Bag – Great for light kits that you won’t be carrying long or something to throw in your car.
3) Suitcase – Not practical but if it’s all you got…
4) Plastic box – These are great if you are bugging in. Keep kits like these in your basement or wherever you will evacuate to.


What goes in the Survival Kit
I will list these in what I feel is the order of importance, but these will change depending on your region and situation. If there are multiple people carrying survival kits, decide what items would be redundant and remove them from all but one pack. Tools and certain forms of shelter are prime examples of items that can be dropped.
1) First Aid – All the gear in the world will do you no good if you are badly injured and are unable to do anything about it. You need a small but complete first aid kit. A box of Band-Aids is not going to cut it. Here are some of the basics that you should have in your first aid kit (gauze, bandages, plastic sheeting, surgical tape, rubber gloves, face mask, scissors, tweezers, eye patch, tourniquet, catheter, Band-Aids, antibiotic and burn cream, alcohol wipes, splints, sun screen) There are other items that you may add to your first aid kit, but I will go into that at a later date.
2) Fire – Before hypothermia or shock sets in, you need to be able to build a fire. How are you going to do this? Building a fire isn’t easy…unless you are prepared. Here are some things you should have and remember, it’s best to store all of this in a waterproof bag. Magnesium Fire Starter, waterproof matches, lighter, or some other way to produce a spark or flame. Great, now you can make a spark. Now what? You need tinder and it’s a good idea to carry tinder that will catch fire even if it’s raining. Again, expect the worst. Collect as much wood, dry sticks, twigs and grass as you can before you use your fire starting tools. You don’t need a raging fire, just enough to put off some heat. Here are some ideas for tinder and I recommend keeping a variety of all of these in your survival kit. Most are light weight and will take up very little room.
  • Cotton balls or cotton rope slathered in Vaseline. Fluff and light. Can burn for 5 minutes, even when wet.
  • Match-lite tinder. These are basically 1 inch lengths of rope, soaked in a small amount of fuel. You can find them all over eBay at a decent price. Will burn for about 2 minutes, even when wet.
  • Manila rope. This is the brown fibrous rope that you can find in any hardware store or of course Wal-Mart. Cut it into lengths of about 6 inches. When you need to start a fire, fray the rope, mat it up and make it into a birds nest. A spark will create a flash fire that burns quickly but it will help get other kindling going.
  • Steel wool and 9 volt battery. This will create a molten mass of hot metal fibers. It burns fast but with a lot of heat to help get that fire going. Good for one use only.
  • Char cloth – This is basically like the mantels in a Coleman lantern. You can make them out of old cotton t-shirts. You will need to make these in advance and it can be a bit difficult until you get it figure out. I can teach you how to make these or you can Google it. Works great if you combine it with Manila Rope or dry grass.
  • Dryer Lint – Yep… plain ol dryer lint. Try lighting some with a match…it will make you want to clean out your lint trap a lot more often.
  • Fire Sticks – These can usually be found at your local camping supply store. They are small bricks of material that light and burn easily.
3) Shelter & Clothing – You have to be able to get out of the elements and its best if you are able to carry something with you. Shelter comes in many forms but let’s talk about what you are going to have in your pack. You should also have a spare change of warm clothing, warm coat, wool socks, rain gear, a warm hat, gloves and a crushable boonie hat that will keep the sun off of your face and neck and a light weight sleeping bag or survival blanket. Weight can add up quick here, so be careful what you pack.
  • Tube Tent – This is a very basic tent and will probably only survive one, maybe two uses. Its light weight and simple to set up, as long as you have two trees or poles to place it between. There are no doors, it’s only a tube to keep the rain off your head and to help block a little wind.
  • Tarps – Tarps may be your best option as they are lightweight and versatile. You can get a cheap tarp for $5 or a really nice tarp for over $100. The more expensive the tarp, the longer it’s going to last you.
  • Tents – Remember you are carrying it on your back. They provide the most protection from the elements but unless you are ready to spend some money, these are going to be heavy.
  • Nature – Okay, I didn’t stick to what is in your pack…I couldn’t help myself. Learn how to build a lean-to out of trees or debris. If there are these types of materials around, use them!
  • Some other forms of shelter are raincoats, clothing, Mylar blankets and bivvy sacks
4) Water – You will not survive very long without water. The problem is that water is heavy and you will probably need more than you can carry. 3 days worth of emergency water packs should be included in your pack but you don’t want to use these unless there is no other water around. The key here is durable water bottles and some way to purify the water that you gather.
I spend a lot of time thinking about water for my survival kits and will go into detail at a later time. You need water to survive but dirty water can make you severely ill or even kill you.
5) Food – Again, you can’t live without it but its weight adds up quickly. You need food that is high in nutrients, non-perishable, and easily prepared. You will most likely have to sacrifice taste here. It’s better to be alive than to have a flavorful meal. Look for emergency food rations that have a 5+ year shelf life. I use Mayday Food bars(5 year) and FoodForLife dehydrated food (20 year) in my survival kits. You can also add beef jerky, nuts or trail mix, dried fruit, oatmeal, and some simple spices to add flavor to anything you might scavenge. Oh, and don’t forget a can opener and a good cooking pot. I recommend a single 4qt stainless steel pot with a lid. You don’t really need anything more. Its light weight, durable, easy to clean, and you won’t lose space as you can pack all of your small items inside of the pot, when it’s in your pack. A 4 quart pot will boil a lot of water, which is one of the best ways to purify water so that you can drink it. Spoons and forks are cool but everything weighs something. Use your fingers and your knife. I am in the mindset that I will sacrifice luxuries and convenience if it means I get to carry a lighter load. A spoon might not sound like much but if you add it with other small items, they all begin to add up to pounds. If you have to have a spoon, get a light weight plastic spoon. Take only what you need.
6) Tools – A lot of items fall in this category.
  • Knives – I think you should have two knives. One should be a solid, fixed handle knife (5”-6”) and the other a quality (3”-4”) folder. And don’t forget your sharpening stone. Survival knives are not the best option but they do have some good qualities. If you need to drop weight, lose the survival knife and stick to the first two I described.
  • Rope – I recommend 100’ of paracord. So many uses!
  • Wrench & Screwdrivers – I recommend a Leatherman or other similar tool. You never know when this will come in handy.
  • Machete or Hatchet – machetes are much more versatile but either will do. Hatchets tend to be heavier as well. Include a small mill file if you carry either of these, to keep them sharp. A big machete might draw attention, so be careful on how you carry this big blade.
  • Light – Flashlights, head lamps, candles, light sticks. (Light could be bumped up the list, especially if you have the potential of being trapped indoors or have children that will be frightened without it.) Be sure to have fresh batteries or better yet, a flashlight that doesn’t need them. A light doesn’t have to be super bright to be useful. Check out the various dyno lights that are out there.
  • Hunting Tools – snare wire, sling shot, bow or light crossbow, or a firearm. These are a must for when your rations run out, or for protection. Again, careful you don’t draw attention to yourself. Keep firearms hidden until there is no one around.
  • Saw – A collapsible, light weight saw couldn’t hurt.
7) Hygiene Products – Eventually you are going to start to stink… Soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, clean wipes, wash cloth, q-tips, feminine pads, brush or comb, tissue, hand sanitizer. Don’t overdo it though as these items take up a lot of space and can get heavy and quite frankly, you don’t NEED them to survive.

There are many other items that can be added to your survival kit but remember, the more you add the heavier it will get. You will also want to take some personal items and some form of identification. I recommend not going over 35 lbs unless you are a beast. If you are serious about putting together a good survival kit, do your research or find someone like me to help. You are going to spend some money on a quality survival kit but look at it this way… it may save your life.

Keep in mind that the contents I have gone over here in these sections will vary depending on your own personal situation. Furthermore, what I have outlined here is only a brief description and I can go into further detail on each item. Before you throw your survival kit together, you need to do your research, learn how to use each item and make sure each item you have chosen is right for your situation.


So what do you think? Does your system have an item Jason forgot? Is there a scenario we didn’t account for? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think!


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