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The SWK : The Basic Survival Kit

Posted by on 2011/04/04

The Survive Whatever Survival Kit is an exercise, not a practical device.
The objective of the exercise is to evaluate gear for the purpose of pure survival.
It’s also a game.

Here’s how you play.
Build a survival kit that obeys the following rules:
1. Can be carried or worn with ease, without great impediment, on a minimum 5 mile hike through varied terrain.
2. Should not be exceedingly expensive, this is subjective to the individual, so we’ll use the united states poverty line for individuals living in alaska as the price limit. In 2010 it was $13,600 so that’s our absolute ceiling.  Really, you should shoot for under $1000. Ideally it’s under $200
3. Can not consist of any theoretical, prototypical, or restricted materials.
4. Must consist of materials which can be acquired in a 14 day window.
A SKW consists of the following:
1. A container (optional) backpack, satchel, hard case, burlap sack, kevlar pouch, etc…
2. The following basic, inexpensive materials: A magnesium fire starter, a mylar emergency blanket, a simple first aid kit, 1 sixteen ounce PET1 plastic water bottle, and a small sewing kit.  These items are cheap, readily available, and take up little space.
3. Five unique objects which are intended to be the best, most effective, and most useful objects possible.

The Basic SWK is designed to a versatile solution for any scenario, and represents the baseline against which other SWKs should be judged.  It’s open to change and suggestions, and we welcome you to post your opinions in the comments below.  Keep in mind that this is not meant to be the ultimate universal survival kit, but an entry in the SWK game.


The Basic SWK.
Container: The Overboard 25 Liter Waterproof Backpack
It’s affordable, well reviewed, and most importantly, stylish.

1. Fixed blade knife – A fixed blade knife seems like a no brainer for me, in my opinion the most versatile and useful tool ever invented.  A fixed blade knife will help cut the brown spots off apples, pry open stubborn shellfish, hang up your jacket when you get too hot, and murder starving hipsters.

My choice is the SOG SE38. Sturdy with a partial serration to help cut through members only jackets and large bricks of silly putty. The previous model, the SE37 can be snagged for half the price,  $100.

2. Rope. Another obvious choice, Fifty Feet of strong, lightweight rope has a ton of vital uses; besides playing jump rope, you could wrap it around your body like a mummy and scare other survivors, you could dangle it to amuse cats, or you could hang it between two trees and play an enormous game of cats cradle.    I’m leaning towards standard 550lb paracord.  It’s dirt cheap, really strong, and lightweight.  You can also find paracord belts and bracelets that unravel to different lengths.

3. Multi-tool – Tools are important, with a good multitool you could install LEDs on your t-shirt, take all the screws out of a remote control car, or remove the protective coating from a bear.  I’m leaning towards the Leatherman Wave; it’s got two blades, a saw, 3 different grit files, and a few urban tools like screwdrivers and shit.  It’s small, light weight, durable.

4. As much as I love the Wicked Laser Torch flashlight, probably because it can melt cell phones, it only has a 5 minute battery life, so it’s not the best choice… I don’t know why I decided a flashlight belongs in this slot, but while I was looking for a replacement for the Torch, I came across  the surefire outdoorsman which boasts an incredible 48 hour battery life at the low, but functional 3 lumen setting.  Making it the perfect nightlight while hiding in caves from communists, or at higher intensities, great for shadow puppetry. Unfortunately, I feel like a flashlight is the weak link in my kit, so for now let’s replace it with a folding camp shovel, something useful and hard to replicate in the wild.  I’ll choose this inexpensive but sturdy Gerber model.

5. Cast Iron Skillet, it’s heavy, but it makes sense.  In most extended survival situations, water becomes a serious concern after only a day or so. After a disaster, all water sources should be considered contaminated.  Boiling water is the best way to protect yourself from parasites, viruses, and bacteria.  So why not a dutch oven, or some other pot?  Well, a solid, 10″ cast iron skillet is easier to carry, and in a pinch is a pretty handy hipster basher.

This is a pretty labor intensive kit; it requires a lot of work and know how to actually become useful; however, it’s highly durable, versatile and portable. Obviously the 5 item limit is an arbitrary choice for the purposes of this exercise, and your final SWK should include all of these items and more, not the least of which being a second knife.  Personally, my bug out bag has 3 knives in it; the , the Becker BK2, Cold Steel Recon Tanto, and the Buck Hoodlum.

Also I keep 2 sharpening stones, some steel wool, some armature wire, a pair of needlenose pliers with wire cutters, some disposable lighters, batteries, two led flashlights, some protein bars, and some assorted other goodies. Eventually, I’ll settle on a firearm; for now I favor the Kimber Custom II Eclipse.

4 Responses to The SWK : The Basic Survival Kit

  1. Kyle

    The flashlight is not a weak-link here. The only thing about toting a flashlight around that runs on batteries in a post-apocalyptic situation is the fact that batteries need to be charged/replaced. If you use a solar-powered backpack something like a flashlight is not an issue :)

    I own the Array from Voltaic Systems and it’s great.

  2. chance

    Fair enough; solar powered backpack added to the list of things I need to research.

  3. Killer Claire

    How do you know if you’re right when you make your SWK?

  4. Ron

    I love the shit out of this site. I read the whole thing backwards so it was weird.

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