Whenever I stray more than a few feet from my base camp, I always make sure that I have this kit with me, just so that if anything nasty were to ever happen, I would at least have the essentials to get through a few days reasonably dry, hydrated, and somewhat more comfortable. The best survival gear in the world obviously won’t help much if you don’t have it when you need it, so size and weight are very important factors.
As you look through the various items that are contained within this kit, I think an important concept to keep in mind is comfort. I would guess that most ZS’ers could manage to get through three days with nothing more than the EDC items that are typically carry in our pockets, assuming of course that we were properly dressed for the conditions. Hell, even the core essentials like a shelter, fire, navigation, food, and water aren’t really absolutely necessary, given some basic wilderness survival skills and the ability to improvise. The purpose then of many of these items is not so much to survive, rather it is to make the task more comfortable.
Since this kit has actually been developed and refined over a considerable period of time, based on my experiences in the wilderness and not just in response to this competition, there’s actually a surprising amount of diverse stuff crammed in here. I wasn’t really sure how best to show everything, so I decided to just try to outline it by where it’s located within the kit, but I will summarize everything by categories at the end of this post as well.
Let me know if you feel there’s something that I overlooked, or if you have any questions.
Paragon’s Wilderness Ditch Kit
My ditch kit is based around an awesome little case that I found in a thrift shop a couple of years ago. It measures approximately 5 1/2” x 6” x 3” for a total volume of 99 in^3. Had there been a choice, I generally prefer black gear, although the bright red color actually works out very well in terms of visibility. In addition to the mesh zippered pocket on the front, the case has two large compartments under the main flap, with two additional “slit” pockets on either side for organizing smaller items. There is a small zippered access on the bottom, and a MOLLE type snap on the back that can be used to attach the kit to a belt. The adjustable padded shoulder harness shown is one that I added for increased durability and comfort.
Here’s perhaps one of the nicest features of this little case – the front compartment unzips to provide improved access to the items stored inside. If you look closely (toward the bottom, below the titanium pan) you can make out the two “slit” pockets that I mentioned. In this photo you can see that I have a 10m (33’) hank of paracord, as well as a Snow Peak 250mL titanium pan for boiling water. In the slit pocket behind the pan there is a small first aid kit, 1L Aqua Pouch, a water purification kit, and a couple of small MRE pouches of peanut butter. In the opposite slit pocket there is a rain poncho, Esbit emergency stove, 6’ of duct tape, vacuum sealed toilet paper, and three packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee. More on these items in a bit...
In this photo you’re able to see a Gerber 3” serrated Paraframe and LMF fire starter on the left side of the main compartment. You can also see a very large trash can liner (36” x 84”) across the back of the pack, a modified Doug Ritter Personal Survival Pak™, a couple of Orion Skyblazer aerial flares, and a collapsible straw for the Frontier™ water filter (with a Fisher space pen stowed inside). To the right is a red mini Sharpie marker. Below these items (not visible in this photo) is an AMK 2-person heatsheet emergency blanket, an AMK Thermo-Lite hypothermia prevention cap (much smaller, yet more effective than a knit watch cap) various antibacterial and bug repellent towelettes, a pair of post-mydriatic sunglasses, a BCB Commando wire saw (the only type that I’ve ever found that actually works), a large Tyvek envelop (15” x 23”), and a silcock key for water procurement in an urban environment.
Nested within the 250mL titanium pan are most of my smaller items including a mini Bic lighter (with o-ring seal), 3 Esbit fuel tablets, 3 tinder quik fire tabs, 3 pieces of 2” x 2” charcloth, 2 wet fire tabs, fire steel and hacksaw blade striker, contractor’s pencil sharpener (for making wood shavings) a small piece of 3M Scotchbrite (to clean the pan), a sewing kit, multi-tool, 4 screwdrivers, 2 compressed hand towels, e-LITE headlight, Silva compass/thermometer, 3 Centrum vitamins, various OTC and Rx medications, and an episcope.
An episcope? WTF is an episcope you may ask?
An episcope is a precision optical device featuring a 3x adjustable telescope, 5x / 10x / 15x loupe, and a 30x microscope. Think of it as a mini monocular.
Here’s another shot of it with a quarter next to it for scale (it measures 2” overall). I have a Brunton Echo (7 x 18) in my GHB, as well as a set of bino’s in my BoB, and I find that I use them quite a bit. I really wanted something to extend my range of vision in this kit as well, although size is obviously one of the more important considerations, so this worked out well.
Remember earlier when I mentioned comfort? Here’s a perfect example - although there’s absolutely no way to physically justify all this stuff just to boil some water or make a cup coffee in a 3-day kit, the physiological effect that a hot cup of coffee has on moral on a cold, damp morning is immeasurable. The compact size of the kit means that the pan has to be pretty small (8 oz capacity) although I’m very stoked to have one in here at all, much less something that doesn’t really take up much space.
Perhaps more practical than the pan for water purification is the 1L Aqua Pouch and Micropur tablets, or even the Frontier straw. There is also have a 1L Survival Resources emergency water bag in the Ritter PSP, along with six more Micropur MP1 tablets. The FDA tubing (18”) is not only great for reaching drinking water that may be located in deep crevices, but is fantastic for directing oxygen at the base of kindling when starting a fire.
Although completely unnecessary in the wilderness, a 4-way faucet wrench is indispensible in an urban survival environment. Like most of us (except for perhaps Woods Walker) I spend 97% of my time in an urban environment, so having a silcock key greatly increases my chances for procuring potable water.
The core foundation of all of my kits is the Doug Ritter Personal Survival Pak™. Although this PSK is very complete, I’ve added a Photon Freedom™ Micro flashlight, 6 REI® Stormproof matches & striker, 25’ of monofilament fishing line (10 lb test), Survival Resources™ emergency water bag (1L), 6 Katadyn® Micropur water purification tablets, 6’ of brass snare wire (24ga), and 6 T&B heavy duty cable ties.
Here’s the Ritter PSP alongside my mini FAK, 2-person heatsheet, and Coghlan’s rain poncho. The Coghlan’s brand poncho is a good compromise for a small kit such as this, falling somewhere between those cheap disposable ponchos and the more durable, light duty rain gear.
Here’s another shot of my shelter and personal protection gear, this time showing the large trash can liner (36” x 84”) and AMK Thermo-Lite hypothermia prevention cap. I’ve stuffed these trash can liners with leaves in the past to serve as an insulated ground cover, slit the edge/bottom to improvise a 6’ x 7’ tarp, and cut a hole in the liner to make a rain poncho. When used as a poncho, the liner is so large you actually have to trim several feet off the bottom.
You may be wondering about the FedEx Tyvek envelop. I’ve stuffed these with leaves before to make an improvised pillow, used them to collect kindling for a fire, and even carried close to a gallon of water in one once, but perhaps the most useful role is as a waterproof “mouse tarp” to sit on.
One of the more tiring aspects of being in the wilderness for me is always standing up instead of sitting down when I stop to rest, due to everything being damp or filthy. Although it wouldn’t be the end of the world getting your ass wet and dirty by sitting down on a damp log, it’s more a matter of dying a death from a thousand cuts. I believe that almost anything that I can do to remain more comfortable in a potential survival situation will go a long way towards maintaining my morale, and thus my will to survive.
Not shown in this photo is my bandana -- actually a 12-in-1 multifunction buff (the blue item in the mesh pocket shown in the first photo above). Also in there is a Cool Downz™ cooling head/neck band for those hot, humid Southern summers.
Although this FAK is quite small (4” x 4”) it’s actually very comprehensive. While certainly not a trauma kit by any means, it does a very good job of cleaning and treating most minor injuries. The full content list is shown below.
This waterproof vial contains various OTC and Rx medications. Also shown is a small Ziploc bag containing three multi-vitamins. Vitamins are always a good idea, but are especially important during a 3-day survival scenario where caloric intake is extremely limited.
Although the need for food over a three day period is arguably unnecessary, I choose to add a couple of small packages of MRE peanut butter simply as a moral booster. For it’s size (1.5 oz) you’d be hard pressed to find anything with more calories (250) or protein (10g), and being able to put something tasty in your stomach other than bugs and worms at the end of the day make it worthwhile for me. Again, the quarter is shown for scale.
In addition to the fishing kit and brass snare wire in the PSK, I’ve added a sling shot band as a means to improvise a small weapon that could be used to kill game. It would be pretty unusual for me to ever find myself in a situation without my Glock 27, and I’m not sure how accurate I would be with fabricated sling shot, but in a pinch it would be better than nothing.
The small vials of potassium permanganate and glycerin in my fire kit contain enough material to start 2-3 fires. Although it might seem a bit overkill to start a fire in this manner, it’s very reassuring to know that I have the ability to start a fire in anything short of a Cat-5 hurricane. Both of these chemicals have numerous other practical uses in a survival kit, so the decision to carry them is a no-brainer for me.
Until very recently I had always carried an Aviation Spark-Lite™ in this kit, although looking more closely at everything one day, I decided that as important as fire is, and redundancy is a necessity, I felt that I was simply carrying way too much within this category.
I have several Petzl e-LITEs, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to include one in the kit as well. Headlights are a bit like knives – everyone has their favorite – but the e-LITE is pretty hard to beat, and is one of the smallest lights available.
My signaling and navigation items include a Pelican LED strobe that is clipped to the shoulder strap, 3 sheets of weatherproof paper (there are two smaller sheets in the PSK), Fisher space pen, Sharpie permanent marker, and of course the two aerial flares. Not shown in this picture is a Rescue Flash signal mirror and Fox 40 whistle that is stored in the PSK.
My feelings initially regarding the flares was originally somewhat mixed, as the intent of this kit is to allow me to be more self-reliant, rather than dependent upon a SAR team to bail me out if I were to get in over my head. However, there are enough bad things that can happen to anyone in the wilderness that would make me wish I had them, so given their size, I decided to carry them.
One could make a pretty strong case that Aron Ralston might still have both his arms had he had an effective means to signal rescuers.
Shown here is a Gerber Paraframe with a 3” serrated blade, a Swiss-Tech 4-in1 screwdriver, Leatherman mult-tool, and mini sewing kit.
This mini wire saw is the BCB Commando version. I’ve had several wire saws in the past, and except for this one, they’ve all pretty much been crap. Not only is the BCB version made from 8 strands of braided stainless steel, but the fishing-style snap swivels reduce stress in the wire caused by the wire getting bound up during extended use. I have several of these in various kits, including one that I’ve used extensively for a couple of years.
Nothing much to say here – a 10m (33’) hank of seven-strand 550 paracord and a 6’ length of HD duct tap with a peel-off backing. I have no idea why the tape appears to have these “camo” splotches all over it – must be a digital camera thing going on.
As much as I’d like everyone to think otherwise, I find that if I don’t use a particular knot for a couple of months, my brain deletes it from RAM. This little guide serves as a very practical memory aid for the more useful knots that I’ve learned to tie over the years. This guide is stored in the front mesh pocket along with my bandana.
Another practical item that falls purely in the comfort category is toilet paper. Although Charmin offers these neat little TP rolls, I’ve found that by accordion-folding the tissue and vacuum sealing it, it actually takes up considerably less space.
Shown here for reference is a Charmin camping roll (not carried in this kit) with 55 sheets of single ply tissue. Below it is 30 sheets of two-ply Charmin Ultra (60 sheet equivalent) that has been vacuum sealed that is carried in this kit.
The final items carried are a collection of various wipes – germ-X antibacterial hand sanitizers, Ben’s tick & insect repellent, a Preparation H medicated wipe (absolutely the best monkey butt treatment in the world), and a Shout detergent wipe.
Although at first glance it might seem that nothing would be more worthless in a 3-day survival kit than a detergent stain wipe, in reality I’ve probably used these more than almost anything over the years. Of all the time that I've spent in the wilderness, I’ve never actually found myself in a life-or-death struggle for survival, but I have certainly saved a few nice shirts and pants from spills and stains.
To review, here’s a complete contents list taken from my Excel file (items shown in blue are contained within the Doug Ritter Personal Survival Pak™):
Medical & First Aid
3 x Benadryl®, Diphenhydramine HCl, 25 mg (Antihistamine)
3 x Centrum™ Performance Multi-Vitamins (Nutritional Supplement)
3 x Cipro, Ciprofloxacin, 500 mg (Rx Antibiotic)
2 x Dilaudid, Hydromorphone, 2 mg (Rx Painkiller)
4 x Imodium™ A-D, Loperamide HCl, 2 mg, (Anti-Diarrheal)
6 x Motrin® IB, Ibuprofen Tablets USP, 200 mg (NSAID)
2 x MS Contin, Morphine Sulfate, 15 mg (Rx Painkiller)
2 x Sudafed PE®, Phenylephrine HCl, 10 mg (Decongestent)
4 x Tylenol®, Acetaminophen, Extra Strength, Coated EZ Tabs, 500 mg (Analgesic)
3 x Band-Aid® Bandages, 5/8" x 2 1/4"
1 x Band-Aid® Bandages, 3/4" x 3"
1 x Band-Aid® Bandages, 2 1/4" x 3"
2 x Band-Aid® Bandages, Butterfly Closure
1 x Band-Aid® Bandages, Fingertip
1 x Band-Aid® Bandages, Knuckle
1 x Coverlet® Eye Occlusor, 2" x 3"
2 x Johnson & Johnson Gauze Pads, 2" x 2"
1 x Sepp® Benzoin Tincture USP Ampule, 0.67mL
2 x Spyroflex® Skin Savers, Kidney, 1.5" x 3"
2 x Spyroflex® Skin Savers, Square, 2" x 2"
1 x Water-Jel® Burn Gel, 3.5g
1 x Dynarex® Medi-Cut™ Scalpel, Sterile, Stainless Steel, #22 Blade
1 x MEDIpoint® Splinter Out™ Sterile Lancet
2 x Singer® HD Safety Pins, 1 1/2", Nickel, #2
1 x Uncle Bill's Sliver Gripper™ Tweezers
2 x DenTek® Dual Action Interdental Cleaner
1 x Dr. Ken's™ Floss & Go® Single Use 18" Mint Waxed Floss
1 x Pocket Duct Tape, Removable Backing, Silver, 2" x 18"
1 x Minigrip® Poly Bag
1 x Blistex® Medicated Lip Ointment, 0.5g Foil Packaged
1 x Colgate Orabase® Maximum Strength Oral Pain Reliever Paste, Benzocaine 20%, 0.5g
1 x Zee Medical® Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, 1/32 oz
2 x After Cuts & Scrapes™ w/ 2.5% Lidocaine, 0.25 oz (7.7g) Benzalkonium Chloride Cleansing Towelette
1 x Povidone Iodine Topical Solution USP Ampule, 0.6mL
2 x Xpect® Triple Antibiotic Ointment, 1/32 oz
1 x Vionex® Antimicrobial Skin Wipe Towlette
Shelter & Personal Protection
1 x AMK Heatsheets® 2-Person Survival Blanket, 60" x 96"
1 x AMK Thermo-Lite® Hypothermia Prevention Cap
1 x Buff® Original Multifuntional Headwear, 12-in-1+ Styles, 100% Polyester Microfibre, Indore Blue
1 x Coghlan's® Emergency Poncho, 50" x 80", Yellow, #9173
1 x Mouse Tarp (FedEx Envelope), Tyvek, 11.5" x 15" (Expands to 15" x 23")
1 x Solar∙Rolz™ Post-Mydriatic Sunglasses
1 x Trash Bag Liner, 80 Gallon, 36" x 84", 3 mil, Black
Fire & Light
1 x AGS Labs Esbit® Emergency Stove, 3.5" x 4.5"
3 x AGS Labs Esbit® Fuel Tablets, 1/2 oz (12 Minute Burn Time)
3 x Charcloth, 2" x 2"
1 x Flashlight, Photon Freedom™ Micro, Covert, 2 CR2032 Lithium Batteries, Black
1 x Potassium Permanganate, KMnO4
1 x HDPE Bottle, Screw Cap, 1/4 fl oz (7 mL)
1 x Glycerine, C3H5(OH)3
1 x HDPE Bottle, Screw Cap, 1/4 fl oz (7 mL)
1 x Kobalt® Carpenter's Pencil Sharpener w/ Built-in Emery Board
1 x LMF® Swedish FireSteel® Fire Starter & Hacksaw Striker, SL3 Micro Version
1 x Mini Bic™ Lighter, O-ring Lock, Red
1 x Petzl® e+Lite® Emergency Headlight, 2 CR 2032 Lithium Batteries, 16 Lumens
6 x REI® Stormproof Matches & Striker
1 x Spark-Lite™ Fire Starter
1 x Snow Peak® Titanium Pan/Lid, 5.5" x 1.5" (250 mL)
3 x Tinder-Quik™ Firestarter
3 x Tinder-Quik™ Firestarter
2 x WetFire™ Cubes, 0.2 oz Each
Water & Food
1 x Aqua Culture® Flexible Airline Tubing (Drinking Tube), 6mm, 18" OAL
1 x Aquamira® Frontier™ Emergency Water Filtration System
1 x Aqua-Pouch™ Plus Water Purification Kit (46g)
- 3 x Pre-Filters, #2
1 x Pre-Filter Support Sheath
10 x Katadyn® Micropur MP1 Water Purifier Tablets
1 x Aqua-Pouch™, 5.2 MIL, 6.5" x 10", 1L
1 x Fishing Kit
- 1 x Monofilament Fishing Line, 10 lb Test, 0.012" Dia., 25 Ft.
4 x Fish Hook, #10
2 x Split Shot, Lead B
1 x Snap Swivel, Size 12
3 x Starbuck's® VIA™ Coffee Singles, Columbian Roast
1 x Survival Resources™ Emergency Water Bag, 1L
Signaling & Communication
1 x Fisher Space Pen®, Stowaway, Black
1 x Mini Pencil, #2
2 x Orion® Skyblazer™ Eagle Meteor Aerial Flare, USCG Approved, 16,000 CP, 450 Feet Altitude, 7 Second Burn Time, Red
1 x Pelican™ Mini Flasher™, Red LED, 2 Type 357 1.5V Lithium Batteries
2 x Rite In The Rain® Waterproof Paper, 2.125" x 3.667"
3 x Rite In The Rain® Waterproof Paper, 1/4" Graph, 3" x 5"
1 x Sharpie Mini Permanent Marker, Red
1 x Signal Mirror, Rescue Flash™, 2" x 3"
1 x Whistle, Fox 40 Micro® Rescue Howler™, 122 dB, Yellow
1 x BCB Explorer Button Compass, 20mm
1 x Haverhills Episcope™, 3x Telescope, 5x / 10x / 15x Loupe, 30x Microscope, Leather Case, 2" OAL
1 x Silva® Carabiner 10 Forecaster™ Compass, Thermometer, and Wind Chill Chart
Knives & Tools
1 x BCB Commando Wire Saw, 28"
1 x B&K® 4 Way Faucet Wrench (1/4", 9/32", 5/16", 11/32" Internal Square Drive)
1 x Crosman® Tempest™ TSS High Velocity Slingshot Band, Tapered
1 x Gerber® Paraframe™ Folding Knife, 3.00" Serrated Locking Blade, Black Titanium Nitride
1 x Leatherman Squirt P4 Multitool (Generic), Blue
1 x Mini Sewing Kit (Thread, Needles, Buttons, and Safety Pin)
1 x Scalpel, Sterile, Stainless Steel, #22 Blade, Dynarex® Medi-Cut™
1 x Swiss+Tech® Screwz-All® 4-In-1
- 1 x #1 Slotted Screwdriver
1 x #2 Slotted Screwdriver
1 x #1 Phillips Screwdriver
1 x #2 Phillips Screwdriver
1 x 3M Scotch-Brite® HD Scouring Pad, 2" x 2", Green
1 x Aluminum Foil, Heavy Duty, 3 Sq. Ft.
1 x Braided Nylon Cord, #18, 10', 150lb test
1 x Brunton™ Life Card (Pocket Survival Guide)
1 x Duct Tape, 2" x 26"
1 x Duct Tape, Removable Backing, Silver, 2" x 72"
1 x Fresnel Magnifier Lens, 2" x 3 1/4"
1 x Hillman® Snare Wire, Brass, 24 GA, 6 ft
2 x Lanyard Rings, Steel, 2" Dia
1 x Paper Clip, Large
1 x Paracord, MIL-C-5040H Type III Certified, 10m (33'), 550 lb Test, Black
1 x Pro Knot All-Purpose Knot Guide, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2"
4 x Safety Pins,HD, 2", Nickle, #3
1 x Safety Wire, Stainless Steel, 6', 0.020" Dia.
1 x Sewing Needle, #18, Chenille
1 x Sewing Thread, Bobbin #69, 10.5 lb Test, 50', Black, Nylon
6 x Ty-Raps, Thomas & Betts, 3 1/2"
1 x Charmin™ Bathroom Tissue, 30 2-Ply Sheets
1 x Germ-X® Antibacterial Soft Wipe, 6" x 8"
2 x Hart EZ Towels, Compressed, 8 1/2" x 9 1/2"
1 x Pocket Survival Pak Contents List
1 x Preparation H® Medicated Portable Wipe, 5 3/8" x 6 1/4"
1 x Shout® Instant Stain Remover Towelette
1 x Waterproof Survival Instructions