I am sure you have read some of my earlier posts about the necessary items that should be in your home preparedness kits, and your “Go Bag.”
I talk a lot about these items, why you need them, and how to use them. But one other very important survival lesson that I teach, is that you must understand that not all “survival” gear is alike.
Remember, these are items you may very well be staking your life on. In a survival situation you do not want to rely on gimmicks, gadgets, or cheap knock-offs of quality tested and proven items. Whether you are buying items individually, or in pre-packed kits, shop like your life depends on it – because it does!
When preparing to write this article, I actually went out and purchased a number of pre-packaged so-called “Survival Kits” online and from various sites and sources. Do you know what I found?
Many kits advertised online, or in catalogs and sales brochures have nothing but a generic list of the items included, and maybe even a stock photo, that bears little resemblance to what you actually receive, which can often be nothing but a bunch of useless junk!
The suppliers who sell these “kits” like to say, “even a cheap kit, is better than no kit at all.” That may be true, they may have a few worthwhile items, but contrary to what their manufacturers say, rather than being “better than nothing” — they can do more harm than good by providing you with a false sense of security. A survival knife that falls apart, a compass that does not work accurately, a weather radio that fails – can be more than worthless – they can be deadly!
What Should You Look for In Any Survival Kit?
When considering the purchase of any pre-assembled kit, you must make sure you know exactly what is in the kit, and the quality of those items. Even if they are “honest” enough to show a picture of what you get, these slick ads may make the product look good, but hide the harsh reality that it may well break apart in your hands when put to heavy use.
Be on the lookout for phrases such as, “The items you receive will be equal to or better than pictured.” This is a red flag. Legitimate suppliers of worthwhile gear will be happy to level with you, and if you call, tell you exactly the name brand of the item, and why they chose to include it in their kit.
Among my random purchases, I found a pre-packed Go Bag out there where a “Personal Shelter“ is a large garbage bag, and a “First Aid Kit” is nothing more than a few adhesive bandages, cotton swabs and alcohol pads!
Steer clear of kits that hawk the number of items included as their main selling point. You might see a kit that hypes “over 125 items,” and think “Wow, that must be an amazingly comprehensive kit!” Until you get it and find out that they count each individual match, each water purifying tablet, and each cotton ball as a separate item in their mediocre first aid kit!
And this is not even the worst of the worst. A basic survival lesson as important as most others that I teach is “Caveat Emptor” – Let the Buyer Beware. You need to make sure you know exactly what you are getting when it comes to gear that you may need to save your life!
Knives Can Be Especially Deceptive
Many products that are labeled “survival gear” are far from it. Knives are a favorite case in point. My regular readers know that I have said time and time again that a good knife could be one of the most essential tools in your Survival Go Bag.
Ever since the movie “Rambo” came out, everybody thinks a “Survival Knife” is this huge piece of badass steel, with a hollow handle that can hold a “survival kit.” It looks cool in the movies, and you can find them all over the internet. But that is exactly where they should stay – in the movies and on your computer screens – not in your survival pack!
First of all, that hollow metal or plastic handle that you think is so spiffy is only held on with a simple nut or even a small dab of epoxy glue in the real cheap examples! They can easily break under the kind of abuse a real survival knife needs to be built to take. And about the stuff in that handle – yes it is good stuff to have, but what happens if you lose the knife? Now you are down both a knife, and a bunch of useful supplies! You would be better off carrying the water-proof matches, fishing line, etc. that is concealed in the handle, in your pocket, or a small personal kit, or other container.
Remember the purpose of a knife in your Survival Go Bag is not to be a weapon, but a tool, and you want a knife that was best designed for that purpose, and nothing else. You need to look for a knife that is a “full tang.” This is also sometimes called a “one piece” or “integrated design.”
But no matter what you call it, it means the blade becomes the handle, usually with side pieces attached to both sides for improved grip. How the blade tapers into the handle (or pommel) can differ depending on the model, but the important thing to remember is that you want a single piece of steel. Full tangs are essential for maximum strength and utility.
Multi-tools are another piece of equipment that can all look alike but suffer great disparities in quality and reliability. There are excellent, well-respected brands like Leatherman or Gerber that have years of tested know how in making superior products. You’ll pay a bit more for them, but you can be certain they’ll function as promised when you really need them.
A well-made multi-tool can last a lifetime. A poorly made imitation just looks fantastic in a photo. It’s often included in prepackaged kits to give the illusion of value while keeping down the price. That said, there are definitely “off-brand” multi-tools on the market that compare favorably with the better-known marquee names. But you should only consider one of these if it has been recommended to you by a seasoned outdoorsman or survivalist who has actually had the opportunity to use it the field, and compare it to a name brand tool, or you thoroughly trust the source you’re buying it from.
You should be just as prudent with any of the other tools and devices that will go into your kit. A weather radio is useless if it does not hold its charge or gets poor reception. Look for one, and any of the equipment you want in your pack that has been tested and rated for quality.
The Bottom Line
When buying survival gear, “you get what you pay for” is a truism. While you might want to save money with cheaper knock-offs and store-brands in other kinds products you buy – when your life depends on it – is not time to cut corners!
Stick with the name brands and “battle-tested” products, you might spend a little more, but it may one day turn out to be the best investment you ever made!