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Survival gear


Registered User
pacific northwest
After reading about the young man that crashed in the mountains of Montana I got to thinking it might be a good time to update my gear as well and thought it would be a good idea to start a thread on what survival gear to have on board here's the stuff I have with me at all times in a back pack strapped in rear baggage.

sleeping bag
small tent (but it could be anything to make shelter)
change of dry cloths & boots
rain gear
first add kit (which in itself needs to be upgraded)
fire starting material (matches & flint)
skinning knife
150lb. twine or small rope
ducked tape
small tarp
a little dried food the kind you get for back packing

I'll need to pull it out and go through it I know I have forgotten something, I fly in Canada and Alaska a fair amount of the time so I add to this as needed. (big gun or small gun)

I know this has been discussed many time before but I just thought with flying in many areas increasing this time of year and the number of new as well as old pilots it might be a go time to bring it to the front of our brain rather then the back, don't mean to beat an old horse just trying to stay on top of it.

PS those are great links a lot of life saving info.

Sometimes its refreshing reading new threads even though it's been disused before, always something new that pops up.
Don't forget a Multitool, it can easily be attached to ones belt, and is on one's self in case the airplane goes up and the survivors don't or cant retrieve the gear in the burning wreckage, I always have one on my belt even though I am in Key West with people nearby(unfortunately) most the time.
I agree with Josh, these kinds of discussions are good reminders, and may catch the attention of someone who could use the information but wasn't around for the old thread.


I like to have at least THREE means to start a fire. Fire and shelter are two really important survival aids. I keep a couple of Blast Matches around (available mail order from Alaska Bushwheels-go figure), one or two match safes with lifeboat matches in them, and a Bic lighter or other small butane lighter.

Parachute cord is an almost ideal tool, I keep two 50 foot lengths in my kit, and more in my survival vest.

Signaling equipment is also essential: Signal Mirror, Railroad flares, flare gun (watch out in Canada) or pen flares, Smoke canisters (good daytime signal), a really good flashlight, with spare batteries.

Don't forget a Therm a Rest pad as well. That does a LOT to keep you warm when sleeping.

A small stove and pot/pan/cup to melt snow, cook dinner, etc.

Lots more could be added, and I'm sure others will.

Don't forget, though, that as Ray Tremblay said many times in his survival seminars, "Survival gear is the stuff you have in your pockets when you go out the door. That bag in the back is CAMPING GEAR, not survival gear." So, be sure to always carry some basic survival gear on your person, in a vest/pockets, etc.

mvivion said:
I like to have at least THREE means to start a fire. Fire and shelter are two really important survival aids. I keep a couple of Blast Matches around (available mail order from Alaska Bushwheels-go figure), one or two match safes with lifeboat matches in them, and a Bic lighter or other small butane lighter.

Mike, you don't need any of that.... all you need to do is breathe on a pile of kindling! :onfire:
Having experienced an unplanned and unavoidable landing in the boonies, the one thing I found most valuable (other than anti-insect gear) is a hand-held VHF radio. I was able to communicate with other aircraft - a sat-phone can't do that.. Some ELT's offer that capability but only on 121.5.
I seldom see this item in any lists of recommended survival gear.
This is one post topic that I am glad gets repeated from time to time. Every time it does someone comes up with some new interesting gadget and it also reminds me to check/swap out my survival and camping equipment for the upcoming summer flying season.

My goal for this year is to locate one of those old collapsible metal cups that will fit in my survival vest.

One thing that really worked out for me on the camping side of the equipment last summer was the 4 person tent I bought from LL Bean. It's roomy, light, packs small and is very durable. Plus it has a skylight!

I also modified my flip visor on my David Clark helmet to take Gentex military style lens. Works well. Now I really look like a big old housefly.
Best advice I have seen yet and I agree!

skagwaypilot said:
Having experienced an unplanned and unavoidable landing in the boonies, the one thing I found most valuable (other than anti-insect gear) is a hand-held VHF radio. I was able to communicate with other aircraft - a sat-phone can't do that.. Some ELT's offer that capability but only on 121.5.
I seldom see this item in any lists of recommended survival gear.
There is no such thing as a warm coat or a warm sleeping bag. Laying on the ground at -30 below F they are -30 below inside and out....

They're only insulating layers, you create the heat that warms them up. In order to create heat, you HAVE to burn calories. Calories come from eating calorie rich food.

I've heard it said on this site "a man can live for three weeks without food and only three day without water". Pure BS when it's cold. In the cold you need plenty of both.

A survival instructor said after you set up your shelter and signal the best you can.....you need to eat, drink, and sleep then eat, drink and sleep some more.

Build your survival gear around this idea for winter survival.


I'd remind you of the fantastic story of two people who survived, very far north in the depths of winter, with virtually no food, for a couple of months.

See http://www.amazon.com/Hey-Im-Alive-Helen-Klaben/dp/0590026348

and http://tomhawthorn.blogspot.com/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Flores

Our instructors at Cool School (Eielson AFB) told us that food is pretty low on the list of necessities, though you are correct that it certainly makes you feel better in the cold. We were not permitted to take any food with us into the field during our training (only three days out). On the third day, they gave us each on MRE. I like eating snow better than MRE's, but....

Calories don't HAVE to come from eating calorie rich food. Your metabolism doesn't work that fast, actually. Ralph Flores lost 40 pounds, Helen Klaben lost 20. Most of us are carrying around a few extra calories we could stand to burn. I know I am.

Will you die of hypothermia without food, though? Not if you keep yourself properly hydrated and well insulated, as you noted. And, you can last for a long time without food.

Again, I fully agree that food HELPS keep you warm, and is great for comfort. Some source of calories is a nice supplement to have in your gear, no doubt.

Is it necessary for survival, even in extreme cold (Helen and Ralph crashed in -40 weather in the northern Yukon)? Not necessarily, IF you have your act together otherwise.

Shelter, insulation and water are the three absolute musts for survival. without those three, you won't make it three days in very cold temperatures. Any of us could make it a week easily without food if we had to, and yes, even in extreme cold temperatures.

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I was thinking the other day on what type of food you should have in your pack and it acquired to me that it might be a good idea to have a book on the different types of eatable plants and roots, what do you guys thing I know different books for different areas anyone ever used one.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus. It's
an old paperback, but I think it can still be found. It wouldn't do you any good at 10 below 0, but would work in the summer.

Thanks Tim
This planes don't seem to care what time of year it is when they decide to go down.
For a lot of us here, medications are really important. They are equally as important as fire. I keep three days supply in the survival pack and swap it out occasionally.
Dennis......I too have survival stuff with me at all times,even in the pattern.I went with the survival vest and the all important PLB.You did not mention a PLB.If you do not have one,please consider getting one.The majority of situations would be short lived if a PLB was in the equation.If you have one,then bravo! Scout......the best survival gun is very subjective.However,the best "all around"if I could only have one gun it would be a 12 ga. Have rifled slugs for big game food/protection and shotshells for all else.No other gun is as versatile,period......Herman.
I have looked into getting a PLB but I have not bought one yet will do so in the very near future. I like the idea of a vest. I agree a 12 ga. is the way to go they make a folding stock for them, very handy.

Where do you get real parachute cord? I find many imposters, most of which don't have the tensile strength of parachute cord.

So what goes in your vest or is otherwise on your person? The camping stuff discussion can be pretty widely varying due to personal preferences and experiences. But there is only so much that can be kept on your person.

If I am paying attention and bother to put it on (big part of the battle) I wear a vest with a hand held vhf, Swiss army knife, lighter, magnesium spark match thing, signal mirror and mosquito head net. A couple of candy bars or energy bars. For first aid, just a roll of hockey (cloth) tape. The vest itself is a inflatable life vest and is bright orange.

If I am being dropped off with a helicopter or airplane somewhere remote for work, I really really make sure I have the radio, and check that it works often. I use the other items in the vest often (except the spark match thing or the signal mirror), but I would be hard pressed to choose between all the rest and the radio.

Sat phone would be fine too, but they are still too big to keep on you all the time. The size of the radio is already pushing it. A little bitty cell phone would be great if they worked in the places I like to go, but then maybe I would not like those places as much if they did.
How about an emergency (space) blanket in the vest. I also threw in a couple of ziplocs and water purification tablets. I figured that I could use the ziplocs to hold water or some other uses and they don't weigh much.
I have a Stearns co2 inflatable vest, use it summer on floats and winter on skis. In that Vest I carry -Iridium Sat phone, 406 PLB, small first aid kit, 2 packs celox (stops severe arterial bleeding), space blanket, matches, windproof lighter, good knife, 50 feet parachute chord, flashlight, water purification tablets, couple of ziploc bags, small emergency shelter (one of those orange plastic tube kind), fishing kit. Last summer, I weighed the whole vest and it was 12 pounds. Not too bulky either, has big expandable lower pockets. Probably a few misc. things in there I missed. I wear it at all times in my plane, and any one I ride in as a passenger. My family, including my 7 year old son, is well rehearsed in use of the PLB and the Sat phone, and we practice use of both every month or 2. He gets the stuff out of my pocket, and places a sat phone call to home, and opens up the PLB and tells me which button he will push. Also knows what the CELOX is for, and the activate switch for the planes ELT> I think it is very important for those who fly with passengers to tell them what you have, where it is, and how to use it.
This is probably the vest Superchamp mentions. I like mine and it holds plenty.
I carry a Yaesu portable radio with 6 new alkalines, folding ponch, space blanket, 1st aid kit issued by the feds for firefighting (it doubles as 2 small cups when seperated), bug net, bug dope, Mil Spec para chord, lip balm, 6 energy bars, matches, 2 mini bics, magnesium fire stick, large ziplocs, a square of tinfoil, 3M duct tape wrapped around a pill container filled with some strong pain killers and water purification tablets, a tiny fishing kit no bigger than a Tic Tac container, Leatherman, Stout survival style straight bladed knife in scabard, a folding Silva compass with signal mirror, 2 large dressings, a pencil, 2 MRE accessorie packets with the salt, pepper, matches, fork, etc.... And last but not least a pair of good leather gloves fastened to the vest via carabiner. In a survival situation your hands take an ass kick. In AK I carry a sidearm because I hike alot and never leave it in the plane. Not really a survival item more a defensive item but It's on my body and when I am bush whacking I like to have it.
Photo is of me wearing the Stearns vest while checking out a plane wreck in Central AK bush
Yup- same vest - and that reminds me of what else I have in it, a signal mirror, UV lip balm, one MRE. Good idea on the bug dope and leather gloves, definitely going to tuck those in. On a hot summer day, it can be a little clammy to wear, but I figured its a small price to pay. I keep it on in the boat when fishing too and wear it snowmobiling into Canada on fishing trips. All in all, it is still pretty comfortable, and doesn't get in the way of flying or buckling in, and I don't think it would slow down my egress much.
When bugs are at their peak, remaining motionless for a few seconds or using no repellent looks something like this. The Gloves and headnet and muskol are like essential. This picture is at the crash scene on a calm, moist July afternoon. I can still here the humming. Count em!! 13 of the bastards.

When I was flying around the North county, I carried a model 94 30-30. In retrospect, it was a terrible choice. Too big for small game, and too small for defense. If had to do it again, I would take a pump 12 gauge with some slugs, buck, and birdshot. If Canada would allow it, I might take a revolver.
I've never worn a vest, but after reading all this I think I should. Where do I look for that vest you guys are talking about?