Be prepared! as through life you march along. Be prepared. Tom Lehrer sang in 1953 to make fun of boy scouts, or the scout life at least. I am not a boy scout, but the notion of preparedness is, generally speaking, a good one in my view, and it has certainly gained traction among a certain percentage of the population, many of which are paranoid conspiracy theorists who think the government is out to get them, which is why “be prepared” to them means “stockpile a 5-digit number amount of rounds for the two dozen assault rifles you own”. Many of those who are not are at the very least deluded wannabe lone-wolfs with delusions of grandeur and a messiah complex.
Since I, as I said, like the idea of being prepared and since my own messiah complex is only a wee small one, I began to put together a little kit I started lugging around, which is what I want to write about today. Now, this is most certainly not supposed to be some sort of EDC (or Every-Day-Carry) because I cannot very well keep that pack on my person everywhere I go. My real, proper EDC is limited to the phone, a paracord-bracelet, the wallet, a watch, my Swiss knife, a Fisher Space Pen as well as my keyring with all the nifty little doodads I attached to it. Well, maybe not that limited, after all…
There are, of course, many blog entries and Youtube videos and such about kits like mine. I will try not to go into too much detail about things that are self-explanatory. I will also try not to talk too much about the things themselves but more about their uses and my rationale for including them, where applicable. I always wonder how much of the stuff gear junkies show off really gets used, so I will also include that in my article.
Many people have kits like these for a special purpose, like an Urban Survival Kit or a Bushcraft Kit or a 72-hour-Survival-Kit/Get-Home-Bag or what have you. Those are fine if you need them, but I live in a densely populated area in a populous country. I am only occasionally out in the sticks. Camping. Having a barbecue with some friends who live in the middle of nowhere. The way I figure it, my kit is there to put my mind at ease about things that could go wrong, get forgotten or happen on short notice. If go hiking or camping, I will take water and food and clothing and sun screen and stuff with me. I will probably even take a lighter with me, but since that might break down or get lost, my kit needs a way of making fire. Or several, because I have liked to play with fire since I was a kid.
The same general philosophy holds true for urban day-to-day life. If I need to have my laptop computer with me, I will know in advance and bring it. But I might well find myself with the cell’s battery running low unexpectedly.
So, no water filters or huge shelter options or two weeks worth of beef jerky in my pack. Those have their place, and my kit ain’t it.
I chose to put all the stuff into a Maxpedition Fatty Organizer. I had not known Maxpedition before and bought the organizer on recommendation. It was not exactly cheap, like all Maxpedition products, but it turns out it was well worth the money. It does not look worn or used at all after more than a year of use, and the zippers are great, they run extremely smoothly, even though the kit is packed to more than capacity. I cut away the tan paracord zipper-pulls and attached bright blue glow-in-the-dark ones to increase visibility even in low lighting situations. Fumbling for the pulls is now a thing of the past as you see where they are on first glance. The paracord itseld has the huge upside that you can easily operate the zippers even with thick gloves or freezing fingers.
You can already see the disposable rain poncho, some paracord and two velcro cable ties. The poncho is a great addition in my opinion. I needed it exactly once, but I was extremely glad I had it when I needed it. Well, not that exact same on, it is disposable, afterall, but I take good care of my stuff and replaced it right away.
Also note the Danger 5 patch. The Maxpedition Organizers come with a velcro patch field and I was really into Danger 5 when I built that kit. The Danger 5 crew have that patch-type logo, so that was inevitable, really.
Now, on to the contents of the kit. The left side is the neater of the sides, mainly because I could use the full length of the Organizer in most cases. Here you can see an oil pen, a fine felt pen, a pencil, a Victorinox blade sharpener, a paint-marker, a light-my-fire spork, tweezers, a USB-to-Micro-USB cable, some small zip ties, some twist ties and a couple of lock picks.
I have never used the lock picks in a serious situation, but ever since an intense phase of interest in the topic 20 years ago and a cylinder lock that came out of my late grandpa’s estate, I know how to use them and figure if I should ever be in a situation where I really need them , having them with me will be great. And lock-and-key services can be obscenely expensive, so there’s that.
The pencil and the oil pen have seen lots of use, funnily enough for much of the same reason. Graphite dust is an excellent lubricant for smallish metal parts like locks (hello again) and zippers. I made my car’s boot usable again with graphite when I thought I have to have a new lock installed, and I have loved the stuff ever since. The pen is from Ballistol, a German company with a rich tradition (the stuff was invented for the Prussian army to oil their rifles and keep the leather straps smooth). I prefer the stuff to WD-40 because Ballistol will not resinify and is not hazardous for your health. You can even drink the stuff. You will throw up from the taste of it, but you can drink it. The Ballistol pen also looks and feels like a proper felt pen, not that pseudo-sleek WD-40 thing. And while the WD-40 product cannot be refilled, the Ballistol pen can and I have done so already.
I have also gotten plenty of use out of the knife sharpener. Whenever I have to use a knife that is not my own and find it is so blunt you could ride on it, I whip out the sharpener. God, I hate having to work with blunt knives!
Behind all that stuff is a slip pocket that takes care of a rain-proof notepad, a 100cm (33 foot) paper measure courtesy of Ikea, a signalling mirror, a fresnel lense and a space blanket, because you can always use a space blanket. The mirror has seen some use to get something out of an irritated eyeball and the fresnel lense has helped me start a fire, albeit in a cosy test environment. But you do have to practice your skills, right?
Back there I also have a couple of tampons. Tampons are great! They are individually wrapped, sterile, tightly packed pure cotton. Filter water through them! Stop your nosebleeds! Ribble them up and use them as tinder! Shove them in your vagina to keep the uterine lining from drooping out! Ladies…
On the right-hand side we first see a cotton handkerchief, military stock. I have never seen one of those in any of those kits, even though it serves a practical purpose even while in the organizer, as it keeps stuff from rubbing or banging together while practically using up no space whatsoever. Also, should anything leak, it will soak it up. Now, the right hand side beneath the hanky looks positively deranged. Luckily, the hanky conceals the chaos, which is its true raison d’être. Here we find a mini BIC, a fire steel with an emergency whistle in the striker handle, an AA battery, some tiger balm, an emergency candle in a tin, some solid tooth paste tabs, a toothbrush, a disposable razor, a pencil sharpener, a diffuser cone for my flashlight, a USB mains plug, a mini-USB adapter for the cable on the left side, folding scissors, Gorilla-brand duct tape wrapped around an old phone card, a bandage, some larger zip ties, a condom and a separate tin.
The razor, the toothbrush and the toothpaste are especially great, I find. They work as a bare necessities toiletries bag and enable me to stay out for a night on extremely short notice. Or just quickly brush your teeth before that important meeting with the boss. I did have to cut down the razor and the toothbrush, but it was well worth the effort. The scissors are great, too. I am not a big fan of the scissors on Swiss army knives, to be honest, so mine does not have them, so this is a great alternative. I have done some mean cutting with those scissors, believe you me. The AA battery gets used and replaced regularly, of course. Nothing is more frustrating than relying on a piece of gear and then having it fail miserably. The battery is also wrapped in a ranger band to insulate to contacts. Ranger bands, if you do not speak survivalist-lingo, are just cut-up pieces of bike tire, but are among the greatest things ever. Bike tire does not get brittle, is strong, sturdy, and you can get them for literally no money at all if you ask nicely at a bike repair shop or use your own, busted ones.
What has not yet seen any use is the Tiger balm, which I might sort out for that exact reason. The emergency candle has also not been used yet, but it is the latest addition, and I cannot wait to declare a picnic a romantic emergency and fire up the candle. It is one and a half tea candles molten into a mint tin, with matches and a striking surface included, all elegantly waterproofed by yet another ranger band.
The tin contains painkillers, diarrhea medication, antacid, individually wrapped dextrose (a diabetic in shock is not a nice sight) a safety razor blade, some safety pins and a sewing needle whose eye is big enough to fit the inner strands of paracord. It won’t look nice, but in a pinch it’ll hold your clothes together. In the lid of the tin there is a description of the medication as well as the use-by date of each. I do not need to use this compartment all too often, but hen I really have to, I am once again extremely glad I have it.
In the zipper pocket on the right side of the organizer I have a pair of nitrile gloves, a triangular bandage, some bandaids, a regular bandage and some more tampons. I have yet to use any of the first-aid supplies, apart from the occasional painkiller. Well, and one of the tampons once to start a fire. But first-aid is one of the areas where I think having is better than needing. When we drive around in car, we have large first-aid kits in the boot. Depending on your place of residence, you might even be required by law to have one with you. It only seems sensible to have something similar with you when you travel by train or bike or on foot. And to tell the truth, I like the idea to be able to use the pace blanket as shelter if ever need be. The triangular bandage alone I inanely useful and versatile, as I was taught once during a first-aid seminar. Bandage, sling, support for carrying, those things are fantastic.
Anyway, this is my little kit that usually sits comfortably in my backpack and is almost never farther away than a few dozen steps. If I take another backpack, it is easily transferred to it or put on a backseat or into a suitcase. I have been ribbed mercilessly in the past for lugging the thing around, but strangely enough, one repaired stuck zipper (Ballistol oil) one lit urgently needed cigarette (mini BIC, duh!) or one finally-usable-again-for-actual-cutting knife later (Victorinox sharpener), people seem to change their tune pretty quickly.
If you have any ideas how to improve upon my little kit or want to share something great in your own, please feel free to leave that in the comments.