Building Functional EDC Systems Supplement 1: Personal Survival Kits

What is a Personal Survival Kit (PSK)

A personal survival kit is simply a kit that contains equipment and supplies to get you through an emergency situation. These kits are relatively compact, as it is something that you keep with you on a day-to-day basis. PSK’s are a vital part of ensuring our safety when we spend time in the great outdoors or as a general backup in our everyday travels.

A PSK can serve various purposes as a stand-alone kit for shorter outdoor excursions, or as some much-needed gear redundancy for a longer trip into the wilderness. I typically carry my PSK in either a coat or cargo pant pocket, but it is also a great addition to your EDC or hiking pack, especially if you are not carrying a lot of gear.  

Contents of a PSK

If you have been through any of our other courses, you’ll already know that we are not big proponents of cookie-cutter gear kits. Each person has a different level of skill and different environmental concerns which will influence what is in an individual’s kit. While equipment will vary, every PSK should cover some basic needs:

  1. Fire
  2. Water 
  3. Shelter 
  4. First Aid
  5. Cutting Tool
  6. Signaling
  7. Cordage
  8. Navigation


Fire is a very important and multi-faceted tool when it comes to survival situations; it provides warmth, light, cooks food, increases morale, aids in killing microbes in water, and can be used to help signal rescuers. The ability to create fire is so important that this is one of the few areas in which you want redundancy in your PSK.


Carrying water in your PSK is not really practical, but providing the ability to make bad water drinkable is more reasonable. For the purposes of a compact kit carrying compact water bags and chemical agents such as iodine tablets or aqua tabs is a good idea.


When we think of shelter in the wilderness the first thing that comes to mind is a tent. Obviously, we can carry a tent in our PSK, but an emergency mylar blanket is a good option as it is compact, lightweight, and surprisingly effective. They can also double as signaling devices due to their reflective nature. 

First Aid

Basic First Aid Items are essential and should be carried at all times. For the purposes of a PSK a “boo-boo” kit is a good idea. Boo-boo kits are simple basic items like band-aids, alcohol pads, simple medications, burn cremes, etc.

Cutting Tool

Having a good cutting tool is important; while it should be compact, it should also be robust and reliable. To achieve this goal we created the Knives by Nuge PSK Knife, which is a basic 1095 carbon steel fixed blade with a 90-degree spine for scraping and striking Ferro rods and a scandi grind which is an excellent option for processing wood and easy to sharpen in the field. 


It is important to be able to signal potential rescuers in an emergency situation. As you can see from the above items many of these items can serve as signaling devices already, but you could include other items such as a whistle or chemical lights (glow sticks).


Carrying some cordage is vital to helping you make tools or fabricate shelter in the wild, of course, this also means you need some knotwork skills, so we do highly recommend you practice some basic knots! There is a wealth of knotwork videos on Youtube so be sure to search them up and do some practice.


Being able to get a basic sense of direction is important and you would be very surprised how quickly you can lose that sense of direction when you are lost in the woods! Carrying a basic button compass in your kit is helpful, while this should not be the end all be all of your navigation tools and abilities it can certainly help in a pinch.

Other Items to Consider

There are plenty of additional tools you can carry based on your potential needs and level of skill. For those in a more urban environment, lock picks or bypass tools may be a good option, a small knife sharpener or stone can also be helpful especially if you don’t normally carry a backup knife. Duct tape and a sewing kit can also be helpful in repairing any gear that you may damage while in the wilderness. There is no wrong tool to include in your PSK as long as you are comfortable using it and it will provide a practical application to you in a survival situation.

Size Considerations

When we are packing our PSK it’s important to be very cognizant of size and weight.  It is very easy to get so wrapped up in trying to be prepared for everything that our kits become large and impractical to carry. Remember, the goal is to ensure we keep it on us at all times, and if it is uncomfortable to carry you probably won’t carry it! Try to keep it at a size you are comfortable carrying, without sacrificing the usability of your tools. Keep in mind that as time goes on and your skill level and equipment preferences change, so will the content of your PSK.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The ability to use these tools in a high-stress situation is important, to efficiently do this you should be practicing with your tools regularly. Most of the small items are relatively inexpensive so it is a good idea to get more than what you need in your kit so you can practice putting these tools to use. 

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