Tips on building pocket survival kits
By Zoey Sky // Aug 08, 2020

A bug-out bag (BOB) lets you carry all the items you'll need to survive for 72 hours after SHTF. But if you're looking for something lighter or if you need a backup plan, try making pocket survival kits (PSKs) to cover basic needs like self-defense, first-aid and signaling. (h/t to


Escape and self-defense PSK

The items in this PSK can help you escape a survival situation:

  • Diamond rotary cutoff tool – This item is easy to hide because it's small and flat. Use a diamond rotary cutoff tool to shape bobby pins, hair clips or metal scraps into tools.
  • Lock jigglers – When trapped or kidnapped, use lock jigglers and a fleet key or two to escape on a commandeered vehicle.
  • Norseman SNAP card knife – This small but versatile knife can be used for shelter building, firestarting, finding food and food prep. It's also compact enough to fit in a small PSK.
  • Oleoresin capsicum (OC) powder – This irritant is the active ingredient that makes chili peppers spicy. In concentrated powder form, OC is the irritant used in pepper spray. Use a small vial of OC powder to contaminate your scent tracks if you're being followed.
  • Petroleum jelly – Use petroleum jelly to slip off handcuffs or other restraints.
  • Restraint escape tool – While the other items should be stored in your PSK, it's best to hide a restraint escape tool somewhere else on your person so you can easily find it if you're capture by an enemy. Secure your chosen tool and hide it inside your sock or the lining of your jacket while traveling.
  • Safety pins – Use safety pins to open flex cuffs or hide smaller tools under your clothing.

First aid PSK

Use the items in this kit along with other supplies and scavenged materials to treat minor medical emergencies. (Related: Prepping basics: Tips for building a pocket survival kit.)

  • Anti-diarrheal (Two to four tablets) – When SHTF, diarrhea may cause dehydration.
  • Benzoin tincture – Benzoin is a skin protectant.
  • Burn gel – Use this gel to relieve burned skin.
  • First-aid instructions, water-resistant patient treatment forms and a small pencil – If you're injured, the instructions may prove useful to someone helping you.
  • Medical cotton – Medical cotton will dampen any sound from your first aid PSK. Additionally, you'll need cotton to pad blisters or drain wounds.
  • Medical tape
  • Non-adhesive gauze – Cut or fold gauze and add to quality medical tape to make wound coverings of various sizes without taking up too much space in your PSK.
  • Sewing needle – Disinfected needles can be used to remove splinters or lance boils. A bent, disinfected needle can also be used with disinfected thread for suturing.
  • Small multi-tool – A card-type small multi-tool has useful features like a file, screwdrivers and scissors.
  • Wound closure strips – These adhesive strips will keep lacerations closed to help them knit. Use them with the benzoin tincture when treating lacerations.

Communications and signaling PSK

When SHTF, your comms and signaling tools may be key to getting help if you're lost in the wilderness.

  • Emergency blanket or bivvy – If your PSK has extra space, keep an emergency blanket or bivvy in it. Use the blanket to signal for help or stay warm if you have to spend the night outdoors.
  • Emergency signal whistle – Blow the whistle in groups of three (each blast lasting three seconds) to signal for help.
  • Firestarting tools – When traveling outdoors, bring firestarting tools like waterproof matches and lighters so you can build a signal fire.
  • Local currency – If you're traveling in a foreign country, hide local currency on your person and PSKs. You'll need cash to buy food and supplies, call someone or rent a room to stay in.
  • Map and button compass
  • Retroreflective adhesive tape – For marking your current location.
  • Signal mirror
  • Small gold rounds or ingots – Small gold coins and rings in your PSKs can be used to trade for equipment, help or transportation if you're in a survival situation.
  • Water-resistant paper and small pen or pencil – Use these items to take note or leave a message for rescuers.

Before SHTF, get your BOBs ready. If you prefer portable survival gear, carry specialized pocket survival kits with you.

Sources include:

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