”The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand” – Sun Tzu
When venturing off the beaten path, anything can happen. Every year, lives are lost due to a lack of preparedness. You never know when you might have to spend an extra night in the woods, or even an extended period of time, if you become lost. I believe it is very important to carry some essentials on your person, and know how to use them at all times when in the woods. I see many tin based kits that people have put together through experience and trial and error, and there are numerous companies out there that have designed kits for this purpose. One in particular is the S.O.S. survival kit designed and marketed by former Army Ranger Rick F. Tscherne.
I have been a fan of Rick’s since I first stumbled on his website www.survivaloutdoorskills.com a few years back. It is a really cool site with tons of neat survival tips and tricks. Rick is a former US Army Airborne Ranger, Jumpmaster, and a graduate of many foreign specialty schools such as Italian Airborne, and the Belgian Para-Commando School. He was also an advisor/trainer to the Bosnian and Herzegovina Army under the US State Department’s "Train and Equip Program." In addition to designing and manufacturing the S.O.S. survival kits, he is the author of The Ranger Digest, a series of books chock full of tips and tricks for the soldier and outdoorsmen. I have all of the books and have read them cover to cover many times. They are well-written, and full of very useful tips and gear modifications. I totally recommend you check them out. So, as you can tell, this guy’s the real deal. He has spent his whole life developing his craft and takes great pride in passing on his knowledge to others.
I recently received one of the S.O.S. survival kits, and am very impressed with it. It is very high quality, and you can tell Rick put a lot of his experience and expertise into the contents. Here is a breakdown and my impression of the one I received.
Compass–The compass supplied with the kit is a dry compass. I prefer a dry compass, because in my experience the liquid filled varieties don’t have the life of a dry compass, and tend to develop bubbles easily, which impedes their function. It is lightweight and durable. I checked its accuracy against my Cammenga lensatic compass, and it is right on with it. It appears to be an accurate, durable piece of gear.
Fire starter–The kit comes with a small round bar of magnesium with a ferrocium rod glued into the side. I have used this exact type before, and it’s a great piece of gear. If dry tinder is available you can use the ferro rod to ignite it by striking it with the included striker. If the tinder is damp, or you are having trouble getting it to catch, you simply scrape off shavings from the magnesium bar and they will take a spark easily and burn very hot. It is a very small and lightweight package that is a perfect choice for this application.
Signal Mirror–The signal mirror included in the kit is a dogtag-shaped plastic one. It has a dog tag silencer around it, and a plastic coating to protect the mirror from scratches. I like a mirror in my PSK kit, not only for a signaling aid, but it is also handy for checking for ticks or getting things out of your eye if you need to. It is a compact mirror, but isn’t too small to use effectively.
Whistle–This is one of my favorite pieces of the kit. It’s a pea-less anodized aluminum whistle that is very loud and of good quality. When I was looking it over the first thing I noticed was a small piece of paper wrapped around the whistle. I unwrapped it, and on it are spaces for you to write down your personal information, allergies, emergency contacts, etc. The whistle unscrews in half to reveal a small compartment for you to store this important information in. Pretty nifty!
Folding Knife–A knife is a very important piece of a personal survival kit. While you may carry a dedicated field knife or combo of tools, it is important to have a backup. The knife that is included in the kit is a small lock back knife with a plastic handle. The knife is imported and made by a company called Ridge Runner. It has an overall length of 4.5 inches, and a partially serrated blade that measures 2 inches in length. It holds a decent edge, and is lightweight. I am a knife nut, and put a lot of stock into what blades I carry and use. If you are like me, you will probably replace this one with a better quality small folder or small fixed blade. The one included fills a role, and it would be irresponsible to not include a knife of some sort into s survival kit. Rick could have included a high speed, high dollar knife with the kit, but that would drive the price of the kit through the roof. Rick’s goal is to provide an affordable, good quality kit. I believe for the price you pay for the kit, you are getting the best knife possible at this price point. Bottom line is, it works.
LED flashlight–With advances and developments in LED technology, we have seen a huge influx of great, small LED lights. I am very happy with this, because now there are great small lights available with extremely long run times that are very inexpensive. The light that comes with the kit is great! It has both a squeeze on/off switch, as well as a constant on/off switch. It gives off a bright white light, and is very well made and durable. It serves 2 roles, to give you light at night, and as an effective means of signaling. It is another great piece of kit.
Wire Saw–I used to dislike these things. I had one at one time that was a total piece of junk. I broke it the first time I attempted to use it! Well, as I started to get more into gear and the outdoors I came across the SAS survival saw and it worked great! The saw that Rick included is the same type. It’s a great saw that made quick work of several wrist size tree trimmings I had in my yard. It held up great, and is another great addition to the kit!
Optional water purification kit–Rick offers some optional upgrades to his kits, one of which is this water purification kit. It’s packaged in a really cool mini red plastic case. It consists of a single unlubricated condom, and some water purification tablets. I definitely suggest you add this to the kit. A water container and a way to purify it is a very important part of a survival kit. The need for clean water is absolutely necessary to sustain life. You can’t get a better sized kit for this then the one Rick made. It’s compact and light, and takes care of business.
Optional fishing and snare kit–Another one of Rick’s upgrades to the S.O.S. kit is the mini fishing and snare kit. It comes in the same red plastic case as the water kit and contains various fishhooks, a swivel, sinkers, snare wire, eyelet screws, and monofilament line. My personal preference in these kits is for the Spyderwire brand fishing line. I can never use the monofilament without it turning into a bird’s nest when I am trying to use it. Spyderwire is good stuff, and easy to work with. Other than that, it is a great little kit that will take care of business.
There are many ways to carry a PSK. You can put it in your pocket, you can wear it around your neck, or you can wear it in a belt pouch on your hip. To me, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is on your person, and not at home. There is no wrong way to carry a survival kit. You need to be comfortable with it, because if it’s too awkward or uncomfortable, then you won’t carry it, and it does no good. Rick has the bases covered here. If neck carry is your thing, he utilizes the wire saw as the necklace. To protect your neck, he puts it into a clear plastic tube. The contents are then put on a break away chain and mounted to the two ends of the saw. This is great, because if by chance you get snagged on something, the chain will break away before you strangle yourself on the very kit that’s supposed to save your butt! If pocket carry is your thing, he has an optional fob that’s made out of 10 ft of braided paracord with 7 inner strands. The saw is then coiled up and wrapped very tightly with paracord making it a small ring that goes on the end of the fob with the rest of the items. If a belt-carry kit is what you want then you can buy the items and place them in a pouch of your choice to wear on your belt.
Rick offers these kits through his website, for a price of $24.99 without the fishing and water purification kit, or for $5.00 more with those two kits. I think that’s a great price for such a quality kit that could potentially save your skin. Looking at all the items that come with his kit, it would be impossible to come up with all these items separately for that price. It is a bare bones basic survival kit at a great price from a man who knows what it takes to survive.