Building the Ultimate Survival Kit, Part 5
So far in this series we have discussed selection of a proper container, stocking it with blades/edged tools and what to consider when it comes to fire making. In this installment, we are going to look at another critical survival kit component: cordage.
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Cordage is one of mankind’s oldest products and perhaps one of the most important. Without rope and string, we could never have braided a bow line to hunt or rigging to sail a boat. Early Man, (and some tribes to this day) made good with what they had at their disposal. This would be plant fibers and animal hides. In a survival situation, you do not want to waste time trying to fashion your own cordage (although knowing how to do so is a great skill). Give yourself a huge leg up by having it part of your survival kit. There are many different kinds of cordage people choose to put in their kits, but here we will discuss out favorite and most common options. Your first option would be military parachute cord, commonly called “paracord” by civilians, and “550 cord” by servicemen. The “550” refers to Mil-spec paracords’s strength, a full 550 lbs. when stretched. 550 cord has an outer, tubular shell and a series of thin, strong lines contained with in. Its strong, cheap, easy to find and very versatile. We make a habit of replacing all boot laces with it, so we always have some in case things go south.
You can lash a shelter, repair a broken pack strap, weave a fish net, or dummy cord critical items to prevent loss. The options of how to use it whole are limitless, and so are the uses of the inner fibers. These thin lines are strong and useful to get the most out of the cord. It can be used to suture, sew ripped gear, fashion a fishing line or lash a improvised knife handle. Once again, your imagination is the limit. Be forewarned, that not all paracord is created equal. Be sure to only buy mil-spec parachute cord, as most of the knock off stuff you find at camping stores / “big box” retailers are not actually load rated to 550 lbs. You are better served with the more expensive, authentic cord in your kit and saving the cheap stuff for routine tasks.
Your next option is dental floss. As silly as it sounds, its cheap, light and strong. A small roll busted out of its bulky carrier, will fit even the smallest of survival kits. Once again, its great for lashing, sewing and use as a fishing line. Test different brands, and see if you can find one of your preferred strength/diameter. On a similar note, fishing line can actually be used for more then just catching dinner from the nearby stream. Think outside the box and you will quickly see the merits of monofilament line for different applications.
One form of cordage we like is kevlar thread, such as what is used for archery and fly fishing. Amazingly strong for its weight and size, it costs a little more than other cordage. We have used kevlar cord to saw through zip ties, lash poles and erect shelters. There are plenty of choices in color, strength and thickness. Choose whats right for your needs. Having sewing thread and the needles go with it is almost a must and should be included with your kit.
Alternatives to these above mentioned staples are numerous, and are really only limited to your imagination and perceived needs. We have found that Mason line and duck hunter’s decoy line can both be a useful, economic solution to carrying cordage. With the thin, strong nylon braided fibers of this sort of cordage, you can afford to carry significantly more feet over the bulkier paracord. This, of course is a trade off, as you sacrifice the strength and utility of 550 cord for more of the thinner line. Regardless of what type you choose, remember that you can use your container to wrap the cord around, saving space inside. This also has the added benefit of deterring you from stealing its contents during routine carry!
Next we are going to look at wire, since its pretty much the same as cordage. We like thin “floral” wire, since its painted green and makes great snare wire. We’ve used it to catch small game, and “wire tie” broken gear. Relatively light weight to carry, be sure to include some thin gauge wire in your kit even if it’s only a few feet for snares. An alternative to floral wire is picture hanging wire, but most of it brightly colored and might not be the best for snares. Military tripwire is another viable option, and can be found online cheaply.
Lastly, we will look at Tape (yes, we capitalized Tape, to get your attention). There are many types of tape out there and some have more uses than others. Electrical tape is often carried by soldiers because it is light, comes on a small roll, and is black in color. The downside? its not very strong, and has a shine to it if you are trying to be low key. Duct tape is a much better option, and can be found in your favorite color. Some people prefer to load their kit with blade orange tape, as it can be used as a trail marker. An added benefit is that you can also tag small items with it to prevent loss. Gorilla tape is very popular and strong, and can be found in smaller 1” rolls similar to duct tape. An easy way to carry a yard or so of your favorite tape is to wrap it around an old plastic card. making several of these “tape cards” to scatter though out your gear is a good idea, and will also help you resist stealing your reserve out of your survival kit. Duct tape has a million uses, from fixing a broken tent pole to using as a fire starter. We have had it save our ass plenty of times!
Be sure to check back soon for our next installment of this series, where we will discuss signal options and other ideas for building your own ultimate survival kit!