STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton, WorldFishingNetwork.com DIY Survival Kits for Anglers: How to Piece Together Items to Keep You Alive Anglers who follow the rules of boating safety are unlikely to encounter life-threatening situations on the water, but you never know; anyone can be put into a survival situation anytime, anywhere, without warning Emergencies happen when you least expect it. Carrying a personal survival kit and ditch kit can save your life if you're caught in a bad situation. (Keith Sutton photo) A sudden storm capsizes your boat in rough water. You sink after hitting an unseen obstacle. An unsafe operator crashes his boat into yours. Motor problems strand you in a remote area. Your fishing partner cuts himself deeply with a knife. Hopefully you’ll never be involved in serious situations like these. If you are, however, your story is much more likely to have a happy ending if you follow a bit of sage advice: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Part of that preparation should involve designing, assembling and carrying customized survival kits. A survival kit is a collection of supplies that can help you cope with unexpected events. A wide variety of prepackaged kits are available through sporting-goods dealers and online distributors, and if you know you won’t find time to assemble your own kit, you should buy a commercial package suited to your needs. Assembling your own survival kit can be fun, though, and creating customized kits well-suited to your own particular situations is the best way to be sure you have the items you’ll need in case of emergency. Having a single well-equipped survival kit is better than none at all, but most experts suggest you make at least two: a small personal kit and a larger “ditch kit,” also called an abandon-ship or go kit. Personal Survival Kits A personal survival kit should be light and small enough so it always is with you. Ideally, each person fishing with you should have one, too. Contents depend on individual preferences, environment and activity, but essentials in each of these categories should be included. First Aid: If anyone is seriously injured, rendering first aid should be top priority. A personal kit isn’t large enough to carry a full array of supplies but should include basic items such as bandages, gauze, alcohol swabs and pain reliever. If space permits, you also may want to include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, butterfly wound closures and water-purification tablets. Small prepackaged kits in waterproof containers are available from several manufacturers. Shelter/Warmth: Where there’s a likelihood of getting soaked in cold weather, wearing wool clothing that insulates even when wet is a good idea. But you also should carry additional items for emergency use. A small emergency poncho can help keep you dry. Space blankets are waterproof, windproof and available in sizes small enough to make one ideal for inclusion in a personal survival kit. Wrap up in one to reduce body heat loss in cold weather, or fashion the blanket into a temporary shelter or windbreak or a signal for rescuers. If you can reach shore, you’ll also want a fire to get warm and dry as quickly as possible and for signaling rescuers, cooking food and providing a feeling of comfort and security. You can keep matches in a waterproof container for this purpose, or use devices like a magnesium firestarter. But if you keep it dry, a windproof butane lighter is one of the best tools for quickly lighting a fire. It’s provides hundreds of lights and furnishes a larger flame for a longer time than matches. You also should include in your kit a candle stub and/or some type of fire-starting aid that will help you get a blaze going fast. Signaling aids: In an emergency, getting help quick should be a prime concern. Attract rescuers’ attention using a whistle, flares, signal mirror, smoke canister, distress flag and/or other device(s) kept in your personal kit. Then provide a homing signal from a small waterproof flashlight, strobe, chemical light, whistle or other signal to guide the responding party to you. Many anglers now also carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) such as the SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker (www.findmespot.com) that can be activated in the event of a critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location and need for assistance. Tools: A good stainless multi-tool such as those made by Gerber and Leatherman can be invaluable for repairing equipment, preparing shelters and food items, making cooking utensils and fashioning other survival equipment. Miscellaneous items: Include necessary prescription medications in your kit, and, space permitting, consider the addition of compact items such as insect-repellent swabs, energy food bars, a compass (that you know how to use), fish hooks and line, sunscreen towelettes and hand warmers. A folded piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil doesn’t take up much space and has many uses. Make it into a drinking cup, use it as a windbreak when starting a fire, fashion it into a container for boiling water or cooking and much more. Container: All items should be kept in a durable, waterproof container that’s small enough so you can (and will) keep it on your person. Small belt pouches available from backpacking suppliers work well, but you also can use zip-seal freezer bags, an Army surplus first-aid pouch or just a small plastic container with a snap-tight lid. Ditch Kits Because it’s stowed in your boat until needed, a ditch kit can contain larger items from the same categories as contents for personal survival kits. The kit should be accessible and known to all onboard. It should be placed where it can float free if the boat sinks or capsizes and should be waterproof, durable and have a handle. Don’t count on it being there when you need it; this is not a personal survival kit. But keep it handy so, if time permits, you can grab it and take it to shore in the event of an emergency. Items you may want in your ditch kit include extra clothing, a water-purification filter, nylon cord and a small tarp or plastic sheeting for making a shelter, a folding saw and/or sheath knife, extra flares or smoke canisters, high-energy foods like tropical chocolate bars and hard candy, a waterproof hand-held GPS and/or VHF transceiver, a water bottle, extra fishing tackle, binoculars, survival literature and a larger first-aid kit with a more extensive selection of supplies. The inclusion of multipurpose items when possible reduces the amount of weight and needed space. And as with personal survival kit items, everything should be inspected on a regular basis to be sure it functions as intended and isn’t out of date. Conclusion Perhaps soon you can say, “My survival kit is ready.” But are you ready? Do you know basic survival techniques: how to signal, how to use a compass and GPS, how to build a fire in rain or snow and so forth? An angler with a kit full of items he can’t use may be in trouble. Can you make decisions without panic in the face of adversity? If you can’t rely on yourself, all the survival equipment in the world won’t help you. Do you have the judgment and maturity to back away from unsafe situations? Remember, the best survival kit is one you never have to use. And finally, does your survival kit go along on all your outdoor ventures? Even the best kit is useless if you don’t have it with you.