What's in My Bag

What’s in my survival kit? — Dug North

What’s in my … ? issue #130

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Dug North is a maker, best known for his mechanical wooden sculptures. He spent five years running an antique clock restoration business. These days he enjoys outdoor bushcraft activities. You can find Dug on YouTube @dugnorth, and on Instagram @dug.north, and on Facebook @DugNorthCreations.


I am passionate about learning and teaching wilderness survival skills. As an example for my students, I put together a well-rounded survival kit. This kit is based on a design by my colleague, Tim Swanson of Owl Eyes Wilderness.

One of the hardest things to do in the wild is keeping track of your stuff. This is why every item in the kit is bright orange or red.


Orange Waist Pack ($13)
You must have these items with you if they are to be of any use. This is the reason for dedicating a small pack specifically for this kit. Let’s say you go for a day hike. You might take your main backpack off now and then. Only take this waist pack off if it is absolutely necessary.

ESEE Fixed Blade Knife ($70)
In most environments, the most essential survival item is a sturdy knife. ESEE makes two small fixed-blade knives that don’t take up a lot of room. The models I like are the Izula and the Candiru (shown).

Exotac fireSLEEVE ($18) for the Bic Lighter ($20, 5ct)
It may not fit with your mental image of wilderness survival, but the classic Bic lighter is the best fire starter you can possibly have. The fireSLEEVE protects this valuable resource by keeping it dry, preventing the gas button from accidentally discharging the fuel, and by making the lighter float in water.

UST StrikeForce Fire Starter ($20)
Isn’t it redundant to have two ways to start a fire? Yes – and that is precisely the goal. A ferrocerium rod can create thousands of fires and is an ideal backup for a lighter. This model is not only orange, but easy to handle, and has a small compartment to hold dry tinder. Scrape the rod with the metal striker to ignite the included tinder tabs.

Black Diamond Ion Keychain Light ($20)
This little flashlight puts out an impressive 40 lumens of light. Unlike most flashlights of this size, it has a twisting lock that ensures it will not turn on by accident while jostling around in your bag. The brightness can be adjusted and it has a dedicated strobe mode for signalling.

S.O.L. Utility Reflective Tinder Cord ($26)
Cordage allows you to construct shelters, repair gear, and make other helpful items. This utility cord has an outer sheath that glows brightly when light hits it at night. The inner core is a specially designed fire-starting tinder to use in conjunction with your lighter or ferro rod.

Orange 55 Gallon Drum Liner ($20)
Something as simple as a large trash bag can serve many uses — from improvised poncho, to tarp shelter, to make-shift sleeping bag. Few items are so worth their weight.

Aquatabs ($11) with Whirl-Pak Stand-up Bags ($9)
Drop one Aquatab tablet into one of these free-standing plastic bags filled with water and in 30 minutes you will have a liter of drinking water that is free of pathogens. This is a lightweight means for staving off potentially dangerous levels of dehydration.

LuxoGear Emergency Whistle ($8)
A whistle can signal for help at great distances and for far longer than the human voice. Remember: three blasts in sequence is the universal signal for distress.

Cotton bandana ($7)
This is another simple item that is easy to underestimate. A cotton bandana can serve as a signal flag, head covering, washcloth, dust mask, bandage, and water pre-filter.

Tiny Survival Guide ($12) with Plastic Fresnel Lens ($9)
This little booklet is actually a folded waterproof poster that provides concise information on a variety of survival topics. In a bad situation, a little expert guidance could be invaluable. Tuck a flat plastic fresnel lens into the guide as a backup for your reading glasses and third possible means to start a fire by solar ignition.

All of these items have been tested to my satisfaction. It’s true that the cost of the full kit does add up, but keep in mind that these items have been chosen to help save your life. How much is that worth?


© 2022