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Five Top Survival Items

Five Top Survival Items 0

We had a discussion at Carry Smarter about what we would want if we could have only five survival things to get us through an average UK based wilderness survival scenario, up a mountain or in secluded woodland. We wanted to consider five easily carriable things that would give you the best odds of survival. Obviously, a fully-stocked extensive first aid kit, a tent, five litres of drinking water, British Army ration pack and a gas burner camping stove would be sincerely helpful, but hauling those around with you all the time you’re hiking may not always be possible.
  1. Smartphone
Our top choice for a survival item is something that most of the population carries with them at all times already! A mobile phone with a fully charged battery and network coverage would enable you to make emergency rescue services informed of your situation, which would mean it was only a matter of moments before help gets to you. Just acknowledging help is on its way would be a tremendous psychological lift from the outset, helping you to stay cool and approach the other survival priorities, such as signalling to the rescuers when they get near.
Even in the absence network coverage, modern smartphones still have several uses for the survival. Built-in functions such as the flashlight, digital compass/GPS system, mapping apps and even survival knowledge apps can all be a tremendous help.
  1. Foil survival blanket
In the UK, exposure to the elements can swiftly become fatal, the compound of the wind and rain wicking away your body heat and putting you into hypothermia. To stop this happening, you will need a way of both keeping them out and retaining your body heat.
The foil survival blanket is a fine pocket-sized item, when unfolded and wrapped around the body offers shelter from the wind and rain, as well as maintaining the body heat that you would otherwise naturally lose. It’s the nearest thing you can have to a portable pocket shelter, and it can keep you warm just enough to survive until rescue happens.
  1. Haemostatic agent
One possibility that we agreed could bring a quick and unfortunate ending to a survival scenario would be that of traumatic blood loss. While somewhat unlikely to occur on a regular outdoor excursion in the UK, cuts and wounds do happen, and it’d only take an unusually severe slip with a blade to cause a life-threatening loss of blood. Applying a tourniquet is a good way of slowing blood loss, but this isn’t much use if you’ve sustained a head wound.
However, there are haemostatic products available, such as these haemostatic granule sachets. Applied right to the wound, followed by pressure and bandaging. These are easy to carry an item that could prevent an otherwise fast demise from blood loss.
Fire Embers
  1. Ferrocerium rod and striker
Creating fire can turn a bad situation to your favour. Having a way of staying warm and signalling to rescuers is important, and fire will help you achieve both.
We finished up going for the Ferro rod. The idea being is that although it's slower to produce a flame than a lighter. Butane lighters can fail to ignite if the air temperature falls below 4°C, but a Ferro rod and striker will perpetually be able to produce hot sparks in any weather.
  1. Water bottle with inbuilt filter
We also considered what could occur if rescue didn’t take place within hours or a day of the survivor finding themselves in their state, and how after this period the need for water would become a significant role in their survival.
A bit of survival gear that immediately came to thought was the Lifestraw Go; that is essentially a plastic water bottle with a filter element built into the cap. The excellent point about this is that you have a container in which you can get water from nearly any source, and when you must to rehydrate you just drink through the spout like a typical water bottle.
Final Thoughts
A sound knowledge of survival techniques and the environment will go a long way towards surviving. So maybe the most important survival item you should carry would be your brain.
  • Martin Punter
  • Tags: EDC
Stormproof Matches

Stormproof Matches 0

A staple EDC (every day carry) item for those who are preparedness-minded is a fire making tool. Now this is usually a lighter or a fire steel. All too often do we forget the device that is most commonly used to start a fire around the globe, the common match.

Modern matches have been around for about 200 years but they are still as popular as ever. It's because of their simplistic and reliable function, and most of all, their cost.

The modern match has had the design tweaked a touch with the Strike Anywhere Match, which I'm sure many of you have seen. A new model is the Stormproof Match, which is something I wanted to present to all of you today.

The Stormproof Match has the match-head
chemical coating covering halfway down the match body.
This enables the match to burn even in strong wind, rain, or even underwater! It sounds too good to be true, but you can see this in the video below.


These matches are perfect for EDC, since we often need matches outside, and standard matches are often blown out in even a light gust of wind. These Stormproof Matches continue burning no matter what conditions.

They are also very affordable. You can buy them in a 10-Pack, 25-Pack and 50-Pack, in a Small or Large Waterproof Case. There are many ways to carry them. Personally, I would bring a 10-Pack of these matches in a jacket pocket. Heck, throw one in each of your jackets so that no matter what, if it's cold and you go outside, you'll have a way to start a fire.

Carry Smarter.

  • Martin Punter
  • Tags: EDC Fire
EDC Nutrition

EDC Nutrition 0

Most of you reading this will have put high effort into determining just the right equipment for your outdoor pursuits or survival equipment inventories. To you, it is likely a knife isn’t just a knife, but a prized possession that you find fits your hand perfectly and is best suited to the tasks you require. Once you have researched and selected the gear to cover the ‘survival priorities’, you will almost certainly have some food supply. Even in tiny ‘grab and go’ packs, such as kits built around the Snugpak Response Pack or similar bags, there is space for at least some food.
Food, while not an immediate survival priority (such as shelter, warmth or water), is still imperative at times when your body needs a lot of energy to stay warm and function correctly. In an outdoor activity you will likely be burning a lot more energy than most people do at home or work, and if the event turns into a desperate hell march back to safety, especially in cold and wet weather, then your energy requirements can be 5 or 6 times standard.
The body has energy reserves
Humans, in comparison to many animals, carry a large store of adipose tissue A.K.A. fat, which would have been a vital sanctuary to our hunter ancestors. Many people may point out that these fat reserves can keep you alive for weeks without food (I have a good size ‘survival belly’!). While this is true to some degree when going from a well-fed state to a starved one the muscles and liver will quickly become depleted of glycogen (the compound in which the body stores glucose ready for short term energy release). Fat burning and replenishing these glycogen stores through a process known as ‘gluconeogenesis’ takes a little while for the body to ‘switch on’ and until it does, your body will be sluggish and your mind dull. Not what you want in a survival scenario!
The right type of food
Unless you are lucky enough to be in an area with plenty of natural and easy to find food, obtaining enough calories from nature is an often understated great challenge. Therefore, a decent survival kit should always contain food.
Food is just food and as long as it contains calories it’ll do, right? Not really!
I can make the point of how you’d feel after scoffing an entire selection pack of chocolate compared to eating a well-constructed meal of the same calories as the chocolate. The human body can use fats, carbohydrates, proteins and even alcohol as energy (unless you are a pirate, the last one isn’t recommended as a fuel source). Fat contains the most calories per gramme at around nine calories per gramme with carbohydrates and protein both containing around four calories per gramme. Fat is clearly the most energy-dense source with a set weight having over double the energy of carbohydrates or protein.
So the ideal survival food to carry is a block of lard? No; remember above I mentioned the body’s glycogen stores?
Glycogen is the store of glucose and is released for short ‘bursts’ of energy and providing the brain with a steady glucose supply for optimal function. Carbohydrates are far more efficient at keeping glycogen stores topped up than fat or protein (which both require ‘breaking down’ and going through various metabolic pathways before they can be stored as glycogen)
So we should include some carbohydrates in our food supply.
Blood sugar, and glucose vs. fructose
The simplest and easiest to digest carbohydrate is glucose; this can be absorbed quickly and used as a straight fuel source by every cell in the body. Sugar (sucrose) is a mixture of glucose and fructose (fructose also comes by itself, often found in higher concentrations in honey and fruits). Fructose is metabolised in the liver and not directly used by the body’s cells so is less than ideal than glucose for a survival situation where digestion or liver function may be impaired.
Good old Kendal Mint Cake is a time-honoured outdoor energy booster famously eaten on the peak of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Percival Hillary. It is made with a good proportion of glucose syrup and is a great quick energy booster when you are feeling ‘drained’. However, it is important not consume too much glucose in one ‘hit’. As the body responds to large influxes of glucose by releasing lots of insulin (the hormone the body uses to ‘store’ blood sugar); this can create what is known as ‘reactive hypoglycemia’ or more commonly a sugar crash. Too much sugar can also irritate the digestive tract, so you should consider including some other sources of carbohydrate to prevent this; a flapjack containing oats for example.
In short term survival situations carbohydrates can help keep you moving and thinking quickly.
Medium-chain triglycerides
As mentioned earlier fat has a high energy density, so should be included as part of survival nutrition to pack more power into a smaller and lighter space. But fat isn’t just fat and there are many different types (also known as triglycerides). Don’t worry; I will not bore you and go into those various kinds but there is one type of fat fuel that stands out for survival purposes: Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are far easier for the body to digest than many other types; they do not require bile salts for digestion and passively diffuse into the GI tract without requiring energy, ideal for any situation where your digestive system has been compromised and every calorie counts! Due to their natural absorption and metabolism, they help promote the body to burn fat and produce heat.
Typically coconut and palm kernel oils contain larger quantities of MCTs. Those of you who like to bake your hiking flapjacks may consider including some coconut oil in your next batch.
Protein (made up of amino acids) is necessary for life and building muscle but is not much of a priority in a short term survival situation; just a small amount for keeping you ticking over is fine. In a long term survival situation, essential amino acids would be required for your body to continue functioning. But we will presume that if you’ve survived long enough for that to happen, you would have used your rations a long time ago and learnt how to hunt for food and thus have a supply of protein.
Protein is, of course, another source of energy and any food that swims, flies, crawls or walks will contain a good proportion of protein if you are lucky enough to catch it!
So, carbohydrates, fats and protein are all sources of energy and known as ‘macronutrients’. The other side to nutrition are the ‘micronutrients’, and these are the vitamins and minerals in foods that are required in small quantities for normal functioning. Some of these are less important for short term survival situations as the body has stores of some that will last months, we will not cover those here. However in situations where you are sweating lots, it will be important to have food that contains electrolyte salts to replace those lost through sweat and prevent a dangerous situation where your muscles will start cramping up.
A simple solution to this is to carry rehydration salts to mix with water and keep these minerals topped up.
Another useful micronutrient in a survival situation is B vitamins, which help the body release energy from food and keep health and wellbeing together when under high stress. Carrying a good multivitamin or B vitamin complex is a lightweight way of ensuring you have these.
Putting it all together
So, with all the above said, what should we take with us? What will make for a high-energy food source for outdoor activities and, should the worst happen, a reliable emergency food supply?
Shelf live and taste are also critical; you don’t want to pack anything that will taste like an old shoe, and the last thing you want in a survival situation is squatting in the midst of nowhere with a hard case of the ‘Barry Whites’ from food that has gone rancid. Another crucial factor is not carrying anything that requires cooking; I can’t imagine much making a survival situation worse than having to crunch through a pack of uncooked spaghetti.
As mentioned earlier, making a flapjack (made with oats, syrup and fat) is a pretty good hiking food for short trips, but for a survival kit that needs to stay ready in your bag for years you need items with a longer shelf life. Military ration packs are a good starting point, designed to be lightweight, high calorie and with a long shelf life (I once ate a British ration pack that was over 13 years old without a problem, although the ‘biscuits brown’ were even more like cardboard than normal). Civilian MREs are also good, but try to select the most energy dense ones, by looking at the energy per 100g on the packaging (most seem to be about 140kcal/100g). There are specialised ‘survival foods’ available such as Seven Oceans Emergency Food Ration Liferaft Survival Biscuits. They aren’t exactly gourmet eating but they are ready to eat and pack an energy density of 500kcal/100g!
There are also some exciting high energy choices in the Eastern European food markets or supermarket sections, including various lightweight foil or plastic containers with what is essentially pork or goose fat spreads within, called ‘smalec’. These are very nice when eaten with some long life crackers. Various other great life foods can be sourced from the supermarket, but it is important to go for foil pouches instead of tins for weight saving and ease of packing.
As previously noted, a source of glucose allows for a quick replenishment of energy and as well as Kendal mint cake many energy tablets contain mostly glucose, and the bonus of some of these is they also contain B vitamins. Chocolate is a mixture of fats and sugars, and thus a very dense energy source. Chocolate is not ideal for warmer climates for obvious reasons and you should go for a chocolate bar that contains more glucose, but there is something to be said for the morale-boosting nature of a bar of chocolate! I would urge you to try out various ration packs, civilian hiking foods and have a good scout around the supermarket for lightweight pouches and foil containers of foods.
What is your favourite food to keep in your hiking kit or bug-out bag?
Carry Smarter.
Introduction to EDC pocket knives

Introduction to EDC pocket knives 0

A knife is a tool, not a weapon. Repeat that last sentence to yourself one hundred times. A knife is the first ever tool made by humans, marked by stone versions that are over 2 million years old. We had a need back then. Nevertheless, things have shifted a bit since that point. Today’s society instantly connects the idea of a blade with a deadly weapon rather than a tool.
For us at Carry Smarter, this isn’t how we interpret an EDC pocket knife. They should be used as a key or a mobile phone, Not literally. You’re not going to make a phone call on your Swiss Army Knife.
The objective is to perform efficiently everyday tasks in that a sharp blade is required; opening boxes or envelopes, cutting ropes or tags. There are endless potentialities and they will grow apparent once you have ready access to one. If your work or lifestyle demands you to require a sharp edge more than ten times a day, you should upgrade to a trade knife, not a pocket knife.
Determining the right one for you can be tough.  So to help slim down your selection process, let’s take a look at the several major features out there.
Length Of The Blade
For an EDC pocket knife, you only need a 3″ blade. Sometimes a bit smaller. Any longer and you’re in a separate class of the knife. Again, let’s focus on the minor chores and tasks. Take into consideration that there are legal issues with longer blades. You can look up the law in our other blog post here.
The outside dimensions of the knife when it is in the closed state.  Personally, we think slimmer and smaller is better. But too small and it will get lost in your hand, making it unusable as a tool. The purpose is to find a balance that suits your pockets and your palm.
An everyday carry pocket knife should be light-weight. The difference between a couple of ounces doesn’t seem like much on paper, but just wait till you’re carrying it 12+ hours a day.
Compare weights of various models and then investigate the composition or reviews to make sure it can survive some daily abuse.
Carry Design
Carrying your EDC knife in a container on your belt is plausible, but we’re not very into that look. Your knife should be concealed, but readily available.
You don’t need to carry it around your neck advertising it to everyone. We’re focusing on an “office kind of scenario” and casual. We prefer pocket clips as well as in pocket carry selections. Depending on the dimension/colour/finish of the pocket clip, your knife carry still may be pretty visible, but not fundamentally sticking out like a sore thumb. Some are more discreet than others while others leave a substantial amount of the knife visible. With a pocket clip, you can immediately and easily access the knife to accomplish a small task. In-pocket carry is perfect for stealthily taking in a public environment, except you may have to sift around in your pockets for it. The best way to conclude that issue is to carry less in your pockets. Switching among the two carry methods is a great balance, depending on the context. Find what operates best for you.
Blade Material
Nine times out of ten, you’re going to find steel is best for an everyday carry blade. Titanium sure is good for its strength to weight proportion, but it doesn’t keep a sharp edge like steel does. There are a broad array of steels to choose from out there, all slightly varying from one another depending on the element content. Each type of steel has its benefits and downfalls including corrosion protection, strength, edge retention, cost, and more. For instance, while 30+ layer Damascus steel is great-looking and highly desirable for pocket blades, it is very expensive due to its complex construction. There is no right or wrong steel, but there are some who are certainly better than others. Here is a comprehensive guide on steel knife types for you to get lost reading. Here is an essential guide for those who just want to scan the surface.
Handle Material
Strength, sturdiness, grip and aesthetics are all part of the ruling process for this one.  Handles (or “scales” as they’re referred to) range from G10 synthetic grips, rare and exotic rainforest hardwoods, brass, titanium amongst countless others.  Given above; wood/brass, G10, animal bone, titanium, respectively. The decision is up to you. We’ve found the knives with organic materials look a little less “weapons”, more relaxed and better accommodated for non-threatening office carry, which is our intention.
Edge Type
The majority of the knife world is pretty much in consensus that a non-serrated blade is best for everyday carry.  Some may disagree, as their daily tasks may include cutting rope and such. As we noted above, if you’re using a knife in these circumstances you should likely enhance to a work knife with a serrated blade, not a pocket knife. A simplistic sharp edge should be all you require for an EDC pocket knife, enabling you to make accurate, well-defined cuts.
Locking Method
Talking about the diversity of different locking systems out there is a lot like trying to argue about which German car is the best. They’re all exceptional. Test them out in the shop and sense which one you favour. The basic styles are:
- Slip Joint (which doesn't lock, like the Swiss Army knife),
- Lock Back (adamant, usually with the visible locker at the rear of the handle)
- Liner Lock (the most common, where the tensioned liner pops in place to keep the blade open)
- Frame Lock (similar to the above Liner Lock, except the frame is the tensioned locking system)
Opening Method
Some open fast, while others require two hands and time. It isn’t just about rapid deployment. A couple of these methods make the form factor considerably larger, which isn’t perfect in our opinion.
Company History
If this matters to you, there are lots of fascinating stories out there. Made in the UK, made in France, made in Germany invented or taken by a famous historical figure, etc. Maybe you’ll be drawn towards one brand and appreciate their specific values.
This one starts from a few quid up to thousands of pounds. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how upset you’ll be if your investment goes missing/gets lost. Based on your personal circumstances, you might not be too disconcerted if you lose a £25 knife, but perhaps you’re in the £15 club. Although they’ll be pretty heartbroken, others may find the peril of carrying a £300+ pocket knife is a risk which is cancelled out by its benefits. Generally speaking, the more you spend, the higher quality you’ll get as the blade market is extremely cut-throat and competitive in the pricing. But once you get high up there, you’re paying for exotics and craftsmanship. This doesn’t mean you can’t find an amazingly high quality and useful EDC pocket knife for below £50, or even less than £20. In our mind, sub-£100 blades are our favourite.
Function over aesthetics as always. But EDC pocket knives can be like pocket jewellery while still being completely functional, let your taste and preference guide you.  A non-threatening look will enable your tool to be carried in an office or a public space without agitating your sensitive coworkers. If you don’t socialise with society or simply don’t worry about people’s opinion on this, there are loads of tactical and aggressive-looking devices out there.
Carry Smarter.
The Curiously Useful Altoids Tin

The Curiously Useful Altoids Tin 0

The simple Altoids tin, designed several years ago as packaging for ‘The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints’, has since become the survival container favourite amongst the EDC community. Pocket-sized, sturdy, readily available, and with seemingly interior space, this little mint tin just happens to be an excellent way of keeping a survival kit neatly and securely stowed away.
There’s no solid lineup of survival kit ‘ingredients’ that go inside an Altoids tin survival kit; they are highly personalised kits, with components carefully chosen based on the situation and the environment in which the kit carrier frequently finds themselves. In fact, the very building of an Altoids tin survival kit is a very thought-provoking lesson in preparation, as the kit carrier should be considering their key survival priorities, and how each item would help to address them.
Creating a survival kit with these tins is also viewed as a bit of a rite of passage for EDC'ers, so I thought I’d try it as a little project, and see how I managed.
Altoids Tin Mints
So I started with the Altoids tin. The first barrier was the 50g of peppermints that packed the tin. These got quickly dealt with, so now, armed with a cleared mind and minty fresh breath, I could now put my mind towards carefully thinking about the survival priorities that my kit should help me address. I’ll list the main survival components underneath, in no particular order.
Fire Lighting
Fire is a remarkably useful survival tool, because as well as its principal role of keeping your body heated, it can also help with tackling some of the additional priorities, like water purification and signalling.
I made sure that there were two means of ignition added in my kit, as well as some decent tinder. For combustion, I went for a BIC Mini Lighter, and a little ferrocerium rod as a backup (to be used with a knife, which I included in this kit). For the tinder, I added a batch of 10 lengths of waxed jute twine. Waxed jute stays waterproof until needed, at which point it can be untwisted and fluffed up into a ‘tinder ball’, with the bonus of increased burning time due to the wax.
Water Purification
The requirement for water is a critical survival priority. Depending on the environment, just a couple of days without water could be fatal, and in the shorter term, it's essential for efficient functioning of the body and mind. So to stay properly hydrated, you require having a supply of water that wont to make you ill.
To address the demand for drinking water in my kit, I included a condom as a water gathering container, along with 10 NaDCC water purification tablets, each suitable for purifying a litre of water. Boiling water is another method of making it fit for drinking, and in an emergency, the Altoids tin could be used as a pot to boil up 50ml of water at a time.
Lack of proper shelter means that you’ll become exposed to everything the climate decides to throw at you, which in the UK typically means wind and rain, and we have it easy here. Nevertheless, exposure to wind and rain can quickly be fatal; hypothermia is a real killer. In warmer climates, heat stroke and dehydration are what make the shelter a must.
This priority I found the most challenging to address within the limits of the Altoids tin because by it's very nature even a portable shelter will use up a large space. An emergency foil blanket would have been suitable as a temporary survival shelter, but no way was it going to fit inside the tin. What I was able to include was around 10ft of 550lb paracord, for binding together a shelter frame from big sticks, and a useful-sized folding knife, for cutting the paracord, and preparing plant material.
While we’re on the topic of knives, I find them an extremely versatile and multi-functional survival tool, but an interesting point to make is that they are far less helpful in areas with little to no plant life.
Navigation / Signalling
The importance of navigation and signalling arises from the fact that there are always ways out of a survival situation, either by reaching safety or by getting help to come to you. So once you have addressed your immediate priorities, your focus should turn to these two.
The addition of a 20mm button compass in the tin means that I would have a way of getting my bearings and determining my way out, even if landmarks were proving difficult.
Signalling gets addressed in two ways in this kit; audibly, with a whistle, and visually, with the capability to make distress beacons with fire, and a reflective surface fitted in the lid of the tin. These reflective surfaces brightly reflect both visible light and infra-red, which aids rescue at night.
First Aid
Blood-loss and infection, would both be real showstoppers in a survival circumstance. So anything that you can add to a survival kit to help yourself with addressing these can only be a good thing.
I included two alcohol swabs, for wound cleaning/sterilisation. Injuries can then get dressed with a temporary bandage from torn clothing. For critical blood loss, a tourniquet can be built by using some of the paracord.
Food Procurement
In a survival scenario, food, while arguably a lower-priority matter, is still a valuable thing to be able to find. In colder climates especially, where your body burns calories far more quickly, food can be essential for maintaining your body. Having something to eat helps keep morale, and that’s one main key to survival.
My Altoids tin includes a mini fishing kit, which comprises hooks and weights, as well as safety pins and a sewing needle all sealed in a small length of plastic straw, then wrapped in 8 metres of fishing line. So with some determination, I could conceivably feed myself with fish and small game.
Carry Smarter.
Should I Carry A Pocket Notebook?

Should I Carry A Pocket Notebook? 0

Paper and Pen are destined for each other, and one without the other just doesn't work. Adding a notebook to your carry is quite easy due to their size and flexibility in a pocket. The addition of A memo book to your back pocket adds a tonne of utility without the bulk. Pocket notebooks are perfect for a variety of purposes:
Easy to Carry:
Most pocket notebooks consist of around 20/30 sheets, usually with paper covers. Because of this, they are thin enough to fit easily comfortably in a front or back pocket without you noticing it’s there until you need it.
If you’re already carrying a pen, adding a pocket notebook is the next logical step. Having your personal notes in your back pocket or backpack makes them easily accessible. Never be without a place to write something down again.
Rather than writing down your thoughts, important mobile numbers, notes and more on scraps of paper - have them all safely consolidated in your back pocket. It's much easier to look back and examine notes when they're all in the same place.
Helps you memorise:
Writing down notes by hand has been reliably proven to help you retain information. It’s also an important part of The Field Notes Mantra; “I am not noting it down to remember it later, I am noting it down to remember it now.”
What advantages does a pocket notebook give me?
There are many uses for carrying a notebook. People have been writing stuff down for generations, whether it be observations, individual experiences, or what they have to grab at the local store. Here're a few suggestions on what to write in your notebook:
To-Do List:
What more reliable place is there than your very own pocket to keep a running list of all that needs to get sorted?
Follow your daily spending to stick to that budget to help save up for that new knife you’ve been looking at.
Write down a few ideas and observations from each day. It’s a lot of fun and interesting to look back on what you were up to years past on the same day.
Whether it be your gym progress, weight loss/gain, or tasting notes on your favourite coffees or teas, try keeping a journal of things you desire.
Creativity & Inspiration:
It’s relaxing to let your creativity free and put pen to paper and see what comes out. Write down passing thoughts, business plans, sketches for a future project, and much more.
Carry Smarter