Friday, September 18, 2015

Survival "Practice Kits" Make Fun Gifts

Random thoughts of Christmas (and birthday) gifts made me think of creating preparedness skill kits for others (or even yourself).

You know plenty of people, I'm sure, who say they have an interest in prepping or learning survival skills, but they never get beyond reading how-to's. Or, maybe you know a young person who would like to learn some bushcraft skills but lives in an urban area. So what if you could hand them the skill-building outdoor experience in a box or bag?

I can explain best, I think, by showing you some examples.

Let's take the idea of learning to find your direction if you are lost in the woods. All that's needed is a day that casts shadows, a couple of tall sticks and a couple of small rocks. You can bundle the sticks and rocks and tie on a tag with instructions. If you are able to perform the exercise with the young person or adult, all the better!

This is the experience of using the sun's shadow moving over a period of 15 minutes to show you an east-west directional line. Use this to orient yourself and check that you are traveling in the right direction if you lose or break your compass (you do carry at least a button compass when you hike, don't you?).  There are tons of examples with photos online and here is a link to one that is nicely done:

There is also the method of using a non-digital (analog) wrist watch. Here is a link to a good example of that:

You can print out an online illustration of this method and include it with the above practice kit or hand-write the instructions. Explain that if the person simply knows the time but has no analog watch, it is easy to create or imagine the positions of the hour hand and the 12. You can also include a small compass with instructions. Use the compass to show that the sun-and-sticks method shows the proper general directions.

Another idea for a practice kit is for fire building (yes, going for the basics here). If the recipient is of age to be truly careful with creating fire and can find an appropriate place to build a small fire, this practice kit could contain several examples of fire starting. Perhaps the easiest one will illustrate.

I am a BIG fan of cotton balls smeared heavily on the outside with petroleum jelly. You stuff several in an old photo film canister or tiny ziploc bag or such. Pull out one cotton ball and fluff it so that some of the drier inside is exposed and air can circulate in it a bit. Tuck it into the tinder bundle. Now, using the regular Bic lighter (or similar) that is part of the "practice kit" you've assembled, simply set it on fire. It will burn for a good while like a small candle. This gives time for the tinder bundle to catch well so the newbie can get the next layer of larger fuel to ignite. You will have put a variety of types of tinder in the kit box so experimentation can take place.

Of course, the fire preparedness kit can feature as many ways to make fire as your time and/or budget allows:  instructions and materials for creating char cloth, a fire steel, magnesium bar, windproof lighter, waterproof matches, etc. You can even include materials to create homemade waterproof matches.

I think these examples show that with some imagination, you can create a bushcraft experience and give it as a gift. Other basics could be filtering water, using a LifeStraw, making solar still, etc. Consider the person's age, interest level, physical environment, etc. Make it FUN and it will be a gift that gets used AND may encourage the recipient to get out and DO more to learn skills.

Soon, I'll have a post with gift ideas for gear purchases or even some free but valuable tools.

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