fire management is key to survival

You better pick a pocket or two boy!

It tells me a lot about someone when they empty their pockets. Car keys, phone, wallet… oh, is that it?

I’m the guy who goes to your wedding in cargo pants and wearing “technical” clothing.
It is habitual to pack out my pockets and is just a way of life. If you’ve not got your trousers on then we have bigger problems to worry about!

So here is the list of my various items. If you’re on a course with me and don’t believe it, ask, I’ll happily go through it over a brew at half time.

  • Pocket knife (Victorinox Ranger)
  • Sharpening stone (Falkniven CC4)
  • Ferrocerium rod
  • Bic lighter
  • Whistle
  • Small pocket torch and spare battery
  • Sawyer Mini (water filter)
  • Couple of hanks of 550 cord
  • Medical kit, anti bac wet wipes and tourniquet
  • Loo roll and lighter
  • Fresnel lens, cordage
  • Mini ferrocerium rod
  • Tinder card
  • Wire saw
  • Phone
  • Watch and small compass situated on the strap
  • 2mx2m orange Mylar blanket (modified bivi bag) 

With this kit I can live relatively happily for weeks outside. I might be a few pounds lighter and have a thousand-yard stare by the end, but I would still be alive and kicking, and my skill set would be as razor sharp as my knife.

Survival is rarely a protracted experience. Most situations last little over a week at most.
In fact, in the UK, it rarely lasts more than 24 hours.

So, what are our immediate needs and how do these items assist us in living through a period of unplanned discomfort?

MEDICAL (the one most forget)

Not much point having all that food if you bleed out after cutting your hand open trying to get into that packet of instant noodles or get T boned at a junction and suffer a catastrophic bleed. You must carry a med kit and tourniquet and know how to use it one handed!


Our clothing offers us our immediate shelter, dress for success at all times. Jeans and cotton t-shirts have no place outdoors.

Building shelters takes time. At least three hours to make something of value in bad weather. This time is far better spent moving towards safety. If we have to spend a night out a simple tarp shelter is a must have.

My pocket kit won’t enable me to build a base camp but it will mean I can escape the rain for a few hours’ kip. Using a Mylar bivvi bag that has been cut along the seams to make a large square sheet enables me to quickly bodge together a half decent shelter in a few moments. Add natural materials and a simple bough bed with a fire and we can be relatively comfortable even in severe cold.


I am not spinning sticks if I can help it, in fact, if I am, I have made a severe mistake in my planning. I must add that friction fire lighting is a skill we must understand, practice and own, however, carry the kit to aid in your success. When we need an emergency fire we need it now.

You will also note I have multiple methods and apparatus to give me ignition. An old saying springs to mind. Three is two, two is one, one is none. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Also carry tinder. I can show you many types of tinders we have in nature but I guarantee when you drag yourself from the river bank soaked to the bone and injured you won’t have a birch tree in sight and all around you will be damp twigs lying on the wet ground. Plan for the worst!


Without water our brain function decreases, we become physically weak and very quickly we become faint which poses a risk of injury from falling. Ultimately after a few days we will Die.

Drinking dirty water is a sure way to make yourself sick and ultimately dehydrate you faster. Unfortunately we live in a country surrounded by livestock and people. I treat ALL water sources with suspicion in the UK. Using a filter means I can drink straight from the source without too much worry. In some areas though I may well pass on some water sources. Especially around industry and large population areas.

Boiling is a great method and a preferred one for long term use, however, creating a metal container from natural materials is impossible and carrying one in your pocket is unrealistic. Sawyer makes some great products that have proven very rugged and reliable in my experience

Navigation and Movement

Obviously, maps and compasses, GPS units and mobile phones sit in this camp, however, a small torch is generally overlooked by many in the pocket kit.

Moving at night without a light will eventually lead to injury, becoming lost or separated and also provides a fantastic method of signaling during darkness. Don’t overlook the value of light.

Again, dress for success. Look after your feet. Can you walk home in your footwear? Wool socks and good solid boots/shoes must be top of the list.

Fitness is a subject many avoid, but ask yourself honestly, are you fit enough?


I am not a tech fan; society has become reliant on phones and online mapping software. However, calling for back up is a tool we must be able to employ. Whether it’s a friend or the emergency services I will always make sure I have a full battery and a few apps such as what3words on my phone.

Being able to signal for help is of paramount importance. Low tech solutions such as signal mirrors, whistles and torches may well save your life or at least allow search teams to locate and extract you. It is difficult to shout for help with broken ribs, however, blowing a whistle needs much less breath. My shelter sheet is bright orange for the same reason and can be brought into service as a very effective signal panel.

Skills and Knowledge

Lastly we must look at our skill set. It is futile having these items if firstly, we never use them and practice with them. Reality based training means going out in the rain and making fire. Not doing it on a sunny day in June in the garden!

Knowledge weighs nothing and with very limited equipment a proficient individual can grind through most scenarios thrown at them. Always remember that if I can do it, it will do it.
You don’t need the best or the biggest piece of equipment.

Just the knowledge and mental fortitude to survive and thrive!