How to put together a wilderness survival kit on a budget…

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by A Country Boy Can Survive

When I was about 11 years old we lived in south Florida (Hollywood). An event happened that changed my life forever, the Cuban missile crisis. We knew we were going to have a war and we would be at the front line. Our house was within sight of the Florida Turnpike and I watched for what seemed like 3 days, a continuous convoy of military equipment and soldiers that flooded into south Florida. They occupied the football stadiums, Horse Racing and Dog Racing venues.

My dad was determined that, God willing, we would survive. The cars were kept full of gas and our bags were packed. He filled the hallway with canned food and milk jugs filled with water. He told us about the water in the water heater and if anything happened to fill the bathtubs and everything we could find with water.

Since we spent our free time fishing and hunting, we had plenty of guns, ammo, and we knew how and when to use them. He taped $1000 in cash to the inside of one of the closets. Previously we had lived near Orlando, surrounded by Air Force bases, and we knew what we should do in the case of a nuclear strike. Thank GOD, it didn’t happen.

I was not a Boy Scout, but this impressed upon me the desire to always “Be Prepared.” Having grown up in the woods and on the rivers and lakes, the outdoors were like home. As I grew older I would go camping and realized that I should have a small water proof survival kit that would fit into my pocket but could be kept in the car glove box.

Dad smoked and had a plastic case used to protect a pack of cigarettes when we were outdoors. I located one and packed if full of everything that could come in handy if that was all I had. Remember this was decades before prepping and before having survival gear was cool. I have since then looked for my kit but have not been able to find it. It is my own lost time capsule from over 50 years ago. To the best of my memory this is some of what it included:

  1. book of matches with striker
  2. water purification tablets
  3. fishing hooks and line (about 30 feet)
  4. crimp on leads
  5. aluminum foil
  6. plastic bag
  7. paper clips
  8. birthday candles
  9. a cigarette ( I did not smoke but it could be used to transport a fire)
  10. aspirin
  11. chap stick
  12. large band aids
  13. small motel bar of soap
  14. hard candy
  15. bubble gum
  16. needle and thread
  17. safety pin
  18. paper folded up
  19. golfing pencil
  20. small spool of bailing wire
  21. some electrical hookup wire
  22. 9V battery
  23. some nails
  24. rubber bands
  25. small pocket knife
  26. and just enough room left for a .410 shotgun cartridge

I am sure I had a few more small items that I do not remember. I packed them into the case and slid the cover on top to close the case. I sealed it with a rather long length of plastic electrical tape and wrapped grey duct tape around it as the last prepping item and to further seal the case. Remember this was 50 years ago and I was about 15 years old.

Ever since then I have kept things on hand, having some of everything so that I rarely have to go to the store to get something I need. This lifestyle has always served us well. While in Florida we had several hurricanes, we went through the eye of 2. Our camping trailer was always handy to serve hot food and coffee to neighbors the following couple of days. Mom and dad moved to Pass Christian Mississippi to live on the bayou but thankfully moved 75 miles inland just before Katrina.

They still had 100 mph winds for hours and were completely off the grid for 3 months, no water, electricity, telephone, sewer, trash pickup, TV, and no US mail. They lived off of staples, canned goods, and meat they smoked from the freezer. When Y2K came around, I took the opportunity to make preparations to my home including acquiring a gas space heater, gas generator, batteries, and extra food. Shortly thereafter we in north Alabama had a severe ice storm and the supplies were just what we needed.

We were without electricity for over a week during 3 ice storms, and one time for 2 weeks. Recently we had a massive tornado outbreak with several category 5 tornados. One million north Alabamians were without power, food and gasoline for over a week. Our daughter and grandchildren stayed with us. It was like a week long campout, but with a roof and bed. You may prep for one “disaster” but it is very helpful for other unexpected events.

Prepping is not strange, weird, or crazy. Being a survivalist aka prepper is what made this country we call America. Be ready be prepared.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.


  1. My first “kit” started with reading “Alas Babylon”. I had an old gas mask bag and a drawer in my room. I looked at what they “needed” from society that I could use, afford, or was allowed to buy (I was 15). There were no “guides” like is posted here (wish there were).

    I don’t like buying commercial “packages” of anything. Individual items purchased over time will yield a better end product for a much lower price. It will also be tailored to you and your needs.


    • TPSnodgrass says:

      I also was “hooked” on “Alas Babylon” read it multiple times as a young teenager. Started out, by heading out to the local wilderness park with my best friend, we fished for our food, got lots of frogs and became adept at cooking the legs, caught quail(was LOUSY at dressing them) etc. Later, while serving in the USAF as “SAC trained Nuke-Puke”, found the paperback in my “stuff” at home, and have never lost it again. Great read, made me WANT to always be as prepared as possible, just in case. I well remember the Cuban Missile Crisis as a first grader, and having to hurry home during the “practice alerts”, those scared the crap out of me. Later, started making sure I always had “extra” .22LR ammo for MY first rifle, still make sure we have “enough” on hand now.
      Excellent article!
      Thanks for a trip down memory lane, J.P. in MT!

  2. AzRealityPrepper says:

    My first kit was when I was about 15 years old also. I had a small file box with a lock. I kept a notebook with a list of snares and fish traps (still have that notebook). I had read “My Side of the Mountain” and wanted to live in the wilderness.

  3. Great read. Brought back memories of the missile crisis and all the storms we weathered since. It also reminded me I need a gas / propane heater for the house. My first kit was about 45 years ago. I has a lot of miniature items from the old ww2 sea rats we would buy at the surplus store. Can opener, Band aids, toilet paper, 4 cigs and matches, sugar, creamer, coffee, tea, candy, Fishing line, hooks, sinkers, Ketchup packs, crackers, 6, 22LR, small knife, birthday candles, strike anywhere stick matches, about 30 ft of nylon twine and some what I thought were chocolate coins that turned out to be my step Dads condoms. LOL All this was in a orangish plastic box that had a sliding top and carried 100, 22lr shells originally. I wrapped a bright orange tube tent over this. It would still fit in my pocket but lived in a back pack most of the time. I recently found it and threw most of the items out as they were falling apart and getting nasty. As I make a new box I am adding a WD40 pen and duct tape for sure and small led lights. I am helping my son get supplies for a pocket first aid kid his Cub Scouts are making. I love that the there are still some kids carrying on the traditions.

  4. ….. a barrier exists regarding ‘getting the message’ , w/r to convincing others of the need to prep. I feel part of that barrier is a ‘comfort zone’ mentality. We operate w/in our comfort zones, period. If that zone is provided by gov’t rather than sweat equity, that we become. So it is w/the quest for Godliness, medical needs, respect of our fellows, or any of the components of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs….. individually we act (or just complain about how rough things are) according to perceived needs. Seeing societies bottom feeders wallow after shtf, I wonder how I’ll deal w/that……

    • TPSnodgrass says:

      I have enough to do, trying to keep and get MY ‘house in order” so I choose NOT to concern myself with the members of the Entitlement Brigades, or, the self-styled members of the FSA.
      Taking care of my family, loved ones and friends is enough for me. While I would like to be able to be altruistic at times, those who EXPECT to take, or be given, or else, won’t get a fair shake from me at all. They won’t like what they get. Just how I see things now. I try hard to treat all people like I LIKE to be treated, vast majority of the time, I get that respect and kindness and courtesy back in spades. The minority of the time, I get the “false expectation syndrome”. I don’t waste time on them at all. Not worth it. Far better to be more proactive and positive. Keep the faith, brother!

  5. Eight years old then LOL! I remeber reading the Civil Defense pamphlets and brochures back then along with duck and cover drills.

    My first kit was to come a few years later at age eleven. I used a Band-aid box (tin). I had strike anywhere matches dipped in parrafin, a few bullion cubes, two tea bags, a bobbin of thread with some needles and buttons. A small roll of fishing leader and hooks, a Barlow knife and hard candies. IIRC that was about all of the contents. It was a large band-aid tin so it could hold a bit of water, still, it would have made a potent cup of tea or bullion. My small pack today still carries many of the same items with a few additions.

    Living in a city back then, we all knew where the C.D. shelters were in what buildings downtown and knew that the basement in our home was the place to “shelter”. They sure were tense times for the USA, alot of folks were on edge and worried.

  6. My first kit was a WW2 GI surplus rucksack filled with Boy Scout gear, metal 35 mm film canisters full of various goodies like tinder, hooks, split shot, .22 ammo (it was Texas all us kids had .22’s), snare wire, fishing line and official Boy Scout first aid and snakebite kits. Even had the sparker and some extra flints I filched from one of my Dad’s old Zippo lighters. That thing stayed with me, with replacements and upgrades as needed, even through the oilfield years, riding in the trunk of my company car. I’ve since passed it down to my son, who’s using it with his kids.

  7. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Budget kit ? Start with items you already have at home. Most of us already have a daypack but if you don’t, shop your local SA or used clothing store, bags are very inexpensive and you find some real gems there.

    What to put in it – the essential. Water container that seals tightly, small pot ( sterilize water – cooking), good knife and/or multi-tool (don’t cheap out on that one, that is a VERY USEFUL ITEM) w/ sharpener, wire cordage (strong repairs – shelter building), wool blanket, hammock and poncho and at least one change of underwear, shirt and socks.

    Way back in early 1970’s, my 1st kit was a metal Sucrets box with a birthday candle, a couple of boullion cubes, single edged razor blade and a baggie for water storage. A couple of other small items but I don’t recall them now.

    Check out the Dave Canterbury videos, a lot of good suggestions and how tos there – much obliged Mr. Canterbury!

  8. Robert mongmany says:

    Pat Frank also was the author of “How to survive the H bomb and why”, an encouraging read, although probably outdated, and “Mr. Adam”, a delightful novel about procreation.
    I was always a fan of “Robinson Crusoe”; even though ‘ol Rob brought enough stuff ashore with him after the shipwreck to supply a small Walmart. But I never knew where to get a hogshead of biscuit.

  9. Your dad was a genius. The items you packed are nearly the same as we pack today. He was way ahead of his time.

    • Edwin35801 says:

      To magicman, the story was about me and my kit not my dad. But I did get my “genius” from my dad.

  10. I had the cool little gun type belt that had snapping pockets marked knife,lighter and compass and still have it. Had my swiss army knife and a box of .177 cal pellets in that pouch, matches and water tabs in the second pouch and Band-Aids and a compass in the third. Also had an army style canteen on the belt. Never even thought about being a prepped or what that even ment. Its just some of the stuff you had when you went into the woods which is about where I lived as a kid.

  11. I don’t know what happened to my last post.

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