The Vehicle Survival Bag

On Monday I posted asking what you all would put in a small survival kit.  I read through your replies and using some of your ideas and some of mine here’s what I came up with.


In the first photo I’ve laid it all out so you can see what I have.  Going from left to right from the top I have:

  • the bag (in camo)
  • noodles and power bars
  • canteen cup with instant coffee (why bother trying to survive if you can’t have coffee?)
  • alcohol for the stove and wax firestarter
  • one of my home made MREs (Check out that post if here if you haven’t seen it yet)
  • plastic spoon
  • alcohol soda can stove and pot stand
  • compass
  • pararcord bracelet that I made
  • plastic baggie with ibuprofen
  • red carrying/organizing bag
  • small multi-tool (with flashlight on it) and carrying case
  • blue whistle/compass/match container with a full complement of matches
  • survival knife with firesteel
  • two quart canteen (I love these bigger canteens)
  • (lower left) char cloth
  • large bandana
  • plastic heavy duty contractor bag
  • Not shown is a small sleeping bag, bug dope, head lamp and a bigger firesteel

When packed the bag still has room in it, but I don’t need a lot of other stuff.  I might put a small first aid kit in, but what you see above is all I need to live in the woods for a few days or a week.  Like I – and other readers – have pointed out, the more wilderness knowledge you have the less gear you need in order to survive.  Really, most of what I have above is for convenience and comfort, but altogether it weighs less than fifteen pounds with the canteen full.



A closer picture of one of my home made MREs.  I put a small can of fruit in this one, which I probably wouldn’t do again, but they are super-handy when you’re putting together a bug-out bag or just getting ready to go camping.


Does The Kit Work?

After I put it together last night I decided to give it a try, so around 9:00 pm I headed out to the small camp in the woods behind my house.  I started a small fire and laid my stuff out and decided I could camp quite comfortably with what I had with me.  I used the fire instead of the stove to make coffee to conserve fuel and ate one of the power bars.

Here are a few pictures of my camp and some gear after I got set up.



Small flashlight on the multi-tool. Extremely handy.



An interesting thing happened while I was sipping my coffee.  I heard something coming towards me from the west (there’s nothing out there in that direction except more woods) and at first I thought Mrs Jarhead had let the dog out to come find me.  As it got closer I realized it was smaller than my dog.  I pointed my head lamp in the woods expecting a skunk, but it turned out to be the feller in the last picture (below) about half-way up on the left side of the tree.  Can you see him?



Yup.  It’s a porcupine.  He walked right into my camp.  If this had been a true survival situation I’d have eaten this guy before digging into my supplies to conserve the packaged stuff.  I ate porcupine once at my grandfather’s and found that it had a gamey and slightly bitter taste to the meat – maybe because of all the bark they eat, but it’s sure better than starving to death!

The only thing about the bag I don’t care for is the straps.  It’s not really designed to be a backpack, so I can’t complain.  What happens is that when the bag is full it’s too big to fit your arms through both shoulder straps, so you have to carry it with just one strap.  Not a big deal at this light weight, but after a few miles it would get annoying.

Post thoughts and comments below.

-Jarhead Survivor

37 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. July 13, 2012, 8:13 am

    I really like the DIY MRE pack – good way to organize a days ration. Hey, some canned peaches sounds pretty good to me! I like two quart canteens too, a pair of 1 quarts on either side of body can be too bulky. I wish they made a 2 quart canteen cup that fit the military pouch just like the 1 quart. I’d buy that in a heart beat, be very easy to cook over, one end over the coals, the other screened from heat source. Just dreaming I guess.

    Two possible additions:

    1. Would a bug net maybe be worth the extra bulk ? No experience in North Woods camping, but I hear in season, bugs can be pretty bothersome when you need to sleep. I saw the bug dope, so maybe this is a non issue.

    2. Hammock. Very little bulk for quite a bit of comfort, makes something to lay in or from single suspension point, a comfortable chair. I’ve even used them for ground blind use when deer hunting. I’d pick the full size model, the minis are a bit too small and I got dumped once from 3′ while laying on it – not fun! Well, my brother laughed his a$$ off so it was cheap entertainment for him, lol.

  • Jarhead Survivor July 13, 2012, 8:42 am

    Hey – J.R. – I wish they made a 2 qt canteen cup too! The one I show here is for the cold weather canteen I talked about awhile ago.

    For just a couple of days I’d just stick with the bug dope; however, you heard correctly about the skeeters up here. Holy schamoly they can get bad! They’re even worse in Canada – at least the wilderness areas I’ve been.

    A hammock is actually a very good idea. I don’t sleep in them often, but depending on weight it would make a very good alternative to making your own mat using fir boughs.

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. July 13, 2012, 1:37 pm

      This morning, thinking on this, I might have come up with possible solution for the ‘cup’. In restaurant buffet lines, they have food warming stainless steel containers keeping the food warm. I wonder if a restaurant supply store might have a ready made container ready for use ? You’d probably have to cut off the lip around opening. Then again – maybe not.

      Just a thought.

    • Jason July 14, 2012, 12:05 pm

      Hey Jarhead –

      I had an Aussie brother-in-law who was visiting Alaska in the summer one time comment that he was quite sure the state bird was the mosquito.

      • Brandon July 14, 2012, 5:11 pm

        Having lived in Alaska, I can attest to this. There were places in the back woods where they would swarm over and cover anything, including my boots, that wasn’t having repellent applied constantly.

      • Jarhead Survivor July 16, 2012, 10:17 am

        I think the further north you go the worse they get.

  • Ray in Ky July 13, 2012, 9:40 am

    Down here in the south hammocks are a must in the summer . Snakes are a big deal down here in Ky. Copperheads, rattlers,ECT. Last few years ,west nile virus has become a BIG problem &they(helth dep.) now recomend everyone use a bug net camping. Other big deal this summer has been HEAT .Its been north of 90-100 down heare for most of 4 months. I got a vietnam war jungle hammock with bug net & fly .Replaces my shelter 1/2 in the summer. I like GI canteen+ cup+covers ’cause , I can leave ’em MT for flotation , fill ’em , if i need h2o,or boilup ground water(a MUST here) . A WP bag in the ruck is also a big + as we got more rivers and creeks in Ky than anyplace in the US outside Alaska. Other BIG problem for survial/ BO bags here is the climite . We get it all. I’v seen it go frome 70f to -5 in the same week(jan.1997) .normal winter here is VERY wet and 40f temps. – HOWEVER; we have had minus 30f temps (jan 1994). We say we get northern winters and southern summers and everything between the 2. —– PS. the blizzard of 1994 hit with NO warning, droped 16 in. of snow ,temps frome-10 to -30 and STAYED THAT WAY for a month. Broke every record on the books. A small BOB would be nice, but it would leave me sadly short when i needed it.

  • Lynne July 13, 2012, 12:15 pm

    With a sewing awl you could put some heavy-duty webbing straps on your bag to make it less cumbersome to carry as a backpack. I know I have a lot of webbing around that came off of other items and it is often “repurposed” as needed.

  • Lynne July 13, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Oh, and awls are handy for repairing tents, heavy clothing, shoes/boots, making and repairing leather items, etc.
    They are lightweight and don’t take up much room.
    Don’t make the mistake I did and buy a cheap one – didn’t work at all and I then had to spend even more to get one that did work.

  • Leon July 13, 2012, 12:40 pm

    I like your kit a lot!
    I also think that the more you use that SRK, the more you will like it!

  • GA July 13, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Very cool…both the bag and the follow-up to your original post! What about first aid? Maybe a minor surgical kit with gauze, alcohol wipes, band-aids and such?

  • T.R. July 13, 2012, 1:31 pm

    gotta love those 2qt canteens , I have a few myself .

  • Tim July 13, 2012, 5:30 pm

    “After I put it together last night I decided to give it a try, so around 9:00 pm I headed out to the small camp in the woods behind my house.”

    Training…Use your bag and you will know.
    Get out and use it!

  • Michael July 13, 2012, 6:51 pm

    Looks good. I’d add a small tarp for use here in the pacific northwest. Even if it isn’t raining there’s a good chance the ground’s going to be wet.

    • BillyB July 14, 2012, 10:52 pm

      Agree. The only thing lacking is a tarp. Bulk would be the issue, rather than weight, with a small poly tarp. A poncho wouldn’t be a bad idea either, especially if you plan on only wearing the clothes you have on.

      I also very much like the bug-net/bug-suit idea; but that depends on your tolerance for mosquitoes & such.

      Personally, I’d scrap the stove, alcohol, firestarters, matches, matchcase, spoon, and noodles. Get a couple of Bic lighters for fire, and add more of those cheesy peanut-butter crackers — they’re the best I’ve found for a B.O.B.. You can’t find a cheaper, lighter, more calorie-dense FULL meal (carbs plus protein plus fat). My bag is filled with ’em.

      • BillyB July 14, 2012, 10:53 pm

        Oh, I forgot THE MOST important thing (from my perspective) …….


      • irishdutchuncle July 15, 2012, 7:22 am

        i’d keep the alcohol stove, and bring a larger quantity of alcohol. (but then again, i’m half Irish)

        actually it’s important to note that stove alcohol can not be made non poisonous, by any ordinary method. i would bring several bottles of “HEET” (gas-line antifreeze) to do double duty as stove fuel. the alcohol stove can be used closer to “camp” without detectable smoke. under normal circumstances smoke aids “rescuers”, forest fire, however, does not. nice to have some options. i’d really like to have the stove for making a quick cup of hot soup or coffee. if i had room in the vehicle, i’ be keeping a regular “Coleman” camp stove or propane camp stove.

        and yeh, what BillyB said: T.P.! what Walt said: rain gear.

  • Walt July 13, 2012, 8:34 pm

    ‘Good’ list.

    Rain gear. I have a decent set of Gore-tex pants/jacket in the primary vehicle, and some $3 ponchos in the others (yeah, I splurged). Never know when they’ll come in handy, changing a flat tire in the rain or forced to lie on the damp ground.

  • T.R. July 13, 2012, 10:45 pm

    A flat pry bar , more uses for that than you can count .

    • Jason July 14, 2012, 12:06 pm

      Even opens bottled beer.

    • irishdutchuncle July 15, 2012, 7:25 am

      some jurisdictions will regard the bar as “burgulars tools”, gotta be careful.

  • child of Odin July 13, 2012, 10:53 pm

    Totally agree on the coffee. When the looting starts, I’m going for coffee, lol. And prilosec. Damn acid reflux. Like the suggestions for the different climates. We have skeeters here, but not a lot, being desert. We do have the wild weather swings, (last week was 100+ this week about 65-70, and raining). My daughter and learned this the hard way a few years ago, on 15 hour hike through some really rugged terrain. Forecast said hot and dry all weekend. We got hit with a torrential downpour that lasted the last 4 hours of our hike. Never seen it rain like that here, before or since, and I left the ponchos because of the forecast. Last time I make that mistake. But, we kept moving, as there was little shelter in the canyon we were coming down, and ended up shedding sopping layers and using garbage bags. Fun… and sweaty

    • child of Odin July 14, 2012, 4:58 pm

      Like the Ziploc idea.

  • Steve July 13, 2012, 11:25 pm

    Add a gallon zip lock bag or 2. Easy way to carry extra water. Make a sling outta the bandana . Easy way to carry an extra gallon of water should you find a good source. Or will work to keep important stuff dry in the rain. Takes up almost 0 room.

  • riverrider July 14, 2012, 10:25 am

    i would highly suggest water purification tabs or a filter straw. you don’t need to spend all day trying to boil water.

  • Mike July 14, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Good article. I like that you went out and tested your kit yourself. I didn’t see any kind of radio or communications, did I miss it?. I just put together a little article on bag prep from FEMA and Red Cross suggestions. It’s not too bad, but not quite as detailed..or tested as yours. Good job.

  • RedTeamDoc July 14, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Let me make some suggestions on the first aid kit:

    1. Small plastic bottle of betadine – doubles as wound and water treatment; stop carrying water purification tabs that waste weight/space
    2. Roll of sterile gauze – no need to carry individual little bandaids
    3. Tampon and Feminine Pad – deep + superficial wound dressing, individually packaged, EXCELLENT for clotting when applied with the following
    4. ACE bandage – helps stop bleeding, reduces inflammation, controls movement of injured joint/limb
    5. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) + Acetylsalicylic Acid (Aspirin) – Two miracle drugs your kit MUST have…use benadryl to counter allergic reaction, to counter nausea/vomiting, decrease motion sickness, decrease throat and nasal secretions, to help fall asleep, and at higher doses to sedate a patient (ex: if you need to set a fracture). Use aspirin to treat pain, decrease inflammation, decrease fever, thin out blood

    Add a lighter (3 ways for fire), a small plastic mirror, and your knowledge of the woods, and you can survive most of the injuries you might face, making your way back home. If you would like specific dosages, just let me know.


    • Jason July 15, 2012, 11:09 am

      I didn’t know about the value of betadine as a water purifier so I Googled it & found the interesting article about it – pretty darn cool …

      • RedTeamDoc July 15, 2012, 6:53 pm

        If you want to get extra fancy, add a vitamin C tablet to treated water if the taste bothers you (I can’t taste it but my girlfriend can).

        Betadine also dries out the skin; excellent for prevention and treatment of trench foot (or any tissue that has been exposed to wet, cold, and frction/pressure for a prolonged period of time).

        ….also dyes cotton pretty well. A nice rust/brown good for Autumn camp haha

        • RedTeamDoc July 15, 2012, 6:54 pm

          Edit: Camo not camp

      • Walt July 16, 2012, 12:37 pm

        Povidone iodine (Betadine) can also replace potassium iodide as a radioactive I blocker. Apply topically, don’t drink it.

    • Jarhead Survivor July 16, 2012, 10:21 am

      That’s a great list for a first aid kit, RedTeamDoc. I’m going to use your advice and assemble a couple of kits like that for my various bug-out bags.

    • T.R. July 23, 2012, 12:13 am

      And a leatherman micra , small , weighs next to nothing with scissors as the main tool and tweezers . Perfect for a first aid kit .

  • child of Odin July 14, 2012, 5:03 pm

    I like the DIY MRE, you could do so many things with it. And would be cheaper, and pro ably tastier than the real deal. Course, they’ve change since I got out, but dehydrated pork patties still give me nightmares…

  • izzy July 18, 2012, 5:26 am

    Hey Jarhead, looks good, but please, PLEASE get yourself at least a gallon of water, especially when you’re in the drought. You might not be able to fill that canteen right away, and it’d be one less thing to hike for (plus it’s the heaviest thing to carry, so you might as well have it in the car already, you can always divvy it up).
    Coffee & protein bars rob your body of liquid. That little bottle of water is the drinking allotment for one person for exactly one 70-degree day. More if you try to wander, especially on a scorcher day, and of course more for Mrs Jarhead & Junior. (In normal life I’d be fine too on so little water, but upon researching actual events, I’ve realized more is necessary in an emergency.) Just looking out for ya.

    [P.S. Also, noticed all your “hot” food requires additional water – you might want some heat&serve food… and maybe a metal spoon.]

  • T.R. July 23, 2012, 12:08 am

    Russian GP5 gas mask , they are dirt cheap and plenty effective against tear gas and pepper spray , wouldn’t trust them for nuclear/biological . Make sure you get rid of the Soviet canister and replace it with a new industrial one . Mestel makes some good catch all ones . Depending on where you live , you may have to drive or go through areas where tear gas is being used .

  • Joe July 29, 2012, 9:49 am

    Have you considered using a camelbak or some other hydration pack for your bag?


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