Better red than dead!

Unlike bushcraft hobbiests who all seem to wear the same thing - typically in green so they all look like little Ray Mears wanna be's - the general outdoors person tends to wear brighter coloured clothing, on the mountains climbers (for some reason) tend to favour blue, walkers it appears like bright multicolour clothing and this is great as if they need help they are easily seen.

But what about survival hobbiest's? Do they still wear ex Army DPM ?? Should they? And lets not confuse the Survivor here from a survivalist - the survivor typically is a member of the public who has trained to be able to survive in the wilderness using knowledge and a small survival kit at a minimum - the survivalist is someone waiting some post holocaustic world where man kind has to battle nature and itself to survive!!

At SurvivALL we practice what we preach and that is your always better in RED than Dead, enhanced orange or yellow colours which clash with the pastel world around you.


Not so long ago a chap went into the woods to play with his shiny new axe somewhere up north - he had wisely told his wife his plans ect but was dressed as a typical shrafter in a fawn and green swani - sadly he had a accident with said tool and badly injured himself slicing through much of his lower calf muscle after missing what he was chopping.

Not having a First aid kit (big mistake - always carry a first aid when you carry a cutting tool) the guy tried to stop the bleeding with his jacket but slowly due to shock and blood lose passed out.

After the alert was raised a search was set up for the missing guy - the woods where he went were searched and nothing was found ?

Night slowly decended and the guy came too where he fell - in the distance he could see torches and wanting help used used his whistle to call to the torch bearers who happened to be a couple of the search team on their way home with the search having been put off for the night ..............

So you can imagine how lucky the guy was to be found ..............................

The report on the search clearly stated two things - 1, that the woods where he was had been searched and searchers had passed with approx 5-10 meters of him 2, the whistle (and the fact he was concious at that time probably saved his life as weak ect from the injury and blood lose his chances of surviving the night (and the fact the search would have moved on) he probably wouldnt have lived to see day and if he had, immobile, he might not have gotten to safety unaided.

As survivors we can learn plenty from this, but the two key lessons are firstly, always carry a whistle - a simple distress whistle has saved more lives than any other tool (fact) so having one on you is plan common sense. Secondly wear something bright - if you must go about dressed like a commando at least carry something you can use upon your body and have it easily to hand. If you injure yourself set up your signal before you pass out!! Better still always wear something brightly coloured - a jacket is best as this can be easily removed if wanted.

Myself I wear a red Cairngorm jacket - single layer ventile - I can wear it as a jacket in the cooler months or as a heavy shirt in the warmer ones!! I also wear a bright hat either a baseball cap or a red mountain hat - but equally I usually carry a hi viz orange buff in my pocket.

For anyone who leads groups into the wilderness I would also recommend you add at least one orange survival bag to your kit - these weigh next to nothing and can be life savers - that said you need to learn how to use them correctly of course!!

So next time you go play in the woods remember its better to be RED than Dead!

On the same theme -



As a survival Instructor in the army my 'survival' knife was originaly a old Mauser penknife then back in the 80's I saw a Lofty Wiseman video in which he favoured the NORMARK SUPER SWEDE. At the time I was going down to Brecon to do my SCBC so I bought a super swede to try it out while on the course and (until I lost it in Bosnia) that bombproof tool soon became a trusted friend.

But is it a survival knife? What is a survival knife?

The answer is simple - yes ..........................but so is any knife! Why? Because the knife you have on you at the time your forced to survive is your survival knife and you need to learn how to use it to its max!

Some outdoors folk go to the woods equipped with saws and axes and three knives of various sizes and this is fine for them - indeed if they find themselves coming'a'cropper their survival experience should be a breeze!

But we're not training to become bushcrafters or foresters (although a knowledge of survival skills would be a valued tool to both), we're training to be survivors if our normal every day activaties or outdoor hobbies go wrong - so for us a pocket knife is a far better option and to be honest even having been a bushcraft instructor myself for the past 8 years I still find a pocket knife of far more use than any other tool.

Survivorman Les Stroud favours a multitool (although recently a buck knife seems to be his favourite) and this is a good option but since returning to Survival I have returned to the trusty old Normark Super Swede.

WHY do I like the Super Swede - well its a good sized knife made of solid construction, with a strong and sturdy lock and comes at a price where your not affraid to use it - and thats the key for only buy using it can you truely learn the strengths and weaknesses of a knife!! The grip is rubberised and safe in the hand and the spine of the blade can easily be filed sqaure and then showers a good hot spark from a ferro rod.

So a survival knife is the tool you have with you at the time - if your lucky to have the whole workshop combo of saws and axes ect count your blessings but if you just a normal traveller, hiker, climber, skier ect ect and you dont want to go around carrying more cutting edges than the average Viking warrior a strong folding knife, coupled with some sense and experience, will likely meet all your needs - and for this I recommend the Super Swede!


An Aide Memoire

Improvidus – Apto – Supero

The Quitter
When you’re lost in the wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle,
To cock your revolver and … die.
But the code of a man says, “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is bared,
In hunger and woe, oh it’s easy to blow,
It’s the hell served for breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well now that’s a shame,
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know but don’t squeal,

Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day.
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit, it’s so easy to quit;
It’s the keeping – your – chin – up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten – and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hopes out of sight –
Why, that’s the best game of all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scared,
Just have one more try – it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping – on - living that’s hard.

Robert Service 1874 – 1958

Your clothing and the kit carried on your person are your first lines of defence -
As a minimum you should be,

1. Dressed for the worst weather conditions to be expected.
2. Carrying a dependable means of lighting a fire.
3. Carrying a sharp and sturdy knife.
4. Carrying a small first aid kit.
5. Carrying a minimum of one litre of water.

Other items advised are a Map of area and a Compass.
Survival kit, Mobile phone and a whistle

SLEEP - to be able to sleep 8 hours. Dress correctly and use a warming fire and suitable shelter.
SUPPLIES - yourself with enough CLEAN water to meet your bodies needs.
SIGNALS - to prepare for, then await rescue by aiding rescuers with well thought out signals.

Inform someone (two separate people would be better) responsible about your plans and the action they should take if you are overdue (remember to inform them you are back upon return also).
Leave the following written information as a minimum –
Time and date of departure
Where you are going – grid reference or route
What digressions you may make
Expected return time/date
Who you are going with
Your means of transportation
Mobile telephone number or other contact details (radio frequency etc)
Should you run into trouble, use all your energy to keep yourself comfortable and prepare signals to aid rescuers in finding you.
Do not try to live off the land unless you are an expert. You can easily go 40 days without eating and most rescues happen within 72 hours.
The survival kit you carry should consist of the following items as a minimum:-
1. Container – This is also your cooking pot and will aid you in water collection/purification.

To contain:
Wire saw (or similar)
Shelter – space blanket, plastic sheet or similar
Fire Steel + striker
Snare wire (approx 2m)
NATO/emergency fishing kit.
Candles x 2 (tallow if space allows)
Heliograph (maybe your compass lid will have a mirror?).
Tampons x2 (tinder/first aid)
Knife (small folding knife in kit is ok but a bigger camp knife is better in a survival situation)
Water carrier (also remember the best carrier of water is inside your body - dont ration water!)
A copy of this Aide Memoire.

Your normal outdoors items will also make up your survival kit items too – remember KIT is just the tip of the pyramid so do not become preoccupied with it – practice and knowledge are far more import to you and can not be lost or broken!

An Axe should be considered if in woodland or the boreal north. Emergency rations and a lightweight sleep system would be wise additions if room allows.

** Keep it simple, forget the complicated gadgets.


If it is difficult to touch your thumb to the little finger of the same hand your body’s coretemperature is dangerously low. STOP AND REWARM NOW before you loose the ability to light a fire or to think and reason correctly.

Upon finding yourself lost or in an emergency situation try to carry out the following immediate action drill.
  • Remove yourself and others from immediate danger.
  • Administer first aid where needed.
  • Stop (now is not the time to panic). If possible make yourself a warming sweet drink or light a fire.
  • Appraise your situation and decide upon your priorities.
  • Salvage/Evaluate what equipment you can.

Using all available information form your plan and take action. (remember to form a plan B and C too)

If forced to sleep out overnight without a sleeping bag (in most terrains) you must consider the following,

1. Lighting and maintaining a warming fire. Preferably building a shelter to trap its warmth.
2. Focusing upon gathering enough wood to last the night before or while you build a shelter.
3. If caught out and it is already dark, you may decide to stand or sit near a good warm fire for the whole night.

An emergency Bivi is made up of 5 distinct components.
Fire – large enough to keep you warm while you lay a MINIMUM distance of 30 inches away.
Back protection from cold – stack fuel close enough to touch your shoulder on the side away from fire.
Protection from ground – an insulating bed to stop body heat being lost – minimum depth of four fingers compressed.
Wind protection – Fire, bed and fuel should be laid PARALLEL to wind direction – block off end Bivi from which wind is blowing.
Overhead protection – is only really needed when it is raining or snowing or if you plan to stay in one place for more than one night.

If unable to build fuel pile or ambient temperature is very low sleep between two parallel fires.

The best size for a fire is one hot enough to force you to stay a step away. Its advantages are,
It will burn inferior fuel better.
It will force smoke up and overhead.
It will need less adjusting.
The fire will truly warm you.
By keeping a step away you will suffer less damage to clothing or person.

A fire should be hot enough to melt the snow far enough away that there is room for you to sleep between it and the edge of the un-melted snow.

However, bear in mind the old Indian maxim, “Indian make small fire to keep warm. White man make big fire – keep warm gathering firewood.”

Long log fire will warm entire body and burn fuel economically – remember to raise dogs at both ends.

Remember to build a base for your fire, feather your wood and gather enough fuel of the correct grade to feed the initial flames.

Prepare for your fire before you light it, gather enough fuel for the night and then gather the same amount again as you will always underestimate your needs. Build a reflector to increase the warmth your fire can provide you with.

Fire will boost your spirits but if you doubt your ability to light one in your present conditions consider where it would be wiser to await more favourable weather/location.

Locate a tree with substantial overhead protection and build upon its down-wind side.
A sturdy ridge pole at least 3 arm spans long is placed at a slant and parallel to the wind with its mid point being about shoulder high.
Lean rafters against ridge pole setting angle of roof at 45 degrees to shed rain – 60 degrees to shed snow.
Thatch with any available materials to a minimum thickness of 20 inches.
Make a bed (no wider than your shoulders) under shade of shelter’s roof.
Build fire one full step away (approx 30 inches).
Block off windward end but leave down-wind end open to help reduce smoke.

· Practice signalling on a target 100 paces away until confident.
· Hold mirror beside eye and flash onto raised fingers (or aiming mark) of other hand which are formed into a V and which have image of target between them.
· Flash and scan the horizon frequently as your signal may be seen by rescuers who are not visible to you.

A large cross or X means “I am unable to proceed” make this at least three arm spans in length and using material which contrasts against surroundings.
Signal fires - should be arranged in a tri-angular formation consisting of 3 fires – 1 at each corner. Build these prior to use and ensure kindling etc is dry for easy, instant ignition. Lift vegetation bundle onto flames once fires established this will produce plumes of white smoke.

Sound signals can travel long distances and work both day and night. The international distress signal is 6 blasts with a minute’s pause in between. Rescuers will reply with 3 blasts. It is important to remember to keep signalling until help arrives. If in doubt signal as often and as loud as possible - continue this until you can attract attention.

While food is of little short-term importance, you must ensure you drink adequate amounts of water. Staying correctly hydrated will keep you warm and enable you to continue to think straight.

You must drink a minimum of 2 – 5 litres per day in a temperate climate.
Remember to following.
Thirst is not a reliable indicator of dehydration.
Drink enough water to keep your urine straw or clear in colour.
Drink hot water if possible in a cold environment.
Filter and purify all drinking and cooking water by bringing to a rolling boil.
Do not eat snow (especially not the yellow stuff!)
Collect water in poly bag by placing it over tree bough exposed to sunlight. Tightly tie in place.
Trap rainwater and channel into Billy can.
Dig gypsy wells in likely spots such as the outside bends of stream beds or above the high tide zone on beaches. Gypsy well will also filter moister if place near brackish water.

A decrease in the core body temperature to a level below 37°c at which normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired eventually leading to coma and death.

Symptoms – Watch out for the UMBLES – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness.

Assessing if someone is Hypothermic –
If shivering can be stopped voluntarily = mild hypothermia.
If shivering cannot be stopped voluntarily = severe hypothermia.

The basic principles of re-warming a hypothermic casualty are to conserve the heat they have and to replace the body fuel they are burning up to generate that heat. If a person is shivering, they have a temporary ability to re-warm themselves at a rate of about 2 degrees per hour. To assist them we should reduce further heat loss by,
Providing shelter and insulation.
Exchanging their wet clothing for dry. Remembering to cover the head.
Buddy up to share body warmth (all members of party not just casualty.)
Give warming sweet drinks

If severe hypothermia is present.
Insulate with minimum disturbance (avoid after drop)
Shelter (without moving casualty)
Do not remove clothing
Do not apply external heat
Do not try to give food or drink if unconscious
Do not perform CPR
Evacuate immediately.

First Aid training is invaluable – attend courses run by recognised organisations. Learn to recognise and treat Hypothermia as this is by far the biggest killer in the outdoors.

Fish using a night line as this can be working for you both day and night and will catch top, middle and bottom feeders at the same time. Bait hooks with insects or rotting material (experiment). Check your line at dawn and dusk. Move it every few days or when strikes stop. Flies can be attached to flexible (willow) poles and used in this manner. Hooks will also catch game and birds – line can be used for snares also.

Place snares on well used game trails aiming to catch prey as it runs between cover or at feeding/watch stations. For rabbit or small game set snare approx 4 fingers above the ground and make loop approximately fist sized. Tether well to stake driven deeply into the ground.
If using natural cordage or thin line set snare with switch arm. For squirrel set snares on a pole (8 – 10 foot long) lent against a tree. Place snares on top and both sides of pole setting these one finger high with a three finger loop.

These pages are designed to be used as an aid memoir – cut them out and place them in the bottom of your survival kit (read them and understand them first!) That way you will have them if an emergency situation is ever encountered.

Next Issue we’ll look at the Survival strategies such as P.L.A.N and S.T.O.P as we’ll as survival kits plus much more but remember survival is 90% a mental exercise – with PMA you can truly SurvivALL!

*This memoir is provided as information only. The publishers and the author are not responsible for the application of the information; this is at the sole risk of the reader and the book is made available on that understanding.

Recommended Commercial Survival Kits

Survival Kits are items of great interest - in as small an area as possible we aim to pack as many useful items as possible. But never lose track of the fact that 100 pieces of junk are still 100 pieces of junk so ALWAYS select your survival items carefully. Experience and practice will soon teach you what works and what doesnt - but as a foundation a commercially available kit is a good building block or back up. I always carry a RAF aircrew set int he bottom of my rucksack as it takes up little room yet is comprehensiveenough to cover most eventualities provided my first Aid kit takes care of any medical needs. Even such reknowned Bushcraft experts as Mors Kochanski have developed and recommend survival kits - proof of the pudding that even bushcrafters need a understanding of survival skills!
Air Crew Survival Kit

The Air Crew Survival Pack MK4 has been successfully used in the Gulf and is standard issue inside Royal Air Force ejection seats. This high specification kit is vacuum-sealed in foil packets.

The Air Crew Survival Pack comes in a flexible olive bag.

  • Contents and Specs:
  • Purifying Tablets


    Water carrier/condoms (2)

    Flint & Striker Fire tablets

    Sewing needles

    Small tin

    Vinyl tape

    Sleeping bag

    Nylon cord



    Suspender clips

    Fishing kit

    Snare wire

    Wire saw

    Razor blade

    Elastic band

    Instruction sheet

    Foil blanket (matt olive)

  • NSN:8465-99-131-4124

Military Survival Kit

The Military Survival Kit/Tin is the UK Ministry of Defense version of the Combat Survival Tin. There are a few additional items in the Military Survival Tin but essentially the item remains fundamentally the same.

This kit has been redesigned to also aid in Escape and Evasion, should the need arise while in the field. Alongside the Air Crew Survival Pack, this kit was used extensively in the 1st Gulf War by UK servicemen to include RAF pilots and SAS. It has proven its worth on many an occasion.

Contents and Specs:

  • Water resistant tin
  • Vinyl tape

    Button compass




    Purification tablets

    Snare wire


    Flint & striker

    Hacksaw blade

    Fishing kit


    Sewing kit

    Safety pins

    Wire saw

    Survival instructions

    Accident evaluation form

    Signal mirror

    Tin hanging handle

    Tinder Water bags

    Single edged razors

    Adhesive plasters

  • NSN: 8645-99-147-7134

While both kits above are recommended these should form the foundations of your kit ideas and training - experience will teach you which items to keep and which to replace.

Remember a survival kit does yyou no good if its left at home so make your kit small and convenient to carry!