Going Gear Crazy

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend a lot of time looking over survival gear. This is part of my work, as people send me gear to write instructions about, test and review. While every once in a while I end up receiving a piece of junk, most of what I receive is pretty good; worth owning and worth using.

Here’s the thing though; you can go gear poor these days. Things weren’t that way back when I got my start as a survivalist. But as interest in survival has increased, so have the number of products being produced for survivalists, especially “gadget” products. I like a good gadget as much as anyone, but how many do you really need? More importantly, how many can you carry in your bug out bag?

We all know that one guy who has just got to buy every new piece of gear out there. He can show you his tomahawk collection and discuss the idiosyncrasies of various camping stoves he’s tried. But he really can’t use all that stuff he has. I guess you could say I’m a bit like that; but in my case, it’s not me buying gear just because I want it, it’s part of the work that I do for the prepping and survival community.

Still, this obsession with gear has led me to develop a few basic rules for my own gear. These rules determine which things I’m going to actually carry, either in my EDC bag or my bug out bag, and things that will just sit in my closet or workshop, like trophies on a shelf.

I Have to Have a Real Need for It

There’s a lot of really great gear out there which isn’t really necessary. Yet if you look at the advertisements, you can easily convince yourself that you need it. Some of this gear didn’t exist back when I got my start, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having. Solar phone chargers didn’t exist back then, but neither did cell phones. Since my cell phone is a useful survival tool and I can never make it through a day without a recharge, having a solar charger with me makes sense.

On the other hand, I don’t wear a “survival bracelet” even though a lot of people do. I seriously doubt that I’m going to need ten feet of paracord to get me through the day, and if I do, I’ve got some in my EDC bag. So for me (not necessarily for you) it doesn’t make sense to wear paracord on my wrist.

It has to be High Quality

I’m a firm believer in quality. In my younger years, when money was tight, I bought my fair share of cheap survival gear. Most of it didn’t last. The really sad thing about that is that if I had needed that gear in a real survival situation, it probably would have broken down. That’s a scary thought.

My life is worth the few extra bucks that I have to spend to buy quality gear, over just buying something cheap. So I’ll spend the money. That way, I know that I’m going to be able to depend on my gear, when the time comes.

If Possible, it has to be Multi-function

I’m a firm believer in multi-function gear. You can always catch my eye with some sort of gadget that promises to do a dozen things. My very first “multi-tool” was a boy scout knife, back when they had a spoon and a fork built in. From there I graduated to Swiss Army knifes, which I carried for many years. Now I carry a simple (high quality) folding knife; but I also carry a multi-tool.

I actually have several multi-tools, both Lethermans and Gerbers. Each survival kit, bug out bag and my EDC bag has one. All are high quality. They are incredibly useful tools that can do a lot of different things, which make them extremely practical for any survival situation.

The camp hatchet I use is a combination hatchet, hammer and pry bar. My camp shovel has a saw concealed in the handle, which has a compass in the end. If I’m going to carry gear, I want it to be able to do the most things possible, even if I have other gear that does that function. It’s called redundancy.

The Multi-functionality Can’t Steal from the Quality

However, even though I’m a big fan of multi-function tools, I don’t allow that to snooker me into giving up on quality to have multi-functionality. Quality still wins in my book. Take a “survival knife” for example. First of all, any knife can be a survival knife, so naming it that doesn’t mean a whole lot. But there are some survival knives that combine several extra features into the knife or sheathe. In some cases, these are great, but in others, they reduce the quality of the knife.

I had a knife at one time, which had a waterproof match holder in the handle and a compass in the cap. I thought that was a great idea, allowing me to always have some matches with me. But in order to do that, they didn’t make the knife full-tang. So I ended up breaking the knife once when I was using it like a machete to cut small branches off a tree. Oops.

My real concern here is that in order to add those extra features, the manufacturers often have to reduce quality somewhere, or risk that tool being overly expensive. In the case of knives, the first place they usually reduce the cost is in the quality of the steel, something you definitely don’t want.

It has to be as Lightweight as Possible

This is a criteria that is often overlooked when looking at gear. But the reality is, at some point in time you and I are going to have to carry all that stuff. If it’s too heavy, it’s going to sap our strength, causing us to burn too many calories just to get from point A to point B; and it’s going to take us longer to get there. Experienced backpackers know that saving a few ounces here and there is always worthwhile. The money you spend to do that is going to save you struggles in the long run.

As part of that, it’s important to make sure that you go back to point 1 – do you really need it? One way of cutting weight is to eliminate unnecessary gear. Don’t pare down to the point that you don’t have what you need; but on the other hand, don’t carry something just because it’s a cool piece of gear.

Besides, you need some weight capacity for your guns and ammo too. As always, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Chris and Dr. Rich

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