Here’s the scenario. My buddy Sam owns some acreage south of town where we are hunting this year. It takes about an hour to get out to the gate, and then his land is back up in the hills, about five winding miles off of the piss-ant two lane blacktop. You have to have a 4×4 to get in and back out, so I will sometimes borrow Sam’s Jeep Grand Wagoneer. It is a beast, and typically good for the trip.
But not this last time. On Sunday evening, I drove out to check on some game cams we’d put out, and to check on the feeders. I pulled in later than I’d like, about 3:30, and poked around in the woods for an hour or so before I decided to head back. When I cranked up, though, I blew a hose under the hood. A coolant hose split open about six inches or more, and the pressure form the engine was pushing out antifreeze. Now I’m not going to pretend like I know any more than that. I don’t know beans about cars–all I know is that when I raised the hood, I could see the split and the yellow liquid gushing out, and it smelled like hell.
No worries. I’ve got all kinds of people I can call. Or I would have had people to call, if my phone hadn’t been searching for a signal the entire time I was in the woods. It was dead. I know as much about phones as I do about cars, and both were dead. No phone calls. No driving out. The irony is that I’d come prepared. Sort of. About a month ago, Sam picked up some Henry rifles for review. In addition to the two giant lever-actions, Henry sent us a U.S. Survival Rifle and a cute little survival kit. Sam had tossed the AR-7, the survival kit, and a Marble Arms Catch .22 (which holds 50 rounds of .22 LR) into the back of the Wagoneer–so I wasn’t completely out of luck.
Let me step back and provide some context for the inevitable night in the woods. I hadn’t set out to do a practical field test of this survival kit. In fact, I’d borrowed the vehicle that I’d manage to strand in the woods. I was sure that Sam would begin to wonder where his Jeep was. And I’m married. I’d like to think that when I didn’t arrive home, my wife would immediately call Sam and ask where I was–and I have these visions of the two of them coming out to rescue me with a thermos full of coffee and a picnic basket full of fried chicken or something. But it didn’t happen.
So I was in the woods. Because I’d assumed someone would come looking for me, I didn’t immediately start gathering wood or trying to find food. I figured if I waited long enough, someone else would happen along.
No one came along. About 5:00, I began to think about where I was going to sleep. I had the back of the Jeep, so I wasn’t hurting for shelter. I had very little to eat–just a few gumballs I’d purloined from my son’s stash. I knew I’d be able to make a fire. I’ve started with just a pocket knife and made fire, so I would certainly be able to do it with the matches in the kit. I didn’t have anything to drink–but this was October in Arkansas, and still humid. I wasn’t going to dry up overnight.
Eventually I went walking. I took the AR-7 with the idea that I’d find a squirrel, at least, and have something to eat. I found a crossroad and some bear scat. There was no water immediately available. After an hour of wandering, without seeing a single squirrel, I went back to start a fire, which allowed for the first practical test of the…
Contents of the Henry Survival Kit MSRP $99.95
- Basic Survival Instruction Sheet (very handy for basic survival, or for lighting a fire if you’re desperate).
- Aloksak Water Tight Bag (keep things dry, or it can hold water).
- Personal Use Fishing Kit (just for you–not for fishing for anyone else).
- Mini Map Compass (even more useful if you have mini maps–or normal maps, too).
- Mini Rescue Flash Signal Mirror (could be a true life saver in some places).
- Beeswax Tea Light Survival Candle
- Tinder Quick (10–one is enough. These are very flammable).
- Type 1A Utility Cord (20 ft)
- Photon Micro Light (this thing is the bomb, as they say, and it glows in the dark).
- Sewing Kit (hope it isn’t you that needs sewing up).
- Spiral Wire Survival Saw (I should have made more use of this in the daylight).
- 1 ft flexible latex tubing (for use as a tourniquet, or great for getting water, gas, etc.).
- Trauma Bandage and Gauze Roll
- Adventurer Compact Repair Tape
- Adventurer Compact Fire Starter (I used this to start my fire).
- Rapid Rescue Survival Whistle (quite loud).
- Snare Wire (20 ft)
- Adventure All Weather Matches (10)
- Utica Kutmaster Mini Multi Tool
- Flat Coffee Filter (but no coffee. Actually, this is for filtering crappy water).
- Water Bag
- MicroPur Water Tablets (05)
- 12 Hour Light Stick
- Space Survival Blanket (like sleeping in tinfoil).
- Compact Signal Panel
- Silica Gel (do not eat).
- Fresnel Lens Fire Starter (I ran out of light before I could fry any ants).
- Derma Safe Razor Knife (a really nice touch–keep it clean).
The Survival Kit Box
- Hard Anodized Aluminum
- Size: Appx 7.3″ x 4.6″ x 2.3″ (including clasps)
- Weight: 6.2 oz
- Fire and Water Resistant
- Extremely Durable
- Not recommended for cooking (but it is possible to cook in it and on it).
- Color: Dark Gray
Of all of this, there are some major groups that stand out. There is the cutting group–and it is nice to have two knives (one to get dirty, one to keep clean and sharp). There’s the fire group. There’s the binding and taping group. Then the signaling group. There is a nod to first-aid, and some symbolic fishing gear. And the space blanket and the box. In reality, there is enough there to survive with if you are trying to survive in a Pangea of readily accessible raw materials.
In my case, I used four items. The flint-and-steel, the space blanket, the compass, and one tinder wick thing. My fire was mostly symbolic. It told the bear I was there, and showed the deep dark night that I was indeed capable of surviving its mild temperatures. The blanket was nice, if exceptionally loud, as I did get cold once I stopped moving around in the truck. I referenced the compass a couple of times looking for the fastest way to the road, though in the end I followed the road I’d driven in on.
I could have stayed longer. Easily, if I’d found water. There wasn’t anything I immediately wanted other than actual water, or coffee, and a good snack of some sort.
A note about the video below. It is long and uncut, for the most part. I had my camera with me, so I took some video of the lovely experience. There’s proof of the bear, and I start the fire at about the 13:50 mark. Otherwise, it isn’t the most gripping footage I’ve ever produced. Be warned–long and rambling.
Later, when I asked why she didn’t rescue you me, she answered logically enough–“I thought you’d call if something was wrong.” Makes sense. Not that I could have called from that stretch of Arkansas backwater, but whatever. She knows I was a Boy Scout. I’d purposefully put myself in this sort of situation many times. I call it camping. Though I usually take more water and something to eat. Whatever. I guess she had a time threshold on her where’s-my-husband-alarm, and staying out overnight in the woods wasn’t long enough for alarm.
Sam, too. He knew where I was, and wasn’t worried that I hadn’t brought his Jeep back. When I was good and awake on Monday, I walked down to the highway and hitched a ride to a gas station that fried potato wedges in the same batter that they fried their chicken. That Lincoln I had in my pocket was good for a full-on-meal of deep fried gas station goodness. And I made a couple of calls, and Sam showed up with a new hose. His opinion on the whole thing? If I’d known my ass from my elbow, I would have used the duct tape in the kit to wrap the split hose and that would have been good enough to get me out of the woods, at least.
Maybe so. But ignorance is bliss. And aside from getting a bit thirsty, and hungry, and a crappy sleepless night, I have nothing to complain about.
To end what has really been an odd and accidental review, I’ll mention the price. The Henry kit costs $99. What you’re paying for is convenience, really. Everything you need is packed compactly in the can. You toss it in the back and forget about it until it matters. It is ideally sized for hunters who might end up wandering deep into the woods in search of a wounded animal. And, if you don’t find it, you’ll wish you had thought to pack something to eat, too.