GREAT GEAR RECOMMENDATION - Wilderness Emergency Kit (WEK)
The Wilderness Emergency Kit "WEK" is what I carry in the field. The spot Satellite Messenger on the left is optional but I strongly recommend that you include it. I think it is the best, most reliable communications device for Hardcore Outdoorsmen. The WEK is currently available in sage green or coyote brown.
I have been working on the "perfect" "survival kit" since I was about 12 years old. It seems like I have always been working on this project, in fact I can't remember a time when I wasn't. More than 30 years of hardcore hunting, backpacking, mountaineering, trail riding, mountain biking, boating, flying, ATVing, and trail running has given me a great deal of experience to draw on. However, it was 10 years with the Sheriff's Mountain Rescue Team and 4 years as a SAR Tech EMT on his helicopter that really taught me what items were truly essential for most backcountry emergencies. Based on the totality of my experience and many years of research and trial and error, this is the kit that I currently carry in the field. It is the kit that I have made up for my closest friends and family. Now, after much prodding by them, I will make one up for you too.
Warning!!!! Wilderness travel and backcountry sports and leisure activities are dangerous. You could be seriously hurt or even die while doing them whether you own and use this kit or not. The mere fact that you possess this kit does not guarantee your safety. These are just tools and it is your responsibility to know how to use them or get the proper training, so don't come back to me if things go bad for you out there. You are on your own. Also, I am not responsible for checking, repairing or replacing any of the components in this kit. You are so don't forget to check them often.
OK, the Wilderness Emergency Kit or WEK is not a survival kit in the traditional sense. I did not put this kit together with the idea of hacking out a living in the wilderness like a modern day Robinson Crusoe or Jeremiah Johnson. There is no food, no fishing tackle, no snare wire. Why? Because I can go days if not weeks without food but I don't intend to be stranded that long. This is an emergency kit that is designed to help me deal with short term, life threatening situations, send a ditress signal and make it as easy as possible for the SAR gods to find me.
There are many kits available on the market but I decided to build my own because I have never found one that had what I think are the right components. I have a very specific list of things I want in my kit and I want those items to be the very best available regardless of cost. After all, I don't want to be in the middle of a life or death situation wishing that I had spent the extra dough on the kit with the really good stuff in it. An emergency is no time to be pinching pennies.
Now, I am not going to divulge the list of items in this kit, primarily because I am not interested in debating it, but I will tell you that it effectively and efficiently addresses day/night signaling, fire, shelter, water, first aid, tools, navigation and communications if you include the optional SPOT device. In my opinion, it deals with those issues better than any kit of its size on the market. I think that this kit contains the correct essentials to help me get through a wilderness emergency but absolutely nothing extra because of weight and space constraints. I needed the WEK to be as light, tight and small as possible but it also had to work in a variety of environments. The theory behind this spartan approach to the contents comes from a mental database full of observed mistakes and lessons learned. In order for an emergency kit to be useful, I need to have it with me when the emergency occurs. If the kit is weighted down with extraneous "luxury" items that I can do without the chances of me carrying it in the field all the time decrease. I had to strip it down to what I felt I really, I mean really, needed. In its current configuration, the total weight of the WEK, including the Eberlestock Multipack, Tactical Tailor Malice Straps, optional SPOT device and one set of batteries for the headlamp and strobe light is 3 lbs. I will provide you with a fresh set of batteries (4 AA lithiums and 2 watch batteries) for everything so you are good to go upon receipt of the package but after that you are on your own.
Regarding the SPOT Satellite Messenger. This revolutionary device is popular now but regular readers will recall that I got on the SPOT band wagon early. Not because I'm easily impressed by bright shiny gadgets but because it worked as advertised in my field tests and it solved an extremely important problem in my system. Communications. Before SPOT came out I tried satellite phones, VHF radios, FRS/GMRS radios, PLBs, and cellular phones but each of them had fatal flaws. SPOT is not 100% fail safe either but based on my experience with it, as long as I give it a clear view of the sky and enough time to communicate with the navigation and communications satellites, it is very reliable and the best single communications device I have carried. Period.
Trust me, if there was something else out there that I thought was better than SPOT, I would carry it regardless of the cost because communications is that important to my system. Good communications is critical in an emergency because without it the good guys don't know that they are needed. SPOT not only makes that critical notification to emergency services, it also provides them with the location of the incident. This is especially important in a wilderness emergency where response times routinely exceed "the golden hour". As if the emergency communications feature were not enough to win me over, SPOT also gives me rudimentary non-emergency communications capability so my family and friends know where I am and how I am doing. For a guy that goes solo as much as I do, that is a big deal. What's not to love about this thing.
The SPOT Satellite Messenger is an amazing device. Even if you do not buy the Wilderness Emergency Kit, please consider purchasing a SPOT for yourself or for someone you care about or both. They will be safer and you won't worry as much.
So, who should buy a WEK? Well let me tell you who shouldn't buy one. Guys that think they know everything and like to argue or debate every little thing should not buy one. Anal retentive obsessive compulsive guys with the time and money to put together their own kits should not buy one. Stupid people (ie SAR response system abusers) should not buy one. Everybody else is OK I guess.
Here is how these kits have been sold in the past. One of my wifes tennis partners or girlfriends calls me and says that her husband likes to trail ride, dirt bike, cross country ski, fly his private plane, bass fish, snowmobile, ATV, kayak, backpack or whatever but she worrys about him and wants to make sure that he has the right gear but she or he don't really know exactly what to get or where to get it and they don't have the time or the patience to do it anyway so couldn't I just whip one together in a day or two because his birthday is coming up or Christmas is just around the corner and he saw the one you did for so and so and he thought it was really cool, oh it would be the perfect gift will you pleeezzz help me? It's always the "please help me" that gets me so I respond by saying yes Ma'am I can do that and would be happy to do it but I will only do it the right way which is gonna cost you about $350 then she says oh hell he's worth that, cash or check honey and can you box it up for me?
If you want one too send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me which color you want (sage green or coyote brown) and if you want the SPOT Satellite Messenger or not. What do I suggest? Get him the SPOT. You don't want him to die out there thinking that you didn't love him enough to spend the extra bucks.
Wilderness Emergency Kit sells for $200 (sage green or coyote brown)
Add an additional $149.95 for the SPOT Satellite Messenger SPOT requires a separate annual subscription service fee to work
The WEK pack can be carried or mounted in numerous ways, is padded and floats. All sensitive items are protected in clear military spec resealable bags. The complete kit with SPOT device weighs 3lbs and measures 12x6x4 inches.
EDITORS NOTE - I am not selling these anymore because it is a giant pain in my the ass and the truth is I don't want to be in the retail business anyway. So, stay tuned for a revised article that lists the contents/sources so you can assemble your own kit.