In a perfect world, I’d always have precisely the right tools for whatever bind I’d find myself in, and conveniently, no more than I’d need. That way I’d always have exactly what was useful to survive and escape, signal and navigate my way back to safety and also have a bit of comfort and convenience while doing it, without carrying anything unnecessary.
Lemme let you in on something here: it NEVER happens that way.
I’m always trying to find the balance between having enough tools and tricks to easily do, get and make everything I need, while also being absolutely as light as possible so I can move and fight. It’s frustrating finishing an op or a hunt and pulling pieces of kit out of my bag or pockets that I not only never needed; but that I look at and go “what the HELL was I thinking??!”
Here’s a quick guideline of what I carry with me in my escape and evasion, or E&E kit. The E&E kit is my last line of defense, really, so I carry it on my person. The items in it are in case of emergency, they’re not for regular use. That way if I lose my other gear, my primary gear, I still have what I need to shelter, eat, drink, signal and navigate. Every environment or situation requires different primary kit, but my E&E kit stays pretty similar. Here’s the basic structure:
I’ve found that a clear 12oz Nalgene brand bottle or similar is a great storage case for my bare-bones E&E tools. It’s waterproof and able to be used as a stand-alone UV water purifier, among other things. Coupled with a titanium or similar canteen cup or cut-up soda or tin can that fits on the bottom for boiling and cooking needs, I’m golden. And that’s just for carrying my E&E kit. Why not maximize the usefulness of every bit of weight I need to carry?
I have a small, high quality wrist compass or similar (Suunto and Silva make good ones, as do many others, just don’t get a chintzy one), along with a small infra-red and visible-light capable strobe for signaling. The one I use has IR and green light strobe and always-on capability. I also carry an IR firefly strobe that I was issued in the SEAL Teams, it’s the size of the tip of my thumb. That gives me redundancy in IR signaling capability, which is great at night. The firefly is powered by a 9v battery, which has many uses as well, such as starting a fire with steel wool like I did in the US Army Phantom Recon episode of Manhunt/LoneTarget.
Speaking of fire, that’s an important capability to have, and along with all the cool battery, chemical, friction, solar, and primitive ways of starting a fire, I usually rely on a mini-Bic. Works great, just about every time, and doesn’t take up but a tiny bit of space. Add a few petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls and I’ve got fire covered.
I’ve mentioned that I have a titanium container for boiling water, but that only works for small amounts and it’s rather tedious. My first option is a small vial of iodine or chlorine tabs for purification. A bottle or blister pack of purification tablets is miniscule, I can carry enough for 10 gallons of water easily. I also carry a few oven roasting bags, you know, the kind you cook a turkey in? They’re really strong, super-thin, fold up really small and are great for carrying water, and also making solar stills, or catching condensation from foliage.
For food, I have a few fish hooks and fishing line (good for booby traps, but get the high-strength kind) as well as some kevlar cord for snares (and booby traps, who we kidding?)
I have a small folding knife/mini-multitool(keychain-sized), a razor blade or two, a bit of rigger’s tape and a stubby toothbrush.
Why the toothbrush? Because it’s the little things, everyone. It’s those tiny mental victories, it’s those small goals accomplished, it’s breaking up an impossible situation into the small tasks and goals that will keep you alive and fighting. Morale is everything.
And I guess being able to scrub the grunge off my teeth when all else absolutely, completely sucks that gives me a little victory.
About the Author
Joel Lambert is a combat veteran of the United States Navy SEAL Teams, where, among many other things, he became proficient in basic and advanced SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape) skills, urban evasion, fieldcraft, tracking, counter-tracking, booby traps, and all the rest of the tricks and techniques he uses to evade capture on his Discovery Channel show titled LONE TARGET in the US and MANHUNT in the rest of the world.