Essential System #5 – First Aid Kit

The assumption we make around the SurviveLA compound is that in a large scale emergency, such as an earthquake, we’ll be on our own for a while. Anyone who has been unlucky enough to visit the hospital emergency rooms of Los Angeles or any big city, even during non-peak hours, knows that your sorry ass often ends up on a stretcher parked in a forlorn hallway waiting for hours for a distracted and overworked doctor. Which is why, once again, we’ve relied on the world of mountaineering to inform our choice of first aid supplies. The assumption with a first aid kit in the wilderness is that it will be quite a while before you can be reached by a paramedic.

But first some disclaimers – we are not medical experts here, and this first aid kit is in a “first draft” status. We welcome any suggestions for items that should be included. We have copied this list (and added a few things) from the book Mountaineering The Freedom of the Hills.

Adhesive bandages – six 1-inch

Butterfly bandages – three, in various sizes

Sterile gauze pads – four 4-inch b 4-inch

Carlisle dressing or sanitary napkin – one 4-inch (note sanitary napkins are much cheaper and make excellent bandages and provide some low-brow humor potential to cheer up the patient who may find themselves with a sanitary napkin duct-taped to their forehead)

Nonadherent dressings – two 4-inch by 4-inch

Self-adhering roller bandages – two rolls 2-inch width by 5 yards

SAM splint – one

Athletic tape – one roll, 2-inch wide

Triangular bandages – two 36 inch by 36 inch by 52 inch for slings (large bandanas will do)

Moleskin or Molefoam – 4-inch to 6-inch square for blisters

Tincture of benzoin – One 0.5 ounce bottle – to keep tape sticking and to protect skin

Providine iodine swabs – two packages

Alcohol or soap pads – three packages


Sugar packets – to treat diabetes or hypoglycemia intervention


anaplasmosis (epinephrine) kit (EpiPen) – for people with severe allergies

Elastic bandage – one 2-inch width to wrap sprains or compress injured area

Latex gloves

Safety pins


Plastic bag – for contaminated items

Breathing bearier – for administering CPR – we have one on our key chain that the Red Cross sells, but note that you will need to take a CPR class in order to know how to administer CPR

Duct tape – a wonder product, cheaper than medical tape – use it to adhere bandages, deal with blisters and a host of other things

Any prescription medications that you take

Syringe – for cleaning out wounds – you can also improvise this with a water bottle

Antibiotic cream

If you already have a first aid kit you can pimp it out with a few of these items. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of large bandage material such as the sanitary napkins. One acquaintance of ours who was unlucky enough to have been severely cut by falling glass in the Northridge quake stumbled around bleeding for hours while her friends could only find small band-aids. Also, just because you have these items does not mean that you know how to use them. The Red Cross offers low-cost first aid and CPR classes but one thing to remember about Red Cross classes is that they assume that you have access to the emergency medical system and that the first aid you deliver is to stabilize the patient before the paramedics arrive. The Wilderness First Aid Course Inc. offers a more comprehensive first aid class that assumes that it will be awhile before your ass is swooped up in the little red paramedic wagon.

We keep these items in our grab and go bags and once again, this is a first stab at a kit. An anesthesiologist we have hiked with in the past carries a larger first aid kit full of potentially recreational prescription drugs and she’s more than prepared to do some fairly gruesome field surgery and appetite-suppressing improvised dentistry. They’ll be much more on the first aid topic in future post and until that time we welcome comments and suggestions.

SurviveLA Scoops Field and Stream

Looks like Field and Stream Magazine, the Robb Report of the guns and pickup crowd, has their own survival system in a Altoid can. We don’t like to brag too much here but in an earlier post, thanks to the folks at Illuminate LA, we featured a similar system with more items that is half the size.

Speaking of Illuminate LA make sure to check out the handy preparedness info they have posted on the right side of the page as well as all the fun destinations and bike rides they have planned.

Essential System #6 – Fire

On the crazy path of life you may someday find yourself needing to build a fire. When it’s wet and when kindling wood is lacking this can be a challenge. Which is why we always have fire starting implements on hand including a butane lighter and waterproof matches. Most importantly we carry something to really get the fire going – our homemade wax and dryer lint fire starters.

To make a wax and lint fire starter, save up the ends of a few candles and a bunch of lint from the dryer. Take a paper egg carton and put a big wad of dryer lint into each cup of the carton. Melt the candle wax in a double boiler. The easiest way to do this is to put the stubs in a clean tin can, and put that can in a saucepan about halfway full of water.  When the wax is melted, fill each cup of the carton up to the top with wax, soaking the lint. When the wax solidifies tear the carton apart, but keep the wax and lint in the individual paper carton sections. Light the torn edges of the cup to start the firestarter burning. The paper of the carton helps to get the wax and dryer lint burning. And burn it does! You will quickly learn why it’s a good idea to clean out the lint in the dryer vent – lint is seriously flammable.

With your dryer lint fire starters and some waterproof matches, you’ll be ready for any situation.

See this 2011 post for a picture.

Essential System #7 – Repair Kit and Tools

We were going to use this category to wax poetic about the early 90s Leatherman multi-tool that we wear on our belts at all times but, hold the blog press here, self-sufficiency geniuses Stephen Box and Enci gifted us with a category-busting set of tools that, get this, fit within a tiny 30g (1.5 oz) Altoid tin!

Believe it or not this pocket size Altoid tin contains the following items:

1 inner tube piece – a section of a bicycle tire that can be used as a tourniquet, bandage, or slingshot

1 boot lace – always handy to have a section of string

1 saw wire – you can cut wood with this sharp wire

2 finger rings

1 can opener

1 duct tape (40cm) on straw

2 saw blades – these attach to two screws on the bottom of the altoid can so that the can functions as a saw handle

2 fasteners (#6-32 x 3/8″)

2 Exacto blades #11

1 needle/thread

1 upholstery needle

2 needles

1 red LED bulb – the bulb and the small hearing aid batteries fit in a tiny hole in the side of the Altoid can, thus turning the can into a flashlight – the red bulb is so that you can read in the dark without ruining your night vision

2 batteries for LED

6 match heads (sealed in wax)

1 striker for match heads

6 fire-starters made out of lint and wax (we’ll describe how to make these in a future post)

1 tin foil

1 rubber glove – for gathering or distilling water or for one-handed first aid

8 water purification tables (in straw) – see our earlier post on water

6 safety pins – for, among other uses, creating a sling with a shirt for a broken arm

2 medicated Bandaid strips

1 package first aid cream

6 aspirin

1 baling wire

4 fish hooks (snelled #2/#8) – for fishing!

4 split shot sinkers – also for fishing

1 snap swivel (#10)

1 filament (10 meters)

Beyond having enough items to repair virtually anything, this tiny kit can be used for signaling, trapping, fishing, filleting small animals and first aid.

A tip of the SurviveLA hat to Box and Enci for producing an innovative response to the problem of how to lug around basic essentials!

The Sound of One Hand Snapping

We’ve had to do a fair amount of carpentry around the compound – part of that self-sufficiency thing – and countersinking nails with a nail set, those pen like things you use to get the nail head below the surface of the wood, is a pain in the ass. Which is why we think that this tool, the “Noxon Two Bit Snapper” by the mysterious Spring Tools Corporation may be the handiest tool in the SurviveLA compound tool box.

The Snapper model we have is double sided, and has a spring connecting the two ends which consist of a center punch and a nail set. You hold one end against a nail and pull the spring back. The spring bangs one end into the other, thereby driving the nail. We’ve used it for years, and driven hundreds of nails with it, hanging molding, fixing windows, making furniture, and countless other tasks. It’s possible, in fact, to drive nails with this thing without using a hammer and it’s especially useful in tight spaces where there is not enough room to swing a hammer.

If SurviveLA ever sells out, it will be to whore ourselves out to the folks at Spring Tools who manufacture this elegant, simple and effective tool right here in our own fucked-up USA. In fact, it seems that Spring Tools holds the patent for this whole spring-based concept and has extended the idea of “spring driven technology” into a number of areas. We’ re especially intrigued with the potential of their spring driven I.D. Stamper which comes with a set of letters for stamping out a message in metal. Though we have not tested the I.D. Stamper, it seems like some illicit fun could be had with that thing . . .