A lot of weekend warriors stow their survival gear in an emergency kit and think they’re ready for anything. But, over time, your gear will need to be maintained, and possibly replaced, to keep it working in top condition. This article looks at common things that need to be replaced regularly in your survival kit, and at tips for maintaining your more permanent supplies.
Store It Well
The first thing you should consider about your survival gear is how it is stored, and storage will vary depending on where you live or travel. If you have a kit aboard your fishing boat, for example, that will be different than the one you keep in your car. Wherever you store it, it should be safe from water, heat and insect damage.
Make a Schedule
Next, make a schedule for checking your kit. You should check any travel emergency kit before taking any long or potentially hazardous trip. Car and home kits should be checked after having been used or every six months, whichever is sooner. Make a hard and fast rule for your household that any time someone borrows something from your emergency kit, it needs to be replaced or replenished within 24 hours, even if it’s just a bandage or a single flashlight battery. Ideally, no one will borrow anything from a survival kit unless it’s a true emergency, but it’s good to have a procedure to follow, just in case.
Any perishable items in your kit must be replaced periodically, and this includes drinking water if that’s part of your gear. It can help to make a paper checklist that you keep with your kit. On this list include an inventory of all of the items in the kit, the dates that those items were placed in the kit, and the expiration date or date of next servicing. For example, some painkillers and other medicine in the first-aid portion of your kit may have a use-by date of only a year or two from when you purchased them. It’s best to make sure that everything in your kit has an expiration date of at least six months in the future and longer if possible. While that’s not to say that a painkiller that is a few days past expiration can’t be taken, the whole point of a survival kit is to help you out in a difficult situation, and making sure that all of your items are current and ready to be used is key.
Replace Batteries and Safeguard Basic Components
Batteries are another important point to consider when you overhaul your emergency kit. Unused batteries can hold their charge for months — but do you want to take the risk that your flashlight won’t work just because you didn’t think to change out the batteries on your last check of the emergency kit? And, if you have any lights, satellite phones, radios or other technological items that have in-built batteries that need to be charged, make sure you take note of that as well on your handy emergency checklist.
Knives and fire-making tools are usually listed as the first two components of even the most basic survival kit, and as such, yours should be in tip-top condition. Keep your blades sharp, oil hinges of folding knives, and refill lighter fluids if necessary.
Cordage, straps and buckles are another part of your emergency go-gear that should be checked periodically, even if you haven’t used your kit since you last looked at them. Extreme weather changes, pests like mice or moths and other things out of your control can weaken fibers or corrode metal components.
What Can You Upgrade?
Keep an eye out for what you can upgrade. The market for survival gear is constantly changing, with many innovations bringing lighter-weight, smarter gear to be used in emergencies. Just because you bought something 10 years ago and it still works fine doesn’t mean that there’s not something better you could get now. For example, can any of the cordage or ropes you have in your existing kit be replaced with lighter, more versatile paracord? Is there a more nutritious and tasty alternative to the energy bars you last packed? Being aware of advances on the market now might make a tangible difference in an emergency later.