One of the most important things to keep in mind when starting a kit, or adding to one, is that not everything is created equal, some things might be useful most, or some of the time but not always, and that everything should serve its own purpose.
Some of the basic things one should include in their kit is:
1. A means to carry water. Water is the most basic survival NECESSITY that anyone could ask for. It is absolutely imperative that your body is hydrated; One of the more less then desirable aspects of being dehydrated (not when you feel like your throats going to rupture, but from the moment you start to feel the slightest on-set of thirst) is that your fine motor skills are for naught! Brain reasoning becomes second hand as your body rushes water to all the major and important areas that need it most; Such as keeping your insides from melting. The average person can sweat up to or more then a liter of fluids per hour during increased activity levels. Which isn’t taking into account fluids lost from your bladder. Whats more if you don’t properly hydrate your body, and replace all the salts, and minerals you’ve lost you could find yourself in a real tough pickle!
Water containers (and good ones at that) can be had now a days at extremely low prices. Buying when they’re on sale is the easiest way to find them cheap. I’ve even seen the really big wide mouth Nalgene bottles for less then three dollars! So don’t skimp out and buy yourself a water container; Your body needs water!
Another thing one can do is carry around the individual water flavor powders. They contain calories, carbs, salts, and nutrients that your body needs in a small easy to carry package.
2. A cutting implement. Knives, axes, and other tools to cut have been around longer then humans have. Dinosaurs with their incisors were the first to use cutting tools of any kind, and modern man is very far ahead with metal alloys, and designs.
Why a knife? A knife is one of the most basic tools to have at your disposal, but it is one of the most important. Without a decent cutting tool your workload increases to a ridiculous amount. Imagine having to do basic things like food prep with stones; Not only is it not easy, a lot of us wouldn’t know where to even begin or what to do!
A knifes uses are some of the most wide, and improvised uses I have ever found in any one tool. With a knife everything becomes simpler, more attainable, or even possible! This is mirrored by the fact that almost the entire world uses some sort of knife on a daily basis!
3. Fire starting equipment. The ability to start, and maintain a fire in even the most adverse situations is one of the more useful skills you could ever learn. Here in south FL it doesn’t matter too much for winter, but for everything its a life saver.
Mosquitoes are HELL, simply put. Its no fun being out, and having a swarm of mosquitoes trying to eat you alive. Fire can help alleviate mosquitoes or even get rid of them completely. Why? My theory is with all the wildfires that occur in the everglades from lightning, and such the mosquito is naturally used to avoiding fire, and the subsequent smoke.
Using fire to cook is one of the more obvious yet least thought out things! You can’t expect to harvest something such as a fish, or other small game, clean it, and have a magic presto fire (unless you have a portable camp stove with fuel.)
Some of the things I carry for fire that are cheap yet effective is matches; Matches are extremely cheap, as are small waterproof containers to keep them ready for a moments notice. Other things I might carry is a magnesium with flint striker. The later can be bought at Walmart for around 3 dollars.
4. Some form of cover. Dying from exposure from either hyper (heat), or hypo (cold) -thermia is never a quick painless ordeal. Extremes of heat can cause nausea, dizziness, loss of fine motor skills, slurred speech, fainting, and ultimately death in extreme cases. Getting out of the sun is the quickest and easiest ways of avoiding hyperthermia. Anything can be used as improvised, or pre-planed cover. Whenever i go fishing I have my hat, and a long sleeve shirt on. The hat keeps the sun out of my face, and eyes, and the long sleeve keeps the sun off my skin. A tarp can be used as a ground cloth, tent, improvised sleeping bag, big banana leaves can also be used as a form of cover, or palm leaves stacked high to create a barrier against rain.
5. Emergency blankets. I think these things are absolute wonders. They’re usually made of mylar, they’re super light, fold down to pocket size, and are their when you need them. You can use them as a ground cloth to keep your warmth from leaving through whatever your sitting/laying on (conduction) or as a backing in your shelter to keep the warmth in (although here in south FL they get used more for reflecting heat, and sunlight rather then absorbing it. They can also be used as improvised rain ponchos, and as a signaling device should your expedition not turn out quite right.
6. Food. Food is one of the more important things in any survival kit, and I would consider it right up their with water, and shelter. It isn’t immediately necessary, but more then a couple days (sometimes hours) without food, and your going to be wishing you could eat dirt! (Which you can, and it does have nutrients, but I don’t recommend anyone try this out.) Usually I’ll have with me some nature valley bars, or something small that I can just stick a bunch of in my pack, and grab as I need them. However food isn’t a renewable resource in and of itself, (just like all the other items i mentioned, except for the knife unless you count in edge retention) and it eventually has to be replaced when it runs out.
Fishing is one of the easiest things you can do to secure food, and you don’t even have to be anywhere near your baited line to catch them! Panfish are some of the easiest, most widely consumed fish to catch down here in FL, and a lot of other locations. You can even just set a line out, and check it every ten to fifteen minutes to harvest your fish, bait, and reset! Fishing is also one of the easiest things you can do as it doesn’t require too much skill, but a little knowledge can help you go a long way.
All in all the amount of things to choose from to carry with you is basically endless, however the items you carry should be well thought out, and actually usable. Extra weight is dead weight.