Doug Ritter's Pocket Survival Pack

Doug was kind enough to send me one of these little kits and for that I say, "thank you."

Oh, it's not merely something to review, this really turned out to be special.

It's obvious that Doug put a lot of thought into this kit and he made some things happen behind the scenes. You cannot have everything in such a small kit but he has managed to not only get the necessities in there, but the quality is top notch. I highly recommend this pocket sized kit to everyone who believes as I do - that you should be prepared and that preparation in advance is not "crazy."

The Contents

The contents of this kit represent what you need in order to survive until you are rescued. It is not a backpack (ruck) full of stuff, it's designed to fit into your pocket so you always have it with you.

That being the case, it would seem silly if anyone pointed out a shortcoming of this kit, it's simply an excellent little kit and you cannot have every possible thing you might need at the worst possible moment in a kit this size. That is an impossibility that many have been working on for years with varying degrees of success.

When you consider the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars that the various branches of the military have poured into Research and Development, Manufacturing and Procurement for survival kits, you will see that surviving an aircrash or simply being lost in the wilderness is no easy thing to plan for.

An Air Force Pilot can have a survival vest on and he can be sitting on a seat that has a backpack with an aluminum (cooking) pan in it filled with even more survival gear and with all of the stuff he has available to him, it's still not enough for some situations. There is always one more thing or a duplicate of an important item that you would want to cram into those kits. But you can only have so much; there are size and weight restrictions that have to be followed.

Now consider having a pocket-sized "survival kit" and you quickly begin to see the problems involved. It's a hard thing to do! You end up with bare-bones essentials and that's that. You can't hope for much more than that.

Some Advice

I would strongly advise those folks that are not used to dealing with survival items to purchase two of these kits, one to carry and the other to use as a training tool.

Let's say that you have a Wife and Child, purchase four kits, keep three of them intact and use the fourth to teach your family how to use the items.

Don't be afraid to go learn about fishing if you don't know how, obtain the fishing licenses for your area and actually go out and try to use the items in the kit to catch a fish.

What I'm trying to tell you is, when you're wet, cold and tired, that is not the time to learn how to start a fire under adverse conditions, or catch a fish or construct a squirrel pole. The time to do that is NOW. The time to learn how to use the signal mirror is NOW, not later.

If you ever travel, if you venture off of life's beaten path, you should have a kit like this in your pocket. Don't let the naysayers convince you that you are "hopelessly pessimistic" or "paranoid" or anything like that. I'm not telling you to duct tape yourself inside of your house, I'm simply informing you that anything can happen in life and you should at least take the most primitive steps to have the skills and tools to survive.

Quality vs. Everything Else

In the text that follows, you are going to see something rather impressive. You are going to see some items chosen by someone who actually cares about what they put their name on. That "Someone" is Doug Ritter. There is no junk in this kit.

The Contents - Step by Step

In the picture below you see the kit, as you would carry it in your pocket.

There is no wasted space, everything has a place and the whole kit is really easy to carry in the pocket.

In this next picture (below) you see some of the contents, from left to right you see a sealed scalpel blade, then a large piece of folded aluminum foil and above that, from left to right you see a small, plastic tube and then a small roll of duct tape. All the way over to the right, going down from the top, you see two pieces of waterproof paper, then a Fresnel lens magnifier and then contents list and instructions for the kit.

Continuing on…

In the next picture (below) you see the nuts and bolts of the kit. From left to right, a Sparklite Firestarter, a FOX 40 Whistle, below the whistle is a button compass, continuing to the right is a bit of cord neatly coiled, right above that is a very slim pencil. Going down and continuing to the right are four pieces of compressed tinder that are supplied with SparkLite Firestarters, then below that is a Signal Mirror. The last two items up and to the right is a length of steel wire and below that some braided thread/line.

The next picture shows the contents of the small, plastic tube from one of the pictures up above.

Four large safety pins and a package which contains a minimalist fishing kit consisting of four small hooks, two very small splitshot lead sinkers, a single brass and steel snap-swivel and a sewing needle.

Quality Items

Anyone can go to Wal-Mart and buy a handful of junk and make a survival kit. In fact, people have done that and sold them on E-bay at absolutely outrageous prices. You get some cheap fish hooks, a rubber-banded, hopelessly tangled mess of monofilament line, a goofy ball compass with a suction cup on it, some Blue Diamond Brand strike anywhere matches and a shaving mirror for a signal mirror. Let the buyer beware. I don't care what anyone says, $10.00 worth of Wal-Mart junk isn't worth $20.00 or $30.00.

This kit is a bit different. It's all about quality and attention to detail. This kit has both.

Pin it up!

A safety pin is a safety pin until you have attempted to use a really cheap one. These are not cheap safety pins, they're sturdy and the lowly safety pin is one of the common household items that we always take for granted until we need one. There are four of them in here. You can do very good repairs on ripped clothing with safety pins and they really are worth the space they take up (which is not much).

Button Compass

The "Button-type" compass appears to be almost identical to those you see in British Survival Tins from Penrith and BCB. It's a "Thataway Compass," as I have taken to calling them. This one is accurate enough to do its job well. It's not accurate enough to use for surveying, etc., no button compass is! This little plastic compass is also as accurate as the U.S. (Vietnam Era) Survival Kit compasses and foreign brass button compasses like the NATO-Peyser Button Compass.

I've checked these little button compasses out carefully, the type included in this kit and a few of the brass (Vietnam Era, OD Green) compasses, the modern NATO compass and I have compared them to my MilSpec Lensatic and I could go into a lot more detail about the US Issue MC-1 Survival Compass and others but we would be getting a little off track.

Hearing the words "cheap compass" is a little counterintuitive. You really don't want to bet your life on something "cheap." Yet this little plastic compass really checks out fine against others of its size and type as well as more expensive compasses. The price is "cheap" but it's a quality item.

Sew it up!

The needle and thread show attention to detail. The eye of the needle tells me everything I need to know about Doug Ritter's choices. The thread included in the kit is heavy and heavy-duty thread requires a larger eye in the needle. It seems like a very minor point until you try to thread a needle with thread that is two, three, perhaps four times larger than the eye.

If you ripped your coat and you just managed to get your fire going, it's nice to be able to sew the coat up. Not just to keep your mind off of the situation, it could keep you warmer, depending on where the rip/tear is and how bad it is. If that wind is howling, you need all the warmth you can get.

I routinely use Singer Brand carpet and upholstery thread for clothing repairs and it's very tough thread. The thread in this kit is much thicker and tougher. When it comes to clothing damage, you can sew just about anything you have to with this thread and get excellent results.


The tiny little fishing "sub-kit" is a nice touch. You cannot see it in the pictures, but these are very good fishhooks. They resemble my preferred hook - The Eagle Claw, which I think are the best fishing hooks made. For those that do not fish much, it would be easy to scoff at that, but I have a lot of time in with that endeavor and I can tell you that Eagle Claws are better hooks - they "set" better. If these are not Eagle Claws, they are very close in design and they work like a charm. It's just a little extra edge when you should take all of the "edge" that you can get.

You also have to keep in mind that these are small fishing hooks and with good reason - always remember - you can catch a large fish with a small hook but you cannot easily catch smaller fish with a large hook. Smaller to medium sized hooks are always preferred unless you are going to engage in snagging maneuvers. (A viable survival fishing method as well, I would say that in most States it is also illegal so you cannot practice it, just remember if you are lost and need food, those laws don't really apply anymore…)

A whistle?

Yes, an excellent whistle. I've written a lot about Self-defense over the years and the classic "Rape Whistle" defense has always been a sad joke among those of us that really care about defensive issues. This is another type of "Self-defense" we are talking about in this article and in this type of Self-preservation, a whistle can save your life. Survival is Self-defense. It's Self-defense against the elements, being lost, cold, wet, hungry, thirsty and/or injured.

There will be people out there searching for you and they would be waiting to hear from you, to help you. Not so with the Urban/Suburban Self-defense realm where people tend to no longer care about such things or don't want to get involved. A whistle is almost perfectly useless as a Self-defense item unless you change the environment to one of Outdoors Survival, then it becomes more than worth its weight in Gold. (Literally)

And this is not just a dime store whistle, it's a FOX-40 Whistle and it will make your ears cloud over it is so loud.

EVERY child that goes near the woods should have a FOX-40 Brand Whistle on a ball chain along with a small flashlight.

EVERY child.

This FOX-40 Whistle is also bright yellow so if you drop it, you will be able to easily find it without having to search through piles of leaves, etc. And, yes, that is attention to detail on the part of Doug and the manufacturer as well.


Included in this kit is the excellent SparkLite Firestarter, which can be found in U.S. Military Survival Kits. It is also sold in some catalogs and usually for $8.00 to $12.00

Surprise of all surprises! This one is orange! See the above comments on the bright yellow color of the FOX-40 Whistle, if you drop this SparkLite Firestarter, it will be easier to find when you need it the most because it's orange instead of the customary OD green.

The SparkLite has the edge over some other firestarters because you can use it with one hand. If you have a broken arm or hand, you can still light a fire without gritting your teeth and injuring yourself further.

The SparkLite with included tinder tabs, a compressed cloth based tinder, will light a fire up in a hurry as long as you do your part and have the rest of your natural tinder and kindling in order - meaning, a lot of it on hand and ready to go with even larger fuel before you ever strike the SparkLite.

Rescue Flash Signal Mirror

Doug really did a good thing here. If you visit Doug's website, you will see that he has done a lot of research on the topic of survival and one of the sub-topics is signal mirrors.

There has been at least once case of a person using a Compact Disc as a survival mirror. In the last year, one person used an aluminized drink bag (like Capri Sun or Kool-Aid Jammers) as a survival mirror.

It's very important to be able to think on your feet and improvise tools from commonly available items in a survival situation. Preparation in advance is far more important. You should know that you can use these expedients, but you should also not be caught without superior tools.

This signal mirror is smaller and thinner than a Starflash signal mirror. In the pictures that follow, you will see two comparisons with the most popular military signal mirrors you can get your hands on. One picture is a side by side comparison and the other shows the thickness of the other mirrors compared to this excellent, thin signal mirror.

In the picture below, I have used colored dots to identify the signal mirrors for you.

The signal mirror and white paddle is U.S. Military Issue and is marked with a red dot. (Heliograph)

The signal mirror marked with a yellow dot is a small Starflash signal mirror.

Doug's signal mirror is marked with a blue dot.

The last mirror is marked with a green dot, it is also a U.S. Military Issued signal mirror, and this one is from the 1950s or 1960s. A heavy and somewhat fragile glass mirror.

In the next picture, you see how thick the mirrors are in comparison.

The signal mirror marked with the red numeral "1" is the same small Starflash.

The signal mirror marked with the red numeral "2" is the heavier glass mirror - quite thick!

The signal mirror marked with the little red square is the plastic heliograph.

Doug's is marked with the little blue square, see how thin it is? It works great too!


The rest of the kit is self-explanatory (like duct tape and a scalpel blade, right?) except for one thing - purifying water. Some would say that the absence of water purification tablets is a big negative to this kit. Doug counters that the kit has aluminum foil, a firestarter and tinder and you can form a bowl with the foil and you can boil water to purify it without worrying about Iodine-based water purification tablets going out of date. He is correct.

I would also say that you should carry the water purification tablets anyway.

Final Kicker

Aeromedix is the distributor that carries Doug Ritter's line of equipment. On their website you can purchase this kit as well as Doug's folding knife made by Benchmade and Doug's design-tweak on the Photon Microlight which, by the way, has some really well thought out features and accessories. Coming from Doug, I'm not surprised. I've read a lot of his writing on these subjects and he has an excellent website.

If you take this little Survival Kit, Doug's Benchmade knife and the tweaked Photon Microlight and you put them all together, you have a good bit of kit to see you through a rough time. Aeromedix has bundled "package deals" on this pocket survival kit, the Photon Microlight and the Benchmade Knives Doug has designed.

I have known many people who like to go off-road and they are more concerned with the way their rig looks and purchasing cosmetic accessories for it than purchasing something that could be lifesaving. Some of them would be more interested in replacing something on their rig to make it look better instead of buying this kit, the knife and the Microlight and placing them in the glove compartment or carrying them on their person. These small, lifesaving things are seen as "too expensive" or "I'll never need that" types of items.

If you're a pilot, live in a rural or even suburban area prone to bad weather, flooding or a host of other things, you would be well served having these items with you in case of an emergency.

Doug Ritter's Equipped to Survive

Doug's line of Benchmade Knives run from about $107.00 for a folder up to $165.00 for a newer model that is a fixed blade.

The Pocket Survival Pak, the subject of this article, is $27.50

The Doug Ritter Special Edition MKII Photon Freedom Micro™ is $19.95

All of these items are available from

Copyright 2006 Don Rearic

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