What do you carry for survival gear? Most of us probably don't give much thought to "survival" while riding, but believe it or not you really should be carrying a few basic items. Of course the real question is what to carry? If you are like me you wish you could carry a small house with attached garage just in case there is a problem. Of course the reality is that you can only carry so much and no matter what, each item you add to your pack adds a little bit of weight. Over the years I have carried lots of stuff that I didn't need and sometimes found that I needed stuff that I didn't have. My list is in no way the ulitmate, rather it's just what I have found that works for me.
The first thing is to give a little thought to what the temperature is doing. If it's the middle of summer you probably don't need quite as much as you do in the winter. Typically I always carry an emergency blanket, knife, compass, matches, flint & steel, first aid kit, extra gloves and a light wind breaker that stuffs into a small package. When it comes to the emergency blanket I prefer the small lightweight type that looks like tin-foil. I used to scoff at these little blankets. But after doing a little training some time back I found that these work surprisingly well. Granted they are not grandma’s quilt, but they block the wind and help hold in body heat. If you have a fire they are really nice if you can keep it open toward the flame to catch some of the heat. Also, since they are so light and thin you can put them on like a poncho and then put your jersey over the top to make a hillbilly jacket.
If it looks like you might be hanging out a while making a small fire does wonders for your mental state not to mention how much cooler you will look when help does show up. The big problem is how to get a fire started. I have tried lots of little fire starter products and most work pretty well. But, they can be bulky and if they get wet don’t work so great. What I have found to be the best is good old fashioned cotton balls that have been saturated in petroleum jelly. It sounds strange but these things are amazing and best of all cheap. Even in wet conditions, if you can keep a small flame going and you get your tinder into small enough pieces you can generally get a fire started, but it may take a while.
Food and water are also very important. I generally try to keep at least two or three granola bars in my pack at all times for those “just in case times”. Here in the Northwest finding water is generally not a problem, but finding water that won’t make you sick can be. So carrying a few purification tablets is a must. In the old days these tablets made the water taste awful, but now they have a neutralizer that helps with that. Getting dehydrated is a huge problem, it causes fatigue, cramps and can really take you out.
The reality is that most of us will never need survival gear when we are riding. But it only takes that one time that you break down or get hurt and have to wait for someone to go get help, tools or repair parts to make being prepared worth the effort.