American Outdoor Guide|October 2021
Suzy Jeffries

I had never given conscious thought to what my top self-reliance items are until American Outdoor Guide Editor Mike McCourt asked me to write this article. Rather than contemplate this, I decided the most accurate way to make that determination was to go through my purse and packs.

A Little Background

I live in a rural area prone to weather threats, including tornadoes. Because we don’t have a basement, we put a storm shelter in our yard. In addition to items stored in the shelter, I have a backpack (go pack) prepped beside the bed.

Before COVID-19, I traveled a minimum of 45 minutes to work. This travel included commuting to a major city and through rural areas where, at times, there’s no cell signal. Should something occur that causes me to abandon my vehicle and walk, I have a backpack (travel pack) and other items staged in my Jeep.

In addition to my two packs, I occasionally carry a purse.

Always With Me

After comparing the commonalities in my purse and two packs, there are five items that are always with me.

Knives. A survival knife is a must-have, and I have two in each pack.

A survival knife can be used to process food, tap a tree for water and chop branches for fire or a makeshift shelter. My favorite survival knife is custom-made; before I received it, my favorite was the Schrade SCHF36. My custom knife “lives” in my go pack and the Schrade SCFH36 in my travel pack.

There’s also a Morakniv (Mora) knife in each pack and two knives in my purse. Mora knives are super-sharp straight from the factory, and I wouldn’t want to be without one.

Fire-Starters. I carry a ferro rod and fire-starting material (dryer lint, cotton balls, fatwood) in my purse and in each pack, along with lighters, magnesium blocks and matches. The ability to make fire is essential to cook, boil water for sterilization, and provide warmth and light. I never intend to be hungry, thirsty or cold, and I certainly don’t want to eat raw meat.

Flashlight. Having worked in both office buildings and warehouses, I can attest to the fact that when the lights go out, you can’t see your hands in front of your face until you make your way to the emergency lighting. Regardless of where I am, I want to be able to see and make my way safely.

Handgun. My purse gun is a Taurus Judge Public Defender. My travel pack carries a Taurus Tracker 17 HMR, and my go pack has a Glock.

I chose the Judge for my purse because it’s a revolver and takes the worry out of fabric getting caught in a slide and jamming the gun. And, I won’t be taking it out of my purse when I have to pull the trigger (I buy cheap purses!). The Judge can accommodate .45 long Colt and .410 shotgun shells.

The Taurus Tracker is a bit bulky, with an overall length of 10.75 inches. However, it fits perfectly into a backpack and enables me to hunt small game. The sights on the Tracker are outstanding.

The Glock was selected for my go-pack for no other reason than self-defense. Glocks have a good reputation and, regardless of the environment, they always seem to work.

Rain Gear. Where I live, the weather could bring tornadoes one day, drop 60 degrees (F) and bring snow the next. I carry an emergency poncho in my purse and rain suits (pants and jacket) in both packs. Additionally, I have Snugpak insulated poncho liners, which are water-resistant but not waterproof. I carry them for warmth instead of a coat.

On the Go and at Home

The commonalities between my travel pack and my go pack enlightened me to what, in my mind, is necessary to take care of yourself, whether you’re at home or on foot.

Shelter. Cold, rain, oppressive heat or being soaked with dew on a cold morning can detrimentally affect core temperature and result in a serious medical condition. I carry a Snugpak Stasha and a SOL Emergency Shelter Kit in my packs. The Snugpak Stasha is a quality shelter kit that includes a Stasha and tie-down cords. The Stasha is 100 percent waterproof and can be packed down small enough to fit into a cargo pants pocket. The SOL Emergency Shelter Kit includes a heavy-duty emergency blanket, tie-downs and tent stakes. By combining both, I can quickly construct a shelter and prevent direct contact with the ground.

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