How to Choose and Pack a Survival Vest
A good survival vest can make any outdoor adventure more safe and enjoyable. Packed with the right items, a survival vest can even mean the difference between life or death. Not only does a survival vest afford the outdoor enthusiast with extra storage space, but it is also more accessible than a backpack during times when it matters most. This accessibility makes it a much more convenient piece of load-carrying equipment for hikers, campers, fishermen, hunters and other outdoor adventurers than other forms of load-bearing equipment.
How to Choose a Survival Vest
There are many types of vests to choose from, including: fishing, hiking, travel and tactical. It makes no difference which type of vest is chosen, so long as it is practical and able to meet the requirements and expectations of a good survival vest. Typically, a good choice is any vest which is lightweight, durable, breathable, relatively inexpensive and loaded with as many pockets and extra features as possible.
When choosing the size of a survival vest it is important to get a vest which is one size larger than would normally be worn. This is because the vest will be packed with useful items, food and other necessities which will press into the fabric and pull down upon it, causing the vest to lose much of the shape it would normally have when carrying no load.
The fabric a survival vest is made of is particularly important, and choosing which fabric is best is largely dependent upon what sort of climate the individual lives in. Probably the best choice of material, for most individuals, is a 50/50 cotton and polyester fabric, since it is lightweight, comfortable, very breathable and relatively durable. Nylon mesh is a good alternative.
A fabric should be chosen which does not require removal in dry conditions in order to regulate body temperature during times of strenuous activity. Most outdoor enthusiasts will don a rain poncho or jacket during wet weather, so it does not need to be waterproof, rather it is much more important for it to be lightweight, durable, breathable and comfortable, since it is not meant for removal (that defeats its purpose). Individuals living in colder climates and at higher elevations may want to consider a heavier fabric, or a vest which provides some sort of insulation.
A good survival vest may have zippers, but it should also contain buttons and Velcro for when the zippers inevitably fail, which is quite common during extreme cold. If a vest cannot be found with these added benefits, then it may be modified by sewing buttons and Velcro onto it for each pocket as well as the front closure.
The vest should also have an abundance of pockets, and several 'D' rings for adding carabiners which will enable the attachment of water bottles, gloves and other items.
What to Look for in a Survival Vest
How to Pack a Survival Vest
When packing a survival vest four factors should be taken into consideration: weight, comfort, bulk and safety. The weight should not exceed 5 pounds and it should be distributed evenly over the body so that the vest is not pulling one way more than another. Bulky items should not be placed in the vest, and sharp objects should be placed in a safe container which will keep the individual from accidentally stabbing or cutting their self, or damaging the vest. It is important that items are stored in locations which are comfortable when standing, sitting or bending, both with and without a backpack. Also, items which will be used most often should be placed in a location where reaching for them will feel natural to the individual (consider your dominant hand).
Items to Place in a Survival Vest
A survival vest is to serve as either an addition to a backpack or as stand alone load-bearing equipment, and as such, the items which should be placed in the survival vest depend upon which purpose the vest will be serving. However, in most cases it would likely be preferred that the survival vest include all the items which would be necessary for survival if no backpack or any other additional load-bearing equipment were in use. Typically, there are four categories which should be taken into consideration: food, water, warmth and medicine. The following items are suggested:
lighter and waterproof matches
granola bars, gorp and/or hard candy
small water bottle, flask or collapsible cup
water purification tablets
paper and pencil
toilet tissue (in waterproof container)
small first aid kit (in waterproof container)
pillbox (for medicine or vitamins)
small sewing kit (with spare bootlaces and buttons)
plastic rain poncho
pocket-size version of personal spiritual text (inside plastic Ziploc bag)
* personal items such as an MP3 player and cell phone may also be included
Personalize Your Survival Vest
Finally, you will want to personalize your survival vest so that it represents you. You can go all out, or just keep it simple like in the example below.
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