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Aviator Survival Paks
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I build Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks like my life depended upon it...       
...because your life might.

Background

For years pilots have been asking me to produce a commercial production version of my own Primary 2-Person Aviation Survival Kit.†Every year a number of consulting clients who appreciate the best and can afford it have had me assemble custom survival kits for them modeled on my own personal kit, but the cost is quite expensive. It takes hours and hours of effort to assemble one of these kits on a one-time custom basis. Over the years I've worked with various companies trying to come up with a commercial version. Every time we tried to figure out a way to assemble a similar kit commercially, the cost seemed so outrageous that it just didn't make sense. Two things have changed recently that help make this a opportune time to produce such a survival kit.

First, the demographics of the market have changed substantially. Hundreds of new high-performance singles are being sold these days for starting prices exceeding $350,000.† About $500,000 is a median price for a new high-performance single and turboprop singles go for well over a million bucks up to multiple millions. The pilots purchasing these new aircraft want the very best equipment and are willing and able to pay for it. Investing a few thousand dollars in the best available survival gear represents a judicious and practical investment to these pilots.

Second, some of the gear I prefer has come down in price. Ultralight Sil-nylon tarps that cost over $300 a couple years ago are less than half the cost today. Titanium gear that was insanely expensive a few years ago is now merely expensive.† It's all relative; but it serves to significantly lower the price of a kit with the performance/weight ratio discriminating pilots demand down to a price that is not quite in the stratosphere.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak goes to support the non-profit Equipped To Survive Foundation. Click here to learn more about the Equipped To Survive Foundation.

Click here to place your order for a Doug Ritter Aviator Survivor Pak


About The Survival Paks

Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak
Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak

The point of a larger "primary" aviation survival kit is to reduce the demands on the survivors and increase the odds of their surviving. The considerable extra equipment and supplies over what can be reasonably carried on your person offers a huge advantage, especially to anyone without specific survival training or experience in the outdoors, or who isn't in the greatest physical shape. It is generally enough equipment to turn a dire survival circumstance into an impromptu camping trip.

The typical general aviation pilot to whom these premium survival kits are targeted is not in good physical condition, many are in pretty poor physical condition. These pilots often spend their days behind a desk or in front of a computer, not in the gym or doing hard physical work. The pilotís passengers, often family members, are generally in no better shape. Young children are particularly vulnerable.

Energy and strength demands in a survival situation can be quite high and if you can't satisfy those demands, your survival kit needs to be able to compensate. If runnibg up a few flights of stairs would leave you breathing hard or breathless with your heart thumping, you're not in the best shape to survive in the wilderness, even more so at higher altitudes in the mountains.

I've also noticed that like much of the general population these days, relatively few of these pilots are experienced outdoors-persons. This is often even more the case with their passengers. Even some who think of themselves as experienced have never really roughed it, as was common a generation or two ago.† I've met many who have never had to light a fire in the wilds, let alone in the dark with wind and rain complicating matters. Lighting a camping stove just isnít the same thing. Experience roughing it in the wilderness can go a long way towards compensating for lesser equipment. Lack of wilderness and survival skills and experience demands more and better gear and supplies in your survival kit.

It is incumbent upon the survival kit designer to consider the lack of these valuable attributes and dearth of experience when assembling the components of the kit.

The target customer for these kits is determined to have the best available because he values the benefits this provides. The selection of a particular new aircraft may well be motivated by the enhanced safety many new aircraft provide, improved avionics, crash worthy seats, even a parachute for the aircraft or airbags for the occupants. Having done everything they can to ensure they survive an untoward event in the air and unplanned return to terra firma, these survival kits are the next step—to ensure they and their passengers survive until rescued.

What makes these kits special and worth the considerable higher price? Quality and attention to detail are the key. Doug Ritter's expertise is unparalleled in this field and these kits are based on the one he personally carries in his own aircraft. When we claim that these kits are designed and assembled like our lives depend upon it, they really and truly are.†

While these Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks are priced considerably higher than other aviation survival kits, they are a bargain compared to similar kits that Doug has designed and assembled for pilots over the years. These kits cost approximately one quarter to one third less than the price of a comparable custom assembled kit from Doug. While we don't expect to sell huge quantities of these kits, it will still be much more economical to do these as a production item compared to Dougís custom assembly. And, for special purposes and circumstances, they can be custom supplemented by Doug for clients at considerably lower cost. Everyone benefits.

Being expensive just for the sake of bragging rights or to claim some exclusivity is not what this is all about. In fact, there's tremendous value in these kits for what you get. It would be difficult for an individual to assemble such a kit with the attention to detail in component selection, packing and documentation for anywhere near the price. The time involved would be monumental. These kits incorporate Doug's decades of outdoors experience, survival equipment testing and survival knowledge into the best survival kit you can buy for the money. So, while we don't expect anyone to say these are inexpensive, nor that they will appeal to those for whom price is the primary consideration, we do expect our customers will recognize the great value the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak represents for the lifesaving capability they are getting. Value is the key. We readily admit the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak is not for everyone or even most.

Only the highest quality components have been selected. In some cases there is a huge difference in price between a conventional component found in most kits and the ones selected for the Pak. The difference will be in performance or weight savings, or sometimes both. Lighter weight and higher performance come at a price. As I often say, "while you don't always get what you pay for, if you don't pay for it, you're unlikely to get it." In some respects these Paks are superior to my own personal survival kit because they take advantage of the very latest technology and available equipment, while my own has not been updated for a few years. As a result, they are also quite a bit lighter than my own.

Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks are survival kits you can bet your life on. Our philosophy is that when your life and those of your loved ones is on the line, you shouldn't compromise on quality and performance. You are betting lives that this gear will do the job. In our opinion, this is not a place to take shortcuts or to not use the best performing gear available, anymore than you would buy a cut-rate parachute to save a few bucks. Our motto says it all and guides us in everything we do:

I build Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks like my life depended upon it...       
...because your life might.

Aviation adds another burden to survival kit design. Weight is almost always a concern to the pilot and there is almost always a conflict between carrying people, safety equipment and fuel (which translates to range and speed). We have made the extra effort to find or develop the lightest high performance, high-tech gear available to save weight, while still meeting our demanding requirements. While the individual savings may not be a lot, they add up to pounds saved over more traditional gear.

Most kits save on cost and weight by using poorer quality and/or lesser performance gear; or by simply not including an adequate quantity, or even any at all, of some important gear or supplies. Providing a token amount of something essential, such as water, or a poor quality knife, just so they can say that component is included in the kit is misleading at best and downright unethical at worst. These are, in our opinion, foolhardy compromises that can cost lives. As you read through the following information on the gear and supplies included in the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks, we have compared the gear and supplies we've selected with that most commonly used in many other aviation survival kits. This serves to educate you about those differences that we feel are worth the extra money, either to save weight or to provide improved performance and lifesaving capability.

Our Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks are not light, we don't claim that; just much lighter compared to a kit of equal performance using more traditional gear. We believe that our survival paks provides more capability per pound than any other kit available. If the goal is a very light survival kit because the pilot doesn't want to sacrifice this much payload, you'll find many lighter weight kits on the market, but they are lighter weight in life saving capability as well. I believe we have struck the right balance between weight and lifesaving capability that our customers demand to protect themselves and their loved ones.

As an aside, you still need to carry essential survival gear on your person and my Pocket Survival Pak by Adventure Medical Kits is the way to go, in my humble opinion. It's light enough that you're actually likely to carry it with you on every flight and capable enough to save a life. It is priced so that every person in the aircraft can carry their own personal kit. Combined with a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon, this is the best personal survival gear combination for most pilots.

In my experience, personal survival kits that are larger, pouch-sized kits that have to be carried on a belt, tend to be more often left home because they are bulky, uncomfortable to carry or wear and just plain a bother. My philosophy for survival gear is to carry the best quality minimum basics on your person and then carry a well-equipped primary survival kit in the aircraft, preferably within reach and not buried somewhere in the luggage compartment.

Serve The Survivor

A survival kit should be designed, as much as possible considering weight and volume constraints, to serve the survivor and require minimal effort on the part of the survivor to use the kit. Energy is often in limited and critical supply in a survival situation and not easily replenished. Conserving energy is of primary importance. Moreover, it must be realized that the survivor may be injured or in shock, so components that make it easier for the survivor to use one-handed, or that provide optimum performance combined with ease of use are a valuable asset. While the brain is our number one survival tool, the less stress we put on it in a survival situation, the better. We donít want to make it any more difficult than necessary for the survivor to accomplish any particular survival task.

We expect that most pilots who purchase these kits will also be carrying a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) on their person that will alert Search and Rescue, providing a location within no more that 90 minutes, and typically half that or less in North America. Your location could be received potentially within mere minutes if the PLB is GPS equipped. Help will be on the way as soon as feasible. However, terrain, weather and other circumstances can still mean the survivor(s) may have to spend 24-48 hours, or even more, on their own. If rescue is delayed, there's a good chance it's because of adverse conditions that only serve to make it harder on the survivor(s). Moreover, no matter how reliable PLBs may be, electronic equipment does fail on occasion. So, the kit still needs to be fully able to support the survivor(s), regardless of the improvement in rescue response brought about by this better technology. If only the aircraft's required antiquated and inneffective 121.5 MHz ELT is available to signal rescue, then rescue could be delayed much longer.

These kits are designed for temperate climate survival for pilots flying in the continental United States (CONUS), not arctic winter conditions (see Wikipedia's entry for Temperate Climate). Seriously sub-zero conditions, which can even be found in some areas of CONUS (you don't have to go to Alaska or Canada) require specialized gear designed to protect you at those ultra-cold temperatures.

If a pilot was properly clothed for the conditions and did the right things, the gear in these kits would certainly allow for survival in even arctic conditions, but the kit is not optimized for those conditions and especially not so for the less well equipped or experienced survivor. Having additional severe cold weather gear would make it much more survivable.

Doug Ritter is available to assemble such supplemental arctic weather survival kits for clients that would rather have someone else take care of it.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak goes to support the non-profit Equipped To Survive Foundation. Click here to learn more about the Equipped To Survive Foundation.

Click here to place your order for a Doug Ritter Aviator Survivor Pak


Vacuum Packing

Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak showing vacuuum packaged modules
Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak showing Vacuum Packaged Modules
All components of the kit are inspected before packing and items of a mechanical nature are checked for proper operation.† This means that you know that the lighter lights, the Spark-Lite fire starter sparks, the whistle works (checked with filtered air), all the various implements of the multi-purpose tool operate and function as designed, etc. Even though I use the best quality components I can find, I recognize that nobody's quality control for mass produced products is 100%. No matter how good a company's warranty is, it does you no good if the component fails to work in the middle of nowhere. I do everything I can to ensure that when your life depends upon this equipment in dire circumstances, it will work.††

I build Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks like my life depended upon it...       
...because your life might.

That's one of the reasons that almost everything in the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks is vacuum packaged except the Medical Kit, quick access gear, Platypus water bags, Snow Claw and a few odds and ends. Vacuum packaging protects the gear and supplies from damage or deterioration in storage. There's also the advantage that we can reduce the volume of some of the gear significantly with vacuum packaging (for example the Bivy Sacks, Tarp and personal protection gear), which allows us to use a smaller, more compact container for the kit.

Vacuum packaging also discourages pilfering or casual use of emergency supplies for non-emergency use. Experience tells us that once used, those item(s) will not be replaced and won't be there when needed in a real emergency.

The Medical/First Aid Kit is more likely to be needed without the entire kit, so it isn't vacuum packaged. The quick access gear is similarly not vacuum packaged for immediate access, but stored inside heavy duty zipper-lock plastic bags.

A compact brightly colored retractable utility knife is included to slice open the vacuum packaging material. This utility knife is located inside the pack, attached with a clip at the top center of the pack where it hangs down when you open the main compartment, immediately available. This is just insurance in case the pilot with his own knife isn't available to get at the gear.

Custom Designed and Constructed Pack for the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak

Doug Ritter designed Pack for Aviator Survival PaksAll the survival gear and supplies are contained in a specially designed pack built exclusively for me by Semper Paratus Tactical in the U.S. (Semper Paratus translates as "Always Ready"). The pack is based on their military assault pack and is constructed of mil-spec 1000 denier genuine CORDURA® ballistic nylon to the same high combat proven standards. Heavy duty mil-spec #9 YKK zippers are used. A bright red CORDURA® was chosen so that it is easy to locate in an emergency. The bright red color and "AVIATOR SURVIAL PAK" embroidered in contrasting gold thread clearly mark it as a piece of emergency equipment. In addition, a patch of SOLAS grade retro-reflective material is affixed to all six sides of the pack. If you have to toss it out and away from the aircraft at night during a quick exit, simply shining your flashlight around the area should locate the pack by the bright reflection of the retro-reflective patch.

NOTE: We have updated the handle from that shown here to a wider rubberized plastic tubular handle that is easier to grasp.

Special care has been taken to minimize protrusions, straps and the like on the outside of the Pak that could inadvertently catch on something while exiting the aircraft. The pack's shoulder straps are packed inside the kit so they don't impede your exiting the aircraft by catching on something. Their attachment points are tucked away so they cannot catch on anything. Since the odds are you will stay with the aircraft, they are unlikely to be needed, but if you do need them they are easily attached (illustrated instructions are provided) and are ergonomically designed and padded, again, based on the Assault Pack design, to make carrying the pack easier and reasonably comfortable.

Pak in Cirrus Rear SeatIt is critical to ensure that the pack is tightly secured in the aircraft. You don't want it flying around the cockpit or cabin in a sudden stop or as a result of a crash or inadvertent negative G maneuver. In some aircraft seats the seat belt is located far enough forward and down in relation to the seat back that tightening up the seat belt could cause it to slip down to the bottom of the pack. This pack is equipped with a patent pending Retention System on the front of the pack below the front pocket. As long as you make sure the seat belt is above this ledge before cinching it tight, it will catch the belt and prevent it from slipping down. This also retains the pack in case of negative G. The ledge is designed so that it will not capture the belt when the seat belt latch is released, so that it doesn't impede getting the Aviator Survival Pak out of the aircraft. (You should also ensure the shoulder strap(s) is/are over the front of the pack, just as with a person in the seat.)

Click here to view the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak in a Cirrus SR22.

UPDATE: The webbing handle in the photos here has been upgraded with a molded handle to provide a more secure and comfortable grip. The handle is located over the center of gravity of the pack to make carrying easier. It is reinforced with additional webbing on the interior to ensure that when you grab the pack to exit the aircraft in an emergency it won't tear out.

The back and bottom of the pack is padded with high-density closed-cell foam to protect both the survival components inside and your upholstery, as well as your back in case you have need to carry it using the shoulder straps.

All this attention to detail and extra effort on the pack for the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak helps to ensure that if you ever need this survival gear to save your life, it will be there for you.

Cordura® is a registered trademark for durable fabrics.

What is Included in the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks and Why?

I don't expect you to take my word that these are the best kits available, I'm going to explain just why that's the case. What follows is a review of the gear and supplies included in the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks along with comparisons to more commonly provided gear and supplies used in other survival kits you might be considering.† Of course, in many instances other survival kits simply do not offer the same or similar components, regardless of quality or performance. Our goal is to educate you so that you can recognize the performance advantage these kits provide and the value these kits represent.

Click here for a Contents List for the Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak and the Plus 2 Add-on Module for the Aviator Survival Pak.

Signaling Group

Signaling Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Signaling Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
We believe that your primary distress signaling device should be a 406 MHz PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), which we recommend everyone carry. You cannot rely upon the plane's ELT to signal your distress and most GA aircraft are still equipped with 121.5 MHz ELTs, which are just this side of useless. If you are purchasing a new aircraft, we urge you to make sure it is equipped with a 406 MHz ELT. Additional information on 406 MHz PLBs can be found on Equipped To Survive®.

The additional signaling gear we provide is essentially back-up to the PLB and for "last mile" signaling once Search and Rescue forces are close enough to visually locate and identify you.

Signal Mirror

For day and bright moonlit night signaling, we provide a signal mirror. The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak includes a 3 x 5 inch Rescue Reflectors Type 1 Polycarbonate Signal Mirror, the very best, highest performance plastic mirror available today with performance approaching that of a glass signal mirror, the gold standard (but heavy and breakable). Each is hand assembled and individually focused by noted signal mirror authority, patent holder and designer Malcolm Murray.

These are true signal mirrors with military specification style retro-reflective aimers that allow them to be used one-handed and to be accurately aimed. None of the misrepresentation, from my point of view, of calling a mirror without an integral retro-reflective aimer a signal mirror. Yes, any mirror can be used for signaling, using the two-handed aiming method, but so can anything reflective; they are a signal mirror in name only. The traditional style retor-reflective mesh aimer is easier to use and aim, based on my testing, than the Ultimate Survival StarFlash or its military specification equivilent.

While glass mirrors remain the very best performers, they are heavy and fragile. Even when carefully packed and padded they have been known to break under the forces of an aircraft crash. The polycarbonate signal mirrors we use are the next best thing, the best in their class, and provide truly superior performance at much lower weight and are virtually unbreakable. These signal mirrors are up to twice as reflective as the next best 3 x 5 military specification plastic signal mirror.

Click here to learn how to use a Signal Mirror

Whistle

Two very loud Storm Safety Whistles are included in the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak.† Why two, you might ask?† So each survivor has one. If they get separated in the deep wilderness while working to survive they can find each other using the whistles. It's happened, occasionally with tragic results.

Nightime Signaling

The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak also includes a Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Light (with spare lithium battery). The Rescue Laser is the most effective nighttime and adverse weather visual signaling device. It is conspicuous and abnormal enough that it will be reported by passing aircraft, unlike a strobe in most cases. Compared to the best strobe lights (and few kits include the best due to their cost), the Rescue Laser has 10 times the range and effectiveness ($85 retail). The only drawback is that the laser flare must be operated manually, while a strobe can be left unattended.

Optionally available is the mil-spec Green Rescue Laser Flare currently being issued to U.S. Special Forces in combat areas and which is easier to aim and visible a minimum of 50% further. This is the most effective nighttime signaling device available. It adds a bit over an ounce and $160 in cost.

Since most people are not familiar with this new technology, a waterproof tag is attached with illustrated instructions on how to use the laser to signal. And, just to assure you, it is perfectly legal to use a laser flare to signal for help to aircraft.

Bear in mind that very little air search is done at nighttime except over flat terrain and over the water. Nighttime SAR is almost never done in mountainous terrain. So, unless the nighttime signal is likely to be noticed as something unusual by passing aircraft, such as with the Rescue Laser, most nighttime signaling devices are of little practical use. Strobes are rarely considered a distress signal by passing aircraft except by SAR doing an actual search or a pilot with SAR or military experience.

The only advantage a strobe offers is that it can be turned on and left unattended. It is unlikely to be noticed or identified as a distress signal unless Search and Rescue is actively searching. Even the very best strobe is visible only for a couple miles unless SAR is using night vision equipment, which is admittedly becoming more widespread. The U.S. Coast Guard uses NVGs for nighttime SAR. If you are doing overwater flying, a strobe on your person makes a lot of sense.

I do not recommend pyrotechnics / flares for aviation survival kits except when required by regulation, so we do not include pyrotechnics (flares). Only one type of aerial flare is approved for "wilderness" use over land, all others are designed for marine use. These marine flares are not designed to extinguish before they fall back to earth and have been known to start forest/brush fires. The Wilderness XLT aerial flare by Skyblazer (now a division of Orion) has a poor reputation for reliability. Some reports have shown a 50% failure rate for brand new XLT flares. The also have a short storage life of three years and disposal of expired flares is a difficult problem for civilians. Aerial flares are also dangerous and must be treated as a loaded firearm. Because they only burn for a few seconds and are only visible if the searchers are actually looking at where the flare is burning, you have to carry a lot of flares to be much good. Typical recommendation is to shoot off three flares at a time for best results, so even a dozen flares, a lot of expense and weight, would be barely adequate.

Handheld flares and smoke flares are bulky, heavy, burn for only a short time, are dangerous to use and are not very effective unless you have a large store of them.† Smoke flares disperse very quickly and are not very visible even at their best from very far away. Inclusion of flares also makes the survival kit HAZMAT and shipping becomes much more expensive and problematic.

We donít include flagging tape, included in some kits, because in our experience it doesnít work as a signal. In air to ground testing with the Civil Air Patrol we have found it virtually invisible at any significant distance, even when using up an entire roll. Traditional signal flags are typically too small to help much either. The Rescue Streamer and Aerotape devices are effective, but the brightly colored tarp, garbage bags, and emergency ponchos we provide are plenty large enough to be used as effective ground signals and at no additional increase in weight or cost.

Tools and Emergency Devices Group

Survival in the wilderness is generally an exercise in improvisation. The right tools make it much easier to improvise what you need. Tools allow you to create shelter, make fire and generally improve the survivors' situation so that they can endure whatever nature throws at them. High quality and reliable tools are essential. Unfortunately, in many kits this is where corners are cut to save money. Quality tools are rarely inexpensive.

Knife

Tools and Emergency Devices Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Tools and Emergency Devices Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
This is an area where most survival kits come up short. A knife is generally considered your most important survival tool after your brain, yet because a good knife is can cost a significant amount, most kits make do with junk, or at least not a very good choice.

Most common are cheap, low quality knock-offs of Swiss Army Knives, low quality plastic hollow handled so-called ďsurvival knives,Ē which are junk, or similar poor quality or inappropriate knives that you donít want to bet your life on. A folding knife, like a Swiss Army Knife, is inappropriate for a primary survival kit, even if it was a real SAK, let alone a low quality knock-off. A folder is fine and appropriate to carry on your person, provided it is good quality and has a locking blade. Most of us simply are not going to be comfortable walking around the airport with a large fixed blade knife on our belt. However, a folder is not the first choice as your primary survival kit knife, which should be a fixed blade for the added strength and capability it provides. You want a 4- to 6-inch fixed blade you can depend upon as your primary survival knife (see "Sharp Stuff" on Equipped To Survive® for more on what to look for in a primary fixed blade survival knife.

At least one commercial kit I am aware of includes a "U.S. Air Force Pilot Survival Knife," which unfortunately has some notable drawbacks for many conventional civilian survival uses, though itís better than the aforementioned junk. Its skinny deep clip point, designed for stabbing (the enemy), is notorious for snapping off. The full guard, appropriate for a fighting knife, just gets in the way for many survival uses. The so-called "saw back" on the spine of the blade is not only totally useless for sawing wood (a job for which is was not designed), but chews up an improvised wood baton so quickly that itís very difficult to use the knife and a baton to split wood, sometimes an essential survival task to find dry wood for a fire. While the guard includes lashing points, it is generally now considered a very poor idea to lash your knife to a limb for use as a spear as it is too easily lost and losing your knife would be a very bad thing for a survivor.

The modest quality carbon steel blade rusts fairly easily, even where parkerized, doesnít hold an edge very well and has been known to snap in half under only modest abuse as might easily occur in a survival situation. The included sharpening stone is adequate for a rough sharpening, but requires that the user knows how to use one. In my experience, very few persons these days are able to sharpen a knife with a flat stone, let along a small pocket stone.† So unless the survivor has this specific skill, the stone will be of little practical use. Thatís particularly a problem given how poorly the blade holds an edge. For the experienced woodsman who can quickly touch up an edge, the need to often sharpen a blade isnít a major drawback, but for most people these days, it is a major drawback.† This stone is also quite fragile and will break if your fall against a hard surface while wearing the knife.† The U.S. military has moved on to the new Aircrew Survival and Evasion Knife (ASEK), which is a somewhat higher quality and, in some respects, better designed knife, though still not a particularly good choice for civilian survival use.

For the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak, the choice of a knife was easy. I designed the new Doug Ritter RSK Mk3 fixed blade knife expressly as a survival/utility knife, incorporating all the features I believe necessary in a knife you can bet your life on. The full-tang 4.5-inch wide-chord drop point blade is made of CPM S30V high carbon stainless steel (click here for more information on this extraordinary knife steel). It has a high grind for excellent slicing while the full-thickness spine provides the strength needed in such a knife. The textured G-10 aviation grade composite ergonomic handles along with a half guard and thumb ramp ensure a secure grip no matter how bad the conditions. The exposed tang allows you to hammer on the butt without harming the handles. The knife is retained in a ballistic nylon sheath with molded insert. Normal retail for this extraordinary knife is $165. Click here for more information on the production Doug Ritter RSK Mk3)

We add a Parachute Cord Wrist Lanyard to the knife so it can be secured when used where it might be lost. The wrist lanyard has a Cord Lock since without that, it really isn't all that secure. With the cord lock, you can cinch it up tight around your wrist so you will be sure not to lose it.

Multi-Purpose Tool

While we encourage every pilot to fly with a good multi-purpose tool on their belt, we still believe the survival kit needs one as we cannot be sure the pilot will do so, nor that the passengers will have one, if for some reason the pilot is unavailable to assist. For our basic multi-purpose tool we chose the Leatherman® Blast®. This is a sturdy tool that includes needle-nose pliers with hard and soft wire cutters, a 420HC knife blade (we consider this for backup use only), very efficient wood saw, scissors, a file and metal saw blade, can/bottle opener, and various screwdriver blades, all of which lock into place for safety. We settled on Leatherman® because in my experience they make a high quality and reliable multi-tool with the best combination of features and quality.

Knife Sharpener

Even the best knife blade may need sharpening, or at least touching up, during a survival situation and as noted earlier, sharpening skills are not common these days. The sharpener included in the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak requires virtually no skill on the part of the user, just the ability to pull the blade through the sharpener. While this pull-through sharpener doesn't create the very finest edge possible, the results are perfectly acceptable for the intended emergency survival use of the knife. Waterproof instructions for sharpening by Doug Ritter are included.

Saw

Youíll find no axe or hatchet in these kits. Besides their heavy weight, in my experience, these tools are serious injuries waiting to happen, even in the hands of experienced outdoors persons, let alone a novice who is not operating at 100%. A survival situation is not the time to get a bloody gash down to the bone--or worse.

For cutting wood we include a lock-blade wood saw, the Gerber Exchange-A-Blade® Saw. It has very aggressive cutting teeth that make quick work of any modestly-sized tree or limbs. Anything that is too large for these saws to cut is likely more than you need to cut in a survival situation. Youíre not making a log cabin, just an expedient shelter, small to modestly sized fire, or removing branches to access someone who is trapped. These saws will do this quickly and safely.†

A waterproof tag is attached with instructions on how to unlock and open the saw blade. While it might seem simple and obvious, sometimes under stress things aren't quite so obvious.

While much lighter in weight and much less bulky, wire saws, often referred to as "commando" or "SAS" saws, are poor tools that are only better than nothing at all. Fine if you want to include them in a pocket kit, but aside from that, a poor idea. They require more energy to use since they cut so inefficiently and are difficult to use, especially so with cold hands or with heavy gloves. Larger "survival" chain style saws work well on larger logs, but are useless on smaller limbs and quite heavy. Again, you need to focus on what's most useful for the survivor to be cutting, you don't need to build a log cabin. Buck-style saws are very robust for heavier sawing, but are impossible to use in tight quarters and must be assembled, as opposed to simply opened.

Snow Shovel

The ultralight patented Snow Claw® is included to easily allow a survivor to construct a snow shelter. Snow shelters make excellent expedient survival shelters in areas with deep snow, but they can be difficult and tiring to construct without a decent snow shovel. Even collapsing lightweight snow shovels are relatively heavy and very bulky. The Snow Claw® has proven to be very efficient for constructing snow shelters and is both compact and extremely light, only a faction of a traditional lightweight snow shovel. It substantially improves a survivor's ability to construct snow shelters in comparison to sue improvised means and at much less cost in effort and energy. It also works very well in sand, for constructing desert shelters. The Snow Claw® can also be used as an improvised splint. Waterproof instructions for use written by Doug Ritter are attached.

Fire Starters

The ability to start a fire is essential and is often the first critical thing that needs doing in some survival situations. We provide multiple means to do so, from stone simple to a bit more sophisticated. These fire-starting components are in an Immediate Action Fire Starting Kit easily accessible at the top of the pack so they are readily available.

An Essential Gear Windmill Stormproof Lighter (replaces the disposible BIC lighter in the photo) is included because it is so easy to use, is operable one-handed, and will do the job in 95% of survival situations. Its drawbacks are that the fuel can leak out (so it should be checked regularly), it wonít work in seriously cold temperatures unless it is kept warm (placing it in your armpit or crotch or in a shirt pocket under a coat is enough to allow it to be used down to -40 F) and it is not reliable above 9,000 ft. MSL, though it has been used as high as 14,000 ft. MSL with the flame height adjusted down to compensate for lower oxygen at that altitude.

The case is high impact resistant polycarbonate. The lighter has been tested to withstand 70-80 mile-per-hour winds. Windmill's platinum catalyzer coil provides continuous ignition of the gas vapors creating a clean, hot flame nearly invisible in outdoor bright light. The piezo-electronic ignition system eliminates the need for batteries or flints which fail when wet. There are five rubber O-ring seals including one for the cap to ensure water resistance when the lighter cap is closed. Burn time is approximately 15 to 30 minutes on a full fuel load.

Redundancy is provided by two components. Premium quality REI Stormproof Matches are windproof and waterproof and have twice the incendiary material of the more common NATO Lifeboat Matches, or any other such match on the market. These are simply the best available. The lightweight Spark-Lite flint style fire starter is extremely reliable, waterproof and one-hand operable.

REI Stormproof Matches are stored inside a bright orange waterproof G.I. style Match Safe. Like all such matches, these are safety matches and require a complimentary striking surface to be lit. On the NATO Lifeboat and other such matches the striker is on the outside of the container where it can get wet (unless the matches and their container are protected inside some other waterproof container) and often will not work in such condition. That pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the waterproof match to begin with. We place an oversized striker strip inside the waterproof Match Safe where it will be dry and ready to use in an emergency.† Also included is our own Instructions For Use by Doug Ritter on waterproof paper with hard-won tips for the best means to light and use these matches. And addtional quantity of matches, for 24 total, and spare striker strips are stored with the rest of the survival gear.

The orange Spark-Lite is a current U.S. military issue fire starter. It is packed in a bright orange plastic matchbox-size container with instructions and 8 pieces of Tinder-Quik tinder. We selected the orange version, so it is less likely to be lost if dropped.

This is an artificial (ferrocium) flint and steel fire starter and is completely waterproof. If it gets wet, just shake off the water and it's good to go.

One of the Spark-Lite's big advantages is that it can be used one-handed, unlike most other flint and steel fire starters (the Ultimate Survival Blast Match being the exception, but it is far larger and heavier, not a good option for aviation where weight matters).† Just rotate the sparking wheel of the Spark-Lite in the direction of the arrows and get a shower of sparks. It's not unlike using a traditional lighter; the steel wheel and a flint rod under spring pressure do the job, but it generates a lot more sparks. It is rated for hundreds of sparkings and some random samples have been tested to over 1000.

In the September 2003 issue of Backpacker Magazine, John Kemple's review of fire starters rated the Spark-Lite as "Best Buy," mirroring the high ratings I've always given it on Equipped to Survive®.

Since tinder is critical to getting a fire started, no matter how you go about lighting it, and natural tinder is not always readily available and requires some knowledge and skill to use, the Pak includes 10 extra Spark-Lite Tinder-Quik waterproof tinders, besides those included with the Spark-Lite.

This tinder is quick and easy to use, just pull it apart to expose the finer cotton fibers and it's ready to accept the spark. No need to waste time and effort shaving magnesium with your knife, nor do you then have to collect the small shavings, especially difficult if it's windy. It has an unlimited storage life and doesn't need to be kept in sealed airtight packaging, unlike Ultimate Survival's WetFire brand tinder (and similar fire starter cubes) used in some kits and which also has a limited storage life, typically just a couple years. Each piece of Tinder-Quik will burn for two to three minutes.

Tinder that cannot be easily started by use of a spark is not a good idea. The common compressed wood style tinder found in many kits is very difficult to impossible to start with a spark unless shaved or scraped very, very fine, which becomes problematic itself.

Flashlights and Headlamps

The flashlights and headlamps included are all lithium battery powered LED lights for the highest reliability. You'll never have to worry about a bulb burning out or breaking if the flashlight is dropped. With a 10-year storage life for the lithium batteries, the lights will be ready when you need them and lithium batteries work much better at frigid temperatures where alkaline or carbon zinc batteries lose power or quit working altogether. These lights will also produce useable light for much longer than a larger, heaver and more fragile traditional flashlight. A spare set of batteries for every flashlight is included, just in case. Total weight of all the spare batteries is less than five tenths of an ounce. The flashlights are highly water-resistant, though not submersible. If you get them wet in the rain or drop them in a puddle they will continue to work just fine.

Attached to the exterior of the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pakss is a Doug Ritter Special Edition MkII Photon Freedom Micro-Light®. This light ensures survivor(s) will have plenty of light to both finish the evacuation of the aircraft and to unpack the survival kit. In the Pak is the special Photon Clip that allows the Photon to be used as a clip-light, attached to the bill of a cap or to a shirt, leaving both hands free.

Included in the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks are two Essential Gear ultralight Doug Ritter Special Editon eQ Hands-Free Multi-Light White LED Headlamp/Flashlights. This versatile light comes set up as a headlamp for easy hands-free use. The elastic headband can be removed and it can also be used with its integral clip or it can be hand held as a conventional flashlight. The focused beam is bright and adequate for any nighttime survival chores. The rotary switch is secure and unlikely to be inadvertently switched on in storage. These lights are stored at the top of the pack so they are easy to find as they will be most helpful to have immediately in a nighttime survival situation.

I believe that these latest technology single LED lights are quite adequate for survival purposes. Multiple LED headlamps or flashlights that provide more light at a higher weight and which are generally quite a bit more expensive are available as options.†

I do not provide incandescent bulb flashlights under any circumstances as I believe they are too fragile and unreliable for survival use.

I also believe that only Lithium batteries are appropriate for survival use due to their long storage life, improved service life and improved cold weather performance. Contrary to expectations, a flashlight need not be a storage container for dead batteries.†

I do not include chemical light sticks (Cyalume or Snap-Light) as we believe they have too many drawbacks for survival use. They are bulky and heavy. Their performance and working life are both seriously adversely affected by even modestly cold temperatures and they are virtually worthless at sub-freezing temperatures. They have a short storage life, 6- to 48-months depending upon the product. Their performance goes quickly downhill after passing the expiration date and within a few months they are dead. After exposure to air they have only a few days' storage life and after that they will not work at all. All are packed in airtight foil packaging for protection and if it is punctured, they won't work when needed. If crushed, they leak and will stain and make a mess of everything in which they come in contact (though they are not toxic). Finally, they are impractical for task lighting. Unless you also carry a special holder, more weight and bulk, the light shines in your eyes when you are trying to illuminate something, making it difficult to use. They can only illuminate a small area and cannot be directed at a task. All in all, less than useful or practical for most survival purposes and a poor choice.

Compass

In almost all cases, the survivor(s) should stay with the aircraft. It is rarely a good idea to try and "walk out." Especially with the advent of PLBs, help should arrive fairly quickly. Still, stuff happens and if you need to travel, a compass is indispensable. A compass is reliable and needs no batteries. There are differences in quality among compasses and features vary widely. The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak comes with renowned Finnish compass manufacturer Suunto's M-3G Professional Grade baseplate compass with a Global Needle that is equally usable in all latitudes of both northern and southern hemispheres. It is equipped with an easy to use declination adjustment scale and a neck lanyard.

A Global Needle compass is not cheap, but it means we don't have to offer separate compasses to worldwide customers and you don't have to remember to change out the compass should your flying take you to more exotic locales outside North America. This includes flights into Mexico and many islands of the Carribean where a standard compass may not function properly. To learn more about the Suunto's patented Global Needle, see our "What is a Global Needle?" page.

While the greatest benefit of the Global Needle is the capability of it's worldwide use, as a result of the design there is a secondary benefit that's not insignificant. The way the Global Needle is capable of handling worldwide magnetic zones is with it's ability to handle needle tilts of up to 20 degrees. This characteristic is great for pathfinding because it means as you bounce along the trail, you don't need to have the compass perfectly level to get an accurate reading, making it much easier to get readings while you are walking.

Fishing Kit

It seems that virtually every survival kit must have a fishing kit, or the "entertainment kit" as I refer to it. One could easily argue that it is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things for a kit designed primarily to help support someone for a brief survival experience where food isn't much of an issue. In part, inclusion is a marketing decision based on the fact that, as noted, survival kits are expected to include some fishing gear.

There is also another aspect to this; the "entertainment" part. Having taken care of the basics such as medical issues, fire, shelter and signaling, a survivor is often faced with a potentially demoralizing psychological crisis--boredom. Fishing or snaring birds, or at least making an effort to, is one way to combat boredom, and again, it costs little to provide this therapeutic "escape." Much of this fishing gear can also be used for small game and bird snares.

Having decided to include some fishing gear, we decided to incorporate more than the minimal some kits provide, but far less than the mil-spec or mil-spec style fishing kits.† These really provide more than could possibly be useful and a lot of other stuff, like safety pins and sewing needles, for example, that we already provide anyway.

The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak

includes a Doug Ritter designed and assembled Fishing Kit with a full compliment of fishing gear including line, leader, an assortment of hooks, weights, a float, lures and artificial bait.

Candle

Also included is a high melting temperature 9-hour Survival Candle that can be used to heat up a confined-space shelter, such as a snow cave or quinzee. These special candles will not melt like less expensive "pink lady," common "emergency" candles, or tea candles when stored in the kit during the summer heat in the desert. It's common to unpack a typical survival kit that's been stored in the aircraft in hot climates and find candle wax melted over everything. These candles burn very cleanly with minimum dripping.

The Nuwick and similar 36 and 48 hour survival candles in a can work very well, but are heavy and bulky for aviation survival use. We recommend them only for arctic and extreme cold weather survival use.

Shelter and Personal Protection Group

Shelter and Personal Protection Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator 2-Person Survival Pak
Shelter and Personal Protection Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Shelter is often critical to survival. Protection from adverse weather, the heat, cold, wet and wind, is essential in many survival scenarios. While it is sometimes possible to use the aircraft for shelter or to improvise a shelter from natural materials, this isn't always the case. Moreover, it can take an incredible amount of energy and time to make a natural shelter. In my experience most people seriously underestimate how long it takes by a factor of 3 or 4 and few are in such good shape that they can do so without ending up exhausted. Add in high elevation/reduced oxygen in a mountain survival situation and the exhaustion can be so bad as to prevent you from finishing. If you are injured, itís only that much more difficult. So, a shelter that is quick to set up is an essential part of any complete survival kit.

Many kits rely on an inexpensive shelter with significant drawbacks. The seemingly ubiquitous, cheap ($4-$10 retail), orange tube tent is certainly better than nothing and is, admittedly, easy to set up if you have a convenient pair of trees to string a line between. In other situations you can slice it down the middle and turn it into an improvised tarp, assuming the survivor recognizes that as an option, though you must also then improvise line attachment points, there will be no grommets or tie outs. Note that some tube tents are being produced of extremely lightweight plastic sheet that isnít very abuse resistant and may fail in even modest winds or storm conditions, just when you need it the most.† In many environments, the tube tent or pup tent style shelter configuration will not provide the best or most effective shelter.

Tarp

A proper tarp with grommets or tie outs is much more versatile. Itís as easy or easier to set up as a tube tent in that "pup tent" style configuration. It is much quicker to set up as a lean-to or other shelter type when appropriate and without the inherent drawbacks of the tube tent.

The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak includes an brightly colored ultralight Silicone Impregnated Rip-stop Nylon Tarp with edge and center tie-outs. Sil-nylon is the latest ultralight high strength material used by the high tech backpacking crowd, only 1.1 ounces/yard and incredibly strong. Spinnaker material, another high-tech alternative, is a wee bit lighter, but too fragile for survival use.

Blankets or Sleeping Bags

Many kits include either one or two reflective Mylar® sheet blankets or bags, commonly referred to as an ďEmergency Space BlanketĒ or ďEmergency Space Bag.Ē These are better than nothing, but have notable drawbacks. Most critically, they tear or puncture very easily. Once they have the slightest rip or puncture, thereís nothing to stop it from spreading and the blanket or bag is very quickly shredded. If not tightly secured around you in windy weather, they will quickly self-destruct. They do not make good improvised tarps. The typical emergency space blanket is too small to easily wrap around yourself. They are also extremely noisy, which means it is very difficult to get any sleep while wrapped up in one and rest can be critical in a survival situation. About all they have going for them is that they are inexpensive, lightweight and wind and waterproof if not damaged.

Instead, we provide two Adventure® Medical Kit Ultralight Bivy Sacks. These have independently been rated highly by many outdoors publications. The reflective composite Thermo-Lite® fabric material is strong and doesnít easily rip, is quiet and comfortable, reflects heat back to your body and is windproof and waterproof. A foot and side vent is provided for moisture and temperature control. These have been referred to by some as the ultimate lightweight sleeping bag and some ultralight through-hikers rely upon them as their sole sleeping bag. An ultralight sil-nylon stuff sack is provided.

Personal Protection

A pair of brightly colored vinyl Emergency Rain Ponchos are included. While you could use a garbage bag or bags with appropriate holes poked in it, we think this is far better and more practical solution for mere tenths of ounces additional weight. Staying drier in inclement weather will go a long way towards improving your survival odds and they can also serve to protect you from wind chill and to help retain body heat in colder weather. The brightly colored ponchos also make excellent ground signals when not needed for inclement weather protection

Gloves

While gloves would seem to be an obvious aid in cold weather, they are essential for most survivors in any weather. Very few of us have calluses on our hands, unless they are on our finger tips from typing on a computer keyboard. The simple fact is that most of us don't do manual labor on a regular basis, we don't use out hands for handling rough objects or stressful manual labor, we simply are not well equipped to deal with the physical effort and abuse often required in a survival situation. Gloves are essential to protect a survivor's hands from damage.

You need your hands to help you survive. They are not a luxury. Blisters or cuts and scrapes that make it more difficult to use your hands can diminish your survival chances, potentially significantly. Any survival kit that doesn't include some robust and tough gloves is missing a critical and essential tool.

Fabric alone is not enough. We include two pair of high quality, sturdy, Top Grain Leather (not cheaper suede) Work Gloves with Adjustable Tape and Ball Wrist Cinch Straps for security, one for each person; not just a single pair of gloves as some kits do. Is one person supposed to sit around and watch the other do all the work? Large is the size we include by default, since almost everyone can use them, even if a bit loose (and the cinch strap helps in this regard), but we provide the option of adding your particular size if desired.†

Hats

While many of us fly in a ball-style cap, it's easy for it to get lost or damaged in a crash and many passengers will not be wearing one. It also doesn't provide protection from the sun to the neck and ears (though you can utilize a bandanna or other cloth to improvise such protection). Whether to keep your head warm in the cold or shade you in the sun, a full brimmed hat is indispensable for your protection. We include a pair of unique ultralight and compact "Twist Hats". They include an under-chin strap with a cord lock to hold them on in windy conditions. These have an ample brim for sun protection.

Sunscreen

Sunburn can occur even in cold weather and particularly with snow on the ground adding intense reflections. A sunburn increases dehydration, is painful and debilitating, and can adversely affect a survivor's chances. Besides the hats above, for overall sun protection we have selected a premium quality high SPF sunscreen, Vertra Sunscreen SPF 45. This sunscreen is not greasy, can be applied when your skin is wet from sweat (most sunscreens will not work well in that situation), is highly water resistant and doesn't quickly wash off from heavy sweating or swimming, has no alcohol, and that also is not uncomfortable in cold weather like many other sunscreens.

SPF 35 Lip Balm is also provided to both pretect lips from the sun and to help retain moisture in the lips, an important component to relieving discomfort and thirst.†Your lips are very fragile. Dry, chapped or cracked lips can be both physically painful and psychologically demoralizing when water is in short supply.

High SPF is essential. The common heard clinical recommendations for SPF 15 are only appropriate for someone who is going to spend a limited time in the sun and is aiming to slowly develop a "tan" to protect themselves from sunburn. Many fair complexioned people will burn in 10-15 minutes of exposure, so 15 times that, 2:30-3:45, is hardly enough to see you through a day of intense sun exposure. Add in possible high elevation where sunburn can occur in half the time and safety margins are further reduced. For someone in a survival situation, you want the highest possible protection to prevent any sunburn whatsoever. It is also critical that the sunscreen be highly water resistant as in many such situation the survivors will be sweating profusely and most sunscreens will not last long under those conditions..

Sun Glasses

Eyes need protection as well, from both bright sun and reflected sun off snow or water. Snow blindness is a greater threat than most realize and is much more common that direct damage to eyesight from bright sun. Conventional sun glasses are bulky and heavy, especially ones that will fit over prescription glasses. We include two pair of ultralight Roll-up Sunglasses. These are made of scratch-resistant polycarbonate in neutral gray color. They provide 100% UVA and UVB protection, wrap around to provide exemplary wind and dust protection as well as peripheral light protection, one size fits all, even children, the adjustable strap adds security in high winds or extreme activity, they will fit over most prescription glasses, the sweat resistant foam padding helps keep sweat out of your eyes and the flexible nose bridge is comfortable. They also float. These sun glasses roll up to fit in a small case not much bigger than a 35mm film canister and weigh just 0.6 ounces with the case.

Insect Repellant and Protection

In some areas, mosquitoes and other bugs can make you so miserable you may wish you just died in the crash. The Ultrathon® Insect Repellant we provide has been highly rated for both effectiveness and longevity, doesn't wash off with sweat or when wet, and is current issue to U.S. military (in an Olive Drab colored tube, of course). This repellant has a moderate level of DEET with the same or better performance as repellants with much higher levels of DEET up to "100% " concentrations. Many medical authorities believe that DEET is potentially toxic and that lower DEET concentrations are much safer, particularly for children. We do know that this formulation in Ultrathon does not destroy plastics and similar materials like regular high concentration DEET repellants do. If those do come in contact with plastic, they will melt the plastic and often make the item unserviceable, which can be a real problem, especially when there is no possibility of replacement.

We also include a pair of premium Mosquito Head Nets since you must avoid using insect repellant around your eyes and scalp. These incorporate a pair of hoops to keep the net off your face and a drawstring to close it around you shirt collar/neck. Cheaper, lower quality head nest have no hoops and are uncomfortable to wear and many are made of lesser quality netting that won't stand up to abuse or have larger holes that won't keep out no-see-ums, another very difficult insect for a survivor to deal with.

Bandannas

A pair of bright Orange Oversize Bandannas are included, which have multiple uses. These 100% cotton bandannas are 27 x 27 inches. Most bandannas are 18 or 22 inches square. The extra fabric makes these much more versatile, though that advantage comes at a price. We also take the extra step of washing the bandannas through two heavyd duty cycles before we pack them. This softens them up some and ensures the sizing is washed out of the fabric so that they will readily absorb moisture. Otherwise, they will be stiff and uncomfortable and won't work nearly as well.

Hand Warmers

(NOT SHOWN) Two pair of Premium Chemical Hand Warmer Packets help warm cold hands. It can be difficult to do simple taks with cold hands, these will warm them up to allow survivors to complete essential tasks. Each lasts 8 hours. Small enough to fit inside gloves and not so hot that they will burn.

Medical Group

Medical Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Medical Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Many kits include some medical component, typically a small first aid kit. Normally these are useful for minor cuts and scrapes and perhaps to treat a headache, but are inadequate for anything more serious. Often the adhesive bandages ("Bandaids") are the most inexpensive available and wonít hold in adverse conditions. Rare is the first aid kit with any trauma supplies for a major injury as can easily occur in an off-airport crash landing. A survival medical kit needs to be more than just First Aid. There wonít be an ambulance with paramedics arriving in five minutes, the design point for most first aid kits. The medical supplies need to be sufficient to treat relatively serious injuries for a period of 24-48 hours, minimum.

Medical Kit

The medical component for the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paksis an Adventure® Medical Kitís ".9 Ultralight" Medical Kit, designed for use by adventure race teams which need a well-stocked, but very lightweight medical kit. The components are stored inside mil-spec waterproof Aloksak bags inside a sil-nylon pouch.

In addition, we add the internationally acclaimed SAM® Splint and two vacuum packaged Cinch Tight® bandages. The SAM® Splint is a multi-purpose malleable aluminum and foam splint and it can also be used to improvise many other survival necessities. The Cinch Tight® bandages are the civilian (white, as opposed to Olive Drab) version of the latest military multi-purpose trauma bandage proven in use in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the unique features of this bandage is that is can be used and applied with one hand, a potentially very important feature. This bandage is a huge improvement over simple trauma pads, little more than an oversize "gauze pad," or previous multi-purpose trauma bandages, and are well worth the premium price.

Effective March 15, I have added a packet of Celox to the Medical Kit (not shown in photo). Celox is the first hemostatic agent that I (and my consulting docs) feel comfortable allowing it to be used by untrained individuals. Field reports back up test results and have been very positive with no adverse affects. For trauma wounds with high bleeding rates it is quick and often more effective for the untrained person to use than traditional pressure techniques and will generally result in less blood loss, a real issue when you can't dial 911 and get the EMTs there in a matter of minutes. It's the perfect compliment to the advanced multi-purpose Cinch-Tight trauma bandages we already include.

Taking care of injuries is typically your first priority after a crash. The Medical Kit is stored at the top of the survival kit for easy access. Its location is identified on the outside so it is easy to find. Packing it on top also makes it easy to get at without disturbing the rest of the survival kit in case of a medical emergency that doesnít require any other gear. The waterproof Aloksak bags ensure all the components stay dry, regardless of the weather or circumstances, even though it isn't vacuum packed.

Water and Food Group

Water and Water Storage

Water and Food Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Water and Food Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Water is essential to life. Even minor dehydration of about 5% can adversely affect your faculties and ability to think clearly. With your brain being your number one primary survival tool, you sure donít need to have it not functioning at its best. Given that we often go about our daily lives 1%-3% dehydrated, and many pilots refrain from drinking before a flight to prevent bladder issues, or drink coffee which is a diuretic, thereís often not much margin. In hot weather, people have died in 24 hours from lack of water, often the result of not thinking clearly and thereby doing something incredibly stupid that worsens an already perilous situation. Even in cold weather, working to make a shelter or taking care of an injured passenger can work up enough of a sweat to easily dehydrate you in short order. Many aviation survival kits provide only minimal or no water, in large part because it is heavy. However, it can be argued that aside from shelter, nothing in the kit is more critical than water. Please see Barry Schiffís The Proficient Pilot column ďSafety Is a Tough SellĒ that makes a poignant point in this regard.

Even in areas where natural water sources are common, thereís no guarantee you will be able to reach them, or they may be frozen and not so easily useable. You need to have enough water readily available in the aircraft to survive for 24-48 hours. We include 16 packets (just over two quarts) of sterile U.S. Coast Guard Approved Water in each kit, with a five year storage life. (We recommend carrying additional water if flying in arid and hot areas) These pouches are vacuum packaged and then stored inside a 6-mil MiniGrip premium USDA-approved zipper lock plastic bag for added protection. Weíve opened many kits where these pouches have burst. If that happens in this kit, the water will not be lost. The bag can also be used for water or equipment storage during an emergency.

Some kits don't include water, but do include one or two water bottles for the customer to fill up. This is an acceptable way to go, but the customer has to fill the bottles and we've seen kits in the field where that didn't happen. The customer also either has to remember to rotate their water supplies regularly, or go to the effort to sterilize the water bottles and water for longer storage life. In some instances the water bottles are stored outside the kit where they can be easily accessed, which can potentially result in the water not being available when needed in an emergency. In addtion, exposure to sunlight is not recommended for long term storage of water. We'd just as soon have the kit ready to go for the customer and the essential water secure inside the Pak.

Two Platypus® Wide Mouth 2-liter Water Tank water storage bags are included. These are constructed of heaver gauge plastic than most emergency water bags you may find in other kits, thus they are less susceptible to puncture in use. Still, just in case, we also include Platypus self-adhesive patches which are specifically designed to patch a puncture while wet, so you donít have to somehow stop a leak and dry the pouch before applying them. The Wide Mouth top makes it easier to get water into the bags in the field. The Platypus screw-on cap is easy to use and easy to pour from, so thereís no waste of this precious resource, unlike the closures on some emergency water bags. We also include a sports bottle style cap for even easier use if you want to drink directly from the Platypus®. We include two smaller bags instead of one larger bag because they are easier to carry and protect from damage or loss and given that it takes time for the water treatment to do its job, this way you can rotate bags of water, treating one while drinking from the other.

Water Treatment

For water treatment/sanitizing we rely upon Katadynís® Micropur® MP1. This advanced chlorine dioxide treatment (not to be confused with old style chlorine treatments which are not very effective) is safer and more effective than traditional iodine treatments such as Potable Aqua, which have been found to be ineffective against Cryptosporidium. Even better, thereís no bad taste, not of iodine, nor of chlorine. Many find the taste of iodine treated water so bad that they are reticent to drink it, not a situation you want in a survival circumstance.

Please note that the product instructions printed on the Micropur® MP1 packaging have an EPA mandated 4-hour contact time, which is based in the worst case scenario, very dirty and very cold water.† In many instances (clear stream or lake water, for example) you can use the shorter contact times (15 or 30 minutes) in the special Directions For Use that we have provided (printed on waterproof paper).† These shorter times are taken directly from the official EPA registration test results.

We also include six funnel style Coffee Filters, a low tech, but very effective and lightweight way to filter out organic material so that the natural water you gather will be relatively clean before you go to treat it. Removing organic material allows for shorter treatment times and it both looks and tastes much better. Water purifiers and filters work well, but are heavy and bulky. Our low-tech solution and MP1 tablets are a perfectly effective and lightweight soltuion.

Food

Food is not nearly as critical as water and is way down the list of essential supplies, but it can also make a big difference in morale.†In cold weather the energy it provides can be a big help, as long as you have plenty of water. †It takes water to digest food. No water, or not enough water, and you should avoid eating.

Each kit includes three 2400 Kcal S.O.S. Food Lab U.S. Coast Guard Approved Survival Rations (7200 Kcal total) in a vacuum sealed package of six individually wrapped portions (cakes or cookies). These rations are specially balanced and primarily composed of complex carbohydrates for low water requirements for digestion and are minimally thirst provoking. A list of ingredients is available for those concerned about food allergies; they contain no peanuts and satisfy Halal and vegetarian requirements. Storage life is five years. These rations provide the most complex carb calories per volume and weight of any commercial survival rations, and they don't taste half bad, especially when you're famished.

Energy bars, granola bars, protein bars and the like are not good substitutes for well designed survival rations. Typically, the ratio of complex carbs is too low or they have too much protein or simple sugars. They also tend to have a much shorter storage life and many do not do well in very hot or cold conditions. The packaging is also not as robust which can sometimes mean the bars are not in very good shape when needed.

Some survival rations, such as Mainstay, do not package the portions individually, so they are more difficult to use and to protect unused portions in the field. The individual portion packaging of the S.O.S. Food Lab rations is a notable advantage.

In addition, we include four Instant Coffee Packets, four Tea Bags in foil packets, three each Chicken and Beef Bouillon Packets and eight packets of Honey Crystals (more stable than sugar). These are mostly there for the morale boost they offer, though the caffeine boost from the coffee and tea may also be useful at times. Vegetarian Bouillon is available as an alternative.

Some kits include tea bags, but if they arenít foil packed they will lose much of their taste and potency in short order. Yes, ours cost more, but what's the sense of putting something in the Pak if it's not going to be of much use when it's needed?

Two packs of individually packaged Hard Sugar Candy are provided for a quick energy boost when needed. The individually sealed packaging, not simple wrapping, provides superior long term protection and stability.

Cooking and Utensils

The Doug Ritter Ultralight Aviator Survival Pak includes Titanium Sierra Cups. These can be used to heat water for drinks and can also be used as improvised trowels for digging scat holes or similar light duty digging. A Titanium Cook Set is also included to boil water or other cooking chores. This also serves to store and protect some of the small gear and supplies in the kit. A mesh bag is provided to store these items when the cook set is used.

Stove

In some situations, fuel to make a fire for warmth or cooking may be unavailable or unreachable. We include an ultralight Titanium Esbit® solid fuel Wing Stove and sufficient Esbit® Fuel to boil a few small pots or cups of water. Thereís no need to carry a heavier or more sophisticated stove for this simple purpose (for travel in arctic regions where the circumstances are different, a liquid fuel stove capable of burning aviation fuels is desirable). The Esbit® fuel is non-toxic, unlike most other sold fuel bars and tablets. While gelled alcohol fuels burn cleaner, the cans of fuel are heavy and the heat output is relatively low for the volume and weight.

Miscellaneous and Multi-Purpose Group

Miscellaneous and Multi-Purpose Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Miscellaneous and Multi-Purpose Group - Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak
Included in the kit is an assortment multi-purpose items that can be very useful to a survivor for an almost unlimited variety of purposes. It is often said that improvisation is the essential component of survival and these supplies provide the basics a survivor needs to improvise to their advantage.

Lashing and Tying Components

The 100 ft. of orange Mil-spec Parachute Cord can be used as is or disassembled into its components for various purposes. Because we also include 30 ft. of 165 lb test Braided Orange Nylon Masonís Line, odds are a survivor with this kit won't need to take the time and energy to do so. The Mason's Line, which weighs only a couple tenths of an ounce, will serve instead of the inner strands of the Parachute Cord for lighter duty jobs.

Mil-spec Parachute Cord, 550 lbs. test, is far stronger than the less expensive imitations (typically about 300 Ė 350 lb. test)†that are more readily available, as well as offering the multiple component option if necessary. We sought out the bright orange and red color instead of standard O.D., black or white since anyway you look at it, highly visible is better than not, both for safety around the survival camp and generally. We selected braided nylon Mason's Line because it is stronger and it will not unravel when cut like cheaper twisted line will. The nylon is also considerably stronger than cheaper poly line.†

100 ft. of 22 ga. Galvanized Utility Wire can be used for making snares, but is more likely to be used around camp for securing gear and materials, making shelter, repairs to gear and tools and around the fire. In many instances, the wire is a better choice than Parachute Cord or the Mason's Line.

All this Parachute Cord, Mason's Line and Utility Wire is great to have, but technology now provides a quicker way to secure some limbs and such together to quickly create an expedient shelter using the tarp. The 24-inch, 14 inch and 11 inch Plastic Cable Ties (also called zip ties and wire ties) included in the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak can secure in seconds what it can take an inexperienced person considerable time to accomplish the old fashioned way using cord and knots.† They are very secure and they weigh only a few ounces. The biggest drawbacks, aside from cost, are that they aren't reusable or repositionable and the lengths available limit the size of what you can secure (doubling up ties doubles the length, but it also reduces the quantity available), so we cannot completely replace the conventional gear for these uses. Our premium quality Cable Ties are UV stabilized and remain flexible in sub-zero temperatures.

Repair Components

It's been said that if it cannot be fixed with Duct Tape, it probably isn't really broken, Certainly it is one of the more useful inventions ever made. The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak includes 30 ft. of Professional Grade Duct Tape.

It is sometimes amazing just what you can fix or assemble with just a few drops of Super Glue (cyanoacrylate adhesive). The tube of Super Glue is individually sealed for long term storage life.

Clothing and equipment can take a beating in a crash or during a wilderness survival experience. The Adventure® Medical Kits Backpacker Sewing Kit and an assortment of Safety Pins and larger Blanket Pins allow for repairs of both clothing and equipment.

Miscellaneous Components

Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, two sheets 1.5 x 6 sq. ft. - 18 sq. ft. total, has lots of uses, from cooking to use as a fire reflector or signaling. We use only Heavy Duty gauge because it is much more robust and more tolerant of abuse.

A neck lanyard makes a very secure and easy way to carry some of your survival gear, such as signal mirror or whistle, so it's readily available if needed. The problem is that neck lanyards without a safety release are potentially dangerous. So, while you can just improvise one with a length of the Parachute Cord, we decided to include a pair of EK® Safety Lanyards. We think that for the extra ounce, they are a far safer and very practical solution.

Anyone who has had to answer the call of nature while in the wilds knows that Toilet Paper is no luxury, it's a necessity. We understand. You are well supplied. Some kits provide facial tissue (Kleenex) instead of toilet paper. It's less expensive, but in testing we found it to be not nearly as good as Toilet Paper for these purposes. Certainly, far better than nothing at all, but...

The ability to make notes to oneself so you don't forget something critical or leaving notes for searchers if you decide to walk out is critical. Moreover, many survivors find that keeping a log of their experience both helps pass the time and is a big morale boost—as well as providing fodder for that best selling book or online forum post you'll write afterwards. It does no good if wet weather turns those scribblings to mush. The waterproof Rite-In-The-Rain Memo Book ensures that won't happen. A Pencil is provided since it is more reliable than even the best pens.

An assortment of heavy duty Zipper Lock Quart and Gallon Plastic Bags have multiple uses, including holding gear unpacked from the kit and keeping it dry, additional water gathered from local sources, food storage and the like. Two bright orange extra large Garbage Bags also have many uses and are large enough to be used as effective ground signals as well.

When the pack is outfitted with the standard components, there is some extra room to add personal gear. The unused space is filled with ultralight 3/8-inch Closed Cell Insulating Foam that a survivor can use to insulate themselves from the cold ground; no sense wasting space. UPDATE: The rolled foam shown in the photo has been replaced with articulated foam which packs better. The pair of 24-inch long cinch straps that secure this foam roll can be used for shelter building or other survival purposes. The foam can be cut shorter with a utility knife or household scissors to fit a smaller space if the customer adds personal gear.

Survival Manual and Instructions

A Waterproof Survival/First Aid Manual is provided, along with the Waterproof Survival Instructions from the AMK Pocket Survival Pak authored by Doug Ritter. The point of including a manual is to provide simple, easily understood instructions in basic survival techniques and skills. We don't include a more comprehensive instruction book because we feel it is counterproductive for field use. More critical is that all the basics are covered in a manner that a novice can make use of and that it is waterproof so it remains useable no matter the weather. Few things are more useless than a survival manual that has turned to mush from inclement weather, when you need it the most.

My well-known STOP Mnemonic (not original with me, but I popularized it in my seminars and on the ETS site over the past decade or so) is reproduced on Rite-In-The-Rain waterproof paper and sits at the top of the Pak where it should be the first thing you see when you open the Pak in an emergency. It's a memory aid for what's important as you deal with your emergency and your immediate priorities: STOP – THINK – OBSERVE – PLAN.

The Contents List, Survival Instructions and Survival Manual are in a slot pocket on the front of the pack where they are easily accessible without breaking a seal to open the kit. The Contents List not only tells what is included in your Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak, but also the expiration dates where appropriate.† A Fresnel Lens Magnifier is included to make the small font size of the Survival Instructions and Manual easier to read.

All the component and tool instructions are printed on Rite-In-The-Rain waterproof paper to ensure they are useable under the worst conditions.

Each Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak comes with a fully Illustrated Instruction Manual which identifies all the items included with color photos and includes useful information that will help you make the best use of the survival gear and supplies in your Pak.

Tamper Evident Seals

The zippers of the Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks and included Medical Kit are closed with Tamper-evident Seals so the owner knows if the kit has been accessed. These are hand openable, jerk or twist off, and don't require any tool to open.

Spare seals are provided so that if the owner opens the kit to get at the medical/first aid supplies or to add some personal gear, such as spare prescription glasses, clothing or medications, they can re-seal the kit.

Registration

If you don't purchase your Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak directly from Doug Ritter (such as from Cirrus), please register your Pak with us so that we can remind you of approaching component expirations or contact you in case of any safety related issues. Click here for the Registration Form.

.5 Add-on Module

The .5 Add-on Module adds Survival Equipment for one more person (3 persons total). No added supplies, food or water are included. This is packed inside the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survivor Pak and adds 2.4 lbs. (nominal). See Contents List for included components.

Plus 2 Add-on Module

A supplemental Doug Ritter Plus 2 Add-on Module for the Aviator Survival Pak is also an available option for those who want to cover an additional two passengers with full survival gear and supplies. It includes only those items that are number-of-person specific, such as food, water, shelter, personal protection and the like, in a smaller modified day pack. See Contents List for included components.

The "Plus 2" Add-on Module" is designed to be used only in combination with the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survivor Pak for two added persons and is not a stand-alone survival kit.

Weights and Pricing

Nominal weight of the Doug Ritter Ultimate 2-Person Aviator Survival Pak with standard components is 22.6 lbs. Nominal weight of the Doug Ritter Plus 2 Add-on Module for the Aviator Survival Pak with standard components is 16 lbs. The actual weight may vary and will be inscribed on a tag attached to the Pak to facilitate accurate weight and balance computations.

The Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak is $2818.
The .5 Add-on Module¹ is $275.
The Plus 2 Add-on Module¹ is $850.

Pricing is FOB at my facility. Shipping is $70 for the Ultimate and $120 for an Ultimate and a Plus 2 together. We ship ground UPS to continental U.S. addresses only. All shipping includes declared value coverage for the full purchase price. Alternatively, you can save packaging and shipping by picking up your Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak at Chandler (KCHD) with prior arrangement.

¹ The "Plus 2 Add-on Module" is designed to be used only in combination with the Doug Ritter Aviator Survivor Pak for two added persons and is not a stand-alone survival kit.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak goes to support the non-profit Equipped To Survive Foundation. Click here to learn more about the Equipped To Survive Foundation.

Click here to place your order for a Doug Ritter Aviator Survivor Pak


Component Expiration and Fine Print

Items such as Water, Food, Batteries, Medicines and some others have a limited storage life. The expiration date is marked on each vacuum packaged module label, where appropriate, and on the Contents List and in the Illustrated Manual. These storage life limited components are packaged in separate vacuum packaged modules that are readily accessable so that they can be easily replaced by the customer when necessary, without repackaging the entire contents of the kit.

If you ever use your Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak in an actual life-threatening survival emergency, you will be eligible to receive a replacement kit or repack free of charge.

I reserve the right to substitute components and to add or withdraw components of this survival kit at my discretion.† Prices subject to change without notice.


Doug Ritter Survival Equipment Consulting

Air Race Consulting Project If the standard Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak isn't quite right for you, please let me custom assemble the survival gear you need for your particular requirements. These Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Paks evolved from such consulting clients' survival kits. I have assembled Arctic/Cold Weather Paks, overwater survival gear and both ultralight and more comprehensive kits for larger parties. Planning an expedition, flight or sail around the world, or a similar adventure? Need assistance deciding what survival gear you need, or someone to assemble and custom package it? Whatever your survival equipment needs, I can help you prepare for the unexpected. Whether you're just interested in some advice on what life raft or other survival gear to purchase or need turnkey survival preparation services, I'm the expert you want working for you. Click here for more information on my consulting services.

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Disclaimer and Warning

Survival in the wilderness is inherently risky and dangerous and an aircraft crash can add to the difficulty a survivor experiences. Injuries are a common and ordinary occurrence and the RISK OF MAIMING, INJURY OR DEATH IN A SURVIVAL SITUATION IS ALWAYS A POSSIBILITY, regardless of preparations. The purchase or carriage of a Doug Ritter Aviator Survival Pak cannot assure your survival and may not prevent serious injury, maiming or death. A survival situation, real or simulated, will expose the survivor to hazards and risks, both natural and artificial, THAT MAY RESULT IN HARM, DAMAGE, PERSONAL INJURIES OR DEATH to the survivor or to those accompanying the survivor. INJURIES OF ALL TYPES ARE A COMMON AND ORDINARY OCCURRENCE which can and do occur at any time and place while in a real or simulated survival situation. Doug Ritter DOES NOT ENDORSE THE SAFETY OF USING ANY SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES, SERVICES, OR TECHNIQUES. THE PURCHASER ASSUMES ALL RISKS for use of any equipment, supplies provided or techniques covered in any provided survival instructions and included in the survival kit. Inclusion in the survival kit of ANY SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES, SERVICES OR TECHNIQUES DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A GUARANTY OR WARRANTY that the equipment, supplies, services or techniques will function when needed in a survival situation, or that they will be adequate to prevent survivor's injury or death or the injury or the death of those accompanying the survivor even if they function correctly and fully, OR THAT THEY ARE LEGAL FOR USE UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES and survivor assumes all responsibility for complying with any and all applicable laws and regulations. It is the sole responsibility of the owner of the survival kits (not Ritter) to ascertain, interpret and obey all applicable local, state, federal, foreign, international and/or any other laws which govern the transportation, possession and use of any survival equipment, supplies, weapons, tools, and survival techniques. Some survival equipment and supplies, such as, but not limited to, knives, firearms, and pyrotechnics, are inherently dangerous and can injure, maim or kill even when used appropriately. Some survival techniques, such as, but not limited to, felling trees, creating shelter and building fires are inherently dangerous and can injure, maim or kill even when used appropriately and performed correctly. The carriage of some survival equipment and supplies, such as, but not limited to, knives, firearms, and pyrotechnics, is inherently dangerous and can injure, maim or kill or cause damage to, or destruction of personal property even when stored appropriately. The carriage of some survival equipment and supplies, such as, but not limited to, knives, firearms, and pyrotechnics, may not be legal under all jurisdictions and the owners assumes all responsibility for complying with any and all applicable laws and regulations. The survival instructions provided with these survival kits cannot foresee or provide instruction to deal with all survival circumstances a survivor may find themselves in and TECHNIQUES PRESENTED MAY NOT BE ADEQUATE TO PREVENT INJURY OR DEATH to the survivor or to those accompanying the survivor. The supplies and equipment provided in these survival kits cannot deal with all survival circumstances a survivor may find themselves in and THE SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES MAY NOT BE ADEQUATE TO PREVENT INJURY OR DEATH to the survivor or to those accompanying the survivor.

The purchaser is informed of the storage life of the components and/or the expiration dates for the components upon delivery of the Pak to the purchaser. The purchaser assumes full and complete responsibility for replacing the components prior to their expiration. Doug Ritter cannot be responsible for failure of a purchaser to replace expired components or any subsequent damages or injury that may occur, regardless of the cause. Expiration dates are determined based on information supplied by the manufacturers of the products or generally available information at the time of assembly. Many conditions outside the control of Doug Ritter, including, but not limited to temperature extremes and pressure changes, may adversely affect the storage life of the components and may make them unsuitable for use earlier than expected.


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URL: http://www.DougRitter.com/DR-aviator_survival_pak_faq.htm
First Published on: May 5, 2006
Revision 10: March 23, 2010


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