It doesn’t matter whether you’re lost in the woods or victim to a large-scale natural disaster, survival scenarios can strike when you least expect them – even while on a relaxing, cruise vacation.

It seems we are reminded each week by some kind of large-scale survival event that these things don’t just happen to “the other guy.”

The stories from last week’s Carnival Cruise meltdown – where passengers were stranded at sea aboard the Triumph for five days while raw sewage overflowed the unflushable toilets – confirm my basic survival teaching philosophies:

  • A survival situation can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time and does on a regular basis.
  • Having a few basic survival supplies with you at all times can make a huge difference.
  • Basic survival knowledge and skills are very important.

Human survival needs have been the same since the beginning of time. Shelter, water, fire, food, first aid and self-defense will always be critical priorities. At the end of the day, we are the only ones responsible for meeting those needs. Personal responsibility is at the core of survival. Not preparing for the worst is certainly a plan – it’s planning to be a victim.

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Do you carry a survival kit with you when you travel?

If not, let last week’s cruise ship fiasco be the last in a long line of high-profile survival lessons. I’d like to outline what a basic survival travel kit should look like. At the minimum, it should contain the following items:


You can die in less than 3 hours without shelter in extreme conditions. Hypothermia is the No. 1 outdoor killer. Cold temperatures, moisture and wind are a recipe for death. Protecting yourself from the scorching sun is equally important. A simple tarp – lightweight and compact – can be erected in a variety of very effective shelter configurations. Knot-tying knowledge is a huge plus.

Four tarp shelter configurations


These heat-reflective blankets can be a lifesaver in cold weather. They weigh almost nothing and are about the size of a deck of cards. They are also multifunctional and can be used as a shelter canopy, waterproof gear cover, rain collector or poncho.


Not only are these durable, but you can use one to boil and purify dirty water.


If a fire isn’t practical or possible to purify water, having a back-up plan is a must. Humans can survive an average of 3 days without water. A small-profile water filter like a LifeStraw or chemical purification tablets can keep you in fresh water.

Sample travel survival kit


The ability to start a fire is critical. Fire can purify water, send recue signals, cook food, make tools, help regulate core body temperature and boost morale. Pack a disposable lighter, a ferro rod and some good fire tinder. My favorite fire tinder is cotton balls mixed with petroleum jelly. They are cheap and easy to make at home. Just one of these will burn for upwards of 5-7 minutes and they can be stored practically forever.


100 feet of 550 parachute cord should be enough to do almost anything you will need. From building shelter to making tools and recue signals, it is an indispensable survival travel item. 550 paracord has 7 inner strands that can be “gutted” from the outer sheath. These inner strands can be used for anything from fishing line to gear repairs.


A good multi-tool is a must. It not only has a knife, but also pliers, wire cutters, screw drivers and a saw. The uses for this product are endless. Also, a flashlight is an indispensable survival tool. I prefer headlamps, but also like small LED keychain lights as well. Zip-lock bags and garbage bags are also incredible survival tools that can be used to contain human waste, transport water and everything in between.


A basic first aid kit should contain a variety of bandages, tweezers, extra glasses, medicines, mole skin, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, toilet paper and some antibacterial ointment.

Sample travel survival kit


A whistle and signal mirror can both make the difference between being seen or heard in a rescue scenario.


A variety of energy bars is sufficient for a short term survival scenario. You can live for 3 weeks without food, but having a handful of these will sure make life more comfortable. They are lightweight, packed with calories and have a long shelf-life.


A handgun is my first choice for self-defense. However, it’s not always possible to travel with a handgun. A couple other less lethal items are pepper spray and a tactical pen.

A kit like this can easily be packed in a small bag, waist pack or belt pouch and can make all the difference if you ever find yourself in a sudden survival scenario. We live in an unstable and unpredictable world. Triumph over your future survival scenario by packing a good-quality travel kit.

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

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