Should You Carry A Survival Kit?

Should You Carry A Survival Kit?

Survival KitI was reading a news story recently about a Cessna 172 that crashed in the mountains with a family of 3 aboard.  They all survived, took shelter in the airplane overnight and tended to their injuries. In the morning they made a cell phone call to 911.  It seems that they didn’t even remember that they had a cell phone until it rang.  I could imagine that you can’t quite think clearly after being in an airplane crash.  This got me thinking … I carry a survival pack but I have never really inventoried its contents.  The only reason I even have the safety of this kit is because, while flying from Van Nuys (very hot) to Lake Tahoe (in the mountains) for lunch 3 years ago, Erik brought to my attention that we were both wearing shorts and flip flops and snow in the mountains below us.

After going through the kit, I have more questions than answers. Is there a “perfect kit” for the type of flying I do? What items in the kit are worth the weight?  Which ones should I trade out? How long should I prepare to be stranded? What are reasonable expectations when it comes to mending injuries?

I live and fly around the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which contain the highest peak in the contiguous United States.  I also live and fly in and around some the the hottest weather in the United States.  There are a few items that I believe are essential for any survival kit, and I will make sure they are always with me.  Water, first aid, something to start fires and a PELT (Personal Emergency Locator Transmitter).  Now the question remains, what is worth the weight to carry in my survival kit and what should I trade out?

Currently the survival kit contains 12,000 calories worth of food bars. Like most Americans, I can afford to go a few days without food, when these expire I will probably ditch them and use the weight savings for more first aid supplies. There are also a few items in the kit that I will dump immediately. I don’t think I will be in the mood to play cards when I am trying to survive, I don’t need an AM/FM radio and I doubt I will be composed enough to wear a dust mask, these items are gone.

After contemplating my own survival needs, there are a few items that I will add to it immediately. I will add a few tools, airplanes are loaded with usable survival items if you can get to them. I will add a strobe light, there are some very small strobe lights, nothing is more distinguishable and out of the ordinary, great for drawing attention. Finally, I will add 3 times as much first aid equipment and the biggest pain pills I can find. If I can’t walk, build a fire or signal for help, I am not going to be much help to myself. I am guessing most plane crashes come with some sort of injury to the occupants, this is going to be the biggest hurdle to survival.

There are endless items the I would like to have in the event of an emergency, but the fact is airplanes are limited in their “useful” load and I have to take this into consideration. I don’t want to create an emergency while preparing for an unlikely one.


Pilot Michael
Pilot Michael