Building a Free Survival Kit

Here is a great article on putting together a survival kit for little or no money. While you should always have the best you can afford in a survival kit, because your life depends on it, this article provides great solutions for a “starter kit” until you can afford to upgrade. This article was written by Rick Tscherne of and was sent to me with a request to share.


Rick Tscherne
October 24


Every so often someone writes and asks.. “Hey Rick, any chance I can get one of your survival kits in exchange I’ll test it out, write a review and post it on some survival sites and forums.”

Or…”Rick, if you agree to send me a free survival kit, I’ll run it through some tests and make a video of it and post it on Youtube. Do we have a deal?” Or better yet…”Dear Mr. Tscherne, I was wondering if you would be so kind to donate some of your survival kits to my organization which helps low income kids.”Yep, I have heard it all. And years ago I use to give away some of my survival kits too in exchange for an evaluation, written review, and or a Youtube video. But not anymore.


Well, out of about three dozen samples that I have given away over the years there were only about six people who kept their word. And the rest? They lied and scammed me. But don’t worry I’m not giving up on trusting people, not sir. And so what I decided to do is put together a special kit for those of you who want a F.R.E.E. Survival kit from me. And here it is…

What do you think? Pretty neat, huh? Look at all this stuff, contains almost everything you would need in a wilderness outdoor survival situation. Cool, huh?

Oh, by the way, the name of this special F.R.E.E. Survival Kit. Those letters stands for “From Recyclable Everyday Expendables.” That’s right, it’s a Do-It-Yourself (DYI) Survival Kit. Or another name that I like to call it is “The Do-It-Yourself, Cheapskate, Low-Income, Poor Man’s Survival Kit.” Which I think is a more appropriate based on the type of individuals who have either lied or scammed me out of a survival kit or are looking for something for FREE. Especially when my SOS Survival Kits are better quality and cost less than most of the survival kits on the market.

And almost everything you see in this photo can be easily acquired either from your own home, neighborhood garbage cans or some trash dumpster located behind some shopping malls and stores. And it’s all FREE! How about that?

And so whether you’re really poor or just too damn cheap to pay $20+ dollars for one of my SOS Survival Kits and you don’t mind spending hours searching through “germ infested” garbage cans and trash dumpsters, then this survival kit is for YOU!

And so here’s what these items are and what you can use them for…

IMPROVISED COOKING KIT – The frying pan is made from a large tuna can with a “snap on & off” coat hanger wire handle. The drinking cup is a modified tin can with also a “snap on & off” coat hanger wire handle. And the “water bucket” you see in this photo, that too is made out of a large can with a “snap on & off” coat hanger wire handle too. Yes, all these items are easy to find and make, all you need is a little bit of immagination, that’s all.

IMPROVISED CANTEEN WATER CONTAINER – Besides being able to use some zip-lock sandwhich bags and condoms (NEW ones – NOT used ones) as improvised fold-up water containers. You can also reuse plastic water bottles too and attach them them some string or cord so you can carry or wear it around your waist or neck. Oh, something else I found in a trash dumpster that makes a great improvised canteen are those aluminum can “Munster Energy” drinks” which come with a screw on & off cap too. I can not believe these are thrown away in the garbage after you finish drinking it and are not returnable. You can find them in the trash cans near “shop & go” stores or wherever there is a gymn fitness center too.

IMPROVISED LANTERN, HEATER & STOVE – All made out of aluminum and tin cans along with some duct tape and a piece of cloth. But what is extremely important and very dangerous to use is gasoline as the fuel. NEVER use gasoline as the feul source, use strictly NON-vaper and NON-combustable fuel like BBQ and Zippo lighter fluid. How do you make these improvised lanterns, heaters & stoves out of aluminum & tin cans? Just Google: “How to make a coke can stove & lantern” and up will pop a dozen or more websites and pages on your computer. Check it out!

IMPROVISED GENERAL DIRECTION COMPASS – All you need is a very thin narrow nail, pins or sewing needle and some thin wire (copper if possibe) and a cork or a small piece of wood or a leaf and either one (1) small, AA, C, or D radio or flashlight. Don’t worry it does not have to be new nor fully charged, it just needs to have some power left in it. And also some type of cup or container that can hold water. To make a compass out of all these items, first fill the cup or container with some water. Then wrap the wire tightly and entirely around the nail, pin or sewing needle numerous times and then connect each end of the wire to negative and positive portion of the battery for about a minute or until the battery and or the wire starts to become warm or hot to hold. Then remove the wire entirely from the pin, nail or needle and place it on a small piece of wood or a leaf and PRESTO! You now have yourself an improvised, homemade, magnetized needle and general direction compass.

IMPROVISED FIRE STARTER & TINDER – If you look closely you will see several different types of fire starters, some of it is just plain old regular paper or wooden matches. And then there is two different BIC lighters, a small and a large one which can be found on the ground or in some garbage when they contain no more fuel but are still useful in starting fires. And to make and use them like what is called a “Spark-Lite,” an over rated and over priced fire starers. All you have to do is remove the top metal clip so the flint & striker wheel are exposed and so you can get some of the sparks closer down and on top of some tinder to ignite it. And if you cut off the bottom of these BIC lighters, you can then store some cotton balls inside of it. And something you can use to make paper tinder so it will ignit with some sparks, is an old pencil sharpen. Or simply remove from a clothes dryer from the “lint trap and use that to ignite and get a fire going. To learn more about how to convert a BIC lighter into a fires starter, just log onto this link here:

IMPROVISED FISH & SNARE KIT – Can be easily made out of some safety pins, coke can pull tabs, nylon string, dental floss, wire and a dozen other improvised items too. Which safety pins are best to use as fishing hooks, coke can tabs & alumunium foil can be used to make fishing lures and for fishing line and for making small game animal snare traps, try using dental floss. To learn mre about how to make and use some of this stuff for fishing and snaring game just go to this link here:

IMPROVISED CUTTING TOOLS & KNIVES – The ones you see in the photo I was able to make out of a can-lid top, a broken file saw, a jig saw blade and a window paint cleaner razor blade too all attached to some wood and or cork along with some duct tape. To learn more about how to make some improvised saws and cutting tools, go to this link here:

IMPROVISED RAIN JACKET & PONCHO – Can be easily made out of large trash bags. And if you’re wondering what’s the difference between making a rain jacket and rain poncho out of a large trash bag. A trash bag rain jacket has one hole for your head and two more holes for your arms. A rain poncho just has a hole for your head and the sides of the trash-bag are cut & open on both sides like one of those Mexican poncho blankets. Or unless you don’t want to make any holes so you can cover and wrap it around your body, then just cut open two sides of the trash bag.

IMPROVISED SHELTER – Can also be made out of some good large size trash-bags or sheets of plastic. It really doesn’t matter what kind of tie-down or cord you use, just as long as it is strong and you attach it securely to the trashbag or plastic. Which is by placing a very small, smooth, round rock on the corners of it and in some other places too, if needed. Then place the rock inside the plastic along the corners and then wrap the tie-down or cord around this rock and plastic too. Don’t ever try to make a hole in the plastic and then add the tie down or cord or it will rip through it. To learn more about how to make an improvised trash bag or plastic shelter, go to this link here:

IMPROVISE SIGNAL DEVICES – What you see in the photo are some bright, orange cloth, though orange is a much better color use due to it can be seen further away at distaces. Bright red can also be used if you can’t find anything orange. To use it for signaling, either hold it up and wave it using your hand or attach it to a stick and then wave it vigorisley to get someone’s attention. Along with an improvised shiny signaling device like a broken mirrow, tin can lid, aluminum foil, CD, etc. To learn more about improvised signal devices, just go to this link here:

IMPROVISED WATER FILTER & PURIFICATION KIT – The water filters in the photo are both, some regular cloth and some coffee drip paper filters too. To purify water for safe consumption, you need to boil it for at least 7 x minutes or use Clorex Bleach regular “non-scented,” 4 x drops per every quart/liter of water should be enough for safe consumption. To learn more about how to use Clorex Bleach for purifying water and other water purification techniques, just go to this link here:

IMPROVISED NIGHT LIGHT (Besides using a fire) – What you see in the photo is not just some birthday & church candles but some lanterns made out of several small plastic whiskey bottles, some cloth and some cut up and rolled up aluminum from soda cans. The purpose of cutting up some sheets of aluminum from soda cans and then rolling it up and running some cloth through it is so fire and heat won’t melt the rim of the plastic bottle. But what is extrememly important is that you DON’T use gasoline as the fuel, use strictly NON-vaper and NON-combustable fuel like Zippo lighter fluid or BBQ lighter fluid. To learn more about how to makes these type of lanterns, go to this link here:

IMPROVISE HUNTING WEAPON – All you need is a bunch of heavy duty, thick, rubber bands, some nails of different sizes, some duct tape, cord, etc so you can easily make a bow & arrow, slingshot, a throwing star and some other types of hunting weapons. To learn more about how to make these type of weapons, just go to this link here:

Now if you’re thinking..”Hey Rick, why didn’t you include this, or why not use this, or why not use..blah, blah, etc.”. Guys & gals, there are so many other unlimited things that you can find, use and improvise to make your own F.R.E.E. Do-It-Yourself Survival Kit and this here is just one sample kit.Personally, when it comes to wanting or needing a survival kit, it’s best not to purchase one of those over-rated, over-priced, name brand, super-dupper, everything-you-need survival kits. No sir! But instead buy a basic “starter” or “ultra-lite” survival kit that comes with the six basic essential items needed in all survival situations. Which is a knife, fire starter, flash-lite, signal mirror, whistle and a compass. And then depending on how often and how far into the woods or wilderness you usually travel and what the temperture and weather is like, you can always buy more stuff for your personal survival kit.

Basically, I agree with what all these survival experts, authors, books, websites and forums and that is…” the best survival kit is one you assemble and put together yourself to fit your own personal survival needs and comfort. And the less you know about survival – the more you’ll need to pack and carry, and the more you know – the less survival items you’ll need.

Make sense? You bet! Take it from me, yours truly…

“Army Ranger Rick”

US Army, Retired, 1972-93
Author, The Ranger Digest Series
Developer, SOS Survival Kits

Every Day Carry

Thought I’d post a quick post showing my EDC or Every Day Carry.

Every Day Carry Items

Every Day Carry Items (top to bottom, left to right):

  • Sunglasses
  • iPhone 4s with Survival/Preparedness Apps
  • Spyderco Delica 4 with Zip Tie Modification
  • Streamlight MicroStream
  • Paracord Bracelet
  • CASIO Twin Sensor Watch
  • Wallet
  • Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army Knife
  • 2GB Thumb Drive
  • Whistle
  • Cotton Bandana
  • I’m thinking of replacing the Victorinox with a different model or a Multi-Tool, I’ve been carrying the Tinker because it was a gift. I also carry a MiniBic lighter, but realized it was out of fuel the other day so I tossed it and haven’t replaced it yet.

    Camping Trip

    I went on an overnight camping trip to White River National Forest and thought I would share some photos and show the gear I took.

    This looks like a good place to camp!

    Camp set up.

    A look inside the tarp.

    Tarp, sleeping bag, poncho liner, tree saver straps, and 4 stakes.

    1 qt canteen with nesting aluminum cup and a 48 oz collapsible water bottle.

    Hobo stove, pop can stove (see previous post) with HEET, cook set, and utensils.

    I didn’t need all this, I just took it all to test everything out. The Hobo stove worked great and I really liked being able to use it right beside the tarp when it rained, however, it was a little bulky and I had to watch out for the sharp edges.

    K-Bar knife with ferro rod attached to Sheath, folding saw, multi-tool, and sharpening rod.

    Glow stick, flashlight, and a headlamp.

    First Aid Kit, TP, and a Fire Kit.

    Lots of cordage & duct tape!

    Tripod stool, binoculars, pencil & paper, tree book, map, and a compass.

    Medical ID tag and whistle.

    The ID tag has my name, address, allergies, blood type, emergency contact info, etc. and is inside a plastic key tag.

    Not shown is the clothing I had which was minimal in addition to what I was wearing, just enough to keep me warm and dry.

    Pop Can Alcohol Stove

    In preparation for my upcoming camping trip, I decided to make a pop can alcohol stove. There are two versions of the stove, one is a double walled stove and the other is a penny stove. The double walled stove builds pressure between the inner and outer wall, while the penny stove has the fill holes covered with (you guessed it) a penny and pressure is built in the main chamber. Here are two great videos on building each stove type:

    Penny Can Stove

    Double Walled Stove

    I chose to make a double walled stove and here are my results!

    Ready for testing!
    Ready for Testing!

    Primed and ready!
    Primed and ready!

    Water is boiling!
    Boiling Water

    I ran a burn test starting with a cold stove, using 1 oz of HEET, and left uncovered. It took the cold stove 1 minute to prime and total burn time was 8:48. Burn time for the jets was 7 minutes.

    It took approximately 6 minutes to boil water when I took the pictures and I was using less than an ounce of HEET (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 oz) and the main chamber was covered by the cup which conserved fuel.

    My initial thoughts are that it is a great, light weight, stove to boil water for purification purposes or make a cup of coffee/tea when wood fires are not an option. However, I’m not sure it has a long enough burn time to actually cook much. I may test it with a Coleman mess kit cooking a few items and I’ll post the results if I do.

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

    My friend Kristie posted this earlier today and I had to share!

    I looked at this, and nearly kicked myself for how easy it is, and the fact that I still buy taco seasoning. SERIOUSLY!?? If you have all of these spices on hand (which, we do), there’s absolutely no reason to buy anymore pre-packaged stuff that’s only good for one use.

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon oregano flakes
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    We now have a bottle of this sitting in our cupboard (we had an empty spice bottle, too).

    Colorado Wildfire Help

    Colorado is burning and needs your help!

    Please check out the link below for Help Colorado Now to see how you can best help those affected by the Waldo, Flagstaff, High Park, and other wildfires across the state.


    You can also show your support and help those affected by purchasing a t-shirt from Wild Fire Tees. 100% of the proceeds from these t-shirts benefit Colorado wildfire victims.

    Natural Bug Spray

    I came across this recipe the other day and thought I’d share. This summer has been unusually hot and dry, the perfect breeding ground for a lot of bugs.

    Homemade Natural Bug Spray Recipe


  • 3 1/2 oz. (approx. 1/3 cup) of Witch Hazel
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Lemongrass Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Eucalyptus Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Citronella Oil
  • Directions:
    Combine all ingredients in a small 4 oz. spray bottle. When you use it, be sure to shake the bottle contents before spraying (the oils separates from the Witch Hazel).

    How To Make An Organic Weed Killer

    Nothing’s worse then those pesky weeds peeking up through the cracks and joints in the driveway and sidewalk in front of the house. Commercial weed killers are expensive and bad for the environment, so I went looking for a natural alternative…

    Vinegar is a fantastic weed killer. It is non toxic, biodegradable, readily available, and it is cheap. Go to your local grocer store and purchase a gallon of white vinegar. It usually sells for around $3. You can find a heavy duty squirt bottle at your local garden store. I recommend buying a good one, as the cheap ones do not last. For a few dollars you can buy a quart sized bottle that should last at least a year. Fill up with straight vinegar, do not dilute. Use this to spray directly on weeds that you want to get rid of. Some pesky buggers may require 2 or 3 applications.You can also use this in place of bleach. I have a couple spray bottles and have one in the garage labeled weed killer, another under the kitchen sink labeled disinfectant.

    Source: Hubpages

    Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

    I’m not much of a desert kind of guy, but I do have a weakness for strawberry cheesecake. So when I came across this recipe the other day, I just had to share!


  • 1 lb large strawberries
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (can use 1/3 less fat)
  • 3-4 tbsp powdered sugar (4 tbsp for a sweeter filling)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • graham cracker crumbs
  • Directions:
    1. Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of the strawberry. Remove the top and clean out with a paring knife, if necessary (some may already be hollow inside). Prep all strawberries and set aside.
    2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill strawberries with cheesecake mixture. Once strawberries are filled, dip the top in graham cracker crumbs. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

    Source: The Sweets Life