Modular Survival Kit


A modular survival kit can refer to two completely different things. Modular survival kits as a product are produced by GearPod (described by GearPod, “GearPods Backcountry provides three critical capabilities in the form of two individual kits”) or it can refer to the concept of creating a survival kit to be modular.

Think of it as a kit within a kit.

Also referred to by some as a tiered survival kit, the basic idea is having a kit (or kits) within a main survival kit. The strategic advantage is that the user is able break down his/her survival kit into designated functions (such as making a fire, water purification, etc.). This help keeps the kit well organized, easy to transport, and allows the user to separate and distribute the survival kit should the need arise.

You probably don’t even need even need to buy new gear or equipment to convert an existing survival kit into a modular survival kit. Just identify the functions your kit provides and then find ways to break down each individual component into those functions. To further illustrate this concept, we take a generic survival kit and break it down into 3 modules. Please note for this article, we won’t go in depth about specific item suggestions to place in each module, we’ll leave that up to you. Rather, this article will provide a high level overview and common practices pertaining to the idea of organizing and functions of a modular survival kit.

Primary Module

Primary Module - This is a Teton Scout Pack

The primary module is comprised of the main survival kit that will house any subsequent, smaller kits.  This main module will be the largest and heaviest piece of luggage in your survival kit. Ideally, this primary module will provide the user with some ability to carry it (such as a shoulder strap on a duffel bag, backpack, etc.), as the primary module will need to allow the user to quickly access and transport the kit if the situation warrants it. Because this part of the kit can easily start to weigh upwards of 60+lbs (keep in mind this number will widely vary based off individual preferences and needs), the modular survival kit system will allow the user to quickly break down the kit into smaller pieces if the whole kit isn’t needed.

This strategy also works well for a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as camping or hiking. Rather than having to carry a 60lb pack for 8 hours of hiking (or whatever), you can simply bring along just the second and/or third module to ease the burden while leaving the primary module back at base camp. Easily the most common and readily available items that can be used for the primary module include:

  • Backpacks – If planning on purchasing one, size and frame style should be your first considerations. Common sizes include 1,800-2,500 cubic inches short excursions lasting less than a day; 3,000-5,000+ cubic inches (50-80 liters) for overnight and/or multi-day excursions up to about a week; 5,000+ cubic inches (80 liters and more)—for trips lasting more than a week, may also be needed for winter overnights. Frame options include internal vs. external. To learn more about internal vs. external frames, you can check out this description of the pros and cons of internal vs. external frames.
  • LBE Vest/Bags – LBE stands for load bearing equipment. This can refer to a number of commercially produced modular systems for assembling various components to maximize the amount of equipment an individual can wear or carry. The most common and widely used types of LBE systems include MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) & ALICE (Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment).
  •  LBE systems are ideal for survival kits because by their very nature, they are designed to be broken down, mixed together, and intended for efficient transport if need be. Common LBE gear pieces include vests, backpacks, and various sized bags.

In the example photo above, the user has chosen to make a Teton Scout pack as the primary module. Inside the pack is a secondary module. Also, the primary module carries a Kelly Kettle in the bottom compartment and miscellaneous items in the side and top compartments.

Secondary Module

Secondary Module - This is the bag inside the primary module

The secondary module will be smaller than the primary module and can be broken down and individually carried apart from the primary if the user needs to. The secondary module will range in size depending on what gear you’re using but generally should be adequate enough to provide basic provisions for approximately 1 full day (possibly overnight depending on the size of your gear).

 In a non-survival situation such as camping or hiking, the secondary module can be brought along for the day’s activities while the primary module can be left at the camp. The secondary module should continue to provide the user with basic functions such as food and water, as well as some common survival aids (such as tools to start a fire, a knife, etc.). Oftentimes, there will be an overlap of gear between the primary and secondary module. You may find your primary and secondary modules contain similar if not identical types of gear. For example, in the primary module, you could decide to pack a water filtration device designed for multiple people, a smaller filter device designed for individual use in the secondary module, and purification tablets or iodine crystals in the tertiary module. Some common secondary module carriers include fanny packs and/or smaller versions of LBE vest/bag gear mentioned above.

The example photo displayed above contains a variety of useful items deemed critical by the user. It contains a pair of Uniden walkie talkies (also receives NOAA based on local reception), a Brunton Raptor camp stove, several basic tools such as hatchet, hammer, nails, medical kit, rain ponchos, high visibility safety vest, a fire steel, several disposable butane lighters, waterproof matches, energy bars, Polar Pure water disinfectant (this item is also stocked in the tertiary module), and several other miscellaneous items.


Tertiary Module

Tertiary Module - This kit is small enough to conceal on person

Finally, there is the tertiary (third) module. This module is pretty much your pocket survival kit and should always be worn on your person to be effective. This module doesn’t necessarily require any specific storage medium such as a bag or fanny pack to be effective. It can simply be the most basic of gear stored in an Altoid tin and carried wherever you go. You can utilize your keychain, belt, or whatever other accessory you wear to carry your tertiary module. While this third module isn’t large enough to carry much more than the absolute basics, it will still provide you with a tactical advantage if you find yourself in an emergency or survival situation separated from your primary or secondary modules. Like any other type of survival kit, to produce an efficient and effective modular survival kit system, focus on quality planning. If your survival kit is currently unorganized, it may help to break down all your gear and possible supplies and then reassemble them, this time using using the modular survival kit system.

In the example above, the third module contains a pistol, extra magazines, a fixed blade knife (sheath is MOLLE compatible), Polar Pure water disinfectant, 2 pairs of ear plugs, tea tree tooth picks and a few other small items. The bag still has an internal pocket with additional storage capacity. This kit fits the individual needs of the user.




Remember, the concept of using modular survival kits will produce the following benefits:

  • It will keep your gear organized which will make it readily accessible in an emergency.
  • It makes transporting and storing your gear more efficient. If you don’t have a need to carry the whole system, simply break down the components you do need and leave the rest behind.
  • It maximizes the amount of gear you can pack in your survival kit. By being thorough in the planning process, you’d be amazed by how much you can be prepared for using only a few bags or basic carry gear. Using this modular survival kit system will also help you identify waste and inefficiencies of what gear you’re packing into your survival kit.

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