Frequent-Use Pouch or Pocket

by Kevin Estela November 22, 2017

Frequent-Use Pouch or Pocket

During the Advanced Wilderness Survival Course I used to teach at the Wilderness Learning Center, I would ask my students to keep track of the items they used daily. Over a week of training in the northern woods, students were exposed to many skills-based challenges and environmental issues. Prior to the end of the course, the students would sit around the fire, do an after action with my boss Marty and me, and review what they found useful and what they realized they could leave behind. What many students discovered was that some items carried in their “ten essentials” kit or emergency pouch, were never touched as they were never truly in an emergency situation. For long-term survival in the great outdoors, sometimes referred to as “wilderness living”, students discovered they fell back on some gear more regularly than other items. These were often carried in a single pouch or cargo pocket. What follows are the common items students and I carried and used repeatedly and everyday in the great north woods. Everything you read about here fits neatly into a small belt pouch like that from the Hidden Woodsmen. Check it out. 

 

Fire Starter and Scraper

Rounded spines. You won’t find a sharp spine on a Fiddleback Forge knife. Years ago, a sharp spine on a knife indicated an unfinished blade. In recent history, the sharp 90-degree spine on some popular bushcraft blades for ferro rod sparking has become quite the norm. It seems like almost every survival celebrity and internet sensation has a video showing how the back of a “good” bushcraft knife can be used for scraping a ferro rod. I sort of agree. I tend to carry an “emergency” firestarter on my bushcraft blades but my primary fire starter rides elsewhere. I own some non-Fiddleback forge blades with the sharp 90-degree spine and plenty of Andy’s blades without it. To me, a ferro rod carried on a sheath can be exposed to the environment and potentially be compromised by rain, sweat, or other moisture. When I wear my Fiddleback blades on my belt or around my neck, my ferro rod rides somewhere else. It rides in my frequent-use pouch. If there is spare room, home-made tinder is carried to start fires in the wettest of conditions. 

 

Headlamp

At some point in the evening, daytime disappears and darkness falls. Without fail, when the sun sets, I reach for my Streamlight Sidewinder headlamp. Around camp, I prefer to be hands-free when lighting my way and although I can bite the end of my flashlight in my teeth, I’d rather spare myself the pain and aggravation of bumping the other end of the light on something and chipping a tooth. A good headlamp is a logical addition to a frequent-use pouch as darkness is part of the daily cycle.  The reason why I like the Streamlight Sidewinder is the fact it can be removed from the elastic strap worn around the head and can be clipped elsewhere. It also can stand upright and it features a couple light filters for different coloring at night. Since this item requires battery power, it isn’t a bad idea to make a spares carrier part of the frequent-use pouch too. 

 

Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Tool

A Swiss Army Knife and/or a multi-tool makes a terrible knife. Compared to a fixed blade, it really isn’t as capable. Then again, the flip side of the same coin is makes the multi-function pocket knife better as a saw and screwdriver than your high end KE Bushie. It seems like on a daily basis, one of the tools from either of these folding knives is used in the field. Whether that tool is the saw, the awl, the can opener, or the scissors, the SAK and/or Leatherman are like having a tool box in your pocket. This item is a no-brainer in a frequent use pouch and a small hone or sharpening steel should ride with it too. 

 

Note Pad and Pen

I don’t go anywhere without a note pad and a pen. I’m old fashioned and like to take notes on paper and not on my phone. I like having the ability to quickly sketch something or write a note, rip it out of the book, and hand it to someone. I also like knowing my notepad and pen will never require batteries, will always work in the extreme cold, and I can stomp on the book without fear of breaking a screen. Students on the WLC Advanced Course carried a small notepad to document pearls of wisdom and I carried one when I wanted to critique them after a skills-based assessment or field test. To this day, I recommend people carry a note pad and pen or pencil. Pens will work most of the time and pencils will work when the pen runs out of ink or when the gel ink freezes. One of the most honest things you can say you do with your blade is sharpen your pencil. Again, try doing that to your phone. 

 

Wet-Ones

Shit happens. Can we move on? Enough about this one. 

 

Spoon

Around chow time, canteens and canteen cups are placed near the fire. Freeze-dried foods are opened up and boiling water is used to turn packets of powder and “food croutons” into stews, chilis, and noodle dishes. This process repeats itself at least 3 times per day and sometimes when extra chow is found (hunted, fished or foraged) sometimes you find yourself eating more frequently. You can either carve a spoon or a small shovel out of wood or you can just pack a lightweight titanium or stainless steel spoon in your frequent-use pouch or pocket. I’d recommend something metal over plastic as it can be used to stir food in boiling water and it can also be cleaned by boiling it in water safer than can be done with a plastic/Lexan spoon. Make sure to put a bright lanyard on your spoon when it isn’t in use. You would be amazed how personal an item as simple as a spoon becomes. When you have nothing in the great outdoors, well, almost nothing, the little things add up. 

 

Cordage

A combination of 550 cordage and jute twine was carried by students and used for everything from setting ridgelines for shelters, building tripods and making projects. When the 550 cord was too much or simply overkill, jute twine was used. The jute served as a backup source of tinder and of course, cordage. Jute is extremely inexpensive and very lightweight. It can be left in the great outdoors to biodegrade and it can be braided into stronger cordage if necessary. 

The contents of the frequent-use pouch or pocket vary as everyone is an individual with different needs. Those with corrective lenses will likely carry a spare set of glasses there. If medications are needed, they go into the frequent-use pouch or pocket. Those who have a particular favorite spice may carry a small vial if it’s liquid or pouch if it’s dry. The contents of this kit will be different than your emergency kit. Those emergency items are only broken out in an emergency and don’t become worn-down as much as those you use frequently. Think about it, do you want to have a factory fresh ferro rod in your emergency kit or one that has been worn down in half? If the words in this blog make sense, next time you head out, keep track of the items you dig through your pack for on a daily basis. Carry them in a single place and spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time looking for what you need.




Kevin Estela
Kevin Estela

Author

Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor at Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin is a frequent contributing writer for publications such as RECOIL, Athlon Outdoors, and Beckett Media. He is a Sayoc Kali Associate Instructor Level 5, as well as a BJJ Purple Belt.



Leave a comment


Also in Articles

Bugout On Foot
Bugout On Foot

by Kevin Estela August 26, 2020 2 Comments

If you’re someone who participates in survival discussions, you’ve probably heard of the term “bug out”. Bugging out has been popularized by movies like “Red Dawn” and books like “The Road.” You may have entertained ideas of running to the hills or what you would do if some sort of emergency made its way to your front door. There may be a particular event you’re readying yourself for the decision to leave your most valuable investment (your home I’m assuming) and risk your safety to get away. Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest instructor at the Fieldcraft Survival Bugout On Foot Course in Prescott, Arizona. This course was designed to teach students the reality of mobility on foot and better prepare them with approximately 70 hours of instruction and practical field exercises over 5 days. The students participated in an extensive after-action report and now have a wealth of takeaways and this month’s blog is meant to share some of the most important ones with you.

Read More

Back to Baxter: A Story of Then and Now
Back to Baxter: A Story of Then and Now

by Kevin Estela August 05, 2020 3 Comments

The year is 1999. Britney Spears burst onto the scene with “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and Keanu introduced us to the artificial world of The Matrix. We were less than a year from the anti-climactic Y2K panic and new millennia. In August of 1999, I was enjoying a great summer off from my freshman year of college and some new-found freedom from an ex girlfriend. My good friends from high school, Nate and Frank, were interested in hanging out again and we were all looking for an adventure. After high school, we all went separate ways but what bound us as friends was the interest we had in the great outdoors and that would unite us again for an epic road trip to Baxter State Park and summiting Mt. Katahdin. That was then. That was over 20 years ago when I was just a teenager who was looking for direction. Since then, I only returned to that part of Maine once in 2003 to summit it again. Now, it has been 17 years and so much has changed in my life. Now, it was time to go back, it was time to seek out adventure again, it was time to give into the draw of the mountains.

Read More

Be Prepared
Be Prepared

by Brian Griffin July 08, 2020

Many of us remember this phrase fondly from our youth. We did our best to do it back then, and we work even harder to carry that philosophy forward with us as we grow through adulthood where our lives become so much more complex. It's often hard to even fathom the logic of the events much less try to prepare for all of them, but we try. We plan for the basics, and shoot for some of the contingencies at any rate. We need to be punctual to our events, able to pay our way, able to take or give notes or directions, light up a dark space, create warmth in the cold, and of course open packages or cut anything that needs cutting. And if, like me, you happen to enjoy picnics with someone special, a cork screw can really come in handy and save the time of performing a no glass /no cork bits wine-bottle-opening. Which can be done, and one method featured in an earlier article here a few years ago.

Read More

Knives & News

Sign up with your favorite email.