Personal Carry (PC) is what you have on you at all times. Whether in your pockets, attached to your belt, braced around your wrist, in an Altoids tin, a plastic pill container or a tiny change purse these are the only things you might possess when something goes terribly wrong. Admittedly, some people take the concept to the extreme. I guess it’s fun and games for those folks to spend hours thinking and rethinking about their PC. And it’s humorous sometimes watching them walk around jingling and jangling from weighted carbineers and bulging pockets. Nonetheless, the idea is sound though it need not be overdone. Let’s begin with the premise that cordage and fire are essential to survival. Add a pocket knife to that equation and you have, assuming you possess a few skills, the most basic PC kit. Please spare me the neophytic rants from those who might say, “Just give me a knife and I’ll make cordage on the spot.” I think smart guys always carry a few extra things “just in case.” Besides, in a survival scenario one might not have a lot of time to spend making cordage or rubbing sticks to make fire.
If you are on vacation, on the other hand, and decide to take a hike into a wilderness area with plans to be gone no more than about an hour let me assure you that you’d best include a few additional items to your PC. You need not encumber yourself with fifty pounds of backpack to walk a designated trail as long as you stay on the prescribed path. But things can go wrong fast when people venture off a marked route even if it’s just “to go a little ways.” A few weeks ago a member of the US Border Patrol stopped by to talk survival and bushcraft. These guys are friends of mine and they visit now and then to see how the old Woods Roamer is doing living as he does way out in the brush. I don’t remember how the topic came up but he mentioned that on several occasions he’s had to “bail-out” of the vehicle when pursuing illegals in the surrounding desert. He has no time to grab a canteen or anything else. On a couple of occasions things got dicey when he ran several hundred yards with his eyes intent on the people running ahead. The people are invariably caught when the trap is set and they run into BP on the other side. But after concentrating so hard on the pursuit one might turn around and find things a bit disorienting. Yes, one can always just follow ones tracks back to the vehicle but there are occasions when people run around in circles and crisscross back and forth and tracks get covered by other tracks and the way back home gets confusing. So let’s assume the worst case situation. It’s 104 degrees under an unrelenting sun; you’ve got no water because you had to jump out of the vehicle in hot pursuit; you ran maybe half a mile or even more; you charged though all sorts of thorn brush not even watching where you were going because you were fixed on the bodies running away from you. Add to that you sprained your ankle and have a nasty gash on your forearm when you ran past a mesquite branch and it snapped off at the moment your arm crossed it and what remained sliced through your skin like a sharp machete blade. You tripped and fell and that’s when you sprained your ankle. Believe me things like this happen more often that you’d think. You’ve got your radio, a cell phone, your pistol and extra ammo and a pocket knife. But that’s it. You’ve entered a patch of dense brush and all you can hear at the moment is the persistent buzzing of hundreds of little cicadas all around you. You radio to your fellow BP and tell them you’re a bit turned around. They answer back and some wiseacre says, “We’re ahead of you.” Yeah, but which way is “ahead?” You check your cell phone’s compass and so now you know which way is North, South, East and West. But you’re not sure if maybe you might have run past your fellow BP and they might actually be behind you instead of in front of you. You’ve managed to stop the bleeding on your arm but you figure you’ll probably need some stitches when you get back home. But it’s your ankle that’s really bothering you. It swelled to the size of a grapefruit and now you’re wondering if maybe it’s more than just sprained. You wish you had a machete so you could chop a branch to make a walking stick but that’s a pipe dream. And so you wish you had a Swiss Army Knife with its neat little saw blade instead of that “tactical” monster that looks macho but is otherwise useless. You’ve got a Leatherman and that has a saw but it’s back at the vehicle in your gear bag. So this is what I told my Border Patrol friend. “Always carry a bright yellow or orange bandana in your pocket. Add to that a small, but loud, whistle.” The dark green BP uniform can be hard to spot from the air. Some BP are now wearing camouflaged outfits and that makes it even more difficult to see a hurt agent from a helicopter. “But if you’re carrying a bright yellow or orange bandana then you can hold it up with your hand or better yet on a stick so you can be seen,” I said. Then I added that he needed to carry a small signal mirror. “Never bail out of your vehicle without those items on you,” I said. “They can help get rescue to you quickly if needed. Start blowing your whistle when you hear friendly voices nearby.”
So why should you drop a set of good tweezers into your pocket when you take a hike into the woods. It’s necessary for pulling out thorns and cactus spines. But even more important than that is its usefulness in extracting tiny seed ticks. They’re called pinolios in South Texas. Those things carry diseases or as in the case of someone I know quite well they can trigger nasty immunological responses that are life threatening. As for the nail clippers—well, why not? Do I need to add to the list a tin cup, small water filter and a full two-quart canteen? Well, given the number of people who have gone walking with me in the brushlands over the years and never thought to bring water, then yes, I need to mention those items and keep mentioning them. Mind you, I’m talking about specific times when you decide to take a hike into the woods and so you ought to add those items to your PC. In addition I carry granola bars.
If you are over the age of 50 then you probably wear prescription eye glasses. If you lose them or break them then you are sunk! It won’t matter if you’re carrying twenty pounds of survival gear because without the ability to see clearly you’d might as well just sit down and start praying. In fact, trying to negotiate the wilderness without being able to properly focus on surrounding objects is tantamount to suicide. So always bring an extra pair of eye glasses. A couple of decades past I and two others found a fellow who had lost his eye glasses the day before and he was hopelessly lost in the woods. He, by the way, was only 37 years old. A severe myopic condition made him nearly blind without his glasses. Somehow he’d lost his glasses the day before and he’d spent the night panicked and screaming for help. He was delirious from lack of water and was suffering from severe sunburn since he’d ventured off the trail wearing nothing more than a muscleman T-shirt and a pair of hiking shorts. He’d taken no water, no knife and not even a flashlight. And that is the remaining item that’s a must have if you walk a wooded trail. In my part of the world a flashlight is in some cases more important than a knife. When I was young I seldom carried a flashlight and I paid for it (almost severely) because I would have to run back to camp after dark. I reasoned that by running I’d be too quick for a rattlesnake to bite. But what happened is that one night I fell into a ditch made by a bulldozer. It was pitch black and I didn’t see the ditch until I was falling into it. The dozer had left a lot of protruding roots coming out of the ground and one of those roots struck me on the chin. I wear that tiny scar to this day. But what if it had struck me in the eye? Lesson learned: Always carry a flashlight. I carry extra batteries too.
Underscore the word “personal” in personal carry. Your list will vary according to your needs. But don’t be naïve. Carry a few things that will come in handy where you live. For a city dweller it might be a credit card or two. But I usually carry the items in the photo below.
When woods roaming I pack a set of tweezers and nail clippers in my Altoids tin along with spare batteries. Of course, I never go out without a flashlight.
There might be other items you bring along. A machete or small axe; a dedicated fixed blade knife; leather gloves; a small pruning saw. We’ll discuss those things and more in posts down the line.