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By AVEM Insight

Whether we are transiting across remote landscapes or navigating busy airways, as a pilot we must always be prepared for the unexpected. One critical aspect of this is having the right gear in your survival kit. This is not just a precaution; it’s a necessity that can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. But just what should we pack into a survival kit? We don’t want to take up an entire suitcase, but we also don’t want to left in the middle of nowhere for an extended period of time without the items essential to survive.

Our survival kit need not be the size of a suitcase!

Why is a Survival Kit Crucial?

A survival kit serves as a pilot’s lifeline in the event of an unplanned landing or crash, especially in remote or harsh environments such as those we find across our beautiful Australian landscape. It contains essential items that can aid in survival, rescue, and basic comfort until help arrives.

Key Items for a Pilot’s Survival Kit

Survival Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) / Personal Locator Beacon (PLB):

These are vital for a quick rescue. Distinct from automatic ELT’s that automatically activate on impact, a survival ELT must be manually activated and transmits a signal to search and rescue teams. Having such a device can significantly reduce the time it takes for them to locate you in a remote environment, especially if you become separated from your aircraft.

First Aid Kit:

This should include bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and any personal medications. A comprehensive first aid kit can help manage injuries until professional medical help is available. Consideration should be made for any specific medical requirements for any passengers, or for the environment you anticipate traversing.

Water and Water Purification:

I was always taught to carry enough water for at least 48 hours, regardless of where we were flying. Additionally, including water purification tablets or a portable filtration system is crucial if the water supply runs out.

Non-Perishable Food:

High-energy, lightweight, and non-perishable food items like energy bars or dried fruits provide essential nourishment during survival situations. There is a reason that every military ration pack since 1950 seemingly includes out-of-date M&M’s and multiple muesli bars!

Weather-Appropriate Clothing:

This includes thermal insulation layers, rain gear, and sun protection. A reflective thermal blanket is my number 1 priority for every survival kit – I usually have at least 2 on hand.

Navigational Tools:

While electronic devices are useful, pilots should also include a compass and detailed maps of the areas you will be flying over. And – of course – you should also take the time to brush up on your navigational skills now and again.


A reliable flashlight and backup batteries are essential. I like the more modern LED lights as not only do they give a much brighter light, but they are far less susceptible to a broken bulb.

Unlubricated condoms:

Yes, you read that right! The humble condom can have many uses beyond the obvious that make them great to throw into your survival kit. From water containers to life preservers or even a pressure bandage, condoms natural strength and versatility place them high on my list of inclusions. See here for some handy tips.

Fire-Starting Tools:

Fire starting tools such as waterproof matches or a flint striker are also vital for warmth and cooking. Cautionary note when purchasing a pre-packaged survival kit from overseas – these usually do not include any fire-starting tools due to import regulations. Make sure you check and add whatever is missing as soon as it arrives! Another handy tip is to carry some cotton balls rubbed with Vaseline. These make great fire starters, they are virtually weightless, and take up zero space.

Multi-Tool and / or Knife:

A good quality multi-tool or knife can be invaluable for various tasks in a survival scenario, from preparing food to making repairs. Like the previous point about importing pre-packaged kits, these will usually include a multi-tool but will NOT include a knife. Another excellent addition to any survival kit is a wire saw. They take up very little space and make short work of even the thickest tree branches.

Communication Devices:

This can include a satellite phone, a two-way radio, or even a simple signaling mirror. Being able to communicate with rescuers can greatly increase the chances of a swift rescue. Always make sure you are familiar with the operation of all devices you pack.

Survival Guide / Handbook:

We can’t be expected to remember every detail of how to survive in the wilderness. Indeed, most of us are way too busy to spend days or even weeks practicing how to obtain water from the desert, or how to construct an emergency shelter. For that reason, a good compact survival guide can be the difference between life and death – quite literally.

The Wrap Up

For every pilot, the unpredictable nature of flying demands constant readiness. A well-equipped survival bag is not just an accessory; it’s a fundamental component of a pilot’s gear. By carefully selecting and maintaining these essential items, we significantly improve our chances of survival and rescue in emergency situations. Your kit may not include every item listed above, and may include others that we haven’t mentioned. Remember, in the world of aviation, it’s always better to be prepared for a situation you may never encounter than to encounter a situation for which you are unprepared.