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Survival tin provides worst-case mettle

With 80 degree days and summer sunshine gone on the wind of Labor Day's cold front, an autumn chill has settled over the region. The change in weather shifts the focus of area outdoorsmen to fall activities. Many are firing off their last few practice rounds at the trap club or shooting range in anticipation of grouse and pheasant openers and eventually deer firearms season.

The preparation for the fall seasons is near its end, but there is one thing many hunters do not prepare for - becoming lost in the field. Getting ready for the worst-case scenario is something many outdoorsmen overlook when planning for fall excursions, because they hunt close to home, have cell phones and know where they are most of the time. But even the most experienced hunters can get lost and fall victim to panic in times of uncertainty, whether near or far from home. As darkness closes in, being ready for a night in the field will be a welcome relief.

A survival kit is perhaps the best way to prepare for an unplanned night in the woods, and a container - even something as small as an Altoids tin - can help save your life should you become lost and have to rough it. By placing vital supplies in the container - which should fit easily in your hunting coat or vest and remain there all season long - you will be able to start a fire, stay calm and survive.

Fire starting is the most important aspect of creating a survival kit. If space allows, pack multiple ignition sources, including butane lighters, waterproof matches and candles. Compact Bic lighters help conserve space, and candles provide a constant flame to ignite tinder. Getting a fire started is so important, not only because it provides heat and mental comfort, but it also serves as a signal to would-be rescuers.

Procuring drinking water in the wild is also a chief concern when preparing a survival tin. Converting naturally occurring water to drinking water requires a few provisions that should be included in your kit. Water purification tablets or iodine tablets should be added in an amount that will provide at least two days worth of fresh drinking water. ZipLoc bags can be folded down to small squares and make for excellent water containers, melting pouches or dew traps, along with other uses such as tinder storage.

Signaling to those searching for you is half of the battle in getting found. Visual and audible signals are the best way to help searchers locate you. Small LED lights, a mirror for reflecting sunlight to airborne rescue teams, and a survival whistle all provide noticeable signals. Remember that three consecutive whistle blasts, or three pulses of light are the recognized signal for emergency.

Dealing with minor injuries is imperative as well; bandages, butterfly closures, alcohol wipes, and a thread and needle help deal with cuts and scrapes. They are small, flat, and can serve multiple purposes beyond wound treatment.

Getting food might be a concern depending on how long you're out there. Pack thirty feet of fishing line, fishhooks threaded onto a safety pin and a few lead splitshot sinkers in your kit. Parachute cord is not only great for assembling a makeshift animal snare, but it can be used to lash together branches to construct a lean-to shelter.

Other great catch-all equipment to add to the kit includes razor blades, a mini Swiss Army knife, a heat-retention blanket, toilet paper squares, a small compass, aspirin, gum, and the ubiquitous duct tape. Pack as much of that gray miracle as you can, even wrapping it around the tin after filling it and closing it. It repairs clothes and boots in an instant, can be used to form shelters, and burns readily to help start fires.

Ideally, you will never have to use the survival kit, and its contents will keep from season to season. But when your GPS batteries fail, and there are no bars on your cell phone and the worst case scenario occurs unexpectedly, you will be prepared to deal with it thanks to a little tin box and all of its vital equipment which will help you survive a night our outdoors.