You’re a SEAL Stranded in Hostile Territory: What’s in Your Survival Kit?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Charles Ommanney / Getty Images)

These SEALs in training in California might find themselves in enemy territory, with only their survival kits -- and wits -- to keep them alive.

SEALs aren’t supposed to find themselves in trouble that they can’t get out of. That’s why the Navy is seeking to buy 300 new survival kits for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, sometimes known as Navy SEAL Team 6.

They’re the guys who raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 and sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Save for the downed stealthy MH-60 Black Hawk chopper, the mission was a grand success. But, being military men, they have to prepare for worst-case scenarios. That’s where Wednesday’s solicitation for what they call Personnel Recovery and Survival Kits comes in.

“The Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG) has a requirement to procure personnel recovery and survival kits (part number 0293-D) on a brand name or equal basis,” it says. “The brand name is SOLKOA [visit their website here]. If quoting an equal product, vendor shall provide all salient characteristics in order to be considered for award.”

(PHOTOS: Navy SEALs in Action)

While Navy folks didn’t rush to answer Battleland’s questions about how much the kits are expected to cost, and if they’ve changed recently, it’s neat to peek inside to see what’s there.

But first of all, the SEALs have been known to wreck things. Like helicopters. So the survival kits – a complete kit includes both hard and soft cases — have to be able to endure SEAL abuse.

The hard case is 4-by-2-by-1.2 inches, weighing six ounces or less, and available in both “Desert Tan” or “OD/Forest Green.”

Beyond those particulars, the hard case shall be:

— Capable of limited cooking without effecting the container finish (i.e. paint bubbling)

— Capable of being used as a limited digging implement without affecting its ability to house contents (simultaneous function of digging and housing not required).

— Shall have a weather resistant gasket able to keep out water during minor water immersion (i.e. river crossings, swimming)

— Shall have a fastening system that is reuseable and secure to prevent accidental openings

— Top surface of kit must have permanently affixed a 2” x 3” piece of loop fastener (i.e. soft side of velcro)

— Ruggedized to take heavy abuse while carried without damage to inner contents

— Case shall securely hold all items below without rattling or other noises.

The soft case, measuring 3.5 by 2.25 inches, will feature a U.S. flag patch (so much for keeping your nationality secret, although one has to believe it’s removable), be “subdued desert in color” and feature a “hook fastener (i.e. hard side of velcro) sewed to back with a slit in order to store and retrieve contents below yet hold contents down while worn.”

The SEAL’s hard-storage case will contain (quoting directly from the solicitation):

1.    Mini-Multi Tool with:

a.    Stainless Steel

b.    Pliers

c.    Wire cutter

d.    File

e.    Awl

f.     Packaged so as to not rattle in case

2.    Button Compass

a.    Quality AA

b.    14mm

c.    Liquid dampened

d.    Minimum 8 hour luminous

3.    LED Squeeze Light

a.    Red

b.    Continuous or Momentary Switch

4.    Fire Starting Kit

a.    Ferro cerium rod not to exceed 3”L x 8mm W

b.    Tinder tabs (4) packaged in reclosing bag.

5.    Water Storage Device

a.    2L capacity

b.    Able to hold all contents of the kit

c.    Must be sealable and reuseable

d.    Must be odor proof

6.    Water Purification Tablets

a.    40 tablets

b.    Packaged in amber, medical grade borosilicate

7.    Electrolyte Tablets

a.    2 tablets

8.    Signal Mirror

a.    2”x 3”

b.    Non-mirrored side covered with an IR reflective material

c.    Mirror side must be protected to prevent scratches. Protective cover must be able to be removed with one hand.

d.    Must have an aiming hole

9.    Thermal Blanket

a.    21” x 56” x .05mil

b.    Polyester, aluminized

c.    1 side silver, other side orange

d.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts

10.  Kevlar Line

a.    Yellow or green in color

b.    188lb test

c.    15 feet in length

d.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts

11.  Safety Pins

a.    Two #2 (1.5” steel)

b.    Two #00 (.75” brass)

c.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts.

12.  P-38 can opener

a.    Packaged so as to not rattle while in case.

13.  Stainless Steel Wire

a.    2’ of 20ga

14.  Duct Tape

a.    Brown or Green in color

b.    26” x 2”

15.  Fresnel Magnifying Lens

a.    4x power

b.    3.25” x 2”

16.  Waterproof Note Paper

a.    4 sheets

b.    Desert tan color

c.    3.5” x 2”

17.  Ink Pen

a.    Pressurized ink cartridge

b.    Black in color

18.  Broad Spectrum Antibiotic Ointment

a.    1/32oz foil pack

19.  Cotton Pad

a.    100% Cotton

b.    2” x 2.5”

c.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts.

The contents of the soft storage case will include:

1.    Hacksaw Blade

a.    Carbon Steel

b.    24tpi

c.    2.75” L

d.    Hole in one end for a lanyard

e.    Opposite hole end, sharpen down reverse tanto-style end.

2.    Ceramic Razor Blade

a.    1 or 2 sides sharpened

b.    Packaged so as to not accidentally cut anything or dull

3.    Moleskin Adhesive Patch

a.    Heavy duty

b.    1.75” x 2.5”

4.    Kevlar Thread

a.    Green or yellow

b.    100-200lb test

c.    24” in length

d.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts.

5.    Fishing Leader/Downrigger Cable

a.    Multi-strand

b.    Stainless steel

c.    50lb  test

d.    24” in length

6.    Suspended Navigation Magnet

a.    Identifiable north painting feature

b.    Magnet suspended from thread/string

c.    Packaged in plastic with easy tear pre-cuts.

7.    Ferro Cerium Rod

a.    1.75” L x .125”W

8.    Cotton Ball

a.    Impregnated with wax.

b.    Packaged in a reclosing bag.

9.    Bobby Pins

a.    Spring steel

b.    2 small

c.    1 large

d.    Black in color

The final two items are worth singling out, because they highlight the optimism bred into every SEAL (and trump the safety and bobby pins):

10.  Handcuff Shim (Pick)

11.  Universal Handcuff Key

a.    Non-metallic resin material

How to pack survival kits for stranded special-operations forces has been a subject the U.S. military has dealt with for at least the past half-century, according to this Army contracting guidance from back then:

An individual engaged in unconventional warfare and counter-guerrilla operations is frequently exposed to possible capture. In counter-guerrilla operations, indigenous elements with which a US soldier is working may be dispersed, causing complete separation of the soldier from the unit. While in an operational area, he must be continuously prepared to initiate evasive action and conceivably to continue evading for an extended period of time. His possession and proper use of a suitable survival kit may be the critical factor in effecting a successful juncture with friendly personnel. Therefore, there is a requirement for an individual aid and survival kit for issue to personnel participating in special warfare operations.

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 5.42.11 PM


From a 1963 Army report on developing a survival kit for special warfare troops

As you read down its list of suggested contents, one thing is perfectly clear: the art of survival hasn’t changed that much in 50 years.

The first item listed is “a small, simple, all-weather fire-making device is desired” – “Matches, irrespective of type, are not desired.”

The Army also wanted these early kits to contain water-purification tablets, first-aid supplies, as well as a “capability for the user to kill, snare, or otherwise catch small game and fish.”

One other must-have: “a tool for cutting vines, palm fronds, or foliage for construction of shelter.”

Makes sense.

PHOTOS: Special Ops: A Photo History

The document is dated April 17, 1963, just as the U.S. was heading into the Vietnam War.