Traveling to a foreign country, whether with a tour, a local, a friend, a group, or by yourself, introduces some measure of danger or risk to your safety. While all danger can’t be completely avoided, it can be mitigated to some degree by learning ways to avoid it and by being prepared for it.
In self-defense, there is a term called, “Get off the X,” which basically means, don’t be the target, get out of the line of fire, or move to somewhere safe. Unfortunately, traveling to another country already puts us at a disadvantage, and puts us on the “X”. Usually you have limited knowledge of the language, the city layout, and the customs and culture, all of which make you vulnerable. The more foreign you look, the more of a target you are.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do, to travel off the “X”. This is Part 5 of a 5 part series dedicated to traveling off the X.
*Disclaimer, I am in no way guaranteeing safety or validity to the following suggestions. They are just things I have found through research, classes, and experience that could potentially be useful.
Here are 35 items that may be useful in dangerous situations, or help prevent dangerous situations.
I prefer a headlamp in most my activities because it is so versatile and useful to me in the activities I do, but I have incorporated a tactical flashlight/torch as well. They are quick to turn on, lightweight, and small, and can be used to disorient an attacker, and quickly scan an area for any threats. This Fenix flashlight is very bright at 1000 lumens with a throwing distance of 200 meters, plus it can use a rechargeable battery. I also like to use this when trying to spot animals while night hiking.
Here are a couple suggestions for travel door alarms. The Belle Hop Travel Door Alarm is lightweight, small and easy to use. It basically sets off a loud alarm when the door is opened, which can deter an intruder, alert others, and alert you giving you some reaction time. It does take batteries, but taking them out when not in use will increase the battery longevity and demand.
The Wedge Door Stop Alarm is like your typical door stop, but with the added feature of an alarm that goes off when door pressure is applied. I have met lots of travelers that bring along a regular door stop as it is lightweight and doesn’t take up much precious bag space, so adding the alarm is a bonus. The door stop only works however if the door opens in. It is another device with batteries to deal with.
This Travel Door Lock is device is a portable door lock that is lightweight and doesn’t take up much space. Like the door stop, it only works when the door opens inwards, and it also doesn’t work on every door.
There are countless ways that a Survival Bracelet, paracord, is useful in survival situations. Make sure you get the military grade paracord with a breaking point at 550 lbs. You can make your own bracelet or lanyard, or buy one. You can use it to saw through rope or zip ties, or to haul gear or yourself out of situations. You can use it to sew, or as shoelaces. You can use it to make makeshift harnesses, or play with a cat.
It’s a pen that also doubles as a weapon, without necessarily being a weapon. You can use it to break glass, say if you need to escape a vehicle, or against an attacker. It is also travel friendly, and has made it through airport security checkpoints.
This is the First Aid Kit I use with a few personal additions. You want to make sure your first aid kit has antidiarrheal medication, antihistamines, decongestants, motion sickness medication, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cough suppressant, cough drops, antacid, antifungal and antibacterial ointments, hydrocortisone cream, insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, first aid quick reference card, bandages, gauze, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, moleskin, oral rehydration packets, and any prescription medications you have.
The Israeli Battle Dressing is an all-in-one bandage that will help reduce blood loss from traumatic hemorrhaging wounds, like gunshot wounds, car accident wounds, building collapse wounds, etc. This is easy to use, lightweight, and compact.
Hand sanitizer is a crucial item to have in your kit. There are a lot of germs involved in travel, especially on planes, and many planes don’t have the cleanest of waters in the restroom to wash your hands with. Also, many countries have very rudimentary restroom facilities, and you are going to want to sanitize your hands anytime you are about to eat something using your hands.
Admittedly, I never bring Bleach Wipes with me. They just never seem to make the cut when I am packing, but I regret it every time. Airplane trays, armrests, and other buttons are festering with bacteria. They are rarely ever wiped down by the flight staff. Just think of all the people who don’t wash their hands, or who are sick, or who may be bleeding that touch these things. People will even change diapers on the tray table.
Another item I just recently added to my kit, depending on destination, is Anti-Jellyfish Sting Lotion, which inhibits jellyfish stings. You can also just wear long sleeves or a wet suit as this can prevent stinging as well.
Another great water purifier is a Life Straw. It also clears most bacteria and viruses, and can purify up to 1,000 liters of water. I brought one with me on a trip to Malawi. After I left, I left my Life Straw with a friend I met in a village I stayed in. He has a family, and sometime their well system is corrupted, and they don’t have water. It’s nice to have something you can give as a gift as well.
Whistles are one of the easiest and beneficial survival tools to have. I go rock climbing a lot, which relies on communication, and I can not tell you how many times, even when we are yelling at the top of our lungs, we can’t hear each other. A whistle can help alert someone to your location if you are lost and hurt in the wilderness, the sea, or anywhere else needed. One tip for use is make sure when you blow into it, you blow a pattern, like three quick bursts, so as not to be confused with a bird.
I just recently took a map, compass, and GPS skills class, and discovered the incredible value of having a legit compass, and now I have added it to my gear. I highly suggest taking a class like this, and then getting a nice Compass. A helpful phone app is Topo Maps. It allows you to download maps to use offline.
If you have the discretionary funds, a GPS device is a nice compliment or replacement for a compass. It is more accurate, and can help you navigate trails, and navigate if you get lost. You can also do some geocaching. I haven’t had the funds for this yet, but it’s on my list. A helpful phone app is MotionX-GPS, which acts like a GPS device, but only so far as you have phone service.
This is a functioning, but rugged Mirror that can take a beating and still be useful. It can be used to signal if you are in need of help, plus, it is useful item to have in your toiletry kit.
The SPOT Device can be used in emergencies to notify and call emergency responders to you in times of need. It is a GPS device that will beam a signal to a satellite, and then that signal will alert emergency responders to your exact location. Say you are hiking, and you fall down the side of a mountain and break your leg and have no cell service. You can’t walk out, but, you can use this device to get help. It is also useful if you are in a country and a riot or coup happens, and you need to get out. I have had one for 7 years now, but haven’t had to use it yet.
An Avalanche Beacon is useful if you do a lot of skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. It can greatly help emergency respondents find you in an avalanche, and increase their response time. I don’t have one of these because it isn’t a situation that I am in often, but I have friends who swear by it.
This Night Vision Monocular is pretty unnecessary to have, but I find it to be a really fun tool. In times where I am not using my flashlight, I am using this. I can see pretty far and at night, so it allows me to scan an area while still maintaining some anonymity to my location. I used it a lot while camping to make sure I don’t have any snakes in my tent, and I used it while in the serengeti to spot dangerous threats at night. We were able to see a hyena stalking us.
A N95 Respirator Mask helps prevent harmful particles in the air from being inhaled. This can include harmful diseases, smoke, shards of glass, construction components, dust, ash, etc.
There is no way you are going to remember everything you need to do for every type of survival situation you encounter. And they happen infrequently enough, that training your reflexes and brain, is difficult as well. This Survival Guide is a good reference book that is highly trusted and used by loads of people. It has information for countless survival situations, is lightweight, and compact enough to bring on the road. There are also a couple phone applications, ArmySurvival and First Aid, that are useful and can be used offline.
This Emergency Blanket is small, lightweight, compact, durable, waterproof, windproof, and has multiple uses. It can be used as an emergency shelter, a sunshade to help stay cool, or as a blanket to retain up to 90% of your body heat. I always have one of these, as it is very easy and unobtrusive to pack. Make sure you go online and see how to use this though, as it only works if you use it right.
Sleeping bag liners can be used separately or with your sleeping bag for added warmth. I like sleeping bag liners because they help protect against bed bugs or other creepy crawlers that may be inhabiting your sleeping pallet. I had a friend who stayed in a remote village and a worm crawled in his skin and laid some eggs, and that whole ordeal may have been avoided had he had a liner. This also saved me from an uncomfortable night in a hostel in the middle of winter that had no heating. They come rated for different temperatures and can have built in bug repellant.
Be sure to check TSA requirements, but as far as I know this Firestarter is allowed for your carry-on. As of now, lighters are also permissible carry-ons, but that may easily change. This one has a waterproof area for tinder as well. Tip, laundry lint from the lint trap is a good lightweight tinder option.
Having a Portable Charger is an immense convenience while traveling. It has allowed me to keep necessary devices charged on backpacking trips, flights, and long travel days. I like this one because it has two USB ports for double charging, and can charge several devices before it needs to be charged again. There are also portable chargers that are solar powered, and rechargeable batteries that are helpful as well.
This Clothing Insect Repellent is very effect insect repellent that you can use to treat your clothing, tent, sleeping bag, luggage, and backpack with. Some countries a bug bite can be deadly, or have some serious consequences, so in addition to your insect repellent for yourself, treating your gear can help to, especially since bites can happen through clothing.
I don’t know if it is because I like to rock climb, but a Carabiner is one of my favorite travel items. I usually clip several to my bag, and they always come in handy. They are beneficial in survival situations if you need to rig gear, rig a shelter, climb, or rappel down a cliffside. You can clip gear to it, rig a laundry line, clip a towel up in a shower room, clip a headlamp up for light, etc. Make sure you get a quality carabiner that is meant to be used in climbing situations and the like.
A Lock Pick Set may seem one of the more extreme items in this list, but there may come a time where you need to get into a place or item, or out of a place. If you are kidnapped and locked in a room, if you lock your passport in a desk drawer by accident, or the streets are dangerous and you need shelter quickly You’ll want to take some basic lock picking courses, you can find these easily online. You can also pick a lock with a bobby pin or barrette. Also, please note some places lock pick sets are illegal.
My dad was a brilliant man, and he swore by Duct Tape, and he was right. Duct tape is a very useful and versatile tool. You can use it to quickly patch up holes in your clothing, shelter, or gear. You can use it to build shelter, or make tools. You can even use it to temporarily close a wound in first aid.
I hear about the scam of criminals using a scanner to read your credit card and passport information right through your bag often, and that this scanner is relatively cheap and easy to obtain. I don’t know how often this is happening, but these RFID Sleeves are cheap and easy to use, so it isn’t too inconvenient to use to thwart this potential threat.
I use World Nomads for health insurance abroad. They are relatively inexpensive, and help with trip cancellation, emergency medical expenses and transportation, and protect gear. If you have health insurance, call them and see what they will cover while you are abroad. Also, look into your renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance policies for coverage of your stuff while traveling. Also, if you buy the SPOT device, that can come with emergency evacuation costs. Lastly, check your credit cards, because they sometimes cover trip cancellation or baggage theft.
I am a minimalist and try to apply it to all aspects of my life. Understand whenever you pack for a trip, often there is a direct negative correlation between your enjoyment of your trip and the amount of stuff you take. Oftentimes, you may never need your survival items, but it is the moments that you do, those potentially life and death moments, that you will thank yourself for your foresight and preparation. Always try to find multi-purpose items, to help cut down on gear. I should also note that I didn’t list a knife, even though that is a very essential survival item, and that’s mainly because most airlines do not allow a knife on a carry-on, but if you can bring one, you should.
“The road to success is not easy or else everyone would be the greatest at what they do–we need to be psychologically prepared to face the unavoidable challenges along our way, and when it comes down to it, the only way to learn how to swim is by getting in the water.” – Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning