I like the idea of multitasking and recently reveled in the expeditious glory of cooking breakfast (burned), sending an email (every other word misspelled) and hanging a family picture on the wall (crooked). I am the master of efficient...well....just never mind the fact that all that sweet multitasking probably ended up taking longer than if I would have just done one thing at a time. Cursory internet search time: The American Psychological Association has roundly denounced the idea that performing two or more activities or tasks simultaneously has a beneficial effect on productivity. I guess the consensus is that we can do more than one thing at a time, but like using a multi tool, we have to put one tool away before using the next. So instead of truly performing multiple tasks at once, like making coffee, toast and checking emails as I did this morning, we have to switch from one to the next and that start stop start stop really bogs down the old brain tank.
What is truly appealing to me is not the ‘killing two birds with one stone’ approach to time management that multitasking seems to promise, but in the utilization of otherwise unproductive time, like the 36 seconds it takes for the stop light to turn green or the minute and a half it takes for bread to morph into toast. Over the course of my life that 2 minutes a day spent idly idling and toasting prorates out to 13 days of life assuming two things: I live to be 80 and I keep my current schedule for the duration of that time, both of which seem probable given my Scandinavian proclivities.
For me the problem is a general lack of time, as in I am realizing there is just never going to be enough time to get the things done in a day or in a lifetime than I’d like. I figure if I can accomplish two things at once I am somehow thumbing my nose at time, but such are the games we play as we get older. I think at the heart of multitasking is the dream of thrifty and efficient use of space/time and that same idea of limited space and maximum function applies to the tools and materials we pack into our survival kits.
A survival kit should be large enough to house the tools you need to cover your basic bodily demands: water, rest and the regulation of your internal body temperature while not growing to such size as to make the kit unwieldy and therefore less likely to be brought with you. There is a vast amount of mental power dedicated to and wasted on all forms of survival hype online and if you scan the interwebs you’ll find more web pages devoted to what should be in a survival kit than there are gossip pages about the Kardashians ( roughly 350,000,000 to 250,000,000 if you’re keeping score at home). To me, I could care less what exact tools are in your survival kit as long as they work towards accomplishing one or more of the above needs and also adhere to three key factors:
1. You know how to use each one inside and out. As we say, you aren’t proficient in knot tying until you can tie each knot blindfolded and upside down, you don’t know how to paddle until you’ve gone 100 miles and a knife is a hazard to the inexperienced, a tool to the proficient and an extension of the hand to the master. If you want that knife to be a machete and that’s your thang, great, I’m all for it. If you want it to be the knife the survival bloggers and web forum nerds agree is the “best,” cool. If you go out and buy what the flavor of the day TV celebrity survivalist is selling, I’d say exercise caution but go for it. Like my good friend Tim Smith says, “I don’t go into a kitchen and ask the cook what kind of spatula he is using, all I care about is the quality of the food coming to my table.” Basically if you are looking to build a survival kit there are unlimited options of what to put in it, but there are only a few items that need to be in one in order for you to make it home to your kith and kin. What’s as of equal if not more importance is that you know inside and out how to use each tool safely, efficiently and in multiple ways (see #3).
2. Each item is selected to meet a basic physiological or psychological demand. The other day I saw a “survival kit” that claimed to contain everything you’ll need to survive getting lost at sea, lost in the mountains and probably a zombie apocalypse or two. This kit was enormous, so big that I can't imagine ever wanting to lug it around and it mostly contained trinkets that accomplish what amounts to party favor tricks and TV rating grabbing stunts. Our needs are few but those few needs- hydration, mental and physical rest, and keeping your bodies temperature well regulated cannot be compromised. Each item in your survival kit should address one or more of those needs. If it covers anything else I’d be suspicious. Of course there are other needs- to be found, to eat, to repair self and gear, and to keep your brain busy, but if we’re talking basics then those, like sugar in our food, need to be added with discretion and moderation lest our survival kits grow obese.
3. Everything has more than one use. Continuing that line of thought, I like to build survival kits under the mantra of ‘One use gone, two uses good, more uses gold.’ If your kit only contains items designed to do one job you’ll be lugging around a 2000 cubic inch pack full of one trick ponies. Lets look at the work horse of a survival kit: the knife. Sure a knife cuts (one use), but it can also fell a tree (two), start a fire (3) and be adapted into a series of other tools (4+) if the knife you choose is of the proper material, size and design.
Bottom line: Think before you buy, learn before you try and master before you die. Oh, that just popped out and while it ended a tad morbid I really like the rhyming so I'm gonna go ahead and claim that one as mine. Call me Discovery Channel, the first tag line is free.