U.S. Marine Corps Survival Kit

Ka-Bar not included
After spending 8 years in the Marines and having to purchase our own survival gear i.e. button compasses to affix to our watches, signal whistle, 550 cord, and fire starters to name a few. As you can see in one of our articles MARSOC SERE field gear list where if you are not issued one, you will be required to purchase the items and assemble  your own kit. I was able to get my hands on one of the issued Marine Corps Survival Kits circa 1991 from Uncle Sam's Retail Outlet. Uncle Sam's Retail Outlet has the fairest price on these kit's coming in at $49.95. If your looking for military gear, their a great place to start. They have some of the fairest prices I've seen on the web. Do understand they are a military surplus retailer so their inventories may fluctuate on certain items.

The Marine Corps Survival Kit is a very well designed kit, featuring some well thought out quality items. This kit can be used individually or to complement a Marine's patrol gear. The kit is designed to be used to aid in a Marines survival for up to 24 hours and beyond. The kit is comes in a very rugged dual compartment package that can be separated into two separate kits. Side A contains items for Shelter and Food gathering. Side B contains items to aid in Escape and Evasion. The kit can be separated and placed into cargo pockets or the lower pockets of the ECWCS parka. This kit was developed to be used in desert, mountain, arctic, and temperate water survival in small boat operations.

Item List:

  Side A:  Shelter and Food Gathering Side:
  • Fishing Kit, Emergency 
  • Saw, Finger Ring       
  • Survival Blanket, OD Green       
  • Plastic Bag, Zip-Lock  
  • Candle, Votive         
  • Snare Wire     

  Side B:  Escape and Evasion (E and E) Side:
The kit also comes vacuumed sealed inside the sand
outer layer to protect if from all elements
  • Fire Starter, Magnesium
  •  Knife, Pocket          
  •  Signalling Mirror      
  •  Compass, Smoke Chaser  
  •  Plastic Bag, Zip-Lock  
  •  Whistle, Extreme Cold  
  •  Water Bag, Drinking    
  •  Matches, Waterproof     

After the kit has been opened it can be resealed with a hot iron (which all Marines are familiar with). The inside contents of the sand colored packages are vacuum packed into clear bags to protect it from a wide variety of elements.

I really like the idea separate sides for different task. A well thought out concept. One it keeps items not needed, together and protected from the elements. For a Marine, escaping/evading most likely will be the first priority and shelter and food gathering may not be necessary.

Side A: Shelter and Food Gathering

The Side A items are listed above and will aid a Marine in the sheltering and food gathering aspects of survival. The one thing I liked seeing in this kit was an Olive Drab space blanket. If a Marine had to crack this open he would more than likely be behind enemy lines and would need to conceal his position. Most civilian space blankets are a shiny metallic color on both sides or hi-vis orange to help a civilian get the attention of rescuers.

The candle has seen better days, mine seemed to be somewhat deformed. I did think it was odd that the candle is in this side of the kit since there are no fire starting devices in this portion of the kit. Also being the food gathering side, fire would be needed to cook any fish or game. Design flaw maybe or something I don't see?
Fishing Kit

Food gathering elements consist of standard brass snare wire and a fairly large and extensive fishing kit. I was surprised at the amount of fishing gear included in this kit. The kit comes packaged in a tin that is larger than most people's Personal Survival Kits. The kit comes with spoons, lines, hooks (variety of sizes), swivels, treble hooks, gaffing hooks, lead weights, snelled hooks, safety pins, sewing/sailcloth needles, a razor blade, and a detailed fishing guidebook/knot card. The guidebook has instructions that even a guy who's never fished can understand. The yellow and red cloth can be used to make improvised baits or flies. The razor blade can be used to clean fish or to make cut-bait. The spoons are the weedless design commonly used in bass fishing. There was another red/white spoon similar to the Daredevil brand, but for some reason it had melted in the kit. There are two spools of mono-filament line; one for freshwater (light test) and the other is for saltwater (heavy test).The needles can be used in conjunction with the mono-filament for gear repairs or bent to form fish hooks as well. The fishing kit is outstanding and really sets this kit apart from other military kits I've seen.
Wire Saw

A flexible wire saw is included in the sheltering half of the kit. I must say I like this saw far more than the traditional commando wire saws. It comes with two saw blades that can be inserted into the handles and tightened for use. Another ingenious concept, in case the wire breaks (as does with most wire saws after extended use and being heated when in use).

Side B: Escape and Evasion

Side B contains items to aid in escape and evasion, also in fire craft, signaling, and water containment.
The water bag is a very thick plastic that can be sealed and can be attached by a belt loop on the backside of the bag. I tested the bag by filling it with water and sealing it. I then tossed it around and no leakage occurred.

Signaling comes by way of an ACR pea-less whistle and a vintage star flash signal mirror.

As I said above, I feel that fire starting components should be in Side A. I was disappointed that the matches came in a cardboard box and not a match case. The Doan Magnesium is excellent fire starting tool and is pretty standard for most military survival kits. Magnesium fire starters are good for when you have to use natural tinder. Although most of the components in this kit come in cardboard boxes that can be field stripped to be used as tinder. I used the pocket knife with the Doan Magnesium and assume that's what it was intended for.

I was kind of shocked that this kit included a full size baseplate compass, since most kits come with some type of button compass. This particular compass was manufactured by Brunton and labeled "Smokechaser" (I assume is the model name of this compass that point in time). The compass included a lanyard and an instruction booklet, even though all Basically Trained Marines are trained and tested in Land Navigation. Navigation is critical in a survival situation, especially when trying to link up with friendly's or evading enemy capture. This compass also features a magnifying lens that can also be used for fire starting in a pinch.

The pocket knife has been nicknamed the "Demo" knife, referring to demolitions. The knife is bulletproof by anyone's standards. It's made from stainless steel and has most functions of a Swiss Army Knife. Since most all Marines love knives and usually carry a fixed blade in operations, this knife would be used supplement the fixed blade and to handle smaller field task and opening cans or unscrewing things.

The kit weighs a total of 1.75 lbs.

Overall I would say this is a solid survival kit with a good selection of items that can be used time and time again. The items are rugged and designed for combat use. Even with the kit being 21 years old all items were intact and in good condition.

As I stated above the kit can be had for $49.95 from Uncle Sams Retail Outlet, that's half the price than I found on Ebay or Cheaper than Dirt. Since they are a surplus retailer, I suggest if your interested in purchasing the USMC Survival Kit to get them before they are sold out.


  1. This seems like a solid kit vs what is normally seen on you tube. Would this fit inside a sustainment pouch

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