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Travel: Always prepared

Survival gear advice from a pilot who’s been there

Robert DeLaurentis isn’t an airline pilot, a former military pilot, or even an experienced instructor. He’s just a guy who, seven years ago, finally realized a lifelong dream and began taking flight lessons. To take that dream to its fullest he completed a circumnavigation of the Earth in 2015. He’s planning to do it again in 2019, this time over the North and South poles—a flight that has only been done by a handful of pilots. Along the way he’s studied and amassed a collection of survival equipment that he says can serve pilots whether their adventure is across the county or around the world.
March Briefing

We asked Robert DeLaurentis to put together a survival kit that even a daredevil would love. “These are the eight things you can’t live without,” he said. The Earthrounder said that while each flying situation calls for its own selection of items, a core kit will always come in helpful.

DeLaurentis said that in most cases the smartest choice is to stay with the airplane. However, there are cases in which it may be best to move away from the crash site and seek help. “In those situations you might need to be as light as you can,” he said. Here’s his core kit:

1. Greatland Laser Rescue Flare

“This is the coolest thing ever,” DeLaurentis said. While traditional flares last only about three minutes, a laser flare lasts for more than 48 hours. And because it uses battery life only when you’re triggering it, the light could last longer if you use it carefully. The range is 20 to 30 miles, and you can carry an additional battery.

2. BIC lighter

You could certainly get a more purpose-built lighter, but for cheap insurance it’s hard to beat a Bic. Plus, DeLaurentis said, Bics are more convenient and easier to find than more specialized tools. They will light dozens of fires, melt ice, heat water, or cook food. “There’s a million uses for flame,” he said.
$5.99 for four

3. Garmin InReach Explorer

It’s easy to see why the InReach is DeLaurentis’ favorite piece of gear. The core function—an ability to lay down a trail of electronic breadcrumbs almost anywhere in the world—is a worthy benefit. The InReach adds more by enabling text, basic web browsing, and even some weather information. Subscriptions start at $11.95 a month.

4. Victorinox Swiss Soldier’s Knife

What can you say about a great multitasker? The Victorinox version includes can openers, screwdrivers, knives, and a saw. “I can open it with one hand and my teeth if I need to,” DeLaurentis said. The tool can be used to cut light brush for shelter or to cut rope. DeLaurentis likes that it can cut a seatbelt, too.

5. Plastic tarp

DeLaurentis calls this the Tim Kneeland shelter in honor of the survival expert and his many uses for the humble tarp. “It’s not just a shelter,” he said. You can quickly wrap yourself in it to protect from the wind, make a lean-to, or any number of other uses. Plus, if you get a dedicated survival tarp, it folds small, and is light and durable. A tarp from Home Depot could work for the budget-minded pilot.
$24.99 and up

6. 50-foot cord

Small braided nylon cord is a core piece of any survivalist's bag. Whether you’re a proper frontiersman and snag your dinner or you simply use it to tie your tarp to a tree, a length of cord takes virtually no space, adds negligible weight, and offers dozens of uses.
$4.99 and up

7. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw and products like it are a revolution in the survival and outdoor world. These efficient little tubes can take dirty, muddy water and make it safe to drink. DeLaurentis said that without hope you can live for only three seconds, without air for three minutes, and without water for three days. That’s why he carries a LifeStraw wherever he flies.

8. Sawyer Squeeze

If the LifeStraw has one limitation it’s that it doesn’t store water. That’s what the Sawyer Squeeze bags are for. These inexpensive bags collapse to take up very little space in the airplane, but expand to hold a significant amount of water. You can store water in the bag and then drink it with the LifeStraw. DeLaurentis threw out his canteen for desert flying and replaced it with a few Sawyer Squeeze bags.
$7.99 to $9.99, depending on size

Robert DeLaurentis’ full list of recommendations is available on his blog.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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