Steve1989MREInfo is one of our favorite YouTube channels, and a great resource for anyone who’s interested in learning about MREs and other military rations from throughout history and around the world. But Steve doesn’t just study food — he occasionally branches out into other military gear, such as pre-packaged survival kits. In the following video, he documents a “holy grail” item from his collection: a mint-condition M-592 USN Pilot Survival Kit (a.k.a. Back Pad Kit) from 1944.
According to the video description, this was one of the most expensive items Steve has ever featured on his channel, typically costing $1,750 in this condition. He considers himself lucky to have found it for only $800. Roughly 40,000 of these 13-pound kits were produced, and they were reportedly unpopular due to the discomfort they caused when worn by pilots under their parachutes and life vests.
Watch Steve’s full 48-minute analysis of the kit below:
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The kit’s contents are quite comprehensive. They were tailored to survival at sea or in the jungle, the environments pilots in the Pacific Theater would face if they were shot down or had to bail out. Steve goes through the entire kit, which includes the following items:
- Tinned rations
- Cans of water
- Waterproof match case with compass cap
- Magnifying lens
- Case XX machete
- Folding jack-knife
- Sharpening stone
- Signal mirror
- Morse code signaling device
- Flare launcher with six flares
- Rain poncho (reversible between high-vis yellow and low-vis dark blue)
- Mosquito head net
- Cotton gloves
- First aid kit
- Sunburn ointment
- Salt tablets (to combat dehydration)
- 25 feet of 75-pound test cotton rope
- Fishing kit
- Waterproof tape and safety pins
- Kant Rust lubricant/protectant
- Instruction manual/log book with pencil
He also addresses some related kits from WWII, such as the drinking water kit (a desalinator system that eventually replaced the cans of drinking water) and the emergency fishing roll-out kit (a metal tin stored in life rafts that contained a vest full of fishing gear).
While a few items in this kit seem outdated, such as the cotton rope instead of paracord, the majority remain relevant to this day. Hopefully studying this survival kit will give you some ideas for your own gear — even if you’re not jumping out of a plane above an uninhabited Pacific island.