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In November 2019, airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing developed a new arctic survival kit for the F-35A Lightning II that is now being installed among aircraft at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. With a smaller cockpit than other aircraft, the fifth-generation F-35 posed a curious challenge to airmen: exactly how much gear they could jam under a tiny seat.

“Due to the smaller size of the seat, we are limited on how many items we can pack in here,” 354th Operations Support Squadron Staff Sgt. Ross Dugger said in a recent statement. “Over the years, we’ve worked with [survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists] to develop this kit and decided what is the most essential equipment needed to survive.”

While it’s unlikely that any civilian will need to possess their very own F-35 bug-out bag anytime soon, the Arctic survival kit developed by airmen is still worth examining — and while the Air Force declined to disclose exactly which brands of mil-spec gear airmen opted to include, we here at Task & Purpose have our very own recommendations for aspiring survivalists. 

Below, you’ll find a list of survival gear, each item’s ‘stated purpose’ according to 354th OSS Aircrew Flight Equipment technician Staff Sgt. Brian Kline, and a recommendation from the Task & Purpose team.

One man-life raft

Stated purpose: “The one-man life raft provides an immediate shelter for the downed pilot. This will keep him off the subzero ground and protect from the bone-chilling winds in Alaska.”

Our recommendation: Switlik Inflatable Single Place Life Raft

Air Force photo

Life raft repair plugs (2)

Stated purpose: “A repair kit in case the life raft has holes.”

Our recommendation: Landfall Life Raft Repair Clamps

Escape & evasion kit

Stated purpose: “This comes with a medical module and a survival module.”

Our recommendation: Kosin Emergency Survival Kit

Air Force photo

Personal locator beacon

Stated purpose: “This will aid in pilot rescue.”

Our recommendation: ACR ResQLink View – Buoyant GPS Personal Locator Beacon


Stated purpose: “The knife serves as a way to make kindle. That kindle will be used to start a fire.”

Our recommendation: Ontario Knife Company Air Force Survival Knife

Air Force photo

MK 124 Distress Signal Flare

Stated purpose: “The MK 124 Flare has a day and night end. This is used to help aid rescue units find the exact location of the downed pilot.”

Our recommendation: Orion Safety Products Marine Signal Kit

Emergency Survival Blanket

Stated purpose: “This blanket reflects your body heat and allows you to stay warm.”

Our recommendation: Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket

Air Force photo

ESSSS F-35A Version

Stated purpose: “Emergency Survival Sleep Shelter System is a seven-piece cold weather system designed to keep the pilots warm at below negative temperatures”

Our recommendation: USGI Industries Military Spec Multi-Use Poncho/Emergency Tent

Snow Shovel

Stated purpose: “The snow shovel is a piece of sheet metal with a hinge in the middle to allow pilots to clear a path for a shelter.”

Our recommendation: A fucking E-tool, obviously

Air Force photo

Water Storage Bag

Stated purpose: “A water storage bag allows pilots to melt snow and have something catch the water.”

Our recommendation: Ellsang Collapsible Water Tank Container Bags

Turtle Fur Neck Warmer

Stated purpose: “Turtle fur neck warmer is used to keep the pilot’s neck warm.”

Our recommendation: Turtle Fur Chelonia 150 Fleece Shellaclava Balaclava

Air Force photo

Hot Hands (6)

Stated purpose: “Hot Hands are used to create heat in the freezing night temperatures.”

Our recommendation: Hot Hands!

AP-25S-5A or AP-25S-5B

Stated purpose: “Signal flare is used for signaling and allows pilots to launch a flare in the sky”

Our recommendation: Orion Safety Products Skyblazer II Red Aerial Signal Kit

Sea Dye Marker

Stated purpose: “Sea dye allows pilots to build some sort of signal with the fluorescent color. This aids in rescue”

Our recommendation: Orion Safety Products Dye Marker

There you have it: the ideal emergency kit if you have to pilot an F-35 at noon but survive in the Arctic wilderness at 5. Enjoy, and be safe!

Task & Purpose staff writer David Roza contributed reporting.