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Contest News

"What Five Items Would You Take to the Paleolithic" Contest Results







We had an overwhelming response to this contest. Michael Z. Williamson, whose book A Long Time Until Now sparked the contest, also graciously agreed to be the judge. Here are Mike's picks and comments.

There were lots of good entries for this among the more than fifty entrants. There are useful supplies I'd never thought of, and I'm sure others hadn't. Most included knives, some included other weapons, few remembered an ax, which can do a lot more than a knife can in such circumstances, though a good machete comes close.

Now, had this been me, I'd have chosen an ax, a TARDIS, a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, a nuclear backpack generator and a dune buggy. After all, the contest doesn't specify which time I'm leaving from for the past.

So in the vein of epic smartassery, I chose the second runner up. While someone suggested "Germany and the UK" as two of their items, I find that to be stretching the rules a bit much. Someone claimed their bug-out vehicle constituted one item, and a good claim can be made. But, this one amused me:

Hello, having given it much through, the following five items would accompany me...

1. A bowling ball - As a gift to Fred and Wilma this should at least earn me a few nights bed and breakfast.
2. Dancing shoes - The dawn of rock music. Need I say more?
3. A towel - I once read some sage advice saying that I should never leave home without it.
4. An autograph book - I don't know if I would be in 'One Million Years B.C.', but I might run into Raquel Welch (or even better, Ayla, of the cave bear clan).
5. My E-Book reader (stocked with Baen books of course) - Then I would know that whatever else the day threw at me, I would always have a good book to fall back upon.

Yes, that should just about cover every situation.

Well done, sir or ma'am. Well done.

The runner up was more practical, and I feel deserved note for overall simplicity except for one very useful feature:

Gore tex sleeping bag
Stout bowie knife
Garden seed kit
basic metallurgy book
stout hatchet

Seeds.  Given the lack of agriculture, that would be an amazing boon, with manpower to exploit them.

Other suggested useful things such as mineral maps.  There's a definite long term advantage to that, but I find that overspecialized.  The overall winner, though, while lacking the seeds or mineral maps, was one of the people who went with overall knowledge and the means to exploit it:

Before we get to the actual items. There are four things critical to Survival. Mental State, Knowledge, Skills and Tools. Mental state is the will to survive and the mental adaptability to achieve survival. The second and third are related. I can have Knowledge of how to make for example fire by friction, but I have never practiced it so I don't have the skill. Knowledge is useful long term but skills are important to immediate survival. Tools are the last of these for a reason, without the others tools will not sustain you, yet the right tool can be the difference between life and death.

So here are the five items I would choose and why:

1 -Kindle Paperwhite - loaded with books on primitive and 19th century skills such as "Practical Blacksmithing". "Lee's Priceless recipes" "Primitive Skills and Crafts: An Outdoorsman's Guide to Shelters, Tools, Weapons, Tracking, Survival, and More". The kindle paper white is durable, lightweight and has a long per charge usage. This item will supplement and reinforce the knowledge I already have and help me build for the long term. Of course I would have to have a few Baen books on it for entertainment.
2- Solar Charger for Kindle - Without this the Kindle will not be much use. This is The most single use of all 5 items but is critical for the knowledge in the kindle.
3 -Axe - Forged, High carbon Steel, a 28" boy's axe w 2.25 lb head. The axe and hammer are two of the most basic tools. A good axe can be both by using the poll or back side of the head as the hammer face. While an axe can do most of the work of a knife, the reverse is not true. The axe will be useful for shelter and firewood initially and for general construction afterward.
4 - Knife - Schrade SCHF37 - This is a solid survival knife made of High carbon 1095 steel w a ferro-cerrium rod and Diamond sharpener included in the sheath.. This is a backup to the axe and useful for smaller tasks.  The 1095 steel can be used to start fires w a flint or equivalent  rock. The ferro rod will be good for a while as a way to start fires and the diamond sharpener will keep the edges of the knife and axe sharp.
5 - Wool Blanket - A heavy Weight, 100% wool blanket. This is shelter, warmth and winter cloak.  Wool is a fiber that retains warmth even when wet. With a couple sticks it can become a shelter or pack.

Five items are barely enough to enact a long term survival plan and don't cover the five C's of survival . Cutting , Cordage, Cover, Combustion and Container but I feel that the knowledge resources in the Kindle and Charger would be more useful than a Container or Cordage for long term and cannot be created, but the cordage and container can. I have items to provide the other three C's; Cutting, Cover and Combustion.

And that concludes it. Though I do think I'd have approved anyone who said, "An ax, an earth scientist, a life scientist, a linguist and a platoon of engineers."


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