Survival isn’t just about strength and endurance, it’s about proper preparation and planning. And even if you have everything you need in your backpack, what happens if you lose it or are forced to ditch it. Will you be able to survive long enough to be rescued? To help us answer these questions, we engaged Max Joseph, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran who operates Direct Action group, a well-respected firearms and tactics training school. In season 2 of “Maxpedition Survival Tips” Max walks us through the 3 Tier system of survival that he learned in the military, specifically the U.S. Army Airborne school, U.S. Army Ranger school and the Navy SERE school.
The United States military produces some of the most fearsome and resilient warriors today. This is not only due to rigorous training, but also as a result of refined tactics developed through field experience and through scientific methods.
At the core of the 3 Tier system, we learn that redundancy isn’t overpacking, rather, doing so correctly can help your chances for survival when something goes wrong. In the first episode, Max Joseph takes us through the different scenarios, where a backup system and a backup for that backup, can mean the difference between life or death.
The 3-Tier System in essence is having three separate kits, each one progressively smaller, and each containing backups for the previous system. As such, the smallest kit would, in essence, just have the bare essentials for survival but be the easiest to carry in case the 2 larger kits had to be jettisoned. For the remainder of the episodes, Joseph details the contents of each of his kits: A Mini Pocket Organizer for tier-1, a Proteus Versipack for tier-2, and the Falcon-II Backpack for tier-3.
In episode 2, Max Joseph begins breaking down his 3 Tier System starting with the tier-1 kit. He has the functionally designed Mini Pocket Organizer serving as the container for this kit. The tier-1 kit should be kept somewhere physically on your body; in Joseph’s case, he keeps it in his right cargo pocket. This is ultimately your last collection of supplies, meaning at this point you’ve already discarded or lost your tier-2 and tier-3 packs. Thus, this pocket amounts to the most compact yet still cohesive compilation of essential survival tools.
As the very last pack of supplies on you, your Mini Pocket Organizer must satisfy the five most essential survival principles: food gathering, shelter making, water acquisition, fire starting, and signaling. For signaling, Joseph carries a signal mirror and even demonstrates proper use in the video. With fire making, Joseph has both waterproof lifeboat matches (stored within a crushproof, waterproof metal container) and a Swiss fire steel. For water acquisition, he proposed the concept of containment via a condom and sock rig. He’s also packed foil for boiling water, but it can also simultaneously be manipulated into a steaming pouch, a makeshift oven or a pot to cook food. The remaining items - a wire saw, a small blade, 550 paracord, and rigging tape wrapped around a credit card - may assist in any of the previous matters, but is especially useful in shelter making.
The tier-2 bag is your second line of survival. The Proteus Versipack takes up that role perfectly, as seen in episode 3. Named after the Greek God gifted with the ability to change shape, the Proteus Versipack transforms from hand-carry mode to butt-pack mode in a heartbeat.
The compass and flashlight packed within his tier-2 Proteus Versipack are secondary to the primary ones he keeps on his body in the tier-1 kit, which further emphasizes redundancy to maximize his escape chances. He has packed a multi tool, as well as enough MREs for a couple days. For first aid, he carries a CAT tourniquet and Israeli pressure dressing, as they are the two most effective supplies for treating extremity trauma and bleeding. Lastly, he carries a fifteen foot sling rope with two locking carabiners for possible emergency descents. He even demonstrates just how fast you can tie a ranger seat, making it a compelling setup worth considering for your own tier-2 system.
For the tier-3 system housed in a rucksack, Joseph uses one of his favorite Maxpedition products, the Falcon-II Backpack. He first cautions that the contents he shares are the basics of what you should prepare and would adjust according to your mission objective or outdoor goals. He then begins with discussing the poncho affixed to the outside. He strongly recommends bringing a poncho even on short excursions due to its numerous alternate uses, from forming a shelter to a makeshift a litter for casualty evacuation.
Inside the Falcon-II Backpack, he’s packed a poncho liner, great for maintaining warmth in mild and wet temperatures. Again emphasizing redundancy, Joseph carries a secondary pair of binoculars which are dummy corded to the backpack. He has a water purification kit plus some spare water bottles, MREs, and toiletry items. Foot powder and spare socks go hand in hand, as trekking along your journey in wet socks can be quite miserable. Furthermore for comfort, he carries along a can of bug repellent.
Max Joseph is the owner and training director of TFTT Direct Action Group based in Huntington Beach, California. With his extensive military background in the United State Marine Corps and work in executive protection, he’s grown TFTT/DAG into a revered institution for high-level, real world tactical training. In the fourth and final episode of “Maxpedition Survival Tips” season 2, Joseph elaborates further on his background and why he trusts the Mini Pocket Organizer , Proteus Versipack, and Falcon-II Backpack for his 3 Tier System.
As to the levels to survival, Max Joseph expressed the idea succinctly with the common idiom “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” because it’s too true that many hikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts forget about a backup plan. It just takes a couple of extra steps to ensure you always have a way out of any bad situation. This advice plus much more is published by Maxpedition to help its audience have a better understanding of their gear and the world around them. With each season of Maxpedition Survival Tips, you can expect to receive useful information from experienced professionals. Stay informed when new episodes are available by subscribing to Maxpedition’s Youtube channel. Here on Maxpedition.com, join the mailing list for first looks into new products, upcoming videos and special offers.
About Direct Action Group:
"Direct Action Group was founded in 1990 by Max Joseph, a USMC Recon veteran, weapon and tactics instructor, and worldwide VIP protection specialist. DAG has remained in business for nearly 3 decades by developing the most modernized tactics, techniques and procedures available for the military, law enforcement and private sector. Max oversees an instructor cadre of world class instructors who all possess extensive backgrounds within the military, law enforcement, EMS, special operations, and global security. You will not find a more experienced group of instructors."
About Max Joseph:
*Founder/Director TFTT/Direct Action Group
*Senior Instructor – Tactical Explosive Entry School USA/Brazil
*Instructor U.S. Dept. of State Anti-Terrorism Program (20 Years)
*Seven Years Marine Corps Reconnaissance Companies (SGT.)
*Graduate USMC Scout Sniper Instructor School
*US Army Ranger / Airborne
*USN Survival / Evasion / Resistance / Escape School
*BSR Anti – Terrorist Driving School
*SPIE / Rappel Master Instructor
*Reconnaissance Indoctrination Program Instructor
*Diplomatic Security Consultant
*Writer for several Military / Police Publications