How to Build an Escape Kit


So we all want to be dangerous, crafty, and skilled. Well, if you’re serious about being hard to kill, you need to know how to carry and use an escape kit for defeating restraints.

The US has its fair share of kidnappings, hostage-takings, and human trafficking these days. In fact, the Polaris Project, a nonprofit working to prevent human trafficking, reported there was a 40 percent increase in trafficking last year alone. There are a wide variety of outcomes with these crimes, but even the victims that do make it out alive are likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or other mental disorders.

That’s probably enough evidence alone to convince a person to learn the skills of escape, but there’s an added benefit to this kind of training. Problem-solving, confidence building, and technical ability are a few reasons that come to mind and I think it’s safe to say that our society could stand to have some more resilience built-in. Victim mentality runs rampant these days and that’s all the more reason to combat this plague with a warrior ethos. 

Now, with that in mind, am I suggesting we all carry an escape kit on us at all times? No, but I believe you should have a basic understanding of how restraints work, what items can be used to defeat them, what should go in an escape kit, and how to carry it if you are going to be in a high-risk environment. I made sure I had my kit on me when working in Central America (where hostage-taking is a daily part of life).

YouTube has several quality videos that show how common restraints work and what can be used to defeat them. I signed a non-disclosure agreement with Uncle Sam years ago, so I can’t talk about tactics, techniques, and procedures, but I can point you toward a few videos that can give you a solid baseline. For reference, the restraints I’d focus on are tape, rope, zip-ties, and handcuffs. Check out the videos I’ve linked at the end of this article to get you started.

What should you carry?

This varies based on what kind of activity you’re doing and what clothing you’ll be wearing, but here are the nuts and bolts of what’s essential:

  • Razorblade- for cutting rope, zip ties, etc.
  • Synthetic handcuff key- smaller and lighter than a traditional key
  • Bobby pins- picking/shimming handcuffs and zip ties
  • Kevlar line (8-foot length)- friction sawing through rope or zip ties
  • Diamond file- sawing through metal restraints

Note: Hands down the best place to buy this stuff is at SERE Pick.  I have no affiliation with them, but I’ve used their tools a lot and they’re high quality.

How to carry it

That’s what pockets are for, right? Well…no. If you’re kidnapped or taken hostage, just count on the bad guy going through your pockets and confiscating anything they find. If they find a handcuff key in your pocket, you may get some special treatment like a nice beat-down, more robust restraints, and a guard to constantly keep an eye on you. Also, your clothing could be taken from you so think about layers of escape kits (maybe a large bandaid taped to your hip that has a razor blade or handcuff key stashed in it). 

One important consideration when hiding a kit is that it needs to be accessible whether your hands are restrained in front or in the back. The sides of your waist are going to be the most easily accessible.

There are lots of products on the market for hiding equipment in everyday items like belts with zippered pockets, and Velcro patches with hidden voids.

I wore running shorts as underwear and I’d keep one escape kit in the little inside pocket that normally is used for carrying a car or house key. They make some great shorts now that have a hidden cell-phone pocket you could wear under your pants to carry your kit in.

I swapped my boot laces for Kevlar laces and also carried some Kevlar line in my kit in case my boots were taken. Another trick I used was hollowing out a chapstick tube and loading it with bobby-pins, a mini-diamond file, and a handcuff key. It’s a low-cost item that’s easy to throw in a pocket and there’s a good chance of retaining it due to its low value (if they don’t take your pants of course). I’ve also seen guys cut slits in the tongue of their boots, waistband of pants, and the lining of hats. You can get really imaginative here and find tons of places to hide your equipment.

Get Started

Everyone usually has duct tape in their house, so start there. Yes, NOW! Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Review the videos below, try it out for yourself, then have your spouse try. By this point, your kids will be begging to try and this is actually a great activity to do with children. Once they have the baseline knowledge on defeating restraints, they’ll be hooked. Kids love performing and it’s incredibly beneficial for adults to learn new skills. I promise this is more fun than Netflix or scrolling through endless garbage on social media.

You can probably find some kind of old rope or cordage around your house too. Practice binding each other’s hands and feet and see how easy it is to wiggle free, then start timing each other.

Once you see how much fun this is, check out some of the links above and order some escape items. Head down to the hardware store and get a few different kinds of zip ties. Once you get to handcuffs it gets a little more technical, but this handcuff cutaway helps you understand what’s going on inside the cuff when trying to pick or shim it. You can see it in action on video #6 below. 

Just one more thing before I sign off. Simply watching the videos below will not make you better. You have to take action if you want to be part of the 1%. These are hands-on skills and you have to practice them because they are also a perishable skill.

This can be the catalyst to breaking the old routine and doing something fun and useful as a family. It’s up to you.

Video links for defeating restraints: