Go-Bag question and answer...
"If you could only have three small items in your Go-Bag/ Survival kit what would they be?"
1) Poncho liner (or poncho depending on area)
2) Metal water bottle
Apply the Rule Of Three's. You can survive 3 minutes without air - 3 hours without shelter - 3 days without water - 3 weeks without food. Of course there are variables....some guys in the dive community can go longer than 3 minutes without air....if you are in a nice 70 something degree climate 3 hours without shelter obviously will not kill you.....in a desert, you may not make it 3 days without water.....and so on.
A poncho liner compresses small, is durable, cheap and fairly effective at preserving warmth. I prefer a steel water bottle as I can boil water right in it for sterilization or cook up some chow. A quality medium size fixed-blade knife can serve countless functions, from shelter prep to self defense. You can also find sheaths with a built-in flint rod for fire starting....or make one yourself for cheap.
It goes without saying that you would want a few more items in your bag, but this is an answer to a specific question. It also addresses the issue of our tendency to over pack. Break it down to the absolutes then add on from there. Sticking with our "three's" trend, lets add three more items to our pack.
4) Poncho (or liner if your #1 was Poncho)
A poncho will help keep you dry and even aid in camouflage if the situation calls for. A flashlight, besides providing light, can be used to signal for help or even be used as a strike weapon up close. The batteries can also be used as another fire starting method. Paracord has so many uses it boggles the mind.....from shelter crafting to using the guts for fishing line or snares. You will see a lot of guys replace their boot laces with paracord, so they always have an emergency supply on hand. Paracord bracelets and knife handles are other ways to keep a supply on hand.
Lets add three more items...
8) Mesh/laundry bag
9) Altoids Tin sew kit
The humble trashbag can be used for shelter, collecting water, solar still, keeping critical clothing items dry during rain or water crossings. I love the mesh bags with a drawstring opening....you can use them as a fishing net, a makeshift refrigerator or a bear bag. A small sew kit will allow you to make repairs to clothing, fashion fishhooks.....I even had to use it to suture a gash in my foot while in the mountains....not fun but it worked in a pinch.
Sidenote: I keep a compass on my watch, but if you have maps you want to use you will want a "real" compass and a protractor. Also make sure if using civilian maps like USGS, you have an appropriate protractor (like the one SurvivalTech makes) as the military protractor will not match up with the civilian map.
So right there you have nine items that would fit into a rather small bag or could even be put in the mesh bag or rolled into the poncho and tied with paracord......
It's all about giving yourself options and the rule of three's is a good place to start.