AF­FORD­ABLE AND DE­PEND­ABLE GEAR

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Steven Paul Barlow

Ul­ti­mate Sur­vival Tech­nolo­gies field test re­sults

There is noth­ing like spend­ing a night in the woods, con­cerned only with the ba­sics of liv­ing, to put things into per­spec­tive. But this time, I had an ob­jec­tive (other than re­liev­ing the stresses of civ­i­liza­tion): I was test­ing sur­vival and camp­ing gear from Ul­ti­mate Sur­vival Tech­nolo­gies (UST).

THE PREMISE

I had often seen UST prod­ucts for sale in stores. I saw that the prices were af­ford­able, but I had no ex­pe­ri­ence with the qual­ity. I in­tended to find out.

The idea was sim­ple: I would se­lect var­i­ous UST prod­ucts—items I’d use to com­pile a sur­vival or ready kit—things one might take along on a day hike. Then, I would take to the woods to test the gear. I would sim­u­late what might hap­pen if I had to spend the night in the woods un­ex­pect­edly if I be­came lost or had mis­judged the time re­quired to cover the ter­rain and ran out of day­light.

NEVER IN DAN­GER

Let me em­pha­size that I wasn’t go­ing to put my­self in any real dan­ger. I would never will­ingly put my­self into a true life-or-death sit­u­a­tion with untested sur­vival gear. You shouldn’t either. If there were any sort of prob­lem or if the gear failed, I would sim­ply walk out. Peo­ple knew where I’d be and how long I planned on be­ing there.

I WOULD TAKE TO THE WOODS TO TEST THE GEAR. I WOULD SIM­U­LATE WHAT MIGHT HAP­PEN IF I HAD TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE WOODS UN­EX­PECT­EDLY IF I BE­CAME LOST …

AS­SEM­BLING THE KIT

I first chose items I’d want in any sur­vival kit. I chose a ferro rod, lighter and tin­der for fire-start­ing; a knife; com­pass for nav­i­ga­tion; a whis­tle and mir­ror for sig­nal­ing; minia­ture flash­light; and a first aid pouch. I added a ther­mome­ter that also fea­tured a small com­pass. I like to in­clude back­ups to fire-start­ing, nav­i­ga­tion and cut­ting tools as a pre­cau­tion when­ever as­sem­bling a kit.

I then chose a light­weight tarp, pon­cho and re­us­able emer­gency blan­ket. Each could be rigged as a shelter or used as a ground cloth. But be­cause I was putting to­gether a kit that would fit into a typ­i­cal day­pack, I did not in­clude a sleep­ing bag.

For food prep, I chose a fold­ing stove and fuel tablets, fold­ing spork, col­lapsi­ble wa­ter bot­tle and a two-piece solo cook kit. My util­ity items in­cluded a fold­ing saw and a multi-tool.

A LIT­TLE LUX­URY

Once I had cho­sen the ba­sics, I added some ex­tras. These were not es­sen­tial items, but I thought it would be fun to make them part of the test. These in­cluded a two-pack of mini col­lapsi­ble lanterns, an in­flat­able chair and a col­lapsi­ble cof­fee drip­per. The main things I brought that were not UST prod­ucts were a ham­mock and the Voodoo Tac­ti­cal Mini Tobago Cargo Pack in which I car­ried ev­ery­thing.

OH, WHAT A NIGHT!

I set up my ham­mock with tarp over­head. Then, I gath­ered a good pile of fire­wood. I wasn’t plan­ning on tend­ing a fire all night, but I learned long ago that it takes a con­sid­er­able amount of wood to keep even a mod­est fire go­ing all night, and I didn’t want to be stum­bling around in the dark to scrounge more wood if it got cold.

At first, I was fine with just my jacket. As the tem­per­a­ture dropped, I felt the chill, so I wrapped my­self in the sur­vival blan­ket. That suf­ficed for a while. I was never shiv­er­ing, but I could have been more com­fort­able. At about 3 a.m., I checked the lit­tle UST ther­mome­ter. It read about 38 de­grees.

I got up and started a fire, thank­ful that I had gath­ered the fire­wood be­fore dark. I spent the rest of the night tak­ing cat­naps in the in­flat­able chair or ly­ing on the emer­gency blan­ket next to the fire. It wasn’t a rest­ful night, but I was never cold.

PER­FOR­MANCE OB­SER­VA­TIONS

Here are the specifics about how some of the UST gear per­formed.

Paraknife FS 4.0 Glo. This fixed-blade knife with a par­tially ser­rated blade has a han­dle wrapped in glow-in-the-dark para­cord that can be un­rav­eled for many dif­fer­ent uses. The knife was sharp, and I used it to make a pile of wood shav­ings for fire-start­ing. A ferro rod is in­cluded, and there’s an open-topped com­part­ment for it in the ny­lon sheath. I would tie some cord through the ferro rod’s han­dle for ex­tra se­cu­rity if I car­ried the sheath on my belt.

Blast­match Fire Starter. I’ve used many ferro rods over time, but this one is spring loaded with a built-in striker so it can be used one handed—a good fea­ture if you’re in­jured. When I started my fire in the mid­dle of the night, it took only a cou­ple of pushes to gen­er­ate a large shower of sparks that ig­nited a piece of tis­sue I’d placed on the ground. I added wood shav­ings and one of the fuel tabs for the stove to keep things go­ing while I added kin­dling. It was one of the eas­i­est fires I have ever started.

Tek­fire Fuel-free Lighter. The Tek­fire fuel-free lighter is a new prod­uct for UST. It’s the size of a typ­i­cal lighter, but in­stead of fuel, it con­tains a bat­tery that is recharge­able via the stan­dard mini USB ca­ble that’s in­cluded. A push of a but­ton on the lighter cre­ates an elec­tri­cal arc across two elec­trodes that is pow­er­ful enough to start a fire. It is ex­cel­lent, eas­ily light­ing pa­per, can­dles, the com­pany’s Paratin­der and wood shav­ings dur­ing my tests.

Paratin­der. This is an­other new prod­uct. It func­tions as reg­u­lar para­cord,

but one of the in­ner strands ac­tu­ally per­forms as tin­der once the outer sheath is stripped back. It lights eas­ily with the Tek­fire lighter or other fire source. I found that once lit, a 2-inch sec­tion of the cord would burn for sev­eral min­utes. This is one item that will be part of my kit from now on.

Starflash Multi-tool. This sig­nal mir­ror en­cased in pro­tec­tive plas­tic has a sight­ing hole in the mid­dle with a ring that lights when the sun hits it prop­erly. It also in­cludes a small ferro rod, a com­pass on the back and a whis­tle on the lan­yard. Un­like many small, in­ex­pen­sive com­passes, this one worked.

Hear-me Whis­tle. Loud, light­weight and nearly in­de­struc­tible, it is good for emer­gen­cies, but I’ll use it to keep the dogs close by when I take them along.

Learn & Live Out­door Skills Cards. These cards store in a hard-sided, wa­ter­proof con­tainer and pro­vide quick ref­er­ences on fire-start­ing, shel­ters, fish­ing, knots, first aid and nav­i­ga­tion. I added the com­pany’s Bug Out cards to the set.

All-weather Tarp. This tarp weighs just 14.8 ounces. I thought it was go­ing to be too small, but when I pulled it out of its stor­age bag, it spread out to an 8- by 6-foot, elon­gated, kite-shaped tarp that eas­ily cov­ered my ham­mock. It is yel­low­ish-or­ange for high vis­i­bil­ity and can be used as a ground cloth, as well. The alu­minized un­der­side pro­vides ther­mal in­su­la­tion when it’s used as a blan­ket.

Sur­vival Blan­ket 2.0. I chose this over the smaller My­lar sur­vival blan­kets, be­cause it’s more durable and ver­sa­tile, of­fer­ing le­git­i­mate use as a shelter or ground cloth. It un­folds to 5 by 7 feet and has grom­mets on the cor­ners. It was a def­i­nite help on my night out, but it isn’t a sub­sti­tute for a sleep­ing bag on a re­ally cold night.

Solo Cook Kit. I al­ways in­clude a way to boil wa­ter in any kit I as­sem­ble. This cook kit is top notch. It in­cludes a 16.9-ounce pot with an 8.6-ounce cup that also serves as a lid for the pot. Both are alu­minum coated with sil­i­cone and have fold­ing metal han­dles coated with plas­tic, which elim­i­nates the need for pot hold­ers. I used the cook pot to store all the smaller items in my kit.

Fold­ing Stove with Fuel. This stove is de­signed to be used with fuel tablets. Eight tablets are in­cluded; I found each to burn for about 11 or 12 min­utes. The stove brought 2 cups of wa­ter to a boil in about nine min­utes—suit­able for pre­par­ing a typ­i­cal back­pack­ing meal. The stove is a lit­tle larger than oth­ers of this type I’ve used, mak­ing it a steady plat­form for larger pots. The fuel tabs were a lit­tle hard to light, and I had to burn a bit of pa­per next to them to get them go­ing.

Above left: In spring con­di­tions, there are often wide swings be­tween day­time and night­time tem­per­a­tures. The tiny com­pass pro­vides a backup to the larger one. Above right: The Paraknife FS 4.0 Glo is an in­ex­pen­sive fixed blade that came sharp from the fac­tory. The glow-in-thedark para­cord on the han­dle can be re­moved for cordage. A ferro rod fire starter is in­cluded.

Right: All the small sur­vival items can be stored in the Solo Cook Kit.

Be­low: The au­thor’s camp was sim­ple: a ham­mock and tarp strung be­tween two saplings with a cou­ple of lanterns to pro­vide light. An emer­gency blan­ket and Sloth­sak chair hung from the line. The au­thor’s weight pulled the saplings in­ward, so the ham­mock hung closer to the ground when oc­cu­pied.

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