AFFORDABLE AND DEPENDABLE GEAR
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).
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.
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.