THE guys at ESEE and Randall’s Adventure Training (RAT) have been in the survival business for a long time. When they come out with a new product, the industry and consumers alike should take note.
Following on ESEE’s success with their first RAT Fire Kit, they have made improvements and additions, culminating in their new Advanced Fire Kit. I was excited when they hooked me up with an AFK at the SHOT Show.
The kit includes a capsule, ferro rod attachment, compass, extra thread protector rings, and a lanyard. Not only did I see this product as a container for tinder and a means of making fire, I also instantly saw it as an opportunity to add a self-contained survival kit to my ultralight backpacking repertoire.
The handle/capsule of the AFK measures 3.5 inches long by 1.18 inches in diameter and weighs four ounces. The length provides sufficient contact for even the largest hands. It is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and black anodized. The color scheme falls in line with what Randall is all about: providing tools useful for the working combat professional who might find himself in an E&E (Escape & Evasion) scenario. There are 1.06 x 1.4 inches of storage space inside the capsule.
A 20mm button compass is machined into the cap, and the other side of the cap has silver reflective tape for signaling during the day. On the reverse cap is a 1.5-inch ferrocerium rod that produces 3000°F sparks and infrared (IR) glint tape that glows brightly when viewed through IR goggles. The IR can be used as a signaling device or a way to keep track of other members of a team stealthily.
On the capsule is the ESEE logo along with survival tips to cope with being lost, building shelter, and groundto- air signaling, plus conversions from the metric to the standard system. The kit includes two rings for lanyard attachment (a lanyard is provided when purchased). The Advanced Fire Kit is made in the USA.
I took the AFK to the Amazon jungle in Peru for a RAT (Randall’s Adventure & Training) survival course, because I figured the humid environment would be a perfect place to test the durability and waterproofing of the capsule. After three days of near 100% humidity and one morning spent hiking in a torrential downpour, all my tinder was still dry in the AFK.
Our second base camp was located right on the Amazon River, so I put the kit in the water and left it there. After 20 minutes of exploring, I returned and dried off the capsule. When I opened it, I wasn’t surprised to see the tinder still dry as the desert.
Anyone who has spent time in the Amazon knows it is impossible to stay dry. Water finds its way into every crack and crevice. But from the thread and o-ring of the AFK, I could tell it would be nearly impenetrable.
FIRE FOR SURVIVAL
The debate rages on: which is a priority in survival, fire or shelter? The boys at ESEE argue for the former—and they make a very convincing argument.
In the foreword to Adventure Travel In The Third World by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin, Robert Young Pelton (author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places) writes, “Survival is a misunderstood term. To some it means ‘not dying.’ To others it means figuring out how to cook other members of a rugby team on a windswept Andean mountainside. To a few it means what it should: To live better. To rise above. To do more than just live.”
Although shelter will keep you safe from the elements, a fire will keep you warm, cook your food, purify your water, give you light, and give you that psychological reassurance!
Ferrocerium is a proven method of fire starting. The shower of sparks that come off the rod are hot, and a good strike can keep a spark flickering for close to a second after leaving the rod, which is enough time to catch dry tinder. I tested the AFK against the Gobspark Armageddon firesteel I picked up at Firesteel.com. I have carried it on numerous journeys, from the Rocky Mountains to the Amazon, and am always assured that no matter what, I can get a fire started with that steel. I used dry grass, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, and Coghlan tinder as fuel to test with the two firesteels.
The sparks coming off both firesteels were identical, as far as I could tell, and easily set the tinder on fire. I was a little surprised because the Gobspark Armageddon firesteel is about an inch longer than the one in the AFK, but if you choke up on the AFK, there’s plenty of surface area to create huge globs of fire.
One thing I always get joy out of is turning any container or tube into a mini-survival kit to see what I can get away with, and the AFK was no different. It has more space than the original RAT fire starter, and I figured I could turn it into a lightweight all-around survival kit for my ultra-light backpacking adventures.
In this case I packed the tube, with three Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, two all-weather matches (I believe in having multiple ways of starting fire), snare wire, inner strands of paracord (for fishing or tying), and a packet of water purification tablets. This takes care of all my survival needs—fire starting, water purification, navigation, food procurement, and signaling.
Another cool thing about the AFK is its modularity. ESEE sells additional capsules and extender rings, which allow one to customize his own set-up. Theoretically speaking, that means one could create a type of “survival staff” housing all kinds of survival gear, which would be great for anything from a day hike to an extended adventure.
The AFK is now a mainstay on all my journeys. Its suggested retail price is $98.95.