Months ago, I started looking for the best packable survival kit. Searching high and low brought many results, but none of the kits had experience and support behind the design of the products. Most included a basic medical kit or were military surplus kits that had been made 20 years ago and long since expired.
Enter ESEE Knives.
ESEE isn’t only knives, but has the experience to back up their products, which include survival kits. ESEE Knives and Randall’s Adventure Training are one and the same, which isn’t news to most people serious about knives.
ESEE has a group of highly experienced people who use and develop its survival kits in conjunction with Randall’s Adventure Training.
In order to determine the quality of ESEE’s survival kits, I analyzed and tested the kits’ Cutting, Combustion, Cover, Container, and Cordage—the five Cs of survival.
POCKET SURVIVAL KIT
The ESEE Pocket Survival Kit comes well stocked with emergency medical and fishing supplies, mini fire steel, and even a disposable handcuff key. This kit should not be your primary survival option. But if chance leaves you with nothing else, this kit has enough supplies to keep you going for a few days.
The kit includes a small razor knife, mini folding saw, can opener, and wire saw. To put these to the test, I cut down a small tree limb to make a fishing pole. Each item performed flawlessly. The fixed saw and razor knife are flimsy and delicate but performed well. Using the fishing kit, I was able to produce a great little fishing pole.
Judging by the size of the fire steel, I seriously doubted its ability. The fire steel is approximately one inch long. It’s attached to a striker and includes some manmade tinder. But it really put out some sparks and didn’t take long to ignite the cotton tinder. As a backup, this fire steel works wonders.
Lacking a cover and container—necessary sacrifices to fit the entire kit into a pocket—this is not an inclusive survival kit. ESEE does include a water- and air-proof zippable container for essential electronics or additional tinder. In order to collect water, the user needs to have skills or products at their disposal to produce a proper container.
Cordage was ample if a little thin. I used some on my fishing pole to keep the line running through a split piece of green wood. It was smooth but needed a tight knot to stay in place. ESEE has provided more than enough cordage to tie the edges of a small shelter, if necessary.
MESS TIN SURVIVAL KIT
The ESEE Mess Tin Survival Kit comes heavily stocked with supplies. You find the basics that anyone would expect: In addition to a Victorinox Hiker Knife are LED signal lights and many other items that are too extensive to list. It includes a tin that can be used for cooking, and everything fits in a 6.25×4-inch pouch.
It weighs about 1.5 pounds, so I could feel the kit on my side, but I felt more secure in the Mess Tin Kit than the Pocket Kit.
The Victorinox Hiker Knife is a capable tool. You wouldn’t want to baton a log with it, but having a fixed-blade knife is invaluable for making tools, spears, and other weapons. I used these tools to produce a modified drop-line fishing pole. The kit is well equipped with cutting tools, but does not include a wire saw.
I pulled out the large fire steel and some manmade tinder from the kit, pulled the tinder apart, prepared the necessary kindling, and let the fire steel loose. Five or six strikes on the fire steel with the attached striker produced a lot of smoke but no combustion. The fire steel was starting to dimple and gouge, making it useless on that strike-point.
I put the striker away and pulled out a knife. After ten strikes, there was still a lot of smoke and some sparks, but no fire and excessive gouging again.
After having used the mini fire steel in the Pocket Kit, this failure came as a surprise. Not only did it fail to perform its sole function, but it also became a useless piece of metal that added unnecessary weight. Luckily, ESEE also provides wind and waterproof matches and a Fresnel Prism as fire-making alternatives.
Having no cover was the major sacrifice with the Mess Tin. While ESEE provides, yet again, a water- and air-proof bag, there is nothing to protect a person from the elements, such as an emergency blanket or poncho. While cover can be made, carried or found, the lack of immediate cover made it feel as if the priorities in this kit are misplaced and the kit is not intended to be used as a stand-alone survival kit.
ESEE does provide an option to have a survival blanket included with the kit, but it does not come standard.
Where the Mess Tin Kit pulls ahead of most other survival kits is in the core of its design. The tin itself is perfect for carrying water short distances and for cooking. I was able to empty the entire tin into the carry pouch and use the tin itself to cook a few great meals. The kit even includes water purification tablets in the event that boiling isn’t possible.
I was expecting to find even more cordage in a larger kit, but the same 30-foot cordage was provided, plus 100 feet of Kevlar tripwire, which has many uses. The Hiker knife also gives users the ability to wrap rope around its handle, adding more cordage than what the Mess Tin provides.
Essential inclusions with both kits are the fishing supplies. A person in a survival situation may need to attempt fishing. The Mess Tin Kit provides a complete Survival Fishing Kit in a small tin. It is packed with enough items to choose from without worrying about losing some in the process.
The lures are quite stiff and wiggled properly only when being pulled through the water swiftly. In my case, too quickly. Without the addition of an actual fishing pole and reel, the lures were essentially useless and rapidly sank. Casting away from shore is important to the success of the lures, but I could not cast them far enough.
We’ll chalk the casting part up to lack of skill, not necessarily a flaw of the kit itself. Although the fish had little interest in the stiff lures, they could be easily and inexpensively replaced with more suitable lures.
Overall, these two kits provide supplies that are easy to use in an emergency survival situation. I was surprised at how often I used the Pocket Kit. Its size is perfect, and the pouch allowed me to pick and choose the supplies, keeping only the necessities. Though it’s not a stand-alone kit and does rely on having basic tools, it held up incredibly well and complemented the essentials.
The Mess Tin Kit needs a few revisions to be truly usable for a long-term (longer than seven days) survival situation. The poor fire steel, difficult-to-use fishing lures, and lack of a dedicated saw make this kit fall short of being truly usable without some changes.
If you get either kit to put in your boat or truck, you’ll need to worry about additional supplies and have to swap some components. The lack of an emergency blanket or poncho also makes these kits feel incomplete.
Space is an issue, but the Mess Tin Kit is also filled with unnecessary gear that can be removed to make room for essential items. LED lights and trail markers, redundant fire-making supplies, and trip line all take up space that could be used on smaller, essential, and immediate survival items.
Where this kit shines is with the mess tin itself and the knives. ESEE includes top-quality knives and a mess tin that can easily be found and used in the wilderness.
RANDALL’S ADVENTURE TRAINING