Contents of S.O.L. personal survival kit.
One thing that has always impressed me about S.W.A.T. Magazine is that just everything you see being reviewed here is actually reviewed. While contemplating what to work on for this month’s Against All Odds, I got an email from Simon Ashdown, PR Director for Adventure Medical Kits (AMK), detailing the new single-person survival kit that AMK had just released. Naturally I wanted to review it. After receiving the kit and doing a little research on AMK’s web site, I noticed they had posted links to “reviews” by other magazines. Reading these reviews, I found them to be nothing more than press releases, with no actual testing anywhere in the copy. It makes me wonder why any user would buy a product based on a press release instead of an actual evaluation.
OK, enough of my complaining about other magazines, let’s get to the kit.
Right off the bat, you see the large letters S.O.L. on the front of the kit’s packaging insert card. AMK says this stands for “Survive Outdoors Longer,” but it’s obviously a reference to the old saying “Shit Outta Luck.” If I were AMK, I would just say what I mean or leave the inference off, instead of using the lame, politically correct explanation for SOL that they currently have. The kit includes the following: button compass, signal mirror, rescue whistle, waterproof matches, waterproof tinder, survival blanket, fishing kit and duct tape. The whole kit weighs in at 5.4 ounces and measures a mere 3.75” X 6” X 1”. MSRP is $25. All in all it’s not too different from the Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak that we reviewed (Against All Odds: Personal Survival Kits, July 2006, S.W.A.T.), and that is also built by AMK.
Before I even opened the kit’s dry bag, I filled my sink with water, submerged the kit, placed a heavy dish on top and left it there for a while. I needed to determine whether wetness affects the kit before I even walked out the door. After verifying that the dry bag was indeed waterproof, I moved on to component testing. My review of the kit was done in one day and encompassed the following survival tasks: signaling and navigation, fire building and emergency shelter. Since this kit does not include a knife, I took a machete along, since I figured anyone who would buy this kit would also have some type of knife, be it a folder or a fixed blade.
Mini Rescue Flash Signal mirror is an excellent tool due to its aiming screen. Note the bright flash in the aiming screen of this properly aimed mirror.
The signaling and navigation tools in the kit are more than sufficient for a mini-kit. The small button compass was accurate when compared to my Brunton Eclipse sighting compass and would easily enable a person to walk a straight path provided they use proper technique. The Mini Rescue Flash Signal mirror is excellent. I was able to quickly find the aiming spot and direct reflected sunlight at any target I chose. It should also be noted here that the kit does not limit signaling to the rescue mirror or whistle, since fire making and the reflective survival blanket should also be considered part of the signaling group.
When it came to fire building, the matches worried me. From past experience I’ve found them to be sub-par when it comes to lighting fires under harsh conditions. Since the kit claims the matches are waterproof, I doused a couple of them in water and then tried to light them on the small strike pad located on the match case. It didn’t work. In fact, the wet match almost ruined my striking surface. I had to wait until the moisture evaporated from the wet matches before they would strike. With that said, once they did light, they burned like a torch and were definitely wind-proof. The waterproof tinder worked great and easily got my fire going from my prepared tinder bundle. This tinder also lights well with a Ferrocerium rod, so in my opinion this kit would be light years ahead by ditching the matches and adding a small striking rod.
Fire-building capabilities of S.O.L. kit would be better if it included Ferrocerium rod instead of waterproof matches.
Using the survival blanket, fishing line and duct tape, I managed to build a comfortable and fairly weatherproof lean-to shelter. I turned the reflective side of the blanket toward the inside to reflect as mush heat from the fire as possible, closed off the ends with pine boughs and insulated the floor with leaves. One thing I’d like to note here is that the fishing line should be packaged better. The day I went out, it was about 25 degrees and windy, and trying to unravel the fishing line was pretty hard to do with dry, cold hands. It would be much better if the line were spooled around a stick, pencil, or bobbin.
As for the blanket, it’s probably one of the best I’ve seen for a mini-kit. AMK has printed survival tips redundantly around the blanket, which is a good thing for those inexperienced in outdoor survival. In addition to making a good shelter, the blanket is also very good at maintaining body warmth by simply wrapping up in it.
S.O.L. survival blanket makes nice expedient shelter by utilizing duct tape and fishing line. Properly built, a shelter such as this will keep a person alive in extremely cold and wet climates.
All in all, I like the kit. I think it’s well thought out and designed. However, in my opinion the user should consider making the following additions before packing it away: a small pencil and notepad for navigation and self-rescue, a small amount of nylon cordage, a Ferrocerium rod so you’re not limited to the number of fires you can light, a couple of larger fish hooks, and a condom as an optional water storage bag. All of this will easily fit inside the S.O.L.’s dry bag.
Those additions will make this kit an exceptionally good piece of survival gear if you’re shit outta luck somewhere. It can also be carried in practically any situation, including “carry on” during your next flight (at least according to TSA’s rules at the moment of this writing).
Adventure Medical Kits
P.O. Box 43309
Oakland, CA 94624