Thursday, March 10, 2011

Backpacker Magazine Reviews the SOL Origin Survival Kit

I'm here to point out, once again, that not every article you read has your best interests at heart. For example this week Backpacker Magazine (which I love and respect) did a photo gallery gear review of the Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) Origin Survival Kit, set to release March 18th 2011. Before we get started, it's very important that you review the concepts I laid out in my "Eight Rules to Follow for Your DIY Survival Kit". Important things to remember from that articles are:

  • Not everyone has the same survival skills, thus each survival kit should be unique
  • Survival kits should be uniquely tailored to complement the environment you expect to be using it in
  • Every item in the kit must be able to perform double duty in order to optimize weight/space/functionality ratios
  • It's a good idea to make the majority of your survival implements yourself, or thoroughly test them before you need to use them so that you will be exceedingly familiar with their uses
  • There should always be at least one trash bag in your survival kit, they fold up to almost nothing and can be used for almost anything
Okay, now that you're read the article again and brushed up on the major points here, we're ready to move on and talk about the SOL Origin Survival Kit. This kit comes in a hard plastic case which houses an internal waterproof compartment, and external "slots" into which fit various survival implements. So the case is serving dual roles, this is good. It comes with one of those cheap-o dollar store compasses (the kind you'd give out at your kid's birthday party). I would never trust my life to one of those things since, from my experience, they're less likely to point north than moss on a tree. Not to mention, even if you do get the little 1/2" compass to point in the right direction, you can't take a decent bearing off of it because it's too small to orient well. *Sigh*

From the review
Moving on, we'll take a look at the knife included with this kit. They talk about how this knife has a whistle (good) and a little LED light to illuminate what you're cutting. I guess it's good that this guy had a block of Velveeta cheese in his Origin Kit. It unless you're stabbing something to death, however, this LED won't do you much good since it's oriented straight down the knife blade which only illuminates thing in front of the knife. The plastic handle doesn't buy my trust, either... not something I would want to rely on for my life.

Now we move on (in their review) to the waterproof compartment which holds (oddly enough) eight different items that are already waterproof! Tin foil, nylon cord, safety pins, a needle, fishing line, fish hooks, steel wire, and tinder in a plastic bag. The only thing in this waterproof container that would be adversly affected by water is the tinder, which is already in a plastic bag! WHY would you make such an obviously redundant blunder? Because these companies are looking out for profits, not your survival. Their tinder, by the way, is advertised as being waterproof even without the doubly redundant waterproofing system they put in place.

They include a little "how-to" manual and survival tips booklet in the case. My dear readers, if you're lost in the woods and have to use your survival kit and you need a how-to manual you are, quite simply, a dead person. You had damn well better know how to keep yourself alive before you end up in the situation! Including a survival "how-to" booklet in the SOL Origins Kit just goes to show that they don't expect you to open the thing up before you need to use it. They expect their customers to buy it, throw it in the bottom of their packs until one day they need it and realize "holy shit, I don't know how to use any of the items in this kit I bought". 

If you only get one thing out of this article, let it be this: don't buy a pre-made survival kit. Do the research, learn the skills, and make one yourself. You'll quickly find out that including tinder in most survival kits is a waste of space since you can find it almost anywhere, any time. You'll learn that a trash bag is one of the most versatile items you can possibly take into the wilderness.

You might also learn that putting some water purification tablets in your survival kit adds (almost) no weight and saves you from having to boil all your water to purify it. Why didn't SOL include water purification? I have no idea! There are only a few things that will kill you more quickly in a survival situation than lack of water, and SOL did nothing to address this issue other than add some "sturdy" tin foil for boiling your water. Ounce for ounce, you can purify more water, more rapidly, with potable-aqua tablets than an army of men with tin foil could boil.

Dear readers,
I rest my case.


  1. Thanks that's good information.

  2. Martin, you're very welcome. Hope you enjoy!

  3. This knife sounds like it comes straight out of all this new "tacti-cool" and "zombie survival" nonsense that has little to do with actual survival :(

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    Thanks again.


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