Moving forward with new offerings in the Survival kit and tool sector of the outdoors market, Adventure Medical Kits has introduced their new S.O.L. Survival Water Bottle Kit. Woods Monkey takes a look at this new product to see what it offers and how it performs as well.
Survival kits place people into one of a few groups, in my opinion. There are those who make these sorts of kits regularly, for fun and for use. There are those who either make them or buy them, just because they feel like they ought to have one ‘just in case’. And there are those who think only Rambo would ever carry one. While I fall into the first group, I know more than a few who fall into the last! Lots of these folks are friends and family, so naturally I’m concerned about them when they head into the woods, only half-prepared at best. I’ve tried giving away a few of personally assembled kits, but frankly I’ve only got so many Altoid tins & Moras! Luckily, there’s at least one company who knows how to make a useful off-the-shelf kit: Adventure Medical Kits.
There’s a lot of consideration that has to go into making a good survival kit, and it’s evident that AMK understands these aspects. What’s the level of knowledge/training of the kit holder? What environment will they be in? How long will they store the kit before using it? The kit must be made as simple and as rugged as possible, to account for those variables. The AMK S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) kit meets these needs. Put simply, it’s an ideal piece of gear to stash in a loved one’s pack before they hit the trail. The contents are simple: Heatsheets mylar blanket, 26” roll of duct tape, signal mirror (with directions), pea-less whistle, button compass, four pieces of tinder, waterproof/windproof matches, fishing/sewing kit, and stainless steel bottle with carabineer. Certainly the items I’d deem necessary to keep you warm for a night or two and get you found!
The largest and most interesting part of the kit is surely the #201 stainless steel, single-walled water bottle. It holds roughly 750 ml of fluid and is closed by a sturdy plastic screw-top with wide threads and a silicon gasket. There is a single seam in the steel, visible only on the interior of the bottle. The kicker is what’s painted on the outside, however; virtually every water-related piece of survival info is listed in excellent detail. Printed are signs of dehydration, necessary amounts of water intake, directions for steps to purify water via boiling, iodine, chlorine, and filtration, making your own oral rehydration solution, tips on finding water in various locales, and admonitions against eating snow or taking certain medications. To fully enumerate every bit of information listed on the bottle would be an article unto itself! The information is printed on the bottle using a heat-transfer process, to help give more resistance to wear & tear, and also against heat (such as if the bottle were used for boiling). Though AMK recommends against the routine practice of boiling water in the bottle due to the possibility of burning oneself, they do correctly acknowledge that it’s entirely possible to do so if necessary. I tested this fully, but more on that later.
Where to begin with the remainder of the kit? Let’s check out the signal mirror. This is a great addition, as anyone can use one and they are visible across impressive distances. The directions included are clear and simple, and the mirror itself is well protected by clear, peel-off plastic. I walked off roughly 200 yards across a field and had my wife attempt to signal me (with no prior ‘training’) and it was extremely easy to see. Success! The whistle is slim and of plastic construction, rugged enough to survive the bellows of any rucksack. I found it to be about as loud as my Fox-40 whistle (which is to say very loud). The duct tape is a wise component of any kit, with uses from first aid to shelter building to gear repair. The button compass is of arguable utility; it’s the cheap, liquid filled kind and about the size of a finger nail. With luck, it might keep you on a straight path. Better than nothing! Sadly, I didn’t get to test out the fishing kit. But it comes with a good length of line, 4 hooks, two sinkers, and several safety pins. I do believe this would be enough to rig up some dinner. The matches were not my favorite aspect of the kit, and I’d honestly likely replace them. They come in a tube with two removable caps. Under one cap, there’s a small piece of high-grit sandpaper to use as a striker. This was unfortunately largely ineffective and resulted in an almost wasted match. The match ‘head’ is actually half of the match, so you get a long-lasting and hot ignition. Between the difficulty lighting the matches (even on a proper surface) and poor striking surface provided, this was a weak spot in the kit. Some may further argue that a firesteel or magnesium bar would be better choices, but I would shy away from these for the inexperienced.
The tinder pieces were a wise inclusion. They are a cotton weave soaked in some kind of accelerant. My ‘standard’ tinder is fatwood, though I’ve also used small pieces of rubber inner tube. I decided to test the burn time of each of these for comparison. That day, it was around 72 degrees outside and there was only an occasional breeze. I burned pieces of fatwood and inner tube that were roughly the size of the cotton tinder. I found that the supplied tinder burned for 1 minute 45 seconds when lit with a match, the rubber for 1 minute 52 seconds, and the fatwood for a whopping 3 minutes 11 seconds. The rubber and fatwood produced a sooty but stronger flame than did the cotton. The cotton would not ignite via firesteel in its supplied state, but when cut open and fluffed it readily took a spark. I soaked the cotton tinder in water for about 5 seconds and attempted to light, and found that it barely took a flame from a match and then quickly extinguished. These are not waterproof! An aspect not shared by the rubber or fatwood. Overall, the tinder works, but I’d rather have my fatwood. The Heatsheat was a sure winner. These are great not only for quick warmth and shelter, but they’ve included one that is orange on one side and the standard ‘silver’ on the other. This bright orange gives another great method of signaling in a true survival situation (not to mention the ruckus made when you’re unfolding these dang things!).
There were only a few main tests I wanted to give the AKM bottle. First, I had to make sure it wouldn’t leak. I filled it with water, screwed the lid, and shook it as violently as possible. I then let it hang upside down over a piece of printer paper. I was surprised to find it hadn’t leaked a drop. I would attribute this to the silicon seal on the lid. With the lid removed, I also set about testing its use for boiling. Normally I’d rig a wire hanger, but I wanted this to be used as it would ‘out of the box’. I used my bandanna to place it on and off a fire, and rested the bottle itself in a pile of hot coals adjacent to live flames. As the lid is made of plastic with silicon, I naturally left it off during the test. I found that it effectively boiled water as easily as my Guyot bottle, and that the text on the bottle was still legible and largely unharmed by the heat. Impressive!
This kit has a rough street price of $35, and I think this is certainly a fair deal. While you might be able to assemble an approximation of the kit for less, this would require that you know what you’re looking for or have the time to do so. And the folks who can do that probably don’t need the kit! This is an ideal setup for someone who needs a few ‘just in case’ essentials. The bottle itself is not something that would be reproducible, and it provides an extremely comforting reference to ensure the kit owner knows how to get their hands clean water. While I might substitute a Bic lighter for the matches and some fatwood for the tinder, the kit is quite functional as-is. So at the end of the day, would I be willing to hand the AKM S.O.L. kit to a loved one on their way to the woods? Absolutely!