I like the outdoors as much as the next person, but I’m no sadist. So, when I saw the temperature outside was 97 degrees a few days ago, I decided I didn’t like it that much. But, what to do? I needed a little chicken soup for the soul and GoingGear.com had just recently sent me a couple of ingredients that would help me enjoy the day a little bit more while staying nice and cool.
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I enjoy putting together survival kits in different forms just to pass time and to make sure all the various packs, vehicles, and other kits are well stocked. I find the container can make a big difference in not only determining how much you can put in the survival kit, but also in performing its own role in a survival scenario. For instance, there are several kits out there where the authors have polished the inside of a lid to use as a signal mirror. Moreover, others have made their their “backwoods cooking pot” serve double duty as a kit container when not in use over a fire. That’s where I’ll start today. A while back, someone posted an article on Woods Monkey on how to make a cooking pot from some handy stainless steel coffee, sugar and flour containers that were available at Target. I picked up a couple for myself and was impressed by their construction and the snug fit of the lid. After I tinkered around with how I was going to hang the pot over a fire, I proceeded to put together a kit that I could stash in the container while I was woods bumming.
I liked the coffee container the best because it was the perfect size to stash in the side pocket of my Mercworx pack. Because of it’s small size, this isn’t a totally comprehensive survival kit but I made sure to put quality components in it and I also made sure I could cover the basics considering the size. Here’s what I included (and you can see it in the picture):
- Fishing Kit in Mini Altoids tin
- Multiple packets of Micropur water purification tablets
- Leatherman Wave
- Corona Clipper Sharpening Tool (striker for firesteel)
- Doug Ritter RSK MK 1 folding knife
- Army Model fire steel
- AMK/Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pak (see this link for contents)
- Extra Tinder Tabs for the firestarter
On one hand, this may not seem like an impressive list but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is enough gear to make it a few days until help is found since water and shelter is much more important than food–for at least the first week. Also, when I am outside I’ve always got a substantial amount of gear on my person including a baldric rig and survival bracelet (from Scott’s Knots) for paracord. I’m also going to have at least a fixed blade knife, a pocket flashlight, a watch, a compass, and probably a firearm.
But, here’s my dilemma…This coffee canister kit is made specifically for my emergency pack and I don’t like stripping gear from one pack to put in another if I’m just going on a dayhike or other routine outing. And, one thing I’ve learned from my dayhiking trips is that you have a lot more fun when your load it light, especially when you consider that camera gear like lenses, a body or two, and a tripod are usually going along for the ride. So, I was glad to see the two containers that GoingGear sent Woods Monkey to review for putting together survival kits. One is the relatively new GearPods system and the other is the Trangia Mess Tin with a fold up handle. I was interested in the mess tin because I had seen a couple of surival kits made with the mess tin as the foundation container and I wanted to see how my foray into this type of project would turn out. While the concept of the GearPod was interesting, I’ve never worked with one before so I really didn’t know what to expect from it.
We’ll start by looking at the Trangia Mess Tin first since it meets the one requirement that I want for a kit of this type. You can dump out the gear and use the container to cook in and to boil water. The tin that I received measures 6.5 x 3.5 x 2.6 inches and in my opinion it’s just about the perfect size for this kind of kit. It’s very compact and won’t take up a lot of room in a typically smaller dayhike bag, but it’s big enough to stash essential gear and boil a decent amount of water for drinking on the trail. With a little finesse, it’ll do fine with cooking chores provide your portions are on the smaller size. There are other Trangia tins on GoingGear’s website, but this one is unique because of its handle. It makes the cooking and boiling process less tricky to complete and it folds up out of the way once you’re done and it’s ready to go back into the pack.
Just like the rest of the survival kit enthusiasts out there, I’ve got plenty of extra kit components floating around, so there was no problem in cobbling together a respectable kit in a short amount of time. Here are the items I put in the Trangia Mess Tin to round out the kit as a whole:
- Square of aluminum foil
- Plastic pouch of fishing gear including bobbin of line
- ATS 34 Kershaw folding knife
- JetScream Emergency Whistle
- Pocket Chainsaw
- Blastmatch firestarter
- 4Sevens Quark RGB LED light
- 1 Roll of McNett duct tape
- 2 cryogenic vials with Potable Aqua tablets
- 2 Solkoa Fast Fire Tinder Blocks
- 1 WetFire Tinder Block
- Starflash Signal Mirror
- 3 #11 scalpel blades
All told, this is a decent little kit to stash away in the dayhiking bag and even though you’re not going to be on a survival-oriented outing, you can take comfort that you’ve got the basics covered when you’re daytripping with the “muggles” of the world.
And now we come to a newer style of kit container in comparison to the older style mess tins. This system is called GearPods and it’s a pretty neat concept. There are different length cylindrical tubes that you can fasten together with doulbe-threaded connectors, or you can keep the pods separate with their own end caps and just stuff the pods in different places in your pack. This seems like a simple enough concept, but some real thinking went into this system to ensure conformity. For instance, take the sizing of the different pods. There’s small (1.5 inches tall), medium (3 inches tall), Large (4.5 inches tall), and XL (6 inches tall). So, what’s so special about the size? Well, after a little thinking I figured out that with different combinations, you can come out to a 7.5 inch length (cap height not included). For instance, you can join a Medium and Large and come to 7.5 inches. Join an XL and a Small and you get 7.5 inches. Join 5 Smalls and you also get 7.5 inches. Two Mediums and a Small come to 7.5 inches as well. This conformity in the multiples helps keep consistent sizing in your pack (for packing other gear) and also allow you to use the special GearPod Sleeves that are available.
I’m going to be honest here. Even before GoingGear sent us the GearPods, I was aware of their existence and quite frankly, I wrote them off as a bit of a fad thing. But, after having a chance to work with them, my impressions have changed. It takes just a little creativity to think of different ways to use the GearPods system, but one you get the juices flowing, the ideas will just keep rolling. For instance, you could put together 2-5 small units to make a pretty complete fishing kit that will hold your bobbers, sinkers, lures, hooks, and much more. Or, maybe you could join a Small and a Large to make a first aid system. You could put your bandages and dressings in the Large unit and your medications and smaller items in the Small unit. Perhaps you want to make a kitchen kit with an XL and a Small? Put your spork and other longer items in the XL unit and your spices in the Small pod. See what I mean?
The GearPods unit that I received was a Medium and a Large with the 4 end caps and the connector. One thing I noticed in the system, and that I liked, was a sheet of labels that you can affix to the outside of the pods for easy identification of the contents. This would be especially handy when you’re using one of the GearPod Sleeves because you can just put a label on the endcap or on the outside of the sleeve under the plastic window. The labels have symbols for firestarting, cooking, first aid, shelter, cutlery, and tools. There are also two blank labels so you can make your own. Another nice feature about the GearPods is that they are waterproof so that opens up a slew of options for different things to carry with you out in the field. Another thing that I liked is that the small pod fits right into a cup that I use on the trail and it snuggles in there perfectly! If you’re curious about the size, you can also fit a Nalgene type bottle in the cup as well.
Now, my priority was to decide what kind of kit I was going to make. Since I only had two pods, I was a little limited as to flexibility. I really didn’t know whether to do another survival kit or do something a little different. I decided to sniff around my parts box to see what I had available and to see what type of kit I could fasion. Most of the gear that I had available was for another survival kit, so I pulled the different pieces together to fill both the Medium and the Large pods that I had for review. I split the two pods up according to gear type. The Medium one was filled with items for firestarting, signalling, navigation, etc. The Large pod was filled mainly with tools like knives, a fishing kit, and so forth and there was still room left over for other bits to be filled in later. Here are the contents of each:
- Fishing kit in mini Altoids tin
- Buck Mayo TNT w/S30V blade
- Swiss Army Farmer
- Gerber Infinity LED Light
- Roll of brass snare wire
- 3 Starbuck’s Via brew packs (hot coffee is a pick-me-up)
- World Survival Institute Fishing Reel w/line
- Doug Ritter/eGear Pico Light
- 3 #11 razor blades
- Tops Survival Whistle
- Cyro vials with Potable Aqua tablest/neutralizer
- Cryo vial with Potassium Permanganate
- Mini Fire steel w/striker
- Star Flash signal mirror
- 2 safety pins
- Spark-Lite Fire Starter Aviation Kit
- 1 Extra pack Tinder Quik Tabs
I was actually surprised by how much essential gear I could get into the Medium container and as you can see in the 4th picture up, it’s fairly compact. In fact, if you take in account most of us are going to have a knife or two on our person when we’re out, you could pretty much get by with what’s in the Medium pod alone.
All in all, I had a bit of fun putting these kits together for this review. Not only did it give me a chance to try out new form factors for different kits, but it also made me take inventory of my little survival gear pieces and sort them out a bit in their various hideaway spots. So, which container style did I like the best? It’s a very close call for me. The Trangia Mess Tin offers the benefit of being able to be put over a fire to cook and boil water, though you can snuggle the Medium GearPod into that camp style cup to achieve the same thing. The mess tin holds a bit more gear than the Medium Pod, but you can add on various pieces for whatever size kit container you would like. The GearPod system has the advantage as far as being waterproof and for being a more versatile and flexible system to customize your kits anyway you like with the various available sizes. On the other hand, the GearPod system adds a bit of bulk to the kit as opposed to the thin lines of the mess tin. Also, you lose a little packing space in the pod and around the outside of the pod when packing items in it, or when packing the pod into a pack or a box. The circular shape doesn’t let you fill every nook and cranny.
But, if I had to choose, I think I would pick the GearPod system for a couple of reasons. First, I’m very big on customizing things to my own tastes and needs, and the GearPod system offers a lot of flexibility. Second, I’ve always liked having external pockets on my packs to get to my various pieces of gear without having to pull everything out of the main pack area. The GearPod sleeves with their MOLLE compatible webbing will allow you to do just that. You could probably hang 4-6 on your pack (depending on pack size) and cover your various areas of gear including cooking, first aid, survival gear, electronic stuff, hygeine, etc. I will be ordering several different pods in the GearPods system to try out some ideas I have. First, I’d like to couple about 5 of the Small pods together. I can see tinder and firestarting stuff in one, signaling and navigation in the other, spare batteries and other various electronic parts in yet another. Maybe you could slip your toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and washcloth in one of the XL pods. The possibilities are endless!
No matter what your preference is, both of these systems offer a lot of functionality for a great survival kit container. If you’re looking for these items, check out GoingGear’s website and pick the style that’s best for you. They’ve got good prices on a lot of gear, and they often have the best prices on different pieces no matter where you look. They specialize in the types of gear that you’re going to need in an outdoors/camping/survival situation, so you’re bound to find what you need!