We're not real 'survivalist outdoor heroes' types here. We've heard the reality TV shows are amusing, the locations exotic and the challenges life changing. We enjoy being in the bush and living with and consuming the things we dragged along but we don't launch regular assaults on Everest or week long hikes into Mongolia's remotest deserts.
People, other than survivalists, do use this gear though. Hunters, canoeists, hikers or anyone that needs to travel light and may find themselves stranded in the bush may all carry some sort of survival rations and shelter.
We enjoy some of the gadgets and problem solving techniques employed by true survivalists and some of these products can actually make handy additions to your everyday camping gear.
'The Survival Storehouse' contacted us and asked if we would like to have a look at a a few of their survival type products. Never willing to pass up a freebie we put their gear to the test.
It was only thinking about the products they sent us later that we realised that they had provided the three necessities to sustain life - shelter, clean water and food.
Of note was the fact that all three products are small - small enough to be carried in a couple of coat pockets or a backpack.
Pocket Size Sleeping Bag
Quite simply the 'Cocoon Pocket Sleeping Bag' is a big aluminium foil bag. Unlike aluminium foil though, our sack-race antics failed to tear or damage it. It's remarkably strong for such lightweight material.
Arriving in a wallet sized package weighing next to nothing the Cocoon Sleeping Bag unfolds into a compartment large enough to house two average adults if necessary.
Survivor Industries in the U.S. makes this emergency shelter and claims it's a "one size fits all, made from space age material" and "retains up to 90% body heat." It's waterproof, portable and reusable.
We gave the bag to a family of four who were venturing into the bush for a solitary night's getaway and asked them give us their feedback. On a night that saw official temperatures dip below 4°C and icicles begin to form on their regular swags the reports were mostly positive.
The two kids complained of a slight odour while Mum noted that it made a great windbreak. All agreed the bag began to warm up and get comfortable after about three minutes and that a warm if not noisy nights sleep (rustling foil) was more than possible.
Dad noted that the bag didn't breathe (which explains the high heat retention) and could present a suffocation risk. He did surmise that it made an excellent reflector for search aircraft.
At ten bucks the Cocoon Pocket Sleeping Bag is hardly going to blow the survival gear budget. With it's diminutive size and feather weight it could easily slip into the glovebox or backpack.
'Life Straw' Drinking Filter
The 'LifeStraw' is one of those simple, effective products that makes you wonder why isn't hasn't been around for decades.
Designed as a personal water filtration aid the concept is simple. Pop one end of the LifeStraw into dirty water and drink - just like you would with an ordinary straw. The contaminated water passes through hollow fibres that filter water borne particles down to 0.2 microns - without using chemicals.
Designed primarily for third world countries where diarrhoeal disease through contaminated water is a daily crisis the 'LifeStraw' is a useful tool for anyone who runs the risk of having to drink from a suspect water supply.
With a claimed lifespan of 700 - 1000 litres and capable of removing 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoan parasites this ingenious little canister could prove a worthy addition to the survival pack.
We tried the 'LifeStraw' in an isolated pool at the bottom of a dried up creek. We were fairly confident that the dirty puddle contained no toxins but we knew for sure that every snotty nosed, dribbling cow, kangaroo and camel within 20km had been drinking from it. Mosquito's were using it to lay larvae and it had a fairly strong odour from lots of rotting vegetation. Probably nothing that would kill you but certainly not very appetising.
The straw required a reasonable amount of lung power to pull the first of the muddy liquid and get the water flowing but the taste was every bit as pure as a freshly opened bottle of Evian.
$30 is not cheap for a small plastic canister but as a portable method of turning rank water into potable this little tube is a clear winner.
Six biscuits arrived in a vacuum sealed, foil wrapper about the size of an old VHS video cassette. Weighing in at around 900 grams they are a surprisingly solid little package.
The 'Mainstay 2400' is made by Survivor Industries, a U.S. outfit who specialises in, guess what - survival gear.
Each little brick in the six pack contains 400 calories and is reportedly enriched with 33 percent of the U.S. daily recommended dose of the major vitamins and trace elements. Interestingly they are also Kosher and Halal
The Mainstay product isn't designed to replace your regular meal but as the literature states "Allows for on-land emergency consumption in a high-stress active situation"
Three portions per day are reputed to deliver enough to keep you going on land while a more sedentary marine situation only requires 2 portions per day.
With a five year shelf life these little bricks pack a sugar filled wallop.
So what do they taste like? Surprisingly they're not too bad. In fact they could probably pass as an unusual type of shortbread and possibly as a side biscuit served with a cup of coffee. We passed the pack around six people and four of the group liked them while the remaining two people were unconvinced. Not revolting but nothing overly tantalising either. Of note was the fact that the people who enjoyed the rations were men while it was the women who were indifferent. Everybody found them to be very sweet.
At $17.00 per 6 pack they represent a fairly economical emergency food supply.
All three of these products fulfil their ultimate purpose - to provide shelter, water or food in an emergency situation.
The 'Pocket Sleeping Bag' looks a bit cheap and gimmicky but it still manages to work admirably. We can see alternate uses for it as emergency bedding in disaster zones or as simple warmth for the homeless.
The 'LifeStraw' does everything it claims and more. For it's intended use - as a fresh water supply in the third world, it's brilliant. As a backup filtration device for those who may encounter foul water it's equally effective. Thirty dollars may seem a little steep but I'm sure anyone with a dose of dysentery or cholera would gladly cough up for a remedy.
We wouldn't want to live on the 'Mainstay' emergency rations for a week but we sure as hell wouldn't want to starve either. In fact if offered one with a cup of coffee we may even have another go at them.
We have a look at what to do if you become stranded in the bush in The Outback Survival Guide
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