Inspired by the story of the American hiker stranded in the Bavarian Alps who got the attention of her rescuers by attaching her sports bra to a moving timber cable, I searched all corners of the internet for survival gear. Here are a few interesting and potentially hide-saving devices for your consideration:
I. Etón FR1000 Voicelink Radio — It might be a tad bulky to stash in your pack (11″x6″x4″, including handles and knobs), but this is one gadget you’d want to have in your arsenal in an emergency. Like an electronic Leatherman, the FR1000 is a two-way and AM/FM radio, clock, flashlight, siren, beacon light, and cell phone charger. If the batteries die you can recharge them with the manual crank on the side. I, for one, like the old-fashioned/modern compromise of being able to charge my cell phone by hand. It retails for $150.
II. The LIFESAVER® Bottle — I wrote a post a while back on a wonderful hand-held water filtration system called the Lifestraw® Personal; this is a similar idea executed differently. While the Lifestraw® uses a hydrogenated resin to kill bacteria and viruses in source water, the LIFESAVER® does the same (and is a bit more effective) without using chemicals. A LIFESAVER® filter cartridge can filter up to 4,000 liters (1,056 gallons, more than five times the amount of the Lifestraw®) before needing to be replaced. However, the biggest difference between the LIFESAVER® and the Lifestraw® lies in how quickly they clean out your wallet; a Lifestraw®, which is designed primarily for use in the developing world, costs about $3, while the LIFESAVER® sets you back about $385.
III. The BCK Solar Cooker — Resembling a prop from a sci-fi film, the BCK Solar Cooker is an award-winning, innovative take on outdoor cooking that’s both eco-friendly and good in a pinch. First things first, you open the cooker from the thermos-like position at left. It transforms into a reflective cone, which you then fill with water. The conical shape focuses sunlight into its center, heating the water and whatever you’ve chosen to cook in it up to 90°C (194°F). It requires no fuel other than sunlight, so there is virtually no environmental impact. However, you do need direct sunlight for it to work optimally; at night and on cloudy days, may I suggest canned Vienna sausages?
IV. Spot Satellite Messenger with GPS Tracking — Unless you’re already sporting a state-supplied ankle monitor, you might want to look into buying this gadget before your next outdoor adventure. Little bigger than a computer mouse, Spot is a GPS-enabled device (not a GPS navigation system) that can trigger text messages to be sent to your friends and family with your exact location coordinates, so that they may track your progress as you travel. In case of emergency, Spot also has a 9-1-1 mode that will send a distress signal to an international monitoring station every five minutes until the emergency is resolved. The downside: Spot doesn’t yet work in parts of South America, most of Africa, and southern Asia. While it will knock your balance down a bit with a retail price of $169.99, think of all the money you’ll be saving on postcards.
V. Swedish FireSteel Fire Starter — These have become standard issue for military personnel around the world, and campers swear by them. Slowly sliding the flat, magnesium striker down the FireSteel key creates a 3,000°C spark that will ignite dry kindling (like companion-product Mayadust, $4.50 a tin) in a flash! The bright spark can also be used as an emergency signal. The lifetime of the Army model ($16) is 12,000 strikes, with which you can start more fires than your average dragon.
VI. Mylar Sleeping Bag — This one’s such a cheapie (anywhere from $1.50 to $13, depending where you look) that I couldn’t resist throwing it in the list. Mylar is said to reflect up to 90% of your body heat back to you and it’s waterproof, so in case of emergency you can slide into one of these bags and pass the night without freezing. Or you can line your sleeping bag with one to effectively lower its temperature rating. Their weight is negligible and they fold up small enough to fit in your pocket, so tossing one in your pack is a no-brainer.
VII. I’d like to add a low-tech but highly useful item I brought with me on my current trip: surgical tape. An extremely durable yet easy-to-tear tape, it’s come in handy on several occasions in the past week alone. I’ve used it to secure lids and store food, to patch tears in ziplock bags (which are infinitely useful themselves — here are some serious-business ones), to bind items and attach them to my pack, and most recently for its intended purpose, to affix makeshift bandages to my arm after a motorcycle taxi spill.
VIII. Finally, it’s not a survival gadget but a mental-floss-recommended book, and I’m going to pick it up myself. It’s called Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, by Steven Callahan. Think Alive, but on a life raft and without the cannibalism. According to the mental floss reviewer, after the author’s sailboat sank, stranding him alone in the raft, he devised ways “to collect fresh water, spear and otherwise trap fish, gather barnacles, plot his position using a sextant made from pencils, and much more…” in order to survive. I figure if I read this book and watch all seven seasons of MacGyver, I’ll be ready for anything.
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