Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5-in-1 "Survival Tool"...a useful kit item for dayhikers.

5-in-1 "Survival tools" have been around for many years.  Basically they are a match safe that incorporates several useful tools into it's design. They are usually molded in rescue orange-colored plastic and have a lanyard attached that allows them to be worn around the neck. Generally these tools cost around $4 to $5 dollars.

5-in-1 Survival tool

Besides the match safe function, they also include a whistle on one end and a compass on the cap end. Unscrewing the compass/cap accesses the matches. A ferrocerium rod is embedded in the body of the match safe, and a signalling mirror is located inside the cap beneath the compass.

Signal Mirror
The match safe will hold 30+ waterproof matches when arranged alternately head up/down. I placed jute tinder in mine at both ends to cushion the matches and provide some emergency tinder. Don't forget to include match striking paper, as their is no striking surface on the match safe itself.

The ferro rod is short and difficult to use, but not impossible. Using dryer lint, I found it worked best to wrap the tinder around the body of the tool in direct contact with the ferro rod and striking directly into it. Better still, carry a small tin with petroleum jelly-impregnated cotton balls for a synthetic tinder. Petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls are long burning and will ignite easily with sparks.

Petroleum jelly cotton ball tinder
In experimenting with the 5-in1, I found that the lanyard lock separates too easily, and the tool could become lost. I'd suggest putting a knot in it to prevent loss. Like any tool, practice makes perfect, so I would recommend that you try some fire making using the tool in advance of going outdoors. I did find the ferro rod wears down quickly, so you might not want to practice too much with it, or have 2 and dedicate one for practicing with.  

Also, practice with the signal mirror with a friend. This is easily done by having them stand 50 or 100 yards distant, making a "V" with your Middle and Index fingers, moving the sun's reflection onto the back of your hand, and then sighting the "target" [friend] between your fingers and flashing them with the mirror.

Finally a word of caution: I have seen some cheap copies of 5-in1 tools molded in blue and green plastic for as little as a dollar. Look closely and you will find the ferrocerium rod is missing. Those knockoffs are probably okay for training youngsters, but I'd recommend purchasing a quality one for your personal trail pack, and do make sure to buy one molded in bright orange so it cannot become lost if dropped atop leaf litter in camp.

Happy Hiking!

Goblin Ranger

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