Watch Out for Survival “Gimmicks”

thumbDear Fellow Survivalist; Greetings. With all the writing I do about survival and all the studying I do about it as well, I am constantly being inundated with new survival gadgets. People send them to me, ask my opinion about them and on occasion I even buy them myself, just to check them out. Hey, I like gadgets as much as the next guy.

Here’s the problem, at least as far as I see it. While all those pocket multi-tools and other great gadgets are really neat, most of them aren’t going to do you the least bit of good when you’re caught in a survival situation. They aren’t really what you need.

To start with, in the process of putting everything together in a all-in-one tool, everything ends up being really cheap. I’m not talking about the price either. If you’re depending on something to help keep you alive, you need good quality equipment, not whatever was created by the low bidder. A compass that’s only 12mm across isn’t going to give you anything more than the broad strokes of directions. A mirror that’s 12mm across isn’t going to be able to signal an airplane and a magnifying glass that’s 12mm across isn’t going to light a fire, no matter how bright the sun is.

Then there are the survival tools where they take a tool and add a whole bunch of other stuff to it. I’ve seen these with folding shovels and sheath knives, although they exist with other things as well. That seems like a great idea, because you get more bang for your buck, but do you really? How are they giving you all that for such a cheap price?

Someone recently sent me a “survival knife” which had all sorts of neat stuff built into the sheath. I’m not going to tell you what, because I don’t want to identify the product. I’ll have to say, it looked pretty good at first. The quality of the sheath is nice, the built-in survival gear is descent and even the handle of the knife makes it look pretty good. But when I checked into it, the knife blade was made of low quality steel, which won’t hold an edge.

The thing is, when a manufacturer adds something to a product, they either have to increase the price or reduce the quality. There are no other ways around it. They can’t just pull the added items out of the netherworld and add them to the product for free. Cost factors don’t allow that.

Many of these multi-use products happen to be very reasonably priced, when you compare them to the competition. I’ve seen some really nice looking survival knives, with all sorts of whistles and bells built in, for much less than the cost of a K-Bar or Gerber. So I know that the quality of the blade can’t be all that good, no matter how good it looks.

The other thing with many of these gimmicks is that they give you extras that you don’t really need for survival. I’ve probably seen dozens of pocket multi-tools, whether the card style or the Leatherman style, which have built-in wrenches. Ok… so what? How is that going to help anyone survive, when they’re out in the wilderness? Yet, they’re touted as being the latest and greatest in survival gear. Surviving what?

Granted, a wrench can be useful in an urban survival situation, but that’s not how they are being promoted. They are promoted as being for general survival. That’s supposed to mean that it can help you survive anywhere, which most people take to mean wilderness survival.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that any tool which promises to be useful for multiple purposes is garbage. The old adage in the backpacking community is to use multi-purpose tools and go for redundancy. Those multi-purpose tools are useful; they save weight. But if the extra purposes don’t really help you, they’re nothing more than needless whistles and bells.

Don’t be caught by the advertising hype of the latest and greatest survival tool. Think it through. Does it actually serve a purpose in your survival plans and is the device you’re looking at of sufficiently high quality as to fulfill that purpose. If not, maybe you should do a little more looking.

Or for that matter, make your own. If other people can come up with multi-purpose tools for survival, you can too. Maybe you can even come up with something that will be useful to the survival community in general. There’s still plenty of room for new ideas and new equipment, especially equipment that can really do the job of helping us all to survive. So, get thinking, and while you’re thinking, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich


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