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Preview – SHTF – Tools Of The Trade

Survive, Evade, Resist,  and Escape — Made Easier

If you’re a cubicle jockey, you’ve probably been there. In between mindlessly filing paperwork and fantasizing about the receptionist, you’ve undoubtedly pondered an infinite number of “what if” scenarios to test your inner warrior’s mental mettle.

What if an earthquake leveled the building? What if you were stuck behind enemy lines with top-secret intel that would turn the tide of battle? Or what if you awoke chained up in a dank concrete basement during your Mexico vacation, fighting off roaches, dehydration, and your kidnapper’s beatings?

Are any of these scenarios likely? Statistically, not at all. But, it never hurts to be prepared. And if you have a SERE kit, you’re that much better off.

SERE is a military acronym that stands for “survival, evasion, resistance, and escape.” This type of training started in the United States with the Air Force in the 1950s and teaches soldiers, sailors, pilots, and Marines how to survive in all sorts of climates and environments — and to do so with little to no gear. They learn to make improvised tools, use camouflage techniques, and resist interrogation and psychological techniques if captured.

Closer to home, the knowledge gleaned from a SERE class may not be apparently useful when commuting to the office or barbecuing in your backyard. But having those skills and the kit to supplement them enhances preparedness and peace of mind. As the saying goes, better to have it and not need it than the other way around. However, survival gear can be cumbersome, especially if you feel the need to prepare for various situations (e.g. blizzards, sandstorms, EMP attack, etc.). Having that bulk harnessed to you while evading possible captors or the rising tides might be the difference between life and death. Fortunately, small SERE kits have made a splash on the survival scene lately, proving that good things come in small packages…many good things it seems.

We shine the spotlight on three SERE kits of different sizes, each containing solutions for all sorts of scenarios. And since they vary drastically, there is no Goldilocks — no right size for everyone — as they all have their pros and cons. Remember: Your survival may vary.

Tops Knives Survival Neck Wallet

TOPS Knives
Survival Neck Wallet

TOPS is more of a tactical and hunting knife company, so it’s interesting to see its foray into the survival gear market with the Survival Neck Wallet. It’s a comprehensive collection of basic single-man tools packaged into a heavy-duty nylon wallet, intended to be worn around the neck (hence the name). Each item inside appears well made and sturdy with the specific purposes of rescue and survival in mind, but not much in the way of escaping or resisting.

Inside the wallet are two pouches and a see-through window pouch for IDs or maps, while the Velcro cover contains a zippered pouch for more secure storage. On the rear is a highly reflective orange and silver material that can be seen in the lowest of light, as well as another pouch (which holds instruction sheets on trapping animals and starting fires). The 6 feet of lightweight cord is adjustable and, we imagine, can be cut off the wallet and used for any number of things, from a tourniquet to a small animal snare. Inside, there is much more room for additional items besides what is included, so this kit can be easily personalized and/or expanded.

The thin, plastic Fresnel lens can be manipulated to start a fire or magnify small items. It comes with a plastic credit card-sized case to keep it from getting scratched. TOPS claims that the survival whistle (included in several of their other products, such as the ATAX hand axe) is rated at 126 decibels, which can be heard dozens of miles away if the conditions are right. There is a small single-cell LED flashlight attached to a snap-link carabiner, but if the button is accidentally pushed while stowed in the wallet, the battery will be dead when you need it most. As you would expect from the company, there’s a knife: the TOPS Survival Saw, essentially a 3-inch Sawzall-style blade in a thin plastic handle. The blade is very lightweight and incredibly sharp, able to cut through most anything put before it (including a steel rod).

Other items include a 1.75-inch compass (which doesn’t glow in the dark) and a dog-tag-sized signaling mirror (which, given the size of the wallet, could have been a lot larger). In a separate plastic bag is a host of smaller but essential items, including a 24-inch monofilament fishing line with two hooks, a couple of safety pins, a thick sail needle, and 5 feet of snare wire. Also included is a razor blade and an old-school, John Wayne-style P-38 can opener that can be used as a striker against the combination ferro/magnesium rods. There are more than 100 uses for the two included ranger rubber bands, from shelter building and fire starting to shoe repair and bandaging.

A couple of superfluous items are included as well. The Lansky Quick Fix Sharpener is bulky and can’t sharpen the serrated Survival Saw that’s included in the kit. Though useful if you have a plain-edge knife, it doesn’t belong in this survival kit when more essential things can take its place. The offset Phillips/flathead screwdriver won’t find much traditional use in survival situations, but could come in handy in disassembling something you’ve scavenged. However, a multitool would have been a better choice to include in its place, though doing so would make the kit more expensive.

Large compass
Ferro rod with a handle
Large knife/saw

Reflective surface can’t be concealed
Exposed button on flashlight
Superfluous knife sharpener

Brand: TOPS Knives
Model: Survival Neck Wallet
Dimensions: 6 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches
Weight: 9.6 ounces
MSRP: $50

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