This is primarily a knife magazine, but a lot more gear is required to survive and thrive in the wilderness. Here are some of the best bits and bobs of 2020 that you should consider adding to your pack, kit, or pocket loadout.
1. Black Beard Firestarter
Whether it’s for warmth, cooking, or signaling, fire is one of the most important aspects of survival. Even if you aren’t in a survival situation, it’s nice to have a fire to sit around when you’re out in the woods.
Getting that fire started can be a chore sometimes though, especially if it’s wet out, and that’s where bringing a good fire starter with you can make a difference. You can find a lot of fire-starting options out there, but I’m always on the prowl for new ones. Lately, the Black Beard rope has caught my eye.
The handmade Black Beard rope fire starter is just what it sounds like: a 5.5-inch long, 1-inch diameter hunk of cotton rope that is then infused with a mixture of nontoxic waxes and oils to create an odorless wind- and waterproof fire starter. Just cut off what you need and ignite it with matches, a lighter, or a ferro rod.
Black Beard says you should be able to get about 50 fires from one rope. Just drop it in your pack and use as needed. There’s no shelf life on the rope either, whether it’s been opened or not, so it’s perfect for long-term storage in a kit or at camp, too.
- Wind and waterproof
- Good for 50 fires
- Only 68 grams, 5.5 inches long
- Handmade in USA of US materials
MSRP: $12 (on sale for $9.95 as of this writing)
2. UCO Flatpack Grill
I’m a big fan of food. Though I’ll admit I’m a lazy cook when I’m in the woods, it’s nice to be able to prepare a warm meal, especially in cold weather. Using a wood fire has its advantages as you aren’t reliant on fuel that you have to pack in and empty canisters that you have to pack out, but not everywhere you go allows ground fires, especially at certain times of the year.
In situations like that, something like the UCO Flatpack Grill offers a perfect solution. The Flatpack Grill comes in two sizes, a 13.5 x 10 x 11-inch standard version and a 9.5 x 8 x 1.5-inch mini version. Both models fold up flat and store in a provided canvas pouch, making them easy to tuck into your ruck or day pack.
The grills use all stainless-steel construction and set up in less than 30 seconds. You can use the grills with charcoal if you’re at a basecamp or with whatever wood you find along the trail. In addition to cooking, they also work well for safe, portable fire pits.
MSRP: $49.99 (standard); $39.99 (mini)
If you’re familiar with Exotac, then you know the company is all about fire, whether it’s in the form of heavy-duty match safes, lighters, or fire steels. Exotac just redid its fireROD, making an already good tool even better.
The ExotacfireROD is designed to fit the fire steel loop provided with many bushcraft style knives. Where it differs from other fire steels is that the CNC-machined 6061 aluminum handle is actually a waterproof capsule that can hold tinder, so you have a complete fire-starting package contained on the steel itself.
The other unique feature on the new fireROD is that the steel unscrews and is replaceable so that if you wear down the old rod, you don’t have to pitch the whole steel. Simply buy a new rod and replace the worn one.
- Anodized black, orange, gunmetal, or olive drab finish
- Waterproof tinder compartment in the handle
- Replaceable 5/16-inch ferro rod
- Made in USA
- Lifetime warranty
MSRP: $29.95 for the complete fireROD and $9.95 for replacement rods
4. Grim Workshop’s Cordage-Making Card
Cordage is one of the hardest things to make in the field, but the folks at Grim Workshop have you covered, and are helping you clean up the environment at the same time. Even in some of our most remote regions, you still find trash that folks who’ve come before you have left behind.
With the Grim Cordage-Making Card, you can help clean up some of that trash and turn it into something useful. Grim’s credit-card sized tool makes it easy to spiral cut plastic bottles into tough, useful cordage in no time flat. A 2-liter bottle can quickly be turned into 65 to 75 feet of cord suitable for lashing, fishing line, snares, gear repair, or anything else you’d use cordage for.
While it’s certainly small enough to take into the field with you, you can use it at home too, to make use of your recyclable plastic bottles. The current credit card model goes for $27.50, but a more streamlined 2.0 version—along with smaller dog tag and micro versions (see below)—are available for preorder as well.
That’s a pretty small investment for a take-anywhere tool that makes cordage out of trash. Plus, it helps clean up the planet.
- Made in the USA of USA-made materials
- Credit card sized—under 1 mm thick—perfect for a wallet, small tin, or small pocket
- Made from highly corrosion-resistant surgical-grade hardened stainless steel
5. Hill People Gear Umlindi V2 Pack
When you hit the trail for anything more than a quick walk, it’s important to be able to take proper gear with you. Whether that’s some basic foul-weather gear and first-aid and survival equipment, or a change of clothes, cooking gear, and some food, a good daypack can be just what you need. The folks at Hill People Gear are no strangers to what you need in the outdoors or the best way to carry them.
The company’s new Umlindi V2 pack is a great example of a small pack that carries big with features refined from actual field use. The Umlindi V2 is a 30-liter 500-denier Cordura pack with 7075 aluminum stays and an HDPE frame sheet for rigidity.
It features a large main pocket with a full height slot pocket on the inside that can be accessed via Velcro closures or a #10 zipper on the outside. Having the side wand pockets big enough to hold two Nalgene bottles on either side, it also has a hose port for use with an internal bladder.
The pack uses an adjustable padded shoulder harness and has a number of compression straps and gear attachment points, making it an extremely versatile pack.
- Parachute cord tool loop in back center
- Weight: 4 pounds
- Dimensions: 6.50 x 11.00 x 19.00 inches
- Volume: 2000 ci / 30 liters
- Made in USA of US materials
6. SMKW Case Knives/Dave Canterbury Leather Sheath and Firestarter
Although fixed blade knives tend to take center stage in bushcraft circles, a lot of folks still carry folders as either a primary tool or a backup or supplement to their fixed blade. If you’re using a traditional design, then having a good belt pouch is still the easiest way to carry your folder.
Smoky Mountain Knife Works has an exclusive pouch that’s a collaboration between survival instructor and TV celebrity Dave Canterbury and Case Knives of Bradford, Pennsylvania. Dave’s knife sheath is an all-leather affair with a full flap and snap closure to keep your knife secure, along with a leather fire steel loop on the side.
The sheath is made in the USA of US materials and comes with a fire steel. It comes in two sizes, one for a Case Folding Hunter and one for a Case Trapper, but it would work equally well for other folders of similar size.
Smoky Mountain does carry Dave Canterbury limited edition Trappers and Folding Hunters if you want everything to match, and either of those would make a fine woods knife as well.
- Leather pouch sheath with fire steel loop
- Dave Canterbury logo on flap
- Comes with a fire steel
- Made in USA
MSRP: $16.99 for the larger Folding Hunter model, $14.99 for the Trapper model
7. Woodknot Gear Coffee Press
I’m a big fan of coffee, but making good coffee in the woods is sometimes a chore. Enter the folks from Woodknot Coffee Gear.
The company has combined the French press with a titanium pot, which means you only have to carry one thing to make great coffee in the woods. The pot comes in 750 or 900 millilitre sizes and features measurement marks, a pour spout, double folding handles, and a bail handle, plus a vented lid with wooden knob.
You can use the pot just like any other pot for cooking or boiling water, but it has the provided stainless steel lid that doubles as a French press. The whole package is compact, lightweight, and extremely durable. It will work on a camp stove, directly on the fire, or hanging over the fire by the bail.
I love the idea of carrying only one item for cooking and coffee needs, and I love that it’s titanium for weight reduction and durability. I missed Father’s Day, but one of these is going on my birthday wishlist later this year.
- Ultra-light titanium construction
- Compact 750- and 900 ml sizes
- Measurement marks
- Double folding handles & bail handle
- Pour spout & vented lid
- Coffee press
MSRP: $65.00 (750 ml); $73.00 (900 ml)
8. ESEE Survival and Navigation Cards
Let’s face it: If you’re serious about the outdoors, there are a lot of things you need to know, and sometimes we forget. I’ve had numerous survival and land navigation courses over the years in Boy Scouts, the Army, and in civilian life, but I’m not going to pretend I remember everything I was taught.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher handy, especially if you do find yourself lost or in a survival situation where you might not be thinking as clearly as you usually would. Well, the folks at ESEE Knives have you covered with their series of pocket cards.
The company offers three sets: Compass cards, Pocket Navigation cards, and Survival cards. These cards are waterproof and small enough to pack just about anywhere. They contain a ton of information in a very small footprint.
I like that they give you something to focus on, too, if you are lost, as sometimes just that time needed to sit and look things over will help you calm yourself down and put you on the path to making the right decisions to be found safely.
The ESEE cards are just what you need to assist you in figuring out where you are and how to get back home, or how to survive if you’re stuck for a while. Plus, they’re compact enough that you can always have them on you when you hit the woods.
- Compass, Pocket Navigation, and Survival Cards
- Compact cards riveted together to prevent loss
MSRP: Prices range between $12.70 and $15.36 depending on set