When it comes to staying warm, your sleeping bag is the most important piece of gear you’ve got.  As you sleep, your body’s metabolism naturally shuts down. You aren’t doing the physical activity typical to daylight hours, so your body isn’t generating enough heat. That makes it easier to get cold and even to fall into hypothermia. Besides all this, when hypothermia is coming on, your sleeping bag is the best defense against it.

With that in mind, buying a good sleeping bag is an important part of creating an effective bug out bag; especially for the wintertime. While you can get by with much less in the summer, or even sleeping out in the open, winter survival doesn’t leave that option.

The North Face is one of the biggest manufacturers of serious backpacking equipment there is. Their designs are created by people who use the equipment, ensuring useful innovation. Everything The North Face produces is high quality, which makes it not all surprising that I’ve picked them for having the best sleeping bag around.

The Furnace Sleeping Bag from The North Face is everything I could ask for in a sleeping bag.

A mummy style bag, it is designed for temperatures down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. It is filled with 550ProDown, natural goose down for warmth, as well as great compressibility. There’s also a Heatseeker Eco anit-compression insulation layer to act as a buffer between your body and the cold ground.

North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag

Although a mummy bag, the North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag has a more relaxed taper, giving you more room to move around. If you’re the type of person who tends to toss and turn in your sleep, that’s a great advantage. I know people who can’t sleep in a mummy bag, because they can’t move. Well, in this one, they could sleep just fine. There’s also a vaulted footbox, allowing more room for your feet in a natural, ergonomic position. All in all, a much more comfortable bag to sleep in.

Making the bag comfortable didn’t sacrifice anything in warmth though. A shaped hood and draft collar helps hold heat in, as well as a durable, as well as a full length draft tube alongside the zipper. The zipper has a glow in the dark zipper pull, so you can find your way out, even in the dark.

The exterior shell of the North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag is durable, embossed, water resistant polyester taffeta and the inside is a soft polyester taffeta lining. This helps keep the bag dryer, so that it will continue to keep you warm. The taffeta lining prevents the bag from sticking to your skin, while helping keep you warm and comfortable.

With all those great features, this bag lives up to its name of being “The Furnace.” But there’s one other feature, which may be the most important of all. This great sleeping bag weighs only 3 pounds, 8 ounces, packed up and ready to go. It stuffs into its included stuffsack, making a bundle that’s only 10″ in diameter by 19″ long.


Smith’s Products Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit Review

Smith’s Products Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit Review

Hey there fellow “bugged out preppers!” I was recently contacted by a representative of Smith’s Products asking if I could review some of their products. How cool is that? I said yes of course, and they even suggested we give away 1 of each of the products I review to one lucky person. More on how to be entered in the contest later.

Smith's Products Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit Review blog imageThe first of 5 reviews is the Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit from Smith’s Products. I started with this survival kit because it is one of their smaller kits and costs only $39.99 (as of 06/23/2015). This is a small, yet useful survival kit and should not be confused for a full out bug out bag. It doesn’t come close. However, it is great for someone who is out hiking or biking through the woods.

This kit is listed as an 11 piece survival kit, but came with a few more items if you count the whistle that is attached to the fire starter, or the signal mirror that was in kit, but not one of the listed items. I’ll list everything included below in the features section, and I will elaborate on a few of the key features.  I will also elaborate on one of the shortcomings of the kit.

The Edgesport Survival Knife is full of bells and whistles

While reviewing the Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit, I first grabbed hold of the knife. I bet all of you would have done the same thing. It came out of the packaging very sharp. I was easily able to shave off the hair on my arm without needing to use the diamond sharpening rod which stores inside the knife handle. The knife blade is made of 440A stainless steel which is highly rust resistant, so no need to worry about rust. However, 440A steel is a low cost stainless steel which may become evident with a lot of use.

The handle is made of plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap. Rather, it feels really comfortable with the soft grip. While using the knife, the locking mechanism was reliable and I felt safe using this knife for a variety of tasks.

Hidden within the knife handle are three other tools. One, which I mentioned earlier, is the diamond sharpening rod. Also included is a fire starter rod with a whistle attached to the end. After getting the black protective coating off the fire starter, it sparked really well. I will have a video up later showing how I made a fire using this kit.

Weather resistant container

All the items in the survival kit fit nicely within the orange pouch. It is described as being water resistant which it is, but it can be improved. One really critical aspect of the container is that it does not have zipper or any way to seal it. The top stays open leaving space for water to enter. I was able to fold the top over and then connect the clips. While this does close off the top it deforms the container a bit and doesn’t really resemble the image. The clear front cover is handy to identifying what you have packed and does a good job repelling water. The open top isn’t a huge problem but if you anticipate being around water I suggest moving the contents into a water-proof bag.

Survival Guide included

Not only does Smith’s Products pack the kit with useful items for survival, they also include a one page survival guide to keep with the kit that will help you use the kit in a survival situation.

Included is a simple checklist:

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Smith’s Outdoor Survival Kit
  4. Hat
  5. Extra clothing
  6. Duct tape
  7. Map and compass
  8. Leave an itinerary and map of where you will be staying with someone.

This particular survival kit comes with about 3 feet of duct tape which is decent for a starter kit, but may not be enough for a long term survival situation. Keep in mind this kit is not designed to survive an Apocalypse. So, if you think you will need more than 3 feet, go ahead and pack some extra. There are countless uses for duct tape, from fixing clothes, shoes or building a shelter. You will will be happy it’s there when you need it.

The guide also covers the basics of first aid, building a shelter, signaling for help, finding a water source, and locating food. Using the tips in the survival guide will greatly increase your chance of survival. Just don’t forget it’s in there though.

Features and Specifications

  • Whistle (it’s loud)
  • Fire starter (stores in handle of survival knife)
  • Diamond knife sharpener (stores in handle of survival knife)
  • Locking blade
  • Rubber grip on bottom of handle
  • Pocket clip
  • Striker
  • 440A stainless steel blade
  • Tinder
  • Emergency blanket
  • Lightweight & durable construction
  • Fishing kit
  • Duct tape
  • Collapsible cup
  • Weather resistant container
  • Survival guide (very useful)
  • Zip ties (can never have enough)
  • Safety pins
  • Pocket clip

Overall, this survival kit packs a big punch for being so small. The fire starter and tinder’s enable you to create and maintain a fire quickly in the event of a survival situation. Hey, you may even get to use the fishing kit to catch some fish and cook over your fire. Then while you’re at it, why not use the collapsible cup to wash down your fresh fish with some water you found using the tips in the survival guide.

All joking aside, Smith’s Products Edgesport Survival Knife and Kit provides the avid outdoorsman a compact and lightweight kit to bring along to safeguard against an emergency or survival situation. While it is not a replacement for a bug out bag, it definitely has a place for hikers and other outdoors-man who need something that provides the essentials for survival.

Check out the survival kit here:

Lastly, don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win one of these kits, click here to go to the contest page and follow the three easy steps. (contest is over)

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Coleman Hooligan 2 Tent Review

Coleman Hooligan 2 Tent Review

Picking a backpacking tent to use as a bug out tent can be challenging, especially for those who aren’t experienced backpackers. Many of the subtle differences that will make one tent stand out over another to the seasoned backpacker, may fly right over the heads of the rest of us. One could respond to that by saying “Buy the most expensive and you’ll have the best.” But most of us really can’t afford to buy the most expensive, especially considering that the only time we’d use it is while bugging out.

Most preppers have to strike a balance between cost and features. While we might all want the best, we are practical people. As such, we look for something that will give us the best possible service, for a reasonable price. So, we need to understand what those high prices are buying for us.

In the area of backpacking tents, there are a number of features which can drive up price, but the most glaringly obvious is weight. Two person backpacking tents can range from five to nine pounds. Invariably, the lighter the tent is, the higher its price. So, when you’re looking at a $200 tent, you’re not getting more space; you may not be getting a much more durable tent; mostly, you’re getting a lighter one.

The Coleman Hooligan series of backpacking tents are a great mid-range tradeoff tent series for the average prepper. They make Hooligan tents for two to four people. We’re specifically looking at the two-person one here.

This is what is known as a three-season tent. It’s two layer construction helps keep you comfortable and dry, even in inclement weather. The inner wall is made of mesh to keep insects out. On warm nights, you could remove the outer cover and allow the cool breeze to blow over you, without having to let the mosquitoes in to interrupt your sleep. The outer shell is waterproof, protecting you and keeping you dry.

The floor is also built to keep you dry as well, extending up the sides to keep water from running into the tent. That saves you from having to put a ground sheet under the tent, as well as not having to worry about digging a drainage ditch around it.

The outer shell is zippered, forming a dry vestibule at the entrance. This allows you to take off wet boots and outer garments, before entering into the tent itself. With one half of the vestibule open, the other half continues to provide protection from the wind, so you don’t get cold while you are trying to work your way in to the tent.

This tent design uses one continuous, fiberglass tent pole, which goes over the center of the tent, long-wise. The fiberglass pole is 11mm in diameter and is sectional, with elastic cord to help pull it together. Stakes around the corners and guy lines finish off the assembly. This single pole design is very easy to erect, allowing you to have your tent up and ready for occupancy in ten minutes or less.

The Hooligan isn’t the lightest backpacking tent around, coming in somewhere around the middle of the pack at just over 7 pounds. But to cut a pound out of the weight, you’d have to spend $100 more. That makes this tent a great compromise that will serve you well.

Gerber survival knife review

Gerber survival knife review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; a good knife is the most important piece of survival gear you can carry. But what makes a good knife? What should you look for in it, to make sure that it won’t let you down when you really need it? Before looking at my choice of a survival knife, let’s talk about that.

GERBER-DFThe first absolute must in any knife that you’re going to depend on is quality. Remember, you’re trusting this tool to keep you alive. The last thing you need is to buy some cheap knife that doesn’t last. That’s why I always stick with proven brands. Oh, those Damascus steel knives out there look pretty, but they aren’t commercially made knives, so there’s no way of knowing how good each one really is.

The only knife I would trust my life to is a full-tang sheath knife. A folding knife is great for a backup, but not as a primary survival knife. Generally speaking, the thicker the steel used for the knife blade, the stronger it is. Or, to put it another way, the thicker the steel, the better the knife.

Now let’s take a look at the knife. I chose a Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife as my primary survival knife for a number of reasons. First of all, I’ve always liked Gerber’s quality. Dollar for dollar, I feel you get more for your money with a Gerber knife than you do with a lot of other brands. Even though they’re a quality knife, they don’t seem to get the attention that some other brands do. That helps keep their prices reasonable.

With a 5-1/2 inch blade, it’s long enough for just about anything, without being so long as to be awkward. It’s a single-edged blade, with a sharp point. Some people like double-edged blades for survival knives, but in a lot of states they’re illegal to carry. There’s always the possibility that I’ll have a survival situation where police will still be around, such as an evacuation for a hurricane, in that case, I want my knife to be legal to carry; my Gerber is.

A lot of people go for serrated blades on survival knives, but I’ve yet to find a place where I really wanted one. The only use I know for a serrated blade is cutting rope on a sailboat. Other than that, you’re usually better off with a full edge on the blade. Two inches of serration really isn’t enough for cutting firewood or even tent poles; you’re better off using a saw.

A sharp point on the knife creates a weakness, so that is one weak point on the Gerber. However, it also comes in handy when you have to put a hole in a tarp or hide for lacing something together. So, I’d rather have the sharp point, than go for a drop point or a tanto point. A clip point gives you a sharper point, but it is weaker than a straight sharp point as well.

Finally, the Gerber has a nice rubber handle, with a sculptured grip. That makes it both easy to hand onto and comfortable to use. It’s not likely to slip from my hand while I’m using it or even if it gets wet with blood in a fight. While the sculptured handle is a bit uncomfortable when holding the knife low, with the blade up, I can still hold it firmly and I know which way the blade is pointing.

While I’m sure that there are lots of other opinions out there, I’ll stand with my Gerber. This is the best knife I’ve found, without paying a fortune. If you want a knife you can count on, take a good look at the Gerber Steadfast Fine Edge Knife.

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