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Reviews > Health & Safety > Emergency and Survival Gear > Ultimate Survival Technology BASE Kit > Test Report by Richard Lyon
ULTIMATE SURVIVAL TECHNOLOGIES BASE KIT
Test Report by Richard Lyon
Initial Report December 7, 2009
Field Report February 10, 2010
Long Term Report April 7, 2010
Male, 63 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do at least one week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still often include my favorite camp conveniences and always bring a floored tent. I spend much winter backcountry time on telemark or touring skis.
December 7, 2009
BASE is an acronym for Basic Adventure Survival Essentials. Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) has packaged four of its products (each available separately) into a minimalist set to provide means for two such essentials: starting a fire and signaling. For the latter are the JetScream™ Whistle and StarFlash® Mirror. The Sparkie™ Fire Starter and two cubes of WetFire™ Tinder facilitate fire-starting in any weather. All four come inside a 5 x 4 in (13 x 10 cm) ALOKSAK pouch with a “Patented Leakproof/Airtight Seal." (ALOKSAK is not a UST product but the name of another company that makes many storage bags for outdoor use.)
Manufacturer: Ultimate Survival Technologies
Size (full Kit), listed and measured: 5 x 4 in / 13 x 10 cm
Weight (full Kit), listed: 2.4 oz / 68 g
MSRP: None listed
Component sizes and weights:
Signaling. The pealess JetScream Whistle is (as advertised) LOUD. Very loud. I’m not sure if it meets UST’s claim that it’s “one of the loudest in the world,” but a friend reported that the shriek was loud one hundred yards (90 m) away. The Whistle is heart-shaped and made of hard black plastic. It comes with a small lanyard.
The StarFlash Mirror, as shown in the photograph, has a star-shaped hole in the center of the rectangle. Following instructions printed on the rear side (faintly visible in the top photo) this can be used to aim light reflected off the mirror to a particular point. The Mirror also has a small hole in one corner for threading a lanyard. Another nice detail – the Mirror’s corners are rounded so that a sharp corner doesn’t puncture anything in my pack if it’s not stored in the Kit. UST says that the Mirror is unbreakable and scratch-resistant, and that it floats. I verified the accuracy of this latter claim in my kitchen sink.
Pyrotechnics. The Sparkie Fire Starter included with my BASE Kit has a bright orange plastic housing; the BASE Kit may also be purchased with a sand-colored Sparkie. By depressing a small button at the bottom, marked “push,” the spark bar is extended. At this point I pressed down hard on the housing and bright sparks flew from the end of the bar. As advertised it is easy to operate with one hand. UST warns that the sparks are “intensely hot,” hot enough so that that more than three strikes in rapid succession can cause the accumulated hot sparks to damage the spark bar.
WetFire Tinder cubes are individually packaged. UST kindly included a package of eight additional cubes for use while testing. A cube may be used intact or pieces or shavings cut from it. According to UST, simply light the Tinder amid a few scraps of tinder to get a smokeless 1300 F (700 C) flame in wet or dry conditions.
Storage. Technology hasn’t been neglected here. The storage pouch has a patented seal and is claimed to be waterproof to 200 feet (60 m).
TRYING IT OUT
Out-of-the-box testing of the JetScream was easy – insert and blow. The lanyard is just the right size to attach on the shoulder strap of my preferred ski pack.
The flat terrain of North Texas prevented any testing of UST’s claim that the StarFlash may be used to signal up to 100 miles (160 km) [sic] away. It is however easy to use, and printing the directions for aiming on its reverse side ensures that I won’t forget how to direct the signal. After pointing the mirrored side to the light source, I bring the center hole slowly up to my eye and simply look at the point in the distance that I wish to signal. Couldn’t be much easier.
The Sparkie is the only item in the BASE Kit requiring preparation before first use. UST suggests a few starts to scrape off the oxide coating at the base of the spark bar, exposing the flint underneath. On each of these, and every subsequent strike, a shower of sparks spit up from the base. As an initial test of the Sparkie and WetFire Tinder I shaved a few slivers of WetFire into the base of my BushBuddy Ultra wood-burning stove, added some wood shavings, and with one punch of the Sparkie had a cooking fire started. WetFire burns rather slowly; it was still burning after the wood shavings had turned to ash. A separate start, without the wood, confirmed that the WetFire produces a smokeless flame.
To try out the ALOKSAK container I immersed it in my sink with a piece of tissue inside and weighted it with a can. Twenty minutes later I retrieved the pouch, with the tissue dry and not a drop of water visible inside.
In summary, everything worked as it should.
When I applied to test the BASE Kit I thought that combining four small emergency items in a single package was a great idea. After inspecting the real thing I think that this is a really great idea. Except possibly the whistle, the Kit’s contents are items I don’t expect to have to give routine use, so it’s OK to store them. Why not put them all together so that I don’t have to scrounge frantically to find one thing or another? The BASE Kit is small enough to fit in just about any pack (or trouser) pocket, and at less than 2.5 oz (71 g) the weight sacrifice is negligible even with an expedition load. If anything breaks or is used up I can replace it without having to buy another full Kit.
February 10, 2010
I have carried the BASE Kit on every hike I’ve done since December and two ski trips as well. Thankfully no emergency has required the Kit’s use, but I have tested each of its components in the backcountry.
Hiking is about a dozen day hikes in North Texas, varying from two to ten hours’ duration, at temperatures from 8 to 60 F (-13 to 15 C), in fair and foul weather. The latter category means light rain or snow and in one instance a brief downpour. Elevation around here rarely exceeds 1000 feet (~300 m) above sea level.
My ski trips were to the Teton Range in Wyoming, and consisted of eight days at ski areas and five in the backcountry. A yurt trip just after Christmas involved a six-mile (10 km) hike on skis with climbing skins to the yurt on day 1, followed by two days of searching for backcountry ski lines. The hike in took us from about 6500 feet to 9000 at the yurt (2000-2700 m), and weather was sunny and calm until the hike/ski out on the last day amid light snow. Temperatures ranged from 12 F (-11 C) at night to 25 F (-4 C) during the day.
I skied in the Wyoming backcountry in late January, on a snowcat ski excursion operated by Grand Targhee resort, and after leaving Jackson Hole Mountain Resort from the access gate at the top of Rendezvous Peak. The cat day was overcast, about 25 F (-4 C), and calm; the Jackson day was sunny and calm. Elevation was comparable to that on the yurt trip.
I skied inbounds at Jackson the day before the yurt trip and at Grand Targhee the day after, and at Jackson on six days during the January trip. Three ski days were snowy, the rest clear and calm. Temperatures ranged from 12 F (-11 C) at night to 25 F (-4 C).
Where it goes. In the backcountry I chose to keep it in the top pocket of my r2 Telemaster pack (reviewed elsewhere on this website), along with other things that I normally keep there: powdered energy drink packets, blister kit, ski repair tool, and spare binding cartridge. When skiing inbounds I wore my Mystery Ranch Broomstick pack (also separately reviewed), keeping the BASE Kit in its small zippered pocket together with my snacks. On day hikes I usually kept the Kit in a cargo pocket on my trousers or hiking shorts. The BASE KIT is so small and compact that it can be stored nearly anywhere.
On the backcountry ski days I first removed the JetScream Whistle from the Kit and wrapped its lanyard through a zipper pull on my parka so that the Whistle would be available if needed – say if I tumbled into a tree well.
How I used it. I’m testing a stove with a built-in piezo and so haven’t had occasion to use the Sparkie Fire Starter or WetFire Tinder for cooking purposes, but I have used them to start a fire at a box-type grill at a roadside campground in Wyoming and on the sandy shore along the creek that runs through my back yard. In both instances I gathered small sticks and flammable brush and then some larger sticks (perhaps finger-sized), shaved a few scrapings of the Tinder onto the fire area, and lit the Tinder by pressing down on the Sparkie. I fed the resulting flame first with natural tinder, gradually adding a few larger sticks. Soon I had a fire large enough and warm enough to warm my hands. The Sparkie has ignited the WetFire Tinder without fail each time I’ve used it.
I tested the mirror on the yurt trip, aiming at an island of trees perhaps one-quarter of a mile (400 m) across a small valley. I could easily see the reflection of the beam I transmitted on the snowy spruce in the bright sunlight.
The whistle is still very loud, if my backcountry companions at Jackson Hole can be believed. They heard its blast well and truly at the bottom of a 1500 vertical foot ski run, probably half a mile (800 m) away, after I used it to alert them that I was starting down. I’m not sure the winter backcountry is the best testing venue for a whistle; in the absence of wind it’s one of the quietest environments I know. (That’s not the least of its many attractions.) I’ll look for more challenging locations, with different background noises, during the next two months.
The storage pouch received an unscheduled test on a hiking day. I stored the full Kit in the cargo pocket of my trousers with a container of sunscreen. From pressure or from carelessness with its lid, much of its contents found its way onto my pants before I first noticed the mess. When I returned home all I had to do was wipe away the sunscreen from the outer surface of the Aloksak pouch, rinse, and dry. None of the Kit’s contents had a drop of goop. Well done!
Compact size – easy to stow
Everything works as it should
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The Whistle has yellow printing on one side but is otherwise a dull black, making it difficult to locate if I’ve removed it from the pouch.
The Whistle’s lanyard is very small, as required to ensure it fits inside the Kit. After this test concludes I may replace it with a longer piece of twine or nylon, lash it to a pack strap (or personal flotation device when packrafting), and use the saved space in the Kit for extra Wetfire.
LONG TERM REPORT
April 7, 2010
The BASE Kit has become a regular part of my backpacking and day hiking kits. I’ve made a point of packing it, usually in the top pocket, every time I strap on a pack. Backpacking use has been limited to one three-day trip in the Texas Hill Country in late March, but I’ve done a day hike of some sort at least twenty different days. I also included it in the back pocket of my fishing vest when stalking the trout on Nelson’s Spring Creek, Montana, in mid-March. Temperatures have ranged from 40 F (4 C) in Montana to nearly 80 F (27 C) here in Texas.
Thankfully I have yet to use the Kit in a true emergency, but after completing my stove test I’ve experimented a bit more with a my Bushbuddy wood-burning stove (mentioned in my Initial Report), giving me more opportunities to use the fire-starting combination. Both the Sparkie and the WetFire have worked without fail on perhaps a dozen field uses and a few more experimental runs around home. This has been one of the rainiest Texas winters and springs in my more than two decades here, so they’ve had to perform in the rain several times.
First of all – and most importantly in my opinion – everything in the BASE Kit works just as it’s advertised to do. The whistle toots loudly, the mirror shines brightly, the WetFire Tinder starts fires, the Sparkie sparks, and the ALOKSAK pouch keeps everything together and dry. I haven’t had a single problem with anything in the Kit. The latest testing has given me more experience with the Tinder and Sparkie, and both have impressed me. A very small shaving, perhaps only an eighth of the cube, is enough to get a damp clump of tinder and duff started, and it burns long enough to keep my stove’s fire going to the point where I am adding finger-width sticks, which is the point at which the wood fire becomes self-sustaining.
Almost as important, the BASE KIT passes the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle test with flying colors. This mechanically challenged tester appreciates this particularly. All items are easy to use, and work intuitively. The only item requiring any practice is the mirror, and once the aiming is mastered it’s become second nature (and if I forget, the instructions are printed on the back to remind me).
Speaking of the mirror, I did have the chance to test it at a longer distance than previously, on a house-hunting trip near Bozeman, Montana. One of the houses I inspected was atop a hill and barely visible from the office/warehouse of a friend, so I called him when I reached the house, signaled with the mirror, and received confirmation that he had seen the flashes clearly. The house was about five miles (8 km) away by winding road, probably about half that distance in a straight line, and the day was sunny and bright. Not one hundred miles (UST’s marketing claim), but not bad.
Two very minor functional criticisms of the BASE Kit remain unchanged from my Field Report. I’d like to see the whistle available in the same bright orange as the Sparkie, to make it easier to pick out of a jumble of gear. After this test I plan to move the whistle to a pack strap; it’s the one item in the Kit that I’d prefer be ready to hand in an emergency. Doing so would allow storage of another small item (a blister patch or two, perhaps) that I want to have with me but don’t need at a moment’s notice to the very functional ALOKSAK.
I regard the BASE Kit as I do my first aid supplies – I hope never to use it, but I don’t want to be caught in a pickle ten hours from civilization without it. Every piece of the Kit is top-quality and reliable, and works just as it should. I expect to carry the BASE Kit (with the whistle on a pack strap) on every backcountry hike from now on.
My Test Report ends here. I’ve enjoyed this test, not only for the chance to put the BASE Kit through its paces but also for my introduction to Ultimate Survival Technologies, whose other products I shall eagerly investigate. Thanks to UST and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the BASE Kit.
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