Just about everyone has one (or several!) or has at least seen the stainless steel, double-walled vacuum-insulated water bottle. There is no shortage of them on the market nowadays. But despite the numerous companies making them, there is very little variety in the function of the bottle. You almost always get something that keeps something hot for a while and cold for a little longer. There will be variations in the caps that are available, but otherwise there isn’t much difference in the functionality.

Enter the Bindle Bottle. I first spotted the Bindle Bottle on Kickstarter and was intrigued by the idea of combining storage abilities in a water bottle. The bottle is great for people who often forgo the ritual of assembling a daily carry and want a package they can assemble and forget about. It’s also good for times when you’re in a situation where you’re not wearing clothing with a lot of pockets, i.e. a day at the beach. The bottle carries 24 ounces of water plus a 3.3 inch high by 3.2 inch wide storage space. This can hold just about anything you want, from small EDC items to medical gear to a small survival kit. For demonstration I put in a Bic lighter, adhesive wrap and a paracord bracelet. You could also fit a folding knife inside, so long as the closed length is 3 inches or shorter. Something like the Kershaw Ember would fit.

The $39.99 MSRP combined with the lower-than-average fluid capacity of 24 ounces may throw off some potential buyers. But the value is redeemed with the storage capacity and consideration of where this would come in handy. As a SAR guy, I’ve encountered my share of people who could have been greatly helped out by even a minimal survival kit. Another thing a lot of Bindle Bottle users do is keep their keys inside for days at the gym. Another idea is to keep your driver’s license, cards and keys inside the bottle and bury it in the sand to avoid theft at the beach.

If you know someone who likes to hike, but often doesn’t carry anything more than a cell phone and water bottle, this is for them. If you’re the prepared type and looking for a quick-to-grab item from your desk that can carry some essential items, then this is for you. The Bindle Bottle comes in a variety of colors and ships with a standard loop cap. You can also get straw lids and lids for sipping coffee and tea. Check it out here.

Some knives are tailor-made for one role. This is not one of them. Boker’s Blacklist fixed blade can do just about anything an outdoor enthusiast could ask for. The combination of the sweeping blade and great ergonomics make for one of the more versatile fixed blades on the market today.

The blade is 440C stainless steel. Boker hardens the steel to Rockwell 57-58, meaning the user gets a high degree of edge retention and corrosion resistance.

The 4.9-inch, .20-inch blade shape is what makes this knife a winner in many outdoor catagories. The sweeping belly is great for slicing and processing food and the thickness allows it to do small and medium batoning work. The high flat saber grind allows the user to make fine shavings when making tinder. Hunters will also like the blade shape for processing game. The top of the blade has a spine that comes to 90 degrees at the corners, allowing the user to strike a ferro rod with the spine instead of the blade if they don’t have a dedicated striker available.

The knife could do anything from being a survival blade to a camp tool or hunting knife so long as the user is comfortable carrying the 10.2 ounce knife on their belt or in their pack over long distances.

The handle on the Blacklist is incredibly comfortable. It feels good in the hand in any type of grip. The G10 handle scales are lightly textured, allowing for good grip but not so aggressive that the user feels uncomfortable after using the knife without gloves. One slight downside that users will find is that the handle does not allow a user to chop without making a tight lanyard. I’m not a huge fan of chopping with small and medium-size knives, but some survival enthusiasts find it to be good practice in some situations.

The kydex sheath on the knife is another win. It fits snugly and has a drainage hole at the bottom. There are holes and attachment slots for webbing and different mounting systems.

The belt adapter is the only area I really have an issue with the design of this package. The adapter can be adjusted to fit different sized belts, but attaching it to the blade and finding a comfortable position is a bit of a doozy. The only way to do a traditional belt mount is to mount the knife high on the waist, which can be uncomfortable for some users. Scout carry is an option with the knife, but I did not use that since there is no secondary retention strap and scout is uncomfortable with anything larger than a small pack on.

While some knife forums list 440C as a hard-to-sharpen steel, I was able to re-sharpen it easily with a few runs through my Work Sharp. The edge came out near-shaving sharp.

You can find this knife for around $100 from some retailers. Check out Boker’s website for more designs.

Total Length: 9,9
Blade length: 4.9 in
Blade thickness: 0.20 in
Weight: 10.2 oz
Blade Material: 440C
Handle Material: G10
Sheath: Kydex w/Belt clip

Maxpedition has taken the next step in modern, low-visibility tactical equipment. About two years ago I wrote about Maxpedition’s release of the Advanced Gear Research line of packs and pouches and how it was a trend for tactical companies to invest more in lower-profile, civilian-style equipment. While the AGR gear wasn’t entirely “covert,” it was certainly less conspicuous than 1,000 denier nylon packs covered in MOLLE webbing. The new Entity line is a no-frills-on-the-outside, business-on-the-inside set of packs and pouches for prepared civilians on the town or military or law enforcement personnel who need to truly blend in with the crowd.

The Entity line of packs looks fantastic. They look like the kind of packs a well-versed traveler would carry on every trip. The bags are tech and CCW-compatible and feature an array of interior pockets and loop Velcro panels to hold whatever gear you need.

The Entity pouches are also low profile and made to fit extra gadgets or hardware on or outside the pack. Since the packs don’t have exterior MOLLE webbing on the body, the pouches attach to webbing on the straps. Entity panels can connect to the loop panels inside the pack.

I really like the evolution in design in the Entity line. Maxpedition never gets skimpy with their attention to detail with focus on what users need their gear to do and then shifting to how they can put the function into the best package for the environment. If I learned anything from reviewing the Falcon III pack, it’s that Maxpedition makes durable, well-designed equipment.

Because Maxpedition is such a respected name in the tactical community, I expect the Entity line to sell well. Maxpedition will be showing off the Entity line in more detail at SHOT Show 2018. They will have some competition, as companies like 5.11 Tactical and Hazard 4 have also released covert lines of equipment for the discrete user.

It may be winter, but it’s never too early to think about getting your boat in the water or pulling on your waders for a day of fishing. And for those anglers who need something to lessen the hassle of managing lines, retrieving hooks and processing fish, Gerber has heeded your calls.

Gerber is out with a brand new line of fishing-specific tools. The tools are optimized for freshwater fishing and each tool is designed to be easy and comfortable to use while in or on the water. For those of you who hit the open ocean for your fish, don’t worry. Gerber says salt water products are in the works.

Some of tools that caught my eye:

  • The Linedriver
    • This line management tool gives the user several tools in a slick design that clips onto a belt or waistband. Features include a spinning hook vise, eyelet clearing spike, hook threader, scissor snips and split shot crimper.

  • The Magniplier
    • For those who hate fiddling with needle nose pliers to pull out hooks, this is for you. The Magniplier allows your hand to mimic a trigger grip during use and an offset design allows you to see down the mouth of that bass you’re trying to shake loose without having to peer over your wrist. The tool has exchangeable jaw tips and carbide cutters and comes with a nylon sheath and lanyard coil.

  • The Processor
    • The processor gives the user everything they need to prepare their catch for dinner. The Processor has a gut hook, scaler, cutting shears, a dedicated fin clipper and a knife edge on the bottom of one of the shear jaws. The tool can also be taken apart for easy cleaning.

  • The Controller
    • For those who prefer a traditional fillet knife for processing the fish, the Controller has you covered. The full tang knife comes in 6, 8 and 10-inch blade lengths and has an and ergonomic handle for a solid grip no matter how messy the task. A 9Cr steel gives you good edge retention. The sheath is vented and designed to be easily rinsed out. An included sharpener keeps your knife ready for any catch.

  • The Gutsy
    • The Gutsy is a compact, one-piece tool that combines a scaler, gut hook, scooper and bottle opener. The tool takes up very little space in your tackle box or pack and may even be ideal for those who want to add a fishing-specific tool to a compact survival kit.


Check out the full line of new equipment at gerberfishing.com

As you long-time readers know, I’m the guy with the gear who actually uses it through my role as a Search and Rescue member. Throughout the year I do video reviews of gear I’ve purchased or been given to test, so watch for those here on this site. Here’s a list of gear I actually like, so if you’re looking for a gift for the gear-head on your list, let these ideas guide you.

Gerber Center-Drive

Gerber’s Centerdrive took the gear world by storm with it’s innovative bit driver design. That placed the bits in the center of the tool when deployed rather than off to one side like traditional multi tools. It has quickly become a favorite of anyone needing serious work done and only wanting one tool to do it. You also get one-hand opening full-size knife and pliers, a file, serrated blade and other essentials. Futhermore, it’s made in the USA.


SOL Traverse Survival Kit

One of the newer survival kits on the market, the SOL Traverse survival kit covers 12 to 24 hour survival needs in one compact package. You get what you need for shelter, fire signaling and water purification. The container also doubles as a digging tool. I carry SOL kits as part of my hiking kit and enjoy having essential items for an unexpected overnight or spat of bad weather all in the top pocket of my pack. The Traverse may not satisfy the hardcore outdoors person, but is ideal for someone looking for the necessities to toss into their pack for day-hikes or short hunts.


Black Rifle Coffee

If you have any sort of social media account, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some ads for the high-octane and good-humored folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. The Veteran-owned premium roasters have a knack for creating media content with no shortage of firepower and absolutely fantastic coffee. I work an overnight shift for my regular job and I am somewhat picky about the coffee I use and how I brew it. My life changed when a coworker brought in some Black Rifle Coffee. The flavor is incredible and of course it’s as strong as you need it to be. The company also sells a variety of mugs, tumblers and brewing gear for your needs whether you’re brewing at home or camping.


Gerber Sharkbelly

I received the Sharkbelly right after my wedding and it has been a wonderful tool. Having just got married a few month ago, my house was chock-full of boxes from gifts and wedding supplies. I spent plenty of time cutting tape and cardboard in order to get everything into the recycling bins. The Sharkbelly’s sheepsfoot blade makes everyday cutting chores a breeze and the 420 HC stainless steel blade keeps a good edge without being too hard to sharpen. It’s also made in the USA, which is a big plus. The Sharkbelly is a great choice for someone needing a lightweight cutting tool for everyday carry or work on the job site.


Readyman Cards

What do you get the person who (supposedly) has everything? Chances are a Readyman card would be the perfect stocking stuffer. Readyman cards cover a variety of tools for someone’s wallet, survival kit, fishing kit, range bag or bugout bag. You can fit cards in your wallet or dissemble them and carry them in a survival tin, pouch or wherever else you want.

My previous SAR-related post involved a subject who was very prepared for an unintended night alone in the wilderness. This one involves a subject that could have prepared a lot better.

I answered a call to search for a missing mushroom picker in mid-October. She had gone missing the day before and had spent a cold and rainy night alone in deep woods. The temperatures overnight were in the 30s and the ridgeline a few hundred feet above our area of operations was covered in snow.

Our subject WAS NOT prepared for an unexpected night in the woods. She had become separated from a larger group, who had tried unsuccessfully to find her before calling SAR. My team was able to find her, but not before she spent more than 24 hours alone in the woods in wet clothing, no real shelter, and low nutrition. She was also succumbing to hypothermia. She had some insulating clothing, but no waterproof layers or survival equipment.

There were a couple of takeaways from this mission that are easy for people to follow and could drastically improve survivability without making major additions to your current kit.

  1. Dress for the activity: Our subject was wearing Ugg-style slipper boots that had blown-out, completely exposing her feet to low temperatures and water. This choice of footwear also significantly increases the risk of injury in the wilderness because they have very little rigidity and close to zero traction.
  2. Dress for the contingency: Some people by habit do not carry a lot of gear on their excursions. There are survival kits on the market that are not only compact but also contain easy-to-use equipment that will allow you to signal for help, build a fire, and give you shelter materials. These kits are usable for people who are survival experts or a novice hiker suddenly caught in a bad situation. I’ve said this many times before, but a knife in your kit goes a long way in giving you a way to cut firewood and build shelter. At the very (and I mean very) least, carry a whistle. It will travel farther than your voice and will not tire out like your vocal cords when trying to bring searchers closer to you.
  3. Keep track of your people: If you’re adventuring with a group, take note of what they’re wearing and equipment they’re using on the trip. Better yet, write it all down. Having a good physical description of a lost person makes life ten times easier for search and rescue staff. Keep track of important items like medical conditions and identifying features. Knowing the experience level and tendencies of your party can also help.

Even the simplest levels of preparation significantly increase survivability in the outdoors. Be smart and don’t go out without checking your gear and people first.

The intense 2017 wildfire and hurricane seasons in the United States and a series of deadly earthquakes in Mexico have many people wondering about their level of preparedness. They’re  also wondering how to help their community prepare for and respond to a major disaster. Police officers, EMS staff and firefighters are often equipped and ready to go at a moment’s notice to get to work when these things happen. But what about people outside those fields who want to get involved? There are many volunteer opportunities that can give you the skills, knowledge and regular operating experience to help you be ready and help those around you be ready for major events. Here are just a few.

The Red Cross – The Red Cross is an invaluable group during severe weather season. They provide anything from basic toiletries to evacuation shelters to people experiencing any sort of disaster, whether it’s a house fire or a hurricane. Volunteers are often dealing with distressed families who have been forced out of their homes and in need of comfort or shelter. Volunteers can also travel across the country and even overseas to help respond to disasters.

Volunteer Firefighting – An especially valuable service in rural areas, volunteer firefighters are responsible for firefighting and fire safety education in their community. They can also become involved in wildland firefighting activities. Training as a volunteer firefighter can involve medical services, hazardous materials and urban search and rescue. The skills and knowledge you gain can assist you in preparing your own home and family for an emergency.

Volunteer Search and Rescue – My favorite commitment (can you guess why?) is SAR. Search and Rescue not only prepares you to save the lives of others, but also your own when things go wrong in the wilderness. A SAR person on a hike is rarely ever unprepared. Your rescue training will include land navigation, first aid, communications and planning. More advanced teams will operate in rope rescue, equestrian-based searching and K9 searching. Search and Rescue can also be called upon to assist in evacuations during major disasters.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) – CERT volunteers serve as a city’s volunteer support team during a disaster. Training can include first aid, light search and rescue and fire safety. Volunteers also take part in community events to help prepare their neighborhoods for emergencies.

So what’s right for you? Take a look at your lifestyle and see what kind of time you can commit and what fits your interests and current skillsets. SAR and firefighting will take a significant level of physical fitness so don’t sign right up if you’re a couch potato. Check out the Red Cross website for a chapter near you. Your local city and county website will also have resources for volunteer groups.

We recently posted an article asking if your child would be found alive if they were stranded outside. That led to a question of what situations would be best to stay where you are and what situations would you be best served by leaving the area. In most cases, you’re better off staying where you are rather than going off somewhere else. For those of you who don’t know my other posts on this site, I’m an active member of a Search and Rescue team in the Pacific Northwest, and I have a lot of experience in what’s effective at outdoor survival and being found.

Sometimes not doing anything is your best chance at getting out of a hairy situation alive. Several factors may influence the decision to stay put. You may be lost in an area you are not familiar with. You may not have reliable navigation. It may look like bad weather is coming in. If any of these are true, sheltering in place may be your best option for making it through the night and being rescued.

A lost person may panic and try to search for a way out of the wilderness in some way that makes sense to them. They may try to go uphill, downhill, upstream or downstream. In a panicky situation they may travel in any direction they believe carries even the slightest chance of getting back to civilization. But if you’re up a creek without a paddle, or up a trail without a compass, roaming around could only worsen your situation, and decrease your chances of being found and rescued. Your rescuers may have no idea which direction you went in, and therefore no direction on where to start looking.

Search teams work with your point last seen (where someone last had contact with you) and your last known point (determined by specific clues collected during the search). Deviating from where you currently stand without knowing where you are going will only increase the time it takes for teams to locate you. If you have a map, compass, are uninjured and have the means to endure the elements, then you will likely be able to make your way back without issue. But if you are lacking proper navigation and survival gear or are injured, your best option for survival and rescue is to hunker down. Wandering further will only increase your chances of being exposed to harsh elements. That exposure will lead to hypothermia, which will take a toll on your mobility and judgement.

You will need to establish some kind of shelter to protect yourself from the elements in your current position. An A-frame type shelter with branches, leaves and pine bows stacked over the sides can shield you from moderate wind and rain. And that’s just if you don’t have any equipment with you whatsoever. Having something as simple as a mylar blanket will drastically increase your odds of staying warm and dry. Add a knife and paracord and you have many ways to make a simple but durable shelter that will help you ward off hypothermia. The ability to build and sustain a fire further increases your odds and also serves as a signaling tool.

If you are in a position that is too dangerous to shelter in, move as short a distance as possible to take cover, and leave some kind of sign for rescuers indicating your direction. For example, make an arrow with sticks or rocks. Use whatever is available to tell people you are still alive and not far away.

The best way to avoid this situation altogether is to be both mentally and physically prepared. Know the area you are going to and know the weather forecast for the next 24 hours. Be sure to pack the essential items for outdoor activities, and enough food and water to last longer than you intend to be outdoors.

When it comes to dedicated survival kits, there are a number of options that are compact and lightweight for people who want simple shelter, fire and signaling solutions. You can also assemble your own from preferred components. As long as you don’t go without the essentials you’ll be able to go out and back safely. But remember, when things turn bad, there is no shame in making the choice to hunker down, stay warm and ensure your safety.

Subscription boxes are all the rage for people who have a bit of extra cash, crave some new gear, but don’t want the hassle of figuring out what they should buy. Box companies have become pseudo-Santas with monthly or quarterly deliveries with a mystery box of (hopefully) quality and usable items for their subscribers.

I’m not a subscriber to any box simply because I’m a little picky when it comes to my gear and I don’t have a lot of chump change. However, I do see their benefits for people who follow certain lifestyles in that they’re able to replenish gear they’re using often or add new items to their supply drawers that they may have been interested in anyways.

We dove into the July edition of TacPack, one of the first monthly subscription boxes for tactical, EDC and survival gear. Tacpack has a single-level subscription cost of $49.95 each month. Because of that monthly cost, I was looking for the MSRP of the box to be double that subscription rate. You have to get your money’s worth!

As you can see in the video, the July box did not disappoint. It had a bit of something to please different crowds. Full disclosure, Shadow Fox did NOT pay for this TacPack, but as always, we aim to be straightforward with our gear reviews. Here’s what we got in the box:

Breakthrough BT 101Cleaning Kit: This basic cleaning kit comes with Breakthrough Military Grade Solvent, Battle Born High Purity Oil, and Battle Born Grease fortified with PTFE (forgot to mention in the video) for cleaning your gun. Also included are a microfiber towel and brush. (MSRP $25)

Fusion Climb Daisy Chain and Carabiner: I was surprised to find one of these combos in a subscription box. You have a full-strength climbing sling and carabiner that’s ready to add to a climbing or rescue kit. TacPack markets this on their description cards as something to cinch down gear or hang items, but as a mountain rescue guy, I see a lot of climbing utility. It can be used for making anchors, clipping into anchors or even as a retention lanyard or helicopters. Remember, climbing and rappelling are dangerous and at times deadly activities, and you should only participate in them with proper instruction, supervision and safety equipment. (MSRP $30)

EZ Accuracy and Gunworks AR-15 Gas Block Dimple Guide Screw and Marking Pin: This little piece is just for the AR enthusiasts. TacPack markets this as a must for AR shooters and those looking to build their own rifles. They say it can also help when reassembling your rifle. (MSRP $14)

5.11 Wharn for Duty Folding Knife: This is a big knife in a small package. As stated in its name, it has a 2.3-inch AUS 8 Wharncliff style blade, which is good for EDC and utility tasks. I’ve had AUS 8 steel blades in the past and I have no complaints about the value, edge retention and rust resistance. The handle is very ergonomic and can be gripped comfortably with or without the finger choil. Upon further examination after filming the video I saw what appear to be bronze bushings at the pivot point, giving a smooth opening. The knife is also fully ambidextrous (Yay for southpaws!) thanks to the opening hole in the blade and right and left hand carry positions. Will I carry this knife as my EDC blade instead of my AUS 8 Cold Steel Recon-1? The Jury is still out. (MSRP $36)

MOAB Mother of all Bottle Rockets Patch: TacPack is known for giving a free bit of morale every now and then in their boxes with logo patches and “gangbangers anonymous” AR-15 patches. The Mother of All Bombs is probably something many of you are familiar with after it saw action in Afghanistan. But what about its smaller, more festive cousin? The Mother of All Bottle Rockets will surely be a staple in a lot of people’s patch rotations especially around Independence day. (Priceless)

This comes to a total MSRP value of $105, which is a little more than double what you have paid for your monthly subscription. Some of you may think you can source each item here for less than the MSRP prices. That may be true, but you still may not get the total prices lower than the subscription rate.

Interested in TacPack? Check them out HERE.

Photo courtesy of TacPack.

This was a knife I wanted to like. Right out of the box, the American Buffalo Knife and Tool Phantom Spector folding knife flipped right open in my hand to reveal a shaving sharp 4-inch 8cr13mov tanto blade attached to a silky smooth ball bearing pivot. Sure, the pocket clip was only drilled for right hand carry, but then a lot of folding knives are like that. And I was willing to look past the heavier than preferred 5.9-ounce weight if the edge kept up with testing and the tip didn’t bend or break after being repeatedly jammed into and pulled out of logs.

But alas, I would despise it as soon as I started using it.

When I began handling the knife, I felt something moving around inside the handle. At first I thought the screws were loose, but some shifting around revealed everything was keeping together. There was nothing loose in either the blade or pins. When I started experimenting with different grips, I discovered what was wrong: The liner lock was prone to failure. Because I was left handed, the way my fingers shifted against the textured protrusion of the liner lock, meant to make closure easier, was actually disengaging the lock during use, leaving the blade free to close on my unsuspecting fingers. This appeared during normal tasks as well as tough chores during testing. I can’t use or recommend a knife that I know will have an unsafe failure.

After seeing and feeling the safety issue with this bargain tactical folder, I tried to regain my confidence in the knife by enjoying the smooth and fast opening from both the flipper and ambidextrous thumb studs (which are unnecessary since you can’t carry the knife in your left pocket and be able to draw). But I then discovered an issue that would ultimately decide the knife needed to go back to the drawing board and be recut into a universally usable tool. The anodized aluminum handle scales had unnecessary texture that did nothing more than allow moisture and sweat to gather on an already smooth surface, letting the knife slip in my hand when quickly opening and closing.

I really did want to like the knife. The ABKT Phantom Spector’s blade didn’t bend or break in stabbing and prying, and the edge cut nice feather sticks from dry wood and didn’t seem to mind going through cardboard and quarter-inch PVC tubing. With such an easy opening from the flipper, I could open and close the knife for days without getting bored.

But before the knife can be used, it needs to be usable. A liner lock that fails in the hand and slippery grip will not do for a knife that comes in a box labeled “tactical weapons.” It has the potential to be a great knife with the solid blade and fast and easy opening.

Check out the ABKT Phantom Spector HERE and purchase it for $36.

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