I love the mailman. Wait! No… I love getting a package in the mail. It’s like getting a mini Christmas present. A few days ago I was lucky enough to get a package from Precisionriflesupply.com . They sent out a Solkoa S3 Pro Survival Kit for evaluation and it was burning in my hands for a few days before I could get out to test it. I love camping. While primitive survival skills haven’t ever been my forte’, ever since I was a wee little child I’ve been building shelters and playing Cast Away minus the volleyball bromance. Trying out a professionally assembled survival kit is much like shooting a quality factory built rifle. If you ever need one, you’ll be mighty happy you brought one along. As a commercial fisherman, helicopter pilot and hunter, I have seen firsthand why having a good kit available is important. I’ve often assembled little grab bags for whatever calamity seemed most likely. Having dodged any major disasters thus far, they have always proven sufficient for the minor ones. The real question here is, “Should I really shell out some big bucks for a survival kit?” If you’re in a high risk occupation or enjoy off-the-beaten-path recreational activities, the answer is worth your life. Much like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, if something goes wrong, you have the rest of your life to come up with a solution. Whether that’s 30 seconds or 30 years, might just depend on what you brought with you.
Solkoa Inc. was incorporated in 2005. A service-disabled-veteran owned small business, Solkoa has more than 30 employees. Despite being relatively small, they have quickly garnered respect within military and government circles as a go-to provider of survival solutions. Look over their website and you will find a bevy of government organizations, military school and military units using their products. Being so thoroughly vetted by warfighters and the rescue angels who pull folks out of harms way speaks volumes. But I don’t get paid the big bucks to report on someone else testing this out! It was time to break down the S3 Pro.
To put the Solkoa Pro to the test, I took it out on a 2 day camping trip. While I won’t pretend I was in an emergency, I did have ample opportunity to check the different aspects of the S3 Pro. My initial impressions were favorable. This bag weighs in at 3 lbs and measures 9″x 7″x 3″. This isn’t huge and for all it offers, isn’t very heavy. The Pro counts out at 56 pieces with multi item pieces (such as the 4x heavy wax kindling tabs) only counting as one. As I pulled bag after bag, tool after tool out I felt like I was seeing some kind of a magic clown car act. The sheer volume of tools in the Pro was mind boggling. The included gear index card was very useful as I sorted out all the tool into 8 piles, one for each of the major survival tasks. While I wasn’t able to test every item (no trout in the nearby streams), I was left feeling very confident in this bag’s ability to bring order to the chaos of an emergency.
I started with navigation. A Suunto compass came out first, a good start! Suunto has been in the business for a while and their A-30L compass shows that in it’s ease of use. A pace cord (also called Ranger beads) is here as well. Time to measure out your pace count again if it has been more than a few years. A 4x fresnel lens, waterproof paper, waterproof map pouch, pencil and space pen round out the navigation module in the Pro.
The signal kit had everything I could use short of a flare gun. The rescue whistle does it’s job and even giving it the lightest exhale I could sent out a piercing shriek audible from a good distance in the dense woods. If you don’t know morse code for SOS, time to learn. Dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot. That’s the internationally accepted code for emergency. The Petzl headlamp is impossibly small yet still bright and effective. The most impressive new tool for me was the signal mirror with built in red-dot sighting system. Like your grandpappy’s signal mirror, you figure out the reflection angle between the sun and your potential rescue source. What makes this mirror so interesting is the built in peep hole, which uses an optical illusion to overlay a red dot in the middle of the hole. Just like your old aimpoint comp M3, place the red dot on your target and the magic happens. In this case the magic is help being able to see your reflective flash from miles out. A high visibility fabric panel is also included (see below).
The hydration section of this kit is well stocked. With 12 water purification tabs and a 2 liter flexible canteen, you might think you’re set up for a good long while. Solkoa thinks you need more! An Aquamira Frontier Pro ultralight in-line water filter (50 gallon filter life) is included as well as 3 liters worth of extra water bags and 3 feet of flexible tubing. However, the adapters on the Frontier Pro filter left me scratching my head a bit. Using the included parts, I could hook up the filter in a static gravity feed system, a straw system or even hook into a Camelback or Source style hydration bladder. What I couldn’t do was hook the in-line filter/bite valve to the included canteen without using the 3 foot flexible tubing. Loosely holding the tube in the canteen is a cumbersome setup and definitely not one I’d want to use on an overland movement. Maybe a small replacement cap with a built-in adapter for the canteen could be fashioned or offered at a later date? If I have to stuff all my goods in the sleeping bag and hike to safety I’d rather not stop to unload and hook up the drinking system to get a drink.
I felt an embarrassment of riches with the fire starting tools. I had so much to work with here I think short of being in a torrential downpour, I’d be able to get a fire going. I started with the Faststrike Sparking Rod (a caveman’s dream) and never gave the 15 stormproof matches a second glance. As for tinder to catch my sparks, I had 2x Fastfire tinders, 6x wax-cotton tinders, 4x heavy wax kindling tabs, steel wool, waxed jute and even some rubber accelerant tabs. Still need more? The 4x Fresnel lens in the navigation kit will work in a pinch. More tinder? Burn the directions for the Leatherman multi-tool or the packing label for the water filter. Using just the Faststrike rod and one of the wax-cotton tinders, a fire was going in no time. I added a tiny corner of the rubber accellerant and sure enough my fire was boosted for a full minute. The Fastfire tinders and stormproof matches would have been an even easier way to get a fuego going.
The medical pack is pretty loaded. Most minor-to-moderate injuries or ailments should be alleviated using something here. From moleskin, burn cream, pain meds, wound dressing, anti-diarrheal meds and even some small vials for your own prescription meds are included here. Makes me want to take a refresher on the Ranger first responder course or at least a Red Cross first aid course.
You can see where this is going right? If you only bring your “C” game to a survival situation, the Solkoa S3 Pro will get you up to a “B+”. Each of the 8 survival facets is covered here. With the tools included, I’m confident I could build a lean-to palace given enough time. The food kit will keep you going for a while. Provided are not only means to cook food but also items to help trap and fish. You even get some seasoning! This kit is built for everyone from weekend adventurer to pilots down behind enemy lines.
It was tough to find gripes here. This is an impressive and well thought out survival kit. Besides the aforementioned canteen cap, the 3 mil thick waterproof bag is presumably designed to double both as a carry-sack and sleeping bag but isn’t shaped to my liking. It is huge as a carry bag but really, really short as a sleeping bag. I’m 5’5″ and even when flying in a tight cannonball formation I could barely get the bag up to my shoulders. It is much better than nothing and is meant to be used in conjunction with whatever shelter you build up around it as well, but could use to be perhaps a bit longer even if narrower. Something reflective like the SOL Emergency Bivy or even a Solkoa reflective blanket would have been more to my personal preference. The kit carrying bag itself is nice and durable but the zipper would be better if it was extended down the sides a bit. Having to take everything out to get something off the bottom of the kit sack may only be a minor issue but an easily remedied one.
Besides the S3 Pro and other complete survival kits offered, Solkoa also sells individual modular kit sections. Whether you’re looking to add a shortcut on fire, water purification, shelter or navigation to your camping setup, Solkoa has a module for you.
My final word on the matter is this: the Solkoa S3 Pro is a wild abundance of lifesaving options in one small pack. If you spend significant periods of time removed from easy access to the emergency response system, you need to consider how much you’re willing to invest in survival. At less than half the cost of a new handgun the Solkoa S3 Pro gives you as much of a leg up as any other survival kit I’ve seen. This kit will help you define the areas you need to brush up in whether trapping using snares or building a proper shelter. Using top quality components and a well organized setup, the Solkoa Pro aims to bring you home alive. I’d say they deliver the goods.
My thanks to the fine folks at Precision Rifle Supply for providing the test unit. Without businesses willing to put the products they stock (and their reputation by association) on the line it would be much tougher to get the word out on the products that are assets versus those that are only worth false confidence. Thanks guys.