Sunday, March 28, 2010

Get a GRIP...

This weeks product of the week comes to us from Fastfire. If you read last weeks review you may have noted the mention of the Fastfire brand, a division of the SOLKOA company which provides equipment, training, and consulting to the government, military, and private sector. While the core of Fastfire is firestarting products this week we will be looking at the GRIP-S system:
From Product Releases

From the factory the GRIP-S system includes the following:

-(2) Universal Handles
-(4) Set Screws
-(2) Lanyards
-(1) 28" Wire Saw
-(1) Phillips/Flat Head Screw Bit
-(1) Set Screw Adjustment Disc

Info from the manufacturer:

Solkoa's Grip-S™ (Grip-Survival) are a pair of universal handles capable of holding a multitude of useful tools needed for field expedient improvisation beyond the capabilities of today's domestic-use multi-tools. Designed for ultimate adaptability, durability and simplicity, Grip-S™ can hold any of the standard flexible wire saws, any universal shank saw blades (increasing your capability to cut and fabricate beyond wood including dense plastics, various metals, and even masonry and stone), and any round or hexagonal tools up to a quarter inch in diameter (including standard ¼" hex bits, metal files, drill bits, awls, etc.).

Info from use:

When I first found out about this product last year I was really excited about the possibilities of where it could be put into use. As someone who has used tons of survival gear and continue to try new stuff out I have used numerous 'bargain bin' wire saws and they have always come up short. The GRIP-S alone as a wire saw works like a dream however when you look at everything else that it is capable of you begin to see it as the latest "multi-tool" only limited by your imagination.

Quick vid of the wire saw in use against 9" of finished hardwood:

While I initially looked at the system strictly from a survival perspective for use in shelter construction or anywhere else you may need to cut materials in a survival situation. However looking at other applications where you may need to use any of the accessories that the GRIP-S handles can harness the uses are endless. Need to drill whole? Drop a drill bit in the handles. Need to cut metal or plastics? Drop a bimetal or application specific recip saw blade and go to town. Need to reshape a material? Drop a file or rasp in. Any bit that will fit in a 1/4" chuck will fit in the GRIP-S handles.

A few examples:

From Product Releases

The flat/philips bit included in the kit

From Product Releases

Files of various sizes (not included)

From Product Releases

Drill bits up to 1/4" (not included)

From Product Releases

Recip Saw Blade (not included). I prefer the Lenox Fire & Rescue as a good general purpose blade.

So if you need a capable wire saw and foundation for a mission specific tool kit I would encourage you to look into the Fastfire GRIP-S.

Fastfire GRIP-S kit available at Austere Provisions Company

Until next week, stay sharp and keep your powder dry...


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Part Two

Last week we looked at the Swedish Firesteel from Light My Fire USA, this week we will be looking at another quality option in the area of fire starting gear: The Fastfire Fire Starting Kit and Firestriker MAXX.

A little background, Fastfire is a brand under the SOLKOA Company. SOLKOA designs and builds professional level SERE equipment the military, government, and private sectors. One of the key products of the Fastfire line is Fastfire cubes. Not being a chemist, I have no idea what they are made of but they offer some very attractive attributes that are not seen in most solid fuel cubes.

From the manufacturer, Fastfire cubes:

• Generates a sustained, 1300°F flame in just seconds
• Burns even when WET!
• Wind resistant
• Smokeless and odorless
• Ignites easily from a spark or any flame
• Very low flashpoint (140°F)
• Lights under conditions where other tinders would fail
• Each tinder is packaged using a rugged, high quality foil that guarantees long shelf-life and durability.
• Solid cubes don’t leak, spill or foul up your other gear
• Left whole, one cube will burn vigorously for 10 - 12 minutes
• If divided into eighths, eight separate fires may be generated, with each tinder piece burning 2 - 3 minutes each
• Once extinguished, Fastfire material cools to the touch within seconds

From my testing:

Fastfire cubes have a texture and consistency similar almost to a styrofoam material although slightly different. The surfaces, even when cut or abraded are water resistant and do not become waterlogged. This also allows you to cut a single cube into numerous smaller pieces for starting multiple fires or controlling the size and strength of fire from the cube. As mentioned in the specs, Fastfire cubes light easily with a spark. When I first saw this product demonstrated the user abraded the top of the cube and directly lit the cube. Through my toying with the product I found that using a tool to "drill out" the center of the cube creating a sawdust type powder that commonly lights with a single strike from the Fastfire Striker. This also leaves the bulk of the cube to be cut into smaller chunks and added to the fire or saved for later. See video below for demonstration.

The other half of the Fastfire Fire Starter Kit: The Fastfire Striker.

From the manufacturer:
  • 3" ferrocerium rod attached to a 3" hacksaw blade
  • Weighs only 1oz!
  • No breaking parts (plastic) or failure points (springs that can break)
From my testing:

The Fastfire Striker puts out ample sparks and is a very simplistic design consisting of the ferro rod and hacksaw blade. Although it is technically a hack saw blade, this is no chunk or fragment of your average bimetal blade that you find at a big box store but appears to be a high quality and purpose designed piece of gear selected by Fastfire. Even after extensive testing the hacksaw blade continues to be sharp for secondary use beyond just a striker.

The combo:

From Product Releases

In use:

Next item up...

The Fastfire Faststrike MAXX, a beefed up version of the striker included in the fire starter pack. The ferro rod is an extra inch long, totalling 4" with a matching hacksaw blade and an estimated duty life of 10,000+ strikes which by my estimates from using firestarters over the years is a lowball figure. I could easily see it lasting much longer than that.

A quick comparison shot (MAXX on top):

From Product Releases

How to get it:

Faststrike Fire Starter Kit available at Austere Provisions Company

Includes (4) Fastfire cubes and (1) Fastfire striker.

Fastfire Refills Kit available at Austere Provisions Company

Includes (8) Fastfire cubes. Use it to stock up with the Fire Starter Kit or couple it with a firesteel you already carry.

Fastfire Faststrike MAXX available at Austere Provisions Company

Great mainline striker.

As a special for intro-ing the Fastfire line we will be tossing a free Fastfire cube in every order placed between now and the end of March to give customers an opportunity to try this stuff out.

Enjoy one on us.

Be sure to check back next week as we have another product that I am personally very excited about. Until then, stay sharp.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


It's one of those things that separates us from animals and has allowed us to make major advances throughout history. If you think about it, there are a very small number innovations at the dawn of man that are the foundation for where we are today. Fire is one of those. While that may be cool to think about and ponder the way fire helps us today is to provide heat to keep us warm, provide light, provide smoke (signal, cooking, or bug abatement), and provide you signaling ability.

So how do we get this fire started? One of the tools I keep in my survival toolbox is the Light My Fire USA FireSteel. Available in three sizes of rod (actual striker component): Mini with a life of approximately 1,000-1,500 strikes, Scout with a life of approximately 3,000 strikes, and Army with a life of approximately 12,000 strikes. The 12,000 strike rod comes in the Army size with a compact synthetic handle for field use or the Barbeque with a larger wooden handle for home or car camping type use.

From the manufacturer (Light My Fire USA):

Originally developed for the Swedish Department of Defense, Swedish FireSteel is a flash of genius. Its 3,000°C spark makes fire building easy in any weather, at any altitude. Used by a number of armies around the world, Swedish FireSteel’s dependability has already made it a favorite of survival experts, hunters, fishermen and campers. It has also found its way into cabins and backyards as a fool-proof way to light stoves and gas-barbecues.

* Durable
* Works when wet
* Approved by the International Survival Instructors Association
* Produces a 3000°C (5,500°F) spark
* Lights campfires, stoves, gas-barbecues
* Bright spark – can be used as emergency signal

Things I like about the FireSteel:

-Durable and simplistic design
-Puts out plenty of spark (good quality rod and well designed striker)
-Economical (easy on the wallet to add one to any survival kit)

A few pictures of the various sizes we currently carry at Austere Provisions Company:

From Blog album

Army Size with striker and lanyard

From Blog album

Scout Size with striker and lanyard (comes in a variety of colors as shown)

From Blog album

And the Mini with striker (lanyard removed to be carried on keyring as shown below)

From Blog album

After carrying for a little while I did a little hack work to shorten the overall length so that it stood out less (see below):

From Blog album

Here is a quick vid of the FireSteel Scout in use:

So if you need an effective means for starting a fire that can not be damaged by exposure to the elements take a look at the Light My Fire USA FireSteel in any size available now at Austere Provisions Company.

Light My Fire USA FireSteel Mini at Austere Provisions Company

Light My Fire USA FireSteel Scout at Austere Provisions Company

Light My Fire USA FireSteel Army at Austere Provisions Company

We have more Light My Fire USA products on the way and scheduled to deliver this week as well as a few fire related stock from another company. Look for info on those in the near future.

Stay sharp out there and have a great week,

Saturday, March 6, 2010

As you may have notice

Something I am pretty serious about is low light gear. Spend enough uninterrupted time underground to kill a fresh set of batteries or in places where your survival rate drops pretty close to zero if you lose your light source and you will be too. Not to mention how helpful lights, headlamps in particular, are in low light environments. One of the first professional level lights I purchased was a Petzl headlamp (halogen twist on/off in the rear of the pile) and I have been using them ever since.

From Blog album

As you can see I have used Petzl products for years and literally have put them in the hands of friends and family members that are deploying or traveling. As I mentioned last week my wife is currently on a medical mission to Central America. One of the pieces of trusted gear she took with her was her Petzl Tikka XP that I purchased for her a number of years ago when they first came out.

A relatively new twist on an established item is the TACTIKKA XP ADAPT Kit. This is based off the Tactikka XP which has been around for a number of years now (two gray lights, right front of picture). This kit includes the base light in black with a subdued headstrap and stabilizer strap (for rigorous activities), webbing/cloth clip, helmet/hard surface mount, filter set (red, blue, green), and a set of batteries. This kit allows the user to run this light in a traditional manner as a head lamp, attached to web gear or vests, or attached to a helmet (tactical or rescue).

From Blog album

We are happy to offer the TACTIKKA XP ADAPT Kit, in stock now. Now some of you may be saying to yourself "self, this guy just did a review a few weeks ago on Princeton Tec lights and recommended those, what the deuce?" Well the answer is, I have complete faith in the lights that I recommend from both Petzl and Princeton Tec and good design and durability are not exclusive to one model or brand. After all, variety is the spice of life. You will be well served by any of the lights we carry for years to come.

Petzl TACTIKKA XP ADAPT available at Austere Provisions Company

Alright, 'till next week. Stay sharp and stay safe.