Gear you hope you never need

by Timothy Fowler

Morakniv offers a wide selection of fixed blade knives suitable for tough backcountry use.
Morakniv offers a wide selection of fixed blade knives suitable for tough backcountry use. Timothy Fowler photo

It’s a good day when your life jacket stays dry, your survival gear remains packed and your avalanche gear never goes bang. Truth is, you pack all those things hoping you never have to deploy them, but when you do, your life probably depends on it. Here is some survival gear from this year’s S.H.O.T. Show (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show) in Las Vegas: a couple of fire-starting options, tough knives, the brightest rechargeable headlamp I’ve ever strapped to my forehead and a toasty warm mummy bag and mattress.

Every January, S.H.O.T. Show attracts 60,000 industry professionals from around the globe, descending on Las Vegas for a week’s submersion in product launches, new gear and fresh offerings from top manufacturers of outdoor, survival, camping, sporting and defence gear. Here is a roundup of top survival items of interest to sledders.

Zippo lighters have new replacement cartridges: choose from USB-rechargeable or butane-filled inserts with single or double flame.
Zippo lighters have new replacement cartridges: choose from USB-rechargeable or butane-filled inserts with single or double flame. Timothy Fowler photo

A good fire starter

One of the best ways to fend off hypothermia in the backcountry is staying dry and wearing appropriate layers of clothing. But when things go sideways, a reliable firestarter is key to your survival.

Zippo has a new line of refillable cartridges that replace the standard lighter fluid-filled cartridges in their lineup. If your recollection of Zippo hasn’t changed since you sparked the roller on your grandpa’s old-school lighter fluid-soaked flip-top lighters, you might be surprised to find a plethora of updated Zippo products to get your fire going.

Titan Matches by UCO are unstoppable.
Titan Matches by UCO are unstoppable. Timothy Fowler photo

Those old school lighters are excellent fire starters but the new butane-filled and USB-rechargeable cartridges that can be swapped out for the fluid and flint original might just be the perfect way to repurpose old lighters. Zippo refillable butane cartridges fit perfectly in the classic lighter housing and come in single- and double-flame units. The USB-rechargeable lighter puts out an arc of mini lightning to ignite kindling. Zippo makes a sweet Multi tool that includes a flint starter, paracord loop and three blades (screwdriver, serrated saw blade, straight blade), in addition to a grater to make fine wood kindling to start a fire.

Titan Stormproof Matches by UCO are unquenchable. Check out their resistance to immersion here. UCO markets a range of fire-starting products from the Titan Stormproof Matches to the Behemoth Sweetfire Match with a 15-minute burn time that gives sledders options for a sure way to get a fire going. UCO matches provide the heat portion of the oxygen-fuel-heat fire triangle. Check out Coal Cracker’s pro-firestarter tips.

Morakniv from Sweden makes tough steel knives; this one has an integral fire sparker/starter.
Morakniv from Sweden makes tough steel knives; this one has an integral fire sparker/starter. Timothy Fowler photo

A good knife

A good knife fills a collection of useful functions in the field. Whether cutting an apple for lunch, scraping pine pitch and wood shavings for starting a fire or fashioning a pointed cook stick for your bratwurst––every sledder needs a good knife. Good knives have been manufactured in Mora, Sweden for 129 years. Morakniv from Sweden launched a couple of new knives this year: a floating cork-handled version and a knife with a sparker in the handle so you always have a way to start a fire as long as you have your Mora knife.

Fenix’s top-tier HM65R headlamp runs at 1,400 lumens max and is USB rechargeable or runs on two CR123A batteries.
Fenix’s top-tier HM65R headlamp runs at 1,400 lumens max and is USB rechargeable or runs on two CR123A batteries. Timothy Fowler photo

A good headlamp

The only task tougher than digging your sled out of mountain powder is doing it in the dark without sufficient headlamp light. Fenix makes a range of models, including USB-rechargeable headlamps that run on replaceable batteries so you can have the economy of rechargeable with the replaceable backup batteries. The Fenix HM65R is the brightest headlamp I have seen. Rated at a max of 1,400 lumens, it is shockingly bright—just what you need to illuminate your post-sunset extraction.

Klymit makes a sleeping bag rated to -20 C and an R4.4 inflatable mattress that is perfect for backcountry winter camping.
Klymit makes a sleeping bag rated to -20 C and an R4.4 inflatable mattress that is perfect for backcountry winter camping. Timothy Fowler photo

A good sleeping bag and mattress combo

Not every sledder carries a sleeping bag and mattress, but if you do, Klymit bags and mattress have big insulation in an efficient pack. Klymit makes a synthetic sleeping bag rated to -18 C, and combine it with an R4.4 mattress––fit for a snow cave.

Unpack your survival gear and have a critical look at the works. What do you need? Are there some good ideas for additions here? Go prepared. I hope you never have to use the stuff.

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