01 December 2021

What’s in my survival kit? — Dug North

What’s in my … ? issue #130

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Dug North is a maker, best known for his mechanical wooden sculptures. He spent five years running an antique clock restoration business. These days he enjoys outdoor bushcraft activities. You can find Dug on YouTube @dugnorth, and on Instagram @dug.north, and on Facebook @DugNorthCreations.


I am passionate about learning and teaching wilderness survival skills. As an example for my students, I put together a well-rounded survival kit. This kit is based on a design by my colleague, Tim Swanson of Owl Eyes Wilderness.

One of the hardest things to do in the wild is keeping track of your stuff. This is why every item in the kit is bright orange or red.


Orange Waist Pack ($13)
You must have these items with you if they are to be of any use. This is the reason for dedicating a small pack specifically for this kit. Let’s say you go for a day hike. You might take your main backpack off now and then. Only take this waist pack off if it is absolutely necessary.

ESEE Fixed Blade Knife ($70)
In most environments, the most essential survival item is a sturdy knife. ESEE makes two small fixed-blade knives that don’t take up a lot of room. The models I like are the Izula and the Candiru (shown).

Exotac fireSLEEVE ($18) for the Bic Lighter ($20, 5ct)
It may not fit with your mental image of wilderness survival, but the classic Bic lighter is the best fire starter you can possibly have. The fireSLEEVE protects this valuable resource by keeping it dry, preventing the gas button from accidentally discharging the fuel, and by making the lighter float in water.

UST StrikeForce Fire Starter ($20)
Isn’t it redundant to have two ways to start a fire? Yes – and that is precisely the goal. A ferrocerium rod can create thousands of fires and is an ideal backup for a lighter. This model is not only orange, but easy to handle, and has a small compartment to hold dry tinder. Scrape the rod with the metal striker to ignite the included tinder tabs.

Black Diamond Ion Keychain Light ($20)
This little flashlight puts out an impressive 40 lumens of light. Unlike most flashlights of this size, it has a twisting lock that ensures it will not turn on by accident while jostling around in your bag. The brightness can be adjusted and it has a dedicated strobe mode for signalling.

S.O.L. Utility Reflective Tinder Cord ($26)
Cordage allows you to construct shelters, repair gear, and make other helpful items. This utility cord has an outer sheath that glows brightly when light hits it at night. The inner core is a specially designed fire-starting tinder to use in conjunction with your lighter or ferro rod.

Orange 55 Gallon Drum Liner ($20)
Something as simple as a large trash bag can serve many uses — from improvised poncho, to tarp shelter, to make-shift sleeping bag. Few items are so worth their weight.

Aquatabs ($11) with Whirl-Pak Stand-up Bags ($9)
Drop one Aquatab tablet into one of these free-standing plastic bags filled with water and in 30 minutes you will have a liter of drinking water that is free of pathogens. This is a lightweight means for staving off potentially dangerous levels of dehydration.

LuxoGear Emergency Whistle ($8)
A whistle can signal for help at great distances and for far longer than the human voice. Remember: three blasts in sequence is the universal signal for distress.

Cotton bandana ($7)
This is another simple item that is easy to underestimate. A cotton bandana can serve as a signal flag, head covering, washcloth, dust mask, bandage, and water pre-filter.

Tiny Survival Guide ($12) with Plastic Fresnel Lens ($9)
This little booklet is actually a folded waterproof poster that provides concise information on a variety of survival topics. In a bad situation, a little expert guidance could be invaluable. Tuck a flat plastic fresnel lens into the guide as a backup for your reading glasses and third possible means to start a fire by solar ignition.

All of these items have been tested to my satisfaction. It’s true that the cost of the full kit does add up, but keep in mind that these items have been chosen to help save your life. How much is that worth?


30 November 2021


Melnor Quick Connects

Push and click hose adaptors

These plastic quick connects from Melnor are the go-betweens for the hose and whatever nozzle, sprinklers or other hose-end attachments you may have. They’re especially good for quickly moving and attaching hoses from one faucet to another.

I installed them on ALL my faucets (5) and hoses (perhaps 7) and external attachments (probably 10). I have used them for about a year and wonder how I ever got along without them. It takes less than a second (maybe 1/2 second) to attach or detach any hose or attachment. They are installed in pairs, a male and corresponding female connector, with the appropriate threaded fitting to attach to the faucet, hose or nozzle attachment, one on each side of the connection.

You just firmly push the connector into its counterpart, and it easily pops into place — firmly means it does need a little pressure, but even a small child could do it. To disconnect, you push the green collar about an eighth of an inch in the one direction it’s capable of moving, and it pops off. (Similar devices have been in use in industry for a long time — on compressed air lines, for example). No more screwing and unscrewing (no more scraped knuckles); no more leaks from incompletely tightened hoses; no more stuck connections because some gorilla (i.e. me) tried to stop a leak by tightening too hard.

One type is designed so that when you disconnect from it, an internal plug pops into place and stops water from coming out. The other type, for between a faucet and hose, does not have the shutoff. When you disconnect the hose from the faucet, water will still flow and the faucet can still be used. There are other brands and styles; some are even made of pricier brass, but I recommend you stick with one manufacturer because connectors are generally not interchangeable between brands. And these inexpensive plastic ones from Melnor are well made: I have (intentionally) very high water pressure (~100 psi, sufficient to burst hoses) on my garden faucets, and I have had no leaks from these connectors.

-- Robert Ando 11/30/21

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2007 — editors)

29 November 2021



Save your thumbnail

I did a search on your site and found all the scraping tools recommended over the years, but the ThumbScraper was not there. While it may accomplish the same as the others, it’s the thumb indentation design that makes it easy to use. As a left-handed person, I prefer tools that can be used with either hand. It gives me more leverage and control due to its compact size and how it is held. I use it when it is essential to protect a finish and keep one in the garage and one in the kitchen. It has been in my favorite tool arsenal for about 5 years.

-- Marsha Robinson 11/29/21

28 November 2021


Claudia’s Holiday List/Identify that light in the sky/Double inhaling

Recomendo: issue no. 280

3 things to cultivate meaning
Last year, I made a shopping list of everything that made me happy in 2020. This year I have been trying to be less of a consumer, so I only have three things that I would recommend as gifts for the holidays. Each one helps to cultivate purpose and gratitude in my life, and they are all priced under $20. The three things are Moon List WorkbooksBlessing Cards and Wall Calendars, like this one. For the full list, visit: https://kk.org/cooltools/2021-holiday-gift-guide-claudias-picks — CD

How to identify that light in the sky
Here is a “sometimes humorous, but mostly accurate” chart of how to identify that light in the sky. In Sedona, Arizona, I went on a UFO tour where the guides taught us how to identify all the various lights we see in the sky. I wore night vision goggles and saw a lot of non-blinking lights moving fast and veering off straight paths. We had lasers that we used to point them out (never directly at). One even beamed back brightly at us in response. — CD

Inhale twice to calm down
Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman says double inhaling is “the fastest way that I’m aware of — that’s anchored in real known biology to calm oneself down — is an inhale through the nose, and then another inhale at the top.” — MF

Netflix for Apps
Think of Setapp like Netflix for Macintosh applications. For a monthly subscription fee, you get access to 210+ curated apps. I’ve recommended Setapp here before, but they have a few new apps I find myself using every day that I want to mention: Rocket Typist, Paste, and TextSniper. Setapp is usually $10 a month, but here’s a link to get a year for $69. — MF

Streaming rock concert
I have uncool musical tastes. I love pop music; the more poppy the better. My favorite pop rock band is the uncool Coldplay. I also don’t like to go to concerts but I love to watch recorded concerts on a screen, which I find much better than being there. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Coldplay’s very recent concert and light show in Seattle (Live from Climate Pledge Arena), now streaming on Amazon. It’s a non-stop 90 minutes. If you are a fan, this will fulfill; if you want an introduction, this will do it; if you are a hater, hush.  — KK

Favorite Quotes
Some recent quotes I keep returning to. — KK

  • Things that never happened before happen all the time. — Scott Sagan
  • Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. — Anne Lamott
  • To get people to build a boat you don’t need to get them to weave canvas, forge nails, or read the sky. You need to give them a shared yearning for the sea. — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • A foreign accent is a sign of bravery. — Amy Chua
  • We don’t travel to move. We travel to be moved. — Pico Iyer
  • Believe those who seek the truth, doubt those who find it.
 — André Gide
  • It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. — Alfred North Whitehead
  • The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck. — Paul Virilio
  • This present moment used to be the unimaginable future. — Stewart Brand
-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 11/28/21


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01 December 2021


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13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

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