Story and Photos by Reuben Bolieu
At the beginning of Tick season, in the Northeast woodlands, I contacted a representative of S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) – a company easily identified by their orange and grey colored products and packaging – for some help.
If you have ever been to a major outdoors superstore, or owned a type of All-Weather Blanket, you may already know who S.O.L. is. They are often associated with Adventure Medical Kits, After Bite, Ben’s, QuickClot, and more, because they are all under the same umbrella company known as Adventure Ready Brands.
I was initially trying to contact an associate for Ben’s, for some tick and mosquito repellant, after pulling three ticks off of me within 2 weeks. After making the connection between Ben’s and S.O.L., I asked them, “what’s new, what’s cool?”
So, in addition to the Ben’s permethrin clothing and gear spray, and pocket-sized DEET, they sent me the S.O.L. Phoenix.
Naturally, most people feel clamshell packaged ‘Survival Tools’ are flat-out gimmicks! Most are, but do they have any real-use-value? This is what I wanted to see for myself.
I usually carry a Tuff Possum Belt Pouch, as my Possibles Pouch, and wasn’t ready to give that up for a new, untested, bright, plastic thing. Luckily, the S.O.L. Phoenix is lightweight and has a pocket clip – similar to a folding knife – along with a bright orange plastic, and grey rubber, grip to round it out.
I took the S.O.L. Phoenix with me to my bush camp in the package, as I had plans for it. Once there, I opened the package and used the small knife to unscrew the chamber – in order to insert the batteries. Then, I was ready to go.
As the approaching darkness was setting in, it was time for a fire, and I have to say, the S.O.L. Phoenix has a very nice ferrocerium rod, that folds out smoothly. I used the spine of my sheath knife to give it a few quick trial strikes and was impressed from the start. However, the S.O.L. Phoenix comes with a small knife, that has a sharpened spine perfect for this, and I opted to try with their supplied tool – which worked perfectly. So, we’re off to a good start!
I did a simple lean-to fire, with the packaging as my platform – which eventually would contribute to the fuel source as well. I gathered some river birch bark from the forest and showered sparks until it caught, then added the small stuff at a 45 degree-angle against a brace (log) and built it up from there.
The next time I was in camp, I made a fire using fatwood as my tinder, which really put the spine of the little knife to the test while scraping the fatwood for a tinder bundle. It has an aggressive edge to the spine and would also make nice, fine curls on split poplar.
I also wanted to use the small knife to make fuzz sticks, that I could ignite with the ferro rod, but being that the handle is so small, I had to grip it tightly and it sure got old fast. The serrations did a good job fuzzing the wood – as serrations often do. I know the Bushcrafter crowd always turns their noses up at serrations, for a Bushcraft knife, but if they ever tried making fuzz sticks with a serrated knife, they may rethink them.
I also used a dry piece of poplar for a one-stick fire and the small, skeletonized handle was really uncomfortable. But I kept in mind that this wasn’t supposed to do the job of a devoted, regular sized sheath knife, rather a last-ditch sort of thing. Mission accomplished!
The handle comfort made me want to try the next two ideas with some cordage.
One was to simply apply some cord and do a whipping knot. Whipping is a binding of cord around the end of an object but is perfect for cord wraps as well.
First, lay the twine along the handle and make a bight (loop) back along itself. Begin wrapping the twine around the handle, and bight of twine, securely. Then, run the working end of the twine through the bight. Carefully pull on the standing end of the twine until the bight and working end are pulled under the whipping.
It is necessary to maintain tension on the working end, to prevent the bight from being dragged completely through, otherwise the whipping will fall apart. Cut the twine flush with the edges of the whipping to give the wrap a finished look.
After this was done the knife was marginally more comfortable, if needed for more prolonged knife tasks. Note, once the knife handle is wrapped it won’t slide back into the secure chamber on the Phoenix, obviously.
The idea of cord wrapping made me think of my second cordage idea. I wanted to use the knife to make a notch and lash it to a longer stick. People have done this with full sized knives, especially if they have narrow or skeletonized handles, and I thought this would be a perfect application for this little knife as well.
With the help of a baton, I made a quick, deep stop-cut on a green length of witch hazel – about the length of the knife handle away from the end of the pole – burying the tiny blade into the green wood.
Next, I turned the knife, point-down – at the end of the stop cut – and turned the cutting edge towards the end of the pole. I then gave it a few more taps to dislodge the piece of wood, making my notch.
Then, I placed the handle of the knife into the space of wood that was notched out and did a simple cord wrap until it was secure. Now I had more reach, a sharp poker, gigging spear or just something to have around camp. It served no real purpose, I guess it was just the kid in me that made me do it!
When I used a saw to cut the pole down to the length of the handle, it made for a way more comfortable grip – but still, for temporary use.
I have to say, both the whistle and light features were good on the S.O.L. Phoenix.
I saved the batteries in my regular Streamlight by using the Phoenix to walk to my sleeping area (about 50 meters away from the primary camp), rummage through my pack, hang my food bag and simply light the way to the bathroom area – which I like to walk about 20 feet away from any camp area.
I don’t need a big, far reaching light, just enough to light the way. I wasn’t night hiking or even setting up camp in complete darkness, merely using it as a utility light. The darker it is, the less flashlight power is needed.
The pocket clip serves as an attachment point for a baseball style hat, which worked well for the first 2 weeks, and then it started to slip off due to the pocket clip stretching. Maybe it was the heat treat, or super soft steel used, but I couldn’t get it to tighten up with my hands. It was still fine as a pocket clip on the pocket, but I didn’t trust it on my hat.
As an added signaling bonus, the whistle was very loud, nice shrill, just as it should be.
After using the S.O.L. Phoenix for two months, I feel it is more of a backpacker’s emergency tool – or in some cases even their primary kit, being that backpackers typically carry their own shelter and don’t always make fires. I can see this at home for backpackers, slicing open packages, cutting guylines, spreading tuna on bread, slicing cheese, etc.
The flashlight would be perfectly suited for backpackers, as would the emergency whistle – meanwhile, reserving the ferro rod and tinder tabs for a dire emergency fire or if they were to lose their shelter and/or have to abandon camp.
However one chooses to use the S.O.L. Phoenix, it has earned a spot on my hammock ridgeline, well within reach, and that’s where it will stay! K&G
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Retractable flint: the most compact flint and steel striker in a multi-purpose tool.Multi-tool knife: a fixed blade knife with a serrated blade that is made to be used as a striker and includes a bottle opener, size 3-7mm wrench, and flat head screw driver.Tinder Quick Department: a water tight Tinder Quick compartment keeps your tinder dry.LED light with belt clip: use the LED light to light your tinder or clip the tool to your hat to make a headlamp.Whistle: signal help from over a mile away with the built in whistle.
Adventure Ready Brands(800) 324-3517www.AdventureReadyBrands.com
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Adventurer, writer, photographer, gear designer and survival instructor for Randall’s Adventure & Training, Reuben has spent most of his life hiking and backpacking through the wildernesses of the world. He has traveled abroad in extreme environments, from Alaska to the desert heat of Egypt – as well as the humid conditions of Southeast Asia and South America. He continues studying primitive survival techniques, construction and uses of knives and edged tools from places such as: South America, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, and numerous countries in the South Pacific and Scandinavia. Reuben has published many articles on survival, knife and tool use, woodcraft, shelters, and remains a lifetime student of survival.
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