|Ranger Rick's Special Ops Survival Necklace|
|Contents List||Photo of Kit||Specs & Ratings|
|Explanation of Survival Equipment and Supplies Ratings|
In most cases the reason for the rating given a particular item will be obvious based on our normal evaluation criteria which can be found by clicking on the Group Heading link and reading the relevant text regarding that item. In cases where a low rating is not obvious, for example, if an otherwise good product is damaged due to poor packing, the reason will be given in the listing. Further explanation and the overall rating of both quality and value for the Survival Kit will be found in the written evaluation which follows the kit contents listing.
Excellent (superior quality and/or performance)
|Qty.||Survival Equipment & Supplies||Rating|
|ACME Tornado Model 636 Whistle - photoluminiscent|
|Dog Tag Signal Mirror - polished stainless steel|
|EMERGENCY DEVICES GROUP|
|Dog Tag I.D./Blade|
|Dog Tag Fire Starter w/ cotton tinder|
|Wire Saw (necklace)|
|Weight:||1.5 oz. (42.5 g)|
Ranger Rick's "Special Ops Survival Necklace" ($22 incl. S&H – 05/2002), developed by "Ranger Rick" Tscherne, is a very different approach to the concept of a personal survival kit. You wear this kit around your neck, which is relatively foolproof way to ensure it's on your person. It is also unique for a commercial kit in that it doesn't come ready to use--"assembly & modifications required." (see parts at right)
The well-written assembly instructions with good illustrations make it relatively easy to assemble the kit into the survival necklace. Depending upon your do-it-yourself skills and available tools, figure about 20 minutes to an hour for assembly. A second one will go much quicker.
We got mixed feedback about the concept of the necklace in general. A lot depends upon how comfortable you are with something around your neck and a slew of moderately bulky items hanging down on your chest. In some respects it isn't the bulk, per se, that's the problem, it's the jumble of items all together. It seems a lot more noticeable, at least to some of us, than a pair of dog tags, a single cylindrical capsule or even a larger piece of jewelry.
For some, this will only work comfortably when worn outside a t-shirt. Those with hairy chests wearing it against the skin can expect to be reminded the gear is there on a regular basis as hairs are caught and “plucked,” particularly by the fire starter and split rings. Other than that, as noted, it's a pretty secure place to carry the basics. (NOTE: It is not secure, however, when worn as illustrated, because it can just slip off over your head. Always wear it under an outer garment.)
The “necklace” itself is a 24 inches (61 cm) long wire survival saw with clear plastic 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) OD tubing over it to protect your neck. The wire saw kit includes the wire (the same embryotomy wire as used for BCB's Commando Wire Saw), a pair of crimp style electrical terminals to serve as terminations, and a pair of split rings for securing handles. The small ring terminals crimped to the wire are bound to break eventually if abused, but will work adequately if care is taken. Swivels, as used in the better versions of the other renditions of this type saw, would help a lot to prevent failure and we'd seriously consider adding some if we were planning to depend upon this for survival.
We were initially at a loss as to how to use the wire saw without cutting off the tubing first, since once it is assembled the tubing won't slide off. Thinking we were being particularly dense, we showed the necklace to some friends and some military survival instructors we know, with no better ideas forthcoming. That made us feel somewhat better--we weren't alone.
Only after perusing Rick's Web site did we discover that the idea is to
just start cutting and the wire will cut through the plastic cover in short
order. This is the sort of direction that would be very helpful to include
in the provided written instructions since it apparently isn't as obvious as
Rick may believe.
As for how that works, see the photos of one of the test sequences. It isn't pretty, but it does work; we were able to saw with it. Because the saw starts binding on the tubing in short order, you initially end up with only a short portion of the saw to work with. Having had this experience, we'd make sure to cut a small limb first before attacking anything larger than an inch or so. Ideally, you'd then use the small limb to then turn the wire saw into a "bow saw" using the limb as the bow.
Later, we discovered that once the saw has split that short portion of the tubing while sawing the first limb, we could then pull the wire and tubing apart by hand (this takes some strength and finger toughness, the wire is pretty thin, not everyone will be able to do it). This split a good portion of the remainder of the tubing from the wire, until the tubing finally separated (another tip that could stand to be included in the instructions). With only a couple inches left on the wire at that point, it didn't really impact the saw's effectiveness, you generally don't get that close to the ends (though we were able to use the dog tag blade to slice the remainder of the tubing off).
A bead chain connects the two ends of the wire saw cum necklace to serve as a safety weak link.
The ACME Tornado whistle (Model 636) is a longtime favorite of ours when bulk is a critical issue. Not the loudest, but decent performance for the compact size. This one is photoluminescent (glow-in-the-dark), which caused quite a few stares one night when we wore it under a white shirt (think E.T.).
The 3/4-inch (19mm) diameter button compass is of the dry variety, nothing to leak and no bubble concerns, has an aluminum housing and is quite light. Compared to typical button compasses, it's about twice as thick, 3/8-inch (9.5mm). It survived a water dunk to three feet with no ill effects. The cardinal markings are printed in red on the inside of the clear plastic face (clear plastic back as well). The needle is quick acting and relatively easily stabilized for a small dry compass. We received two for our evaluation, one worked quite well, the other seemed to hang up all the time, making it difficult to use. Something to look out for if you get one of these.
The basis for the "Dog Tag Fire Starter" is, by all appearances, one-half of the
cut off top of a butane lighter (at only $5 incl. S&H, it's hardly worth
trying this yourself!). Assemble the bits and pieces and you're in business. This gives you the functional equivalent of our
top-rated one-handed Spark-Lite in a shorter (though broader) package. (Leaving out for the moment the case with instructions and Tinder-Tabs)
You are supposed to stick your index finger through the split ring to hold on and then spin the striker wheel with your thumb. This is easier with thinner fingers. On the other hand, we found it reasonably easy to hold onto using our bare fingers by various means other than the split ring, at least well enough to get it to function. With gloves on, however, we found it very difficult to work.
Like the Spark-Lite, it needs to be dried out if it gets wet or it won't work. Shaking it out and then blowing on it for a while will do the job. The hollow underside can be used to hold a small amount of petroleum jelly impregnated cotton to use as tinder, a nice touch. You can pack enough in so that even the moderately skilled should be able to start a few fires.
Rick reports that the latest versions have a more robust staple holding the wheel in place. Though we didn't have any problems in our testing, it does look like it could stand a bit beefier construction in that spot.
The polished stainless steel dog tag (already polished as delivered), meant to be used as a signal mirror, functions moderately well for what it is. In other words, its performance isn't close to a quality signal mirror, both because it is so small and also because polished metal just isn't all that great a reflector. Still, it is better than nothing and as with all survival gear, the best is what you have with you when you need it. In subjective tests, we found its performance pretty much on par with the typical hologram on a credit card (which have been used successfully to signal SAR forces).
The instructions suggest wrapping some tape around the polished tag before inserting it in its silencer to prevent the surfaces from being scratched and dulled. We'd suggest being very careful what tape you chose if you have temperature extremes to worry about, especially hot temperatures which tend to leave goo after removal of cheap electrical tape (lesson learned the hard way).
Another dog tag is provided to serve as an improvised blade (sharpened one side and end) and as I.D. (engraved). You do the grinding or filing to produce the edge. As a blade, it is marginal at best and no substitute for a real knife. Even after we carefully sharpened it, the blade would dull quickly and was difficult to handle. On the other hand, if you're going to wear a dog tag for ID, why not? (Excepting flying commercial aviation these days, where it could cause problems if discovered.) It's certainly better than nothing and an improvement over a single edge razor in many respects.
Each of the components is also available for purchase separately (in unassembled/unmodified form). Rick also sells a single LED flashlight to add to the necklace.
Rick's Web site at www.therangerdigest.com also includes instructions on alternate packaging for the kit, for those who don't want to wear it as a necklace. He also includes tips on how to add more items to the necklace using cut-down bottle caps as containers or piggybacking some gear on the existing equipment. This is all useful information that would be better to include in the provided instruction sheet.
For someone looking for a minimalist personal survival kit, this might just fill the bill. Most of the equipment is not high performance in nature, and some of it will stand only limited abuse, but all will suffice for the typical short term survival situation if used carefully and intelligently. The price is reasonable for what you get and assembly isn't difficult with the tools most will have around the house. A typical multi-purpose tool will do in a pinch (we used a SwissTool).
It probably wouldn't do to depend upon this kit as your only survival gear. However, it would serve as a practical back-up that stands a better than average chance of being with you when needed, a key concern and potentially worth a lot, and we rate this kit as "good" overall. As long as the buyer understands the limitations of the equipment included and its use, it represents a decent value.
The problems we had with one of two compasses provided for evaluation suggest
that, like with all survival gear, it's a good idea to make sure it all works before
you depend upon it.
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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: June 1, 2002
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org