|To gain a more complete understanding of the issues involved in selecting a survival kit and a more full explanation of the evaluations given to specific equipment and supplies included in the aviation survival kits reviewed here, it is highly recommended that you review the contents of "Basic and Wilderness Survival Equipment Evaluations" on this site before reading these evaluations. Alternatively, links are provided in the text and in the individual kit reviews to some of the specific areas of interest.|
|Aviation Survival Kits|
|Two Person Survival Kits||Fundamental Survival Tool|
|Light Your Fire||Shelter|
|First-Aid and Medical Supplies||Water|
|Food||Signal for Help|
|Light Your Way||Other Useful Goodies|
|Survival Knowledge||Storage and Packaging|
|Contents List, Photographs & Specs of the Kits Reviewed|
|Conclusions||Some Final Thoughts|
|Do It Your Self Survival Kits|
There are a number of commercially produced pre-assembled aviation survival kits available. The basic list of contents for these survival kits doesn't vary a lot. After all, the fundamentals of survival are just that, basic. While some of the pre-assembled kits we evaluated provide a better or larger selection of items, the principal differences are found in the quality of the survival equipment and supplies included and how they are packaged. This, in turn, determines the investment the pilot will need to make.
Bottom line on any survival kit is that quality does not come cheap. As trite as it may sound, it is nevertheless true: if the equipment or supplies are not up to the task, you could pay the ultimate price.
NOTE: If you are interested in a commercially available Aviation survival kit that has been designed by Equipped To Survive founder and editor Doug Ritter, check out the Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak. This kit is personally assembled by Doug Ritter and was desgined based on his own original Primary Survival Kit. (Sales of this survival kit help support the Equipped To Survive Foundation and this Web site.)
A survival kit needs to supply, or give you the tools to furnish, MEDICAL CARE, SHELTER, SIGNALLING to attract rescue and SUSTENANCE. The ultimately simple survival kit is a good quality knife and reliable fire starter. Most pilots and passengers, however, would probably do better with a bit more assistance.
For aviation use, there are a number of attributes that are generally more consequential than in many other circumstances. Weight is always a factor for pilots and must be balanced with capabilities. In most cases, lighter weight options for equipment and supplies are generally the best choice, all other things being equal, or nearly so. Note that light weight often means higher cost. Size and volume are another consideration that often comes into play in small aircraft. Finally, crashworthiness and fire resistance are other aspects that should be considered when evaluating aviation survival kits.
Because the most telling differences are in the quality of the gear and supplies, we will look at these attributes first, then at the other things which set these kits apart. We evaluated six two person survival kits, the most common size sold:
(NOTE: If you know of an aviation survival kit that we missed, please contact us.)
|"Surviv-A-Pak" ($169.95) from S.A.F. Enterprises (SAFE) - the survival kit best known to most pilots we spoke with, sold by Sporty's, among others.|
|"Type B Res-Q-Pak" ($283.00) from Intertech Aviation Services (IAS) - this kit, virtually unchanged since its inception, has been around since 1975. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)|
|"Two Person Survival Kit" ($299.95) from JFA Flight Products (JFA) - oriented towards cold weather climates. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)|
|"CA-20 Canadian/Alaskan Air Unit" ($350.00 mfg. estimated retail) from Survivor Industries (SI) - the only kit here designed to meet most of those governmental requirements and therefore quite a bit heavier than the others by comparison.|
|"DeHavilland Survival Kit" ($395 updated 6/24/98) from Exploration Products (EP) - the most popular of their many kits.|
|"Two Person Survival Kit" ($495) from ACR International (ACR, not to be confused with ACR Electronics, the survival equipment manufacturer) - the most expensive kit in this review. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)|
Since a knife is the fundamental survival tool, you would expect all these survival kits include a suitable knife. You would be wrong.
SAFE uses a non-locking shoddy quality folding knife with a 2 1/2 in. dull blade with a dull clip point that's chief claim to fame is that it incorporates a fork and spoon, hardly essential. JFA includes both a moderate quality imported 3 inch locking blade folding knife and a mediocre quality multi-purpose tool, a Leatherman knock-off, with another small blade included. ACR provides a small Gerber "LST" folding knife, with a locking 2 1/2 in. blade, an adequate pocket knife, but too small to serve as one's principle survival knife.
IAS uses a fixed blade knife, which is good, but the small, thin 4 inch Pakistani knife is of such poor quality as to be of dubious reliability. A lightweight cloth sheath is included. SI furnishes what looks to be an impressive knife at first glance, with a hefty 6 inch painted carbon steel blade with a severe clip point and saw back. Get closer and you discover it is a very cheaply made imported plastic hollow handled "survival knife" that is a piece of junk, in our view. It does include a crude sharpening stone in the insubstantial cloth sheath.
EP formely supplied a decent quality Camillus Western fixed blade knife with a moderately robust 5 in. short straight clip point stainless steel blade in a sturdy leather sheath which is no longer available. EP now provides the Camillus U.S. Air Force Survival Knife that has some notable drawbacks for many conventional civilian survival uses, though it's better than the aforementioned junk. The modest quality carbon steel blade (not stainless) rusts easily, even where parkerized, doesn't hold an edge very well and has been known to snap in half under only modest abuse as might easily occur in a survival situation. Its skinny deep clip point, designed for stabbing (the enemy), is notorious for snapping off. The full guard, appropriate for a fighting knifed, just gets in the way for many survival uses. The so-called "saw back" on the spine of the blade is not only totally useless for sawing wood, but chews up an improvised wood baton so quickly that it's very difficult to use the knife and a baton to split wood, sometimes an essential survival task to find dry wood for a fire. While the guard includes lashing points, it is generally now considered a very poor idea to lash your knife to a limb for use as a spear as it is too easily lost and losing your knife would be a very bad thing for a survivor. The military is replacing this knife with a higher quality and better designed knife for good reason.
A primary survival knife should have a robust fixed blade that will withstand abuse, with full tang and made of good quality steel. An easy and effective means to keep the knife sharp is also important and none provode that. The sharpening stone in the sheath of the EP USAF Survival Knife is fragile and easily broken if dropped and most people these days cannot use a flat stone to sharpen anything.
EP also includes a SOG "Para-Tool," with a ballistic nylon belt sheath. This multi-purpose tool incorporates two good, but non-locking, smaller knife blades, one plain edge, the other serrated, among its tools. It's saw, also non-locking, doesn't cut particularly well. It is OK, but hardly the best available for the money.
While on the subject of cutting implements, an effective saw can come in pretty handy in the wilds. There is a middling quality wire saw in the IAS kit. JFA and ACR include a decent quality folding saw, while there is an inferior wire saw of questionable utility in the hollow handle of the SI knife. SI does include a mediocre, fairly dull hatchet, not the safest tool you might use, but moderately functional. The "Pocket Chain Saw" provided by EP is a good saw, vastly superior to the rest in this review, but not well suited to cutting smaller limbs and such, commonly used for survival shelters. This is particularly an issue since the SOG Para-Tool small saw blade, which might compensate for this, just isn't all that great.
The ability to get a fire going is another fundamental survival necessity, one that should be addressed with at least two redundant, reliable options. Tinder is also critical, and it too must be reliable and easy to use.
SAFE includes a box of inferior "waterproof" matches along with a 2 1/2 x 1/2 inch candle and two bars of mil-spec solid fuel which can be used as tinder. JFA provides a sealed vial of 25 wind and waterproof NATO "Lifeboat" matches, the best available by a large margin, a small BCB flint and steel, a 4 inch candle and 12 petroleum jelly infused cotton balls in a plastic bag to serve as tinder. While reasonably effective, the cotton balls are messy and less than "user friendly" and a surprise in a commercial kit with so many better inexpensive options available. ACR also includes a vial of Lifeboat Matches as well as a Skyblazer "Hot Shot Fire Starter," a reduced length version of their handheld flares, but no tinder.
IAS takes a box of 32 small wood safety matches and divides it between two 35mm film containers together with half the box cover including a striker strip, two cotton balls (useful as tinder only in dry weather) and six 1 1/2 x 2 inch strips of waxed paper in each film can to serve as tinder. This is the sort of tinder you might expect to find in a "do it yourself" kit, not an expensive commercially prepared one. A pair of small tea candles are also included.
SI supplies two boxes (90) of inferior "waterproof" matches, a bag of 12 compressed wood "Firesticks" for tinder and a dozen 4 inch candles. The 3 road flares in the kit would serve better as fire starters than as signals. The knife has 6 strike anywhere matches in its hollow handle. While individually, none of these would be the best choice, either because of weight or quality, at least SI compensates with quantity.
EP furnishes Survival, Inc.'s excellent one-handed operating "Ultimate Survival Blast Match" flint and steel and a vial of the quality Lifeboat matches. Two packs of superior SK-1 Tinder Cubes provide completely waterproof and very effective tinder. Their only drawback is that they will expire quickly if the pakcaging is punctured and we have found that after a few years they often simply do not work. No expiration date is listed for them.
Fire starters and tinder need to be totally reliable and need to work in the wind and wet, when you need them the most. If you cannot get a fire started with the EP supplied tools and tinder, you aren't trying very hard. SI, as noted makes up for quality with quantity, at least in part inadvertently. The Lifeboat matches packed by JFA and ACR lift them above the remaining kits, but ACR's lack of tinder is a definite shortcoming and the infused cotton balls used by JFA are not equal to the best commercial waterproof tinder. JFA's small flint and steel is reliable, but requires two hands to use.
Shelter provides vital protection from the elements. The primary shelter needs to be large enough to be effective and versatile enough to cope with different situations. An orange two person plastic tube tent is supplied by everyone except SI and ACR. ACR relies on a red/reflective 5 x 7 ft. "All-weather Sportsmen's Blanket" which can also serve as a small tarp. All except EP and ACR include a pair of metalized Mylar ("Space") emergency blankets. EP and ACR include a pair of Space Emergency Bags, a more effective solution. Th Emergency balanket and bags are eaisly punctured and will rip to shreds once punctured. Far better than nothing, but not great.
Both EP and SI also include a pair of decent quality mosquito head nets, a nice touch. JFA takes the possibility of a wet and cold weather survival situation more seriously, supplying a pair of fairly sturdy orange plastic ponchos and orange knit poly balaclavas, along with 4 chemical heat packs and 4 pair of hand warmers. SI provides 6 hand warmers (which expire in 18 months) and 2 pair of leather palm cotton gloves. A pair of gloves is a great addition to any kit and EP's lack of gloves is a definite drawback in their kit.
SI's lack of any primary shelter is a serious shortcoming. The rest are adequate and JFA rises above the pack for those who fly in cold weather areas, though warm gloves would be a valuable addition under those circumstances.
A survival kit should include a generous supply of useful and quality medical supplies with the emphasis on bandages to deal with the sort of trauma potentially associated with an aircraft off-airport landing. Since many medical supplies have a limited storage life, it is important that those included be fresh when you receive your kit. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.
Well designed Adventure Medical first aid kits are provided by ACR and EP, the reasonably comprehensive "Fundamentals" by ACR, the far smaller and aptly named "Optimist" by EP, who partly make up for the smaller kit by adding 5 trauma bandages. The "Fundamentals" kit provided by ACR comes in a well designed storage bag that makes finding items quick and easy. However, the cortisone ointment in the ACR medical kit expired in only 3 months from when we received the kit.
JFA packs a very good assortment of medical supplies in a zipper lock plastic bag. SAFE crams a modest assortment of first aid supplies into a waterproof plastic jar which you would have to empty to get at almost anything of consequence except the Aspirin on top. Unfortunately, the Aspirin in our sample kit from Sporty's was only good for another 10 months.
Some of the items in this kit seem more likely to be needed during a flight, such as motion sickness tablets and throat lozenges, but the packaging makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get at this stuff without making a mess of the kit. Aside from the question of where to put everything else while trying to locate something in the jar, we had little luck stuffing it all back in from whence it came. Worthy of special mention is the potentially dangerous snake bite kit included.
SI packs a modest assortment of medical supplies, heavy on aspirin and antacid, in two zipper lock plastic bags. IAS includes a puny plastic first aid box designed to cope only with a few cuts and scrapes, totally inadequate and a pathetic joke, in our opinion. We had to wonder if the folks at IAS have some sort of cleanliness fetish. There are two bars of soap in the survival kit, one in the first aid kit, another in the survival kit itself. Neither are anti-bacterial, however.
JFA and ACR, each with different advantages, are tops in this area with EP a step behind.
Water is a critical necessity, while food is nice to have, especially in cold weather. While there are areas where water is assured all year long, in most areas this is not the case and at least some water should always be included for immediate use. In many areas you should plan on carrying additional water, you cannot possibly fit enough in the kit. There must also be the means to purify any water procured from natural sources. Water can be carried as either sterile 4.227 oz./ 125 ml packages with a five year storage life or stored in canteen(s) with a recommended storage life of 6 to 12 months.
Packaged water is used by EP, JFA, ACR and SI (who manufactures packaged water). EP provides two quarts, JFA one quart, SI 1 1/2 pints and ACR one pint. EP and JFA also include a two gallon plastic water bag for procurement purposes. SI adds a one quart G.I. style plastic canteen which could also be filled with water before putting the kit in the plane.
ACR doesn't provide a supplemental water container (there was a collapsible jug in the four person kit we examined). SAFE includes a pair of plastic one quart canteens, IAS a single one quart G.I. style canteen, both marked with a safe freezable fill level. Both need to be filled and we have seen occasions when the SAFE kit has been thrown in the back of an aircraft upon receipt by the purchaser without filling the canteens. A very noticeable warning on the shipping container would go a long way towards preventing this potentially tragic error.
Potable Aqua iodine tablets are relied upon by all these suppliers for purifying water. Potable Aqua has been found to be ineffective against Cryptosporidium, so while good, they are no longer the best treatment available. The iodine taste is also a problem for many.
ACR also includes a First Need "Microlight" water filter, a nice luxury, but there's nothing to put the water into. Are we missing something, or is it just them missing something?
Instead of leaving the Potable Aqua tablets in their original inexpensive small glass bottle, IAS repacks twenty five tablets, one half the normal bottle's contents, wrapped in non-airtight clear plastic film inside a plastic 35 mm film can. The manufacturer, Wisconsin Pharmacal, confirms that this is an unacceptable storage medium for this product and will lead to rapid deterioration and lack of effectiveness. Given the low cost and small size of the original packaging and the known perishability of these iodine tablets, this miserly repackaging is indefensible, in our view.
Food can be categorized into genuine survival rations or store bought foods like granola bars that keep reasonably well, but have a shorter shelf life and significant inadequacies.
SI is the manufacturer of "Mainstay" brand survival rations, which are actually pretty tasty and not terribly thirst provoking, if a bit bulky and heavy. As you might expect, they include plenty, Ten 3,600 calorie packages (which exceeds the Alaskan/Canadian government requirements). This is a major reason their kit is so heavy compared to the others. Surprisingly, three packages had lost their vacuum, the first time we've seen this occur with this product and a bit distressing, especially considering we got the kit directly from SI.
EP packs three 2,400 calorie Mainstay packages (and offers an Alaskan/Canadian option with more food and other required and desirable items for $119). ACR and JFA supply two 2,400 calorie Mainstay packages.
SAFE and IAS each rely on three packages, only 600 calories total, of Nature Valley Reduced Fat Crunchy Granola bars. Reduced calorie, thirst inducing food products are hardly the best choice when trying to survive. IAS also includes an aluminum foil wrapped package labeled "concentrated food package" consisting of a 9 oz. pack of Borden Condensed Mincemeat (yes, the stuff used for pies), 900 calories, mostly fruit sugars instead of more desirable complex carbohydrates.
In addition, all the kits except ACR also include drink and/or soup mixes and hard candy and/or chewing gum which are nice to have, but hardly effective at staving off hunger or providing long lasting calories to fight the cold.
Surviving is nice, but being rescued is better. Your best bet to be rescued is to actively work at attracting attention. A signal mirror is the most basic and one of the most effective signalling devices. All the kits except SAFE include a mirror, but unfortunately, most included in these kits are not very good. SI provides only a thin 3 x 4 inch relatively ineffective stainless steel camp mirror. IAS includes small poor quality plastic mirror with a hole drilled in the center, requiring two hands to use. ACR packs a Skyblazer 2 x 3 inch plastic signal mirror, a very poor performer in our tests.
The laminated glass 2 x 3 inch signal mirror supplied by JFA is an excellent performer, but fragile and heavy. EP includes Survival Inc.'s good 2 x 3 inch "Ultimate Survival Starflash" polycarbonate signal mirror. Given the low cost and light weight, we think a full size 3 x 5 inch mirror would be a better choice.
Inexplicably, SAFE fails to provide a legitimate signal mirror. The lid of the metal paint can used as storage container would work as a mediocre improvised mirror. In addition, the survival manual provided includes a 3 x 4 inch reflective mylar sheet which can theoretically be utilized as a very marginal signal mirror.
Pyrotechnics are of questionable value, but many include them because they are a traditional and expected item of survival gear. However, nobody in this review includes enough to likely make a difference.
Skyblazer XLT Wilderness Aerial Flares are provided by SAFE and ACR, three and two respectively. SAFE and IAS also include Skyblazer Smoke Flares, 1 and 2 respectively.
IAS furnishes an Orion 12 ga. marine flare pistol and three red marine meteor flares and one white marine practice flare. Why they would choose to include marine flares for use on land is beyond us. These flares are not designed for safe use over land. They may not burn out before grounding, creating a potentially serious safety hazard. A forest or brush fire does not constitute a survival signal and depending upon the wind speed and direction, you could end up barbecuing yourself. Aside from than potential disaster, they were also the worst performing meteor flares we tested.
SI includes three road flares, a poor choice as a signaling device. If they are going to include pyrotechnic devices, at least they should include ones designed to be safely used and held. On the other hand, they are very effective, if very heavy, fire starters.
EP and JFA do not include pyrotechnics - no loss. EP does offers an optional "Razzle Dazzle" module for $74 (including HazMat shipping) with three Skyblazer XLT flares, one smoke and an MPI "Emergency Strobe.
It is probably worth noting that only EP complied with all applicable HazMat shipping regulations. All the others, including Sporty's, broke the laws, shipping without the required packaging, labeling, paperwork and related hassle and expense. At least SAFE packs the flares in a metal can with the requisite safety clips, but that, in and of itself, is not sufficient as far as the law is concerned according to our shipping specialist at UPS.
ACR and IAS include a strobe light, another signalling device we have found to be of questionable utility. ACR's single D-cell MPI "Emergency Strobe" is one of the better one and reasonably compact. The huge IAS strobe lacked the two C-cells required to make it functional and the only notice that the batteries are not included is inside the kit, hidden among the pamphlets. If, as some do, the buyer simply throws the kit in the aircraft without checking the kit's list of contents or the pamphlet, won't the survivor be surprised when they try to use it?
All the kits include a whistle, JFA two, but only EP uses a top rated "Storm." ACR's Acme "Tornado" (marketed over here by Skyblazer) is a fair choice, the rest are poor quality police style or safety whistles which aren't nearly as effective, but are adequate.
If you end up spending a night, or more, under the stars, a light source is both handy and comforting. We've also found a flashlight to be the most effective night time signaling device.
EP and ACR use Pelican 2-AA and Princeton Tec 4-AA flashlights, respectively. JFA packs a fair quality 2-AA Garrity rubber armored flashlight and four 12 hour, green, Snap Light chemical light sticks. SI provides only a mediocre, non-waterproof 2-D flashlight. Only EP includes a set of spare alkaline batteries. LED flashlights are much more relaible than old-fashoined incandescent lights and the best choice for survival kit use. The same can be said of Lithium batteries, which have far better performance and longer life than the alkalines used in these kits.
SAFE and IAS include no flashlights, only a pair of 12 hour Cyalume chemical light sticks, green and orange, respectively. These are fine for area lighting, but difficult to use for actually getting anyhting done. The Cyalume sticks in the SAFE kit had only eight months left until expiration, but since both also had their airtight packaging ruptured due to the manner in which they were packed, rendering them useless, the expiration date becomes a moot subject.
A fishing kit can be useful for both fishing, trapping and repairs, but mostly for entertainment when bored. EP, JFA, IAS include something that they call a fishing kit. Only the EP unit actually qualifies with enough quality gear to be of practical use. JFA's "fishing kit" is a mil-spec "speed hook," which works so good it is banned for most recreational uses, but which has but a single hook and short length of line, hardly a "kit." The other kits include only some line, bobber and a single hook. The hollow handled knife in the SI kit includes some line, weights and a few hooks, the most difficult item to improvise effectively. Both EP and SI include gill nets, which can be very effective.
You can never have enough utility line and duct tape, but only EP and JFA supply highly versatile 550 lb. test parachute cord, 100 ft and 50 ft., respectively. SAFE and ACR provide 50 ft. and 100 ft., respectively, of lighter 200 lb test line. SI includes 50 ft of 1/4 in. poly rope, estimated 250 lb. test. Only EP and SI include duct tape, one of the most versatile items you can have in a survival kit.
If there are no materials available to burn, a small stove can be beneficial. IAS packs a cheap folding wing stove, EP an excellent Esbit folding stove, both with solid fuel tabs. JFA includes an excellent Nuwick 44 hour candle which can also serve as a stove. SAFE includes two packages of solid fuel, apparently meant to be used as tinder, but no stove.
For heating water and cooking, IAS provides an 8 oz. metal Sierra style cup. EP uses a larger, 16 oz. version plus two plastic cups. JFA utilizes 2 16 oz. military style canteen cups. SAFE packs some of their gear in a one quart metal paint can which can serve as a cook pot, but there is no handle or other means to grab it when hot.
A good survival manual can be virtually priceless. Very few pilots and passengers are proficient in survival techniques.
SI includes its own "Wallace Guidebook for Emergency Care and Survival" which focuses more on medical care and disasters than wilderness survival. SAFE provides the American Outdoor Safety League's "Emergency/Survival Handbook" a pretty fair, but minimalist, manual. ACR furnishes a set of "Survival" playing cards. While they contain lots of useful information, it can be difficult to find information you need and they are easily lost or damaged since they are not bound together.
Stoffel and LaValla's excellent "Survival Sense for Pilots and Passengers" does duty as JFA's survival manual (this book ought to be on every pilot's bookshelf). The "S.A.S. Survival Guide," packed in the EP kit, is the most comprehensive of the lot, but not waterproof.
IAS cheaps out again, in our view, including a reprint of a very basic Colorado State developed pamphlet on survival along with photocopies of an FAA publication on desert and winter survival. Another pamphlet identifies kit contents with notes on how to use them, many of which simply say "use as directed."
All these kits are packed in nylon cloth containers. SAFE and IAS use flimsy, lightweight nylon backpacks, respectively orange, 12 x 11 x 4 in., 10.1 lbs. and red and yellow, 11 x 11 x 7 in., 8 lbs. (all weights include filled canteens, where applicable). EP uses a sturdy and well constructed Cordura and packcloth black and red Outdoor Research utility bag, 16 x 9 x 8 in. and 15.6 lbs. ACR stuffs it all in a well made very tough black ballistic nylon Brigade Quartermasters utility bag, 16 x 11 x 5 in. and 10 lbs. SI uses a fairly sturdy silver and orange nylon duffel with a shoulder strap, 19 x 11 x 9 in. and 32 lbs.
JFA's kit is packed in a custom bag of sturdy orange Cordura nylon with a single diagonal zipper and a shoulder strap, 13 x 10 x 8 in. and 14.7 lbs. This kit bag's design is modeled after the seat pack kit used in military fighters (the company owner has USAF life support experience). The single diagonal zipper makes some sense in those kits, but it only serves to make getting at stuff harder in this civilian kit.
There are potential advantages to having a backpack or carrying strap for the kit bag. It leaves both hands free, if you have to travel with it. All the kits have at least a little room to add some supplemental gear and supplies, though the ACR and EP bags don't have much excess capacity (EP offers an optional larger bag or backpack).
Only EP vacuum packs the gear and supplies for protection. It isn't the toughest vacuum bagging material, just a lightweight consumer grade, but it is far better than nothing. A small utility knife is provided to easily open this packaging. Not only does this help protect the gear from environmental hazards, but it also discourages pilfering and the casual use of emergency supplies for non-emergency use. JFA uses lightweight zipper lock plastic bags to protect and organize its gear.
IAS and SI pack some of the small gear and supplies in lightweight plastic zipper lock bags, other stuff is left in its own packaging. All of ACR's gear is packed loose in its own packaging.
SAFE packs, crams is perhaps a better description, most of its supplies and equipment into three sturdy waterproof plastic jars and the metal paint can, all with lists of contents affixed. The can lid is secured with safety clips which must be pried off and are far more difficult to get off than just prying up the lid. No prying tool is provided, however, a very critical omission in our opinion.
EP is the only supplier who automatically keeps track of dated items in the kits it sells and notifies you when they are due for replacement, an invaluable service. SI, a manufacturer who only sells wholesale, provides a card to register your kit purchase and if you do, will notify you. SAFE says to send in a "pre-paid card" for an "update service," but no card was provided. They do note on the contents list items that have a limited life.
The remainder don't even mention that many items, such as food, medical supplies, chemical lights, hand warmers and pyrotechnics are life limited and perishable. As noted, in some case, items were already close to expiration when the kits were supplied to us.
Those are the most important highlights and low points of these kits. All contain some additional items of lesser importance, but which would still be very valuable to survivors. You can expect the quality of these to be generally consistent with that found in the rest of the kit. Only one of these is worthy of special mention. Most of the kits include toilet paper or tissue which can be used as toilet paper. SAFE, however, is particularly generous with this critical, but often under appreciated survival item, providing a whopping 15 sheets (that's not a typo) for the two persons this kit will supposedly support. We were impressed by their thoughtfulness.
For a complete, detailed listing of the contents of each kit, click on the survival kit in the list below. For the address and phone number of the company, click on the company name below [NOTE: Links to companies out of business as of this revision have been deleted.]:
Click here for an interpretation of the ratings used in this Survival Kit Review
Intertech Aviation Service's ill-advised repackaging of the Potable Aqua tablets is unacceptable in our opinion. In a few cases, the knife and Potable Aqua being most notable, the item pictured in their promotional literature for the Res-Q-Pak is superior to the product actually included in the kit, a serious deception, from our perspective. In addition, in our view, this kit is grossly overpriced for the generally substandard quality of the majority of items in the kit. We rate this kit as "poor" and cannot recommend it.
The S.A.F. Enterprises Surviv-A-Pak has some serious shortcomings in a number of critical areas and we rate it as only "mediocre." The failure to provide a tool to open the can, lack of a signal mirror, the destroyed Cyalumes and short expiration dates of some supplies in the kit we got from Sporty's was particularly disturbing, in our opinion. We cannot recommend this survival kit.
Survivor Industries' kit has some critical deficiencies and while the equipment list looks good for the most part, much of it is of poor quality. We rate the kit as "adequate." Lack of any shelter is a serious omission. Also, little attempt is made to keep weight down. This is not as big a problem in their kits for home and business, where equipment needs are less demanding than aviation and weight isn't a concern. Admittedly, the weight problem is exacerbated because of the extra food for the Canadian/Alaskan requirements, but that is only part of it.
While the contents of the ACR kit are generally better quality, it has a few serious deficiencies and omissions. As such, it rates only an "adequate" overall. We are hard pressed to find value at the inflated price. The contents of the kit retail at only about $310, give or take $10, at normal "street prices" from reputable discount catalogs and stores. The $495 price is simply ridiculous in our opinion, especially in view of the competition.
For someone with a moderately tight budget who doesn't want to assemble their own and is willing to accept a few, not so inconsequential compromises for the sake of their bank account, the JFA Two Person Survival Kit is a reasonable choice of the six reviewed but, unfortunately, JFA Flight Products has gone out of business. We give it a "somewhat better than Adequate" rating. The extra cold weather gear might make it more appealing to those who fly where this gear would be an advantage.
While it has a few critical deficiencies that keep it from being rated "good," overall it has an excellent selection of gear, generally acceptable to better quality except as noted, offers a reasonable level of security and delivers reasonable value. Simply replacing the inadequate knife with something better would help a lot, and push it up into the "good" category, but that would push it well over the $300 barrier.
Of the examples of two person aviation survival kits reviewed here (three of which have been discontinued), the DeHavilland kit from Exploration Products is the best. Still, we only rate it as "Good." It is generally well conceived and nicely executed, but there is certainly room for improvement, especially in the case of the Tube Tent and skimpy Medical Group. The replacement of the original solid and functional knife 9no longer available) with the mediocre USAF Survival Knife is unfortunate. We like the vacuum bagging of all the components, but the material used (Tilia) isn't as tough as one might like.
This is not an inexpensive kit, and it isn't perfect nor the most amply equipped, but it is a good value, you do get what you pay for. The generally better quality of the packaging and much of fundamental survival equipment is reflected in the higher price. While there is certainly room for improvement, as noted, it is a reasonable compromise of size, weight and capability for many pilots who do not demand the very best. It makes a good base for supplimentation into a better quality kit.
None of these kits are perfect, nor may they contain all the gear needed for the areas where you fly. Another option is to get a custom assembled kit.
Another option to consider is to do it your self. Beginning with our thoughts on this subject, there is a bounty of information and resources on this site to help you assemble your version of the perfect survival kit.
In the grand scheme of flying expenses, a decent survival kit isn't all that expensive, even the best we reviewed here. Only few tanks of fuel for most modern light planes. If you still think that is too expensive, consider how much you'd willingly pay for it, if you ever need it.
A survival kit is truly an investment. You do have to maintain the kit and replace dated items from time to time, but it doesn't require a significant added expense after the initial investment. It also doesn't become obsolete like so much other flying paraphernalia. The kit will last you for as long as you fly. It pays to buy quality. After the crash is too late.
Basic Two Person Aviation Survival Kit - The equipment and supplies that we think should be included in an aviation survival kit.
Basic and Wilderness Survival Equipment - Extensive and in-depth name brand reviews and evaluations of survival equipment and supplies appropriate for inclusion in an aviation survival kit.
A Survival Primer - Basic, fundamental survival techniques. Essentially, a survival manual.
|SELECT AND USE OUTDOORS AND SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES AND TECHNIQUES AT YOUR OWN RISK. Please review the full WARNING & DISCLAIMER about information on this site.|
Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
Revision: 11 January 4, 2006
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