Survive Outdoors Longer makes a number of products that’ll be welcome additions to a winter kit for your car or truck. (Photo: Jim Cobb)


Survive Outdoors Longer gear—the difference between comfort and disaster

By Jim Cobb

Living in the upper Midwest, you become used to snow and frigid temperatures. Like seemingly endless farm fields and random Dollar General stores in the middle of nowhere, they’re just part of the landscape in the winter months.

As a teenager, the first accessory you bought for your car was a set of jumper cables, and Mom usually provided an old blanket to keep in the trunk, just in case.

Survive Outdoors Longer makes a number of products that’ll be welcome additions to a winter kit for your car or truck. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Of course, driving in bad winter weather isn’t contained to just Minnesota or Wisconsin. In recent years, we’ve been seeing snow and ice throughout much of the continental United States, albeit temporarily in the southern areas. But all it takes is one slide on black ice to put you into a bad situation.

Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) has developed a reputation for reliable emergency gear that won’t break the bank. Its blaze-orange packaging is familiar to shoppers who frequent the camping and hiking sections of big box retailers from coast to coast. I reached out to this company to see what products it had that would make for a great vehicle emergency kit for winter use. Here’s what SOL suggested.

Slim Rescue Howler

Every emergency kit should have at least one way to signal for help. The shriek from a loud whistle will carry much farther than your shouting voice. You can’t count on being able to use your vehicle’s horn, and your cell phone might be dead or damaged. This model is plastic, so there aren’t any worries about recreating the famous flagpole scene from the classic movie, A Christmas Story, when you need to signal for help in the winter. It’s also a pea-less design, so there’s no risk of the pea getting frozen inside the whistle after you’ve used it in frigid temperatures.

This young man is about 6 feet tall. He fits easily inside the Survive Outdoors Longer bivvy—with room to spare. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

SOL’s packaging states that the whistle emits a 100dB blast. According to Purdue University, that’s on par with a motorcycle, outboard motor or garbage truck. I tried it out in my backyard; and, to put it into scientific terms, it was pretty darned loud.

The Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy comes in a nice stuff sack to keep it protected until it’s needed. (Photo: Jim Cobb)
The Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket is large and very warm, as well as wind- and waterproof. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

In an emergency, use three blasts of the whistle, spaced about a second apart. That’s the universally recognized signal for assistance. If you hear a response, whistle once.

Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket XL

Exposure to the elements can kill you quicker than lack of food or water. Lose too much body heat, and you could succumb to hypothermia.

So-called “space blankets” have been around for ages, but many of them are flimsy and awkward to use, as well as prone to tearing along their folds. However, this model from SOL is more than twice as thick as the standard emergency blanket—and it’s also far stronger.

It measures 58×98 inches, which is large enough to accommodate two adults. It boasts reflectivity of 90 percent of your body heat inside the blanket.

“Exposure to the elements can kill you quicker than lack of food or water. Lose too much body heat, and you could succumb to hypothermia.”

Contents of the Survive Outdoors Longer Fire Lite Fire Starting Kit: Tinder Quik tabs, Micro Sparker and Reflective Tinder Cord (Photo: Jim Cobb)

The texture of the olive-green outside of the blanket feels very much like a heavy-duty trash bag, while the silver inside is reflective and feels like Mylar. My son wrapped himself up in it and commented that he felt warmer within just a minute or two. It’s absolutely waterproof and wind-proof—no question about it. While it won’t be as soft and snuggly as a quilt from Grandma’s closet, it’s lighter, compacts smaller … and it’ll keep you alive.

One thing to note—and this is true of any emergency blanket in my experience: Once you unfold it, you’ll never be able to fold it as small as it was when you started. On the other hand, the good news is that this blanket can be reused, unlike some of the flimsy, all-silver options.

Escape Bivvy

According to Merriam-Webster, “bivouac” is defined as, “a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter.”

The Escape Bivvy (short for “bivouac”) is about as minimalist as you can get when it comes to shelter. It’s essentially a large sack of sorts that covers your sleeping bag and shelters you from wind, rain or snow.

SOL’s Escape Bivvy has a number of features that make it an excellent option for a vehicle emergency kit.

After the Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy was unpacked, the author was unable to get it rolled up small enough to fully fit back into its stuff sack. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

First, it rolls up quite small, measuring just 7 inches long and about 4 inches thick. It unrolls to 84×31 inches, giving you plenty of space. It’s water-resistant and windproof. Lined with reflective material, it’ll bounce your body heat back to you, keeping you warm all night long. Plus—and this is important—it’s breathable. This means you can curl up inside it, cover your head and not wake up drenched in condensation, which will only serve to make you colder in the long run. It arrives in a nice, little stuff sack that’s great for storing in your kit in the trunk.

My son is just about 6 feet tall. He was able to lay down comfortably inside it and had room to move about a bit. As with the emergency blanket, he noticed an increase in interior temperature very quickly. However, as with the blanket, we weren’t able to get it to roll up quite as small as it was when we initially took it out of the stuff sack.

Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw

Although many of us already carry a knife on our person as a matter of routine, it’s a good idea to keep a sharp blade in your emergency kit.

The Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw offers the bonus of being a knife and saw in one. If you need to move small brush out of the way to get down the road, the saw will make short work of the chore. Alternatively, you can use it to process firewood if you end up stuck overnight. Press the button to pivot it back to the knife blade, and you’ll be ready to cut cordage, open packages or even carve primitive tools, should the need arise.

The author intentionally didn’t fluff the Survive Outdoors Longer Tinder Quik tab fully—just to see how it would burn as is. It stayed lit for five minutes anyway. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

It comes with a sturdy, nylon belt sheath. There’s also a small ferrocerium rod attached, which you can use to light a fire.

Once I was able to wrestle it out of the blister package, I set it up with the saw blade, grabbed a branch from our brush pile and went to work. The saw cut through the wood easily enough. However, if I were going to be using this for more than a few minutes, I’d definitely want gloves. Because of the way the Stoke Pivot is designed, the spine of the knife blade is exposed and digs into the palm a bit when you’re using the saw.

Fire can be a critical survival need, and the Survive Outdoors Longer Fire Lite Fire Starting Kit has everything to get it going quickly. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)

After sawing through the branch, I pivoted the blade to try the knife. It was plenty sharp enough to carve shavings from the branch. The handle was also much more comfortable because the saw blade was entirely hidden in the handle.

The SOL Stoke Pivot is a great example of a single piece of gear that can handle multiple tasks. In this case, it’s a knife, saw and fire starter, all rolled into one, handy tool.
The knife edge of the Stoke Pivot was very sharp right out of the box. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

Fire Lite Reflective Tinder Cord

Cordage of some sort is always useful to have on hand. For example, you’d use it if you needed to build a shelter. While the Fire Lite Reflective Tinder Cord isn’t true paracord, it has two advantages other types lack: Hidden inside is a waxed cotton core, so you can use it as tinder to get a fire going. The outer sheath is also made with a reflective strand running throughout. At night, when the light hits it, the cord almost seems to glow. Of course, the blaze-orange base color doesn’t hurt in that respect either. As cordage, it works very well. It’s flexible enough for knot-tying without difficulty, and the package contains a full 50 feet.

The Stoke Pivot’s saw blade cut through this branch fairly easily. However, you’ll want to wear gloves for comfort when using it for any length of time. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

However, it didn’t do so well as tinder. I cut a piece a few inches long and peeled the sheath back to expose the waxed cord inside. It absolutely wouldn’t light with a sparker, even after I pulled it apart and tried fluffing it up. But it did light instantly from a flame, so it will burn—and burn well—once you get it going.

Fire Lite Fire Starting Kit

In some situations, being able to get a fire going could truly be a matter of life or death. If you’re freezing or soaked to the bone, fire will warm you up and dry you out. You’ll also need a fire so you can boil water that’s been sourced from the wild so it’ll be safer to drink. And, there’s a psychological benefit to making a fire: Doing so can give you a sense of control over the situation. You might be stuck where you are; you might not know what the morning will bring. But you can at least make, and tend to, a fire.

“For those who want a little bit of everything in one place, SOL offers the Scout Survival Kit as an assemblage of gear.”

If you’re looking for a stand-alone kit you can customize, the Survive Outdoors Longer Scout Survival Kit might be right up your alley. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)

This kit comes with everything you’ll need. There are 20 Tinder Quik tabs, which are excellent fire-starting material. To use, you fluff one up and then light it. Each one burns for a while, and you shouldn’t need more than one to get a fire going (possibly two if conditions are especially foul).

There are also 10 feet of utility cord with a tinder core—very much like the Reflective Tinder Cord mentioned earlier, although a bit thinner. Finally, there’s a Micro Sparker to light your tinder. It works like a disposable lighter—just use a finger or thumb to rotate the wheel and send sparks raining down. All this is securely contained in a waterproof gear bag; and there’s enough space in the bag to add a bit more to the kit, such as a disposable lighter.

The contents of the Survive Outdoors Longer Scout Survival Kit include a Slim Howler Whistle, Micro Sparker, Tinder Quik, an emergency blanket, signal mirror, duct tape, a fishing/sewing kit and a compass. (Photo: Jim Cobb)

We took one of the Tinder Quik tabs and tested it out. It’s very dense and compacted, so you do have work at it a bit to fluff out an end. Once I did, it took more than a few flicks with the Micro Sparker, but it did light. I set it down on our patio fire pit and it burned for a solid five minutes before going out. Had I fluffed the entire thing, it might have burned even longer, giving me plenty of time to add kindling and build up a fire.

Scout Survival Kit

For those who want a little bit of everything in one place, SOL offers the Scout Survival Kit as an assemblage of gear. It includes one of the Slim Rescue Howler Whistles, along with a Micro Sparker and four of the Tinder Quik tabs. There’s a small survival blanket (60×96 inches). In addition, the kit comes with a roll of duct tape for emergency repairs, a liquid-filled compass and a small signal mirror.

The Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket is large and very warm, as well as wind- and waterproof. (Photo: Jim Cobb)
The Fire Blanket is a great product to keep near your kitchen, workshop, garage or in your vehicle in case a fire breaks out. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)

There’s also a small survival fishing and sewing kit encased in a clear plastic tube within the kit. It includes—

  • A thin sewing needle
  • Monofilament fishing line
  • Safety pins
  • Fishing leader
  • Two small sinkers

Everything’s contained in a waterproof gear bag similar to the Fire Starting Kit’s bag.

The Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy isn’t as comfortable as a well-padded sleeping bag, but it’ll do the job. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)
These Survive Outdoors Longer whistles reach 100dBs, which can be heard up to a mile away. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)

In checking out the contents, the compass points north. It isn’t meant for precision use, but it’ll certainly help you identify and move in the right direction. The fire-starting gear is identical to that in the Fire Starting Kit, although with fewer Tinder Quik tabs. Duct tape is always useful, and there’s a fair amount of it included. The signal mirror is small, but you don’t need a giant one to get someone’s attention. The sewing and fishing kit is minimal, but if you’re stranded on the side of the road or in a ditch, you’re probably not looking to cast a line anyway.

Final Thoughts

I’d never suggest that you can simply buy your way to being prepared. In the “skills-versus-stuff” debate, skills will always win. However, having the right stuff with you can certainly make the job easier. When you’re assembling a kit for the car, especially for the winter months, you’ll be well-served with these products from SOL.

“In some situations, being able to get a fire going could truly be a matter of life or death. If you’re freezing or soaked to the bone, fire will warm you up and dry you out.”

The Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw combines a saw and knife in one convenient package, so you’ll have the cutting tools you need for any job. (Photo: Survive Outdoors Longer)

When it comes to winter driving, just as important as having emergency gear with you is to use good common sense. Prepare your vehicle for the challenges of winter driving—from keeping plenty of gas in the tank and having good wiper blades to a stout snow-and-ice tool that’ll help you keep the windows clear.

Take it slow, leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles, and always make sure someone reliable knows where you’re headed and when you expect to arrive. If you don’t show up, they should notify the authorities, just in case things went awry during your commute.

Additional Items for the Kit

No store-bought kit will ever be truly complete, although it can be a good foundation for your individual requirements. Take the time to customize your loadout to make sure it will meet your needs.

For a winter vehicle kit, I’d suggest adding the following items. Try to keep anything with a battery and any liquids inside the vehicle’s cabin, where it’ll be subjected to a bit less extreme cold than in the trunk.

  • Extra cell phone charging cable
  • Power bank for cell phone
  • Shelf-stable snacks, such as granola bars
  • Bottled water (it will freeze, but you can thaw it inside your jacket)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Small shovel for removing snow
  • Cat litter or sand for traction (this also adds weight to the vehicle’s back end)
  • “Boredom relievers” (book to read, word games, etc.)
  • Toys or books for children who might be with you
  • Spare winter hat, gloves, boots

About SOL

Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) is a division of Adventure Ready, which was founded in 1973 and incorporated in 1977. Among its brands are After Bite (which manufactures Natrapel insect repellent), Adventure Medical Kits and AfterBurn, which makes burn remedy products. It’s located in the White Mountains, in Littleton, New Hampshire.


Fire Blanket

One other product that might be a nice addition to a vehicle kit—and certainly should be near the kitchen at home—is the SOL Compact Emergency Fire Blanket. It measures 39×39 inches. It’s made from a flame-retardant fiberglass material that’ll quickly smother a fire. It can also be used to wrap around a person to block heat or put out a flame.

What’s nice is that it has no expiration date. Even so, it shouldn’t replace a proper fire extinguisher; rather, it should serve as another tool in the arsenal. You can hang it on the wall near the kitchen. When it’s needed, you pull down the tapes on either side, remove the blanket from the pouch, and put it over the fire.

In a vehicle, keep one in the trunk in case of an engine fire.

Product Information

Compact Fire Blanket
Product ID:
MSRP: $14.99

Escape Bivvy
Product ID:
MSRP: $59.99

Fire Lite Fire Starting Kit
Product ID:
MSRP: $12.99

Fire Lite Reflective Tinder Cord
Product ID: 0140-1730
MSRP: $5.99

Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket XL
Product ID: 0140-1225
MSRP: $14.99

Scout Survival Kit
Product ID:
MSRP: $25.99

Slim Rescue Howler
Product ID: 0140-0010
MSRP: $5.99

Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw
Product ID: 0140-1018
MSRP: $29.99


Concealed Carry Handguns Giveaway