Chris Sylvia was hiking in a particularly rugged area of the Palomar Mountains in western Riverside County, California. In February 2015, several days into his journey, 28-year-old Sylvia abandoned his gear on the trail to trek up a nearby hillside to call a friend, reporting in that he was near his rendezvous point. That was the last time anyone heard from him; he never reached his final destination and his body was never found. Authorities claim he was unable to find his way back to where he left his gear, got lost, and succumbed to freezing temperatures of the winter desert.
Though Sylvia’s demise is tragic, could it have been avoided? Carrying the correct gear for the environment you are in is an important step in circumventing disaster. Leaving the established trail without consideration for the what-ifs and the could-bes is an invitation for catastrophe, so it is recommended that you always keep on your person the proper gear for just such an occurrence, in this case, a handheld (or pocket) like the Solkoa Hunter/Mountain Survival Kit.
The motto of Solkoa, a small veteran-owned survival equipment company based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is “Preparing our nation’s best for the world’s worst.” They have, since 2005, been providing the highest levels of our government’s military programs with survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) equipment with capabilities to meet the standards to be used in the country’s most clandestine operations. The very name, Solkoa, is a portmanteau of solus, meaning alone or uninhabited, and koa, which is Hawaiian for warrior.
For years, its equipment has been contracted with the government and not available to the general public; that is, until 2008, when they began to offer limited runs of equipment in three categories: survival kits, fire starters, and SUMA containers. Solkoa introduced the Hunter/Mountain kit which is designed for use in higher elevations during a typical fall or winter hunting season. This extensive kit is designed to support a hunter that may need to survive a mountain climate for 3 or more days until a search party arrives. The kit includes over 40 components that cover all 8 survival needs. It includes extra medical components for treatment of traumatic injuries.
The nylon pouch holds an orange emergency blanket, a 60-cubic-inch waterproof LOKSAK storage bag, a Fastfire tinder, and the waterproof SUMA container, which holds just about everything else. The 6061 anodized aluminum container is suitable for cooking and is strong enough to be used as a digging tool. The pouch itself is available in two colors, orange or tan.
For navigation and rescue, a SOLAS whistle rated at over 100 decibels and the credit card-size signal mirror with reflective tape on its reverse are included, along with a micro baseplate compass with a romer scale, four feet of high visibility flagging tape and a Petzl headlamp.
With long-term survival built into its design, the Hunter/Mountain kit is one of the few that provides first aid essentials with the inclusion of a few advanced medical supplies. The 0.5 grams of antibiotic ointment, a small glass pill bottle, and a 2 x 2-inch medical-grade pad, come with a SWAT-T tourniquet, EMT shears, sponges, and some bandages.
There are three feet of 20-gauge bailing wire, 50 inches of duct tape, 15 feet of Kevlar cordage and a compact IDL T-10 multitool wrapped in a noise-suppressing piece of inner tube. Made of stainless steel, the T-10 has three screwdrivers, a bottle opener, tweezers, wire cutters/strippers, a knife, file, and pliers.
Starting fire is made easier with the NATO-type waterproof matches (with a striker), four pieces of cotton tinder tabs, a FastStrike sparking rod, and a four-plus-hour beeswax candle. The six water purification tablets are enough to treat six liters of water (included are two one-liter water bags), while 3 x 1.5-feet of heavy-duty foil can be fashioned into a bowl for cooking. Barring the lack of food, a 400-calorie food bar is at the ready.
COMPACT AND SOLID KIT
A few surprising items are weather-resistant paper and a small pencil to take notes or write a short journal, the 1.5-mil heat reflecting blanket, sunscreen, UV-blocking eye protection film, and the scalpel blade. To keep important papers secure there is a waterproof map pouch.
There are many survival kits on the market, but you would be hard-pressed to find one as complete, compact, and useful as this one.
•Lightweight Day/Night Mirror •Rescue Whistle, SOLAS
•Hi-Vis Flagging Tape, 4 feet
•LED Headlamp, Petzl, White/Red
•Micro Baseplate & Compass •Romer Scale
•Small Fresnel Lens, 4x
•Waterproof Paper (10)
•Small Pencil w/ Eraser
•Waterproof Map Pouch
•FastStrike Sparking Rod
•Fastfire Tinders (1)
•Beeswax Candle, 4-plus hours
•Stormproof Matches (10)
•Wax-Cotton Tinder Tabs (4)
•Heat Reflecting Blanket, 1.5 mil.
•Bag, Waterproof, Hi-Vis, 3 mil.
•Nylon Paracord, Type III, 20 ft.
•Sunscreen Lotion, 0.25 oz. (2)
•Eye Pro, Wrap, 100 percent UV Block
•Mini Multi-Tool, IDL T-10
•Duct Tape, 50 in. Mini Roll
•Kevlar Cordage, 15 feet
•Wire, Bailing, 20 ga., 3 feet
•Adhesive Bandages, assorted
•Top Sponge (2)
•Antiseptics (2), Alcohol (2)& Iodine (2)
•Antibiotic Ointment (2)
•Topical Ointment, Burn & Itch
•Micro EMT Shears
•Pain Relief Medications
•HemCon Guardacare 2 feet x 2 inches
•Personal Medication Vial
Water and Food
•Water Purification Tabs (6)
•Water Bags, 1 liter (2)
•Heavy Duty Foil, 1.5 x 3 feet
•Food Bar, 400 calories
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.