Background: GearPods are “modular, lightweight adventure and survival gear to help the outdoor enthusiast to prepare for the unexpected.” Their systems combine interconnecting, containers with pre-selected survival gear. Users combine any containers and gear to arrive at a customized kit, something like my emergency ditch kit. I tested GearPods Wilderness system, which includes first-aid, survival gear, a lightweight stove, and the GearPods Shelter. Because the system is modular, I’m reviewing each part separately.
The GearPods Survival Pro includes items geared towards helping you survive an emergency in the woods. GearPods claims the kit can handle navigating, emergency signaling, starting a fire, purifying water, fishing and snaring, repairing clothes and equipment, boiling water and cooking. Based on the included items, I see no reason to disagree. It’s a sensible kit that looks like an augmented Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Pack, which was designed by Doug Ritter, the Executive Director of the Equipped to Survive Foundation. For everything included, it weighs in at just over 13 oz. The container is 4.5 oz of the total weight.
- GearPods CookMug: Compact 4.0” anodized aluminum cooking mug/pot with snap-in lid
- GearPods Stove: Solid fuel stove with windshield
- Esbit® solid fuel tablets (2)
- Rescue Flash™ signal mirror – 2″x3″ signal mirror with retro-reflective targeting, protective film, plastic sleeve and instructions
- Fox40 Micro Safety™ – loud emergency whistle for signaling distress and communicating location
- Spark-Lite™ – dependable, one-handed fire starter
- Tinder-Quik™ (4) – weatherproof waterproof tinder that burns 1-2 minutes
- NATO “Storm” Matches (10) – vacuum sealed, NATO-approved waterproof and windproof matches with striker
- 20mm Liquid-filled button compass – simple navigation tool
- Mini-LED flashlight – small keychain-type flashlight with rugged case and battery with 24+ hours of continuous use
- Folding knife – light- to medium- use knife with stainless steel razor blade and rugged handle
- Folding saw – light- to medium-use saw blade constructed of 18TPI steel for cutting wood and metal, and housed in a rugged handle
- Katadyn Micropur-1 Water Tablets (6) – 1 tablet per 1 liter (33.8 fl oz) of water; effective against viruses, bacteria, guardia and cryptosporidium
- Sterile, self-standing water bag (36 fl oz) – for pre-treatment water capture and storage
- Heavy duty needle – for repairing clothes and gear
- Heavy duty thread (50ft reel, 10 lbs BS) – for repairs and emergency line for fishing
- Safety pins (2) – 2″ – for repairs, first aid or even improvised hooks for food procurement
- Wire (8ft) – 0.02″ stainless steel wire, non-magnetic – use for repairs and snares
- Braided nylon cord (25ft, 70lbs BS) – many uses including securing gear and building shelters
- Fishing kit – 4 hooks, 2 split-shots and 1 snap swivel
- Duct tape (2″x30″ 9mm) – many uses from first aid to repair
- Weatherproof stationery – 2”x3” (4) – keeping logs, leaving messages, drawing maps
- Pencil (with protective cap) – use with weatherproof stationery
- Fresnel Lens (2″x3″) – redundant fire starting method
- Waterproof and tearproof instructions – with illustrations (PDF)
- Stuff Sac – with drawcord and fastener (2)
Out of everything included, I only find fault with a few items. The first, the Rescue Flash signal mirror works, but it’s much harder to aim than the excellent ACR’s Hot Shot Signal Mirror. I typically carry ACR’s mirror inside my ditch kit, but if you don’t already have a mirror, the Rescue Flash gets the job done. The other two items that make me leery are the Derma-Safe Company saw and knife. Although the saw blade cuts through small trees, it’s much quicker just break them. An example is a three-finger piece of dried driftwood that I tried to saw. It took about 45 seconds to saw through the branch, but I was able to break it in a few seconds using my foot. I suppose it cuts through metal, but I just can’t imagine needing that feature. Frankly, the knife scares me. It’s essentially a razor blade attached to a plastic handle. It doesn’t lock, so use with care. I suppose it’s just big enough to gut a fish and sharpen the included pencil if you don’t have anything else on you, but forget about fire sticks or anything useful. If you’re planning on fishing during a survival situation, you may want to add some aluminum foil to this kit. I’d also add a mini-lighter if I wasn’t carrying one elsewhere. I don’t fault the kit for not having the last two items.
The rest of the kit is high-quality, like the high-end Fox40 whistle, the LED flashlight, the Micropur and the included matches and tinder. The Spark-Lite fire starter produces enough sparks to light the tinder as long as you fluff up the tinder. Even the button compass, which are notoriously inaccurate, agreed perfectly with my hand-held Brunton Eclipse, which I’ve used to accurately site mountain peaks 50+ miles away.
GearPods Stove, Mug and Burner
One of the included items in the kit that excited me most is the GearPods Stove and Mug. In addition to the included solid fuel Esbit tablets, I tested the GearPods Burner, which burns denatured alcohol, and the 4 oz GearPods Fuel Bottle. I can’t stand the smell of Esbit, so having an alcohol burner is a relief for me. I often use alcohol stoves when camping, so using one in a survival scenario is a treat.
The stove system, including the mug, lid, base, windscreen and stove, weighed in at 4.7 oz. The fuel bottle weighed 0.8 oz empty. The system’s weight breaks down to the lid at 0.3 oz, the base at 1 oz, the mug at 2.1 oz, the windscreen at 0.7 oz and the stove at 0.6 oz. It’s a pretty reasonable weight considering it’s geared towards one person in a survival situation. For comparison, my latest personal camping stove system for two weighs in at 9.2 oz.
As far as boiling water, the mug holds just over 9 oz. That’s enough for soup packets and some commercially available dehydrated or freeze-dried meals. Using 62°F water and 0.7 oz of fuel, the stove boiled in about nine minutes and went out at about 11 minutes and 45 seconds. Without the windscreen the flame seemed to sway even with light breezes. Overall, the performance impressed me. One suggestion to GearPods is to add a scale in ounces to the side of the fuel bottle. A scale would help gauge how much fuel is poured into the burner.
After the boiling finishes, you use an attached one-inch tall fiberglass insulation ring to move the mug without having to use a pot grip or hot pad. It works but is hot to touch. I wouldn’t want to hold on it for longer than necessary to move the cup. For my first test run, I boiled the water with the lid on top. The lid shrunk after it cooled and no longer fits snugly into the mug. The shrinking lid was an early production problem and GearPod addressed the issue with a fixed lid in current kits.
I’m impressed with the Survival Pro component of the GearPods Wilderness System. It includes a well thought out assortment of gear to cover an emergency. Combined with the Shelter component, someone stranded for a night might even be comfortable.
My Other Reviews of the GearPods Kits