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Any time you hit the trail, there are a few items you should have with you … just in case. Every year, there are numerous news stories of hikers who perished after getting lost; many of them might still be with us if they had had the forethought to carry just a few survival essentials with them.

While many instructors, including me, will suggest that putting together your own survival kit from the ground up is the ideal, there are a few companies that have already done the bulk of the legwork. Real Steel is one of them. I recently took the Real Steel Elementary Survival Kit for a test drive to see how it stacks up.


The kit comes in a nice nylon pouch that is suitable for carrying on a belt or strapped to a pack. It has a clamshell zipper that allows the kit to open flat. Except for the paracord, all the components are kept in pockets or by webbing that holds everything secure until you need them.

Being a knife guy, I was immediately drawn to the slim blade that is included with the kit. It is Real Steel’s Marlin knife, designed by Ostap Hel. Out of the package, it is very sharp and actually has a little more heft to it than appearance would suggest. End to end, it runs about 6.25 inches, with a blade length of about 2.5 inches.

A Kydex sheath keeps the blade protected when not in use.

Every kit should have cordage, and this one includes 33 feet of paracord in a neatly wrapped bundle. It also has a nice, little sewing kit with six colors of thread and a needle. To go along with the sewing kit, there are 10 safety pins to help with repairing wardrobe malfunctions.

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