I’ve only met one survivalist who said he didn’t like paracord gear and I’m pretty sure he was lying. Paracord is one of the staple items that have come to be accepted as a “must have” in your kit, and you’ll have to travel far and wide to find a Get-Home bag or Bug Out Bag that doesn’t have a few feet of 550 in its depths. It’s incredibly useful; small-diameter, and with a supposed tensile strength of 550 pounds, paracord can be used for just about anything you can dream up: lashing down shelter, keeping a food cache off the ground, wrapping up a splinted broken bone, heavy-duty fishing line. It’s lightweight, comes in a bazillion colors, and rugged and purposeful, so it’s always welcome around my house.
You know what else survivalists and preppers like? Multi-purpose stuff. If one item can hold many things or be used to accomplish different missions, small or large, we like it. For example, find me a prepper that doesn’t have a Leatherman-type tool. Another reason paracord stuff is popular is because it can creatively be wrapped around survival-type items. Paracord bracelets are incredibly popular; but more and more people are realizing that you can weave items like fish hooks, fire steels, and even compasses into a paracord bracelet, making it incredibly easy (and dapper) to have basic survival gear on you at all times.
Enter The Survival Frag
I was poking through the Survival Cache Facebook page and I came across a message from a Bozeman, Montana based company called Valkyrie War Cord. I checked out their link, and the first picture I saw was this:
It was pretty different – literally everyone and their mom makes paracord keychains and bracelets, but this little beast definitely caught my eye as a non-standard offering. First off, it looks like a little grenade (hence the name), but Valkyrie found a way to stuff a crapload of useful survival gear into the innards of this neat little ball. I had to try one out. I contacted Chris Baldwin, the owner/operator of Valkyrie War Cord, and after some jovial banter, he sent one to my door in a custom color scheme, just for me, along with some of the other key chain stuff he offers.
Upon inspection, the first thing you notice is the Sunnto Clipper compass that is wound into the top of the 3” diameter Frag. Next, you notice the 3” long fire steel, wrapped in a cobra weave, and attached to the top of the Frag. Other than that and the paracord enveloping the thing, there’s really not much to see. There’s a 1” key ring featured on the outside as well, that you could use to hang on a backpack zipper, on a key chain (if you’re a huge key chain person), hang on your Christmas tree for the survivalist in your family or use to secure to your automobile, boat, or maybe 4-wheeler on a break-away chain to grab at a second’s notice if you have to bail. Just the paracord, compass, and fire steel alone make a pretty decent basic survival kit…but, wait! There’s more!
Enveloped in the paracord is a small, clear plastic ball that encompasses a decent amount of gear that a survival kit would normally have. The kit formally includes:
– Three Stormproof Matches
– Suunto Compass
– 3″ Fire-Steel Rod
– Mini LED Light w/ Spare Batteries
– Two Pieces of Tinder
– 20ft Spiderwire Fishing Line
– Two Fishing Swivels
– Four Small Split Shot Weights
– Two Red Octopus Hooks
– Wire Ring Saw
– Small Wire Animal Snare
– P-38 Can Opener
– Two Small Zip Ties
– Two Large Zip Ties
– Two Iodine Tablets
– 12′ Trip Wire
– Aluminum Foil (approx. 14” x 12” rectangle)
– 1″ Key Ring
– Plastic Container
– 40ft +/- 550 Paracord
– Two Band-Aids
Chris didn’t cheap out, either. While I’ll admit that I didn’t have high hopes (I think I’ve seen one too many Rambo-type “survival knives” with fishing line and a hook in the handle), I was pleasantly surprised to find that he put good-quality items in the Survival Frag. The Suunto Clipper compass ($18.00 on its own; I have a couple that I keep in jacket pockets as backups) is a really nice 1” compass with an adjustable bezel and pointer, and it worked very well once you got it level. It pointed magnetic North identically to my higher-end Suunto M-3 baseplate compass. It can hang on to a jacket lapel, a shirt sleeve, rifle sling with its small built-in clip.
The small (like 1” long small! See the photo – .45 ACP round for comparison.) LED flashlight was the most surprising item in the Survival Frag. Not even a half-inch in diameter, it is made out of machined aluminum, and it has dual rubber O-rings to seal up the battery compartment. I tried it underwater in my bathroom sink, it works well with no water penetration. I had it running continuously over an hour and a half, and the little light provided illumination for the whole time. Not to say it was insanely bright: it throws light about 10 feet or so. But if it’s all you had for illumination on a pitch-dark night, it would be a godsend. It comes with a spare 4-pack of tiny LR521 batteries as well. I tried asking Chris if I could buy a couple-three of these small flashlights for personal key chain items, but he’s keeping their manufacturer secret…he uses them exclusively for the Survival Frag.
Spiderwire is supplied for fishing line in lieu of standard monofilament fishing line. Spiderwire generally is many times stronger than its equivalent diameter monofilament, due to its braided makeup. It works great for fishing with spinning rods, so I imagine it will work great in an emergency situation. Valkyrie says it’s 10-lb. test Spiderwire. Nice add to the kit over monofilament.
The rest of the small items are standard fare; the Band-Aids are brand-name items, the split shot are actually lead (god forbid!), the fishing hooks are Octopus hooks, and the fishing swivels seems to be standard small sized. The P-38 can opener is a pretty regular silver item; it can be used for tons of things from being a fishing sinker to tearing open a fish and gutting it if you have to. Oh yeah, you can open cans with it, if you have lots of patience and the grip of Iron Man. The water purification tablets are in a small blue sealed container, though you’ll have to be creative to find a water container out in the wilderness if you need to use these. The halves of the clear plastic ball could be used to hold water in a pinch I suppose, but it’s not going to be much!
I generally don’t have a really high opinion of ring-ended wire saws, but I went out in the woods with my son Andy and we gave this one hell. We found a 3” diameter mostly dead tree that was convenient, and went to town. It was discovered that if you tried to wrap the ends down past the limb and tried to pull the saw THROUGH the tree from below, it sucked. But if efforts were made to keep the saw wire as flat and tensioned as possible, without bending/wrapping it, it actually worked OK. We were able to zip through the tree in a couple minutes. But really, where I live in Southern Maine, downed limbs are easier to find and use up less energy to collect than sawing through logs with a wire saw…I personally would rather have maybe a bigger bandage or a small tube of triple antibiotic lotion to help treat wounds than have the saw, but others may see it differently.
Fire In The Hole
I broke open the Frag (more on opening the Frag later) and dug out the fire-making contents: the fire steel, the tinder, the three stormproof matches, and the P-38 can opener (for the fire steel). I went to my snow-covered fire pit, and gathered a bit of loose tinder – dead leaves and small sticks. I plunked the Frag-provided small pieces of tinder in the pit on a leaf, and used the P-38 to scrape the fire steel to get shavings for better ignition. It took a bit – the P-38 is pretty small and hard to get a grip on, as is the 3” fire steel – but in about 5 minutes I had enough built up to where I thought it would catch OK. With my small sticks close at hand to feed the fire once it ignited, I tried one of the “strike anywhere” storm-proof matches on my zipper, which Chris assured me would work well. It didn’t. The head of the match wore off on my zipper without igniting. Bummer. I went to my concrete steps and tried lighting a match there. Same thing; head wore off before igniting. The third match was tried off a coarse sharpening stone (usually a sure-fire method) and again, no dice. The matches were duds. I asked Chris about this, and he said he’d tested the components before building the Survival Frag around them, and that he’d had good luck with these matches. So either I got crap ones or I’m just aggressive. Either way, I would need to rely on the fire steel if I needed this bad boy to make me a fire. However, the three match sticks would make AWESOME tinder once I got the fire started, so I hung onto them.
Also Read: Best Survival Fire Starters
I hunkered over the pile of magnesium shavings I’d scraped off before, and using only the items provided in the Survival Frag, I scraped the bejeesus out of the fire steel. The P-38 worked OK provided you didn’t have a knife (and what survivalist doesn’t carry a blade on them all the time?), but after learning to REALLY push down hard on the P-38, I finally got it to throw a big enough shower of sparks to ignite the shavings, and then the flame jumped off the tinder. It probably took a solid 15 minutes of swearing and scraping, but it did indeed work. I tried it with my Gerber pocketknife, and sparks leaped off the fire steel and started a second fire no problem. Having a sharp edge and better purchase on the scraping tool made all the difference with the fire steel – lesson learned. But a fire is 100% possible with the items in the Valkyrie War Cord Survival Frag. However, I have experience starting fired with fire steels; I would heartily recommend getting a practice one (I like the GobSpark Armageddon) to get adept with.
Getting The Survival Frag Apart
The biggest challenge to the Survival Frag is getting it apart so one can access the goodies inside. The paracord is very tightly wrapped around the Frag in a nice neat package, and you’ll want to inspect it to see how it comes apart before you NEED to use it in a survival scenario. As a warning: pulling a Survival Frag apart is an exercise in patience; it took me probably a good solid 20 minutes to unravel everything…and once it’s apart, it’s not going back together unless you’re a pretty experienced paracord guru. It’s definitely a use-it-when-you-need-it item, not to be pulled apart for fun just to see how it works. Mine will actually be heading BACK to Valkyrie War Cord to get it all back together for me, and to replace the items I used up testing the Frag.
The tag end you want to look for is in the “handle” that holds the fire steel (See the knife pointed in the photo). I would recommend ordering the Frag in two different colors (something you can do via his online store) so you can differentiate the cord that covers the ball, and the cord that encapsulates the tire steel and goes around the top to protect the compass. Also, all tag ends are heat-flattened to prevent unraveling; I found it much easier to pull the Frag apart once I cut these off. Start at the end of the “handle”…there are two tag ends here. Work these apart and start unraveling the cobra weave surrounding the fire steel. It’s not that hard, but it’s not like untying a shoelace, either. Soon you’ll get to the end, where the tag end for the ball cord will be found. Keep unraveling the cobra weave around the top, pulling the ball cord out as you can.
Soon it’ll be apart, and you can start unwrapping the ball. The ball cord gets pulled through overlapping layers, so it’ll take a little bit of doing it to pull it out. The compass can be popped off at this point too. Soon, with some patience, the ball cord will be loose enough to pull it apart from the ball, allowing access to the fun stuff inside the plastic ball. There is a lot of paracord here – my measurement showed about 39 feet. I would recommend ordering at least one of the colors of paracord as a high-visibility color, so you can spot it quickly if you need to grab it in an emergency. You can use the bright color as trail blazes or markers as well, to help others locate you, or for you to find your way back to a camp area. But, again, it’s a bit of a process taking this little bugger apart – it could be close to maddening in a high-stress situation. Stay calm and patient and it’ll work out. Worse comes to worst, you could cut the paracord away to access the Frag innards in a hurry. Note: Speaking of the Frag innards: they are packed in that little plastic ball tightly! When you pop it open, things WILL fly out! Be sure to be holding it over a clear area so you can recover any items that may drop out.
The Valkyrie War Cord Survival Frag is actually a pretty cool piece of gear – I was suitably impressed, and it sets itself apart as a very useful, high-quality item in a sea of mass-produced paracord crap. Throw one of these in your glove compartment, your tackle box, or clip it onto your hiking day pack and know that if the chips are down, you have basic fire-making, shelter building, and navigation gear with you in a small package. This would make a great little stocking stuffer or just a great present for the survivalist in your life, or to grab for yourself. They are $50.00 via the Valkyrie War Cord store (they also produce other cool stuff like rifle slings, bipod pulls, etc.), and I believe it’s a great deal for what it offers is such a small, useful package. It’s not a full-tilt stocked up Bug Out Bag, but it is warmth, comfort, and utility for when you find yourself in a bad situation without your planned gear. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it’s a good thing to have if you do.