Travel Gadget Guru, by Judi Dash: VSSL Outdoor Utility Tool Flashlight

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VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools: The Supplies model (left) is a survival kit; the First Aid (right) contains basic medical supplies.

Once upon a time, a flashlight was just a flashlight, its innards filled with big batteries needed to power inefficient bulbs. The advent of high-efficiency LED lights allowed for smaller batteries and smaller flashlights. The folks at VSSL (pronounced vessel) opted to keep the big old-fashioned form (9 inches long,  2 inches in diameter), and fill the empty tubular space under the little screw-on LED flashlight top with emergency supplies. Thus was born VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools.

The First Aid model contains basic medical supplies, from aspirin to tweezers, bandages, and sterile gloves. The Shelter model is basically a two-person polyethylene tent in a tube. The Supplies version is a survival kit jam-packed with things like waterproof matches with fire-starter flint and tiny kindling, a wire saw, fishing tackle, heavy-duty rope, beeswax candle, reflective trail markers, and more.

The components come in labeled tins that slide into the aluminum cylinder. You get to the contents by unscrewing the flashlight top or the bottom (which incorporates a compass). The flashlight’s push-button control lets you choose between flood beam and flashing SOS modes; the three LED bulbs run on three replaceable E90 batteries. VSSL sells replacement supplies and accessories a la carte (collapsible stainless steel “shot glass” anyone?) Or fill it up with your own essentials, perhaps organizing them in optional empty VSSL tins. When full, the ensemble weighs in at about a pound, depending on contents.

VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools: First Aid model, $66.50; Shelter, $59.50; Supplies, $99.50; empty model, $49.50. Refills and accessories range from $2 for a tiny can opener or sewing kit to $4.50 for an empty tin and $15 for a duplicate first aid pack; at www.vsslgear.com.

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