I am not sure I have ever had more fun reviewing an item as I had with the Micro SERE Kit from Vigilant Gear. However, this kit isn’t all about fun. It actually packs a lot of serious capability into a very small package. How small? Small enough that you can completely cover it with a business card. In fact, you can almost cover 2 of them with a single business card!
The Vigilant Gear Micro SERE Kit (MSK) packs several contents into a very small package. Those contents manage to cover a lot of bases despite their small size.
The MSK contains:
- Plastic Storage Case (2.3″ x 1.8″ x 0.5″)
- (1) Mini Survival Mirror with IR panel
- (2) Polymer Handcuff Key
- (1) Ceramic Razor Blade
- (1) Tinder Quick Firestarting Tab
- (1) 14mm (Grade AA) Luminous Button Compass
- (1) 6ft Length of 188LB Kevlar Cordage
- (1) 6ft Length of Stainless Steel, Nylon Coated Leader Wire
- (1) Spring Steel Split-Pawl Handcuff Shim
- (1) Quick Stick Bypass Tool
- (1) EZ Decoder Bypass Tool
- (1) Micro Escape Tool
- (1) Ferrocerium Rod
You can also add an optional Bogota Titan Nano Entry Toolset at the point of purchase.
Observations from Use
There is a lot of ground to cover here. I will address each of the components individually, though likely not in the depth that they would merit as individual review items. Once the individual items have been addressed, I will speak to the kit as a whole.
The case itself is great. It is compact and seems durable. I have opened and closed it countless times while testing all the various items and the clasp has help up. It’s clear, frosted plastic construction gives you a glimpse of the contents at a glance. It is ideal for this application.
The signal mirror works well enough for such a small, light signal mirror. The reflective side is protected with clear plastic film which I recommend keeping in place until you need to use it and then retaining. I have had good luck sticking it back in place after testing. Normally, I would say remove the film so you don’t have to in an emergency but in a small kit like this the film protects the mirror’s surface while it is stowed with the other items. The reflective side (it looks like SOLAS tape or something similar) gives you low/no light capability and was a smart addition by Vigilant Gear. The mirror has a lanyard hole which is handy for a couple reasons. First, if you are actively trying to be found, you can hang the mirror around your neck with some cord so it is readily available and second, it acts as a sight for the two handed signal mirror aiming method.
The kit includes 2 TIHKs. These are currently the best discreet handcuff keys on the market by virtue of their small, integrated clip that allows them to be carried discreetly in a number of locations. They work especially well stowed on the rear belt loop of your pants. They work GREAT on most handcuffs but I wish they were just a hair longer so that they worked better with ASP cuffs which are quite common. The ASP cuff has a plastic housing that makes the keyway just a bit deeper. The TIHK will open them but you really have to press it into the keyway which can be difficult to do behind your back.
The ceramic razor blade is pretty rudimentary as a cutting tool. It is sufficient for cutting some cordage thanks to its somewhat toothy edge but it is not especially sharp and it is difficult to hold. These are the concessions you make with such a small kit. It does come packed in its own tiny sleeve which is nice for preventing it from scratching/cutting the other items in the kit.
People have been starting fires with Tinder Quick fire starting tabs for years because they work. You may even be able to split this tab for multiple uses depending on conditions and skill level. This is a very nice addition to the kit because it covers one of the most basic needs in a survival situation – heat.
The included button compass is one of the nicest I have seen. Some button compasses easily reverse polarity, develop bubbles, and have hash mark covered dials which is strange because they are really only good for cardinal directions. This one developed no bubbles, held its polarity in all testing, and is easily readable. It’s an excellent little compass.
The MSK includes 6 feet of coiled Kevlar cordage with a 188 pound break strength. This can be pulled apart into multiple smaller strands which are strong enough for lashing sticks for shelter and thin enough to improvise fishing line. It can also be improvised into a saw for cutting plastic like PVC pipe or zip tie style restraints. This is the ideal, compact cordage for a kit like this. You will always be able to find a use for cordage.
The included 6 feet of nylon coated steel leader wire is just as versatile as the cordage. I suppose that someone well versed in snaring could make a snare from it. However, I like to use it for gear repairs since it can act somewhat like thread with its own built in needle. Like the cordage, you will always find ways to use this.
Vigilant Gear provided a second handcuff bypass option in the Spring Steel Split-Pawl Handcuff Shim. These work well on cuffs with and without anti shim measures. They will certainly work on the most commonly used cuffs. Assuming I can access the shim from where my hands are cuffed, it is fairly easy to shim a set of chain style cuffs. Hinged cuffs limit your range of motion and make things a lot harder.
Quick Sticks are amazing in their effectiveness and simplicity. They are used by inserting them to the back of a padlock’s keyway and then simply applying some leverage to defeat the pawl that locks the bail in place. It bypasses the keyway entirely so there is no picking skill required (though some practice is recommended). I have had great luck with defeating padlocks with a single locking pawl but not so great luck on doubles. I have heard of being done though so, on at least some padlocks, it can be done with practice.
The EZ Decoder is similar in design and principle to the Quick Stick but it is designed to open combination padlocks. You can tell the difference between it and the Quick Stick easily by remembering that the EX Decoder is much thinner. It works by inserting it into the lock through one of the small spaces around one of the combination tumblers (that is why it is so slim) and applying a bit of leverage to lift the locking mechanism. They work like a charm on the right kind of lock and it takes up almost no space in the kit.
The MSK includes a Micro Escape Tool which is a tiny metal saw that is thin enough to be used as a handcuff shim. The saw edge can be used to cut through flex cuffs, tape, and other non-metallic materials. It has a small lanyard hole at one end and I recommend tying some thin cord to it that can serve as a wrist lanyard (with a bit of extra slack) so you don’t have to worry about dropping such a small item. If you do this in advance, it will be ready to go when you need it.
Finally, the kit includes a small ferrocerium rod fire starter. Ferro rods are a survival/E&E kit mainstay for a reason. They work and they work regardless of weather conditions, altitude, and other factors. The Micro Escape Tool makes a decent striker for the rod and it seems to be of good quality judging by the sparks it throws. A skilled fire starter can have a fire going in minutes by using the ferro rod with the Tinder Quick tab. The ferro rod can also provide hot enough sparks to ignite natural tinder too.
Kit as a Whole
This is a well designed kit. A skilled user could use the included items to cover at least two of their basic survival needs. The cordage could be used to build shelter (though cordage is sometimes not needed for shelter). The ferro rod and Tinder Quick tab can be used to start a fire for warmth. There is room to add a water purification tablet or two which would then cover another basic need. With that said, it is important to remember that this is a SERE kit, not just a survival kit and so it is heavy on items that are used for evasion.
The tested version of this kit used small plastic baggies to hold the cordage. They were a serious pain in the backside if you ever wanted to repack the cordage and place it back into the kit. Thankfully, the current version of the kit includes small rubber bands to retain the cord. The bands are easier to use and can be used as an emergency fire starter.
The rest of the kit items are surprisingly easy to repack. You would think that with a kit this small, repacking would be a pain but it is easy and doesn’t even really have to be done in a certain order.
This is a tremendous little kit that puts a lot of useful tools into a small package. It will be best suited to knowledgeable users or those who are willing to spend a little time training. No one was born with the innate knowledge of how to use a Quick Stick or EZ Decoder so it would be prudent to practice but you knew that already.
I recommend adding the optional Bogota Entry Toolset to round out your lock bypass options. They are excellent and there is plenty of room in the kit for them.
If your job puts you at risk of being unlawfully restrained, this could be a great tool for you. If you are a prepared citizen, it would be worth a look for you, too.