A Warm BattlBox Welcome
It’s becoming a little hard to find straight adventure-themed subscription boxes that haven’t gone out of business, so I decided to pivot slightly into the related area of survivalist subscription boxes. There is, after all, a significant overlap between these two areas of interest.
My first choice in this detour was the well-regarded BattlBox, another service powered by the Cratejoy network. This confronting-sounding subscription box features monthly shipments filled with survival and tactical gear.
BattlBox offers four subscription box levels. Their Basic box runs $24.99 and includes 4-7 items. However, if you want a more intense BattlBox experience, they also have an Advanced box for $49.99 (6-10 items), a Pro box that costs $99.99 (7-11 items), and the top-tier Pro Plus that will set you back $149.99. The Pro Plus seems to be identical to the Pro but with a deluxe knife of the month (think Spyderco or Kershaw or Mantis) included with each shipment. You’re free to upgrade or downgrade your BattlBox subscription on a month-to-month basis.
In addition to the base price, subscribers are charged a shipping and handling fee for each box, which can add a significant price increase to the box—my $24.99 box ended up costing me $35.96, adding almost 44% of the base price to the total cost of the box.
From the get-go, it seemed these BattlBox folks have it down. As soon as I signed up for the service, I received an email with a clearly spelled out billing and shipping policy that let me know exactly when they’d be charging my card and sending out my BattlBox. I was told I’d be getting the BattlBox Mission 1.2 Welcome Box as my first shipment. This would be followed by my regular shipment the following month. It seems everyone who signs up gets the same Welcome Box (for inventory control, according to the BattlBox FAQ).
From the outside, the BattlBox looks much like any other box I’ve received. Once I cracked it open, I was greeted by six items nestled among a tangle of shredded cardboard (good for tinder, as BattlBox points out right on the box).
Each shipment is classified not only with a Mission (in this case, that’s 1.2 Welcome Box) but also sub-classified with a “sitrep” (military shorthand for situation report)—in this instance that’s Sitrep: Solo Camping, as indicated by the enclosed information card. This card also spells out the value and savings of the six items, along with further details (and even more savings) I would have gotten with the more expensive subscription plans, like a single-person tent (retail price $199.99) at the Pro level.
But let’s take a closer look at what’s included here in Sitrep: Solo Camping.
Speed Cinch Tent Stakes
The four Speed Cinch Tent Stakes, made right here in the U.S. of A, are some mighty cool tent stakes. I like tying knots as much as the next person. Well, let’s be honest. I probably like tying knots more than most people. Yet when it comes to pitching a tent after a long day of hiking, sometimes setting up guy wires takes more time than I want to spend doing so. These stakes allow anyone to set up a tent quickly and securely with minimal (or even no) knot know-how. They’re a bit too bulky to be really useful for solo camping, but I would absolutely add these to the car camping trip. Retail price: $13.99. However, a set of four sells for between $9 and $11 at various places on the internet.
- Usefulness: 10/10. Tent stakes are useful for sure, and these top out with an easy to use, quick to learn, and secure staking system.
- Purchasability: 10/10. I might have bought these before I received this box, but I’ll definitely be picking up another set of four.
- Usability: 10/10. I’ll be putting these to use on my next outing—and probably subsequent outings.
Murphy’s Mosquito Sticks and Candles
Dealing with mosquitoes is the worst. This weekend sample pack of Murphy’s Mosquito Sticks and Candles (contains three sticks and three candles) aims to solve the mosquito problem with a DEET-free blend of citronella, lemongrass, and rosemary. I haven’t tried these yet (not too many mosquitoes in my backyard this time of year), but I’ve never had much success with scent-based mosquito solutions (and I’m not the only one). I might try these backpacking, but it’s more likely that they’ll see some action at the next family camping outing or picnic. Retail price: $5.95. I didn’t find the sample pack online, but a box of 12 sticks will set you back $12, as will a box of 12 candles, so a buck a piece is fair.
- Usefulness: 5/10. As mentioned above, I’ve never had great success with this sort of mosquito repellent in the past,
- Purchasability: 2/10. Highly unlikely these will ever land in my shopping cart.
- Usability: 4/10. I’m not in a big rush to put these to use.
Exotac makes some cool fire-starting gear, but the Firesleeve, a rubber casing for the classic Bic lighter, is not one of them. It’s waterproof, which is nice. It also keeps the gas button from being pressed accidentally, a problem I’ve never really had. And it has a thing called the “gas lock,” a clumsy-to-use feature that lets the lighter’s flame burn without you pressing the gas button with your thumb—but the instructions tell you not to use it for more than 30 seconds. And that’s about it. Retail price $14.95.
- Usefulness: 3/10. Points for being waterproof, a useful thing for lighters.
- Purchasability: 0/10. I never would have bought this thing.
- Usability: 1/10. I’ll likely use it once to give it a proper field test. On second though, maybe I won’t even bother with that.
Zippo Cedar Fire Starter
This is a plastic-wrapped puck of cedar shavings infused with wax. The wrapper tells me that one puck is good for starting four fires, but aside from that, there’s very little to say about this—other than Zippo no longer sells these things. Retail price: $1.95. Zippo used to sell a box of 8 for $11.92 (so $1.49 each), but they pop up on various internet vendors from time to time for wildly varying prices.
- Usefulness: 7/10. Fire-starting materials are useful, and this cedar-and-wax puck holds a lot of promise. But it’s a little on the bulky side.
- Purchasability: 3/10. There are so many fire starting solutions out there, I’d likely pass on this one.
- Usability: 3/10. This isn’t the first thing I’d reach for when starting a fire.
Self-Reliance Outfitters Mini-Inferno
Another fire-starting solution. The Self-Reliance Outfitters Mini Inferno is a small tin containing six little discs infused with fire-loving goodness. All you need to do is rip a disc a little to expose the fibers inside and set it alight. Each disc burns for 5-7 minutes, and Self-Reliance Outfitters claims that moisture actually increases the burn time, which strikes me as somewhat dubious (and definitely worth a real world test). Retail price: $7.99.
- Usefulness: 8/10. Again, fire-starting material can make or break a camping trip. This tin is more compact than the Zippo Cedar solution above, and that makes it slightly more useful.
- Purchasability: 3/10. I’ve got a reliable firestarter I always carry, so this wouldn’t be something I’d normally pick up.
- Usability: 3/10. Not my firestarter of choice, but it I found it in the pack and I needed to start a fire, I’d certainly use it.
Light My Fire Camp Spork
The Light My Fire Camp Spork is a classic camping tool. I used to carry one on every trip. But it has one fatal flaw—the “knife,” a serrated edge of plastic along one of the spork’s tines. It’s impossible to cut anything with it—except the corner of of your mouth while eating. There are better eating utensils out there. Retail price: $2.95.
- Usefulness: 9/10. Putting food into your mouth is essential for backcountry survival, and an eating utensil is useful to facilitate that.
- Purchasability: 10/10. I’ve bought a few of these in the past. I probably wouldn’t buy one again, but maybe.
- Usability: 8/10. i can’t deny that I’ve used this spork many, many times. And for each of those times, I’ve regretted every time I’ve needed to use the fork.
Other Value Items
Each BattlBox comes with a free membership to ReadyMan, a sort of online school of self-reliance, which is normally $10 a month for a series of video training and webinars, plus access to their Plan2Survive app. This isn’t the sort of thing I go in for, but it certainly fits the BattlBox theme.
It also came with a 20% off discount code at Self Reliance Outfitters, the folks behind this shipment’s Pathfinder Mini-Infernos.
Combined Goods Total
BattlBox doesn’t seem to (wisely) promise any guaranteed value of the items in their shipments, but the info card tells me this shipment carries a retail value of $47.78, which is a fair and reasonable assessment. So even though this $25 box ended up costing me almost $36, it’s still a good value.
Unboxed Gear Score
This box totaled 99 points out of a possible 180, earning an Unboxed Gear Score of 55.
Considering 50% of this box is fire-related goods, the fine folks at BattlBox seem to think that solo camping is all about fire. I would have liked to see a little more variety in selected solo camping items, like maybe something in the water purification category.
Unboxed is the continuing report of my personal foray into the world of subscription boxes aimed at the outdoor enthusiast.