UCSK Polymath Ultra Compact Survival Kit Review

UCSK Ultra Compact Survival Kit
You could debate for years about what should be included in a compact survival kit (and people do!), so for the purposes of this review I'm going to comment on what is in the kit, rather than what could be in the kit.


So what's a polymath? Well, according to the dictionary- A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. A jack of all trades, if you like. I'd say that's a pretty appropriate name for a product from Polymath Products.

Polymath Products say that a survival kit is useless unless carried and that's a hard statement to disagree with, but with the popularity of ultralight hiking growing many people are ditching their survival kits in favor of a lighter pack. That's where the UCSK, or Ultra Compact Survival Kit, comes into it's own.

Weighing only 36g (by my scales) the kit is perfect for backpackers like me, who in an attempt to lower weight have removed their survival kits from their pack hoping that they're never going to need them. Ever since I ditched mine I've been worrying about ending up in a situation where I'd need a survival kit and luckily so far I haven't. But what would happen if I were to get lost? Break a leg? Lose my rucksack?

I decided that this was a valid concern and started to look online for ultra lightweight survival kits that would discreetly slip into my pocket or onto my belt. The UCSK fits all of my criteria; light weight, tiny pack size and low cost.


The kit holds a surprising amount of gear packed neatly into a 12 bore shotgun cartridge.

Survival Kit Details

Here's what the kit includes:
  •  The Housing
  • 1m Paracord, 550lb
  • Split Ring, 25mm
  • Cartridge
1m of para-cord doesn't seem a lot, and personally I'd find it hard to find a survival situation where 1m of cordage would be adequate. However the good thing is that since the paracord has 7 inner strands you actually have 8m in total. I found that 8m was more than enough to rig up a simple lean-to style shelter in the woods.

Paracord Survival
An example of the paracord being used in a non-survival situation, but really saving the day- extending a tarp ridgeline to fit around a tree!
The split ring and cartridge have very few apparent uses, but if you look at the sheet included with the kit you will find that the split ring clicks perfectly on to the rim of the cartridge. This means you can easily attach the condom on to the cartridge to make a handy water bottle.

The cartridge can also be used to build a rudimentary water filter (detailed in the instructions), by packing it with layers of cloth and fine charcoal.

I'm not going to pretend I know anything about trapping, but you could probably also use the split ring as a component in a trap.

Fire Preparation
  • Fire Steel, 6.5mm Ø
  • Fire Steel Striker
The contents of the kit are packed around the 6.5mm diameter fire steel. The fire steel has a machined taper at one end, allowing it to be friction fit into the hole in the cartridge with the cartridge becoming a handle.

The fire steel throws good sparks with the included striker (a piece of hacksaw blade). The striker is minuscule making it a bit fiddly to use but it saves a lot of space in the kit compared to a standard striker!

Flint and S[arks - Making a Fire
It throws good sparks
  • Liquid-filled Compass
  • Glow Stick
The compass is compact and very accurate, to within a degree of my Silva compass.

Map and Compass
Helping me find my way!
The glow stick seemed like a waste of space at first, but it can be used to view the compass in the dark, provide a small amount of light to aid movement at night, and as a fishing lure/bite indicator.

Glow Stick Lure
The glow stick makes a good fishing lure at night. (Apologies for the terrible photo, it's surprisingly hard to get a decent photo of a tiny glowstick with your hand freezing off from holding your GoPro in a river!)
  • Water Carrier (Condom)
  • 2x Water Purification Tablet
The water carrier can be used with the cartridge as a water bottle (see above), or can be used to store dry tinder when in a wet environment. It can also apparently be used as a flotation device when inflated and wrapped in a shirt!

The water purification tablets should make suspect water sources safe to drink from. They make the water taste horrible but it's much better than getting Ill from the water. These things are trusted by military all over the world so I'm inclined to trust them too!

Purification of Water
Purifying some water
  • Scalpel Blade, #10
  • 8m Fishing Line, 6lb
  • 2x Swivel, Size 10
  • Hooks: 2x Size 10, 2x Size 8
  • 2x 1m Brass Snare Wire
The UCSK contains a complete fishing kit, enough to catch anything up to 6lbs (the rating of the line) which would be invaluable in a survival situation.

Combined with other items from the kit and found items you can make a fishing rod, reel and lures.

I'll be catching salmon in no time!
The kit also includes a scalpel blade which could be fashioned into a spear or used in a deadly trap. It could also be used for general cutting (food prep, shelter building) and medical uses.
There are also 2x 1m lengths of brass snare wire for setting traps for wild animals.

  • Sewing Needle
  • 2x Safety Pin
The sewing needle and safety pins have medical uses including sewing wounds and pinning bandages, and the safety pins can double as emergency fishing hooks.

Build Quality

The build quality of the UCSK is simply exceptional, the fire steel is neatly turned down at the end (to allow the friction fit into the shotgun cartridge) and a hole drilled to allow the split ring to hold the kit together. The compass is glued to the end of the plastic insert which holds the contents of the kit together and the insert has a ring of what looks like heat shrink tubing around it which gives a decent amount of water resistance.

Overall everything looks neat and really well designed.

Polymath Survival Kit
Neat and tidy
Tips and tricks

The included instruction sheet includes a detailed run down of the uses of each component including helpful tips and tricks to get the most out of your kit. I found this really useful as it unveiled a load of new uses for each component of the kit, which I never would've thought of before!

  • Can literally save your life, or just save the day!
  • Tiny
  • Lightweight
  • Has tons of stuff packed into it
  • Has multiple uses
  • Innovative concept and well designed piece of kit
  • Very good price
  • Fantastic build quality
  • A lot of items are single use only and it's a nightmare to repack!
  • Limited amount of cordage
  • There's no way you'll get through airport security with it in your pocket!

Overall I think the UCSK is well worth every penny and is a worthwhile addition to any pack- heavy or light. At only 26g it isn't much of a burden to carry at all, in fact it rests nicely in your trouser pockets or taped to your belt.

I'd definitely rather support a small business like Polymath Products than buy an inferior kit (and pay more!) from a big company!

At just less than £10 the UCSK would make a great gift, whether it's to a friend or yourself!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my review!

You can check out the UCSK at the Polymath Products website here:

Survival Kit

Disclaimer: Thanks to Polymath Products for letting me review the UCSK! Polymath Products provided me with the product free of charge in exchange for this review. This didn't alter my opinion of the product in any way. These are my opinions. Review by Jake McConnell (part of HighballBlog.com outdoor athletes team who test and review outdoor gear).

Thanks for stopping by! Share this article with your friends.


Post a Comment

Please use your personal name and NOT your business name to comment. Enjoy the blog, the T-shirt designs and thanks for joining the conversation!