Wearable technology may be one of the biggest trends going on right now, but wearable survival gear is a persistent trend that's popped up again and again in recent years. We've seen it in survival bracelets like the KODIAK, hiking boots like the Rocky S2V Substratum and even jewelry like the HypeX from Swiss Army staple Wenger. A company called SlideBelts presents another style: a survival kit you can thread through your belt loops, putting a fire starter, knife and other tools within easy reach.
California-based SlideBelts offers a unique style of belt buckle, which it has been developing and improving for more than half a decade. In place of the usual prong-hole buckle system, the SlideBelt buckle has a tooth on its underside that secures into notches spaced 1/4 in (6.4 mm) apart on the belt strap. To adjust it, one simply lifts the hinged mechanism at the top, slides the belt to the preferred snugness and lowers the mechanism to secure it in place. The hole-free design offers 30 size options, provides a clean look and prevents pulled, cracked leather on the top of your belt.
With its latest design, SlideBelts rolls that buckle system into a more rugged, ready-for-anything belt. The belt strays from the prevalent wearable-survival trend of woven paracord, instead featuring a US-made waterproof, abrasion-resistant strap with 2,000 lb (907 kg) of tensile strength. SlideBelts plans to offer the straps in custom lengths, as well as belts, and shows them being used to secure bikes in a pickup truck, pull a boat out of the water and haul firewood to a campsite.
That rugged strap can be paired with a Base buckle with integrated bottle opener, but where this belt really establishes itself is in the multi-tool buckles SlideBelts is developing. The company has made three different multi-tool prototypes. The Survivor offers a bottle opener and a pull-out ferro fire starter and striker. The Hunter includes those tools and adds a slide-out multi-tool with scraper/blade edge, small saw edge, can opener, nail pry, and flathead screwdriver. The Explorer includes all the Hunter's tools plus a GPS chip.
As you can see clearly from the photos, the belt buckle doesn't provide an LCD screen for advanced mapping navigation. The GPS chip is designed to offer more basic tracking and communications capabilities. SlideBelts explains that the GPS user would activate the tracking and alert features that he or she wants online prior to a trip or adventure. The device would then send out email/text alerts to one's contacts and tracking information that could be viewed via Google Maps on the web and/or a smartphone app. The company does not mention an SOS feature for connecting to a global search-and-rescue agencies like GEOS in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
SlideBelts hasn't finalized all the GPS details, but it says that it's partnered with a satellite provider with global coverage and mentions the GPS tracking service will likely entail a monthly fee of around US$5 to $9. It's not clear whether that fee will be offered solely in an annual contract or on a flexible, single-month basis as has been the trend in rescue beacons more recently. The GPS transmitter can run for up to three months, and SlideBelts is considering developing a rechargeable version.
As designed now, the Hunter and Explorer models are likely to get confiscated at the airport if you happen to be wearing one, because the multi-tool is integrated into the buckle. SlideBelts says that it is investigating the possibility of offering a removable multi-tool that you could store in checked baggage while wearing the belt through security.
SlideBelts has developed a multi-tier Kickstarter campaign. It's already sailed past its US$60,000 base goal, which it will use for developing the production "Survivor" buckle belt. The Hunter entails a $350K stretch goal, and the Explorer a $750,000 goal. With about a month and a half left to go, SlideBelts has just passed the $100K mark.
Kickstarter pledgers can throw $49 down to secure a belt with strap and Base buckle (basic buckle with bottle opener) or $79 for the strap and Survivor buckle (fire starter and bottle opener). Pledgers of the $79 Survivor package and more expensive options will be given the option to upgrade to a Hunter or Explorer belt if SlideBelts meets the respective stretch goals. If all goes according to plan, belt deliveries will begin by November 2015.