Batman is one of the few superheroes who’s actually just a badass human – with a badass utility belt. And who didn’t want that belt as a kid? Or even at age 36? Wazoo has finally made the ultimate utility belt for us Batman wannabes with its Cache Belt, now live on Kickstarter.
But the Wazoo Cache Belt is not geared toward helping you fight harlequin villains in a sinister city. It’s geared toward keeping you alive in survival situations. And it pretty much nails it.
Your Bat-tools In Your Office Belt
The Cache packs a dizzying amount of stuff into what looks like any standard pant-holder-upper: a mirror, a reflector, a whistle, flashlight and trail markers for flagging; a band-aid, wound seal and antibiotic dressing; a firesteel, ceramic scraper and waterproof tinder for starting fire; a water container and purification tablets; a mini compass; fish hooks, line, shot and snare wire; zip ties, duct tape, a needle, cord and pins for fixing and binding things; and finally a ceramic blade and wood saw.
When I first read the list, I imagined some big, clunky thing that hangs off the hips and drags down the drawers, like my old surplus belt I mistakenly took on a trip up Mt. Whitney. I also assumed it would hold cheap junk, a few useless trinkets and a gimmick or two to sell it. But I figured, hey, it’s a utility belt. Might be kind of cool. Let’s check it out.
Instead, a sleek streamlined belt arrived in a small box. I immediately started wearing my Minimalist Cache Belt to work, and didn’t even notice it. It felt like a normal belt and looked like a normal belt. It didn’t feel any different from a standard belt when I hiked up a quick peak before work or when I sat at my desk for 8 hours.
I showed my co-workers – a good test since they’re all outdoors-oriented Tetonians. Even the ones who never much speak about outdoor gear anymore noted it with a nod and a good word. It’s impressive-looking, no doubt.
But really, how good are its tools?
Of everything in the pack, the biggest questions (and the most important) were the fire-starting gear, the blade, the water kit and the saw.
Twine is twine and after playing tug of war with the snare cord and a small tree on the top of a scramble, it passed the test. Zip ties and duct tape are pretty dependable. But when you’re in a bad situation, there are three essential things: fire, water, food. In that order. So I tested them.
If you’re injured in the backcountry (especially worrisome up here in the Tetons, but as a living being in general) your heat saps fast. So I started with the fire.
It took me a few times striking at the firesteel to get a spark. And then I got it. It took a few more to get anything going but the tinder worked well. The key to getting warmth is a nice big fire. You’d definitely want to practice with it before needing it for survival. And, you can pool together enough brush for something, but a proper fire that provides heat needs real wood. That was how I tested the saw — cutting a smaller branch off a larger log on a woodchopping expedition.
It’s a standard hand chain saw, two loops and you pull it back and forth good and quick. Sure enough, it took a bit more effort than triggering my Stihl but it got off that small branch. There you have it. From the contents of this slim belt, I have fire.
Water’s next. I filled the bag and threw in the purifier tablets from Katadyn (maker of my go-to water filter, the Hiker Pro). Then I drank. As of this writing I don’t have giardia or lepto, so that’s good. The bag was a bit tough to drink from. Actually really tough. It’s a strange addition, for a backcountry belt. I have a Nalgene carabinered to myself a good 90% of the time so the bag might work as a storage container but definitely dribbled as a drinking cup. Better than nothing, I guess. Definitely would help in rationing if you need that.
So the food. I don’t know how to make a proper snare and it would be tough without bait anyway. Would probably work on a grouse if one happened to come by you in the woods. But the fishing gear would be the best food-getter for most people.
So I threw it out on the Teton. Didn’t catch anything but with a worm and a couple hours sitting on the bank, I could see it working. The fishing line and hook is the oldest technology known to man and if you’re lucky enough to be lost or injured near a large enough river, you’ll be eating.
One of the issues I have with the gear, though, is that most of it is in plastic tubes which, once cut and opened, can’t really be reused. I’ve shoved everything back in there and it seems to be fine. The saw especially troubled me once a piece of it poked through the Velcro and gave me a nice little nip on my flank. But the tools contained in the belt should be seen as “what if” gear. Not “daily use” gear.
Speaking of that, when I first saw those tubes, I figured I’d cut them with my pocket knife. No way would the little ceramic blade cut through it. But then I got into the whole spirit of the test and used it to open the tubes. Sliced through them like butter. Incidentally, it was the other side of that ceramic blade that I smacked against the firesteel to make a spark.
But really, for such a small little ceramic nothing, that blade kills it. When I’m in the backcountry, though, I always have a much bigger knife in my pack.
In fact, much of what I carry replaces the need for much of this belt. And while some of the tools in the belt can replace what I already have, I’m not going to leave my lighter and fire kit and my water bottle and my iodine tablets and my zipties behind. But therein lies the brilliance of the Cache — you can wear it anywhere, even places where you don’t think you’ll be in a survival situation, and the minimal weight and slim profile makes it a welcome addition to the gear you already have in your pack.
The Survivor’s Must, the Adventurer’s Extra
That’s what makes this belt invaluable. In the backcountry, sure, it’s awesome to have extra supplies on you and when they add little to no weight or hindrance to your setup their inclusion is a no-brainer. For the average person living in a city, this is a necessity.
When I lived in L.A., I always expected the big one to hit. I had a plan too. Get my wife. Get to the San Berdoo mountains. Take it east to the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada and head north to fresh water and open spaces away from the riots. This is a survivor’s belt. Everything in it works. It’s mostly stuff you really hope you don’t have to use and likely WON’T have to use but if you do have to use it, the equipment damn sure better work. Wazoo’s tools work.
Will I travel in the backcountry without the firestarter kit, water bottle, knife, and med kit I carry in my pack standard? No. But if I were trapped somewhere or struggling to get home Hugh-Glass-style and I needed to keep starting fires, I’d be happier than Bear-Grylls-rappelling-off-a-cliff to have the belt. And the extra patching material is something I don’t normally carry but could come in huge. I would probably even become adept with the primitive fishing setup. Maybe snare a grouse. Regardless, this will now be my backcountry belt, if for no other reason than that it works as a belt and serves more than the basic function of keeping my pants from coiling around my ankles.
And I’ll always wear it in my day-to-day because, well, you never know what a day might bring, what with massive disasters in all of America’s cities and my current Teton existence often feeling like I’m just a couple steps removed from a possible survival situation. For both the weekend warrior and the all-week warrior, this is an absolute essential.
And finally, it being mud season and all, I did a lot of testing of the bottle opener on the buckle. That works very well.
Bottom line: For a tool that so seamlessly goes from backcountry setup to workplace attire, the Wazoo Cache is priceless. While I wouldn’t use it as a replacement for any of the uses held in its cache, it’s the perfect “what if” tool for my arsenal. Though I’d suggest maybe checking it on your next flight – the TSA tends to look down on ceramic knives and hand-powered chainsaws.
To learn more, check out the Wazoo Cache Belt now on Kickstarter.