VSSL camping flashlight and flask

_mg_3235After a successful kickstarter campaign the folks at VSSL (read as Vessel) have created an incredibly unique piece of camping equipment for the drinking outdoorsman.  Their line of LED powered flashlights already contained useful storage with shelter, first aid and supplies options.  Adding an effective flask was a challenge itself because of the nature of having a bottle of liquid so close to your electronics.  Rising to the challenge and enduring more than their share of hate mail for the design process the flask moved from food grade stainless steel to a cutting edge process that bonds glass to the inside surface of an aluminum container.  Cutting the weight dramatically and giving you difficult to break glass surface to prevent your booze from reacting with the metal of the container.  I want to say unbreakable but there are any number of companies who have billed products as such to their chagrin.  I’m sure you could break this flask if you really really wanted to, but the glass itself is a micro thin layer that isn’t going to shatter like a 750ml bottle.

The body of the VSSL comes in both silver and green.  I opted for green on my own unit so I can’t say if the silver is bare metal or if it is also a matte coating in a silver color.  Pictures on their website seem to show both options but this could have changed during design.

The VSSL has four components, the actual flashlight is really not much more than an end cap.  The small LED and battery portion isn’t much to write home about.  The flashlight is bright, the batteries last a long time and it has both static and SOS flashing modes.  The battery is a somewhat non-standard E90 size which means you’re not exactly going to pick them up at the grocery store.  You can however get them on amazon for about $1.40 each so they’re not breaking the bank.

The other end cap is a oil filled compass.  I haven’t really taken it out at night with the intent to do any orienteering so I can’t say it glows in the dark.  Given that the flashlight is on the other end of the unit it would be hard to shine it on the compass without dumping the contents of the VSSL on the ground.

The flask compartment is the biggest and holds 10oz.  Most of your common hip flasks are going to run 6-8oz so you’re already in better shape.  An average 750ml bottle is about 24-26oz of liquid so you’re looking at a good chunk of a bottle.  You can get 10oz flasks but given their flattened shape they tend to be bigger than you’re likely to want in your back/hip pocket.

Between the flask and the flashlight is a small storage compartment, inside are a pair of collapsible shot cups and a steel bottle opener.  These make a lovely addition to the kit in both size and function.

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Empty the VSSL clocks in at 18oz, adding 10oz of liquid is going to obviously increase this by about half again.  (math for the weight of liquor is hard if you don’t know the proof).  So you’re looking at about two pounds plus to carry it around.  That might not sound like a lot to the average person but to a backpacker ounces matter over a multi-day hike.  I’m not a backpacking expert, and I’ve never had to micromanage my weight loads like a dedicated REI junkie.  That said, I can see this being more in line with a picnic/day trip mentality than a long hike.  There’s simply too much weight being added for long trips to make this effective.

The unit is also not cheap.  You can pick up a normal 10oz flask for about $10 or less on amazon.  You could even buy a *super cheap* one for under $5 if you’re really ok with the flavor of steel in your drink.  VSSL is $72.50.  To break that down.

LED flashlight $10-12
Oil Compass $2
Collapsible Shot glass (2) $4
Bottle Opener $2
10oz Flask $10

Total ~$30

You are paying a serious premium to cram all of that into one very portable tube.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely piece of kit, I like mine a lot.  I’ve even considered getting some as gifts for my outdoors inclined friends.  I just don’t think they fill every need for every camper.