It's a cliche but I've been interested in survival skills and bushcraft for a long time. When I was a kid of about 8 I already had some interest in the outdoors and survival, as much through Indiana Jones as anything else. I'd already been given a small black SAK by my Dad as an early birthday present when I was 7 but it was finding a hardback copy of the (old version) of the SAS Survival Handbook in the library which probably set me off on this road. It's probably the book that launched more people to be interested in survival skills than any other until Ray Mears came along.
The Man and the Approach
The SAS survival manual is of course written by John 'Lofty' Wiseman, a sound biography of Lofty is available through his site for Trueways survival school. The courses here, and the approach of his books, are not really bushcraft or woodcraft but concentrate more on long-term survival. The best bet to find out more is to track down the Collins Gem version of the SAS Survival Guide.
There are 2 key features to his approach, the Lofty Wiseman Survival knife and the survival tin.
The survival tin typically involves a tobacco tin with various items in it to aid in immediate survival. Often included are a button compass, water carrier, snare wire and a wire saw (check out Doug Ritter's take on the BCB version). They are a common idea in all survival books and when I was younger I dutifully made one up. The theory is sound and Lofty Wiseman has no doubt forgotten more about survival than I know but I don't go for the survival tin any more. It is ok to have it in an outdoor coat or day pack but it is simply too big for day to day carry. That's why I tend to carry things such as a firesteel, tinder, magnifying glass and torch on my person at all times. When I'm out I tend to prefer full size items to use rather than miniature one just-in-case. To be fair though this is the difference between survival training and woodcraft. For a thinner approach check out the AOL tin kit. I have built more than a few survival tins but they tend to get left at home when I go out - if you are already taking a first aid kit, knife and fire steel then you're covering a lot of bases for a day out.
The next item is one that I am lucky enough to have bought form a fellow forum member of second Hand. He'd even done all the hard work sharpening it too. As seen on his website LoftyWiseman.co.uk it is a modern version of an Eastern Parang or machete. The knife is actually a bit smaller and lighter than I expected and chops chunks out of seasoned beech fairly well whilst being able to make feather sticks further up the blade.
As you can see the front is weighted for a natural swing and is thicker than the edge nearer the handle. The final part of the back edge is sharpened too but I'm not as keen on this - it seems to make it a less safe to use as a draw knife. It is lovely idea for a bit of kit and were I allowed only 1 tool this concept would certainly be a contender. Unfortunately, the execution is rather poor. The steel is not of good quality - hard to get an edge on and it doesn't hold it for long. It's also heavy and the rubberised handle is not as good on the hands as a harder one would be. The biggest redeeming feature was the collectability - it was easy to sell the parang on. I have seen other blade smiths have a go (such as diving sparrow knife works) and perhaps produce something more along the right lines, but to be honest you'd be hard pushed to beat a Leuku or a real machete
It's a reminder that traditional tools have been through the crucible of daily intensive use for decades, and that trying to reinvent the wheel often creates a lot of work for little gain.