Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: Platatac microfleece Sniper pants

Here's a very simple post for a very simple product. It's winter here in Melbourne, and you may have gathered that whilst it's actually pretty mild here (today it got down to 7oC (that's 44oF)) so it's not like we have to contend with ice, snow or sleet very often at all, but I still don't like it.

If you've ever had call to stand around in wet windy winters, you may well appreciate having a good base-layer. These are the Platatac Microfleece Sniper Pants.

Cut generously from a 100 wt Microfleece, with an elasticised waistband that at small size sits at 26" relaxed and 51" fully expanded, and all the way up to 38" and 81" fully expanded in the XL size. These are currently offered in khaki and black, although I have a set in dark green from the early runs as well.

Nylon stretch foot loops help to keep the pants from riding up and secured on your legs. I've worn these whilst up at the snow, and also when I go out kayaking but the keen eyed reader may have also seen me donning them when out hammock-camping.

 The elastic waistband isn't really there to do anything more than keep them on your hips, but does so admirably, and I've not had any problems with it digging n, even with a battle belt or pack strap around my waist, over pants in my low key adventuring. They are the perfect companion to the Platatac Half-zip Microfleece tops too.

The leg cuffs do a great job of keeping the pants from riding up, especially if you find yourself crawling through the brush, or legs-up in a hammock, a very desirable trait when the temperature drops and you want to regulate your temperature evenly. IT is light and silky enough so as to not affect socks or boots when on your feet, and don't give rise to hotspots or chafing.

One thing to note though. Microfleese does not wick. These get sweaty and slick if you build up some heat, and can be uncomfortably steamy as a result in some situations. This is especially important if you're expecting to be out where you might re-chill.

They are quick drying though, which is one reason I choose to wear them when I'm out kayaking.
I don't mind getting wet, but no one wants to stay wet. Especially in the cold.

If you find yourself in the market for a light, warm set of underlayer bottoms, you might do well to keep something like these in mind. If you find yourself laying prone, still and running silent whilst stalking prey or providing overwatch, you might well want to add a little comfort to your operation.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Wish Lust: Total Comfort Medical kneepads

I got an email from Joe Johnson, President and CEO of Total Comfort Medical got in touch with me. Joe had worked with Stephen Walden of Bosse Tools and remembered the Wish-lust article I did on the Ergonomic Shovel that Bosse Tools (I didn't happen to back that one, mostly due to the hefty shipping rates to Australia from the rest of the world) and wanted to get my opinion on his new product design.

TCM has developed a flexible kneepad, for use gardening, at work or at other activity you might be putting your knees through some hefty activity. 
I wear kneepads when ever I am adventuring, such as Tough Mudders or laser-tag events and mostly wear my now battered Blackhawk! kneepads, so it would be excellent to have another option, perhaps even a less-high-impact version, to better blend in or go unnoticed.

 The TCM pads are constructed with one inch thick foam core composed of two different layers. The top layer of padding is a real memory foam that contours around the knee of a user. It provides a soft point of contact that absorbs the initial pressure of your knee. The bottom layer of padding is an energy dispersing foam. This layer provides a sustained level of support.
The outer layer of the pad is a wicking fabric that is water resistant, oil resistant, and chemical resistant, meaning you’ll always stay dry and protected.

The knee pads are durable and weather resistant, you can use them inside or take them outside wherever your work requires. They have a hook-and-loop strip closure system, but have a wrap-around ergonomically designed curved strap that has been planned to prevent any pinching or binding behind your leg.

This has long been the bane of knee pads in my experience, and I have had some bad times going for long runs with pads on, so I look forwards to putting this design through its paces too.

Stay on the look out for these kneepads from TCM, I'll let you all know when they are available, and I've had a chance to put them through their paces.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Hardcore Hardware Australia - LFK-05

It was my birthday recently, and I was lucky enough to receive (from my mother, no less) this very nice piece from Hardcore Hardware Australia. This is a first because as far as I can recall, this is the first weapon gift I've received from her in all my 39 years. I guess she thinks I'm mature enough for cutting implements now...

I gifted Omega a HHA LFK01 knife for her birthday a couple of years ago, and it has featured as an accessory for numerous outings and adventures, be it wilderness or as a playtool for clubs that would give Mr Grey reason to pause. However, it took some time for me to get a HHA blade to call my very own, so I'm very leased to show off this, the newly released LFK-05.

I did a Sneak Peek piece on the new series, and their badder brother, the ASOT-01.

The LFK Series tools are designed primarily as overt carry, easy to reach back-up knives. These aren't thigh-sized jungle-slashers, these are close in and personal tools for when you need something small, shard and hardy.

Made from the same 6mm (0.23") D2 tool steel, as the original LFK-01,  with full tang construction  and a robust Teflon coating the blade isn't wrapped with paracord as previous HHA blades but is instead
nonslip, ergonomically carved , G10 handle scales offering a positive and comfortable grip, and are secured with Torx screw.

The neck of the blade features a grove for your leading (or little finger, if you are reverse gripping) and the spine features a broad sweep of jimping for secure thumb pressure. The spear point design offers exceptional strength, yet allows optimal maneuverability and edge-on geometry.

You can see the pronounced glass-breaker point at the rear end, which also features a lanyard hole as well as full beveling to remove any sharp corners.  Weighing in at 171g (0.37lb), this little knife only measures 172mm (6.77") in overall length, 70mm (2.75") of which is blade. The whole piece is only 45mm (1.77") at its widest.

Due to its size and weight, the LFK is an ideal choice where space on an assault platform may be limited, on a belt where bigger blades might be "too much knife". These heavy-duty blades also bridge the gap where full-sized, fixed blade knives may be unmanageable, and a folder a poor compromise. I prefer fixed blades to folders in most situations, and having a small fixed blade is something I find desirable.
I put up the LFK-05 against the LFK-01 here, as well as the comparably small but chunky MSM001 KA-BAR knife.

The blade is treated to a rather stiff

58 – 60 HRC which, thanks to the tool-tough D2 steel should put this in good stead for any task you care to throw at it.

The LFK-05 is friction locked in a smartly moulded Kydex ambidextrous sheath. A set of eyelets around the edge of the sheath allows it to be fitted with a Tek-Lok™ mounting system for belt carry, which can be customised in vertical or horizontal positions. 

Those eyelet holes along both sides of the sheath facilitates alternative attachment to the body or gear via paracord or cable ties, although I've found the friction lock too secure to work as a neck-knife, without wanting to give myself whip-lash. 
One thing I've found is that the fat-body G10 scale handle is not quite right for my bare hand, the gaps for finger grips and the finger grip at the neck don't quite mesh, just due tot the size of my hand. When gloved this is less noticeable, but something to note.  I didn't have this issue with the cord-wrapped LFK-01, however, it is not a big enough problem for me not to love it. 

This is a rugged knife, nicely sized for belt wear, and fitting to any number of spaces on a harness, pack or where-ever you might find yourself in the need of a solid blade in a little package.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: 20oz Yeti rambler

 I got a care package from BreachBangClear and Propper, which included some fine pieces I'll be covering over the next little while. One of the first in the new bath of things is something near and dear to my heart. I'm a big tea-drinker, all kinds, but strong dark and sweet is my preference. It comes from traveling so much.

It can be hard to find good coffee, but pretty much everywhere you go in the world, there is good tea to be found. But better than hot, dark and sweet, is HOT. Lukewarm drinks are a hardship that we can do without. Let's not even get started on lukewarm COLD drinks.
There are few things as satisfying as a frosty bubbling beverage after a hard day's toil, but no one wants the cold wet perspiration that you get on the outside of regular cans and bottles.

The clever folks at Yeti took that age old problem; cold drinks getting warm, and hot drinks going cold to heart, and took it to task. This is the Yeti Rambler in its 20oz size. Because when you are baking out in the sandbox, all shiny and chrome, or chilling with your friends on the icepack, you want to keep your beverage at optimal enjoyment temperatures, for as long as possible.

Double walled vacuum sealed Dewar vessels have been around since 1892, around the same time as the venerable Winchester lever action so Yeti have had 110 years of refinement to come up with this iteration.

The Rambler tumblers are over-engineered with kitchen-grade 18/8 stainless steel (18/8 for its composition of 18% chromium and 8% nickel.) and double-wall vacuum insulated. There's a thin seam at the bottom of the outside, and a lip inside the tumbler to fit the lid to, but otherwise a smooth and easy cleaning cup with no give to the walls. It's a really solid design.

Note to the avid reader: do NOT BBQ your Yeti, they're insulated
The lid that keeps your drink in its place is easy to clean, dishwasher safe, shatterproof and crystal clear so you know exactly how much of your drink is left. The silicone rubber gasket keeps it fitting snugly into the cup, and I've not had any spill problems with the seal. The drink hole is a decent size, and there is also a breather hole. The clear lid does fog up with steam from a hot drink, and some might not like that, but it's a good indicator that the drink is still hot. There is no seal for the drink hole, so some sloshing may occur. It fits nicely in the cup-holders I've used it in, but the same problem of over-flow from the always-open lip occurs.

I made my self a tea as I sat down to watch Fury (best job I ever had) and as the credits rolled, 135 minutes later, my tea was still hot. In fact, I've burnt myself a few times having made myself tea and left it in the Yeti, because it is insulated so well.

So overall, a great design, with a couple of provisos. Watch out for sloshes and remember hot drinks are hot!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sneak Peek: HHA PEN and knife

Last week I became the proud owner of two new pieces from knife and tool manufactures  Hardcore Hardware Australia. 

My mother broke a 39year old rule of hers and bought me the very first knife, this lovely LFK05.

I was also one of five winners of a competition HHA ran, and received a TWI02 in the mail. 

Stay tuned for reviews in the next little while. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: Platatac WUP

It seems I'm running behind the times, gear-wise with some of my collection, with finances being what they are, and being the primary income earner of a large household, but I snap up bargains and good kit where ever I can. This is one of those items I found being sold second hand, having missed their retail release. It is the Platatac WUP (Water Utility Pouch). I believe it has been superseded by the Accessories Small Flask pouch,which fills a very similar role, and has very similar dimensions

Sitting at 20cm (7.8") tall, and roughly 10cm x 10cm (4"x4") around, the WUP is the perfect size to take a 1L Nalgene bottle, as well as a variety of other kit, like night-vision scopes, bundles of cord, magazines or what-have-you. Think of the WUP as an oversized FUP, and you can see where my affection comes from.

Fitted with a big oversized top flap, that has a long double-tailed webbing strap that comes over the top, and feeds through a webbing loop, before terminating in a big Fastex-type clip.

The twin straps do a good job in securing the cover in place, which might seem redundant, given that as well as the straps and buckle, the flap also features a broad hook and loop fixture.  Stripped from the lid flap, the straps can be used free-style over whatever you have sowed in the pouch too.

The WUP also has a shock-cord and cord-lock drawstring closure around the lip of the pouch, which allows you to cinch it in to grip the top of your bottle, or whatever else you have in the pouch. An internal loop field allows you to secure the lid flap inside the pouch, the give you a rapid access option.

The WUP features two columns of three rows of PALS/MOLLE on either side, giving ample real-estate for fitting it with other pouches, if you really need, but more useful I've found for slipping a glow-stick or a pen through.

The pouch is fitted with the usual Platatac semi-rigid and press-stud MOLLE strips, and will feed through four rows of MOLLE, offering a very solid attachment. Something to consider when attaching a liter's worth of hydration, or however much the other kit you store in it weighs.

A grommet in the bottom of the pouch stops you hauling a liter's worth of pond-water should you take a dump,  but this is where that shock-cord cinch comes in very handy for keeping a tight seal and keeping the outside, out.

I have really enjoyed having added a slightly larger pouch to my repertoire. Larger than the FUP, but not as big as either my dump pouches or the MEOP I also often wear, the WUP has given me somewhere to conveniently carry my watter bottle, but also keep a bigger range of items closer to hand than the FUP. Sometimes a bit bigger is just better.

So, if you find yourself browsing second hand pouches, and come across a serviceable WUP, I heartily recommend adding it to your collection, they work well on a Battle Belt or on the side of a pack.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Condor - Gen1 Battle Belt

This is my third Condor review.  I covered their Modular Plate Carrier recently, and had some good things to say about it, with a couple of caveats. My Condor Nomex gloves are still serving me well. Condor apparently gets a lot of stick in the high-speed gear community, but as a quite removed observer (damn you, Pacific Ocean), it's been hard to get a good picture as to why. I'm going to focus on what I see and feel myself. Both my Condor pieces are second hand, from a fellow who was getting rid of his excess collection.

This is the now superseded Gen1 Condor battle belt, which is still available out in the world, but Condor are promoting their newer Gen2 belt directly.

Adding to my growing collection of MultiCam, this 1000d Cordura belt functions in the way that must battle belts do, it is a sleeve type affair, and requires an actual belt to be fed through it in order to attach and wear it. I have fed my Propper 720 Riggers Belt through it. Internally, the battle belt has a series of webbing loops to snag and hold a belt in place, and fits up to a 2" belt easily. These loops keep a belt in place both in the donning and doffing process, but also when wearing it, to keep it riding right. The two front panels have openings in the bottom side to run a drop-leg rig off the internally threaded belt.

Four D-rings are set into the top of the beltfor attaching a harness or braces to.

The inside of the belt was lined with a breathability improving mesh padding, with two bands of non-slip backing. It was very comfortable to wear when empty, sitting on top of the hips and conforming to the curves of the body nicely.
Front View

The belt is surrounded by two rows of heavy webbing, 6 channels on the two side panels and 8 channels on the back. When you load the belt up, some things happen. Even with a fairly light load of a Platatac Half-Med pack and a WUP container, the belt sags noticeably.
Side view

Back View
This sagging didn't really affect the comfort, or the fit of the belt, but does raise some questions about its stability under higher loads, when you don't want that extra weight flopping about when you are being physical.

I suspect this sag is due to the Rigger belt being suspended through the middle of the Battle Belt, rather than riding up at the top seam, but it seemed like a design flaw to me.

I wore the belt all through last Easter's Confest (2015) with the loadout as shown here, with a Nalgene bottle in the WUP, with my RhinoRopework Hornet and American Kami Super Colubris combo fed into the left-hand side belt opening. It was super effective, and I chopped wood, carrier Tactical Baby and ran around like a mad thing with no trouble keeping my wearables in place. I'd like to see how it compares to the Gen2 Battle Belt, but it stands up nicely against the Platatac Young Guns and Bongo Battle Belts.
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