Monday, February 1, 2016

Wish-Lust: Kickstarter - PACE lid

 I love modular and multi-purpose kit, and if I can get and everyday piece of equipment like a drink bottle to do double duty adds a significant thumbs-up from me.

This Kickstarter project, from GoRuck badass, and innovating outdoorsman, Chris Way.

This is the PACE lid, and it's Kickstarter is underway.

PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. When planning for events in life you have to expect that unforeseen things may happen and knowing this is empowering.

The container in the PACE lid is 300mL (10oz), it's deep enough for an ID or credit card as well as a variety of other gear.

The container is 7.6cm (3") in diameter and 5.7cm (2.25") inches deep. There's a small well around the perimeter that can secure items vertically and in place if they are bent, like cards, matches, other gear items. It's a feature Chris designed in and finds very useful in certain loading particular items in.

So far Chris and his team have tested the PACE lid and found it forms a water tight seal on wide mouth Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Hydroflask, and MSR bottles.   I have a couple of Nalgene's so their perfect for me.

The prototypes seen here are apparently 3D printed, but the production models will be tooled plastics.

As well as the lids themselves, Chris is offering a pre-filled First Aid PACE, stocked with products from MedTraining Group, who specialize in non-permissive First Response fitting and training. 

If you're super keen, high-end backers can also get training and adventure time with the PACE team, so there are all kinds of benefits to backing this project, big or small.

For me though, it's all about the lids, and stowing my gear, wherever I go.

Be sure to check it out and hopefully, we can get it over the line.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Outdoor Gourmet Company - Butter Chicken instant meal

I wanted to try out a variety of instant meals, in a more controlled environment before risking them on an expedition. I find that there can be all kinds of hidden or unknown complications with gear, and one thing I don't want to take chances with in the field is my food.

I selected a couple of different brands on offer, (two I picked up in my walk-in of Kathmandu's store) and wanted to give them all a go, and report how they went.

Read the rest of the review on Breach Bang & Clear here:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wish-Lust: ZyntonyRa light Strips

Ok, I was contacted by the people from Zyntony, who had launched a bad-assed light Kickstarter, and not had it make its threshold,  but they are back with a brand new product, that has already surpassed it's threshold, by 287% at time of writing, but I wanted to give them some more bandwidth with the info from their press-release.

Their new offering, the Zyntony Ra is a game-changing light for outdoor adventure enthusiasts that is designed to light up the entire area around you instead of just a spot in front of you.

At full power, Ra puts out 800 lumens of warm natural light. A pair of Ra attached to the shoulder straps of a backpack boast a staggering 1,600 lumens of light creating a “zone of daylight” around the wearer. “This is brighter than ten good headlamps”, one of the founders exclaimed in their release. He continued: “We named the light Ra after the Egyptian god who carries the sun across the sky because carrying one of these lights is like carrying a piece of the sun with you.”

I've covered similar strip lighting projects before, in the PackLight but the Ra is a step beyond.

Multiple mounting options enable Ra to be attached almost anywhere. The user can fix it to any ferrous object using the built-in rare-earth magnets. Ra can be attached to nearly any article of clothing using the accompanying magnetic backer strip, just by slipping the backer-strip under the outer-layer of clothing, and the Ra snaps into place magnetically. Using the D-ring strap and simple hook and loop ties, Ra can be fastened to virtually any piece of gear.

Each of the emitters can put out well over 500 lumens each. So in theory, the light could put out over 2,500 lumens. However, they are only running them at slightly over 1/4 power. Zyntony state they do this for several reasons:

First, is that the emitters are way more efficient - (in that they have a much higher lumens-per-watt output) at lower power. This means that you get a brighter light and longer battery life compared to a light that only has one or two emitters.

Second, by running them at lower power, their life is significantly extended to the point that they will virtually last forever (immortal buyers beware...).

Third, multiple emitters allow for each one to have a separate light dispersion pattern. This allows a less complex and more cost-effective way to balance light spread vs. throw, especially good given its area-effect design principle.

And fourth, by having multiple emitters running at lower power, you can spread out your heat dissipation, also especially useful if you're wearing it.

Ra is powered via a micro-USB input. Zyntony makes four different sizes of battery packs allowing the flexibility to carry just the power you need or as much as you want.

The Ra is designed to be lightweight to facilitate attaching it wherever you want so there is no internal power. It must be powered via USB. By connecting to a power pack via the USB, Ra has the flexibility where you can select a small BatPak for just the power you need or a larger one for as much power as you want. And you can connect up to three Ra's to BatPak II, BatPak III and BatPak IV. That flexibility supports a lot of different mounting options.

Zyntony are planning to certify the Ra to IPX7 which means it is submersible to 1 meter. It will certainly withstand the rain. The USB ports are the biggest challenge they are facing in this but by planning to use rubber boots/escutcheons on both Ra and the BatPaks, it should be waterproof as long as you use the Zyntony USB cable and power pack.

I'm really looking forwards to seeing what they can do when I get a set in-hand, but for mow, their on my wish-lust list!

Crumpler - Squid stuff-satchel

It's been quite some time since I added a new Crumpler bag to my collection. Back in 2012 I covered the New Year lucky red Hillman Hunter which was originally meant to be a new satchel for Omega, but seemed to fall into the role of "Tactical Baby" nappy bag.

Prior to that I had covered a Thirsty Al utility pouch and one of the John Thursday camera bags but my first love with Crumpler was their Considerable Embarrassment laptop and courier satchel. I loved that bag. I loved it to death. Crumpler offer a serious lifetime guarantee on their bags, but I had started finding my EDC was getting too much for a shoulder-sling bag to be comfortable lugging, so I moved to twin-shoulder strapped bags.

So, I've following along as new developments come along in the Crumpler line-up, and as Giftmas approached, I spotted a really good deal on their stuff-sack, The Squid.

The Squid is a lightweight, versatile drawstring backpack. It reminded me of the very slick First Strike - Snatch Bag ii  but obviously with a fair bit more marketing and design nuance put in.

The Squid features two storage zones, the main compartment holds 20L and is closed by the dual-coloured extra-thick drawstrings, and a smaller zippered front pocket. That front pocket was big enough to carry my Propper Liberty bottle,  although not enough to zipper it up. The internals of the main compartment are spacious but lacks any internal structure.

The pack is made of a weatherproof 150d ripstop outer fabric which has a very nice texture, and a fairly reliably water resistant. Spills and sloshes seem to run right off it.

Lightweight at only 200g (7oz) and compact, there are no frills, bells or whistles to get in the way of its simplicity. It sits at 28 cm (11.02") wide, and 43 cm (16.93") tall width a depth of  22 cm (8.66"). It easily fits a Nalgene bottle, and the combined Go! Hammock and Go! Apex shelter tarp
easily. The lack of structure means that the pack gets a bit lumpy, but it certainly makes for an easy carry when you don't have to lug a whole ruck around.

It would be perfect for stashing gym or beach gear, groceries, or supplies for a quick bug-out if you hadn't already prepared a bug-out-bag. Equal parts simple and useful.

When slung, the Squid holds itself shut, as the drawstrings also form the shoulder straps. Under a heavy load, they don't offer much padding, but again, it isn't meant to be a full-on ruck.

One of the nice things about its design is that the zipper pocket's internal attachment is sewn such that the whole bag folds up into itself and stows away in a bundle the size of two coffee mugs.

I'm going to be using the Squid as my wet-gear bag, and as an occasional snatch-and-grab bag. I respect and admire the Crumpler products, so I think it will serve me well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: HHA Razorback CQC knife

Following up from my recent review of the ZU Bladeworx FFSA knife loaned to me by a friend, I wanted to do this second blade he was kind enough to sling my way, the equally interesting HHA Razorback CQC. I'm a big fan of the chunky and no-nonsense badassness of the Hardcore Hardware designs, especially the LFK blades that my partner Omega and I both have an example of  as well as the TWI pen that is in my EDC.

It was really interesting to see what HHA are calling their "first signature blade in the fighting arts genre," but I'll give it the same caveat that I gave the FFSA, this kind of knife is not the kind of tool I've trained and sparred with in the limited knife-fighting training I have done, but I'm happy to tell you that it is certainly an impressive piece of steel.

Featuring the same 6mm (0.236") thick, full tang, D2 tool steel blade, as all the HHA blades this back-swept, double re-curved blade features two hollow ground faces on the sharp edge, and another on the spine of the blade.

HHA report that it is engineered for slashing, thrusting and trapping, and designed for the same type of the reverse grip as might be used in Arnis (but again, it's not my martial field of expertise).

The combination of live and non-live edges however makes the Razorback gives you the opportunity for both both offensive and defensive techniques. For expanding on those blunt force, defensive striking and less-than-lethal applications, the Razorback also has an extended glass breaker, strike/hammer pommel, in keeping with their other designs.

A large finger notch is devised to ensure a secure grip to increase weapon retention substantially, and I found it rested in the edge of the hand really nicely in that reverse grip.

The knife is 235 mm (9.25") overall, with 115 mm (4.52") of that being the blade, and is 368 g (0.81 lb) of hungry steel and G10.

To reduce grip weight and optimize balance, both the tang and handle scales have been skeletonized, with a cavity in the handle which could easily double as a hidden storage space for emergency items. However, those scales are secured with Torx screw all steel fittings, so you might find it difficult to pull of a Jason Bourne style recovery without that particular driver.

I found the backwards sweep of the blade a little difficult to adjust to, mostly because I wasn't sure of the arcs it was offering me, but it certainly felt good in the hand whilst moving it around.  I imagine in a practiced set of hands it would be extremely dangerous.
When held in a forwards grip, the blade was no less dangerous feeling, and I certainly didn't have any trouble cutting with it, though I didn't care for the broad double-recurve  of the edge and handle combination.  No fault of the knife, it's just engineered the way I like a knife to be.

With its ambidextrous Kydex sheath, with a Tek-Lok belt mounting system it can be customised in vertical, horizontal or angled positions to suit your rig, or even lashed via eyelets. It also comes paired with a BlueGun style HIVIZ blue trainer, which matches the blade in weight at 369 g (0.81 lb), but with thoroughly safe edges and points. I'd have no qualms training with it, and letting enthusiastic people pretend to do me harm whilst getting better at using the real thing. 

All in all, the Razorback is a substantial, solid, scary-looking and well thought out blade, that just isn't right for me.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review : Klecker KLAX Lumberjack axe

I finally received my KLAX Kickstarter axe-head in the mail, after languishing I development hell for a while, getting the engineering tweeked. The KLAX is a multi-tool built into the head of an ax.  It allows you to attach the ax head to a handle quickly in the field.  It uses the nested clamping system shown here.   The clamps rotate out from the handle for use. The multifunction options are what really drew to me to the KLAX, and I was very curious to see how the fold-away stow-away option worked.

The Lumberjack is the Klecker high-end stainless steel model with the most features. The first three models are all made from heat treated SUS420J2 stainless steel which is perfectly balanced for keeping an edge and maintaining strength. Klecker do offer a Gucci, titanium version of the Lumberjack model as well, but I wanted to stick to steel for a hatchet head.

The Lumberjack features, as well as a fairly broad axe head, an Ulu knife blade, a hammer head,
cutting/gut hook, a set of skeletonized hex wrench set (19mm, 15mm, 13mm, 12mm, 10mm, 8mm), as well as a 1/4” hex bit driver socket, an inch ruler along the hammer-head, a lanyard hole and an inset wire-gate carabiner (which can be used to clip the sheathed axe-head to the outside of a pack) and a bottle-opener (mate!), all coupled with their Patent Pending clamping system.

The hardness of the axe is around 48-52 HRc. The purpose of this hardness level is to give it the strength it needs to work as an axe but keep it from being too hard. Too hard, and you risk chipping and shattering. 

The clamps are centered on a 1/4"-28 threaded bolt shaft which requires over 450kg (1000lbs) of load to shear it, so you're talking a fair amount of chopping to risk that.
The "front" clamp is threaded and rides along the threaded section of the bolt shaft. It is activated from its stowed position by rotating the nut at the back. When the head is inserted into the handle, it is screwed down and clamped in place by turning the knob the other way.

The "rear" clamp rotates out of the handle and is spring loaded to drop into a notch specially shaped to hold it in place. Once the clamp is tightened, it cannot be turned, bent, or otherwise moved until you loosen the system with the nut.

The KLAX is cut from a 5/16" thick SUS420J2 piece of steel plate with a water jet and then machined to add the side bevels, the caribiner pocket and the cutting edges on axe blade.

The clamps themselves are also 5/16" thick and are extremely rugged as well. Like the head, the clamps are heat treated in order to increase their strength considerably.

The clamps are working correctly when they are seated in the handle notches and have been fully "seated".

To seat the clamps into the handle,   its just a matter of tightening the nut, hitting the axe a few times (blade or hammer, it doesn't matter,) the first few times you use it, and tighten the clamps as tight as you can by hand.

Repeating the process, until the head is secure and then it is ready to go. Given the transitory nature of the attachment, it makes good sense to  to check the head periodically and re-tighten as needed.

Kleker suggest that typically it will no longer loosen after about five minutes of use, but make sure to check it anyway.

I've had some fun chopping wood and things with it thus far, and it certainly seems like a great back-up axe to stow in the outside pockets of a hiking pack, and even without the custom fitted hardwood handle, taking the Lumberjack into the field allows you to use a locally sourced piece of wood,trimmed and split with the ulu blade, and then slid over the head. The clamps just need the roughest of notches for the clamps to seat into, and the self-compressing nature of the clamps will pinch down a split log to give an extra tight grip.

I haven't had a chance to try this out yet, and Klecker recommend only using filed-expedient handles when needed, as they can't be readily depended on, but it sounds like a fun activity.
So, all in all, the KLAX succeeds in providing a very useful tool to use in a pinch. It will do a good job at a lot of small tasks, but won't replace a full sized dedicated tool but packs a lot into a small package. Just my kind of multi-function tool.Check them out at this years NSSF SHOT show, on right now.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wish-Lust: Dwyer Custom Goods knives

I had a good opportunity come my way in regards to some news to share with you all. 
I just got a bundle of pictures and data from a press release from the knifemaking powerhouse of  Dwyer Custom Goods.

Dwyer Custom Goods will be represented at SHOT Show 2016 next week, so it's a perfect time to get to know a very fancy maker.

In particular DCG would like to invite members of the media and discerning custom knife aficionados to come and visit with the "better half" of the Dwyer Custom Goods custom team: Sheila Anders-Stronegger (or as you might better understand: Dwyer Household-6 Actual). 

Mrs. Dwyer began her knife apprenticeship with Duane Dwyer, Mick Strider and other notables in the custom knife making community in 2009 after a career as a model and on television. In 2013 she began building her blades on her own and is now releasing a number of her own designs.
Sheila's knives are all built by hand, from the profiling to the grind. All are smaller than other Dwyer Custom and Strider Knives, and while suitable for a male to carry and fight with, they have an undeniably feminine influence. Her focus is predominantly on the small and concealable.
“I build knives to be beautiful,” says Sheila, whose favourite steels to work with are Damascus and SM-100, “but nasty and dangerous too…a concealable, hard use, capable tool.” I couldn't agree more. As you may have gathered, I much prefer a small quick blade over a big blade, unless I then progress to short swords.
Mrs. Dwyer is passionate about building knives, particularly with regard learning from the artisans around her.
“I started by doing grunt jobs at the shop,” she says. “I’ve done blasting and polishing, the surface grinder and every other machine in the place. That’s how you get there, you start at the ground level and evolve. I love looking at true craftsmanship. I love to learn from other knife makers; how to improve a lock or a way to perfect a finish technique. It brings me joy to learn.”
As you can see, although the learning continues – as it should with any artisan – Mrs. Dwyer’s knives are meticulously crafted and worthy of bearing the DCG name.
Dwyer Custom Goods will be collocated with the Strider Knife booth at the show, though the Dwyers and their staff will frequently be roaming the floor visiting other knife makers and catching up with friends and acquaintances in the industry.

For more  information, or to make an appointment to speak with Mrs. Dwyer, e-mail Dwyer Custom Goods at as her blades are certainly both elegant and deadly looking. Artisinal metalwork just took a step up.

I've gutted to miss yet another US SHOT Show, but have a bunch of friends who are on their way, so look forwards to a detailed brief.

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