Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Tritensil

My good friend Spencer of SAR Global Tool put me in touch with a maker-buddy of his, Jeff Busboom of JM Boom Concepts who has a nice eating tool which has just come onto the market. This is the Tritensil.

The Tritensil is made from food grade Nylon 66 which is the same material that Cordura fabrics are spun from, which means that it is not only light weight but virtually indestructible in normal use. These 17cm (6 3/5") long utensils which are 3cm (1 1/4") wide at the head, and 2cm (3/4") wide shaft it seems to be a bit wide in the hand, but comfortably so, at only 20g (0.7oz). Thats a lot of utensil for not much mass.

Tritensil provides the full capabilities of a fork, spoon and knife in a two piece set. Not only are the fork tines protected from damage while nesting inside the spoon bowl but the very clever design keeps the two Tritensil pieces snuggly secured to each other, eliminating the tell-tale clink-clank of metal cutlery as well as minimizing the chance of loss.

The spoon/knife portion has ridges along the outside edges when then ride along the internal rails of the fork to for a surprisingly secure combo. The fork tines can stick out a little, but are protected from the twisting/, snagging dangers that plastic-wear often suffers from in packs.

The interlocking design also allows the Tritensil to be configured into an extended Spork by flipping it around an slotting them together, almost doubling the overall useable length for those times you may find yourself eating out of a pouch. No more sticky hands and you plumb the depths of a mylar redoubt.

I also like not having to put a utensil down when eating, so doubling it over like this allows you to eat unmolested without dropping your eating tools in the dirt.

The eating tools are equipped with a 4" ruler, as well as a hole for either a lanyard or a slit ring to retain it. The width of the Tritensil makes it ideal to slip into a PALS/MOLLE channel.

The knife will cut steak, the Tritensil will stack and store, its basically a full set of plastic cutlery that will have you covered. When you compare it to even a set such as the Mountain Design Alpha set, it's really a good step up.

For back-country, deepest darkest forests, cliff-side or crowded and sneaky-handed hospital break-rooms meals, you wont go wrong with a set of Tritensil's.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Propper - 7X5 Pocket Carry Organizer

As first seen on Breach Bang & Clear:

I took a trip with my family to Bali, Indonesia recently to attend my mother's wedding, and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity to put to good use of of the kit that the good folks at Propper had sent me that had been kicking around the bunker.

I wanted something that would keep all my travel documents together, safe and secure and it seemed the perfect fit.

This is the 7X5 Pocket Carry Organizer and here's what I can tell you about it.
Fashioned from the same highly durable Cordura that all the Propper packs and bags are made from, and all the fittings are equally sturdy.

 Named for its primary dimensions the organizer is 7" x 5" x 2"and has twin zippers which open like a book around its two short sides and one long side. The zipper pulls are silenced by being cord-pulled,  to reduce its lines even further.

I really liked the wide loop of webbing that is fitted to the back side, which you might think would get in the way more than would be useful, but it was really good for those long immigration and customs lines, where I'd just as soon not have a handful of passports and tickets waving in the wind but also have a gird firm grip on. It was a long enough loop to be able to hook it over my wrist to give me two-hands free when I needed it. I'm secure enough not to worry about looking like I'm carrying a purse. It'd be a Propper purse, in any case, and that's not shabby at all.

It's no-nonsense lines make for a very unobtrusive package, and I found that it completely vanished into the folds of packs I stowed it in, and also fitted nicely in the cargo pockets of my travel-pants.

The front of the organiser is loop-fronted for adding morale or ID patches. I threw a nice subdued Australian flag on mine, for peace of mind, because it never hurts to get an eye-roll from security and customs ("uuugh, Ahwstrahllians, you go, go!") when you look like I do, some times.

The rear of the organiser has a stow-pocket set high up, perfect for boarding cards and customs forms, and also features two rows and three channel PALS/MOLLE, to either add extra things to, or to secure the organiser to other packs. I didn't see much utility in this though, and other than maybe a pen, I can't see what I'd use the MOLLE for.

Inside the organiser, both faces are loop-filed covered, to affix an internal organiser such as the included 7x5 elastic organizer panel . There are also two thin elastic loops in the seam, great for fitting a pen you'll always find you need to fill in travel forms.

I am usually pretty paranoid about my travel documentation, we have a long standing family history of losing passports, so I am always very cautious of the movement of these documents, so having a safe, secure and most importantly unobtrusive pouch for them was perfect for my wild and wary tribe.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sneak Peek: SOG Instinct Mini Fixed Blade knife

As first seen on Breach Bang & Clear

I was sent a cool little knife by the good folks at SOG, and I wanted to get my initial thoughts on it out there. I'm a fan of little knives, because they have a lot more close in utility when doing chores and around-the-bunker tasks. You don't always need a machete to cut into your MRE's, nor a "that's not a knife, this is a knife" to get your point across. Especially if you don't want to cause a scene. Be a gray man, not a rain man .... There is plenty that a 2 inch blade can do, if you've the skill and initiative, so you don't need to feel inadequate when packing a little something. Especially if you're putting it in a boot, or a pack-strap. Save the save on your hip for a tree-chopper.

The SOG Instinct is a compact, wearable fixed blade knife that is made just for those times. This is a little skeletonised blade, that measures a mere 12.2cm (4.8") with a 4.8cm (1.9") blade, with a thickness of 0.4cm (0.16") and it weighs only 31g (1.1oz) and made from a very reliable 5Cr15MoV steel. It comes with a slight clip point, which makes for easy re-sharpening when it comes time, and a molded hard nylon sheath, which is fitted with several mounting options, including an adjustable and reversible belt clip.

This is sweet little blade, and I look forwards to giving it a more through trial in the near future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wish-Lust: Weltevree - Groundfridge

I saw a very cool article on "If it's hip, it's here" which covered an award winning Dutch design company's new product, a passive refrigeration system and a modern take on the age-old root-cellar concept.

They're not unlike the pre-made storm-shelters that have become quite popular in tornado and hurricane prone areas in the US, and even the tsunami pods that came to world attention following the 2011 Tohoku earthquakes. These are a far more sedate creation, with a far more pastoral aspect of food and produce storage. This is the Weltevree Groundfridge.

It is an ingenious way to provide an affordable, insulating, cooling and storage system for wine, fruit, vegetables and cheese. It is a modern, pre-fabricated root-cellar which can hold as much as 20 standard refrigerators, without the use of electricity and uses the insulating effects of the soil and water to keep the internal temperatures at between 10 and 12oC (50° and 53°F) throughout the year.

This airtight, water-tight, vermin-resistant and ventilated system (the ventilation system supplied can be operated remotely using an app) which also monitors the temperature and humidity within the Groundfridge. Being a small design company, their products are mostly small-production oriented with the polyester shell being hand-laminated and are fitted-out with a wooden handrail and shelving. Other options they offer include LED strip lighting and built-in cabinetry.

The Dutch based Weltevree will transport and deliver the Groundfridge locally, dig it in and cover it up with the very soil taken from its new lodging place. This covering layer of soil ends up being about 1 meter thick and has ample insulating properties for a steady core temperature within the Groundfridge as subterranean water provides additional cooling. Depending on where you live, there may be an added benefit: installing the Groundfridge may require no permit, and when digging it in, because all the excavated soil then becomes the covering, no soil need be carried off of the premises.

The Groundfridge has a storage capacity of 3,000L and will store around 500kg (or 1,102lbs) of food (Weltevree suggests the harvest of a 250 m2 vegetable garden). That’s enough to prepare 350 meals for a family of 5. its main diameter is 228 cm, (7'5") and weighs 300 kg (660lbs). So it is a significant piece of construction.

On average, 20 A grade EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) Refrigerators combined, use 6,620kWh per year, whereas the Groundfridge performs the same feat completely without any electricity. The autonomously functioning underground root cellar with a constant temperature of around 10oC. You'd need to be sure about your local water-table, including seasonal variations, because it would be terrible if it broke free due to raising water-tables, and some areas might have different subsurface temperatures.

That said, this looks like a really cool idea, and I'd love to have one myself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Fishbones - Gravity Hook (production)

Production on the left, prototype on the right
I covered the original release of the prototype Gravity Hook back in March, when the prototype was sent my way by the guys from FishBones. Not long ago the final production version of the Gravity Hook arrived, with some improvements.

The Gravity Hook is a combination grappling hook, and gravity claw. (Here's their promotional video...) By removing the middle cross-bar the more than serviceable grappling hook can be quickly converted into a claw-machine like grabbing claw. The clever design allows you to swap between these two features in just moments.
Production on the right, prototype on the left

The whole assembly weighs around 360g in its stainless steel configuration, a complete assembly includes 3 links, 3 "hammers", a cross hook, and hardware, in bolts and self-locking nuts.

One of the production improvements is the notches cut into the throat of the hammer, these allow the cross hook to seat much more securely that in the prototype, where it was held in place solely via the notch cut into top of the cross hooks. 

Production on the right, prototype on the left
The stainless Gravity Hook is made out of 1/8" thick 304 stainless steel and all of the Gravity Hooks hardware hardware is also stainless. When the hook is fully open, the 1.5" mouth will hold over 165lbs when biting into a 2x4.

When fitted, the cross hooks set in the jaws of the hammers, the Gravity Hook up as a quite effective grapple. The jaws are held in place and stopped from opening the by the twin o-rings which seat in a set of notches cut into the link pieces, and hold the jaws surprisingly tightly.

Production on the bottom, prototype on the top
 Given their design, any the pull on the tines of the hook only act to pull it further closed, the effect of the o-rings is really quite sufficient.

FishBones have suggested that an after market modification, drilling a hole in the middle of the hammer arms to fit a locking pin, for extra security, but so far, I haven't felt the need myself.

The bolts and locking nuts supplied with the production model are a much slimmer profile than the nuts and bolts I picked up at the hardware store, that was a big help.

The production version has nicely rounded notches cut into the links, where as the prototype version is rather a bit more rough making it rougher on and harder to remove the o-rings.
Production on the right, prototype on the left
One of the other backers of the Gravity hooks asked if they wanted to use it as a boat anchor for an inflatable lake boat, how they would dislodge it should it hook onto something on the bottom. Another backer suggested it could be set up with a failable style link like this  where if you pull hard enough the top link breaks and lets you pull the anchor from the bottom. A second way would be to use 2 ropes; one attached to the shackle, and the other looped through the claw to act as an emergency release in case the hook snags.

Here's me testing the grappling hook

Here's me testing the claw feature on a variety of dropped gear.

Two kinds of cross hook: plain and gear-tie batarang!
 You might ask "what makes it high performance?" well, this is probably a matter of its features:
  • It can be used either as a 2 or 4 pronged grappling hook.
  • In the claw mode it "bites" objects that might slip out of a grapnel.
  • Compact enough to be stowed on a back pack strap, by clamping the jaws over the strap and feeding the tail end through a loop
  • Can be dismantled into its base components for more compact storage. 
  • It's available in stainless steel, titanium or even non metalic Derlin.
There are also two options for the cross hooks, with the classic solid hook, as well as a version with cut-aways, both lightening the cross hook, and also offering a place to use it as a gear tie, not unlike the FishBones and Piranha gear ties these guys came to the front with. 

Ss, you have a very cool tool in the Gravity Hook, but what are its limits? Well, the Gravity Hook was specifically designed for retrieving. It has not been tested or certified to bear human weight. The makers strongly state that you should never use it in a situation where it's failure or dislodging might cause bodily harm or property damage. In a pinch though, it can certainly take a fairly hefty load: 
How do you get the Gravity Hook to release something whilst under tension?

Here's their testing underwater!

As well as being a really useful dropped-gear and treasure retrieving claw, and a sturdy and rugged grapple, the Gravity hook is also a really well made piece of engineering. I really appreciate its design and functionality. I've got a small CountyComm grapple, which is billed as a trip-wire clearer, but for bigger jobs, when you want to snag, yank and retrieve gear, or haul something you would do well with one of the FishBones Gravity hooks.

Better yet, the guys at FishBones have just launched a NEW project, the Gravity Hook XS, a pocket sized version, in just two-pronged format, on KickStarter. You should totally go check it out, and add some grabby, grapply goodness to your loadout.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review: S10 Respirator Haversack

I wanted to go a little old-school for a bit, and cover some canvas era type pouches.

A while ago I covered an Australian issue butt-pack, that I had picked up a number of years ago, and this is along those lines. I managed to score a bulk load of retired stock in the way of pouches and bags, and these respirator haversacks were one of these.

These are British Respirator Haversacks which is NSN listed as 4240 99 800 9601.  They are designed to carry the S10 respirator. I don't have a S10, but do have a full-face 3M 6000 series mask that fits nicely. Whilst I say canvas-era, these are actually a Codrura type nylon, for all the hard-wearing, non mildew and water-shedding goodness modern materials offer.

The bag measures 29 x 26 x11 cms (11" x 10" x 4.5" ) and weighs 475grams. Lacking more modern PALS/MOLLE fittings, the haversack has a couple of different attachment and carry options. A twin-stud openable belt-loop, which also features a wire hanger, from the old ALICE style fittings.

A long nylon strap with a Fastex style buckle allows for a quick waist or shoulder slung carry as well, and there is even a secondary shoestring type cold to further secure the pouch around the waist if shoulder-carried, or around the thigh id hip-carried. The cold can be secured out of the way if not in use, or removed entirely.

One side of the pouch features a hook-and-look pocket, a good size for a survival tin, a GPS unit or other small items you might need in a hurry.

The inside of the haversack is quite spacious, fitting one each of the 1L and 2L Pathopak containers with plenty of room to move. The internal dimension really give you a lot of carry capacity, and the haversack itself it very sturdily put together.

Inside the haversack, as well as the main spacious compartment are several other interesting features.

One hook-and-loop closing front pocket, and two webbing and hook-and-loop holders. These just took the 1L Pathopak's and I expect they are designed to fit additional filter canisters for the S10 respirator.

They would certainly work to fasten and store a number of smallish items, and when not in use, being made up a webbing, will simple squash out 0f the way.

The front pocket has a small hook-and-loop fixture, and features broad pockets sewn in, to fit  NBC combo-pens, morphine syrettes, first aid kit, gloves and the like. They are made of the same material as the rest of the haversack, and whilst if they had been elasticized it would have been good, they probably work just fine in conjunction with the flap.

Even the top of the haversack's lid has some features, as well as the press-stud and hook-and-loop lined lip, there are twin bands of elasticized webbing, to allow you to affix a number of small items like more gloves, a first aid kit or the like.

These may not be flashy and new like a lot of other high-speed gear thats coming put, but they are rough, rugged, dependable and spacious.

If you have some bulky gear you want to have at hand, and in your ruck is just too far away, or perhaps you want to be able sling it to a buddy, stash it under a fuel depot or just need to fit your respirator ... the S10 haversack might well suit your needs.

I've got quite a few of them, and will be listing them on soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: Scrubba washbag

I was lucky enough to be given a new piece of camping and travel gear for my birthday and I've finally gotten around to writing it up. I took it with me to Bali on a recent holiday, although it didn't get a very thorough workout there. This is the Scrubba washbag

The Scrubba is essentially a dry-bag which has been fitted with an internal washboard surface, a viewing window and an air vent, in addition to the watertight bag and roll-top closure

As a modern and convenient take on the old fashioned washboard, the Scrubba wash bag enables you to achieve a machine quality wash in just minutes. I wanted to give it a fairly good test, so I found a couple of t-shirts with some pretty suspicious and gross stains, and a couple of pairs of socks to give a good indicator of what it is capable of, and a standard travel-load of washing.

The Scrubba is pitched as perfect for holidaymakers, business travellers, backpackers or even for washing gym and cycling gear. The bag weighs less than 145g and folds to pocket-size, as with any dry-bag, making it small enough to take anywhere. I used it as a wet-clothes pack when on the last legs of our Bali trip, to stow Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl's beach clothes before we headed off for the airport.

Here's how you use the Scrubba for its designed purposes:

1. Fill: It takes about 2L of water, on top of clothes, to do a full wash. Add water, cleaning liquid and clothes to the Scrubba. I used dishwashing soap, just a quick squirt, on top of my load, and the wash bag was at about 20-40% capacity. I used the printed-on guidelines, and with my two-shirts, two pair of socks load, I felt I had a good sized volume

2. Roll & Clip: I removed the excess air from the bag by scrunching it down, then rolled down the top around 4-5 times to get a good tight seal, and then clipped the ends shut, as you would with any dry-bag.

3. Deflate: By opening the nipple cap and squeezing the valve, as you would on any set of arm floaties, inflatable sheep or camping mattress, you need to expel all remaining air from the Srubba wash bag. This gives you a good working volume with which to scrub your clothes. Too much air leaves the bag inflated like a bag balloon and makes it hard to work the clothes. Too much water can have a similar effect, but less noticeably.

4. Rub: By pressing down and rubbing clothes against the Scrubba’s unique internal flexible washboard, which is a moulded-in set of nipples set into the back wall of the bag. Rubbing for 30 seconds gives you a quick traveller's wash and going for around 3 minutes should do for almost a machine quality wash. I wondered how my fairly scungy shirts and socks would fare, and was not surprised to see the water darken and grey-up. There was surprisingly little froth, probably due to the lack of air in the well vented bag.

5. Rinse: Uncliping and unrolling the Scrubba’s seal is as easy as it is to roll up. Removing dirty water from the Scrubba is as simple as carefully up-ending it to mouth it from the wide-mouth opening. I took care to retain my freshly washed clothes, and not dropping it in the dirt again. I wrung out my clothes to remove as much of the grey-water, and then tossed them all back in. I rinsed the clothes with another couple of Liters of water in the Scrubba and gave it a good shake, with the roll-top closed but not evacuated of air, and again poured it off, and wrung out my clothes. You could just as easily rinse them under a running tap or shower, but I wanted an all-in-the-bag method.

I hung my freshly scrubbed clothes out, and left them on the line overnight. In the morning, I was pleased to find not only did my shirts and socks look much cleaner, but they also smelled much better. The Scrubba bag had certainly worked well enough for a travel, camping or survival setting. I might not want to do my next job-interview in a Scrubba-washed suit, but if I were traveling and spilled cooled monkey brains down the front of my dress-short, I might certainly look to pull the Scrubba out to set me fresh for my next engagement.

Well worth looking into if you're either traveling off-grid, or frequently grot yourself up. I'm thinking it would make my next Tough Mudder trip home a lot cleaner!

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