Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cross-Post: DIY Rattlecan Paint Job in Multicam Arid by FDE

Few would argue that good camouflage, used well is both effective and useful. One thing I've noticed if that done poorly it sticks out like a sore thumb. Camo patterns not matched up is one thing, as is not suiting a pattern to fit your surroundings. Another aspect is only doing portions of your kit. But we don't all have the spare currency to custom cerakote or hydro-dip our gear.

The resourceful people over at Fifty Shades of FDE (Flat Dark Earth) have put out a DIY guide for putting multicam style camo paint onto items with spray-paint cans.

They put together a very informative and step-by-step clip on YouTube you should totally check out. Watch as they turn a scary black rifle into innocuous background foliage. Nice!
DIY Rattlecan Paint Job in Multicam Arid by FDE

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Review: County Comm - Minnow Gripper

String, rope and string accessories. I like them. One such accessory that caught my eye was the Minnow Grippers offered by gear treasure source County Com.

What are they ? They are tarp clips. Clipping onto tarps to provide an anchor point where grommets don't exist. They can be used to hold onto and fasten plastic sheeting, drop cloths, tarps. canopies, awnings, pool covers, towels, BBQ covers, sails, cables and bags, netting and hunting blinds. All manner of covers you don't want flapping about.

 These clips clamp down on a surface  by means of  a two piece jaw which closes on the surface with friction locks on the back end of the scissor arms, much like those found on locking forceps. The jaws of the Minnow are cross-hatch grooved to provide "teeth" by which it holds fast  to many materials.
Made from molded fiberglass reinforced polypropylene, the Minnow is a dense and sturdy piece. The central pin has a over-hang lip and channel to feed through at full-open position, otherwise holding the clip together with little or no lateral movement. The jaws themselves open wide enough for clamping materials up to ¼" thick and the molded locking teeth have 6 positions to allow it to cinch down onto material in increments for a very secure bind.

At the back of the jaws, behind the "teeth" where cables can be secured without damage from  the teeth. This gap can also hold paracord to create a perpendicular attachment on a running cord.  Either in the locked teeth or in the gap behind the teeth in a sliding configuration.   The material is reported to crack resistant to 35° below zero (-37C). it is chemically stable and resistant to most solvents and marine conditions.

The tail end of the Gripper features a hefty hook on each arm for capturing cordage. the tips of the hooks are double wide, matching the maximum width of the Gripper. This means it is stable and flat on it's side. the base of the hook features a hole which is a perfect match for standard paracord, but will also accommodate thicker cords, especially if they compress a little. The hooks are 15mm deep and are angled, providing a depth of capture to reduce slippage of cord coming loose in vigorous flapping.

The twin tail hooks allow cordage to be looped over, one, the other or both hooks as the need arises or situation permits. Fixing one guy line or two or rigging  a single cord perpendicularly from the clamped material. The twin hooks also allow for some creative knot-free attachment, not unlike those possible with the Fishbone and Piranha knotless ties. Forces pulling back on the Minnow will act to tighten their grip , with an action not unlike squeezing on a pair of pliers.

The locking teeth of the Minnow Gripper first engage at around 9mm (4/10") at the tip which is about 6mm at the " back" of the jaws. That puts the maximum thickness of material they can close on, but each Minnow Gripper is purported to hold 175 lbs (80kg) whist only weighing 0.35oz (10g).

I haven't tried this for max weight, but the sail-cloth awnings I strapped down with it flapped a fair bit in the wind overnight without coming loose. That seems fit-for-purpose to me. Not a single Minnow came loose, in several configurations. I'm quite pleased with the utility, form factor and ruggedness of The Minnow

They come in two colour options: Tactical black and Coast Guard Orange. I opted for dont-loose-me orange for my 8. (two tarps worth) half od which I store clamped to my redoutable Mystery Ranch 1DAP  it's my regular day to day and Get Home Bag  so it seemed apt to keep some there too.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Heavy Cover canteen and mug set

 As well as lights and blades I seem to collect bottles. I like to have my own reusable and reliable hydration source to hand. In my EDC bag, my desk at work, in my car and so forth. My usual go to bottles are my wide mouth Nalgene bottles and my venerable SIGG bottle.

Each have their benefits and drawbacks. Nalgene bottles are made from the sturdy Tritan plastic. Light and shatterproof, with a high capacity and easy-fill wide-mouth. They aren't fireproof so cant be used to boil water or cook in. The SIGG bottles are aluminium with an internal plastic coating and a finely threaded cap I've found to be delicate and prone to thread stripping. The Aluminium bottles are sturdy but ding and damage easily. They also do not support cooking or boiling due to the lining.

A solution I found is the Heavy Cover US GI Style Titanium Canteen Mess Kit. Over the last  hundred years or so  the US GI style canteen mess kit has served millions of military service members as well as millions of outdoor enthusiasts. Originally made from tin, aluminium or stainless steel or plastic, the Heavy Cover model replaces this with titanium. The kit is comprised of a 37oz (1.1L) canteen with Tritan Plastic and Titanium Canteen Cap options and a nested Canteen Cup 23.7 oz (0.7L) and lid, also titanium.

Combining time tested design with the high-strength to weight ratio material results in a light weight yet durable mess–kit. Perfect for those counting grams on the trail and people who break gear, like me. Both Canteen and cup can be heated and used to boil water or cook food.

Made from 0.5 mm thick titanium,  the Canteen with Tritan Cap weighs a slight 6 ounces (172 grams) and the titanium Cup Lid weighs a mere 4.8 ounces (132 grams). As well as being exceptionally  light, titanium has the advantage of being biocompatible (BPA Free, nontoxic to the human body) provides a non-porous, non-stick material for easy clean up when cooking. being thin walled and a rapid heat conductor , less gas/fuel is needed and you get a  faster boil time than with steel or other pot materials. It is anti-corrosive and will not rust. The mug has folding wire handles to assist in cooking and handling when hot.

The titanium cap of the canteen features a wide, thick thread to ensure ease of opening and removal as well as maintaining  a tight seal and resistance to incidental damage.  The lid itself features a titanium D-loop for clipping to a belt or pack, dummy-cording or perhaps even suspending over fire to boil water (beware steam and pressure build ups!) The canteen neck and mouth are quite wide which make for easy filling and drinking. The titanium cap sits quite high above the lip of the opening, I don't know why. It is hollow and floats, unlike the tritan lid which sinks like a rock. The titanium lid has a flat-folding wire lid loop for retention or for use as a float.

The canteen has a jutting rib around its mid-line which corresponds to the lip of the cup, to seat it. when nesting the cup lid is obviously left out, but I found that any pouch i could fit the canteen and cup in will also fit the lid in the bottom, ready to deploy to be a lid your cup for bean or noodle cooking. I don't know wat purpose that rib serves, except to possibly prevent rattle between mug and canteen on maneuvers.

I found the canteen had an off-flavor from manufacturing so I needed to give it a good wash and rinse out. Kraken rum worked nicely. The mug didn't have any such problem and cooked several meals without issue, and relatively non-stick and was easily cleaned.

Over-all I am really happy with this set, they're light, rugged as all get up, cook well and not bulky at all. I really like the traditional form factor and compact design for considerable volume capacity.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

HomeFront: Ordning hobostove hack

I like fire, almost as much as I like blades and lights.. but I do not like being on fire. Which is why I like fireplaces and stoves. Whilst it is easy enough to dig a hole or set up a ring of rocks, sometimes a purpose built tool suits the purpose even better. there are times when the full-blown  BBQ is overkill, especially if I hiking and camping.

Systems like the Fire- Box are purpose built and designed expressly to suit this need but as it turns out it is possible to quite easily make your own. I decided to make my own using an IKEA Ordning cutlery rack I had seen on line. The Ordning rack is a 12cm diameter,  18cm tall  stainless steel cylinder 180g with an inwardly rolled lip. The sides are perforated by six sets of 1 cm holes in a 3 x 6 grid. The base also has holes. These holes arced these holes act as the vents  for the fire. In order to improve air flow, I decided to put feet on mine, so I fitted it with quarter inch hex bolts I have fixed with a nut and a washer at the four corners and in the center for stability.

I then used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to cut a door into the side, using the holes as a guide. I cut a 3 x 4 hole hole and folded it inwards from the bottom. This hole became the feed hole, to feed the fire whilst a pot or pan was on top of the fire. Folding the lip inwards provides a platform for the fuel and stability when feeding larger fuel items. I also cut 8 notches in the lip of the cylinder in three pairs in one direction and one set perpendicular to those. These notches are for steel support wires I cut to size to act as a grill and pot support. I used welding rod for these wires as I had plenty.

Lighting the fire was a simple matter of filling the stove with tinder and woodchips and lighting it which I did both through the feed hole and also through the air holes. With just twigs and woodwork off-cuts, I got a nice little fire very quickly and noticed the feet kept the fire off the wet ground which helped it burn. Once it got burning I noticed the smoke coming out of the holes was igniting giving a more complete burn and rendering it almost smokeless. I suspect the metal walls were igniting the flammable wood gas. This increased the efficiency of the stove and reduced tell-tale smoke trail effects.

Putting the grill wires on a provided a stable platform on which to boil water for tea in my enamel mug, but a billy or pot or kettle could have fit just as well. The stove put off some nice radiant heat from just sticks and off cuts, burned very clean and down to basically ash. Once it burnt down I flipped the grill wires off and upended the stove to knock the last of ashes out. Popping the wires in the stove it was cool enough to pick up and pack in minutes.

Its a very lightweight system and requires attention to feed it as it only has a small fuel capacity but it was really easy to use and make. I will think about some kind of cloth bag to put it in to keep the soot off things and keep the wires in place. I look forward to experimenting with cooking on it and seeing how little fuel I can get away with to make a whole meal. 
One of the things I like about this design was the lack of sparks. Even with a quite a strong cross breeze, the stove let few to no sparks escape, the network of holes leading to quite complete combustion as previously noted which in turn reduces fire-risk. I like this because it means reduced risk of fire spreading and less effort being required in setting up fire -breaks, reducing environmental impacts and set up time. Feeding a tent peg through the holes in the base could lend additional stability and with its feet, the stove could be set in a depression or hole to further reduce its impact and also exposure without smothering the fire.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Home Front: COVID-19 bug-in cache

With the current COVID-19 pandemic scare going on, I thought it prudent to supplement my food stored in case we needed to enact the self-quarantine the Australian government is recommending in the case of exposure.  I suspected something like this might occur so as soon as i heard of an outbreak in China. Mostly due to the risk to supply chains.  Given the reported nature of the virus, in both infection rates and morbidity and mortality, I'm not overly concerned about the disease itself, but rather the disruption to supply lines.

This is the kind of prepping anyone can do and its as simple as picking up a few extra items each time you go shopping. Long lasting staples.  I chose things I like to eat, and things I will take camping.  I didn't pre-stockpile toilet paper which was the panic-buy item of choice  reported and experienced, but some judicial and crafty shopping saw us stocked without issue. Something to note for next time.

That said, here is a quick look at my very quickly and inexpensively put together bug-in food cache. Nothing too exciting, nor anything that will go to waste. this is all stuff  I will eat over time and replenish and build on as time goes on.

Red Feather Butter cans: Providing energy rich fats and good taste, for frying, baking, spreading on bread.
Spam cans 340g A traditional prepping staple. Long lasting, tasty and versatile, has its own opening  system and a Weird Al song and Monty Python skit. 3 year best-by date.  I prefer it sliced or diced and fried but its palatable enough eaten from the can with a spoon if you're in a bind.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bully_beef, this mechanically reclaimed potted meat and rendered lard in a can. Bully Beef. Not a very exciting food, nor especially sophisticated but it is meat, long lasting, ready to eat and can be added to many other foods. 'Pocalypse Stew as well as the traditional 'shit on a shingle". (served on toast like pate) It kind of looks like pet food. 
Noodles: Ramen. packs Two-minute pre-fried noodles in a packet.  Comes with its own seasoning sachets. Best eaten as noodles in soup  (ready in just  2 minutes give or take) or eat dry sprinkling the seasoning on top as you munch. They also make excellent fire starters being dry and greasy. I prefer the "mi goreng" flavor which it includes a chili/sauce/oil sachet for added flavor variety and use in other dishes as needed as well as fortifying the meal.
Baked Beans  555g cans: Beans Beans ,good for the heart. Best served hot, "Fine like this" if you shun compromise and wear an ink blot mask. 
Stew cans, Braised steak and onion;  425g cans. A meal in a can, simple and tasty. good texture and serves two per can.
Soup cans, Chunky bacon and potato x3 505g cans. Another meal in a can, though not quite as satisfying as the stew cans. Better when combined with other foods.
MRE's: from a variety of sources.  Pre-packaged military style meals ready to eat. not fancy but very carefully put together and long lasting.
Water jugs: Every time I go camping I buy one of these 10L-20L bricks and take them to ensure I have clean water for drinking, cooking and even wash-ups. Afterwards I keep the jugs and with some simple cleaning and refilling with tap-water they're good to go for long term water storage.
Powdered Egg mix: 150g, equivalent to a dozen fresh eggs when reconstituted with water. can be used to make scrambled egg or omelette or as a binding agent in baking. 
Sauces/Soup Mix:  I keep the excess sauce packets from fasts food meals and also the soup sachets from ramen packets to act as soup stock and seasoning for other meals, especially the otherwise bland Spam, beans and corned beef. What otherwise might have been throw away I've kept and stored to supplement my meal stores. 
Mac and Cheese kits: x4 boxes 380g "serves 3. contains pasta packet and canned cheese for use as a sauce. Requires only water to cook. The canned cheese can be eaten separately or combined with other supplies. 
Pasta sauce, Jars of tomato paste with flavorsome herbs, good for making stews, pasta and adding flavor and nutrition to any meal.

Can Pie; Steak and Kidney. Pie including pastry in a tin. Designed to be cooked in the tin (Lid off) it is possible to bake the pie in coals, with some coals on top, by partially opening the tin.

In addition to these specific canned good stores i've stockpiled, I have routinely built up supplies, preserved foods like jams and jerky. Dry-goods like rice, beans, flour and sugar i've kept well stocked and stored in DPJ's  along with fruit preserves and even some pickled eggs.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: Red Feather Brand canned butter

I had heard and read about canned butter as a survival and prepping resource for years but had never seen it until doing some shopping at my local IGA super market (a small locally owned chain of community oriented markets) where I saw them stacked on a display. I grabbed one and took it home to try and have made a point to pick one up each time I go in as part of my on-going prepping.

This canned butter was from the Red Feather brand, which is an Australian company which takes Australian and New Zealand milk to make fine and traditional butter and have done so for over  70 years. Red Feather butter has no artificial colours or flavours, Each 10 oz ( 340g ) can is made only Pasteurized cream and salt. Sealed airtight for maximum freshness, this canned butter delivers convenience in the form of extended shelf life and easy storage without the necessity of refrigeration, with a manufacturers recommendation of a 2 year use-by, In ideal, cool conditions, an unopened can could be expected to last much longer than that and it is purported to be shelf stable for 10 years. I may put a can aside to see how this holds out. Time capsule anyone?

The can itself  comes with a plastic cap which allows you to re-seal the can after opening with  a can-opener. The conveniently stackable cans have one lip larger than the other.  One thing I found is one end of the can opens better than the other. The bottom end of the can has a better lip for engaging the can-opener and once open, the plastic cap closes the can up to maintain freshness. With regular butter I tend to leave the pat out to stay room temp for ease of spreading. In an Australian summer this occasionally leads to a puddle but being in a lidded can I've avoided this with the Red Feather butter. 

This also makes it camp-safe  to keep bugs and crud out of the butter and  also keeps it dry in you store it in an icy cooler.


As far as taste goes, I'd go as far as to say it's sweeter and creamier than the regular butter I buy from the grocery.  It spreads nicely at room temperatures, it fries well and is excellent on pancakes, an essential attribute.

I haven't tried powdered or freeze-dried butter but I think the Red Feather butter would make a very fine addition to your long term food stocks. It's a little more expensive than regular packet butter but the added value of long term shelf-life, stackability and good taste means I will be buying it for regular use as well as prepping needs.
I can believe it's long life butter.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Review:Slughaus vs HUNT22 bullet lights

L-R; HUNT22, Mr .45, Bullet02
I do not like being in the dark. I like to see where I am going, and what is around me. To that end I collect lights and like blades, I tend to have two or three on me at all times. But flashlights can be bulky so it's handy to have a pocket sized one that you mostly don't realize are there. Dollar store or service station LED lights are cheap and handy, but hardly rugged or reliable.I am also an avid Kickstarter backer. Two such projects came up at similar times that piqued my interest. 

L-R; HUNT22, Mr .45, Bullet02
These were the  SeptemStudio HUNT22 and Slughaus BULLET02 light projects. These projects for finger digit sized, high-powered, tough lights. As a bonus the HUNT22  project offered lights in both UV and white light wavelengths. i'm also a fan of alternate wavelengths, IR is synonymous with night vision but UV has its own magic. UV flashlights are benefiting from the LED revolution that has also put sun-bright lights in our back pockets, sidearms and helmets. 

HUNT22 white from the doorway
Traditional UV torches are bulky to carry around and, most keyring UV torches are low quality with weak beam.by taking advantage of LED technology the designers of the HUNT22 light used a100,000 hour lifespan UV LED in the 385–395 nm wavelength with a UV power output of 1–3w . The white light version has a CREE LED bulb which has up to 50,000 hours lifetime for 20 lumens of keychain light. Powered by three  AG3 ( LR41 ) batteries(which i found really hard to source).  

HUNT22 UV from the doorway
T-B; HUNT22, Mr .45, Bullet02
The HUNT22 is billed as the toughest and smallest UV flashlight you'd ever seen; finger-sized yet with maximum durability and the strongest light beam in any product this size. Here's why they can make that claim: The light body is milled from grade 5 titanium and sitting at a  mere 1.1 x 2.6 cm in size for a hardly whopping 0.21 oz (5.95 g) this 1 inch light has a simple twist-on action. As well as the inherent strength of titanium, just its small dimensions lends strength. Precision engineering and a well fitted o-ring couple to give the light its Waterproof IPX6 rating.

I can't say i've done much to put it to the toughness test other than slinging it on my keychain for weeks and months to no ill effect, even the anodizing has remained unscathed. I don't see myself setting it on fire or using it as a deep sea fishing lure or as the end of a weighted chain  weapon but i suspect it would survive such mistreatment.
Lightly milled rings on the body of the light improves grip for the twist-on action of the light, without increasing snagging. The tail cap features a protruding wedge with a lanyard hole cut into it. This wedge also facilitates the twist on action. The LED is protected behind  a domed  lens and is recessed a little bit in the end, both protecting the lens but also restricting and focusing the spread of light.

HUNT22 light pattern on a tabletop
The UV light is bright enough for close in tasks like watermark assessment ,reading hidden text or spotting if  a scorpion is in a particular hole but is hardly a room-filling tool, nor is it intended to be. 

The white light version isn't a room filler either but is plenty bright enough to light up a room if the power goes out, or finding something dropped in the foot-well of a car. These are just in case, always have with you options, rather than spotlights or searchbeams. The wedge on the tail cap is flat allowing it to be stood upright in "candle mode" to light up a room. 

The second light, the Slughaus BULLET02 is the second generation light Slughaus have put out.  I had one of the Bullet 01 models but, full disclosure I lost it. (i loose a lot of lights). A little bigger than the Hunt22 light but hardly bulky at only 14mm x 30mm and weighing only  13g in  (6Al-4V)  titanium and 11g in the (T6061) aerospace aluminum option,

Bullet02 light pattern on a tabletop
the BULLET02 is powered by three  LR44H Button Cell batteries powering a 2mm Nano SMD LE, the LED is behind a flat lens which is recessed only about a mm in the body, but sufficiently to protect the lens from incidental pocket keychain scratches. 

The body lacks the milled ring grip assists the BULLET22 has but the slightly wider body allows for a better grip inherently.  The cast of the light is quite wide which is good for room filling light without being a lighthouse signal. The base has a pin type post extending to allow the fitting of a simple lanyard loop split ring. This makes it difficult to balance on its tail cap to use in "candle mode."

Both lights function well, though there is a knack to getting them on or off such that they don't accidentally turn on or off in your hand or pocket. The form factor is pretty cool and I liked that whilst close in size and shape neither was close enough that you might inadvertently thumb one into a magazine and have a brown-trouser click moment. Over all I prefer the HUNT22  light, especially for the UV option, though I would like some kind of distinguishing tactile feature on its case to tell them apart in the dark (or in the light for that matter).
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