Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: SORD - StormTrooper hand warmer

I got in touch with the good folks over at SORD Australia who had previously fixed me up with the long 870 scabbard pouch and a very clever covert-use hoodie. I had seen they had put out a couple of new items, and managed to secure some, just in time to take out camping and adventuring st s Post-Apocalyptic simulation weekend I was attending.

The first item I want to cover was their very fancy StormTrooper Hand Warmer. Available following a three year development development cycle in which it was put through high altitude parachute descents from around 7600m (25,000ft), and resisting wind speeds in excess of 250kph (135knots/155mph) as well as extended periods in mountain / cold weather environments in multiple countries. That was sales pitch enough for me. I've lived in Calgary, and a couple of other places which have snow, I've even taken a few pieces of kit to the limited snow we get here in Melbourne to trail. I hate the snow, generally, and being cold. Sometimes "hands-in-pockets" is not an option and I like to have options.
Check out that spacious muff!

This is where the StormTrooper comes in. Made from an outer shell fabric of Duro Industries LiteLok  (with a 500D Cordura option in Kryptek Yeti also available), the StormTrooper is filled with 40gsm Prima Loft fill (in double/triple layers), and is lined with the same lightweight lining as used in SORD's jackets.

It attaches in a variety of ways;  with three ITW Web Dominators on shock-cord loops, for attachment to a PLAS/MOLLE platform like a plate carrier or chest rig. There is also a broad hook-and-loop sandwich panel for attachment to platforms with a corresponding hook-and-loop bottom, like the Platatac MAC, I already have as it happens (loop-field faces forward).
Rear view showing belt loops, D-rings and storage cords
The back face is fitted with three belt loops wide enough to take 50mm belts (and feed over riggers belt buckles and Cobra buckles alike). It is also fitted with two D-rings for fitting a neck-strap to sling it around your shoulders.

Zippered blow-out section on the belly of the StormTrooper
The StormTrooper is fitted with 2 separate internal pockets with weather resistant zips for heater packs, or small items, one larger external front zippered pocket for small easily accessible items, like a compass, a light or other small tools and a lower zippered blow out section that increases internal capacity for large hands, especially useful if you have bulky gloves, a mounted GPS or altimeter or a map pouch on your wrist.

Second internal hand-warmer pocket, under recess to stow hook-and-loop flap
Elasticized, adjustable wrist cuffs, let you hunker the muff section down to fir your hands, without leading to a snag-risk in case you need to respond quickly. I found that the muff was perfectly shaped to hold my hands, and let me drop my shoulders, giving me a really relaxed posture, without having my hands stuck in pants-pockets, especially useful when my top was covered in a vest, or obscured by pack-straps.

The internal pockets gave a a couple of places to stash more needfuls, and certainly fit the hand-warmers I have. I also found that the Web Dominators allowed be to quickly roll it up, and stow it away, rolling down to almost nothing thanks to the LiteLok fabric and light down used, and its built in stash sack packs the muff down to almost nothing.

The internally secured storage baggie
Thankfully it's not yet been could enough to -need- the StormTrooper here yet, although it did rain rather miserably on the first night of my last camping trip, and the long walks around the site make for a good chance to stow my hands away. I also found it was a pretty good place to stash some small, light and often used items.

The multiple attachment options, multiple pockets as well as the spacious and comfortable muff section make this an excellent addition to anyone's kit, especially if you are going to find yourself in a cold and miserable place or two. It stayed out of the way when I wasn't using it, and even acted as a quick dump-pouch when I had to stow a long item and keep my hands free.

Post-Apocalyptic Roleplay, with the SORD Stormtrooper at my belly band
You might find that all the accessory shock-cord gets in the way, but they're all removable, and you can set it up as low-drag as you need it.

Next winter, I have a feeling I will be keeping this in my pack, to whip out  when the weather does a Melbourne on us. I look forwards to again being the guy people look at thinking "why didn't I think of that?"

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: RaidOps - TM-Joe & MF-Delta

Check out these bad boys! I got in touch with a long time source of Wish-Lust for me from RaidOps out of Korea.

They make a wide range of titanium impact tools, knives and hard-wearing and multi-function pieces of wearable art. The two items that I got are the triangular MF-Delta and the evil platypus skull shaped TM-Joe.

Both are made of grade 5 titanium, and are double heat-treated to over 500oC to achieve HRC 50-52. They are finished in a dark-brown patina.

The TM-Joe is 84mm (3.31") x 58mm (2.2") x 5mm (0.2"), weighs in at 42g (1.5oz) and features 11mm (5/16") nut holes in the "ears" and nose" with a smaller, 9mm nut hole adjacent to the larger one in the nose. The very tip of the tool is shaped to act as a pry-bar, with nail-pull at the center. The pry-bar is not chisel edged, so there is no fear of cutting things accidentally, but will limit that "first bite" width needed to get a pry happening.

As well as the mean looking eye-holes, there is a lanyard hole in the middle of the top of the piece which mates with the RaidOps Quick Release attachment clip, a small piece of polycarbonate plastic with two rounded pinching surfaces that fill the lanyard hole, and hold with sufficient force to prevent any accidental dislodging.

A quick forceful tug and the tool comes away in the hand, ready for action. Both tools feature attachment points for the Quick Release mount, and come with a standard ball-and link chain.

The MF-Delta is made from the same Grade 5 titanium alloy with it's dark brown finish.It measures  61mm (2.4") x 70mm (2.76") x 5mm (0.2"), and weighs 31g (1.09oz), 31g (1.09oz). It features two hex driver cutouts, one of which also doubles as a bottle opener. It also features a single 7mm bolt hole, but has four lanyard holes in its middle, and another at one tip.

The MF-Delta, being shorter and more evenly dimensioned is a little less obtrusive to the eye, where as the TM-Joe is more stylized to look like a piece of art. Neither are bladed, with all the edges being rounded if not fully milled. Even compared to the NukoTool Skully or the Nuko ACDT they look more like jewelry or abstract art than an impact weapon.
When snapped off their neck-lanyards, both the MF-Delta and TM-Joe fit both snugly and safely in a palmed fist, those rounded edges don't dig, nick or snag.

The rounded "necks" of both tools quickly slip around the inter digital gaps between fingers, giving you a really secure grip, and bracing against the palm to let you drive them with considerable force into whatever you felt the need to. I put some pretty effortless divots into furniture around the house, with a very satisfying sound. I found that the grips were probably the smoothest and best fitting for my hands that I've encountered for this kind of tool. Great thickness and width of contact points and sufficient aperture to be held naturally.

Worn around the neck, or attached to a keychain, these innocuous tools are both elegant to look at, have a beautiful finish and even a "chime" when struck, I have been really pleased to add them to my collection, and will probably keep one on me whenever I travel, not to mention visit anywhere that regular defensive items might be frowned on.

Be sure to check with local regulations and legislation when it comes to this kind of item. It would be an easy enough thing to confirm, rather than falling foul of LEO's just doing their job. Being booked, fined or incarcerated won't help your ability to respond to an emergency, so be smart.

But be smart with gorgeous looking items that work well and are robust, like the RaidOps tools!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: UVPaqlite - Mule Light Orb

As first published on BreachBangClear!

I do so love my glowing lights. There is something very satisfying about a renewable light source that is charged by the sun to mark out the dark corners of a room, locate a bag or device in the dark or even to ID friends vs foes. I have gathered quite a collection of glow in the dark items over the years, all starting with those little stars you put on the ceiling to make constellations, as a kid. My girls have them too, now.

I've been an even bigger fan of the products from UV PaqLite for some time, I keep them in my packs, hand them to my kids when we go out at night and generally have them on hand for those "where did everybody go moments, where I might need more than just one of my multitude of flashlights.

One is none, two is one, and batteries run low. I kept tabs on the family team of Steve Nagel and Alexis Nagel, and their inspiration, gun-toting outdoors-man Uncle Vernon, who was their inspiration. Their basic product is based around the fact that if you embed the raw strontium aluminate crystals in a solid resin you get a long glowing light-source, in a solid, stable and resilient unit.

The problem with all this type of glow-in-the dark products are that they all still need to be charged to work. If your emergency happens when you're already in the dark, or the light is in the bottom of a bag, you are not going to get much use from them. This is where the folks from UVPaqlite came up with another option. They embedded a LED in the middle of two halves, with USB rechargable lithium ion rechargeable batteries, light-detection sensors and some clever circuitry to give you a hybrid light that gives you an infinitely renewable GITD shell and long lasting electronics that can hold 100hours of illumination on a single charge.
So the UVPaqLite people have came up with a hybrid model.

To operate the flashlight mode, you press the button built into the middle band. This illuminates one side of the orb, right through the embedded crystals, and casts a very satisfying light, as well as charging up the GITD crystals. Holding the button until the light flashes sets a timer mode, which will set the LED's on either side of the orb to flash every two minutes recharging the crystals to peak performance. The batteries will hold around 100 hours of these flashes.

An even smarter feature utilizes a small photo-receptor built into the side of the Orb, just beside the USB charge port.
 Holding the on-off button for a double-flash of the light letting you know you've activated the light sensor and now the Orb will only function in hybrid mode when it’s dark. It lights up for about 4 seconds, which can be a bit disconcerting if you're trying to get to sleep and it's dangling over your head. This means you can set it up wherever you want it and forget about it. Clip it to the side of your pack with the built in split ring and snap-clip, hang it from the top of your tent, or drop it in your bag.
 It will self-charge the crystals as you go about your life. This is really good for the forgetful or the over-packed.

The on-theme USB cable they supply is just long enough to do the job and not so much to get in the way. The 45g (1.5 oz) Orb is  37mm (1.4") x 25mm (1") is a little big for a key-fob, but perfect for pockets. I've had it on the side of my Hazard4 Escape RG harness for a while and didn't find it getting in my way at all.

It's weather-resistant in its native state, meaning it can take some rain and exposure, but don't soak it. If you're expecting a big wet, they've thought of that too. The dive capsule is rated to 100m (300') which is more than three times the depth I've ever been rated to SCUBA dive to, but I suppose some day I might want to tag some salvage and come back to it with a ROV. 

I'm a lot more likely to be yomping through a storm though, so the extra weather protection and night-swimming illumination is what appeals to me. You can't access the button from inside the capsule, so whatever setting you have selected before you hit the water is what you're stuck with, unless you feel brave enough to pop it open in the wet. In the capsule the Orb is positively buoyant and floats around happily on an even keel. It's a well designed accessory, with a smooth threading action, and a sturdy o-ring and flat-folding attachment ring.

I was really impressed with both the GITD illumination that the Orb offered, and the flashlight mode. It certainly has a lot of potential to give medium term, renewable and reusable illumination, on-demand, really the best of both worlds. Since getting my hands on the UVPaqlite range I haven't used a cylume stick, but I've kept some around just in case I've been caught out without an immediate light source and now that I have the Orb, I might just pass them off to the kids to have one last hurrah.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: Fishbones - Gravity Hook

I've been lucky enough to snag a couple of prototypes for a Kickstarter project that has just a few days to go, and I really wanted to get the message out to you all, so you can take advantage of the situation, and back this awesome project. This comes from the same folks that brought us the Fishbones and Piranha gear ties.

This is a tool, called the Gravity Hook, which  can be used just as a 2 pronged hook, as a grappling hook with the addition of a cross-hook or, in its primary format, as a grabbing hook.

It is designed to "bite" objects that might slip out of a grapnel, much like The Claw, from a claw game.

A complete assembly is made up of includes 3 linking bars, 3 "hammer" arms, a cross hook, and nut-and-bolt hardware. A bow-shackle at the end gives you a cord-attachment option.

The whole assembly weighs around 360g in its stainless steel configuration, and a mere 60g in the high-performance Derlin plastic.

Notches cut into the linking bars as channels allow you to affix o-rings, which really help when tightening hardware. They are used to help keep the jaws tightened around the cross-hook whilst set up in the grappling hook configuration, and also during modification by keeping the parts lined up, to let you thread the bolts more easily. I've covered a small grappling hook before but this blows that right out of the water.

Bear in mind that the two version I have are prototypes, and by following along with the Kickstarter campaign there have been several improvements thus far. Notches in the jaws where the cross-hook sit should eliminate the slight wobble that the base of the cross-hook gets when in the grappling hook configuration. This was more noticeable in the Derlin prototype, but from the 3D renders I've seen this will be completely eliminated in the production model. The Derlin model also has a double set of o-ring channels, one high, one low.

I tried the low set as a place to store the o-ring I was using, but found that the added tension reduced the bite that the hook had, and combined with the low weight of the Derlin version, I found more success with the o-ring slipped off the hook entirely. The other difference in the two models are a couple of extra sets of holes in the Derlin version, presumably for threading extra bolts through to "lock" the grappling hook in place.

Two designs of cross-hook are seen as well, the solid version in stainless steel retains the weight and all the strength possible, but the cut-away version more closely matches the hammer-arms of the main body, as well as acting as a gear-tie, following n the footsteps of the Fishbone and Piranha.

Compact enough to be stowed on a back pack strap, I also found that the pair of Gravity hooks, along with their cross-hooks, and a length of paracord fit nicely in a Platatac FUP pouch. I carried both around in my cargo-pants for a few days, trying them out on various things to grab and hook, and  found that I needed to be careful which side the shackle bolt was sitting but the rest was easy to carry comfortably.

Here's a safety note: the Gravity Hook was specifically designed for retrieving kit and grabbing things. It has not been tested or certified to bare human weight. The guys who designed them have done some car-towing and some anecdotal destructive testing but stress to never use it in a situation where it's failure or dislodging might cause bodily harm or property damage. As with any climbing or salvage work, always use good judgment. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions. In an emergency, you might need to take extraordinary measures, but the risks are also extraordinary. Failure to follow these warnings could result in property damage, severe injury or death. Be prepared for anything, don;t become a casualty.

So, all that in mind, I really like the Gravity Hook. It's going to be a part of my EDC from now on (because I like to roll as heavy as I can get away with). Having this kind of gadget is exactly the kind of thing that I get to be a hero for carrying, at some stage, always. The Derlain version means I even have an airport safe version to take with me on any abrupt mountain-side landing trips I might be on.

Get in quick, back them on Kickstarter and remember: Always prepare to be a better version of yourself. Unless you can be Batman, then be Batman.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Gerber - Crisis Hook knife

Here is another new addition to my collection that comes out of my need to replace items lost when my car was broken into.

I had been keeping a Benchmade 8med Rescue-hook in the sun-visor MOLLE keeper from Zulu Nylon Gear in case of in-car emergencies, which in turn was an addition along with the Benchmade Figure 5 after I lost my original rescue hook, the Gerber Strap Cutter.

So, now I've come full circle with the Gerber Crisis Hook.

I really like this kind of tool. I go to events where fixed blade knives are restricted, but having a blade that can be used to get myself, or others out of trouble without being a big bad pig-sticker.

The Crisis Hook is fitted out with an even bigger handle than any of the previous cutter's which is covered with a textured, skeletonised  rubberized coating. This is shaped with finger groves on the inside, and crenelations for gripping both back and front. The steel that runs through the entirety of the tool is 420HC stainless steel.

The cutting edge is a single bevel housed within a blunt hook as you would expect from this kind of cutter. The entire tool, with its long handle, it a considerable improvement over the three previous rescue tools I've had.

Fitted with an oxygen wrench and a glass breaker point on the pommel with a loop hole for a dummy-cord, this is a robust and hefty tool, and it comes with an appropriately sturdy
friction locking clip sheath, made from the same 499 ballistic molded plastic as the handle.

The sheath is fitted out with a buckle strap, and can take either the included MALICE clip or, as seen here, a single PALS/MOLLE gripping clasp. It held secure to both my chest and on my hip for a weekends camping adventure recently, but was simple enough to shift in the field, even on the go without all the fiddling needed with the MALICE clips. It cuts like a treat, going through seat belt webbing, heavy strapping, 550 paracord and with a little more effort, thick cable-ties with single solid pulls.

I have no doubt that I could cut someone from belt to boot in a few simple, quick cuts if needs be with this. The over-sized handle affords a really solid grip, even with gloves on, and even when wet. It's not a subtle tool, but then again, its not meant to be. This is for getting you and your buddies, or loved ones, out of a jam. So far, it's done nothing but winning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sneak Peek: Fishbones - Gravity Hook

The guys who brought us the Fishbones and Piranha gear ties now have these awesome Gravity hooks in progress on Kickstarter. Part Mechanical Claw, part Grappling Hook and sent me sent me these two prototypes, one in steel, the other Derlin ... all awesome. Check out all the details on Kickstarter for now, review to follow here too!

Tactical Baby: "Those are Batman's..."
Omega: "No darling, they're Daddy's.."
Tactical Baby: nods grimly...

Go back them ... be Batman!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Platatac WUP

I've been collecting pouches for quite some time now, because I've found that there is always room for more pockets.

I've covered all manner of pouches in the past, from the very large, almost a bag in itself, to a variety of smaller utility pouches, down to the very small indeed. There are times though when a pouch needs to be a bit bigger, for large or bulky items, without wanting to add a whole other bag to your loadout, or better yet, having that item out of your existing pack. Thats where something like the Platatac Water Utility Pack, their WUP, comes into its own.

Large enough to fit a Platatac 1 litre Flask or a 1L Hydrapak Bladder,

or in my case, a 1L Nalgene bottle. The WUP fills a niche not unlike that of the Tactical Tailor Hydration Joey pouch, but in keeping with the Platatac range it is fitted out like a bigger version of one of their smaller pouches.

With both a chunky Fastex clip and a broad swathe of hook-and-loop the WUP doesn't lack for closure options, and security. Inside there is an internal loop with elastic shock-cord, to cinch in the lip of the pouch, giving even better retention.

I really liked that the Fastex clip strapping loops back through a loop on the lid of the pouch in a solid V shape, not only does this support the lid, but keeps the straps from flopping about and getting in the way.

A drainage grommet in the bottom of the pouch is a really good addition, something that you really appreciate if you've ever taken a dunk with a bunch of kit on. Especially if you then need to haul yourself up and out, and keep on running.

This is a pretty big pouch, with at least a 1L capacity, and it is held secure to you and your gear with a 2 channel, 3 row set of PALS/MOLLE on the back, ant its set up to be able to attach using 5 rows on the host side, giving a really secure fit for those heavy loads.

There are also three rows of two-channel loops on each side of the pouch, for attaching accessories to your accessories.

I took a couple of these on an adventuring weekend recently, one with an old style canteen on a Platatac Bongo battle belt, and the other on the side of a plate carrier covered in other pouches. Neither were ungainly, overly bulky and anything other than functional. Offered in both Multicam and traditional khaki, the two I picked up are in MC, see how I venture into the modern era!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...