Sunday, July 21, 2019

Review: Danforce G1 Pro Modular flashlight

My love of flashlights is well documented and nothing new. I do however keep losing or breaking them, so I keep an eye out whenever I can for new exciting models. One such light was Kickstarted a while back by redoubtable gearsmiths Dan Force who offered the modular DanForce G1 Pro Flashlight. 
One big draw-card for me is the modularity and the accessories offered in this kit. These include:
  • Weapons Rail Mount(not included in my pledge)
  • Pressure Switch (not included in my pledge)
  • Emergency Power Bank
  • Tactical Pouch (not included in my pledge)
  • Lantern Attachment
  • Red & Green Light Filters
  • Compass
  • Bike Mount
  • Protective Carrying Case
  • 3200 mAh High-Power Rechargeable Battery
  • Fast Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Hand Strap
  • Neck Strap
It's a lot of loot in one kit, that's for sure. So, the flashlight itself is milled from 6061 aluminium and in its "short" configuration weighs 220g and 275g in the "long" configuration.
The body of the light is  1 1/16" (27mm) wide, 1 3/4" (44mm) at the bezel and 10 3/4" (27cm)tall in the long and  7 1/2" (19cm) in the short. 

The difference between the two is the addition of a second battery segment, which is a conversion of the "Emergency Power Bank" component,  and attaching it to the light. The lens head unscrews from the primary battery component, as does the push button end cap. I'm not sure why  the head unscrews as it seems irrelevant as its threading only fits the primary battery segment, and is incompatible with the other parts.  The head houses a mighty CREE L2 LED panel behind an adjustable lens. The lens has a ratcheting twist action, with a loud click, and spreads the light out from a corridor filling long distance spot to a room filling or road illuminating lantern. The light is fitted with a broadly crenelated bezel, which is also replaceable (and accompanied by a spare)

 The Cree L2 emitter has a listed output of570+ lumens in the short configuration, and 1080 in the long, thanks to the combined charge of the  3200mAh 3.7v 18650 batteries, which in turn will power the light in high for 7-8 hours in single and 10-12 hours in double.

 A rotating ring behind the bezel unscrews to reveal a Micro-USB port that can be utilized to charge the battery. It features a blinking green and red LED indicator, green to indicate charging and red seems to indicate charge full. The light flashes once when hooked up to a power source.

Its possible to recharge the "Short" segment  from the extension segment by using its Power Bank end cap. The Power Bank end cap has a micro USB charging input and a red charging indicator as well as a standard USB-a output.The silicone dust over keeps your ports clear of crud.

As well as being able to charge the flashlights battery in its short configuration but can also be use to charge up other devices such as GPS units or phones. Being a separate unit means I can charge one battery as the other is in use which is handy. Especially as I like to keep multiple power generation sources available.

The G1 PRO is all about putting you in control, giving you six separate modes of operation, Featuring high, medium, low, SOS and strobe modes, as well as an eco-mode for when you need extended battery life in challenging situations. Each mode is accessed by clicking the power button on and off in succession to cycle through the modes.

One of the neat accessories is the lantern dome, an opaque cap that fits snugly over the bezel end turns the flashlight into a room illuminating lantern, perfect for power outages at home, in a tent or even just to scope out a dark car boot.

Unscrewing the bezel allows the fitting either of the two included colored plastic filters to project red or green light as needs be. The addition of a compass to the end-cap of the 

The rubber o-rings at each of the seams and the precision manufacture ar what rate the G1 its IPX04 rating (IPX4 – Protects from splashing water, no matter the direction). The bike mount allows clamping the G1 to handlebars to act as a very effective headlight.
The G1 light is bright and robust and the utility of the lens as well as the modular Power Bank components makes for a truly memorable unit

High power mode on wide lens setting.
Unlit testing conditions, suburban street

High power mode, lens in tight focus
High power mode, lens in tight focus, square emission clear

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: BioFuture wipes

My friends at EcoFuture have taken the bold leap  to launch a Kickstarter campaign for one of their new products and its something I thought I should share. EcoFuture have always looked for ecologically friendly solutions for cleaning, health and hygiene.  From body and foot sprays to water purification and household cleaners. Before you scoff at the domesticty of this remind yourself how little fun a bout of gastro or swamp-ass is on the trail. Even the most salty operators need to poop now and then. If you're on the trail ans have to drop one off, the last thing you want is to be hiking on without a good wipe. Having comfortable wipes can be a real morale booster, but you also don't want to be leaving wads of long-life paper or fabric wipes (even in shallow latrines). This is where something like the BioFuture Baby All Natural wipes comes into its own.

These wipes are made from a  truly flushable and biodegradable material, made from all natural, sustainably sourced plant based fiber - (and are certified as such by the Forest Stewardship Council  ) The wipes are suitable for domestic use, aircraft in-cabin use, and safe for municpal sewer systems. They will not harm wildlife.

HRIPT skin patch testing was performed and the wipes can make the hypoallergenic claim, safe for baby bums and crusty mountain men ( who may or may not also be crusty). Get clean without giving away your position with heavy floral scents.

Being fully biodegradable makes them a logical choice for those on local septic systems or composting toilets. Part of why the folks at EcoFuture are thrilled to offer parents an alternative to wipes made with harmful ingredients and preservatives is that as well as the fabric of the wipes themselves, the patented formula is nutraceutical (food) grade.) , will not harm our waterways or wildlife. Given a lack of harsh preservatives you might question their longevity, but following extensive laboratory testing and the product has shelf life of two years. Lightly scented and fresh feeling on the skin, and in combination with the soft and resilient fabric I've manged to give myself a dry-bath all over. Having nice clean toes can be such  a relief after a couple of days hiking and camping (Change your socks!) and really helped me battle camp-funk.

The wipes themselves measure 21cm x 14cm and are interleaved in the plastic packet for easy withdrawal one after another. There are 40 wipes per packet.  The packet itself had both a hard sealing flap and a soft closing flap to seal in the moisture of the cleansing and preservation solution. I compared these wipes to a standard brand, which had a slightly different size (32cm x 17cm) but I found this made very little appreciable difference when using them.  I found slightly smaller BioFuture wipes withdrew from  the packet easier, with less chance of  a double-up on wipe withdrawal, leading to less waste. I also found that the BioFuture wipes were more resilient and less prone to tear or fray, which means more wiping and scrubbing per sheet (and less likely to tear through and poop your wiping hand) something any nappy-changing parent or stubble faced-lout will appreciate.

Additionally Eco Future are working towards making a completely zero waste product. At present there is no alternative for the outer packaging that will keep the contents moist and withstand heated ovens for stability testing. They do want this to happen and are working towards creating this packaging technology!

I'm very  excited to let you know that their Kickstarter campaign is now live.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Home-Font: campfire Chocolate cake oranges

cooking examples (source unknown)
I like camping, mostly for the campfire cooking options. There's a certain magic to smoking woodfire and sizzling cast-iron leading to a picnic style al fresco dinner. I do a mean pot of chili and a spit-roasted ham is favorite. However for the sweeter-toothed amoungst us a dessert option presents a potential problem. There is a trick to getting foil -wrapped potatoes done evenly and not overly charcoaled, but if you can mange that, you might want to give this a try: Chocolate cake! Be the envy of all your neighbors and blow the "smores" people away.

It is possible to cook chocolate cake in cast-iron dutch oven, they have a habit of sticking and burning quite easily. A number of years ago I stumbled upon the idea of baking cake in the hollowed out shells of oranges. They are delicious and easy!

What you need: a sachet of instant chocolate cake mix (needn't be anything fancy)
cooking examples (source unknown)
components required for the cake mix (typically: eggs, oil)
aluminium foil (for wrapping)
bag of oranges (I prefer Valencia over naval)

1) cut the tops off the oranges, retain.
2) gut the oranges, Jack-o'lantern pumpkin style, retain.
3) remove extra pith bits from the pulp. Macerate pulp with a folk.
4) mix chocolate cake mix, substituting water/milk for macerated orange.
5) fill empty orange shells 3/4 with chocolate mix.
6) cap oranges with retained tops.
campfire cooked by the author
7) cover with foil

8) place in coals
9) let cook for 25-30 minutes, turn 2-3 times.

The rind and pith of the orange will protect the cake and steam it from the edges, whilst cooking the cake will "pop up" the cap, be careful not to rotate the cooking oranges so they open into the fire.

The end result should be a delightfully moist, orange skin oil infused chocolate cake in a warm cup you can hold in your hand and eat with a spoon! After stripping the foil away, the empty orange shell can just go into the fire.

Chocolate cake! That's nutrition
So, from very simple and quite portable ingredients you can make a delicious and uplifting dessert. Oranges keep well and are an excellent camping fruit, chocolate cake mix is light and packs easily. Thicker skinned and pith'd varieties work better for this method, as they act as sturdier and more ablative cook-pots.

You could also try cooking other things in orange cups, different cake, or a duck stew to finish off in oranges for a "duck a l'orange" type effect on the trail.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: MIG - SORD Mad-Stick holster

My mate Shane from Rhino Ropework (note: they've gone through a branding change recently, now trading as MIG (Mark's Innovative Gear) have teamed up with my friends over at SORD Australia to put together a line of pouches for the most excellent and useful MADSticks by Rhino Ropeworks. You'll recall the MAD Sticks are a compact solid breaching and pry bar, and be pleased to note that they've gone through some more design iterations and are even madder!

One aspect that Shane / Mark wanted to address, is their very pointyness, which even when looped through PALS/MOLLE, can jab and scrape, and the pen-clip type retaining clip sometimes just weren't up to the rugged outdoor needs of some folks, so he and SORD Australia have come up with this 1000d Cordura pouch. I experienced the need for this myself after months of carrying the MAD-Stick around in my fairly rugged Mystery Ranch 1DAP , the point worked its way through the Cordura nylon and stated to poke me in he sides as I walked. This I could mitigate by shifting it around but one time I picked the pack up and the MAD-Stick fell right out and nearly spiked me in the foot.
  As I'd rather not have this happen whilst out in public I had to retire it from my EDC until they good folks and MIG could set me up with a holster.

One did magically appear shortly after I got in touch with MIG, cudos to their customer service. So. The Holster. The MAD Stick is a 400mm (15.7") long, 12.7 mm (0.50" yeah, fifty cal!) length of 4140 high tensile tool steel,  and the SORD design suits it perfectly. Not too snug as to make drawing it an issue, not so loose as to let it rattle about.
The main opening flap is rimmed with hook and loop strips to secure the stick, and backed up with a webbing strap and a Fastex style clip to ad bomb-proof jump-safety to it. Nobody wants to accidentally catch a MAD-stick I assure you. The heavy 1000D Cordura lends itself nicely to giving the whole holster structure and it is heavily stitched throughout. inside the opening flap is a "pointy end down" indicator graphic, but the holster itself is ambivalent. a metal grommet in the bottom of the holster acts more as a drainage point than as a capture point for the spike.  I have also found the chisel end doesn't pull at the hook and loop closures as much as the spike end when doing vigorous runs.
Speaking of attachment:
The back side of the holster features two PALS/MOLLE straps with reinforced stiff panels and a terminal hook and loop strip closure.
Each strip is suitable for 3 rows of MOLLE attachment for a very sturdy fixture. You could strap it to the back of a plate carrier, to the side of a pack or even off the hip of a MOLlE equipped battle-belt such as the Platatac Bongo or SICC belts.

The black holster by itself is fairly innocuous looking but at 16" long it will stand out swinging on your hip. Not very Grey-man. The side-panels of my 1DAP are already pretty crowded so I stow the whole thing inside my pack, unsecured but safely wedged in now that I'm not worried about pointy ends jabbing though my pack. Check out the whole MIG range and new developments here: Now I can keep my totally legitimately useful / rescue tool handy without causing a public panic!
Well done Mark's Innovative Gear and the whole MIG Crew.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Aldi - Tomohammer

Been a while since my last post, but I have content again!

We like to shop at Aldi from time to time. They have an eclectic range and reasonable prices. They might not be a reliable place to get the same things week after week (as their range shifts with the tides) but there's always good stuff to be had to fill a pantry and add to your preps. One thing I like is the middle isles are always filled with neat items like tools, hardware and adventure-wear. Every six months or so they do a big sale and lots of their odd-ball stock goes on deep discount. At one such sale, I picked up this item; The Aldi Camp Hatchet with Hammer.

It looks like a straight-up clone of the redoubtable Mk 48 Rangerhawk, but with a hammer face replacing the spike end. The form of the Tomohammer mirrors the MK 48 almost exactly, from the geometry of the axe-face to the design of the handle. It's vital statistics are as follows: it comes with a blade pouch with Velcro strap and a strap with button snap on fastener, it weighs 605g and has a total length of 377mm. 

The head is stainless steel and appears to be either anodized or coated but the kind of steel is not listed, so I'm guessing its something like a 440C or some such. The handle material is some kind of glass reinforced polymer. More on that later. The head is fixed by a set of three screws on each side, exactly like the Mk 48, down the length of the tang of the head. The handle has a series of rings moulded into it to give gripping texture and a hole for a lanyard at the base.

It also shares the half-way point double sided knuckle up the shaft, which is a nice addition to keep but I've yet to find myself so elbow deep in gore that I've needed the haptic feedback it provides. Perhaps shoring up the beaver-dam during a storm after fending off Zombeavers. We'll see.

My original Mk 48 has taken some punishment, requiring me to regrind tips of the horns after chipping them off. Looking up close also points out the three bolts fixing the head to the shaft. The Tommohammer uses much broader headed bolts, still reset in the handle material but bigger and deeper.

One difference I noted was the jimping on the back of the beard of the axe head. Initially I wasn't very keen on this as it seemed prone to gouging my knuckles when I held the axe all choked up for fine chopping. However what did occur to me was that I could grip the whole head and use the blade much like an Inuit ulu knife, for skinning, mincing or slicing.

 As a tomahawk it worked well enough, the weight of head, length of shaft and blade geometry made for a good swing and a decent chopping power. The forward balance was much the same as that of the  Mk48 but the hammer head brings the center of mass closer to the center for a quicker turning circle. Good if you have to switch between choppy choppy and happy hammertime in a hurry, maybe to fend off the more insistent zombeavers.

Putting that hammer to the test, I used it to  reseat the nails in our rickety gate. It made short work of the timber nails, right down to the cast iron fittings, without a scratch on the strike face. I also used it to drive both steel and wrought iron tent pegs to no ill effect. As hammers go, the 40cm handle was a bit much and having an axe face was a little disconcerting but no great issue. It struck well, and had a good resonance when striking, something one comes to appreciate in a hammer if you use it long enough.

And them I went and did something dumb. I'm generally of a school of mind that says "don't throw your weapon, dummy!" but at an event I was going to there was to be an axe throwing contest, so I wanted to get some practice in. After finding a suitably remote location with a clear line od sight and a suitable target tree, I set to practicing throwing my two most closely matched tomahawks, the Mk48 Rangerhawk and the Aldi Tomohammer. I quickly got my range in and was successfully sinking blade into tree when an awkward release saw the Tommohammer striking off-true, and with a disheartening "crack" become quite permanently detatched.

You reap what you sow. I threw my tomahawk, no doubt voiding a warranty and broke it. Interestingly, testing to destruction is useful in that it showed that the internal cross section was NOT glass fiber reinforced. Just a single material polymer. Also, it broke at the point of the recessed attachment bolts. So much for bigger is better huh?

 Odds are that if I hadn't been abusing it it wouldn't have had its catastrophic failure as it did, but better like it did rather than in an alley outside of Detroit or off the coast of Mombasa.  I should be able to re-haft the head onto some nice Tasmanian oak I have kicking around or even onto the Mk48 shaft, should I irrevocably screw that one up too. All in all, it was a good piece, part chopper, part hammer but what it wasn't was quality. you get what you pay for.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Review: PRC Compressed Ration Biscuts

I was lucky that one of my contacts Jayson Moloney of Blade and Stone AU started stocking a very unique product I had to get in on. These are a long shelf-life survival ration biscuit that looks to provide long term reliable food source as an emergency backup, much like the Mainstay Survival ration bricks I've reviewed in the past.

The rations, produced by ;Qinhuangdao Ocean Food CO.,LTD.formerly known as the Chinese people’s Liberation Army No.4003 factory a supplier for the Peoples Republic of China's military, The rations themselves are in the form of compressed biscuits individually wrapped and stored in Mylar foil bags. The 4kg tin carries 20x 200g vacuum wrapped packets. When kept in optimal storage conditions; stored at normal temperature in a cool, dry place they have a minimum 24 month shelf life.

The ingredients are Wheat Flour, Palm oil (uh oh, that's not eco-friendly) sugar, glucose syrup, salt, and sodium bicarbonate. These are mixed into digestive style biscuits and compressed into blocks. They have been heat-treated but don't appear to have been baked. Following high temperature and high-pressure sterilization, they are suitable for long-term storage and transportation, The biscuits are tightly plastic wrapped and outer-layer foil bagged plastic bag packaging  creating a package  both hygienic and convenient, suitable for military and civilian use.

Each foil sachet holds four individually wrapped biscuit each pressed into two distinct portions easily  cracked to share or for ease of eating or sharing.  The vital statistics are listed as follows:

The  unopened sachets are 8cm (~3") square and 3cm (~1") thick.

Per 100g
Given that each sachet is 200g and has four biscuits, each 50g portion has half these values. So two whole sachets gives you 100% of the daily recommend intake and most of the daily protein and carbs. That's not bad for 400g of dry biscuit. Obviously you'd want water to go with it and I found they go very well with a nice cup of tea.

The compressed biscuits are non-moisture absorbent, soft, and easy to break up and eat. but not mushy or crumbly. They are a high energy,  rich source of nutrition, making them anti-fatigue, and promote the rapid recovery of physical strength. They are dense with a tight texture which leads to you being more likely to feel full after eating.

Although they are made of same flour used to make wholemeal cookies, but because the high quality of the  material used which is more closely refined, the use of the anti-orangutan palm oil softener to lower its moisture content, and not easy bibulous (moisture absorbing) which means even minor punctures to the protective covers will not be too much of a concern , make cookies in the active ingredients can supplement physical strength (ingredients) under the same volume content more, so to make it more resistant to hungry. A long-lasting, sustaining Digestive Biscuit.

The foil sachets are small and sturdy enough to be put in a pocket, or stuffed into the bottom of a bug-out bag. They also fit four into a Platatac FUP dual magazine pouch.  That's 800g of nutrition ready to carry your adventure on over hill and dale for a bit longer.

The biscuits are tasty and wholesome, my kids liked them and even put smiles on our faces after some arduous crafting on the couch.

They're tastier than the Mainstay rations and have a much nicer mouthfeel. Apart from the palm oil I have no qualms recommending these as survival rations and suspect  they will  become a hiking and camping loadout staple for us.

BREAKING NEWS: Jason tells me he will be getting in a new order including the pork jerky flavour through the Blade and Stone site. If your dietary restrictions allow you should check it out!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Tactica Talon

Here's a thing. How often do you find yourself in need of a tool for a quick fix? A loose screw, a non-twist bottle, a package to open. Often, the tool you need is buried in a drawer or lost in the tool shed, turning a 20 second job into 5-10 minutes. Or worse, you find yourself in a tricky tool situation away from home. Even the most efficient bug out bag or EDC can be a pain to rummage through. There's only so much you can load your cargo kilt up with before you get the jingle-shakes or worse, slippage. One solution to this is to combine multiple tools in to one lightweight system.

One such system is the Tactica M100 Talon. It certainly qualifies a "the tool you keep with you". It's lightweight, compact, versatile and might just be your new best prepping lifestyle friend. Whether it's mountain biking, snowboarding or just around the house, the Tactica Talon has got your back. Right there in your back pocket.

The Talon is designed and made in Melbourne. My home town so it was especially exciting or me to back and support the Kickstarter for it. So, here's what it is. Primarily a Hex bit driver, with a climbing carbiner form factor. At its core a hardened stainless steel frame wrapped in a pocket tech friendly lightweight composite material that won't scratch your valuable iDevices as well as being 40% lighter than titanium.

Inside the body of the composite component is a space for two 1/4" hex drivers retained by a removable silicone rubber slot-plug (Phillips + flat head included). The narrow-eye of the tool is cut to act as a multi-wrench with two versions being Imperial - 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16in or the Metric - 5, 6.25, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14mm versions. Both versions have a 1/4" Hex socket built into the body as a heavy duty driver. The "mouth" of the storage slot is the primary hex driver, and is fitted with magnetic tool retainer in its side to assist with that.

The big end of the "wide-eye" of the carabiner is also fitted with a bottle opener. A raised notch on the "back" of the tool acts as a snag free, TSA safe Package Opener. ( ha, so they say. )

Inside the lip of the wrench holes are rulers, on either side, metric on one and imperial on the other. They are only small so you wont be checking fish-size or the like but perfect for sizing hardware like drill bits and bolts up. Beside the bottle opener in the "eye" is a hole drilled for a key chain split-ring. keeping it out of the way for using the wrench.
I don't think I'd use this at all as this isn't a tool I would put on a keychain, but it certainly could work for that. One thing I did like about its design is the view-port cut through the side which shows you if a hex- bit is inside. not quite big enough to see what kind of head, but certainly a sanity check to see if its one or two tools stored with a quick back and forth rattle check.

The slot-plug has two friction lugs to hold it in place but is fully removable, which makes the whole assembly easier to put together and reduces the chance of it tearing after repeated use but the fat that it could become detached and lost and the stored hexbits along with it is a small worry. The slot-plug is tight fitting and I have no such worry of it coming loose by accident.

My biggest gripe was the out-of-the-box realization that it shared the "form factor" of a Carabiner, it was in fact NOT set up to clip open. Few moving parts means simpler manufacturing and a stronger overall would be convenient if it would auto-clip to bags, packs and pants, but it is narrow enough that it can be clipped to an existing carabiner and hung ready for use. Measuring in at 80mm x 40mm x 12mm (3.154"x1.57"x0.47") and weighing in at a slight 45g (1.6 oz).

Given its composite encapsulation and lack of any sharp or rough edges, it makes an excellent pocket carry. Ready when you need it and not wearing holes or scratching screens.

The angle of the primary hex driver lends itself to the Talon siting nicely in the palm of the hand though the short hex-bits can leave the access to whatever is being driven to be quite tight. It's certainly not a tool for hard and everyday use, get full sized driver for that. This is a tool for small jobs and "I just need to fix this one thing" jobs. It will however, put together an Ikea Billy bookshelf up like no-ones business.

Go further and do more than single flat or a Phillips head will do but the great minds at Tactica came up with this; a12 Bit Toolpack giving you a great selection of hex bits to use. They have chosen a solid cross selection of bits that would cover most circumstances whether it's at home, work or on your next adventure. The Toolpack contains the following hex bits: Phillips #0, #1, #2 Flathead #3, #4, #5 Allen key sizes 3mm, 4mm, 5mm and most excitedly Torx T10, T15, T25. The full set weighs only 80g (2.8 oz) a small price to pay for the added utility of having the right head to hand.

The collection of bits are titanium coated (for longer wear protection) and ruggedly ground, for greater fortitude. Comparing the included bits with those of the MiniInch tool pen systems and they are stubbier and more ruggedly produced than the grey MiniInch bits but otherwise fully compatible, other than being unable to store two in the Talon's internal storage due to length.

There have been reports that the box opener tool blunts after limited use, but given it is a spire of plastic, I'm neither surprised nor concerned. My only other gripe with it is the lack of an integral clipping mechanism as previously mentioned. And the wide turning circle of the main hex driver which is a bit tricky in tight spots.

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