Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: Firebox stove

I'm a notoriously difficult present recipient, mostly because I like eclectic and specialized kit and often get my own. When my birthday rolled around this year I was in the fortunate position to have made a list of cool things that I had not yet acquired. One such item was the flat packing and portable fire place system called a Fire Box Stove. This is the Gen2 5" Folding Firebox Campfire Stove which is a multi-purpose super tool for fire.Thanks Basse and Barry!

It's a multi-fuel cook stove designed to be able to utilize wood and other fuels found in nature, solid fuel tablets, alcohol burners, iso-butane gas burners, gel fuels (such as Sterno), wood pellets or charcoal briquettes. I haven't yet tried it but i'd think pine cones would work nicely in it, as would shredded or twisted cardboard.

The folding Firebox's large size and its sturdy construction makes it reportedly stable enough for a large dutch oven yet it can be used with cookware as small as a camping cup. BE sure to set it up on stable flat ground to avoid spilling your pot of 'pocalypse stew ... The Folding Firebox Stove is also easy to set up. It's four hinged sides effortlessly opens into position, the internal fire base folds down to lock it into its approximate box shape and the accessory fire sticks and ash-tray slot into place as desired. When it's time to go it folds flat, clips together and slips into its own handy leather case ready to slide into your pack, cleanly and easily.

Constructed of Stainless Steel, it stands 19cm(7.5") tall, 12.7cm(5.0") across when set up and all told weighs 907g 92 lbs). Folded it lays a mere 0.95cm (0.375") thick. The hinges are well enclosed longways loops of rolled steel and steel pins. I found the hinges to be smooth and whilst not stiff, to be firm enough that the walls did not flop around when setting it up.
When the internal base is deployed , it braces the walls and fits it securely. Even after use, the hinges moves smoothly. The ash tray was a bit fiddly to fit but it has a right way and a wrong way, as its not square and neither is the stove. (It's a trapezoid.) The fire sticks either slots through the walls of the stove to offer coal support or into notches in the top to provide stable cook surface.
A perforated grill plate can also be fitted into the top of the stove in place of the fire sticks. This allows food to be directly cooked on the fire, without need of pot or pan but also makes good cooking platform for a pot or pan.

As well as the perforated sides which give good aeration and wind shielding a fold down lip at the top of one side gives when more heat and burn control. Fuel can be fed in through this gap or through the larger holes in the base of the walls. Short sticks, twigs even straw can be fed in though these side slots without having to remove cooking items from the heat. The relativity small size of the stove means that only a small volume of fuel can be loaded in at any one time so no big logs for long slow nighttime burns and it will require constant feeding. The Firestick posts made good fire tending tools and allowed me to lift and shift components such as flaps and the grill plate without burning myself.

The modular design of the FireBox means that a variety of fuel can be used, in a variety of amounts and applied to a variety of cooking methods. My only complaints with the design are that some of the tolerances are very tight, such as the holding pegs of the grill plate which can be; fiddly to seat and popped loose under heat.

A fire chimney isn't new to my firemaking kit. Astute readers may recall the CampMaid charcoal chimney fire starting system I covered. In principle the two are every similar but the Firebox is purpose built as a stove, whereas the CampMaid chimney is designed as a BBQ starter.

With its multiple cooking configurations, useful accessories and collapsible design, the Firebox leverages its lightweight design and sturdy materials it can use virtually any size cookware and make use of some pretty marginal fuel sources to not only cook food, boil water to make safe but it also functions as a portable campfire.

It's small, not for for burning logs but it certainly beats trying to clear a dry spot for a fire after a rain, and preparing a fire pit, or leaving one improperly quenched. The Fire box, being so well vented, burns very completely leaving only fine ash if left to burn out.

As a backyard stove, it was excellent, and meant I could set up a small fire in a controlled way to burn off scraps and have some fun with my little one Tactical Baby, and teach her good fire behavior in a controlled space. In a wilderness setting it might be wise to set it up with some wind shelter, as the perforated sides and base let embers fall through and it would be irresponsible to spread fire, also it shelters the fire and ensures an even burn essential for cooking.

I used my EverFire brick firestarters to both get it going and to do some initial cooking and it worked really well with those. The Firesticks allowed me to tailor the burn height and positioning. With these to maximize their effectiveness.

I noted a little warping of the grill plate after its first use, and some thermal discoloration of the steel from where the stainless steel reached sufficient temperatures. Not that this was a surprise or is a problem but good to remember.

Its a little too big to fit in a cargo pocket,  but small enough to fit in the front pouch of almost any daypack i'd want to take on the trail with me.

I look forwards to collecting the accessories and trying out my lightweight camp cooking skills.

with an Everfire brick as fuel. supported by Firesticks

Off cuts and woodwork scraps kindled by the EverFire brick

time for a nice mug of tea!

Baby wieners toasted and consumed! Vacation fun!

Non-sqaure base plate folds to holds it rigid
A single methylated spirit charged EverFire brick gets it red hot

Heat your tea, cook your dinner, warm your hands!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review: EverFire fire brick

When it comes to fires, we have many traditional options available from: gas, charcoal, heat beads, and wood. Apart from gas, lighting a fire can be tricky and time consuming.  I like to use off-cuts and dead-fall whenever possible, and heat-beads to cook on, and reclaimed timber as firewood.  In getting a fire going, the use of everyday firelighters although cheap, sometimes produce fumes or smoke that isn't pleasant. Also you can only use them once.

 I believe I have located something that is a cheap, cost effective, eco-friendly alternative. A clean burning reusable firelighter combined with methylated spirits that burns odorless and can be used again and again. These are the EverFire fire-starting system. They can not only used as a fire lighter, you can use them to cook a meal with no other fuel source. Just place them on a solid non-flammeable surface light them up and place your pan right on top.

The EverFire bricks are made from a 100% natural mineral which is used in various industries and it's totally environmentally friendly.

The bricks are soaked in a liquid accelerant and lit. The creators recommend methylated spirits or ethanol as it is clean burning, with no fumes or smoke emitted while burning. Otherwise you may use any accelerant of your choice, but always be cautious and store in container of choice in a safe location out of the reach of children. Watch their accelerant tests.

The bricks are then lit with match or lighter and the fuel burns. Burn time for metho is normally 10-12 minutes. When cooking only with EverFire firelighters by placing the pot or pan directly onto the firelighters you can increase the burn time to around 17-20 minutes.

  I've found by the firelighters' third use it will give the longest burn time. Burning itself in and having its "pores" burnt clean of the manufacturing process I believe.

After many uses the firelighters will eventually break down back into their natural form. All you need to do is crumble them up and place in your garden as it is very good for your soil and plants.

After their full burn time, and after 15-20 minutes cooling-down, it can be returned to a fuel bath and recharged. The big ones use between 50-70ml per charge. The small ones between 25-50ml. If you remove the firelighter from the fire and put out with a damp cloth, you will use less than a complete burn. Cooling the bricks reduces the thermal shock they experience when dropping into fuel, thus reducing the risk of cracking and becoming less effective. That said the makers suggest hat even cracked they will function effectively.

I found that a single EverFire brick, soaked with methylated spirits was not only hot enough and long lasting a burn enough to send my Fire Box stove red hot but also boil enough water to make two cups of tea and toast some mini-hot-dogs, as well as starting a fire to make lunch on.

For the purposes of domestic fireplace use, its possible to leave the bricks in the fire until it's died and then retrieve them for recharging, to no ill effect. In some scenarios if it is easy to remove, you can do so. This will increase the overall life of the bricks. In closed fires like Coonaras, or other enclosed indoor fires, you can ease he retrieval process by starting the fire with the firelighters towards the front of the fire. After about 15-20 minutes of fire-starting, just remover firelighter and place somewhere safe to cool.

Once cold return to storage container and recharge for next time. The creators suggest they will last for 30+ fire before they are at risk of cracking and crumbling, but this may vary with use. They seem pretty hardy to me and if treated gently, I can't imagine them just falling apart.

A question came up about dousing the EverFire bricks, should the need arise, and what happens if they get wet or are submerged/dropped in water? smothering with damp cloth should be sufficient to extinguish a metho fueled brick, but if it comes to pass that a brick is submerged in water, thy will absorb it, reducing its effectiveness. However correction this is as simple as returning the brick to it's recharging station and soaking it in fuel. Letting it soak for about 30 minutes. Remove the brick, light it and let it burn out, repeat this process a couple of times and the EverFire brick will steam off any absorbed water will be as good as new again.

In all Webers, fire pits, BBQs, Spits, open fires, or anywhere you need to light wood, heat beads, charcoal, or even to use by themselves to cook or create a heat source. As well as a heat source and limited light source, they can be used as a mosquito repellent by adding a few drops of citronella oil to the metho it is fueled by. Multi-function is huge selling point in my books.

The EverFire brick can be cut and trimmed by hacksaw cutting, should the need arise. The bricks themselves are surprisingly light, even when soaked. Jeff the creator suggested pre-soaking the bricks in metho and then bagging them individually before putting into a tub for transport. A small bottle of fuel can be brought along for on the fly recharges but three pre-primed bricks gives a lot of burn-time ready to go. I did so on a recent hiking trip and we had hotdogs and tea on a windy bench and minimal weight addition. The standard sized bricks weigh only 100g but the larger jumbo bricks weigh 250g and both absorb more fuel and burn longer. Three individually bagged bricks, and a lighter fit nicely in a take-away tub, and seal in any fuel vapors nicely.

EverFire sells their blocks in three sets:

Combo 3: 500g containing 2 large bricks and 1 standard brick. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

Standard 5: 500g containing 5 standard bricks. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

Jumbo 5: 1250g containing 5 large bricks. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

I found these to be easy to use, kid and pack-safe, light and handy fire starters as well as a novel stand alone fire source. Methylated spirits are a cheep, safe and easy to manage fuel. My thanks to Jeff for the free sample pack. I can see these becoming a staple of my camping and backyard firepit kit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Home Front: Rules of Threes (or more)

In survival, the rule of threes is a quick reference guide for how long one can generally stay alive in a survival emergency.

Originally posted on my birthday on Breach Bang & Clear you should go check out the other good reads there too! go there t orea dthe full article. 

Normally, it contains the following:
  •   You can survive three minutes of severe bleeding, without breathable air (unconsciousness generally occurs), or in icy water.
  • You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold). Think blizzards, the North Sea, at a Celine Dion concert ...
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without edible food.

    Monday, May 14, 2018

    Home Front: "pocalypse stew"

    Having a hot meal is a simple way to both bolster morale but also provide much needed nutrition and energy, especially in adverse conditions. Being able to reliably produce a meal can be as good as magic in the field. I had the chance to do so at a recent post-apocalyptic Live action role playing camping trip, whee we had to set up themed camp with a deadline, and a pot-luck dinner had been planned. There was a total-fire ban in place so no campfires were allowed, but portable gas burners were allowed if supervised. I had brought along my SOLIDteknics AUS-ION Noni pot and some apocalypse themed austere ingredients.

    2 x cans corned 340g Hamper Corned beef
    1 x can 822g Edgell potato tiny taters
    2X McDonalds tomato sauce
    2x instant noodle sachets bumbu & fried onions

    The corned beef cans come with a key to open them by twisting the top off. The Tiny Taters can didn't have an easy open option, however, I had my trusty p-51 opener and made quick work of the can. I up-ended the cans of corned beef, which had the texture and appearance of cat-food and set it to sizzling. when the fat had rendered, I poured in the whole can of tiny taters, water and all (waste not, want not) and then stirred it through. This made for a very wet stew so I was glad I had the noodle sachets to add. in they went and then the McDonalds / KFC ketsup. (I save everyone of these I get for just this reason.)

    After a little cooking down, I served it up into the mugs and mess-tins of my compatriots and we had cooked, adult meal to go with the tear-aparts and dips we had combined. It was quite salty (the noodle-bumbu is mostly salt) but palatable and by the next day, there was only half scoop worth at the bottom of the pot.
    Not a pretty meal by a long shot, but it was fast, (taking less than 10 minuted from pile of ingredients to edible food in mugs).

    Different spice and sauce mixes could change the palatability if available but could even be skipped entirely. Canned corned beef has an approximate shelf life of 2-5 years but who knows how long it could last and be safe to eat? Certainly worth considering if outfitting that cabin-in-the-woods or bunker. I certainly keep a couple of cans in my bug-out food crate and you should to!

    Some additional variants that would make improvements to an otherwise very plain meal. A handful of rice, or oats would give additional body, as would dry beans or split peas. Some jerky or even fresh meat scraps would be additional and offer a delightful surprise in some mouthfuls. Bear in mind to soften beans, rice and jerky additional cooking time (and water) will be required. As well as the Bumbu powder sachets saved from ramen noodles, I also save the sauce and oil sachets which can add flavour and body to just about any meal. Remember that fats and oils are an important dietary requirement and energy rich as well as carrying flavours. They also aid in the cooking process if you fry things, so keeping some in your supply is multifunctional.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    Review: Range - Treeo hammock

    An innoxious bundle concealing great potential
    main sheet, tree-straps and guy-lines unfurled
    My idea of ideal hanging out  usually revolves around a hammock.  I'm very fond of them. They're my preferred camping option in a variety of settings and I've amassed quite a collection of them, from the massive  Hummingbird family hammock to the versitile Sierra Madre nube tent family of hammocks and accessories  to the unconventional lines of the hooded Go! outfitters  hammock tent and the inspired Tensile style sky-tents all the way to the classic lines of the Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock.

    So, it takes something a little different to catch my eye in new hammock design. The kind of design seen in the Treeo. You may remember I did a Wish-lust piece on the Treeo a while back, well, it finally arrived and I eventually got around to testing it out. Designed with the outdoors in mind, the designers wanted to create a product that could be utilized by anyone, anywhere:

    Easy set-up made easier with extra hands
    From the avid adventure seeker to the family who spends summer nights at the park, the simplified design can be taken full advantage of with it's 3-in-1 capabilities. From hammock to ground sheet to rain fly within seconds (minutes, realistically), the Treeo is like the Swiss Army Knife of hammocks.

    The real magic behind the Treeo is the Quick Draw Cord System found at either end (inspired by the simple draw-string backpack). By pulling the cords tight on each end, it creates the hammock function which then attaches to the tree strap and carabiner. The heavy Blaze Orange paracord of the draw-cord adds other slinging options too, depending on the space you have at hand.

    By slinging the guy lines up high you can hang the Treeo above your encampment to provide shade from the sun or shelter from rain. And finally, by pulling the cords apart and staking each corner down, the Treeo can be used as a beach blanket or ground cloth. Made from Ripstop Nylon Material known for being lightweight, durable, and waterproof thanks to its PU 2000 coating. It features triple-stitched & taped seams preventing any rips or tears. The heavy paracord style drawstrings are made from single length of looped to enable it to be tightened from both corners of each end simultaneously.
    accessories in a zippered side pocket
    Doing so gathers up the corners and the short edges 213cm (7') to bundle into a hammock. The generous 274cm (9') long edge makes for a large hammock. The drawstrings then becomes part of the suspension rig. The double thickness 198cm (6.5') webbing 6.5' tree straps  are wide enough to be grippy to tree-bark without being bulky. They feature 8 loops sewn in at the working end with heavy bartacking to make very stiff and secure points to feed the included carabiners.

    bomb-proof webbing loops for optimal hang adjustment
    The webbing has a triple line of bright green trace threads run through it which helps identify twists in the webbing when setting it up. Twists in webbing reduce the stability of the loop against the surface it is holding onto and reduce the overall strength of the webbing to support the load (you). The webbing also has a eye-loop at end of its length to facilitate forming a knotless loop for hanging the hammock by feeding it through itself. The included steel carabiners slip neatly into these loops and take the drawstrings ably to ensure a very secure attachment.

    The combination of the long drawstrings, long webbing and the overall length of the hammock makes for a long span that can be bridged by this system, shorter distances are easily managed by adjusting the point at which the webbing and drawstrings are connected.

    snug as a bug in a rug. deep sides to snuggle under
    The four corners and the midpoint of the long edge feature well sewn-in webbing loops to be used as anchor points and tie-down points when used as a cover sheet or ground sheet. Four hefty aluminium tent-pegs and a bundle of guy-rope with slider tensioners are included to make staking out or stringing up as a shelter very easy.
    When in hammock mode, the corners are all drawn in tight so aren’t really usable but the midline loops are and could be used as gear hangers or stabilising tie-points if desired. The attached stuff-sack, (sewn into the mid point) also affords gear-storage, by putting a draw-string closing bag with a zipperaeble side-pocket. The pegs and guy-ropes all stow away neatly In that zippered side pocket when not in use.

    When packed down in its stuff-sack the system packs down to a mere 28cm x 23cm (11" x 9") and weighs only 1.3kg (2.8 lbs)

    solid stitching and impeccable finishing
    As a hammock, the ample expanse of fabric used affords a comfortable hang. Even with is classic “banana” shape, the broad sides allows a good spread and stretch in its folds. The PU coated fabric was smooth and whilst not breathable, it also cut the wind nicely, adding to the comfort on a cool windy day whilst testing it. I chose to lay on the uncoated side to avoid the “laying on plastic” feeling and was happy. The triple-stitched and taped seams held weight nicely and gave no impression of stretching . The Treeo certainly catches the wind, so staking out when used as a ground sheet is crucial. I suspect that when used as a rainfly, care will need to be taken ensure sufficient tension is maintained to avoid rain collecting in pools, nor the sheet blowing around negating cover.

    well placed stuff sack for slung gear stowage
    One thing I noted was the tie-down loops are not placed such that the Treeo can be used as a hootchie tent without some additional work. A couple of extra loops of webbing would suffice and I may look into setting this up myself. It’s certainly good size for it and that PU coating will make it excellent at shedding rain.

    included accessories from the zippered side pocket
    as a ground sheet it is Tactical Baby approved

    lots of leg room for lanky bloggers

    a comfortable and supportive hang for supervising playground antics

    Fourth mode: improv sail for kayak adventures?

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    Review: Yaasa Studios - Infinity Blanket

    Long enough to cover a Tactical Coyote
    Being cold is awful. I'd rather be too hot than too cold any day.   Fortunately we have the technology to battle the chill. I'm a big fan of curling up in the corner of a couch in a hoodie and wrapped in a woobie. Some of my favourite blankets have been the Go-Anywhere by Tribe Provisions which have pride of place in my car as picnic blankets and car-trip bundling as well as my go-to camping blanket.  I was excited to see a Kickstarter come up with a new blanket project in the form of the Infinity Blanket by Yaasa Studios.

    Soft enough to bundle a Tactical Baby
     The chief selling points of the Infinity Blanket are its size, reported at  2.0m x 1.5m (80" x 60") and the material from which it is woven. a 72% organic cotton and 28% Celliant blend. Celliant is high tech fabric. Reported as a revolutionary, patented technology that recycles the body's natural energy (heat) into infrared (IR) light that is emitted back into the body's tissue.

    Infrared is widely recognized for having positive effects on the body. The use of Celliant® fibers converts the body’s natural energy (heat) into infrared (IR) light and emits it into the body’s muscles. They propose that over 60% of your consumed energy is lost simply through heat escaping your body. and that rather than simply trapping your body heat like a space blanket might, Celliant® turns that wasted energy into infrared light. The result is a responsive textile clinically tested (in one paid study) to benefit the human body, utilizing a blend of minerals and proprietary ingredients embedded into the fiber’s core.

    The Infinity Blanket blends Celliant® material with organic cotton to create a fabric that recycles and emits infrared light. On average, (it has been estimated) your body emits 100 watts of energy in a given moment. The Infinity Blanket is a unique way of taking advantage of that energy! This supposedly increases blood flow, energy, strength, endurance, and decreases recovery time after an active day, supporting a more restful night's sleep.

    Drapes as a cloak
    Magic fiber! I can't comment much on it's clinical properties, but it was enticing enough that I wanted to check it out. What I can comment on is that it is very soft, and comfortable. It breathes nicely and is quite water resistant. Upon ariving (too late to be the Giftmas present I had hoped it to be, the struggle and gamble of being a Kickstarter backer) I noted its lightness at only 1kg (2.2lbs) and with an overall density of 320 gsm, and how well it packed down. For some reason I had expected the blanket the blanket to be looped, like an Infinity scarf. It is not. A simple edged rectangle, with rounded corners. I have a lot of polar fleece throws which have come to be a winter and camping standard and the Infinity Blanket blows them all away as far as comfort goes.
    Wraps like a burrito to use as a sleeping-bag
    Hemmed with an internal blanket stitch, the two-tone grey and cream material is thick and buoyant feeling without feeling "fluffy". The pile is quite dense and uniform feeling, almost felt-like.

    The colour tones are relaxed and subdued, and very reminiscent of the old grey woolen Army blankets but without the smell or scratchiness. It is sufficiently heavy to not blow off in a breeze and maintains a nice drape without being heavy (at 1 kg vs the wool Army blankets 2kg) to sleep under. It's also very comforting to snuggle under when feeling a little under the weather. Be it cold or hangover riddled. Tactical Baby is very fond of it and that's generally good enough for me. Good thing I got two! when folded longways twice and rolled up it makes for a very hikeable bundle, especially when bundled with bedroll straps. I' m going to have a go at making some leather straps myself but till then , dual slip-knotted looped string will do.
    Rolls into a tight bundle for easy packing

    The Infinity blanket has a nice drape to it as well, and will form a solid shelter with just a ridgeline line and corner pegs. I'm considering sewing loops into the corners and midpoints, much like those found on the original woobie, the classic Poncho Liner to serve as peg anchors to make an impromptu pup-tent. The dense cloth is very good at blocking light and would make an excellent sun-shelter.

    The Infinity Blanket is manufactured with green practices in Europe and uses certified organic cotton. Up to 12 plastic water bottles are recycled in the production of each blanket. This makes it an environmentally responsible product and should give you that warm feeling of righteousness.

    Stretches to make  pretty decent shelter

    Whether you're an athlete looking for a tissue oxygenation recovery trick, a wasteland survivor bunkering down for the night, or simply someone who's looking to improve sleep; The Yaasa Studios Infinity Blanket might well be perfect for you. I really like mine and it goes into an overnight outing pack-list these days.

    Lastly a post-production note from Yaasa Studios themselves. They noticed an issue with the weave and wanted to explain to backers,this kind of openness from a vendor is very reassuring.

    It has been brought to our attention that some of your blankets were too short compared to the dimensions (80" x 60".) intended. We took immediate action and reviewed this with our manufacturer in Germany.

    During our investigation into the cause of the shorter dimensions, we discovered that it occurred in the raising and stretching process. The weft yarn (this is the yarn woven in the width of the throw, and the length of the travel size) Celliant fiber contracted more than expected. This resulted in the blanket coming in slightly under the specified width, or length.

    Due to this being such a unique new fabric, the factory technicians are still familiarizing themselves with its behavior. We want to assure all backers that we used the material as specified and marketed in our campaign for all of the blankets, and you were not by any means shorted on the Celliant material. This issue lies in the tensile properties of this new fabric, and while this resulted in shorter dimensions of the blanket, you will still experience the same benefits from the blanket.

    Despite our earlier prototype run, this eventuality was unforeseen until we had completed a full production run. As this dimensional issue was not our intention, we appreciate all of our backers for your feedback and bringing this to light to always ensure quality control. We truly apologize for this inconsistency and hope that the quality and benefits you receive from the blanket outweigh the shorter dimensions.
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