Friday, April 17, 2015

Home Front: Marina

We live a 5 minute drive from a marina, less than 2km by foot. I have often considered bug-out-by-water as one of our options, especially given how close we live to the Bay and that has been one of the motivators I've had to get into kayaking.

The marina we live near  features a 280m long pier, which meats up with a 350m long, curved piled stone breakwater which protects a anchorage with around 120 berths, most of which are suited to docking 2 small yachts.

Both the pier and the breakwater are topped with concrete slab walkways and fitted with guard rails on the windward side. The pier has its own small floating dock and we often see fishermen trying their hand to catch the fish that inhabit the bay from it in the evenings.

The breakwater has a harbourmasters hut, on a raised platform around its 250m mark, and at this point, it is around 240m away from the closest point of the spit of sand that makes up the closest bit of shore.

The marina proper is walled, with heavy duty fencing wrapping around its pier-side perimeter, with spiked ramparts, the marina's facilities are well protected from casual intruders. A motivated individual could make it over these walls without too much trouble, or even less if you approach it from the water, but this is designed to keep people from wandering into private property and making off with supplies, or interfering with the docked vessels.

 A variety of small boats are docked here, from yachts to a few powered launches and even a couple of small sport fishing boats, with a selection of runabouts mored to the marina walls as well. There are only limited facilities in the walled off marina section, but it is both raised from the water level, and walled off from the pier.

These traits are what make me consider the marina and the pier as bug-out locations. They are removed from the main thoroughfare of modern urban life, whilst being not too distant as to make it untenable to range out from.

The sparse local resources bring both a risk and a boon. Apart from the boats, there is little to salvage or scavenge, which would reduce its value as a raiding target to most people. If the threat faced required isolation, say a quarantine, and there were not many able-bodied people to worry about breaking that quarantine this might well make a very appealing site. Prevailing winds and the action of the waves give you some sound and smoke dissipation concealment,  and by the very nature of location, you might well have the advantage of obscurity. Assuming you were not concerned with natural risks coming from the water, or weather, or from able-bodied threats able to invade from the sea, a location like a marina might well make a good bug-out location to head for, even if you don't intend to use it as a staging point to flee by boat, their primary resource.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Cast iron pots

Following on from my article on cast-iron frypans, I thought I'd cover my collection of cast-iron pots as well.

Sharing the same qualities that make the cast iron pans attractive to apocalyptic cooking an preparedness, namely their ruggedness, good thermal transfer and thermal retention properties that is part and parcel with cast iron products. I have quite the collection of cast-iron pots, which get more use in regular rotation in our regular cooking, beside we like to cook a lot of long and slow.

The down-sides are the same too, its heavy, a touch brittle and can rust if not maintained. There is also quite a variety of sizes and styles of pots as well, but the key points to look for are the combinations of lips, handles and hangers. Lids are of course highly desirable, and also have some variety. I have a range of pots, from the massive 20L, through to the tiny 150mL ones.

As I've been collecting these for some years, I've come by them in several different ways. The biggest pop cam by way of Omega and her own reenacting past, the lipped large pot can from a disposal store, where as the two mid sized pots came from second-hand shops, and didn't come with lids. The littlest ones came from a cookware shop, for fancy sizzle cooking, but cast-iron is cast-iron!

I'm most pleased with my legged Dutch Oven, with its tripod feet allowing it to be placed over coals and cook in ashes without needing a standalone tripod, and settling on uneven ground without spilling. It also comes with a lipped lid, with a solid handle. The lipped lid lets you stack coals on top allowing you to cook evenly on all sides.
A wire handle lets you hang it from a tripod, and collect it from the fire easily, essential when cooking over an open fire.

For those screaming at me for the rusty look of my pots, giving them a good clean and re-season is usually as easy as a bit of a scrub, heating it till good and hot to burn off any stuck food and water, then re-oiling. I use spray-on vegetable oil from a can to get a even thin layer, and it works really well, as you can see here, following camping for 6 days over Easter.

I bake cakes and bread in mine (for cakes I tend to nest one pot in the other as seen here, with spacers between the pots to distribute the heat a bit). Delicious and magical for all the ramen-noodle and sachet cooking crowd.

I also cook directly in them, both stews, chili and roasts.  They also serve to keep hot food hot, as different dishes are prepared, and as well-sealing serving containers, keeping both germs, bugs and critters out, especially if closed when its sizzling.

The other thing I look for in cast-iron pots is nesting for storage and transport. Cast-iron is be necessity, heavy, and sometimes difficult to pack, store and transport, so having all that in one place can be an advantage (or not, depending). I like mine to nest.

I take them away with me on almost every camping trip, which I'm not hiking all my own gear, which is when I'd use my lightweight gear, like the Optimus: Terra-solo cook or the Power Practical: Power-Pot. For old-timey camping or homesteading, you really can't go past the rugged and robust charm of cast-iron though. It takes a lot of abuse, cooks delicious food and lasts a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wish Lust: DrinkTanks Offers the World's Largest Growler & Personal Keg

Sometimes hydration takes a second place to tasty beverages, even when you are out adventuring, camping, or doing what it takes to survive. At other times, just having some luxury can make all the difference to morale that can keep you going, and give you the ability to overcome an obstacle.

Sometimes you also want to have enough to share, and thats where growlers come into play

The folks at DrinkTanks have already produced a 64oz model and their 128oz model, the Juggernaut just reached it's Kickstarter goals and will be in production soon. Here's what I can tell you about it.

 The Juggernaut weighs 1.72kg (3.8lbs) with a volume of 3.78L (128 oz, or 1 full gallon, 8 pints) and sits at 37cm (14.75") tall without the kegulator, and 43 (17") tall with the Kegulator on. The body is 15cm (6") wide, and the body to the edge of the handle is 22cm (8.5") wide.

The design incorporated both double wall vacuum insulation to keep beverages cold and a revolutionary dual-bail clip cap system that is leakproof and preserves carbonated beverages, exceedingly longer than any screw cap system.

 The Kegulator, is an auto-regulating CO2 keg cap.
This acts to to keep your growler pressurized, as well as including a dispensing tap. The Kegulator turns the growler into a personal, portable mini keg! This incredible technology allows you to control the CO2 pressure for any beverage ranging from 0-40 psi. Home brewers can now force carbonate small batches without having to bottle condition. This is perfect for me and my mead and cider brewing, but apparently it also suits kombucha lovers who can can use it to gain full control over the carbonation of their brew. The Kegulator is compatible with both our 64 oz and 128 oz growlers.

I was really impressed with the look and functionality that the DrinkTanks team indicated their Juggernaut (and the original Growler) will have, and I backed them. I was thinking of having the ability to haul my rewarding foamy beverages into any abandoned warehouses, on the sides of mountains, or as I wander aimlessly through the Australian bush avoiding the grasping claws of the undead.

I shall do so secure in the knowledge that my beverage will be secure in its double walled, chilled and pressurized Juggernaut.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Samurai Studio - FinShield

I was sent one of these by the good folks at Samurai Studio, who have just launched a Kickstarter (yes, I really do back a lot of things from there) and this is their current project. This is the FinShield, a wearable guard for fingers in the kitchen.

The design is very elegant, and simple. A classical heater-shield shape with a split finger ring, which can be stretched to adjust to fit a variety of finger sizes.

Samurai Studio say the FinShield's design motto is “Always be protected, never cut yourself again.” and it seems that the design is pretty spot on to that.  I've been cooking since I was about 6, and over the years, I've nicked myself many, many times. My off-hand is covered in little nicks and scars, I even picked up a couple more over the weekend whilst camping. A wearable guard like the FinShield is a lightweight and elegant means of protecting against this, especially when a lot of repetitive slicing or chopping is in order.

These few little cuts I has over the camping weekend weren't serious, but they did annoy me throughout the whole event, and in a time where first aid or even good personal hygiene is hard to come by, such as on long camping trips, or after a disaster, keeping safe from this kind of incidental injury could become quite a significant concern. Those little stinging cuts to finger tips, and knuckles and be both distracting and if left to get infected, a considerable safety issue.

The ring is spot welded to the shield, and is probably the greatest source of weakness for the system, especially if you are going to be adjusting the sizing, but once its set, I cant see it being overly at risk of breaking.

The steel is ferromagnetic, so you can simply stow it up on a magnetic knife rack (if you have one) or on a fridge magnet. Keeping it with your knives would be a good reminder to use it, especially if you're long in the habit of cooking and cutting without having had finger armour before.

I didn't find I had any issues with it dulling my knives, as the blade edge never came in contact with the shield, only the flat of the blade. the curved sides ensures that the blade stays off your hands, and into your food (or whatever it is you are cutting).

I also found it was useful when I was honing knives (which I do a lot of) so it serves double duty.
Check them out of you're forever nicking yourself, or just want to avoid it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Platatac - 200rnd Pouch

Here's a pouch I picked up recently, second hand. It's a Platatac 200rnd pouch, designated as a 2009 design, but is no longer in current stock.

I was looking for a larger pouch, to carry bigger incidentals that I might have on the outsides of a pouch, and need rapid access to.

As with all Platatac pouches, this is ruggedly made, to withstand the rough treatment of ADF troopers in the field, and doubly so as this is made to carry 200 rounds.

Double stitched along all seams, and using as few seams as needed, its construction is from the hardy 1000d Cordura nylon, and features a box-sided lid, to give both adequate retention and cover from environmental, like dirt, sand and water getting in and fouling your linked ammo, magazines, or other gear stowed.

Featuring fully four sets of three-row reinforced PALS/MOLLE tabs on the back, as well as a pair of webbing brackets, it again tells of this pouch's designers wanting it to hold up to heavy loads.

Two channels of three side-by-side PALS/MOLLE webbing on each side offers additional attachment points for accessory pouches as an added bonus.
The Fastex fixed tuck-buckle ensures that the pouch stays closed when needed, with a fairly quiet action, although I usually prefer an adjustable closure action.

I found that the pouch will nicely hold bulky items such as this old style plastic canteen, as well as over five STANAG magazine sized MS Clean kits.
 It would also suit a set of binoculars, meal kits, or items such as a raincoat, poncho or other auxiliary kit. I have been considering how much 7mm dynamic rope I can jam into these, so stay tuned on that.

All in all, this is a great pouch, on the larger side of things, and I presume that like this one, there are still plenty kicking around, even though Platatac don't have it on their regular retail site any longer.

They DO however still have the 200's smaller cousin, the 100rnd pouch, which is essentially a cut down version.

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!

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