Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Platatac Young Guns belt & Braces

I thought it was time to cover some of my more martial kit. I have a saying, "when the going gets tough, the tough get MilSpec". Here is a piece that I've found to be very useful. I'm sure we've all had the less than ideal experience of having a belt load of tools and gear sagging and digging into your hips whilst you're running about, being very distracting. Distractions lead to poor survival outcomes. One way to avoid this is to carry less gear, which isn't really in my first choice.
The second option is a better belt. Here is what I've come across that fills that gap. Here is the Platatac Young Gun Belt.

This belt is filled with stiff foam padding and lined on the inside with a breathable mesh, reducing sweating and sticking. The outer is the standard Codura 1000d, which I chose in khaki, as usual. There are three bands of MOLLE running on the left, back and right giving ample attachment options, and I was especially interested to see that the back panel is made up of the loop side of hook-and-loop, for fitting to the internals of a pack, to act as a waist band. This kind of modularity really scores points for me and it is something I've come to expect from this brand. I used it as a place to put my Stargate LRP name-strip, and morale patches. The MOLLE on the left and right flanks also features an extra-wide attachment point,which is the perfect place for a drop-leg sling, or a holster, whichever is most appropriate.
The belt itself curves, tailored in a wide C shape, rather than being straight, adding to the ergonomics of the unit when worn under load, but something important to note is that this is an outer belt fitting, and doesn't actually include a belt to fasten it. However, any belt up to 50mm wide can be fitted through its middle and I used my old trusty webbing belt to secure it, with a piece of scrap paracord weaving as a fob (because I like having busy hands and don't like throwing away scraps.) I tend to use this belt as my "first layer" of kit carriage, with an entrenching tool (not pictured) at my back left, my drop-leg dump pouch from front left, and utility pouches and canteen on the right hand side.

One more excellent feature of this belt are the four D-rings that enable the fitting of the belt to either a vest or armour carrier, or to a set of braces such as the Platatac Combat braces. I was fortunate to get a set bundled in with my belt, after talking to the guys in the shop, and after some time spent fitting and adjusting (as I have a skinny torso, and the braces would easily suit a large manly man) I got a setting that was comfortable enough to wear long term, even with quite a load on the belt.

This is really touch and well put together piece of kit. I'm really satisfied with this set as a load bearer, and good for keeping my "first layer" gear together and on hand, be it for LRP, wilderness adventure or responding to a disaster!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: LazerBrite

I've loved cyalume sticks for as long as I can remember, for festivals and parties as a boy, camping and LRPing as an adult, and as part of my bug-out-bag, and emergency kit in bot the car and at home. However, they are one-use-only. Even if you get more than a single night's light out of them, which in a pinch, and in a cold climate, you may, once the glass phial of hydrogen peroxide is broken, the chemical clock is counting down. This is a real shame be cause it not only means you need to replace the glow-stick, the waste builds up. Ask anyone who cleans up after raves or music festivals.
 Then along came the crazy folks from LazerBrite with their very ingenious product. Instead of a once off chemiluminescent mixture in a translucent tube, they fitted high efficiency LED's to a  translucent tube. Or rather, they fitted the LED to a nodule, which can be threaded onto a translucent tube.
These modular lights have threaded ends at either end, enabling the LED to be fitted either facing into, or out of the tube, lending itself to being used either as a traditional looking glow-stick, or with the fitting of one of the "glow-dome" ends, produce a diffuse, wide area illumination source. The added bonus of this is that the lights can be tailored to the need, and reconfigured at a moments notice. Simply unscrewing the heads and rotating the bulbs allows one, the other or both LED's to be facing in or out as the need requires. No tools required. Brilliant!

The second generation "Multi-Lux" version of the heads have three settings; Low, High and a two-flash pulse. This gives not only several options for both signalling, but endurance and light discipline purposes. Another awesome feature is the range of colours available in the LED's; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and White. They also offer an IR option, but due to ITAR regulations, were not able to ship me any (yet). Battery replacement needs a coin or flathead screwdriver to quickly achieve. There is also a lanyard end which warrants mention, allowing either the whole tube, or in fact just the LED head, to be fitted to a lanyard, or affixed to your kit. I plan on using mine as a "light grenade", sort of high-powered LED-Throwies for not only my Stargate LRP, but also just camping fun. Its also worth mentioning a key feature that several of the tubes can be daisy-chained together, as each head is threaded front and back, to make a sizable pole of illumination.

Modular, rugged, 10 year battery shelf life, small, lightweight, waterproof and reliable, with up to 75 hours of battery life per head, reported to be visible 1 mile away. Whats not to like?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Gerber Bear Grylls Basic Survival Kit!

I came across a pretty good deal the other day on Catch Of The Day which I thought I would share with you here. I'm not usually one to buy into the "celebrity swag" but looking at the contents listed, I thought this would be a good investment, not only for my own collection, but also as a guide for what goes into a good "survival pack". I did Outdoor Ed whilst living in Canada, and I've kept a variety of packs going over the years. I've seen the Bear Grylls show, and some of the products that have been branded with his name, and whilst I may be skeptical of the contents of the show, I most certainly enjoy the extremes he is willing to go to to prove what one could do to survive. I also enjoyed seeing the swag of Gerber tools including Bear Grylls branded kit on AMC's "Walking Dead" but that isn't quite where we're up to yet. There is more to survival in a disaster than just hacking and chopping (as much fun as that may be). Other needs need to be met, and a kit like these can go a long way to seeing to those.

Included in within the bright orange ripstop baggie is a second, waterproof bag and the following: a signalling whistle, always a good inclusion, as yelling is hard, and anyone can make a loud noise with a whistle. I have a three year old, and if she can effortlessly give an ear-splitting whistle with it, so can you, even if fatigued, injured or otherwise occupied. a packaged set of long beaded matches and a striker, good for getting a fire lit in less than ideal situations. A cotton ball, for kindling. Waxed twine, which has many uses, be it binding, mending or setting snares. The copper wire is just that, snare wire, not easily chewed by the poor unfortunate critter that will serve as an impromptu meal, but much hardier than just waxed twine, a length of nylon cordage which whilst not paracord, would serve in a variety of circumstances, and is light and bright. A Bear Grylls branded fire steel and bottle opener which is a great addition to any kit, as they are all-weather, very long lasting sources of of fire.
Also included is a very sweet little Gerber Paraframe-Mini blade, sporting a drop point, half serrations, a skeletonised handle and frame-lock. This hungry little knife makes an excellent addition to any survival kit, so much so that I tried to push it on my partner to be part of their EDC, but was admonished to leave the kit whole, as intended. The final part of the kit is a little booklet with Bear's how-to's. I haven't had a look yet, I'll leave it as a surprise for when disaster strikes.

I haven't decided where to keep this kit, but I'm glad I have it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Opt Silicone Armor iPhone case

When I upgraded to my iPhone 4S, I decided that I needed a new, rugged case.  I had looked into a Kickstarter program for a rugged, waterproof case, but when the big fuss over what the iPhone 5 would be like when it was released, and I chickened out. big mistake. There was no 5, and the 4S as we all know looks just like the 4. So I backed out, and thus, missed out. In the mean time, I needed something that would protect my new shiny iPhone. In my foray into the local iPhone skin shop, I came across this. Here is the Opt Silicone Armor Case. This isn't the first semi-rigid rubberized iPhone case I've had, however I think it is the best one I've had.

It has a grippy texture, rather than being slick, with ample knobby structures to give it positive hold in my hand, but not so much as to make it snag when withdrawing it from ones pocket. The case itself has openings at the back for both camera and flash, and an opening to show of the Apple logo, but fits so snugly that I haven't had an issue with dust accumulation. The earphone jack and mic opening is also sufficient for every headphone I've used with it thus far (a problem I've encountered in past) and the data port at the bottom works on the bases I have.
Most impressive however is the wire exoskeleton that holds the whole thing together and gives it its rigid structure, as well as protecting the corners (a common breakage point, I've noted). It also gives the case an attachment point for the included webbing and carabiner, which is an excellent means of retention. I clip mine onto my vest harness, along with my keys. This not only keeps my phone from falling, but the distance it gives is pretty much perfect for me to check my phone for messages and access to apps, all with "drop everything" security. It isn't the full immersion case that I was initially looking for, but it's sturdy, grippy and latches onto my kit, belt, bracelet, whatever. Good compromise, and keeps my shiny toy safe.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: CountyComm Breacher Bar

Here's another awesome piece of steel from the good folks at CountyComm, who's keychain-tool goodies I have reviewed previously and i wanted to write about here. This is the EOD Robotics Breacher Bar. When I first saw this, I initially thought it was a solid blade with an unusual flat tip but after further investigation I discovered a much more interesting fact. It's a pry-bar, chisel and chopping tool all in one. Made from a single slab of 1045 high carbon steel and reported as being  heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of over 45, this is a very solid piece.

Because of it's hardening,  it can be hammered either along the spine, or at the base, to chisel, puncture or get good purchase for prying.
There are four holes drilled in the body of the handle, three centrally, with two at the base and two along the midline with one diagonally offset. This offers a variety of attachment points for adding code grip and lanyard loops for retention. I opted for paracord, using one of the patterns is saw on CountyComm's website.

I really like the feel of the solid utility this piece offers the hand, which very nicely corresponds to functionality in the field. I've used it to pry apart packing crates, lift the corners of heavy stacks and pry jammed doors and windows. I also wear it on my webbing as it fits nicely between the bands of MOLLE, (such as this piece of Platatac accessory strapping) and adds to my carriable tool kit when I am out at my Stargate LRP events, looking for all the world like a knife, without the edgy risks. This is great tool for all kinds of close-at-hand breaking, opening and smashing where a bigger tool is either overkill, or impractical to carry about.  Be warned, it it -not- stainless, and will require some maintenance to remain rust free.

Here is a movie that CoutyComm put out, demonstrating some of the features and uses of this awesome tool!

Review: Packlight

I am a firm believer in the Kickstarter program which enables people with great ideas but no capital to ask for backers to see them to their seed money. One such project was by the folks at Big I Design who had the idea to pack 45 high performance LED's into a flexible silicone body, make it USB rechargeable. I knew I needed to be a part of this, so I backed them. The reward bundle that I chose was pretty awesome, in that I got two Packlights (one red, one black) with USB charging cords for each, two packets of  Reflective tape and as an extra bonus two Solar Recharging Units, complete with plugs and fittings to recharge mini-USB, phones and iThingies. Pretty awesome bundle. 
I like the idea of a water resistant light source, that I can strap or affix to things and leave there to illuminate. Torches are great, but are not always the best tool for the job. The flexible body of the Packlight means that I can bend it across the back of a pack, the trunk of a tree or onto a wall. Each light has two hanging holes, which will fit a good sized carabiner or loops of paracord lanyards. The ends also house neodymium magnets, the "thin" end makes sufficient contact to support the whole unit from the side of a fridge under its own power. 

One of the most exciting things about the Packlight are its variety of lighting options. A tap of the power button gives a low output illumination of 1, 2 or 3 of the columns of LED's, as a battery life indicator. Holding the power button brings up the lights to full with the following options: Full Power, Outer 2 Columns, Middle Column, All lights flashing in a 1.5 sec interval, all lights flashing in a strobe pattern, rotating column (1, 2, 3) lights, SOS of all lights.
They are -bright- with a listed output of 260 Lumen, I see stars after looking at it.The lights come in at 330g which i think is pretty good considering the size and functionality that comes with the package. 

Aesthetically the only downside is the battery-pack/circuity node, but all that power and programming has to go somewhere, and when strapped to a backpack, I'm sure I wont care. We'll have to see how the USB plug pans out, I have a feeling I will want to tape it over if I know I'm going to be rained on a lot, but otherwise, an awesome addition to my adventure kit!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review: Ontario Black Wind

Say hello to my little friend. This is an old faithful of mine. Let me introduce the now discontinued Ontario Knife Co.'s Black Wind.

It came into my collection when my parents moved to the coast in 1999. Their house was surrounded by tea-tree (which for the non-Australians, is a dense, scrubby tree) and they wanted a path cut to the beach. Sure I could have used a machete, but I'm a two-hand blade kind of guy. I could have used a chain saw too, but that might have alerted the neighbors to our plans. I had seen this in the display at a disposal store in the city, and decided to offer my parents to cut the path for the cost of the tool to do it. They were dubious. Dubious that I could clear them a path, dubious that I could do it by hand, and dubious that I could do it with a sword. It took me about 45 minutes, and I cleared a path wide enough for two to stroll down, with overhanging branch cover, for about 170-180 meters, in about an hour, through to a clearing which led to the beach.

The blade is a single piece of 1095 steel, 76cm from tip to end. It has a short cross guard built in, and a tightly wrapped paracord grip. The whole sword weighs 900g. It is both marked and was marketed as a "katana" and whilst it is a gently curved, single edged, two handed blade, it isn't really a nihonto it is however, more than a machete. I was cutting tea tree tree trunks and branches as thick as my wrist in single cuts. The entire piece is powder coated with black paint, except the edge, which was razor sharp when first purchased and appears to have been sharpened with wire brushes, as it had many micro-serration like lines along the whole length of the edge. It sheen many years now, and lots of chopping later, and I gave it a test cutting not too long ago and this is the result... Bamboo shinai slats, dry but very flexible. The one in the middle was shattered (hence why it was replaced) but as you can see they all cut very convincingly. It's weight fills the hand nicely, the balance is well suited for both one or two handed wielding, and whilst a little shorter than I am used to, this rigid and stiff blade makes short work of any gardening tasks I've used it for. It comes with me on every camping trip I go on.

The scabbard is kydex, and comes with a wide webbing belt loop, and several kydex loop fittings on the back and fed a length of himo to assist in tying it off. I moved the webbing from opening at the top of the scabbard to fitting it through the included eyelets around the middle balance point, so I can wear it on my belt in approximately the the right position for a katana, blade up. It has an odd scimitar looking pattern pressed into it, which was odd. The blade is held into the scabbard with a very secure and easy to fit by friction alone. It's never come undone inappropriately, and with the adjustments, sits on my hip very comfortably. I've found that when cutting through thick or tough material it can be a bit jarring, as the paracord doesn't provide much padding for shock resistance, but does give a good positive grip. This is the blade I leave by my bedside. I have far nicer swords, but I can trust the Black Wind to do what it does. It was marketed at battle ready and I have no doubt it would excel at that.

I call it my Tree Chopping Sword, and until I lay my paws on a Zombie Tools blade, this is the tool I'll be reaching for to cut my way to freedom and survival when the dead rise.

For Christmas. Zombie Christmas....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Platatac CSI Folder.

Before I get into the more juicy and hard-core content from my friends at Platatac I thought I would cover what is probably an unsung winner in their range. Let me introduce to you the Platatac C.S.I. Folder This is an zippable, A4 capable folding administrative binder. I got mine in khaki, as its unobtrusive in my work environment, but still fits within my aesthetic (healthcare IT fixit-booyah, in case you were wondering). You'll note that as well as the subdued Platatac plata-skull logo on the front, which I love) there is a large square of hook-and-loop for patches (AFT's Ranger and MilSpecMonkey's Zombie Hunter decorating mine) and a business card holder. The whole folder is made from Cordura, the same as all of Platatac's gear. I filled the carry handles with a couple cable-ties each, giving them a little bit more substance, and ensuring I always have a few more at hand, JIC.

The folder zips open fully to reveal a variety of storage options. On the right hand side, a clip board which is backed with some sort of semi-rigid material. The left hand side is where the action is! There are 4 card holder sleeves, in two of which I keep my work and personal business cards, the other two I've stored cards I've collected and ID when needed. I found that my cards frequently spilled out, but a small clip sorted that. There are three pen pockets, and a larger pocket that I keep a multi-tool and yet more cable-ties in. 

A firm believer in redundancy, I have a small adjustable wrench and another tiny multi-tool with LED attached to that pocket via a recycled HDD magnet. There are two small general purpose pockets, (one with a hook-and-loop closure, the other with elasticized mesh), in which I keep memory-sticks, a Dexim iPhone battery ,  spare headphones, needle and thread, electrical and milipore tape and safety pins. All things I frequently find need for. I also keep a permanent marker and have recently added my fully awesome UV laser to it. 

There are also two internal document pouches, one opening at the far left, which is accessible when the folder is being carried, if the top is left unzipped. I store a variety of paperwork here, as well as my iPad, which has been a real boon, not only providing a case for that, but also giving me a handy place to stuff paperwork that comes my way. The second document pouch opens between the general purpose pouches and the pens-and-cards pockets, essentially a secret compartment, where I store my sensitive papers and infrequently needed items.

The final feature of this folder is that behind the left hand side of the folder, and closed by sets of hook-and-loop, are two middle-seam opening plastic map windows, which are capacitive, i found, and not only have been useful to use when orienteering, but will also protect my iPad for use "in the field" in the rain.

I love this folder, I've had a few over the years, but I can honestly say that I can not expect to retire this, unless Platatac comes up with something even better! Boardrooms or bushwacking, a very solid piece of adminstatum!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Crumpler John Thursday 100

 After my last Crumpler review I got some good feedback from the company, and thought I would go on to review the other things of theirs I have. It seems I'm all about brand loyalty, where its due. In this case, I feel totally justified. So, here we go. 

This is the John Thursday 100 pouch. 

I bought it sometime in 2003 I think, to go along with my very first digital camera. I had already had good experiences with Crumpler, having one of their plain black original messenger bags (which I've regrettably since gifted away) and wanted something to secure and protect my precious new tech. After a little umming and ahhing, I settled on this little guy. It matched the colours of my original bag, which was nice, but also fitted my camera really well. 

Neoprene in the body was not only elastic to hold it in place, but offered padding, which I felt I would really, really need, given the adventurous clambering I often do whilst fully kitted. Sometimes you just NEED to be up that tree with your camera and packed lunch, you know? I did try several pouches, as I recall, but settled on one that matched my other kit, and had the happy kokopelli looking logo. It helps that the Kokopelli mythology rings a very sweet tune in my rather multicultural ear. However, on with the pouch. Lined with the same 300D rip-stop liner and1000D Cordura outers as the other Crumpler porducts, coupled with neoprene this pouch has never given me pause to worry about falling apart, or exposing my toys to harm, but the lid does not cover the entire pouch, leaving the insides a little exposed to incidental rain.  An internal pocket in the lid has ample room for the SD cards of the day. Both the lid and the internal pocket are hook-and-loop closures.  

On the back, the pouch has a openable, double sided hook-and-loop closure for a belt loop, and a lanyard loop at the top which offers two means of attachment, although I've always used the belt loop. That double-sided hook-and-loop is the only drawback, as some of the stitching lifted after time, needing to be re-sewn to ensure positive closure and retention. The pouch fits nicely over the shoulder strap of my messenger bag, as well as on my hip. It even feeds nicely into MOLLE and I've worn it as a part of my Stargate LRP kit when i still had space for it, and nothing that filled the same purpose that matched. Now that I'm using my phone as my primary camera, I dont have as much need of a camera bag, so I'm looking to repurpose it. 

Snack-pack is likely!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wish Lusts: Shovel- Crovel

I thought I would add another item to my wish-lusts, especially after one of my readers comments, so here it is, Gear Up Center's very hard-core Crovel Extreme .

This would be a serious upgrade of the old "folding entrenching tool" that I have had for year, and take camping and Lasertag LRPing. Serious in that "the world has ended, good thing I brought my Crovel" way. Which I approve of. 

The website tells us that the Crovel has a 10 gauge shovel head, which is axe/knife sharpened on one edge, and saw-toothed on the other. The handle is 20" long and is hollow, affording 14" of storage with a milled aluminium threaded plug to seal it. At the far end a S45C steel hammerhead sits, with a chisel/adze sharpened crowbar end, hosting a nail puller to boot. The shovel head and fittings are available in OD, black or Desert Tan. The handle is paracord wrapped, for grip and as an emergency source of cord. With a couple of extra features like a bottle opener and lanyard holes, this looks like an ideal tool for some serious breaking, bashing and generally being useful in a variety of ways. Presumably it digs a mean hole as well.

From the sounds of it, this is an extremely hardy tool, with high durability components very well put together.  The last you you want is a shovel, or crowbar, that comes apart in your hands at the wrong time, leaving you stranded, stuck or without a well maintained latrine! This is 28" of digging/hacking/hammering/prying hardcore tool.

I want one! 

Here's a clip of it doing some of the things the text claims.

I double want one :D 
In tan.
I've been good ....

oh, PS, there is a Kydex sheath for the head, and a steel spike to replace the aluminium plug, in case more pointy parts are desired ...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: CountyComm Micro Grappling hook

Here is part of my EDC that pushes me into the realms geekery, in that I have my very own pocket grappling hook. Ever since seeing Luke swinging over a Death Star chasm, I knew I needed one. This is the best and closest thing I've come up with so far. The CountyComm Microhook . Now, I've used a full sized grapple to scale trees, and even to cross a fast moving creek, so I know what it takes to support and carry a human in full pack, armour and weapons. (in my case bow and LRP sword, but hey ...). Let me be the first to re-iterate CountyComm's disclaimer, that -this- grapple is NOT for doing that. 
This is a tool, first and foremost, not a piece of climbing equipment (mores the pity). It was designed to clear tripwires safely.  I affixed mine to a long length of paracord, which I shortened with what I think is a series of "quick release" or "jerk knots" (please, anyone, tell me what it's called, I use it a lot to shorten up cord). [it looks a lot like a very tightened up Chain Sinnet] In addition, I have a steel bottle opener on a split ring at the "pull-away" end, making an impromptu Kusari-fundo , you know, just in case, as well as being generally awesome at parties. Six little cylindrical rare-earth magnets have found a home on the cord as well, rounding out this as an EDC item. 
However, on to the grapple.... It is machined from solid steel, and has a good weighty feel to it. The end-cap unscrews to reveal the internal cavity, where the three steel prongs live. I have added some felt padding to stop them rattling and protect the tips somewhat. The prongs screw into the recessed holes in the tip of the body and the body then screws back onto the base piece. CountyComm suggest the body can be fulled with sand or shot to give it extra mass for a further cast, which is a clever idea. Sand being in abundance in a variety of theaters where clearing IED's safely is a day-to-day job.
I have, in my day-to-day, no need to clear tripwires or mines, but i do on occasion have to snag cables and wires in ceiling cavities, and on more than one occasion, have been called on to retrieve things caught in trees, or in fact, cast a line in order to get some rigging started. My only concern is that the prongs don't seem to seat all the way into the recessed holes, and about 1mm of the threaded area pokes out, perhaps the holes need deeper drilling? That said, this tool has been of great use, is very cool, and I'm only to pleased to have it dangling off my belt. Perhaps I'll never swing over a chasm with it, Princess in tow, but I'm glad I have it, and I've won the admiration of my geeky-peers with it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wish Lust: Axe - BFT01

I received an email from the good folks at Platatac, which included a deal from one of their suppliers, a local company called Hardcore Hardware Australia and immediately my interest was pique. I love supporting local organizations, especially when they make awesome things. From a quick look at their catalog listing I saw that they only stock five items currently, but the ones they do are -gorgeous-.

I'm a big fan of little knives and big swords, and they certainly didn't disappoint on the knives, but when it comes right down to it, when you want to do some real work, you want an axe. There I something deeply satisfying about chopping wood, be it for a campfire, felling trees for timber or just wood for the fireplace on a cold winter night. I love it, (often to the detriment of my kendo partners) and having a dependable and comfortable axe makes all the difference.

The problem with a full size axe is they are big and heavy, and I've often made do with my little hatchet when space and weight has been an issue. The BFT01 would fit that gap -beautifully- I suspect. Made of differentially heat treated D2 tool steel, and paracord wrapped, I was impressed with the smooth lines, and the elegant simplicity of a well machined tool. I also really like the multifunction design, with a penetrating end at the back of the head (useful for applying drainage holes, acquiring purchase and generally breaking things) as well as the pry-bar end at the base of the handle. The MOLLE compatible sheath is reported to be Kydex lined, which makes it appealing for someone like me who is often tossing, dropping and falling on or with my gear. No self-stabbings. (I have scars from my little hatchet doing just this, tearing through a patent-leather sheath.)

 The big question for me then is, following seeing the BFT01 I saw a promotional picture of their LFT01 which -also- looks great, which one to I wish for under my festive tree? I like the looks of the furniture on the soon-to-be-released LFT01, but the pry-bar tip and size of the BFT01 is very appealing.

Hard to say, too hard without having a chance to hold them. Looks like its time for another trip to my local Hardcore Hardware stockist and see if I can contain my gear-lust!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Multi-hammer

As i mentioned in a previous post the festive season is upon us, and I like to give "useful" gifts. My expanding family has meant I've needed to consider getting the most value for money, whilst not wanting to compromise on functionality or the coolness. I was lucky enough to come across such a source in Zazz who put together several hampers of gadgets and thingies, catering for Dads, Mums, Kids, Geeks and the like. In those hampers, were some inexpensive beauties like this: a hammer multi-tool.

It may not be immediately obvious what good a multi-hammer would be, until you are out camping, or picnicking and have to pound something with a rock, because "who packs a hammer?". Well, I do, but its something I hear commonly around campsites. I wanted to be able to give something to my in-laws who camp a lot, that would be "value-added" and not just a gimmick. This seemed to fit the bill. A solid an weighty piece, the striking head and claw is split and held together by the grip, and a latch, opening up to form the jaws of a pretty meaty set of pliers. The handle is wood strip, and the latch is curved to fit the hand quite nicely. 
Within the handle are a set of multi-tool blades, including a drop point blade, a set of wrench sockets, Phillips head, saw blade, flathead and a serrated blade. The tools are all sharp, and the steel looks good. I was pleased with the action and stability of the tools. It came in a nylon case (which I thought was a bit flimsy) but overall, i think it would make a very good glove-box addition. Certainly good enough for the occasional "we need to cut/hammer/pry something". 

I feel very comfortable giving these as "around the table" presents, where the price is low, but the thought that counts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Platatac FUP pouch

I have a metal water bottle that I carry around wherever I go, but often just want a mouthful here or there and having to rummage in my fairly voluminous courier bag to pull it out, then stuff it back in. I am fortunate that I have a very good relationship with the good folks at Platatac who are very patient with me and my wacky requests. I walked in, waved my bottle at them, and after just a moments came up with a match. The pouch they came back with was their FUP 5.56mm Universal Pouch.

I tested the fit, and was pleased with both the snugness, but also the depth of the pouch. It held the bottle well past the center of gravity, which meant I wouldn't have to worry about it swiveling around to jam me in the ribs in my adventures. The pouch is made of the same rugged Cordura as all of Platatac's gear, and my favourite feature of this pouch is the range of methods supplied to secure it. As well as hook-and-loop, there is a length of shock-cord and two very sturdy press studs. Whilst the flap of the pouch wasn't long enough to stretch over my 1L bottle, I found that by wrapping it sideways, and affixing with the press stud. It gave a very good grip, added to the coverage of the bottle, and kept the flap secure.

I chose the khaki colour, which fits nicely with my colour scheme these days, having moved beyond uni-student Goth solid black. It fits nicely on my messenger bag strap thanks to Platatac's very own PLMRS (Platypus Light Modular Recovery System) PALS MOLLE attachment system, which I love. Having the clip built into the webbing of the pouch means each unit is good to go without a MALICE clip. Each strip had its own press stud closure, and is reinforced with a nylon stiffener. The pouch itself has a drainage grommet in the bottom, always a bonus when you get rained on as often as I seem to manage.

Now, the original use of this pouch is to hold ammunition, and the product page will go into that fully enough. As I've said before, I don't have access to firearms that would necessitate is kind of pouch, but I have every faith that if I did, this pouch would accommodate my needs for carrying clips.

It's rugged, fills my need and fits my aesthetic. I couldn't be happier.

Review: 8 Screwdrivers In One

Another little item I picked up from Zazz as a part of my Festive Giftmassing hamper is this "8 In One Screwdriver". Not something I would have purchased on its own, but came as a welcome addition to one of the hampers I purchased. I have a pretty ready and varied set of screwdrivers, both in my tool-box, a set in my car, and a combination of multi-tools and keychain-tools on my person. However. not everyone is as much of a walking tool-magnet as I am, and I like to provide for my friends.
This tools wide body fills the hand, and to get to the tools, the arms need to be pulled out, much like the Medical Droid in Empire Strikes Back and each of these rotates upwards to the central position to lock into place. There are three Phillips head and three flatheads, each of various size. The seventh arm contains a "hidden" tool, which unscrews to reveal a tiny flathead/Phillips head for delicate work. Each arm can be withdrawn independently, although obviously only one can be fitted to the central position at once.
One neat thing I noted was that with a tool fitted, the whole unit could be stopped from rolling by deploying two more of the arms to act like a bipod. It didn't affect my ability to use the mounted screwdriver, as they folded neatly into place but meant I could place the tool down after driving one screw, to fit another, without the rather round body rolling away. One final nifty feature is that the base red nubs at the base of the tool house LED's, which would shine to illuminate the work-area (but I didn't manage to fit it with batteries before it was time to wrap it!

It's reasonably put together, the plastic seems sturdy, but I have my doubts about the steel used. I have had too many issues with cheep steel in tools, and have come to recognize it by feel, and this gave me pause enough to put it in the "gifting pile" rather than put it in my just-in-case stash. As I say, its not the kind of tool I have much use for these days, but would certainly find a place in the desk or kitchen drawer, or glove box of most suburbanites I know.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Ironclad Landscaper

I do a fair amount of rough-and-tumble things. Salvaging firewood and lumber from skips, gardening, home repairs, clambering up roofs, crawling under cars and running about in the bush.I've sliced them up doing high-wind kite flying. I'll be the first to admit I don't have blacksmith or cow-poke hands, but neither do I have flimsy and dainty paws. I value my skin, and so I wear gloves. In the lab, i wear latex or nitrile. In the kitchen I wear oven-mitts. In the dojo i wear kote and when doing "outdoor" work, I wear work-gloves. My current set are these Landscapers by Ironclad. I've had them for a few months now, they work well.

During the 90's when I was big into cyberpunk, i had a collection of leather fingerless gloves, which I destroyed, either with the spread of my span, or just by jamming my hands into rough spots.  I noticed that I was tearing out the stitching in the gusset (the between-the-finger part) and getting nicks on my bottom-three fingertips. Solution? Get tough gloves. I've had a succession of such gloves, of different materials. Kevlar pads, pig-skin, dear skin, Mylar thread, what-have-you. 

I opted out of fingerless gloves a while ago, but in this age of capacitance iThings, I have found it very handy to snip the tips of my index and thumbs. It got tiresome to strip a glove to answer a call, snap a picture or fire off a zinging tweet. The stitching pattern allowed for me to do this without greatly affecting the structural integrity of the gloves, whilst maintaining good cover for the rest of my monkey-paws. They are hard wearing, not taking a mark or scuff from my last few outings or adventures. They dry quickly and don't smell.

I like the leather palm, stretch fabric upper, which lets my hands breathe, keeps them safe from incidental scrapes and keeps them fitted well. The hook-and-loop straps are subtle and unobtrusive, just doing their part in keeping them snug, or connected to me and my gear when I'm not wearing them. Which I'm glad of, as I'm not a big fan. The knuckle padding is good, for when my over-long arms are dragging below me and I wear them out LRP Lasertagging, where I waggle my trigger finger saying "here's my safety, Sar-Major..." I picked these up at my local hardware mega-warehouse, and whilst they had a wide range, these are the ones that suited my need, fit my hand and so far I've not been wrong.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...