Thursday, April 26, 2012

Home Front: Working Working

Hi readers,
Apologies for lack of content over this last little while. A big project of mine is going through another phase of approvals, so I have been busy fact-finding and writing documents.

More gear, tools and reviews soon, I hope!

Unless there is a global EMP, in which case you won't be reading them online...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Under Armor shirts

I came away from Tough Mudder, with a congratulatory head-band, and a celebratory t-shirt, from their sponsors, Under Armor . As I staggered around after completing it, trying to find my team, I wandered past the merchandise tent and had a look at what they had going, and saw another design that caught my interest. As it turns out it was another Under Armor shirt as well, so I came away from the event with two. Since then I've worn both, a couple of times and have been very impressed, so thought I might share my findings with you all. First of all, I should mention the fit. The general philosophy beneath Under Armor seems to be that they make close fitting garments in order to keep maximum contact between the wearers skin and the garment. This makes sense when you consider the material used is pitched as having their "Signature Moisture Transport System" which wicks sweat away from the body, keeping you cooler and drier. I did a little searching to find out what material they actually use in the shirts.

The best guess  I could find was "63% Nylon, 23% Polyester, 14% Elastane" blend, which would account for the "ultra-durable 4-way stretch woven fabric" that is reported by the manufacturer. Both the stretch and wicking are dead on the money, and whilst I happen to choose a looser fit, mostly to give me torso a bit more "body", I have really appreciated the "give" that the elastic fabric has. It is very comfortable to wear, and certainly gives the impression of being hard wearing and functional. One of my two shirts is in their "Loose" fit, the other "Regular" rather than either "Fitted" or "Compression"but both shirts are from the "HeatGear" range, which are stated as suited to temperatures between 75-100oF (which is 23-38oC). As well as being wicking, the shirts are light, and breathable, which no doubt is part of the design of this range, but is also reported to be 30+ UPF (blocking 96.0 - 97.4 of UV light), impressive for such a light, and light-permeable fabric. Being both an anti-pick and anti-pill material, I expect these to be very hard wearing shirts.

UA's website purports "anti-odor technology" which prevents the growth of odor causing microbes, keeping your gear fresher for longer. I havent yet worn one of these shirts for long enough for that to have been something I can test, yet, but I think that I'll be wearing them a lot in future adventurous endeavors, both as a base-layer, a solo-layer and I also intend to wear them as named, under armour! My regular readers can expect to see me doing my best "Operator" impersonation in upcoming costume events, and I've worn these out clubbing, where I don't mind showing off perching, striding about or dancing my tail off. They certainly saw me clear camping over Easter; cooking, chopping and tenting...

One caveat to this is a message that UA themselves put out there: "WARNING! This product will melt when exposed to extreme heat or open flames, posing a risk of serious injury where melted product comes into contact with skin!"

So, not to wear fire-twirling, volcano spelunking or dragon slaying; CHECK.

Friday, April 20, 2012

100th Post: Questions and Answers

Hi there!
Thanks for reading, and hopefully, thanks for continuing along thus far.

I'd like a moment to re-welcome you to Apocalypse Equipped, which I've been writing since the beginning of December 2011.

This is a place for me to write about one of my passions: acquiring, using and carrying hardy and rugged gear that I feel will keep me prepared for disaster, if and when it strikes. It's a testbed, a review of my collection and a lifestyle both talking about, and thinking about preparedness.

It's place for me to review the various rugged, nifty and needful kit that I've accumulated, for every-day preparedness in the event of accident, disaster or world-shifting end-times Apocalypse, be it zombies, triffids or Mayan divide-by-zero errors.

I've been thrilled to get some great comments along the way, people either pointing out alternatives, calling me on lapses of logic or using this as a guide for their own choices. Brilliant! Likewise, I've been astonished by the amount of traffic I've gotten; I repost to Twitter, Google+ and Facebook (please feel free to add me on any, if you haven't already) and feel very grateful for the reposts that either my readers have given, or that my review-ies have given me. Thanks one and all!

So, now over to you, faithful readers ....

Is there something else you'd like to see me review? Gear, goodies, tech and toys? More of my semi-ranting "Home Front" posts? More "Wish-Lusts"? Or even another video-review? Is there something I'm missing?

I'm taking requests, lay it on me, and I'll see what I can manage.

So, thanks for the presence thus far, and I hope you'll continue reading!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Sea To Summit - Ultra-Sil Duffle

Do you ever find yourself with suddenly more loot than you were expecting, and no way of stowing it? I have, on numerous occasions. Having a few strategically placed recyclable shopping bags is all good and well, and they are no doubt a boon on the environment over the standard plastic dolphin-choker supermarket baggie but they aren't what I would call rugged. Most are good for living in the boot of my car, or in the kitchen shelf, awaiting runs to the supermarket, and perhaps day-trips without much hauling, but I like to be ready for serious salvage and swag. I was fortunate enough to be provided with a very nifty solution this last Giftmas, which I will share with you here.
This is the Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Duffle and it is very cool. Ultra-Sil is a lightweight silicone treated nylon by Cordura, and the bag weighs in at 80g, and yet opens up to a 40L capacity duffle bag. The trick to it is that the whole bag carries itself in a key-chain sized stuff-sack, and unfurls to give the user a 56cm x 28cm x 25cm bag, complete with sturdy twin-strap carry handles and a well fitted zipper closure. The stitching is all Bar tacked at the stress points, and never gives me any hint of stress with the loads I've placed on it thus far (mostly clothes). Being a silicone treated fabric, it is very water resistant, but its worth noting that the seams are not sealed, and it is not intended as a waterproof bag. It comes with a key-chain attachment flap, so you can fit it to your keys, or dangle it off whatever gear you are running.

That said, for what it is; a lightweight, carry-compact yet spacious sack, I am very impressed and grateful that it was gifted to me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: United Cutlery Trophy Master - Sidekick Tanto

I haven't covered any of my knives for a while, and thought this one would be a good addition. This is the United Cutlery "Trophy Master" Sidekick skinning knife, in "tanto". I don't have a link back to the manufacturer, as it seems United went Bankrupt in 2006 which is sad, as I've picked up a lot of their products over the years, my Lord of the Rings wall-hangers for one. Anyways, sad news at that is, I can still give you a review of this blade, and they are available through a variety of on-line sources it seems. So. What can I tell you about this knife? Firstly, it's made from corrosion resistant 420 J2 steel, which is both hard-wearing and low maintenance, but also holds a reasonable edge. It features an integral finger ring, a curling tail and a crenelated aggressive thumb grip.The polypropylene sheath is fitted with a belt clip and retains the blade with a pop-out mechanism which mates with the finger-loop on the blade. This is a little blade, being only 15.5 cm (6 1/8") long overall, but considering its purpose, that may not be a concern for you.
The Sidekick fits my hand very nicely, I have long fingers and I thought that might be an issue for a "naked" blade without scales, but the design lent itself very well to my grip. The "fingers through, thumb on the spine" technique for holding this knife enables some precision and control under circumstances that might otherwise be challenging with a "make a fist" grip. Whilst being designed as a skinning-knife, this version's "tanto" point is somewhat at odds with that, however, it has suited my needs very nicely, as a slicing and penetrating blade.
 The overall cross-section is quite stocky, which does interfere with thin-slices, but offers a very sturdy and stiff cutting edge on the other hand. The false edge of the spine meets the tip very neatly, and allows for a very sharp point to be achieved. Similarly, the straight edge of both the "tanto" tip and the main edge of the knife make for easy sharpening, but i have found that the thickness of the blade overall does not lend itself to keeping a finely honed edge.

That said, this is a dependable blade, that doesn't slip from your fingers when they are covered in goo and gore, is small enough to be manageable in confined quarters and has a beautiful aesthetic to it. It's a solid little knife, and whilst it isn't my first "go-to" blade, it does sit on my bedside table, just in case.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Nukotool TiGBi Skull keyring

I take my accessorizing very seriously, and like to think that I do so in my gift-giving too. Whilst reading my RSS feed, I came across a review by Matt of JTT and saw these little guys, and when I did, I was taken aback, and knew that they would make someone very happy (and potentially, someone else very unhappy). Being in a wonderful committed relationship with someone(s) who understand my predilections is a tremendous thing, especially when it comes to romantic gift-giving. That and a clear policy on threat-countering appropriate levels of force. That's where this cheery Jack Skellington looking fellow comes in. It really spoke to my Gothic background, and being machined from a slab of titanium didn't hurt either. This is the Nukotool TiGBi and it's pretty.

Canadian tool-smith Norman Lee produces these (and a variety of other prototype and production pieces in Ti and G10) in his garage workshop, and keeps a blog of his toolings. I was so taken by it, that I happened to lean over one eve and point it out to my partner Omega, who's eyes lit up and was giggling as maniacally as I was. I filed that response away, and placed an order. These keychain impact-tools are cut and tumble finished from titanium , and have the option of a heat-treatment bluing, but I opted for natural, as omega is more of a red, than blue, gal. The cuts around the outer surface of the disk, and finger-holes are smooth and feel very nice in the hand. The lanyard/split-ring/bead-chain hole is nicely placed to attach this tool to make a very effective key-fob. Being titanium the weight is very manageable. The teeth notches are a little jagged and slightly irregular, which adds to their charm, without affecting the sleek outer finish overly.All the cuts are angles "inwards" to give a plug-like effect that is visible, but not overly noticeable in-hand.

When this one arrived this week , I was overjoyed that it had made it though customs, and I could give it as a birthday present (almost) on time! As you can see, it fits the hand very nicely, and the eye/finger holes means you never need to worry about losing your grip on your keys in the event you are startled by an aggressive space-alien, Mad Max marauder or creepy sparkling vampire stalker. The idea you could "leave an impression" of that gleaming titanium smile with your surprise visitor, allowing you to strike them senseless with your keen Gothic aesthetic appreciation of both skulls and space-age materials, whilst not interfering with your nails, jewellery or knuckles appealed to me.

Be sure of the legality of such an item in your area before carrying and utilizing in moments of surprise!  Otherwise, what a lovely and cute skull-face keychain fob!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Sardine Can survival kit

Here's a quick one today. Going through my over-stuffed Messenger bag, I realised that I had a few items in there that I hadn't reviewed yet. This is one of them. This is the Sardine Can Survival Kit that was a gift from a friend several years ago, and has lived in the outer pouch of my bag since. This light little can is just the kind of thing that I like having around, and knowing it's been there has given me a sense of confidence, even when I've never needed it. As you can see, it's put up with a lot of abuse, and has kept on keeping on. 
Contained within its waterproof and airtight seal is a variety of items useful in a single container which also happens to light enough to float! I haven't broken mine open to check the contents, obviously that's a one-time only exercise, but here is a list of what is included: non-aspirin pain reliever, adhesive bandage, alcohol prep pad, antibiotic ointment, book of matches, compass, chewing gum, sugar, salt, energy nugget, duct tape, fire starter cube, first aid instructions, fish hook & line, note paper, pencil, razor blade, safety pin, reflective signal surface, tea bag, waterproof bag, whistle, and wire clip.

This is a nice little kit and it has remained as part of my EDC thus far without any incident. In fact, I am pretty sure I traveled to New Zealand with it in my bag, without incident. I know I have removed it before, so as not to be hassled by Airport Security as counter intuitive as leaving your survival kit at home when taking an overseas and over-mountain flight ... but that's the crazy world we live in.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: Jackeroo Shirt

My recent foray into Tough Mudder gave me a reason to break out my safari shirt: Our Team, the Funk-A-Mentals had a 70's theme, and my best offering to this was this khaki safari-shirt, by Jackeroo, the same people who brought you the Hooded Vest I reviewed previouslyy. This was also a Giftmas present, same year, same batch. Made from a fast-drying nylon outer and polyester liner as the vest, and hardy stitching throughout, this is a durable shirt, that just happens to look like it fell out of Jurassic Park. I don't mind that at all, and happily wore it to work on a number of occasions.
One of the great features was the pectoral pockets which fasten with hook-and-loop and have an internal pocket on the left side as well. This was sufficiently well closed to withstand the Tough Mudder mud, water and crawling around, and not loose my spare Contour GPS battery. It also features a extendable fold-up collar, for those times when getting a sunburnt neck doesn't appeal. Another interesting and well placed feature is the mesh lining around the shoulders, and vents under the arms. I found that in an urban setting, the material actually made me a bit sweaty, whilst out and about in the wind this wasn't nearly as much of a problem. Somewhere along the line the shirt picked up a weird blue stippled stain over one shoulder, which reduced its work-wear potential, and I popped a button adventuring. These things made it an ideal piece of clothing to put through Tough Mudder. I can tell you, that is a pretty harsh test for clothing's durability.
I saw a lot of discarded gloves, shirts, socks and trail-packs. I wasn't planning to discard anything, though at several points as I was caked in an inch of mud over my entire body I did feel like shedding layers just to drop that mass. However, the material of this shirt sloughed off the mud fairly easily, didn't get snagged or hooked up on any of the obstacles, be it the Berlin Walls, trench crawls or cargo nets, and once I got to running, dried speedily and broke the heavy headwind nicely. The sleeves were cut such that I could do all the crawling, climbing and scrambling I needed to without hindrance.

As you can see, it got fairly cruddy, but after a couple of washes, it was as good as new. Or at least, as good as "before Tough Mudder". If K-Mart still stocks these, I'd be strongly considering picking a couple more up, in long-sleeve, to add to my adventure-wear.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: EDC

 So, this is what lives in my Crumpler messenger bag, which I carry with me everywhere I go. I've had some discussion with my partner Omega, that perhaps I carry either too much stuff, duplicates, or items that could be replaced with lighter kit. I really value both her support and helpful opinions. She was dead on, my bag is weighty. 

So, here is a recap of what I carry;
Crumpler Thirsty Al pouch  filled with paracord, on the outside strap.

inside the bag I carry:
Electrical tape
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Sewing kit
Cable Ties
Pad (great for injuries)
Spare glasses in case with HDD magnet
Waterproof pouch with q-tips
microfiber towel
specimen jar with hand-wash
collapsible cup
Set of Allan keys
Tape measure
my lunch and an apple.

On top of that, I also pack my kendo gear, and a variety of other things, depending on the day, but this is my EDC.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Contour GPS

So some of us may think that we have our priorities straight when it comes to disaster preparedness and response, we have our EDC squared away, bug-out-bags filled and stowed, pantries stacked and indexed but here's the thing. When people (and by people I mean the people I see doing this online, on the news and myself...) see something heavy going down, they often whip out a camera, take some snaps, maybe film some to go up on YouTube and then deal with the situation however they may. There are those who go out of their way to see exciting thing up close and personal, and when they do, sometimes having your hands free to deal with the situation is more important than getting it fully in frame with the right aperture settings.

For those people (myself now included) there are the helmet-cams! These little, robust cameras are designed to be strapped to ones person, their kit, or whatever, and give you an "I was there view " of the action they put themselves in the way of. Here is my review of the one I recently purchased and put through its paces. This is the Contour GPS. This little nugget of technology houses a 135o lens, and will capture video at 720p at 60 frames per second or 1080p at 30 frames per second. It will also take continuous stills and has some smarts to auto-adjust for lighting conditions. It features built in GPS and has a Bluetooth option. The Bluetooth option allows you to configure the cameras settings, and check the alignment with your iThingy acting as a viewfinder.

An omnidirectional mic allows the sounds of the action to be recorded too, and its gain is also adjustable to cut out high-speed wind noise. The body of the camera is a well machined aluminium tube, which houses all the electronics, the GPS antenna and the Bluetooth card slot. The lens is centrally located and is built into a 180o rotatable swivel, to allow you to mount the camera and adjust the angle of its capture. Twin built in laser-sights allows you to level the picture as there is no view-finder, or any display options internally. The removable battery is USB rechargeable, and the micro-SD slot takes up to a 32Gb card. There is a toggle switch to move between pre-set setting options.
The case is marketed as water-resistant but it is NOT sealed, the end cap is plastic, which slides and locks into place but it by no means watertight, or even dust-proof. That's not to say it doesn't fare any worse than other camera battery-covers, but not what i'd hoped for in an otherwise rugged camera. So, i also bought the waterproof case. which is rated for dives up to 60m deep. It latches down at the front, and has a magnetic induction slide-switch to operate the camera (only works to turn it ON, with mine though however ... very disappointing bug). The back-cap is the Achilles-heel of this device.

Both the waterproof case and the main camera share a rail-attachment system, that allows for a number of kinds of mounts to be fitted. The camera comes with an adjustable goggle-strap mount, and two adhesive "flat-surface" mounts. that slide and lock into place along either side of the camera. I've mounted this to the side of my kendo men helmet, to the shoulder of my Platatac Bravo hydration pack and so far have managed to only get a few "straight" shots. Learning is part of the fun. What ISN'T fun, is the difficulty I've had getting the camera to actually film when I want it to. There are four sets of indicator LED's on the main body; a battery indicator, a memory indicator, a "status" indicator and one for "recording". Between these, and the press-button power button, and "slide-to-record" switch, you'd think someone tech-savy would have a breeze getting it going. Not so much. The combination of "press-and-hold" and "secret extra un-labled button" make for a clumsy system that requires getting used to before you capture that big exciting event. Like several hours of laser-tag, (which I missed the exciting parts of) or some good kendo footage (also didn't record when i thought it was...)

I did however get several hours worth of Tough Mudder footage, which although askew by about 30o due to how I mounted the camera, and required a battery change "in the field" to get a total of 5 hours of the 5 1/2 hours I was doing the challenge, and am really impressed with how both the camera and waterproof case held up.

So, clumsy user-controls, and non-water proof body aside, this is a fun toy, and I plan to film a lot of things with it.

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