Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Platatac GBH-R hat

Since getting myself a tandem AquaYak, we've been getting out on the Bay a lot more, and I wanted to get myself some sun-protection for under my bump-helmet.

My dad had kept his US GI Boonie hat when he left Viet Nam, and I swiped it, but it seems as I've grown both up and out, and it's too tight to really be comfortable these days. I'm guessing his short-back-and-sides gave him a bit more room than my ponytail does, too.

I'd seen the Platatac GBH and GBH-R and thought it was time that I updated my cover. (1968 boonie on right, for scale and reference.)

I went in and after some back and forth to get the right fit, I settled on the GBH-R (which has a narrower brim).

This is a feature packed hat. Hats have features, you ask? Yes indeed. so, apart from the obvious; fit and cover, which the GBH-R provides with a circular stitched brim to add stiffness, it also features a sew-in cord chin-strap, with a traditional leather cord-lock (I remember teething on my dads). Inside, a mesh lining with hidden vents adds heat dissipation and wicking to keep hot heads cool.

I chose the pre-dirty looking ATACS-AU for mine, which is made of the windproof Nyco ripstop (the Multicam version is 100% Crye cotton ripstop). You can see it here up against my Multicam First Strike Snatch Bag  which shows off the subtle patterns of the ATACS-AU, this is my first piece of this particular camo scheme and it is "street capable", in that it doesn't particularly -look- like camouflage, in the way Multicam or Auscam DPCU does.

The GBH-R also features a hidden internal shock cord retention around the brim, with cord-k at the rear to adjust tightness. 

There are a very robust set of branch-loops around the side band, which are bartacked onto the hat, and these are both well spaces and generous enough to stuff a variety of items, be they local foliage, spares, or even lures.  I plan on rolling a coil of paracord around mine, following Stormdrane's fine examples

Lastly, the GBH-R features a 35mm x 35mm loop field on the crown for IFF patches and badges. I have a glow in the dark patch on mine currently, helping me find it in the dark of a tent overnight, or the bottom of a kit bag. 

I tend to wear mine "sides up" with the chin-strap acting as a retention loop. The hat has stretched to fit nicely, especially helped by some hot weather tree-cutting I did, getting good and sweaty, which also proved the quick cooling and drying properties of the Nyco ripstop. The other thing I like is that the whole hat is fabric, meaning it is both lightweight and crushable; when not being worn it can be mashed into a pocket, or into a pack, then pulled out, flipped open and it's ready to wear. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Update: United Cutlery M48 Walking Axe

I have some bad news, rugged and prepared readers. I took my UC M48 Walking Axe camping with me last weekend, along with my M48 Ranger Hawk tomahawk  and my Fiskars log splitter.

We were cooking and heating by firewood for six adults and four under 10's. This meant a bunch of chopping and we were lucky enough that recent storms had necessitated the Rangers chainsaw a couple of trunks. The Fiskars splitter broke the logs up and we used the three axes to break them up into workable pieces and kindling.

The Walking Axe performed really well, light and fast, and soon out performed the Fiskars when it came to the lighter pieces.

When I got the Walking Axe home to do some maintenance I was dismayed to find that the main spar of the head had developed a serious crack. On one side the steel had even spalled.

It seems the chopping and splitting was too harsh for this design. It's possible that this particular piece had a flaw in its metal, but given the placement, it looked like design flaw to me.

I was really disappointed by this, mostly because of how well the axe had performed in both firewood chopping, but also branch-clearing.

There is still a fair amount of metal holding the head in place, so it is still functional, but how long till a spectacular failure occurs, I just don't know. I will not be staking my life on it, that's for sure.

Still, it did good work, and I was glad to have given it a thorough workout. It will still sit by the door in the umbrella stand / home defense artillery shell, ready to fend off fallen branches.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: MuzzleShots

I've been unwell recently, mostly I think, due to a bout of bad water I had when I went camping last weekend. If only I had unpacked and used my LifeStraw ... As a result I've been slow on the content here. Remember folks, bad water and associated disease account for an estimated 4.1% of the total DALY global burden of disease, and cause about 1.8 million human deaths annually. The World Health Organization estimates that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

Which is why I thoroughly endorse  fermentation and distillation of alcohols for drinking and disinfection purposes! Contrary to popular uni-student-household myth, shot glasses are not indestructible,  so I asked myself, what was the most rugged way to drink my fortified beverages, and carry with me on my gear?

The grey, anodized aluminum MuzzleShot shot glass styled after the M16 A2 flash hider was the perfect addition to my collection of both shot glasses, AND tacti-cool kit. They are rugged, with smooth lines.

They even fit in my Platatac 40mm grenade pouches which gives me an extra tacticool-option for deploying them.

With a 44ml (1.5oz) capacity, these are bigger than the standard drink measure in Australia, but for recreational use, I don't think anyone will mind too much (drink responsibly). Flameproof
and slamproof we're talking serious drinking hardware here.

The anodizing is food-grade, but it is not recommended that these be run through a dishwasher.  I really like them, especially their design, texture and heft. This is a "glass" that will be with you a very long time!

If you need something bigger for your beverage, there is always the BattleMug ....

Muzzleshot Shot Glasses
Click the picture to go to ThinkGeek's store

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wish Lust reminder: Ergonomic Shovel

Hey all, just a heads up, if you were thinking about pledging for one of Stephen's modular ergonomic shovels with the cool adjustable mini-gun grip, you've got only 12 hours to place a pledge on his Kickstarter.

Go here for more details. Stephen tells me that the Shovel will be 100% USA made, for all you Berry Compliance people out there.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wish Lust: Bosse Tools - Ergonomic Shovel

I like me a good shovel, and I've had a few in the past (and have killed several) and when Stephen Walden of Bosse Tools got in touch with me to see if I were interested in his design which he is pitching on Kickstarter I was intrigued.

His design features a couple of interesting elements, which lend themselves to a disaster recovery and preparation mindset (As well as the everyday urban homesteader). 

Just looking at it you see the very obvious addition of a ringed handle in the middle of the shaft.  This plastic molded and fitted ring features a geared and locking system for rotating and adjusting the hand-hold, to maximize the ergonomics, customization and efficiency of your grip and use of the shovel, as Stephen puts it "you can do your job in one single motion - dig, scoop, and pitch - all in one".

The second aspect of the shovel which caught my eye was the u-shaped foothold, which lets you drive a boot down on the center line of the tool, rather than off to either side (as with a regular shovel). I've dented my shins often enough digging in my little veggie patch when digging to really have an interest in that feature, if nothing else. Admittedly, I cleared the turf for that patch with my e-tool , and I'd be weighing up its design andmaterials for melee combat much as I might for the Crovel on my Wish-Lust list but its a very innovative design, and if you are in the market for some fancy digging tools, I think this would be definitely worth a look. Get in quick, as the Kickstarter is ending soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Hydrogen-3 Workshops - Tritium bead

I know I am late to the playground when it comes to the cutting edge of self-illuminating lights, but I finally laid my paws on some tritium radioluminescence,  in the form of this gorgeous bead from Hydrogen-3 workshops.

For those of you who don't know, tritium (H3) is the ever so slightly radioactive heavy-brother of regular hydrogen, which sheds electrons as it slowly decays, which in turn excite a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass phial is is trapped in, and, tada, a constant (if dim) glow. With a half-life of 12.5 years, this isn't a "forever" light, but it also doesn't irradiate the carrier either ...

Hydrogen-3 Workshops offer a variety of cool ways to carry their range of tritium phials, (which they have with phosphors glowing in Green, Blue, Ice Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow, White), and the bead I chose was a six-sided AISI 304 stainless steel, handcrafted from a metal bar stock and milled to accept six 6 x 1.5 mm tritium phials.

The phials themselves are glued into the bead with the rather cool UV-cured Norland 61 Optical Adhesive and are recessed below the lip of the bead, for added protection.

I chose two each of Red, Blue and Green, for a classic CRT effect. Spinning it, I get a nice off-white glow.

 Adding the bead to my keychain was as simple as slipping it over one of my nifty titanium split rings and onto my Gar-A-Biner to go along with all my other cool EDC keychain tools.

As far as how well it illuminates, I've been able to spot my keys in the dark of my room, the foot-well of my car at night, and at the bottom of my bag, when rummaging at the pool. I'd say the green was the clearest to spot, but the red was not too far behind.

This was a pretty small sized phail for each, so I didn't expect much, but I think they will prove valuable when it comes to finding my keys in the dark of a foreign bedroom, underground lair or ditch when dropped evading zombies.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review: Hazard4 Labs: LaunchPad iPad sleeve

I've been keeping an eye on the upcoming products from Hazard4 Labs, who made the replacement to my old harness, the  RG harness that I keep the majority of my EDC in.  

They have finally released their Poncho (review coming soon!)
and I got one of these very cool cases thrown in for good measure, along with another item, which I have not yest started testing.

This is the LaunchPad iPad sleeve.

Made to fit the iPad 1 and iPad 2, with an internal capacity 28.5cm x 21 cm (11.1" x 8.2"), the sleeve is constructed from an Invista® 1000D Cordura, giving it a very rugged and scuff resistant exterior. The interior is lined with a faux-suede material which has been quilted over an internal padding material.

This gives a really nice body to the sleeve, and not only provided non-slip carriage for my iPad, but also proffered a not inconsiderable level of bump, drop and scratch protection to it. 

Two grometted (and screened) air-vents prevents that puffiness that padding can get from time to time.

 I'm not overly precious with my technology, as my collection of screen-guards and cases will attest. I've found that my iPad screen has taken several rough trips when I've over-packed my Bullock Echo daypack, with my iPad sitting loose in it's helmet carrier section. 

Exactly the kind of abuse the LaunchPad will protect it from.

The internal closure is from two patches of hook-and-loop, which features cleverly recessed hook-fields, really improving the sleek lines of the sleeve. The main closure is provided by a shock-cord loop, with a sewn-webbing pull tab, that is fed through an eyelet in the lid, and hooks around a plastic tri-glide buckle.
The back side of the sleeve brings its own set of goodies. Four rows of six channel PALS/MOLLE line the back, with the top three rows sporting loop-fields between them, for ID patches (or in this case my ITS Tactical membership tab). The idea being that you can attach accessory pouches to the sleeve (for chargers and cables, or whatnot) or mount the whole sleeve to something with PALS/MOLLE strips like the MOLLE Stix, Blackhawk S.T.R.K.E. speed clips or the like. I could see this on a pack, or the back of a plate carrier. 

At the bottom left of the back of the sleeve is the final feature, the steel "carbine type" triangular gear loop for attachment of a carabiner, keychain, or wristloop. I haven't yet hooked anything to it, still looking for the right combination, but it's a really thoughtful addition to an elegantly constructed and designed tablet storage sleeve. 

The sleeve isn't water or dust proof, but it does offer almost total coverage, and the Cordrura is water resistant, at least. Consider it a 3-season tent for your tech.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: ThinkGeek - Pocket Chainsaw

For my last birthday, I did my family a favor and purchased a bunch of my own presents. I'm notorious for having already picked items off my own wish-lust-lists.

Think Geek has been a good source for gadgets and gizmos to feed my need, and this year was no exception. The difficulty being getting items that can be shipped to Australia, as they have started restricting items based on, well, "pointiness" as far as I can tell. The UC M48 Ranger Hawk,KA-BAR Zombie Killer knives and even the Dead-On Annihilator Superhammer available through Think Geek are not for export to Australia. Sad-making!

However, one of the pieces of kit that IS still available, is this, thePocket Chainsaw.

I have covered my Wire Saw's previously, which are a gorgeous bit of kit to have stowed away in a Bug-Out-Bag or camping set, but there are times when you really need a bit more bite.

I've never been very comfortable with powered saws, (even when Picatinny-rail mounted...) because of the risk of kickback as seen in Dawn of the Dead and described to me by a variety of experienced wood-cutters (not all of whom had all their fingers). I can and have used chainsaws, I just prefer non-powered tools to do the job. Slower, I know, but unless I needed to do a lot, and often enough to become familiar and proficient again, I'll stick to hand-tools.

This pocket chainsaw fir my need perfectly! Made of high strength, heat-treated steel which has been coated for rust resistance and smoothness of cutting action, it comes with bent rings to hook through the lead ends of the chain, and corded plastic handles to ease the cutting action, and increase the draw and reach of the saw.

The 70cm (28") saw features 124 bidirectional teeth, capable of cutting in both the forwards and backwards draw, and the beauty of this piece is that when you are done wit hit, it rolls up into a coil that fits int its own carry-can, along with the welded loop-hooks, and the whole package weighs only 140g (5 oz)

It comes with two molded plastic handles with cord loops,  which I fixed to the loop-hooks with a larks-head hitch. The loops and handles added about another 50cm or so of reach, as well as keeping my knuckles clear of both saw and log.

We had some pretty damaging spring wind-storms here, and my partner Anastasia had a largish gum-tree branch fall on her shed, which seemed a perfect chance for me to finally get to use some of my newer acquisitions.

I chopped the smaller limbs with my
Ranger Hawk, as will as its big brother, the M48 Walking Axe which packed considerable wallop for such a small cutting head. Both bit faster and deeper than my usual go-to Fiskars Log Splitter. However, when it came to cutting through logs, after I had trimmed the branches off, it was time for the saw to do its thing.

Pocket Chainsaw
click the picture to go to ThinkGeek store!
I didn't stop to measure the diameter of these limbs, but they were at least 20cm. Bigger than my skinny little thighs, for sure.

The saw bit in fast and made quick work of the first third of the log, but I found that a comfortable, narrow shoulder grip tended to cause the chain to bind up, leading to me needing to take a very wide stance to effect my cuts.

Once I cleared the hard core of the branch, I was a matter of raising the ends, so that gravity would force the log open, to reduce that binding. This was because I was cutting "up" standing over the log. Pulling "down" and cutting a suspended branch would have been much easier, but dangerous.

When I was done, the loop-hooks simply disengaged, I unhitched the handles and stowed the coiled saw and loop-hooks in the pocket tin. The handles had to be stowed separately. This was an excellent, easy to use and practical addition to my car-kit, ready to pull out and cut up road blocking obstacles without the need for fuel, and storage space.

Here's just a quick picture of the M48 Walking axe, hanging off the largest of the limbs I cut with it, in-situ. The para-cord wrap on my M48 Ranger Hawk completely unraveled whilst chopping, which was very unsatisfactory. I will eventually re-tie it myself.

The folding pocket chainsaw worked tremendously well, silently, and quickly. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review: Peruvian Fleece Cap

So, I've made no bones about my disdain for winter, and am always on the look out for more cold-banishing gear to add to my collection. This winter I added some long Nomex gloves to couple with my Harry 1.2 softshell jacket. However, I wanted something to keep my head snug and toasty. When in Canada I often wore a tuque and when living in England I had a hunting cap with ear-flaps so when, I saw these come up on eBay, I got a set for myself, and one for Omega too (who is still acclimatizing to Melbourne from Brisbane, 5 years on)

This is apparently a "Peruvian Wool Fleece Cap" patterned after the traditional Chullo. Im pretty certain it isn't wool, so lets just say that it is fleece. The cap is topped by six triangular sections, much like most fabric hats, but is edged with an asymmetrical band that includes the "ear-flaps". A cord-locked drawstring is sewn in to assist with retention, and to keep the flaps tucked up to your chin in especially chilly conditions.

I tend to roll the ear flaps up and cinch the drawstring in a little, because I like to hear my surroundings more clearly,

However, when up at the snow, or in just a bitter wind, I am only too happy to protect me delicate flesh and roll them down. 

The snug fit lends itself to sitting under a hood, such as in my Harry 1.2 jacket, or even under a helmet, such as my Ops-Core knockoff bump helmet.

Thankfully there have been few days this season where I've felt like I've needed this cap, but I am vey glad to have it, packed and ready, for when I did. A great camping and wilderness survival addition. 

I'm thinking of doing Halloween as Angry Finland...

Side note, my mother had kept my ear-flap cap, I passed it on to Tactical Baby ... RLTW!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Platatac - Leg Rig

I was looking over my collection of gear and realised there were a couple of items that have quietly gone un-reported, little pieces that seemed to take a back seat over their flashier cousins, and I wanted to give them some web-space too

I've shown this piece, in use, a couple of times, in my "No, Really" post, and coupled with its usual attachment, the Young Guns belt. However, it deserves it's own review. This is the 3/4 Leg Rig by Platatac.

I've covered a drop-leg holster in the past, and I have to be honest, they bring out the Han Solo in me ...

This was an early model of their now more mature Leg Rig but it serves me just fine. The three main features of the rig are: a  3 channel by 3 row PALS/MOLLE field, which is built on top of a 1000d Cordura with a stiff plastic reinforced backing platform.

Twin straps wrap around the thigh, and are half elasticized and half webbing backed with hook and loop. This gives you two different ways that you can adjust the fit, as well as it having sufficient flex to accommodate the changing dimensions of the thigh whilst running, climbing or scrambling. Anyone who has worn a non-elastic cuff whilst doing any of that kind of thing will tell you, its no fun. Two bands divides the load, and gives you a better fit to the shape of the thigh.

The "inside" of the rig shows us the way the mounting strap attaches, with a hook backed strap and a loop-faced side on the inside, to avoid abrasion. This gives you a really wide latitude for adjustment up and down, to ensure the best fit for your rig.

This was really good for me, as I have really long skinny legs, getting a thigh rig to sit right can be a real pain for me.  The thigh straps are free-sliding, and run through the middle of the rig, meaning you can customize the buckles and which thigh you wear it on to suit your need.

On top of the mounting strap, connected to a slider ring, is the belt clip. With both a hook and look backing, and two press studs, the belt clip not only bites down hard, and is adjustable for different bet sizes, it can also be woven into the middle of a riggers belt such as the 215Gear Ultimate for an extra secure and non-slip fit.

You can add any PALS/MOLLE capable item to the rig, I usually wear mine with my Drop Gas Mask bag as a dump-pouch, but could just as easily fit it with any 1, 2 or 3 channel PALS/MOLLE kit I wanted. The newer Platatac leg rigs are 4x4, giving the wearer a little more real-estate to mount on, but i have skinny thighs, and plenty of pockets already. I've been considering getting another, in the "more subdued" black to wear out and about, I've had similar rigs in past, but my colour pallet has lightened over the years...
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