Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Platatac - SICC belt

As first seen on BreachBangClear. Due to OpSec, they can't confirm or deny that I am the GyroPilot from MadMax, and I am sticking to that.

I'd been lusting after one of these belts for some time. I have a fair collection of both "tactical", "practical" and "everybody" belts. I have skinny little hips, and really long legs, so getting a pair of pants, or one of my many sets of kilts. to fit can be a real issue, so I depend on belts to carry the load, and protect my dignity. I have been very happy with the 215Gear Ultimate Riggers Belt and the 5.11Tactical TDU belts, as well as the PM Leather Hobble Belt for more personal use.

This is the very multifunctional and heavily engineered Soldier’s Integrated Combat Cobra Belt (SICC Belt) by Platatac .

Constructed from three layers of MILSPEC high breaking strain para tape and tube tape, the resulting belt has both the stiffness and body to provide a stable platform for covert carriage as well as a platform for a padded first line belt such as the Young Guns Belt

The primary standout feature of the SICC is that it is wrapped in PALS. This allows it to be used as a platform in its own right. With 18 channels, which are slightly off-set to favour the left side, this single row of PALS loops allows you to mount a variety of pouches and accessories directly and securely to the belt.
The belt is both wide enough and stiff enough that you could carry a pistol and magazines without any drama, or in my case, a variety of pouches and tools. I regularly carry both my multitool and Hexbright light, but have also run both my Tactical Tailor Joey Hydration pouch and my ITS/ZuluNylon skeletonized carrier to carry my ZombieSquad Nalgene. Even with a liter (32oz) in the bottle, the belt felt stable and didn't twist or sag.

You can see it here with the 5x12ga Shingle by Platatac which I've used to secure ranger-bands and cord. You can see the hook-and-loop adjustment closure that is standard for the Cobra belts I've seen, I found this one gave me lots of room, and plenty of space for bigger folks too.

The other stand-out feature of the SICC is the loop beside the Cobra buckle. I've previously used this type of belt loop to attach carabiners, as a backup climbing or retention point, but I also looped my EDCpen through it, and can see how it would serve admirably as a pistol retention loop, for those who need that kind of security.

I really liked being able to secure my EDC pouches, which usually slide between belt loop to belt loop, as well as being able to change my loadout with the convenience of the PALS/MOLLE options. Interestingly, for those of us who -don't- want have the full "tacticool" look, Platatac offer essentially the same belt, without the PALS loops and lanyard loop as their "Regular Guy" version of the belt.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Home Front: Ebola 2014

One of the things that that working in the industry I do, with the academic background I have, when things like the West Africa 2014 Ebola outbreak occur, I have both a cold clinical reaction, and a very fierce panic about all the possibilities.

One of the advantages of working where I do, is that we are kept very well informed of trends and the prospects of this kind of event to affect us as "health workers" but also because of the particular nature of our cohort. We get all the notifications for all the major illness outbreaks from swine flu to gastroenteritis. 

We even get annual influenza immunization as part of our workplace amenities.   The notifications we get are the same kind that hospitals and government agencies around the world issue.

I also follow sources like the CDC, via twitter
through its main site and generally pay attention. I might not be able to tell you who won the World Cup, but this is the kind of news I follow closely.

I lived in Gabon, west Africa when I was 4, and contracted malaria whilst there. Malaria, by way of mosquitoes is one of the biggest killers of humans of all time, nicely tabulated here, and I can personally attest that it is not pleasant at all. However, it is not anywhere as visceral and horrific as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. 

It's also worth noting that Gabon also had it's own Ebola outbreak, in 2002 as did Sudan, and a raft of other central African countries between 1995 and 2014. I've lived and traveled to some exciting places, and have been pretty lucky, health wise.

Given how much air travel has increased since the first modern documented outbreak of Ebola in 1974 has come, and the particularly unpleasant nature of the disease, it's little wonder that it has so vividly peaked our collective imagination.

However, it's methods of transmission, symptoms and prevention methods are now well understood and documented, and the fact that it is so very debilitating runs in favor of public health reaction.

It's horrific presentation and high mortality rates are rightfully alarming, especially when you consider that historically many of its victims were primary healthcare workers. Check out his graphical representation of the history of Ebola outbreaks for some perspective of the current situation. 

The scariest part of this, and other pandemic type threats, especially for a scientifically minded prepper like myself, is that there are diseases with long enough incubation times, and infectivity rates, with symptoms that might be otherwise shrugged off or ignored that we could be exposed to just going about ones normal life.

My recent pieces on public transport, on holiday travel and even going to the supermarket are just reminders of the interactions and environments that most take for granted, that could well leave even the most diligent and forward thinking planners, who happen to look, dress and act like regular folks, without gown, glove and mask.

Who knows what you might be bringing home to your family, into your bunker with you?

The trick, to my mind, however is to not be petrified, but to remain cautious, aware and informed of the risks, likelihoods and trends.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Pry/Open pocket tool

Shaped like a Battlestar and just as tough.

I backed this via Kickstarter back in May 2013, and it's been sitting in my pocket since August 2013. I've never once thought about stripping it from my collection of pocket tools, and most days, I don't even think about it being there. Unobtrusive is high on my list of desirable features in a pocket widget, and this certainly lives up to that expectation.

Matt Hall of Obstructures is a designer with a vision I can appreciate. This tool is evidence of that.

This sand-blasted stainless steel tool is only 9.5cm (3 3/4”) long and a touch under 5mm (3/16") thick and yet offers some serious prying action. The front end is split with a nail-puller, and each prong is slightly different, offering two different screw-driving options.

The tool features jimping on both sides, promoting solid thumb-grip when using either end of the tool, which is very forwards thinking.

The back end features a single, broad pry edge, as well as small hole to attach a lanyard or split ring, as well a bottle opener.

A slit with a narrow neck facilitates looping through a belt loop, or looping over a pocket edge, which is where I wear mine almost exclusively. It was designed to fit into and sit snugly into MOLLE webbing too, which is an awesome thing for a designer to come out and say.

The middle of the tool is skeletonised to enable the provided cable ring which you might think is a strange place to fit a keychain, but there is method to the madness.
By placing the cable ring in that central gap, you can flip the bundled goodies from one end to the other of the tool, freeing up the working end from the carrying end.

Not clanking my bottled beverage with a collection of keychain tools is all good and well, but anyone with a keychain screw-driver can attest to how annoying trying to loosen a stuck screw is with a collection of keys in the way. This is a tool that I don't worry about snapping when prying open cans or the occasional locked drawer.

Some very forward thinking design has gone into this, as well as some bomb-proof, no-nonsense ergonomic choices. All set to frak up some toasters!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Tiletto - The Titanium Letter Opener

I'm a firm believer in not only getting behind small business makers, but also adding more shinies to my collection. This was no exception.

This is the Tiletto and is the creation of Steve Sure, who along with his trusty collaborators in the form of Mike Bond (of Ti2 Sentinel and Parabiner fame), Brad (of TiPik, WTF and TKMB pen  Tactical Keychains) and Philip Kaufman (of the ScrewGrabber project) designed a piece I knew right away that, with those peers,  would be a great project to get behind.

Pay no mind to the CQB dagger beside it. It's a complete coincidence that their forms are remotely similar.

Milled from sheets of Ti-6Al-4V, otherwise known as "Grade 5"titanium, these pieces are approximately 178 mm (7") long, 25mm (1") at its widest, and 1.6mm (1/16") thick.

The Tiletto features chamfered sides that can act as straight edges for assisting in lines drawing or scoring, to cleanly tear pieces of paper, and to open letters, packages and parcels. I've not encountered a taped box the Tiletto can't safely get into in our regular deliveries.

Either end of the Tiletto,  has different shapes / characteristics to use as a flad-head driver, or an improvised phillips head, and can also be used as a pry bar to take on small jobs such as car and can opening.

Further adding to its functionality, the Tiletto features a set of wrench openings in its belly, with the inch-calibrated version offering: 9/16", 1/2", 7/16", 5/16", and a 1/4 inch hex-bit driver in the center.

The millimeter-calibrated version offers: 13mm, 12mm, 10mm, 8mm, and a 1/4 inch hex-bit driver in the center. I got one of each, adding to Omega's keychain collection as well

I've found quiet utility in having this too sitting in the PALS/MOLLE webbing of my  Hazard4 LaunchPad iPad sleeve.

Following Steve's suggestion, I've even used it as  a fid on larger-diameter poly-rope, and have stirred my tea with it. It is an elegant piece, slimline and innocuous for  what it offers. As with many of my pieces, it is multifunctional and hardy. Although, best to be aware that whilst it is half as dense, and offers twice the tensile strength of 316 stainless steel, it isn't a miracle metal like adamantium. 

Still, its a gorgeous tool that I am glad to have added to my collection and hope to give it a lot of use as the days roll on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: ZenoDW - El Jefe

Time for another piece of pocket-gadgetry! This is a piece I Kickstarted, and have been carrying in my pocket for some time now, without having posted anything about it. No fault of the piece, in fact, that might even be a selling point. Unobtrusive!

This is El Jefe, by Zeno DW. It is cut from bronze, and measures57mm x32mm x 5mm (2 1/4"x 1 1/4"x 3/16"). What makes this dense little piece of bronze so useful is that it is firstly topped off with a belt-loop sized notch, to hang from pants or pack, ensuring it stays handy, especially if you are carrying keys. Bottle opener is pretty standard, but never unwelcome. A hole for a key-carrying split loop is also pretty standard. But here is where this little tool comes into its own, a bonded ferrocium rod and accompanying steel striker (on the keychain) sits along one of the long edges, giving you sparks on demand, right there in your pocket.

The most exciting thing about this fob however, is the ceramic knife sharpening rods set into the "keyhole" looking notch on the opposite long edge. I have fixed up a number of workplace kitchen knives with this little beauty.

So, between the solid billet of bronze (which I have sitting on the bitter end of my multi-tool lanyard), the Jefe adds some rustic charm to my EDC, along with the multifunctionality I prize in all my gadgets. Its only drawback perhaps, is the very rough nature of the finish. It looks like something you'd find in the back of a drawer in your grandfathers workshop. I don't mind that at all, but some might.  I also wonder what kind of glue the ferrocium and ceramic rods are held on with, and what kind of conditions would dislodge them. None that my pants have been exposed to, as yet, so I'm not too worried.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Home Front: self storage facilities.

I was recently called upon to help a friend empty a storage container at a self-storage facility. I've moved house so many times that it's pretty much second nature to me, and I can Tetris pack a truck or car like no-ones business.

What struck me, at my first visit to a self storage facility was the wide open space that it covered, and how nondescript it was. From the outside, beyond the high fence the unadorned corrugated walls of the facility offer little indication of what lays within, and also blocks off almost any of the lines of sight into the premises, other than via the coverable gate.

The other thing that struck me was the size of the site. There were two distinct warehouse sized buildings, the main one was two floors in size.

In the building we were in there were 40 storage lockers to a corridor, and three corridors, upstairs, and single set of 40 below, with road access. Two sets of metal stairs permitted access, one fright lift. The lockers didn't reach the ceiling. on the ground floor or on the first floor. This gives both clearance for ambient lighting, and reduces fire risks.

The floors were laminated chipboard over a steel grid frame, perhaps not the most structurally sound substrate, but cheep and easy. Each locker we individually roller-doored and padlocked, and offered full enclosure, and were approximately 3m tall, by 4m wide and 1.5m deep. When you do the math, that is a lot of cubic meter storage in one of these places.

Why does any of this matter?

 This place screamed safehouse to me.
Out of the way, in an industrial area, few to no staff, or regular clients-on-premises it is the kind of place most people would drive past and never give a second glance to. And it is potentially filled with a variety of trash and/or treasures

 The upper areas were spacious, airy and well lit even on a cloudy day by the skylights. The floor was a good 4-5m off the street level thanks tot he steel girder legs and there were no motion or light exposing side windows.

The cross-building connector bridges  gave a look-down view over the central driveway, again, without being exposed to the street, and offered more covered and lit areas. I could imagine hanging gardens doing really well here, fed by rainfall collected from the wide flat roofs.

The whole structure, baring the floors was sheet steel and girder, if you discount the polycarbonate sunroof sheeting. I can imagine that it would probably weather a great number of environmental disasters fairly well (apart from tornado strike perhaps).

A potential source of loot, (and looting, parties, lets be fair), and lacking in basic infrastructure, this is however the making of a modern day walled citadel.

Let the walking dead, the floods or plagues come, this kind of facility might make a good refuge in a urban environment.

Unless you are trapped in one with an angry alien, perhaps.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Home Front: LEGear - 5.11 concept store

One of the places I look to for my kit is LEGear, an online store for Law Enforcement, Military and Outdoor products in Australia and New Zealand, who refer to themselves as a  “One Source – Total Solution Provider” for government needs. In June they opened a third brick-and-mortar store, this time in my home town. 
In both a soft-launch and grand opening, the good folks from LEGear, opened their doors and hosted a BBQ, as well as spending time answering questions about their stock.  

I have covered a bunch of kit I've bought from and/or received for review from LEGear before, such as my much loved First Spear Oagre vest, a pair of Blackhawk pants and shirt. I sought out the LEGear team at the SSAA SHOT show and met up with the folks from Fenix through them. 

It turns out that the Melbourne LEGear store is also a 5.11Tactical  Concept store.
Avid readers will also recall that I have a soft spot for 5.11 gear as well, with a collection of their ATAC A1 flashlight,  the CUB Karambit and several different styles of their pants. I also got to meet 5.11 CEO, Tom Davin, who was responsible for the Tactical Kilts going into production. Was a real treat to talk to him, and even got to put in a request for Kryptek as the next pattern choice they might look into.

So, all you Melbournites interested in the full range of 5.11 Tactical gear, from boots to bags, belts and clothes, as well as Fenix lights, and Benchmade blades go check it out! 

A full range, all the colours and sizes on hand.

Boots, Boots, Boots.

Monday, August 4, 2014

400 Posts! - Indexes: now with more entries!

 So, another little milestone for my efforts, this is my 400th published entry.

From the first post till now, since December 2, 2011 till August 4 2014 I've been tapping away, reviewing, adventuring, testing and fooling about.

I've had some great luck with some awesome contacts, and gotten to try out some really cool kit along the way, as well as making some good friends and hopefully entertaining and maybe even educating some folks out there.

Here's how I reflected on the last few milestones:

300th Post; a call-out for guest writers (thanks Tony)

200th Post; my Mayan calendar loadout post.

100th Post; a Q&A request, that garnered no comments or questions.

1st Post; outlining what I hope to accomplish with the writing.

Work-life has been a bit hectic recently, eating into my writing capacity (the cheek!) but I hope to be in a mental state to be able get a bunch more out over the next few weeks whilst the Contracts people work their glacial magic.

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