Friday, February 27, 2015

Home Front: Bunnings as a bug out location

Following on from my recent article on Ikea as a bug-out location,  which I talked about using the big Swedish household-building company's warehouse stores as a place to refit and inhabit following a society crumbling disaster event (short to medium term). The principle being that Me and mine need somewhere to go and shelter for however long, and there is no appreciable government relief on the way. Pretty unlikely in a stable first world nation right? Well, the folks of New Orleans might disagree
My like-minded friends and I have also discussed the various merits of other sites, such as a self-storage facility, in a basement bunker (if you have one) or even in your long term off-grid, eco-village. But one place that most of us agree would be a good site to hold up in and recover, would be a big-box hardware store, like Bunnings.           As far as disaster, apocalypse survival and reconstruction goes, it's hard to imagine a better equipped storehouse for raw materials than a facility like these. Aisle after aisle of tools, fittings, construction and fortification materials fill the cavernous warehouse. 
Anyone with a DIY bent that I know find it hard to walk around without getting itchy fingers at all the stock. Whilst they may not have -everything- you need to rebuild, or in the quantities required, they certainly have enough for any small-scale reconstruction you'd need. The facility itself is none too shabby either. Whilst open and well lit, they are often hot in summer, and cold in winter, but well enclosed and sheltered from the environment. If whatever disaster befell your area didn't damage the superstructure, it would make a good place to shelter. 
With simple layout, large roller-door as well as fire-door access, there isn't much to do in the way of barricading. The outside areas are high-fenced, to ward off present-day looters, and will offer the same protection in a disaster area. Of course, this could be improved with the addition of more barricades and area-denial tools like barbed-wire (Aisle 12, people ...) as could the main entrances. You could easily build up bigger and better walls around the inside of the existing  walls, and maintain a low-key presence, or turn it into a fortified looking castle. 
The key thing to note is that the large range of raw-materials and hand-tools. A facility like this is a treasure trove of pre-fabricated parts and construction materials, supplies and if push comes to shove, weapons.

It also features quite a wide array of potted plants and seedlings. Very little of it is immediately edible, certainly not sustainable, but if set up as a garden, you could make quite a bit of food from it. It would take time however. Food is not something that is a ready resource at a place like this.

Another aspect of this is that Bunnings have a really good rainwater catchment system. Those big roofs catch a lot of water, and that is a valuable resource. It will water any crops planted, and also provide drinking water.

All in all, there are many valuable resources and commodities to be found at a Bunnings, its a reasonably
secure environment, but it has the drawback of not being set up to be habitable, and it is a well known treasure trove. This will make it a very appealing target for other survivors.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Platatac - LD Dump Pouch

Having added a new black pack to my repertoire of cargo-carriers, in the MR 1DAP so I've been looking into matching accessory pouches. (Pouches, pouches, POUCHES). I have a pretty vast collection of khaki and Multicam pouches already, and I'm not just going to cover new colours of systems I've already reviewed but I also picked up some new ones.  One of these that I immediatly attached to my new pack was the Platatac LD pouch.

The LD Pouch or Little Dump was developed for high-speed, low-drag Special Operations and Dismounted Infantry end users, but it also fits my need profile nicely. I needed the ability to occasionally load up on extra loot, without wanting to carry a big empty bag, or pockets full of plastic shopping bags.

The LD Pouch, when folded up, is barely bigger than its 2 x 2 PALS/MOLLE attachment panels at its back. It only weighs 120g (a bit over 4oz), thanks to its lightweight mess material construction, with 500d Cordura only on its lid and backing. It's a snap to deploy it, even one handed.

When expanded by pulling up the hook-and-loop closure, the pouch opens up to give you a spacious bag for your goodies, be they tools empty magazines, evidence snatched on a raid, snacks for the movies or contraband at the end of a long night. Cordlocks snared in a webbing loop, and feeding out an eyelet give you cinching control, to close the pouch off, and the hook-and-loop lid can either be used to close the pouch, or mated to a corresponding loop field inside the pouch to stow it out of the way.

The pouch itself, being mesh, is quick draining, and breathable, perfect if you have damp gym clothes or a high-profile head you need to get back home. As long as it's a smallish head, I suppose. This isn't meant as a full-sized dump pouch, it's specifically fo small-jobs. The pouch is spacious enough to easily stow 6 or more 5.56 sized magazines (MS Clean gun cleaning kits seen here) to give you an idea.

With three separate mounting options; the 2x2 PALS/MOLLE, a webbing linked tri-glide buckle and broad belt loop wide enough to take any of my duty or rigger belts, the LD is good and modular, as you'd expect from Platatac. This small, utilitarian pouch sits innocuously on the side of my pack, but would equally disappear on my hip, along side my Mark IV pouch and multitool pouches.

I'm all for keeping my hands clear, and as much as I like cargo-pockets on both my pants and kilts, there are definitely times when stuffing some loot in a bag on a pack is superior to shoving them in a thigh pocket.

The LD dump pouch is perfect for that kind of job.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Sierra Madre Research - Nube hammock tent

I have been waiting to get a good set up to take pictures of this next piece I wanted to share with you all..

Quite some time ago I backed a Kickstarter project for what  I thought was a pretty far out idea. A tent for a hammock. I love hammocks, you may recall I have several already, from the vast 5 person Hummingbird Mega-hammock to the pocket sized adventure ready Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock.

The folks at Sierra Madre Research came up with an answer to a question that has been posed by hammock lovers: how do you get tent like comfort in a hammock?

This is the Nubé.

The Nubé (pronounced "new-bay" for those who don't know how to pronounce the squiggles) is more than just a hammock shelter like a tarp or other top-cover, it’s a more like a safe haven for you and your gear wherever you are. Regular tents are subject to ground water, lumpy terrain, and all kinds of ground critters.

The Nubé is a complete hammock shelter,  which not only acts as a very broad rain cover, is fully enclosed with mesh side, protecting protecting you from insects, snakes and facehuggers. It keeps you and your gear elevated and protected, letting you hang out in comfort.

The Nubé is designed to be compatible with any camping hammock system and does itself not bear any weight. It attaches to and is suspended by your hammock suspension system, which in turn bears your weight and the gear stowed in the underslung Gear Stash below.

At the top of the Nubé is made from a 40 Denier nylon rip stop with 2 coats of silicone on the top and bottom of the fabric. The corners of the rain-shield hosts the Sky Hooks, a pair of reinforced webbing straps connect to 3mm Dyneema cordage (with easy-spot reflective tracers in the weave). These attach to hammock suspension system and are held taught by it.

At six points around the base of the cover, 2mm Dynema cords attached to similar webbing straps (which all also bear reflective flashings).

The cords tied down to the very nice aluminium mini-star picket with eyelets to feed the cords through, so you don't loose them when you're well off-grid somewhere. The tie-downs are notched to facilitate better attachment.

These come in a pouch that attaches to the tent pouch. This is probably the least elegant part of this system. The tie down cords wrap around the webbing, and are kept in place when in storage by a very clever hook and loop flap built into the webbing.

The Nubé fits around the hammock and completely encloses it, and works its way up the attachment system cords at both ends, and has Verso Closure Sleeves an elastic drawstring sphincter, with a cord-lock. These seal down around the main cords and not only block the rain, but also keep out bugs and all manner of creepy invaders.

The whole Nubé weighs  1.2kg (2lbs 10oz) and when fully set up is 3.6 - 3.9m (12 - 13') depending on how far the end Closure Sleeves are set up.

The Nubé sits at 2.7m (9') wide, not counting the tie down cords. That is a lot of umbrella coverage, which really impressed me.

And then you need to see the INSIDE of the tent.
The mesh bug-shield is fully integrated with the cover and zippers shut, along the whole length of one side. There are toggles spaced along the opposite wall allow you to tuck it all away as needed.
There are lots of internal features inside the shelter as well. On both sides there are two triangular pockets which both also feature gear clips at the bottom. The height achievable from the ground is based basically only restricted by where you have slung your hammock, but I have found that I can stand up fairly comfortably stand (at 6'4") in the shelter at the height I like slinging my hammock. There is even room to sling a SECOND hammock, forming what Sierra Madre call a HamBunk, (seen here in green and orange).

    The base of the  shelter is where the Gear Stash is located, made of 70 Denier nylon with a rip stop weave (with a PU coating of 1200mm) along the very bottom of the mesh lined bottom half and it is almost long enough to act as a mini hammock all on its own (it's certainly big enough for Tactical Baby, now 3, to lay in happily).

     The Gear Stash has it's own suspension cord, and a cinch closure as well, which keeps it off the ground and secured. As the Nubé is not designed to be weight bearing, the fact that the Gear Stash has it's own cords means that you can really load it up.

    I was really impressed with every aspect of the Nubé (apart from the peg bag, but I also cant think of a better way to store them, so I won't complain too loudly).

    The Gear Stash is quite spacious, and I can imagine you being able to fit a bunch of stuff down there, it's long and narrow, so a big wide pack like an MALICE 2 pack might spill over the sides, but it can certainly take a number of narrower packs, like the Platatac Nomad covert, and the Mystery Ranch 1Day Assault Pack easily enough, even togther.

    One of the really cool things the Sierra Madre team have thought to add are a number of QR 2d barcode links to "how-to" for each of the features on YouTube. I found this really useful (and thankfully when I set it up for the first time I was in a service area), and the tabs themselveswere of a long lasting plastic, so hopeully they will last for next time I am caught scratching my head lookign at a web of parts.

    That said the Nubé was remarkably intuitive to set up, but with so many features, its worth doing your research and learning how to use it most effectively. All the Seirra Madre products are fitted with compression sacks, and even these had had a lot of thought out into them.

    The Nubé sack features four tightening points, but these are made with two U-shaped loops of webbing, so you have no loose trailing ends, and a carry handle built in. It packs down to 25 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm (10" x 6" x 6") and is a neat little ball.

    Everything about this system was really well thought out, and I'm really looking forwards to my next outdoor sleeping experience (post-apocalyptic LRP "After The Fall").

    The Nubé is constructed by skilled hands in SMR's manufacturing facility SMR ILLUMINATE in Managua, Nicaragua. They also do humanitarian work, it gives me a good feeling to know that not only did I back the creation of a cool product, but the people that do it go on to make the world more robust.

    Stay tuned for reviews on their other components to the Nubé system:

    • The Pares Hammock, the purpose built, deluxe platform to base the Nubé around.
    • The xPlor hammock, the base level hammock, perfect to add to build the HamBunk twin system.
    • The Nubé Floor is an accessory that gives you the ability to set up your Nubé as a ground shelter, without trees.
    • The Nubé Winter Barrier is an accessory that gives your Nubé 4th season protection. 

    Wednesday, February 18, 2015

    Review: Fenix CL20 camp lantern

    Whilst I was looking for a replacement for my lost Fenix TK51, (finally settling on the most excellent LD60) I also saw the newly released CL20 camp lantern that Fenix have put out. Sean from G8 Distribution was kind enough to send one to me one to trial.

    The CL20 Camp Lantern weighs in at 100g (3.6oz) excluding batteries, and 8cm (3.1") length x 4.5cm (1.8") width x 6cm (2.3") high, making it pocket sized,and its rounded shape makes it ideal for stuffing into a pack, or pocket, and not having to worry about sharp edges jabbing you or your gear. That rounded dome houses a multifaceted internal coating, which coupled with the neutral white Cree LED, gives a very gentle light, making it easy on the eye, even at the maximum settings.
    As with all of the Fenix lights I've used, the output is digitally regulated, maintaining constant brightness levels regardless of battery life and includes reverse polarity protection to protect from improper battery installation. The CL20 will take either a pair of AA's, or a single CR123A, giving you a range of power options for better.

    A push button control on the side steps up from the lowest setting, 8 lumen, then on to 50, 100 and finally the maximum of 165 lumen. At this setting, it casts a 10m glow, perfect for tents and work areas. a double-press of the button when off turns on a second LED, in red, and supplies a 1.5 lumen glow, enough for navigating around a dark enclosure, or finding your way along a path, but not so much as to dazzle you out of your night vision.

    The most exciting features of the lantern apart from its great ergonomics are that the red LED also has a "SOS" style flashing mode, accessible by toggling the button again when on red-LED mode. The other great features are the attachment options.

    A metal ring attached to the middle of the lanterns base gives you tent hook attachment, as well as acting as a latch to access the battery compartment. Beside the metal ring, on either side, are two rare-earth magnets which gives you ferromagnetic attachment options. I've now hung mine from a shower hook, stuck it to frame of my car, the wall of a shed and to the bolt holding up my Ikea Gorm shelves.

    With an IPX-6 waterproofing rating (heavy rain and brief submersion) and a 1.5m drop rating, this little light is both rugged and useful. I can imagine it becoming a standard addition to my camping kit, but also to my car tool-kit, and also as part of my black-out recovery kit.
    Full power white LED in a dark room
    Red LED in a dark room

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Review: cast iron pans

    I thought it might be time to look at some more rustic side of both camping and survival. I've covered some light-weight cookware  before which is just the thing if you are humping a pack into the back country, or making a roost half way up a mountain, but they just don't have the feel of home cooked cookware, nor do they have the feel that comes of more solid construction.

    Modern pans, with ceramic, teflon or even enamel coating, with a variety of metals as the base, aluminium, steel, sandwiched copper, but some are delicate, some warp and some don't do well in open flame.

    However, cast iron is a tried and true material, in common use for pans from 200BC until the 1970's.

    Cast iron has the ability to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures, and its excellent heat retention makes it a good option for long-cooking stews or braising. A well seasoned pan will have a layer protecting the cookware from rusting, providing a non-stick surface for cooking, preventing food from interacting with the iron of the pan. This forms essentially a renewable "non-stick" surface.

    Frequent use of acidic foods such as tomato sauce or the harsh cleaning of the pans will remove the seasoning and the cookware will need to be re-seasoned frequently.  This is one of the reasons cast-iron has fallen out of favour, it requires attention. They can also rust, when neglected.

    It's also heavy. The 9" all-iron pan weighs 1050g (2.3lbs), the
    10" wooden handled pan 2000g (4.4lbs), where as the teflon coated red handled 10" pan under these
    weighs half that.  That said cast-iron pans are bomb-proof. The wooden handled one I picked up in New Zealand, and brought home rather than discarding, the all iron pan, I found at an op-shop.

    I heartily recommend anyone who spends time outdoors, and can hump a bit of extra weight, to pick up a cast iron pan. They cook really well without burning, warping or leaching nasties into your food. They can take a fair bit of abuse and, with some very easy maintenance they'll last a lifetime.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    Review: Mystery Ranch - 1Day Assault Pack

    I put in just one request this Giftmas past, I saw on a Facebook group I am on (hey all you Secret Ranch folks!) one of the very limited, Singapore only release of a day pack from the inestimable Mystery Ranch. The good folks at Mystery Ranch, who have been putting together packs for Military, Fire and Rescue, Backpack Hunting and Mountaineering for 30 years, and I've been lusting after them.

    I have a piece of Mystery Ranch kit already, the very cool Cinch Strap, which enables you to fit a pack over the top of a plate carriers shoulder straps and release it quickly as needed. That's the kind of forward thinking that they put into their products.

    The Asia only release of this design is available through Hornest. It is very similar in design to the newly released ASAP Pack, and the more mature 3 Day Assault Pack.  This however is the Mystery Ranch 1 Day Assault Pack.

    This 18.2L (1110 cu inch) pack features the iconic Mystery Ranch 3-way Y-zip which drew me to their packs in the first place, and weighs in at roughly 1.2kg (2lb 12oz) due in no small part to the tightly woven, water resistance treated 500d Cordura that makes up its walls. The bottoms of the pack is double layered and the inner layer is reported to be cut 1/2" smaller than the outer layer, placing the bulk of the load's weight on that inner layer, leaving the outer unstressed. Brilliant design.

    The 1DAP is a smaller 3-zip pack with multiple pockets internally and externally. I have previously very much enjoyed the smaller packs I've used as my daily carry, with the much beloved Platatac Bullock Echo being the logical progression from my Crumpler Messenger Bag, and the MR 1DAP is a fitting successor to both of those, and my more recent every day carry bag, the rugged Propper Gen Multipurpose satchel bag. I wanted to be able to carry a bunch of my usual preparedness kit, without wanting to draw too much attention to myself, so I jumped at the chance for a "regular guy" black option, over my more usual khaki, this time.

    The 1DAP features 3 rows of 3 channel PALS/MOLLE on both of the top sides, as twin 6 loop daisy-chain strips of loops running down the front of the pack. These are perfect for attaching lights, attaching carabiners, looping cord or what have you.

    All the external facing zippers are reversed, and tape covered, to resist water and dust intrusion. The long stem of the Y of the zip extends from the very base of the pack all the way into three inches into body of the pack. The two arms of the Y zip all the way to the back of the pack, and each can be opened independently, to use as a flap lid for the top, a side entrance for just a hand, or opening all three, filleting the pack, for full access.

    It offers several hydration configuration options, internally, there is a loop of cord at the very top of the inside of the pack for attaching a hydration bladder like the Source Storm WXP or the Platapus PIB, but more than just an attachment point, the 1DAP zippered access ports at the top corners of the pack (with some of my safety-orange paracord threaded through, to demonstrate here). Those zippers tuck well out of the way when not in use, shielded by the same reverse-cover design as the main body zippers, keeping rain and crud out.

    The pale internal sleeve is made up of a backing, sewn into the top seam of the pack, and is open on the sides, with just two webbing anchors about 3/4 of the way down. This gives the internals of the pack some freedom of movement, without sacrificing stability. This allows larger items to be slipped under the front, cables and even additional hydration bladders to be fitted.

    The internal sleeve also features a deep drawstring closure pocket, which can accommodate a variety of large items, like the 2L version of the Pathopak, which are 125x170mm, with ease. This is a great place to stow a hydration bladder, keeping its potential condensation off the rest of your kit, I also use it to secure larger items I don't want bouncing about the pack, or even my lunch. You could also use it as the base-cap of a longer item held secure by the drawstring, and projecting out of the top of the pack.

    There are two mesh sided utility pockets with zippers against the bottom of the drawstring pocket of the sleeve, which are very useful as the rest of the packs internals are free from attachment points. Nowhere to attach pouches, which is a drawback, but the upside is that there is a lot of room to store larger items. The fact the internal sleeve is not fully attached also means you can shove it up, and out of the way, and place broader items at the base of the pack, and adjust for weight without crowding.

    The top of the pack features a very clever, reverse opening and horseshoe shapes top pocket, as well as a broad patch of loop field, to attach patches and name tapes. Inside, a spacious main area, with a mesh-lining at the bottom allows storage of a variety of items. I keep a spare cap, and goggles, and a LazerBrite light in mine. The "top" of the lid features a zippered pocket, where I keep first aid kid, some gloves, a haemostat kit and the like. You may have noticed that at the tops and bottoms of each of the zipper runs, and lines of webbing, there is a loop, primarily for assisting a grip and unzip.

    This is another example of the forward thinking put into the design of these bags. Another aspect, is the Futura Yoke system of shoulder straps and attachments, which allow for some really clever adjustment options.

    The contoured padded components, with some built in webbing loops (you can see I've put a ITW GrimLOC on my left strap) and a pectoral strap, to secure the pack whilst you're on the bounce. These are nicely done, but pretty standard, there are tri-glide buckles with webbing feeding through from the back of the pack to the shoulder straps, and these play a really key role in adjusting the pack.

    As well as the air-mesh backing of the pack, it has a built in semi-rigid packing behind that, which is how the pack manages its rather exciting transformation.

    Fiberforge, a thermoplastics company Mystery Ranch has partnered with, builds their Framesheet Adjusters. These adjusters are a thermoplastic composite material created by fusing fiberglass with recycled softdrink bottles. The resulting material is apparently 60% lighter and 600% stiffer than steel, and 30% lighter than aluminium. This plate matches another one that sits inside the pack at the bottom, forming lizard like scales that give the pack a really good feel to wear. No jabs form hard-edged kit in the pack. It curves to match the natural inclines of the back, and sits nicely in the lumber region.

    The back section of the pack can expand from around 40cm (16") to a whopping 60cm (22") because of the top of the back part of the pack is actually a loop backed insert,and a matching hook-field within the pack body itself. I had some trouble getting this quite right, as the broad sheets of hook and corresponding loop were only too happy to lock tight, but I managed to shoe-horn it into the best fit for me too.

    This 40cm (16") part, which houses the Fiberforge insert, can be moved up and down, allowing the wearer to customise the placement of the pack, and by adjusting the webbing held by the tri-glide sliders on the shoulder straps, the perfect fit is easy to maintain.

    This fits in with Mystery Ranch's resolve to solve the problem of packs not fitting properly over body armor because of the increase in relative torso size wearing armor creates. Being able to adjust the harnessing to account for this increase in size greatly enhances the stability and comfort of the pack when wearing armor.

    Couple this with their Cinch Strap, and you have a pack system that will suit any body type, in or out of full kit.

    I'm a chronic over-packer, so having a small capacity pack, with only two 3x3 PALS/MOLLE fields is part of my 12 step recovery process, but I like to think I am achieving my goals of remaining Equipped, without being someone who gets train services halted. I have put a few pouches on the outside of the pack, and I'm adjusting my load out in those, ad well as internally. One thing Ive noted is that even the "wings" where the shoulder straps meet the pack are padded, its a delight to wear as a result of these little thoughts, and whilst nothing from Mystery Ranch is cheep, they are made to be effective, and last.

    I've found I really like the narrow silhouette of this design, being long and tall, it avoids the over-hang that other packs have given me, meaning I'm right and ready to duck and weave, getting in and out of where I need to go, be that in a busy laboratory, a crowded train, droid evasion in ventilation shafts or long forgotten command bunkers. 

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    Review: Platatac - OC spray Pouch MkIV

    As I mentioned in my LD-60 flashlight review, I mentioned that I lost a bunch of stuff when my car was broken into. One thing I lost was my Hexbright v1 torch too which I kept in a Platatac ASP pouch.

    So, when my replacement Hexbright came in the mail, I needed a new pouch for it, and I had noted that the ASP (expandable baton) pouch didn't quite fit the light, being a little too long, allowing the light to be accidentally switched on.

    I popped into the Platatac retail shop with my new Hexbright, and the guys helped me out wiuth a better fitting pouch. This is the OC spray Pouch Mk IV.

    The pouch is around 15cm (6") in overall length, and 5x5cm (2"x2") at the base it fits the Hexbright really well. The pouch is fitted with a press-stud closure as well as a 50mm webbing pull tab for good grip and release. This is a lot quieter than a patch of hook and loop, and less bulky than a Fastex clip. The 500d Codrura body is taped and double stitched which gives all its high stress points extra strength.

    The top of the pouch is open, which keeps the light (or your OC spray, if thats what you're packing) in place, but gives you access by swiveling the lid out of the way, without popping the press stud. A grommet in the bottom of the pouch give you drainage, for those quick jaunts into bodies of water that happen from time to time when you live adventurous lives.

    Equipped with the standard PALS/MOLLE fittings that all of the Platatac pouches. I use this as a belt pouch by fitting the tab through the second MOLLE loop, giving you a quite wide, but very secure belt loop. It has a fair amount of travel on a regular belt, but couple it with the loops of a belt like the Platatac SICC belt and you have a rock solid platform for your light (or, you know, OC spray). I'm allergic to capsicum, so I try to avoid pepper spray. This is a solid utility pouch, and if you have an odd shaped or sized item, I recommend taking it into a shop, asking for advice.

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...