Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ApocalypseEquipped: Review: ITS ETA (Med kit (basic)

ApocalypseEquipped: Review: ITS ETA (Med kit (basic): As first seen (well, apart from a teaser) on Breach, Bang & Clear ....   I was so excited to see this tucked away in the corner of my...

Review: ITS ETA (Med kit (basic)

As first seen (well, apart from a teaser) on Breach, Bang & Clear .... 

I was so excited to see this tucked away in the corner of my Propper package, because I've had a lot of trouble trying to get one sent to me, due to the specific rules surrounding selling the Z-Medica QuickClot Combat Gauze  as an export.

This is the ETA Trauma Kits in Fatboy which is designed to fit into the ITS Fatboy Trauma Kit Pouches, but can also be either sealed or broken down for easy access to the individual components, or stowed as is, in its heavy duty vacuum sealed ziplock bag. They’re also well suited for cargo pockets if you’re not going to be keeping it in a pouch for storage.

The ITS team who put their expertise together to develop the kits select every item in the ETA Kit carefully to complement the others and serve multiple purposes. They make several different versions. The Basic, Standard and the MIL/LE ONLY version, as well as new International version, with concessions to Z-Medica's export policy.

Here's what is in the kit that I received, the Basic, with a stock photo from ITS, as I didn't want to pop the seal on mine (bad reviewer, I know).

Basic Contents
  • QuikClot Combat Gauze LE (1)
  • HALO Chest Seal (2)
  • Pressure Dressing (1 — 4″)
  • Elastic Bandage (1 — 4″)
  • Z-Fold Dressing (1)
  • Combat Casualty Card (1)
  • Nitrile Gloves (1 Pair)
  • Pencil (1)
  • Contents List w/ TCCC Care Under Fire Instructions (on reverse) (1)
 The kit is sterile when sealed (which is why I didn't want to bust mine open), and ITS also stock an "inert" training version, for those who want to train how they fight, and fight how they train.

The slightly more substantial "Standard" kit also features

  • MojoDart Decompression Needle (1)
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA) Adj. 28fr (1)
Which are a couple of things you'd really be wanting some medical training before using, thats not just patching boo-boo's and plugging holes.

The MIL/LE ONLY replaces the Basic/Standard QuikClot Z-Fold Combat Gauze LE with the more specialised Z-Fold Combat Gauze (w/ X-Ray Detectable Strip — Green Package). The International Kits feature an international version of QuikClot Gauze.
The FatBoy med kits hit very snugly into a two-magazine Platatac FUP pouch which is my gold-standard for pouches, but has an easy-access fit in their slightly larger WUP pouches.

I will be packing the ETA FatBoy with me on all adventures from now on, and it's a good reminder for me to chase up refreshing my FirstAid certification too. This is a great kit, dense, well thought out and packaged and appointed. Lets hope I never need to stop a sucking-chest wound, but if I do, having a kit like this might well make all the difference.

ITS also stock all the same contents in their "TallBoy"kit but stacked long, rather than wide, because it's not always about girth. If you really just need a pocket-sized pal, the EDC Trauma Kit might be more your style.

If you don't feel you'll often be responding to trauma, but rather more minor injuries, you might consider the ITS Boo-Boo kit, or, if you're like me and have multiple kids, and occasionally stab yourself in the leg with a sword, the slightly larger Boo-BooPLUS kit might suit your needs. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Web store now ONLINE

I am very pleased to announce that I have opened a webstore, and will over the next little while be stocking it with a variety of tactical and survival type goodies.

I will be adding more stock as time goes on, and reviewing as I go.

There will be things I have covered her, as well as other things I have yet to review, but worthwhile adding to your supplies.

Follow the link and look it over.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, and I'll see what I can manage about stocking it with the needfuls YOU have in mind!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: BokerPlus - Automat Kalashnikov 11 knife

This is one of the few folders I have in my collection, and it was one that I got on a whim, and sort of never put into high rotation. However, it has some features and aspects I thought I'd share, AND it is the one that I am stocking my Bug-Out-Jar kits with.

I have two other folders in my collection, my EDC CRKT K.I.S.S. , my other Boker, the 343 Scalpel folder or my trusty old Shelham clasp knife . None of these are as chunky as the BokerPlus AK 11

The sturdy handle features textured solid billet aluminium scales over the liner lock frame. Normally I don't go in for flashy looking scales, but I overlooked these this time because of the functionality of the thumb flipper and the strap cutter.

It is a liner-lock style folder, with both the liner, and the lock being stainless steel. The blade itself  is a black coated, 440C stainless steel tanto tip. The integrated seatbelt cutter in the hilt is built into the folder side, rather than the spine side, so can't be accidentally deployed unless the main blade is already out.
The steel frame also ends in a lanyard hole and glass breaker pommel even more functionality. With an overall length of 20cm (8"), with 8cm (3.3") being the blade and 12cm (4.7")being handle, and with it's all-metal construction, weighing in at 185g (6.5oz) the knife is a very solid tool in the hand.

The thumb-flipper on the spine becomes a nice finger guard when deployed, and the crenelations on both the spine of the blade and scales gives a positive grip, even on its all-metal frame. The bullet shaped inset on the back of the blade gives you a secondary flipping point, if the back thumb-flipper isn't your thing.

The action of of the locking mechanism, which is locked in place but the liner, also has a tension bar inside the scale. This, in conjunction with the thumb-flipper, gives you an assisted deployment of the blade. Check local regulations where you live restrict that kind of thing. Know your local laws

The release is really snappy, and will open the blade all the way in a moment. Great for single handed use, or in an emergency when fine-motor skills are at a premium.

I tried out the blade and the strap cutter on some 1" webbing. The blade worked really well, but the hook-cutter needed some getting used to as it is a single straight edge rather than a hook like on the Gerber Crisis Hook

This is a solid, and well put together blade, and I think its well suited to sitting as a backup blade, which is why I wanted to have it in the Bug-Out-Jars.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bio: a little about me

I've been interested in both cataclysmic disaster and preparedness since I was little. Growing up, my family moved extensively. My fathers work (petroleum geology) moved us from well-site, to well-site, and I had never lived in any given country for longer than 3 years until I was 16. Being a full time expatriate and part time nomad, and living in Texas and Colorado in the US, Surrey in the UK, Gabon in west Africa, Dubai in the UAE, New South Wales and Victoria in Australia and Alberta in Canada, as well as holidaying through Europe, Africa, South East Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East I have been exposed to not only a variety of cultures, but also conditions and experiences.

"Pack what you can carry" and "eat like a local" were two of the early travel and lifestyle choices that were instilled in me.

I remember living in the UK when both the IRA bombings were a frequent specter, as well as the Faulklands War, exciting in the UK in the way only 6 year olds truly appreciate. I picked up my first "survival guide" in "How to Survive" whilst at school there. I also received my first large Swiss Army Knife. 

Long distance travel, the tail end of the Cold War, as well as airplane hijackings and bombings as well as my fathers (whispered) Vietnam War experiences gave my dual citizenship (US/Aus) more meaning. Is was probably brought into further focus when whilst living in the pre-Gulf War Dubai, when Iraq invaded Kuwait whilst I was on holidays, in both the US and UK, and I couldn't "go home".

Even when we did, in the build-up of "Desert Shield" I was shown how to drive the newly acquired 4wd, we stocked up on supplies and had a go-bad, and my parents told me "if it goes bad, take your [10 year old] sister, and drive to Oman". I was 14. That puts a slant on your world views, I can tell you.

Eventually, we were sent to Calgary, New Year's Eve, and I watched "Desert Shield" become "Desert Storm" on CNN in -45C. Outdoor-Ed in Junior High was again an eye opening and awakening moment in preparedness, that never left me: I'd now lived in jungles, deserts, sub-zero conditions and some of the biggest cities in the world, as well as some crappy places too.

I followed my roleplaying through tabletop classics, miniature gaming, LRP in both fantasy and MilSim as well as my university and workplace career in microbiology and hospital science, then into hospital IT and project management.

I took up kendo whilst at university, and have achieved a respectable grade (3rd Dan) and competed at club, state and national levels. I've supplemented this with smatterings of other arts when my friends and I have pooled knowledge. I've climbed, taken up kayaking, and camp as often as family logistics will allow. I run to stay fit and build my endurance, and walk, take the stairs and carry my burdens in a pack to condition myself.

Earthquakes, forest and grass fires, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, civil unrest, international travel, blizzards,  lions, oh my. I've come to see preparedness as a lifestyle. Whether it is getting my family out of a full blown disaster, or helping someone fix their umbrella in the rain, I have striven to be Equipped, for any encounter.

I live in Melbourne, Australia, where the infrastructure of government is sound, and the legislature is relaxed. It's very pleasant and moderate here. We have a very functional social support system, including healthcare, and very little violent crime. I've lived in some places where these were not the case. I don't have any particular fears for the future, but if something comes, I hope to be ready to face it.

I've really enjoyed being asked to write first for KitUp!, then later on RecoilWeb and most prolifically for Breach Bang & Clear. It's been a real privilege. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wish Lust: Platatac - BF pack

Early last year I popped into Platatac HQ in Hallam and shot the breeze with BDC himself. He took me through the warehouse, and the factory, where all their in-house kit is constructed.

One of the things he showed me was the then as-yet unreleased BF Pack,
and I was pretty impressed. I then saw them again having been given prominent display at the SSAA SHOT Show this year, and whilst I haven;t managed to pick one up myself, I wanted to get a bit of a Wish-Lust review out there for you all, as they look like a really innovative pack.

The BF pack is designed as a short patrol pack, with key features to cover a variety of soldiering needs.
It would provides every soldier with a personal TACEVAC litter, SSE bag and room to enhance mission capability as needed, according to Platatac.
The main feature that sets this pack apart form anything I've seen previously is a lightweight TACEVAC litter, capable of carrying a soldier and his equipment, out of harms way for further treatment, built right into the pack.

Pic swiped from Platatac
The pack itself is comparable to that of other short patrol packs like the Propper UC pack I recently covered , measuring 46cm (18") x 27cm (10") x 9cm (3.5") internally but encompassing an expanding  SSE pocket allowing quick stowage of documents or extra equipment to further your load capacity. This is stored away behind zippered flaps, and cinching compression straps and topped with a hook-and-loop cover flap to keep it secure.
Pic swiped from Platatac
When those straps are unhooked, I wonder how well the fabric of the SSE pocket holds up against the load of the front of the pack, but with it, I've no doubts.

An ADDITIONAL kangaroo pouch beneath the external cover flap will take a triple shingle or insert for extra mags/medic supplies or other similarly sized kit for even more sustainment in the field.

Clever design also adds a pocket for hydration bladders to be stored behind the cord-locked SSE pocket.

Pic swiped from Platatac
The pack also features a small 3 row, 5 channel PALS-MOLLE covered external admin pouch with a two internal mesh pocket allows you to store and have easy access to essential documents, gadgets, spare batteries, cyalume or whatever kit you need to have on-hand when out and about. There is no shortage of storage in this pack, and that's even before you look at the main compartment.
Pic swiped from Platatac
Internally the main compartment is fitted with full PALS-MOLLE webbing, all of which is also loop-field for taking either permanently attached pouches, or "tear-away" ones. the "back" is fitted with 7 rows of 6 channels, and the front lip has 8 rows of 6 channels. The whole thing clam-shells for ease of access to everything stored.

I must say I really prefer this over the all-loop/no MOLLE lining of the Propper UC pack, as most of my internal carriage would be permanent pouches. There are three zippered off internal pockets, one on the back, and two on the front the back one being big enough to take a 3L hydration bladder. Two ports give hydration tube / antenna access points.

Another cool feature is the wire fed Quick Release System (QRS) built right in. Feeding the included wire through the built in loops, and the back of a plate-carrier, or a larger pack, you have the option to with a yank of the top handle, release the back and have full access to its features. 

This makes utilizing the built in and lightweight TACEVAC litter, which is designed to be capable of carrying a soldier and his kit,out of danger. I checked, and Platatac don't recommend using it as a hammock, it's not designed for that. The two sides of the litter stow away into hook-and-loop closed inset pockets, and are accessed by simply pulling away at the tabs. The pack straps can even be stowed away in the top pocket when the QRS is employed.

All in all, from the twin side carry handles, to the use of the same quality materials and hardware I've come to expect from Platatac to the level of detail given to not only carry capacity, but also clever storage options for all the loads, the BF pack would be a good step up from my old favorite the Bulloch Echo even before the addition of the litter feature.

I really hope this kind of system makes it's way into regular use, I can only imagine the benefits to those putting themselves in harms way to have a fast and effective way to deploy a TACEVAC system like this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: BioLite thermoelectric stove

I finally laid hands on one of these, the BioLite thermoelectric power generation stove and have had some fun trying it out. I've covered these before, in a WishLust post, so I was really happy when a good deal came my way.

The general principle is this: a steel pot, an inner layer with air-holes, a protective outer mesh to prevent accidental contact with the hot pot, built in folding legs, and an attachable, thermocouple driven, high-capacity battery, with both USB output and an internal fan to drive the fire.

The fire output is measured as 3.4 kW (at low power with the fan) and 5.5 kW (With the fan at high power). I haven't yet timed it, but BioLite state that it takes as little as 4.5 minutes to boil 1 liter of water, but obviously boiling times vary by strength of fire, which then comes back to the quality of the fuel used.

Officially, 46g (1.6 oz) of wood to boil 1 liter of water, when I used it, I simply chopped up a fistful of wood, and fed it in, feeding as it went. One thing to note is that with a small combustion pot, you need to feed it regularly, as it burns down rapidly, more so if the fan is set to high.

The varnished pine ex-furniture I was using here went up like a candle, but I expect that denser, or damper wood to burn a bit lower and slower. Charcoal would be an ideal fuel, but anything form hay (which I used to light it) to paper and cardboard, twigs, pinecones, whatever, would do. If you have the fire going, and can fit the solid fuel into the firepot, it will probably work.

The output of the USB varied, with the intensity of the fire, but is documented as 2W @5V at a continuous burn, and a peak output of 4W @5V. This in turn gives a phone such as the iPhone 4S (2G) 20 minutes of charging provides 60 minutes of talk time.

As with the boil times, charging times would vary by device and by the strength of the fire.

I really like how by clever design the fan/charging pod, fits neatly into the fire pot, with the thermocouple poking out.

When packed, its 21cm (8.25") tall, and 13cm (5") around, and weighs only 930g (33 oz).

The triangular trivet which clips over the scalloped triangular metal lip provides extra security for placing pots or cups on the top, for cooking, water sterilizing, or what-have-you, doesn't clip nicely back onto the lip when the charging pod is stored, but the whole package comes with a nylon drawstring bag, so you're covered.

The USB port is nicely fitted, and covered by a silicone flap which keeps it drip, splatter and ash-free when not in use. The external honeycomb grill shields you from direct burns, but still heats up pretty swiftly, so don't try picking it up once burning.

I look forwards to coupling this with my newly-replaced PowerPot XL and doubling the off-grid charging and powering that I can offer my camp-site.

If the little BioLite looks a bit small for your needs, they also make these jumbo versions too, the BaseCamp.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: Propper 19/67 notebook

 I've been a big fan of digital documentation for quite some time. I was an early adopter of PDA's, with Palm Pilot V and Mitac Mio-168 before settling on iPhones ... Before then I was a firm user of Filofax binders.

Sometimes there is just no substitute for dead-tree edition. Propper were kind enough to send me a set of pocket-sized notebooks in my recent delivery, and I've had one sitting along side my iPhone in my Hazard4 Escape RG harness and beside my passports.

There are times where you just need to be able jot some thoughts down in a way that you can share, or destroy, easily. Take these notes and map: I've got a map, shopping list, a to-do and task management right there. 

I could tear this page out, and take it with me, pass it to a friend, eat, burn or whatever.

The 48 pages are grid printed, and whilst the grids aren't either in fractional cm or inch increments, they are nicely uniform and pleasant to write on. They aren't waterproofed like the pages of a Rite in the Rain notepad, and could even be used as kindling, in a pinch.

Notepads, still not a dead technology, and better yet, they never run our of battery or need software upgrades.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Events: Trinity Day

"Trinity Test Fireball 16ms" by Berlyn Brixner
From Wikipedia

Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. The White Sands Proving Ground, where the test was conducted, was in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range.

This test, which was found to have a yield of 20 kilotons
ushered the world into the era of atomic weapons. Just 4 weeks later on August 6 1945 the first atomic weapon, Little Boy was used on Hiroshima .

 The people who developed the bomb, and tested it, people like Oppenheimer , Fermi and Feynmen took bets on what the outcome of the test would be, in terms of the expected yield, with bets ranging from 0 to 45kt.

Fermi took it a step further and offered to take bets among the scientists and military present as to if the atmosphere would ignite, and if so whether it would destroy just the state, or incinerate the entire planet.

Oppenheimer was reminded of the Bhagavad Gita; quote 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.'. George Kistiakowsky is reported to have said "Oppie, you owe me ten dollars" .

For the first time, humanity was wielding the power of the stars, and producing weapons that were capable of effecting mass destruction on a strategic, geological and generational scale.

The Trinity tests marked the beginning of the era of nuclear warfare, which thankfully we've only ever ventured into in fiction and strategic documentation. And Preppers ....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Propper - U.C. (User Configurable) pack

As first seen on BreachBangClear, where they make fun o' me accent, mate!

Inspired by the Marine Corps Assault Back, the Propper U.C. (User Configurable) Pack keeps you prepared, which is just the kind o lineage I like to have in a bag. I have a load of respect for the Gyrenes, my cousin had several long stays somewhere rocky and unpleasant serving in OEF, and if the design is tough enough for those lads, I couldn't ask for more. It’s designed to be customizable inside and out, allowing you to add the additional pouches and accessories you need when you’re on the move, depending on your requirements.

Made from 1000D Cordura nylonand wrapped pretty extensively in MOLLE webbing to accept whatever additional pouches you might require, the simple straight lines of this pack make it well suited to a variety of loadouts. No tight curved corners to try to jam kit into.

The pack measures 50cm (20") x 35cm (13") x 16cm ( 6.5", so you've got a lot of capacity to play with.

Hook-and-loop pass through openings on either side of the carry handle on the top of the pack offer hydration tube or cable pass-through porting, they are X-cut to keep dirt and other crud from making its way into your delicates.

The pack is wrapped in seven rows of six-channel MOLLE on the front, six rows of four channels on both sides and even two rows of nine channels on the bottom of the pack. That's a lot of coverage, especially if you have a variety of pouches you can load it up with.
Internally, all four sides are lined with soft-touch loop, to accept any hook-field accessories, be they holsters, tear-away medical pouches or any number of hook-field backed kit you might have ready to go. Propper were kind enough to send me a few different items to test out, and they seemed to really work well.

Both the inside back and front panel also featured deep zippered pockets running the whole length of the pack to give you a little additional storage, which is good because the inside is otherwise devoid of built-in compartmentalization. You NEED hook-backed accessories to have any fixed storage in this pack, internally.
Here's the inside of the front panel, showing off both the loop-field real-estate, but also the zippered pocket.

The back panel of the pack was fitted out with a stiff plastic board, to give the pack some structure when standing up. It didn't get in the way at all, but if you were really keen on shedding weight, you might pull it, if rigidity wasn't essential for you.
Similarly, the front panel featured a thin closed cell foam panel, to add some padding to the front of the pack. I didn't feel it ate a lot of real-estate, it added a little body to the flap, but if you wanted to shed weight and bulk, its removable.

On one side of the pack on the outside, above the MOLLE, a small, hook-and-loop fixed pocket, big enough for a phone, GPS or other small item is fitted. It wasn't super secure, being quite shallow, but certainly good enough for dummy-corded gear you need to access easily and often.

The top of the pack, just below the carry handle also has a small pocket, big enough for folded maps, small items like a compass or a flashlight, and other small kit you might want to have access to, outside of the pack. It's a slightly awkward size for other things, but snacks, maps and meds might well suit it.

One thing I found that the external zipper-pulls, which have these rubber grip-toggles fitted (which are good) come tied in a double overhand knot (which is bad). I pulled the knot right through the grip-tobble on one of them opening the pack, and immediately set-to retying them all with double figure-eight's. The pulls are easy to grip, and quiet, but the cord used isn't great, and I may well replace them with paracord entirely.

One of the things I really liked about the pack is that there are a pair of cinch straps on the bottom for securing gear. I often find myself with extra gear, or loot, to lug back home, and having a set of cinch straps built in can make all the difference. These, like all the main straps, have hook-and-loop strap-savers attached, to secure the excess webbing away when not needed. No more messy tape wrapping.

Inside the bottom of the pack is an isolated storage pocket, fitted with mesh-lined eyelets, top and bottom, which gives you a place to secure away wet, mucky or otherwise unpalatable gear and items away from your main pack. Perfect for a sodden poncho, or even a mess-kit. This is both zippered and also covered by the cinch straps that wrap from the back of the pack to Fastex buckles on the front.

Padded adjustable shoulder straps, broad, slightly curved and simple, secure the pack to the user,  and feature an adjustable sternum strap on sliders on the sewn-in webbing. Three additional cross-bands of webbing on either side give you mounting and cable or hydration tune feed points. Fastex buckles on the straps give you quick release options, and a wider webbing belly-strap is included for secure carriage of the pack.

One thing I really liked was that there are twin padding channels on the back of the pack, giving room for your spine to site between them, and offering some air passage to the fit for those long hot rangings.

One last feature, which I'm happy to see on this pack, and many others these days, is the triangular strap attachment flap, that gives the webbing and Codura of the pack a good purchase, taking the angular strain off the seams. Packs lacking this seem to always come apart here under heavy loads, so it's good to see Propper have taken this little bit of extra thought into their pack design.

This is a very utilitarian pack. Boxy but solid. You need to be aware that the internals are dependent on that hook-field backing to add any additional functionality, but other than that, this would fit in well with almost anyone's light to medium pack needs.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Events: 500 posts!

I am very pleased to report that I've clocked over the 500 post milestone, which is a whole lot of knives, pouches, lights and rants opinions about safety, security and the end of the world!

[edit] over the weekend I also cleared the 600,000 hits milestone too, rather cuffed, all together.

I've been a bit slack with the content in the last few months, combinations of new new work situations, rolling seasonal illnesses at home and just so much LIFE going on has sometimes made it hard for me to spend time in front of a keyboard putting thoughts to pixels for you all, but I'll keep at it.

I've been really pleased with the reach I've been getting, and the responses I've gotten from both readers and makers. It's always a big thrill for me to hear that my review prompted someone to get some good kit themselves, or to have a manufacturer want to have me review a product.
I'd also like to thank the Breach Bang & Clear team for putting me on as part of JTF Mad Duo, it's been amazing to be a staff-writer. Now if only it could be my 9-5!

One new development I'd like to make you all aware of is that I'll be opening up an online store shortly, and you will be able to purchase some of the cool kit I've managed to secure access to. coming soon!

Thanks for following along, and as always, if love to hear any requests, suggestions and recommendations.

Be prepared, be safe, be Apocalypse Equipped!

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