Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: 20oz Yeti rambler

 I got a care package from BreachBangClear and Propper, which included some fine pieces I'll be covering over the next little while. One of the first in the new bath of things is something near and dear to my heart. I'm a big tea-drinker, all kinds, but strong dark and sweet is my preference. It comes from traveling so much.

It can be hard to find good coffee, but pretty much everywhere you go in the world, there is good tea to be found. But better than hot, dark and sweet, is HOT. Lukewarm drinks are a hardship that we can do without. Let's not even get started on lukewarm COLD drinks.
There are few things as satisfying as a frosty bubbling beverage after a hard day's toil, but no one wants the cold wet perspiration that you get on the outside of regular cans and bottles.

The clever folks at Yeti took that age old problem; cold drinks getting warm, and hot drinks going cold to heart, and took it to task. This is the Yeti Rambler in its 20oz size. Because when you are baking out in the sandbox, all shiny and chrome, or chilling with your friends on the icepack, you want to keep your beverage at optimal enjoyment temperatures, for as long as possible.

Double walled vacuum sealed Dewar vessels have been around since 1892, around the same time as the venerable Winchester lever action so Yeti have had 110 years of refinement to come up with this iteration.

The Rambler tumblers are over-engineered with kitchen-grade 18/8 stainless steel (18/8 for its composition of 18% chromium and 8% nickel.) and double-wall vacuum insulated. There's a thin seam at the bottom of the outside, and a lip inside the tumbler to fit the lid to, but otherwise a smooth and easy cleaning cup with no give to the walls. It's a really solid design.

Note to the avid reader: do NOT BBQ your Yeti, they're insulated
The lid that keeps your drink in its place is easy to clean, dishwasher safe, shatterproof and crystal clear so you know exactly how much of your drink is left. The silicone rubber gasket keeps it fitting snugly into the cup, and I've not had any spill problems with the seal. The drink hole is a decent size, and there is also a breather hole. The clear lid does fog up with steam from a hot drink, and some might not like that, but it's a good indicator that the drink is still hot. There is no seal for the drink hole, so some sloshing may occur. It fits nicely in the cup-holders I've used it in, but the same problem of over-flow from the always-open lip occurs.

I made my self a tea as I sat down to watch Fury (best job I ever had) and as the credits rolled, 135 minutes later, my tea was still hot. In fact, I've burnt myself a few times having made myself tea and left it in the Yeti, because it is insulated so well.

So overall, a great design, with a couple of provisos. Watch out for sloshes and remember hot drinks are hot!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sneak Peek: HHA PEN and knife

Last week I became the proud owner of two new pieces from knife and tool manufactures  Hardcore Hardware Australia. 

My mother broke a 39year old rule of hers and bought me the very first knife, this lovely LFK05.

I was also one of five winners of a competition HHA ran, and received a TWI02 in the mail. 

Stay tuned for reviews in the next little while. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: Platatac WUP

It seems I'm running behind the times, gear-wise with some of my collection, with finances being what they are, and being the primary income earner of a large household, but I snap up bargains and good kit where ever I can. This is one of those items I found being sold second hand, having missed their retail release. It is the Platatac WUP (Water Utility Pouch). I believe it has been superseded by the Accessories Small Flask pouch,which fills a very similar role, and has very similar dimensions

Sitting at 20cm (7.8") tall, and roughly 10cm x 10cm (4"x4") around, the WUP is the perfect size to take a 1L Nalgene bottle, as well as a variety of other kit, like night-vision scopes, bundles of cord, magazines or what-have-you. Think of the WUP as an oversized FUP, and you can see where my affection comes from.

Fitted with a big oversized top flap, that has a long double-tailed webbing strap that comes over the top, and feeds through a webbing loop, before terminating in a big Fastex-type clip.

The twin straps do a good job in securing the cover in place, which might seem redundant, given that as well as the straps and buckle, the flap also features a broad hook and loop fixture.  Stripped from the lid flap, the straps can be used free-style over whatever you have sowed in the pouch too.

The WUP also has a shock-cord and cord-lock drawstring closure around the lip of the pouch, which allows you to cinch it in to grip the top of your bottle, or whatever else you have in the pouch. An internal loop field allows you to secure the lid flap inside the pouch, the give you a rapid access option.

The WUP features two columns of three rows of PALS/MOLLE on either side, giving ample real-estate for fitting it with other pouches, if you really need, but more useful I've found for slipping a glow-stick or a pen through.

The pouch is fitted with the usual Platatac semi-rigid and press-stud MOLLE strips, and will feed through four rows of MOLLE, offering a very solid attachment. Something to consider when attaching a liter's worth of hydration, or however much the other kit you store in it weighs.

A grommet in the bottom of the pouch stops you hauling a liter's worth of pond-water should you take a dump,  but this is where that shock-cord cinch comes in very handy for keeping a tight seal and keeping the outside, out.

I have really enjoyed having added a slightly larger pouch to my repertoire. Larger than the FUP, but not as big as either my dump pouches or the MEOP I also often wear, the WUP has given me somewhere to conveniently carry my watter bottle, but also keep a bigger range of items closer to hand than the FUP. Sometimes a bit bigger is just better.

So, if you find yourself browsing second hand pouches, and come across a serviceable WUP, I heartily recommend adding it to your collection, they work well on a Battle Belt or on the side of a pack.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Condor - Gen1 Battle Belt

This is my third Condor review.  I covered their Modular Plate Carrier recently, and had some good things to say about it, with a couple of caveats. My Condor Nomex gloves are still serving me well. Condor apparently gets a lot of stick in the high-speed gear community, but as a quite removed observer (damn you, Pacific Ocean), it's been hard to get a good picture as to why. I'm going to focus on what I see and feel myself. Both my Condor pieces are second hand, from a fellow who was getting rid of his excess collection.

This is the now superseded Gen1 Condor battle belt, which is still available out in the world, but Condor are promoting their newer Gen2 belt directly.

Adding to my growing collection of MultiCam, this 1000d Cordura belt functions in the way that must battle belts do, it is a sleeve type affair, and requires an actual belt to be fed through it in order to attach and wear it. I have fed my Propper 720 Riggers Belt through it. Internally, the battle belt has a series of webbing loops to snag and hold a belt in place, and fits up to a 2" belt easily. These loops keep a belt in place both in the donning and doffing process, but also when wearing it, to keep it riding right. The two front panels have openings in the bottom side to run a drop-leg rig off the internally threaded belt.

Four D-rings are set into the top of the beltfor attaching a harness or braces to.

The inside of the belt was lined with a breathability improving mesh padding, with two bands of non-slip backing. It was very comfortable to wear when empty, sitting on top of the hips and conforming to the curves of the body nicely.
Front View

The belt is surrounded by two rows of heavy webbing, 6 channels on the two side panels and 8 channels on the back. When you load the belt up, some things happen. Even with a fairly light load of a Platatac Half-Med pack and a WUP container, the belt sags noticeably.
Side view

Back View
This sagging didn't really affect the comfort, or the fit of the belt, but does raise some questions about its stability under higher loads, when you don't want that extra weight flopping about when you are being physical.

I suspect this sag is due to the Rigger belt being suspended through the middle of the Battle Belt, rather than riding up at the top seam, but it seemed like a design flaw to me.

I wore the belt all through last Easter's Confest (2015) with the loadout as shown here, with a Nalgene bottle in the WUP, with my RhinoRopework Hornet and American Kami Super Colubris combo fed into the left-hand side belt opening. It was super effective, and I chopped wood, carrier Tactical Baby and ran around like a mad thing with no trouble keeping my wearables in place. I'd like to see how it compares to the Gen2 Battle Belt, but it stands up nicely against the Platatac Young Guns and Bongo Battle Belts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Events: SSAA SHOT show 2015

I attended the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show in Melbourne over the weekend of the 23-24th of May.

It's a big trade show that cycles around Australia, and is in Melbourne every two years. I went two years ago, and reported on it here.  It seems to be only a small shade on the big Las Vegas events put on in the US especially when you consider the BreachBangClear coverage.

That said, I had a good time, and got to see a lot of cool stuff.

I will just give you a few lines here and there to go with the pictures, and the like, as there was a lot to see at the hundred or so stalls, with everything from taxidermy to targets, bow-hunting to rifles and scopes.

The focus was almost entirely sporting shooting and hunting, as there isn't a big tactical and personal defense market in Australia.

 The Beretta stall had this display of pistols, with a variety of their pistols from the M92 range, as well as some old cap-and-ball style too. It was really nice to see the old along side the new.

This big bad rifle from SAKO (in 308WIN or 338LM) caught my eye. I've always been one to lean towards "bigger is better" when it comes to my arm-chair firearms assessment.

Weighing in at over 6kg, (13.2lbs) this was a big piece.

There were a variety of different gun-dealers, (go figure) and Gun Emporium was one of the big ones. All manner of hunting and target rifles, and kit. 

Here's a very cool little gun that I saw, a folding skeletonised folding Rimfire rifle, in 22LR or 22WMR, the Little Badger. 

This folds up into  a small package and comes with its own nylon carry-bag. Perfect for a pack in the wilds, or if you're gong to be salvaging in a wasteland.

Blaser had a impressive lineup too, some very well made pieces on display.

LEGear had a stall again, filled out with all the 5.11 GEar I've come to expect. No new gear that I noticed, but their heavy winter coats look good.
I met up with some of my mates from Q-Squadron ZERT .

I hadn't ever met these guys in person before, but it was a great chance to shake hands and out faces to names. ZERT on!

 I had a good drool over the Accuracy International rack. Some very fine looking pieces of nail drivers there.

I especially admired the thumbhole grips, which were a modular design accessory for these pieces. Again, offered in the big bore 308WIN or 338LM.

As well as all the rifle sellers, there were numerous hunting and trecking suppliers, as well as archery and bowhunting suppliers to browse.
There was no shortage of things for sporting shooters and hunters to peruse, but it was all very light on tactical or survival gear.
I did get to play around on the ATV's on display, thanks to Polaris, and if I had significant disposable income (or some actual practical need) I'd be well tempted. They offered singles, doubles and even quad-capacity vehicles, for all your dune-jumping and mud-bashing needs ...

One of the most tempting items I saw for sale were the new boots in the MUCK boot company range.

Waterproof, ruggedised and comfortable, they have three new boots, and well worth looking at if you find yourself often in wet, cold or sloppy conditions.

I was delighted to see Platatac having a stall, and got to catch up wit hthe guys, who showed off the HHA ASOT-01 again, but also had on display their just-about-to-be-released stretcher pack.

This innocuous sustainment and medic's pack comes fitted with a variety of external and internal loop-field and PALS/MOLLE attachment options.

The magic is in the pull-away top and bottom panels which deploy a last-ditch stretcher for rapid CASEVAC. I saw these in the factory months aga, and they're getting ready for retail sale. Stay tuned!

I also really liked the looks of the Warwick Firearms AR-looking straight-pull bolt actions, an Australian company.
These are offered in .223 and .300 BLK chambers, with three barrel lengths and two different upper lengths. They build these to spec, so if you're in the market for a very professional looking piece capable of being fitted out with all the bells and whistles, you might want to give them a look.

Always a sucker for big-bore, I spotted a Barrett M98b in .338 Lapua in the Clatton Firearms display.

Such a size-queen ...

having not brought myself to capture any of the Barbi-Pink camouflage on display "for the ladies" and enplaned to the horrified, practical and ever fashion conscious Omega why Blaze Orange can be a legitimate stalking colour-scheme, we agreed that we'd both prefer Real-Tree or one of the more widely accepted military patterns, she was delighted to come across this dapper sporting shooters outfit at the Beretta stall.

Not quite my thing, but, she's someone I'm willing to make concessions for, there weren't many other partners in attendance at the SHOT show, and perhaps sporting shooting and hunting is mostly a boys-own club, but I'll take capable and engaged family in a survival situation any day!

I enjoyed the SSAA SHOT expo this year, and made some good contacts, which will hopefully be fruitful and informative in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wish Lust: Rhino Ropework - MAD Stick pouches

My mate Shane from Rhino Ropework (note: they're going to be going through a branding change soon, stay tuned) have teamed up with my friend over at SORD Australia to put together a line of pouches for the most excellent and useful MADSticks by Rhino Ropeworks. You'll recall the MAD Sticks are a compact solid breaching and pry bar, and be pleased to note that they've gone through some more design iterations and are even madder! Here are some pictures of the prototype SORD made up for him.

One aspect that Shane wanted to address, is their very pointyness, which even when looped through PALS/MOLLE, can jab and scrape, and the pen-clip type retaining clip sometimes just weren't up to the rugged outdoor needs of some folks, so he and SORD Australia have come up with this 1000d Cordura pouch. You'll remember the SORD 870 back scabbard I have reviewed in past, well, this is it's littler, sleeker cousin.

Able to be looped though PALS/MOLLE on packs, or plate carriers, or worn on the hip and thigh, the MAD Stick pouch will be fastened with a Fastex style buckle, with a wide flap to allow ease of access, and secure carriage. A steel drainage grommet at the bottom seats the glass-breaker tip, so you don't get undue poke-age, and they are snug enough to not require the pen-clip, but can accommodate them if your MAD Stick has one.

SORD used scrap MultiCam to make the prototype, but RhinoRopeworks is likely to stock Sniper Grey tools with black sheaths for urban usage and  Olive Drab tools and Khaki sheaths for field use.

There is even some talk about Kryptek if there is enough interest (minimum 20 per pattern, I'm told).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: Condor - MPC Modular Plate Carrier

I added a new plate carrier to my collection earlier is year. I've loved my Platatac MAC for years, but it is getting dated. It's not like I even really NEED a plate carrier, personal ballistic body armour is a restricted item in Australia, requiring all kinds of licencing and legal requirements to own, (for civilians, at least) so it is a pretty specialty item.

That said, I fill my plate carrier's pouches with polyethylene plastic cutting boards.  This fills it put and gives it body and structure, (for costuming purposes), but also serves as blunt-trauma and edged weapon armour. Ballistic armour is restricted in Australia, so even if I wanted to fill it with proper plates or soft-armour inserts, I couldn't. I still like to put plates in however, any armour is better than no armour. I should do a test-video some time I guess.

The Condor Modular Plate Carrier is designed with heavy webbing on all sides for any PALS/MOLLE compatible gear and accessories.

The MPC also features an integral cummerbund and padded shoulders support and comfort. If you are in a country that allows it, or just want to know the vitals,  the accepts up to 25x33cm (10" x 13") plate and "Large" SPEAR/BALC cut soft armour front and back. It comes with padded foam liners taking the place of the soft armour.

One of the first things I liked about this carrier, was that once I fitted it with my mock-plates, I found it stood up all on its own, brilliant for storage and airing after a sweaty day out adventuring. A couple of bands of loop-field on the back give you attachment options, and also tie down what appear to be drag-strap retainers. These seemed superfluous, but I guess some folks want to be as snag-free as possible. Twin metal D-rings on the shoulders give hydration and cabling tie-down options. 7 channel x 8 row PALS/MOLLE on the black offer plenty of pouch, pack or accessory options.

The built in cummerbund system wraps from back to front, and I found that that really added to the overall comfort and stability of the rig. You can see from this shot that the back-piece also maintains the shoulder-straps, with feed over and across the body, to affix via hook-and-loop to the front piece, before being held secure by Fastex style buckles and sewn-in webbing.

You can also see the but in mesh inner-liner on the back panel, this helps add a little bit of a breathing gap, but in all honesty, I can't say that I noticed much difference from front to back.

You can also see the two M4 magazine pouches built into to the cummerbund  here, with the webbing looped shock-cord retention cords that are on both sides. I was a bit disappointed with these, as only the front set appeared to be big enough to actually fit a magazine. I didn't find much else I could store in these, except perhaps some emergency SERE gear like a spare compass or fire-starters.The 6x4 PALS/MOLLE loops give ample attachment for external pouches.

 You can see from this internal view, the cummerbund is actually two parts, an elasticized belt with hook-and-loop inside and out, that holds the back piece snugly in place. This waist band in turn helps hold the front piece in place, via hook-and-loop, to let you fir the side panels firmly.

 A nice extra feature of the elastic waistband component is that there is a zippered pocket fitted inside it. Good for personal keep-sakes, or small sensitive items, this is the kind of thing I'd normally see on a travelers belt, rather than inside a military style plate carrier, but hey, just because your loaded out for battle doesn't mean you aren't immune to pickpockets, does it?

The ealastic waistband helped keep the weight of the whole rig off my shoulders a little bit, and was a very nice addition to the setup, without compromising the fit of the side panels.

The side panels attached via broad hook-and-loop patches, before being held in place securely, as with the shoulder straps, by Fastex style buckles.

The front panel itself features a mighty  8 row, seven channel spread of PALS/MOLLE, to allow all manner of pouch and accessories to be fitted. It also has a very high on the throat, and low to the belly coverage, something that I like very much, being quite a long bodied creature myself.  This combination oflong construction, and broad carriage options makes this a really appealing carrier for me, and one of the reasons it has overtaken my Platatac MAC as my chest-rig of preference.

The front panel has two bands of loop-field along the top, straddling the top PALS/MOLLE row. Along with the the shoulder strapping webbing, and the cummerbund webbing there are a couple of extra things about the front panel.

It features two broad hook-field patches, for the cummerbund to lock onto,  these suffer the difficulty all big patches of hook-field do, they are crud-magnets. I found that the wrap-forwards and buckle tight option was pretty good, and gave good coverage as well as leaving me room to breathe (never good to be in too-tight armour, especially, when you have to shoulder a pack, climb up somewhere, or run).

One thing I found that it took a little bit of doing to get the side flaps to sit right, and flush. Each side has a grab-loop, to assist in bringing it into place, but some incremental adjustment may be required to get it sitting right.

Donning and doffing the MPC was pretty easy. It was simply a matter of undoing the side panels both in buckle and hook-and-loop, and throwing the whole lot over my head, and doing up the elastic belt component.

Then it is just a matter of fixing the front piece to the belt gently, and strapping down the side panels.

The plate pockets are secured by internal hook-and-loop closing flaps at the bottom of the front and back panels, and the side plates are fitted through the back plate slots. This took a little fiddling to get the side plates into place but they seemed to stay once fitted. It would be interesting to see if they sat as well with steel plates.

Again, the hook-and-loop attachment of the side plates, even with the Fastex-buckles were probably my least favorite part of this carrier, as they took some fiddling to get to sit right, and to fully lay flat. I can see them coming open at inopportune times when you're trying to be quiet with that "sckreeeet" sound if they got hung up on something. That said, I spent some good time running about in it, weaving through the bush, and in some urbanised areas, whilst at the After The Fall: New Hill City event.

I got this second hand, and it was in good shape when I got it, and has held up tot the pretty mild punishment I have given it, (including two weeks spread out in the cooken-yard, as torture testing) so I'm pretty happy with how its turned out.

I'm slowly getting with the times as far as camo-patterns go, and am slowly building to my MultiCam collection, this was a great piece to do so. The webbing is still khaki, so it's still a blend, but I'm getting here. 

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