Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Pace lid

Here's an item that I had covered as a wish-lust item back in January when I backed the Kickstarter for the PACE lid.

PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. It is a cache that replaces the lid of a wide-mouthed bottle such as a Nalgene. I've got several, both Nalgene and Kathmandu and the idea of them doing double duty was just too good. 

When planning for events in life you have to expect that unforeseen things may happen and knowing this and being able to prepare is empowering. Also, keeping your gear handy and secure is a good thing.

The PACE lid container has a capacity of 300mL (10oz), it's deep enough for an ID or credit card as well as a variety of other gear, with a recessed lip to fit a bent ID or credit card. 

The container is 7.6cm (3") in diameter and 5.7cm (2.25") inches deep. There's a small recessed lip around the perimeter that can secure items vertically and in place if they are bent, like cards, matches, other gear items.

I found that I could load at least 8m of paracord, along with my favorite gear tie, the Fishbone Piranha.

I found that I could stash a variety of items, from a roll of tape, keys, pocket-tools and a watch, as well as my ID. The idea I had was that I would have a waterproof and unobtrusive cache that I could leave on the beach, or toss into a daypack. 

The one downside is, that it is a pretty bulky addition to a Nalgene. 

You can see that it adds a fair length to the bottle, and that won't go un-noticed. Something to bear in mind.

The seal on the Nalgene bottle was solid, and the threading was well machined, so I didn't have any problems with leaks. 

One thing that occurred to me that I could store in it was a powdered sports drink, so I could keep my electrolytes up on the trot, my thought was that I could fill it up the 10oz capacity, enough to make several liters.
To give you another idea of how much capacity the PACE lid offers, I filled it with 70 Mentos. You could of course fill it with your own snacks or confection of choice, enough fishing line, lures and hooks to have a fishing trip set and ready to go. 

Survival Kit:The folks behind the PACE lids also offer a fully kitted out survival option, developed to fit specifically into a PACE lid.

Their kit includes:
(1) Adventurer Button Compass (NATO/U.S. Military Issue)
(10) All Weather Survival Matches (NATO/U.S. Military Issue)
(1) Derma Safe Razor Knife (U.S. Military Approved)
(1) Sewing Kit w/6 Safety Pins (Assembled in USA)
(6) MP1 Water Purification Tablets (U.S. Military Issue)
(1) Adventurer Survival Whistle (SOLAS/NATO Approved)
(1) Mini Survival Fishing Kit (Assembled in USA)
(1) Type 1A Utility Cord (U.S. Military Approved)
(1) Brass Snare Wire (Trapping and Equipment Repair)
(1) Emergency Signal Mirror (Daytime Emergency Signaling)
(1) Compact Flint Fire Starter w/Striker
(6) Adventurer Tinder Quik Fire Tabs
(1) Adventurer Fresnel Lens Fire Starter
(1) Water Bag 
(1) Compact First Aid Kit
--Sting Relief (2 packets)
--Butterfly Bandages (2)
--Band Aids (6)
--Moleskin (3" x 4")
--Triple Antibiotic Ointment (2)
--Zip Lock Bag
(2 packets) Hand Sanitizer
(2) Deet Bug Repellent Wipes 
(1) Silica Gel Desiccant (Moisture Absorbent)

The PACElid adds storage capacity to a wide mouth water bottles, compatible with Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Kathmandu and Hydroflask bottles. I'm going to keep trying out new loads to carry around with me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

ReBlog: SBTactical – iCombat

Here’s a piece I thought might be of interest to some, that I wrote for Breach Bang & Clear. Training is a key element both for honing existing skills, but also good training requires you to try out new situations and learn new skills sets. You really want to practice as realistically as you can, but no one wants to damage their training partners. When that happens you get a lot less volunteers, and since we don’t have a Running Man style “volunteer” program and want reproducible scenarios, we turn to simulation. But we wish we could use prisoners like in the movies.

AirSoft type equipment, paintball and MILES gear have all brought different tools to the table, as have the minds behind the iCOMBAT technology and training systems. My contacts recently put me in touch with SBTactical, a veteran owned and operated business out of Santa Barbara, California. As the National Law Enforcement and Professional distributors of iCOMBAT equipment, they are 100% committed to serving those who serve.

“With over 40+ combined years of planning, resourcing, and conducting training, we are confident that we are the right team to meet your needs,” SBTactical says. SBT’s experience plus iCOMBAT’s technology leave no training question unanswered. “With SBTactical you will replicate, not simulate, the situations your officers will encounter. Every day we strive to advance your organizations training to the next level. SBTactical’s mission is to Replicate real world scenarios, reduce training costs, and maximize training time,” SBT says.

So how do they deliver?

The iCOMBAT technology is a weapon, sensor and control system. It currently offers an M4 style weapon and a Glock style weapon, to better replicate weapons common among police and military units.

Red the full article on Breach Bang & Clear, here...

and have a laugh at me getting zapped by the pain-belt here:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Outdoor Expedition - Universal Solar Multi-Bottle

Passing by a closing-down sale at a local camping goods outlet store I wandered in and snapped up a couple of deep-discount bargains, which included a pair of the Universal Solar Multi-Bottle which I thought would make excellent camp-lanterns, specifically for Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl.

What drew me to them was that the "bottle" component was a squishy, pliant silicone material, making it drop-bounce, trip and generally woops-prone kid proof.

We don't all get out camping together very often, but even around the Bunker, we often go on night-time expeditions. There is a Tawny Frogmouth Owl nesting in a big tree down the block, and the stroll out to listen to it's call is made much jollier (and safer for little people on the pavement) by their very own light.

The area Triceratops Girl lives in is prone to tree-fall power-outages, and the Bunker has some wiring problems, so we both experience blackouts, and having personal lights for the girls makes a possibly frightening inconvenience into a fun excuse for lanterns.

The Multi-bottle is constructed of a soft, collapsible TPE body  which can be squashed down for easy storage and transport, and has a hard plastic "cap" which houses the LED lights, the battery and the solar panel.

The solar panel is fitted to the centre of the lid, and is somewhat covered by the removable handle strap, which can be removed not only to expose the panel to sunshine for charging but also hook over any number of hanging points.

The on-off button is set into the top of the lid as well, and has a built in changing status light, saving space. When the lid is unscrewed you have access to the micro-USB changing slip, which is protected by a silicone plug.

I suspect you -could- store liquid in the bottle in a pinch, but I would worry about it getting into the charging port and shorting out. The unit is described as having a IPX7 waterproof rating, which is 30 minutes at 1m depth, but again, I suspect that is only from the outside, when sealed up. Good enough for any amount of weather or looking for your keys dropped into a pond, not for diving ...

The LED light has3 modes, controlled by the indicator-light button on the lid.: low/high/pulse. It is listed as having:
4 hour runtime at HIGH setting
10 hour runtime at LOW setting
and I infer it has ~days runtime on PULSE setting, it wasn't listed.

The outputs of the two settings weren't offered, but I didn't really notice a significant difference. If it was 75 lumen vs 100 lumen, there wasn't much in it.

Shining through the TPE bottle gave the lights a nice diffuse glow, as well as the bottle itself being a glowing ball, good for both seeing your immediate surrounds but also letting people see you, good news when the primary goal was putting it into small hands to carry around.
The handle clipped on and off at either end, and was not at all difficult for 5yo Tactical Baby to manipulate, or carry.

We don't typically genderise the kit for the kids, but as it happened, only the pink bottles were available at the sale. Green or blue are also available.

These bottles have a carry capacity of 725mL (44cu in) so you could also fit a bunch of small items in it to make a bug-out-jar type effect, although that would block out a bunch of the light the emitted, and you would want to watch out for pointy items. At the very least you can store its USB cord inside, so it's all ready to charge when you have a power-source handy.

These are neat little lights, perfect for little hands in the wilderness of the woods or suburbs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reblogging: Improvised Tanks for Tank Week

Here's a piece I wrote for Breach Bang & Clear

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” ― H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series

... and at times you want more than just a mean look and the occasional sandbag to be between you and harms way. Sometimes you want to call on the thunder of armour. However, you might not have the power of the military-industrial complex behind you. You might only have the local scrapyard, oxy-torches, sheet metal, and an innovative spirit.

Currently the world's undersupplied warfighters are inventing all kinds of home-brew armour options, and we've been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them over the last few years. And I must say, we're lucky to have only been catching glimpses and not rolling into battle in them. Let's check a few out.

This is the SHAM II, a proudly "100 percent made in Syria" improvised armored vehicle. Put together by Syrian rebels of the Al-Ansar brigade, in Bishqatin, four kms west of Aleppo, it came to the world's attention on December 8, 2012.

Built on an old car chassis and covered in 25mm thick steel walls, it was reportedly able to resist up to 23mm cannon fire. At only 2m wide and 4m long, this is no Abrams. It is, however, fitted with a remote-operated (by a hotwired Playstation remote of all things) 7.62mm machine gun on top. It also has five cameras that give the humans inside a view from all angles.

In one of the original interviews, its primary operator said ‘This is my brother, a trained engineer, who got the idea, we got a car, left its diesel motor on the chassis and built the engine. Not including from the gun, the vehicle costs about £6,200($10,000)." This gives you an understanding of what these folks are doing with their spare time.

Read the rest here at Breach Bang & Clear:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review: collapsible fishing rod

Change of pace! Here's an item that has been rattling about in the secret tool chamber of my SUV for some time, alongside my Kathmandu Hip bag full of bug-out gear, first aid kits, a hatchet, jumper-leads and the like, for some time now. My step-dad Barry gave me a set of three of these collapsible fishing rods, one for myself and one each for Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl.

They love fishing, and we finally had an opportunity to put them to the test, when we were taken out onto Western Port bay by my partner Lorin's dad, Ken, on his fishing boat, for a day's angling.

The rods collapse down from 5 telescoping segments, to a length of only 41cm (16") from its overall 175cm (5'9") length. It weighs only 75g or so when fully spooled with line. It's really a very lightweight rod. I'm no fishing expert, and could probably count on two hands the number of times I've fished wit ha rod (growing up with dangle hand-reels from my Grandad's boat instead), so I don't have a lot to say about the relative quality of either the rod or the reels attached, but they weren't fancy, or heavy duty. They feature 5 eyes, and along with the generic reels, we didn't expect high performance.

They did work just fine though, and once weighted, hooked and baited, we put lines to water and in a surprisingly short amount of time we had some bites. 
Even though I also swapped out to a regular rod, the girls and I each landed a bream or two with the collapsing rods.

The ones we kept were all above the 28cm limit, with nothing bigger than about 35cm but they were all good eating size. We also landed a couple of the spikey, fang-mouthed flatheads. Nasty to look at, delicious in the pan.

Not only did the girls have fun, and learn a few things about setting bait, hooking and landing fish, but also proved that the collapsible rods aren't just a gimmick, but really do work.
I didn't have any concerns with the structural integrity of the rods, or their fittings, other than their age, as hand-me-downs, but they performed admirably. I suspect if I hooked a BIG fish, but not big enough to break my line, that I might have troubles, but oven the line, and my knots, are the weakest physical link, I can't imagine the rod being at risk.

In summary, these light, flexible and easily stored rods were entirely effective, and have truly earned their place in my bug-out car tool cache, and they're something that I would be very happy strapping to a pack should I be heading out on an adventure where there might be fish to catch.

I'm extremely grateful to both my stepdad Barry for giving us the rods, and to Ken for taking us out on his boat. Thank's guys!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Review: Agalite Wind Warrior jacket

It's been a cold winter and I've covered my very cool Baubax jacket which has pretty much been my go-to for all my outdoors activity this winter, but it's feature rich design actually limits it in some instances; its a bit big and bulky, and has too much going on. Sometimes, quite often in fact, I want something simple and flare-free. I was blessed with a care package from my lads at Breach, Bang & Clear in the form of this spiffy jacket from Agalite, emblazoned with the BB&C logo. It arrived over -my- summer, so I didn't get much use from it for a few months.

Once everything stopped burning all the time here, and the cold and wet set in, I found myself pulling this jacket out every now and then, and then it came to be my go-to travel-jacket, living in my SUV for any time I was out and about and the weather took a turn. Which it does all the time in Melbourne, comically.

This is the Agilite Wind Warrior fleece jacket which was "designed to keep Israeli Military Operators warm during static operations". That should tell you a few things about it for a start.

It is built from 3 thermal layers including a wind-blocking internal membrane that keeps out cold winds. Fleece inside and out it's soft and snug with that instant warm feeling you get with a high density fleece. However its that inner windproof layer that really makes the jacket what it is. I've never had  a soft-shell jacket that cuts the wind like this. It's much more like a hard-shell. In fact, I actually had problems with overheating and sweating on my back and arms, in milder weather. That's probably my biggest fault with it.

It doesn't breathe. I've put it back on later to find it still wet on the inside, which might be a problem for proper sub-freezing cold-weather users.

A chest pocket on the left breast is quite spacious, certainly big enough for a phone, documents and the like. The choice of fabric change for this panel was a little strange, I guess it makes it lighter, but I don't see the need for it. The zipper is nice, and fits into the folds, out of the way until needed. The right sleeve has a bicep pocket, and whilst I rarely use these, I found it well placed, and unobtrusive.

The sleeves themselves were well fitted, and a good length, something I often have troubles with my extra-long arms, with elasticised cuffs to seal out the wind. I found I couldn't push the sleeves up very much, due to the tailoring but given its designed purpose, this isn't too much of a big deal.
Both biceps also feature broad square loop-fields, allowing considerable amounts of patch-goodness to be attached, I really appreciate a bit of real-estate here, for bigger morale patches, or combinations. The loop-fields are also really well colour matched, so they fade into the rest of the jacket nicely when unadorned, both in tone and also in tailoring.

The main zipper comes up nicely, even when the jacket is fully closed, another aspect where the tailoring has been really well thought out. You get a good close seal, without it being restrictive or obtrusive into the throat.
This also covers the waistline, which is another aspect that I often get caught out with, but the shock-corded waistline keeps draughts out and my kidneys snug. The jacket lacks fancy features like a hood, internal pockets, or a variety of other extra features sometimes seen. However, it has properly lined pockets which I'm only too happy to be allowed to make full use of on cold mornings.
It's also light, and packs down really well, which is a bonus for when it warms up and you shed it. The jacket has lived in the back seat of my SUV for months now, served as both blanket and pillow on a number of occasions, as well as keeping me from shivering on a number of occasions. If you're looking for a light, well put together and simple wind-killing jacket, you could do a lot worse than this offering from Agalite. Go scorpion or go home.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: Lumintop Tool AAA flashlight

I've been very remiss about this one, this little light has alternated between sitting in the bottom of a couple of bags, and then pockets of both pants and jackets. This is both to its credit and a flaw, but I'll get to that.

The Lumintop Tool AAA is a very diminutive light, at just over 8cm (3.2") long, and around 30g (1oz) it really is pocket sized. Taking a single AAA battery, the machined aluminium body is less wide than a single AA battery.

A single tail cap button at the rear enables the user to cycle between the three light modes with momentary toggling, which starts at a Medium of 32 lumens, then to a 5 lumen Low setting and ramping up to a 110 lumen High setting. I really like this pattern, with a medium setting to get you out of the dark, a low setting next to enable you to do your dark-work without disrupting your night vision or drawing unwanted attention at the Watergate Hotel.

Having the High setting last means that you have to call it up and not only reserve battery power, but also maintain control over the amount of light you throw, till you need it.

Another excellent feature is that once the tail cap switch is "on", the head is on swivel, allowing twist-driven switching between the three modes and "off". There are o-rings sealing the unit at both the head end and tail-cap end, either of which can be used to replace the battery.

My favourite aspect though is that the detachable two-way clip, which enables you to fix the light directly to a cap-brim, giving you a keychain sized head-lamp at a moments notice. You won't be using it to chase alligators in the sewers, but find yourself with full hands in the rain and having dropped that screw from your widget, and you have yourself a good-to-go tool for the job. It's low weight makes it ideal for this use.

It's tiny size means it gets lost easily, especially if you have a lot of loose gear rattling about. AAA's are not high-power, or long lasting, but for occasional utility use, they'll do. Threading a lanyard through either of the lanyard loops in the tail-cap, or clipping it to a keyring would probably go a long way to retaining it.

It's not a searchlight, it's not a weapon-light, its a pocket sized keychain light with a very light profile

Here's some links from the vendor:
CA Amazon store
UK Amazon store:
IT Amazon store:

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