Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: BioFuture wipes

My friends at EcoFuture have taken the bold leap  to launch a Kickstarter campaign for one of their new products and its something I thought I should share. EcoFuture have always looked for ecologically friendly solutions for cleaning, health and hygiene.  From body and foot sprays to water purification and household cleaners. Before you scoff at the domesticty of this remind yourself how little fun a bout of gastro or swamp-ass is on the trail. Even the most salty operators need to poop now and then. If you're on the trail ans have to drop one off, the last thing you want is to be hiking on without a good wipe. Having comfortable wipes can be a real morale booster, but you also don't want to be leaving wads of long-life paper or fabric wipes (even in shallow latrines). This is where something like the BioFuture Baby All Natural wipes comes into its own.

These wipes are made from a  truly flushable and biodegradable material, made from all natural, sustainably sourced plant based fiber - (and are certified as such by the Forest Stewardship Council  ) The wipes are suitable for domestic use, aircraft in-cabin use, and safe for municpal sewer systems. They will not harm wildlife.

HRIPT skin patch testing was performed and the wipes can make the hypoallergenic claim, safe for baby bums and crusty mountain men ( who may or may not also be crusty). Get clean without giving away your position with heavy floral scents.

Being fully biodegradable makes them a logical choice for those on local septic systems or composting toilets. Part of why the folks at EcoFuture are thrilled to offer parents an alternative to wipes made with harmful ingredients and preservatives is that as well as the fabric of the wipes themselves, the patented formula is nutraceutical (food) grade.) , will not harm our waterways or wildlife. Given a lack of harsh preservatives you might question their longevity, but following extensive laboratory testing and the product has shelf life of two years. Lightly scented and fresh feeling on the skin, and in combination with the soft and resilient fabric I've manged to give myself a dry-bath all over. Having nice clean toes can be such  a relief after a couple of days hiking and camping (Change your socks!) and really helped me battle camp-funk.

The wipes themselves measure 21cm x 14cm and are interleaved in the plastic packet for easy withdrawal one after another. There are 40 wipes per packet.  The packet itself had both a hard sealing flap and a soft closing flap to seal in the moisture of the cleansing and preservation solution. I compared these wipes to a standard brand, which had a slightly different size (32cm x 17cm) but I found this made very little appreciable difference when using them.  I found slightly smaller BioFuture wipes withdrew from  the packet easier, with less chance of  a double-up on wipe withdrawal, leading to less waste. I also found that the BioFuture wipes were more resilient and less prone to tear or fray, which means more wiping and scrubbing per sheet (and less likely to tear through and poop your wiping hand) something any nappy-changing parent or stubble faced-lout will appreciate.

Additionally Eco Future are working towards making a completely zero waste product. At present there is no alternative for the outer packaging that will keep the contents moist and withstand heated ovens for stability testing. They do want this to happen and are working towards creating this packaging technology!

I'm very  excited to let you know that their Kickstarter campaign is now live.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Home-Font: campfire Chocolate cake oranges

cooking examples (source unknown)
I like camping, mostly for the campfire cooking options. There's a certain magic to smoking woodfire and sizzling cast-iron leading to a picnic style al fresco dinner. I do a mean pot of chili and a spit-roasted ham is favorite. However for the sweeter-toothed amoungst us a dessert option presents a potential problem. There is a trick to getting foil -wrapped potatoes done evenly and not overly charcoaled, but if you can mange that, you might want to give this a try: Chocolate cake! Be the envy of all your neighbors and blow the "smores" people away.

It is possible to cook chocolate cake in cast-iron dutch oven, they have a habit of sticking and burning quite easily. A number of years ago I stumbled upon the idea of baking cake in the hollowed out shells of oranges. They are delicious and easy!

What you need: a sachet of instant chocolate cake mix (needn't be anything fancy)
cooking examples (source unknown)
components required for the cake mix (typically: eggs, oil)
aluminium foil (for wrapping)
bag of oranges (I prefer Valencia over naval)

1) cut the tops off the oranges, retain.
2) gut the oranges, Jack-o'lantern pumpkin style, retain.
3) remove extra pith bits from the pulp. Macerate pulp with a folk.
4) mix chocolate cake mix, substituting water/milk for macerated orange.
5) fill empty orange shells 3/4 with chocolate mix.
6) cap oranges with retained tops.
campfire cooked by the author
7) cover with foil

8) place in coals
9) let cook for 25-30 minutes, turn 2-3 times.

The rind and pith of the orange will protect the cake and steam it from the edges, whilst cooking the cake will "pop up" the cap, be careful not to rotate the cooking oranges so they open into the fire.

The end result should be a delightfully moist, orange skin oil infused chocolate cake in a warm cup you can hold in your hand and eat with a spoon! After stripping the foil away, the empty orange shell can just go into the fire.

Chocolate cake! That's nutrition
So, from very simple and quite portable ingredients you can make a delicious and uplifting dessert. Oranges keep well and are an excellent camping fruit, chocolate cake mix is light and packs easily. Thicker skinned and pith'd varieties work better for this method, as they act as sturdier and more ablative cook-pots.

You could also try cooking other things in orange cups, different cake, or a duck stew to finish off in oranges for a "duck a l'orange" type effect on the trail.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: MIG - SORD Mad-Stick holster

My mate Shane from Rhino Ropework (note: they've gone through a branding change recently, now trading as MIG (Mark's Innovative Gear) have teamed up with my friends 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!

One aspect that Shane / Mark 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. I experienced the need for this myself after months of carrying the MAD-Stick around in my fairly rugged Mystery Ranch 1DAP , the point worked its way through the Cordura nylon and stated to poke me in he sides as I walked. This I could mitigate by shifting it around but one time I picked the pack up and the MAD-Stick fell right out and nearly spiked me in the foot.
  As I'd rather not have this happen whilst out in public I had to retire it from my EDC until they good folks and MIG could set me up with a holster.

One did magically appear shortly after I got in touch with MIG, cudos to their customer service. So. The Holster. The MAD Stick is a 400mm (15.7") long, 12.7 mm (0.50" yeah, fifty cal!) length of 4140 high tensile tool steel,  and the SORD design suits it perfectly. Not too snug as to make drawing it an issue, not so loose as to let it rattle about.
The main opening flap is rimmed with hook and loop strips to secure the stick, and backed up with a webbing strap and a Fastex style clip to ad bomb-proof jump-safety to it. Nobody wants to accidentally catch a MAD-stick I assure you. The heavy 1000D Cordura lends itself nicely to giving the whole holster structure and it is heavily stitched throughout. inside the opening flap is a "pointy end down" indicator graphic, but the holster itself is ambivalent. a metal grommet in the bottom of the holster acts more as a drainage point than as a capture point for the spike.  I have also found the chisel end doesn't pull at the hook and loop closures as much as the spike end when doing vigorous runs.
Speaking of attachment:
The back side of the holster features two PALS/MOLLE straps with reinforced stiff panels and a terminal hook and loop strip closure.
Each strip is suitable for 3 rows of MOLLE attachment for a very sturdy fixture. You could strap it to the back of a plate carrier, to the side of a pack or even off the hip of a MOLlE equipped battle-belt such as the Platatac Bongo or SICC belts.

The black holster by itself is fairly innocuous looking but at 16" long it will stand out swinging on your hip. Not very Grey-man. The side-panels of my 1DAP are already pretty crowded so I stow the whole thing inside my pack, unsecured but safely wedged in now that I'm not worried about pointy ends jabbing though my pack. Check out the whole MIG range and new developments here: Now I can keep my totally legitimately useful / rescue tool handy without causing a public panic!
Well done Mark's Innovative Gear and the whole MIG Crew.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Aldi - Tomohammer

Been a while since my last post, but I have content again!

We like to shop at Aldi from time to time. They have an eclectic range and reasonable prices. They might not be a reliable place to get the same things week after week (as their range shifts with the tides) but there's always good stuff to be had to fill a pantry and add to your preps. One thing I like is the middle isles are always filled with neat items like tools, hardware and adventure-wear. Every six months or so they do a big sale and lots of their odd-ball stock goes on deep discount. At one such sale, I picked up this item; The Aldi Camp Hatchet with Hammer.

It looks like a straight-up clone of the redoubtable Mk 48 Rangerhawk, but with a hammer face replacing the spike end. The form of the Tomohammer mirrors the MK 48 almost exactly, from the geometry of the axe-face to the design of the handle. It's vital statistics are as follows: it comes with a blade pouch with Velcro strap and a strap with button snap on fastener, it weighs 605g and has a total length of 377mm. 

The head is stainless steel and appears to be either anodized or coated but the kind of steel is not listed, so I'm guessing its something like a 440C or some such. The handle material is some kind of glass reinforced polymer. More on that later. The head is fixed by a set of three screws on each side, exactly like the Mk 48, down the length of the tang of the head. The handle has a series of rings moulded into it to give gripping texture and a hole for a lanyard at the base.

It also shares the half-way point double sided knuckle up the shaft, which is a nice addition to keep but I've yet to find myself so elbow deep in gore that I've needed the haptic feedback it provides. Perhaps shoring up the beaver-dam during a storm after fending off Zombeavers. We'll see.

My original Mk 48 has taken some punishment, requiring me to regrind tips of the horns after chipping them off. Looking up close also points out the three bolts fixing the head to the shaft. The Tommohammer uses much broader headed bolts, still reset in the handle material but bigger and deeper.

One difference I noted was the jimping on the back of the beard of the axe head. Initially I wasn't very keen on this as it seemed prone to gouging my knuckles when I held the axe all choked up for fine chopping. However what did occur to me was that I could grip the whole head and use the blade much like an Inuit ulu knife, for skinning, mincing or slicing.

 As a tomahawk it worked well enough, the weight of head, length of shaft and blade geometry made for a good swing and a decent chopping power. The forward balance was much the same as that of the  Mk48 but the hammer head brings the center of mass closer to the center for a quicker turning circle. Good if you have to switch between choppy choppy and happy hammertime in a hurry, maybe to fend off the more insistent zombeavers.

Putting that hammer to the test, I used it to  reseat the nails in our rickety gate. It made short work of the timber nails, right down to the cast iron fittings, without a scratch on the strike face. I also used it to drive both steel and wrought iron tent pegs to no ill effect. As hammers go, the 40cm handle was a bit much and having an axe face was a little disconcerting but no great issue. It struck well, and had a good resonance when striking, something one comes to appreciate in a hammer if you use it long enough.

And them I went and did something dumb. I'm generally of a school of mind that says "don't throw your weapon, dummy!" but at an event I was going to there was to be an axe throwing contest, so I wanted to get some practice in. After finding a suitably remote location with a clear line od sight and a suitable target tree, I set to practicing throwing my two most closely matched tomahawks, the Mk48 Rangerhawk and the Aldi Tomohammer. I quickly got my range in and was successfully sinking blade into tree when an awkward release saw the Tommohammer striking off-true, and with a disheartening "crack" become quite permanently detatched.

You reap what you sow. I threw my tomahawk, no doubt voiding a warranty and broke it. Interestingly, testing to destruction is useful in that it showed that the internal cross section was NOT glass fiber reinforced. Just a single material polymer. Also, it broke at the point of the recessed attachment bolts. So much for bigger is better huh?

 Odds are that if I hadn't been abusing it it wouldn't have had its catastrophic failure as it did, but better like it did rather than in an alley outside of Detroit or off the coast of Mombasa.  I should be able to re-haft the head onto some nice Tasmanian oak I have kicking around or even onto the Mk48 shaft, should I irrevocably screw that one up too. All in all, it was a good piece, part chopper, part hammer but what it wasn't was quality. you get what you pay for.

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