Revisiting Handguns: Self Defense, great articles.

A buddy of mine posted this excellent article from the Lucky Gunner Blog.   I wanted to share it and interject a few of my own thoughts.

Lucky Gunner Article

All of the points in this article are great.  And getting views from a panel of professional experienced shooters helps to keep us off the single train of thought wagon.   One thing they didn’t address was the caliber myths.   It seams like every self defense discussion always seems to devolve to a caliber war.  Comes down to the fanboys of 1 particular caliber or other vs each other.   Don’t get hung up on Caliber!  What it really should be is Train, Train, Train.  Accurate hits on target with small caliber rounds are still far superior to not having anything in the first place and good hits with small calibers are better than poor hits or misses with the big boys. (yes, that tiny bit of difference between a 38, 9mm, .40 or .45 is a tiny percentage of the overall picture.

Think of pistol caliber like race cars. You have 3 race cars. one goes 181 MPH, one goes 185 MPH and one goes 189 MPH. But your not a NASCAR professional race-car driver with years of real racing experience. You can get behind the wheel of any of these 3 cars and get decent track times.  However, It’s unlikely you can push the faster cars enough to beat a real race driver driving the slower car. The minor differences between rounds can’t compensate for the user.   The terminal performance of pistol rounds is so similar (And so far inferior to shotgun or rifle round performance) as to be negligible.  You have to hit your target, hit it fast and accurately in the correct place to have the best chance at stopping an attacker.

First 5 Rounds, 10 yards

First 5 Rounds, 10 yards

I spent my formative years (17 to 23) on the 1911 platform putting more than 10,000 rounds of .45 downrange (And I was also guilty of the idea that the bigger bullet was better attitude), I was in the Army when we transitioned to the M9 from the 1911 and hated it for years strictly out of a fanboy .45 attitude.   Thankfully I’ve matured a bit over the years.   But now that I’ve put thousands of 9mm rounds down range also on varous platforms.  I have changed my mind.  Even my Springfield SubCompact -XD 9mm outperforms the 1911’s I’ve shot in my life and my full size 9mm duty pistol (An old Ruger P85 Mark II) is spectacularly accurate and fast as lightning.

There is a reason most professionals have swung over to the 9mm side from the larger calibers for self defense and training.  Generally less recoil, (Although this is more dependent on the weight/design of the pistol).  Less recoil means faster follow up shots, more accurate follow up shots (Less post shot deflection means less site realignment) and probably most importantly is training.  Training is the single most important factor in preparing yourself to use a sidearm in self defense.  More training equates to better real world performance.  So if you can buy 1/3 to 1/4 more rounds of 9mm than .40, you can shoot 30% more and train 30% more.  You have many gains over the tiny ballistic difference between calibers.

Tactical life also did a great article with a panel of 14 professional, experienced shooters/trainers giving their opinions. It was quite eye opening to see what direction the majority of them rolled

Tactical Life Article

So really, it comes down to training and finding the gun/caliber combination that allows you to be as quick and accurate as possible.  Don’t jump on the big boys based on that small ballistic difference.  You can’t miss fast enough with a .357, or 44 mag, or .45 to make up for the small ballistic difference.   Therefore the more you train, the more experience you get and the more proficient you become. Don’t focus on caliber, Stopping power itself is generally a myth with handguns. (Major cavitation effects just don’t occur through clothing at the velocities/bullet weights of handgun rounds).

I have a matrix that at least in my own opinion holds pretty true.  The two most important factors in defensive shooting are Accuracy (Bullets on target) and Speed (both deploying the sidearm as efficiently and effectively as possible and the speed of follow up shots until the aggressor is stopped).  To throw caliber in looks like this.  50% is Accuracy, 48% is speed (Can’ miss fast enough to stop someone so it falls below accuracy), and 2% is ballistics of the caliber round (With tiny differentials on the barrel length etc that can cause small changes in performance of the caliber rounds being used).

Get out there and practice, practice a lot, practice realistically, get training from many different sources to broaden your understanding which will help you train the best for you. (Everyone is different) and be mentally prepared as well as physically prepared.   Wish everyone good luck and a safe life, but if something happens, I wish you quick hands and spot on accuracy.

Stay safe everyone.  Situational awareness is key, avoiding a situation is a lot safer than dealing with the situation.

Doc


First Kydex Project: P-38 Sheath

If you’ve ever been in the Service, or are a prepper/survivalist, you’ve not only heard of a P-38, but you’ve probably carried them.  I saw my first p-38 as a young kid, my grandfather had one.  I saw him use it a time or two camping when we were very young.  I don’t know what happened to it.  I used my first P-38 as a 17 year old kid at Basic Training.  And have carried one on my keychain since I snagged my first one in Germany a year or two later.

The one problem with a well-used, older p-38 is the swing-gate can start getting loose and opens in the pocket.  This causes holes in the pockets (And occasionally holes in your leg).  I have tried many of the little tricks, wrapping a rubber band around it (never seemed to stay long and rubber bands seem to dissolve in the pocket), duct tape (Pain in the ass, to take off or put back on etc.).

Slight twist to enter, very secure.

Slight twist to enter, very secure.

I tried making a leather sheath for it, but it was just too bulky at the stitches, etc. (And I’m NOT a skilled leatherworker so aesthetically it was horrible LOL) and it kept sliding off.  Just didn’t have a good way of locking it onto the p-38.    The best thing I found so far was a piece of small tire inner tube (I don’t have a clue what tire it came out of)  That wrapped around pretty well, but rubber is hard to get out of your pocket sometimes and it eventually cracked and split and broke off.

So, I decided to give Kydex a try.  Not being much of an artisan, I didn’t expect much.  But Kydex turns out to be incredibly easy to manipulate.  On this small project, I didn’t bother with the oven or

Finished Sheath

Finished Sheath

a heat gun, just used a high pressure butane lighter, my fingers and my Leatherman Multi-tool pliers.

I figured I’d mess up so I cut the piece a bit larger than I needed and figured I’d cut off the excess.  Turned out I hadn’t accounted well for the bulk used in the turns, so it was almost perfect.  I only had to cut a tiny 1/8 piece off the end.

Gave it a little heat and then folded it over, took about 10 seconds to harden up to lock in the curve.  Then I put the P-38 in to find the next bend line.  The fit was almost perfect to start with.  I then trimmed off the 1/8 excess, heated up the next joint and folded it over.  Pinched this together in my fingers and in another 10 or 15 seconds it was finished hardening.

Base after being pinched closed.

Base after being pinched closed.

To keep the p-38 from pushing out the bottom, I heated it and pinched it with the pliers.  That worked but I didn’t like the results, so I heated it back up and pinched a little higher with a tad bit of lift.  This sealed the bottom better.

The opening.  Perfect fit.

The opening. Perfect fit.

Once I had the P-38 in the sheath, I warmed it up a bit and just put a tiny bit of pressure over the center.  This made a nice firm lock.  The neat thing is, due to the design, if you twist slightly as you place the P-38 back in the sheath, it opens the sheath so you don’t need to force it past the detent.

Simple project, didn’t take 10 minutes for the first one. Only took 5 minutes to make the second for my oldest boy.

My boy wanted one too.  The 2nd came out just as good.

My boy wanted one too. The 2nd came out just as good.

Just need to hook up my sander to really clean up edges a bit more.

Can’t wait to start my next projects!


Buck Packlite Review

Even after that much abuse, still lookin good.

Even after that much abuse, still lookin good.

My son picked this knife up for himself a while back for about $22.  He really liked it and I used it a little and although I’m not a big fan of scale-less knives, this handle is fairly decent and works well with a set of gloves on.  (Extended use without gloves may cause some hot spots).

I was going through Walmart one day about a year ago and the last one they had was on clearance for $17, but they gave me a big discount because it was the display model.  I ended up only paying (if memory serves me, but that’s no guarantee) about $12.95 for it.

I used it a couple times, made some fuzz sticks and it was good, but as par for the course, I’m just not a fan of knives that don’t have scales.  Any hard use will cause hot spots in the hand where the sharp metal corners touch the skin.   It had a great edge and held it well, so I made it my backup knife, stuck it in my outdoor kit (Saddlebags setup coming soon).  Where it’s sat for almost a year without getting used.  (I’m kind of addicted to my Tops HOG so it gets all my love).

Well my work participates in the United Way “Day of Caring” annual volunteer event.  This year we were tasked with planting 51 replacement trees for trees that were destroyed last year in a big storm.   My team of 3 people did 15 trees in 2 hours, and I swear it was because of this knife.  The tree root balls were covered in tough wet burlap and tied with some heavy ¼ inch twine cordage.

In the pocket carry.  This works well because of the plastic liner in the sheath.

In the pocket carry. This works well because of the plastic liner in the sheath.

The fellow we were working for had brought a box knife.  The blade was new and was dull before he got ½ way through cutting the 1st burlap sack off the first root ball.  (About 24 inches of cutting).  I wasn’t about to use my hog to cut into the dirt, so I dug the old Packlite out (which is extremely sharp, I keep all my knives very, very sharp and ready to go).  Is went through the ¼ inch rope like butter.  I then plunged it into the root ball and proceeded to cut. (It was just easier than trying to slide the knife around the ball in the pit which didn’t work well).   I touched it up with a rod after the 6th, and 12th bag I cut off and it easily cut every one and all the cordage.   It held an edge great and even cutting into burlap wrapped around dirt, it didn’t do any damage to the blade.  I washed it off, touched it up again and it’s back to shaving sharp.  This knife is tough.  Performed far better than expected for an inexpensive $20 knife.

I was never a big fan of recurved blades because they can be a little tougher to sharpen.  Nothing practice and learning the individual curves of the knife can’t fix.  But the more knives I use with recurves, the more I like them.  Now, I just need to come up with some scales for it.

Plastic Liner

Plastic Liner

The sheath I have mixed feelings about.  The belt loop is crap, little 5/8 inch piece of thin strap.  My boys broke off after 3 or 4 times wearing it.  The sheath is formed around a plastic insert that holds the knife well.  Since I don’t trust the belt loop strap, I just stuffed the whole knife in my pocket and drew/inserted it from the sheath there.  That worked quite well.

Very thin weak poorly designed belt loop

Very thin weak poorly designed belt loop

All in all, for a knife this inexpensive, I was truly amazed at what it handled.  I’m going to work on a new sheath for this one and it may become my primary “Tear it up” knife for when I need to go all primitive Pete with a knife and don’t want to tear up my good knives.    If you’re looking for a cheap (Almost disposable at that price) knife that will not let you down, this Buck fits the bill.

Solid Sheath, good quality all around except the belt loop.  Good locking snap to secure the knife

Solid Sheath, good quality all around except the belt loop. Good locking snap to secure the knife


DIY Tarp Camping

I’ve spent a lot of time camping over the years, starting out tenting it with my parents as kids, with my friends when we were younger, then 8 years starting when I was 17 (Yeah, had to get parents’ permission to join LOL) 4 active Army, 4 National Guard) in mostly canvas, with 6 to 9 month of the year in the field.  I did a little hammock setup with a cover about a half dozen times back in 93 to 95 or so, but me and hammocks just don’t get along, I’m a belly sleeper, never could sleep a whole night in one.

Basic Configuration.  4 poles 6 stakes  (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

Basic Configuration. 4 poles 6 stakes (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

My first tarp camping experience was a week in Italy at Camp Darby.  I didn’t want to spend 7 bucks a day renting a tent when I could rent a tarp for $1 a day.  So my buddy and I grabbed this huge 12 x 18 tarp and made a makeshift tent out of it.  We got lucky it never rained or stormed as the setup was really flimsy, but it worked perfectly.  See the pic.  The front and back were both open to allow the air through.  But the makeshift poles (Stick with a shirt on top so it wouldn’t poke a hole in the tarp) kept falling down.

My first ever Tarp setup.  Circa 1991 or so.  Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

My first ever Tarp setup. Circa 1991 or so. Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

After getting out of the Army I had mostly tent camped (Heck even had my first son out camping when he was only 4 months old LOL).  I have tossed out on the ground many times over the years next to a fire and watched the stars, then crawled into a tent if it rained, but about 6 years ago I decide to do some tarp camping and try to come up with something that worked better for me.    I wanted to be able to enjoy the night without a cover, but have it available if I needed to get under cover for the weather but keep it as simple as possible.

The first couple tarp setups I used I didn’t care for.  Just too claustrophobic and were too much like tents, took too much effort to get back into and out of it if it rained.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

So I settled on the classic lean-to style.  Then it was just a roll in, roll out.  Best of both worlds.  Over the years I tweaked the lean-to.  I salvaged 4 aluminum poles form an old tent set that are just about the right high. (I’d like them about 6 inches taller but they work well).   If I need to save weight, I can just cut sticks in the field.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration.  This is my typical lightweight version.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration. This is my typical lightweight version.

I use a 4 pole lean too, to give myself a little more “Working” room.  The long slope in the back is perfect for storing gear and this 10 x 10 tarp gives plenty of room.   My 8 year old has been sleeping under this thing with me since he was 2 also, he’ll cry and get upset if you try to make him sleep in a tent most of the time.  (He does have his own tent, but only used it twice.)

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

One of the tweaks I like about this tarp setup is, if the weather does get really heavy or the wind switches directions, it can push rain right in under the tarp.  (This has happened 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years).  If it’s heavy enough, I can just pull the 2 side poles from one end and move one of them to the middle, then push the corner steak into the ground and presto, a full wall from one side.  I can also do the same on the other side and have a nearly enclosed lean-to.  I do have to admit I’m lazy and have only folded the side down once.  Mostly because I’ve worked out a ground cover “Burrito Roll” that works so well I don’t have to reconfigure the tarp, even in some spectacularly nasty weather.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in.  This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in. This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

There are a couple of little tricks to this setup.  First.  You need to fold the inside corners of the ground cover tarp in (Up or under, doesn’t really matter).  What this does is prevent under-lap of the burrito role tarp.  If you pull the tarp over you during the rain, if there is under-lap, it will funnel water into the burrito.   I don’t normally stake the far corner down unless the wind is blowing in from the foot area.  If it is, then I just sit up and put a stake in the far corner.  (I’ve never had to do it, but if it blows hard enough directly at the foot, I have a couple extra grommets I can put extra stakes in to really seal the foot down.  By the time a cyclone force winds are pushing rain up that, it’s time to seek out a cave anyway LOL.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I also have a “Boat Bag” I picked up brand spankin new at Goodwill for $3.88 a couple years ago. (One of the best buys of my life).    It’s my favorite camping bag, even more so than my backpacks.  I mostly use it when car camping, but even for short hikes under full gear, I can sling it and carry it if I need to.  But this bag acts like a barrier at the head of the burrito roll.  Then I can throw the top of the burrito roll over the bag and tuck it under to create a perfect water tight seal from the top.  Thus leaving the entire side facing the back of the lean-to open to breath.  I’ve been through 1 particularly nasty windy storm (not including the one I dropped the side for) but it lasted no more than an hour) and I stayed perfectly dry.

Yes poly is a bit noisier than other materials.  (I still love canvas. My absolute favorite sound in the world is the rain on canvas) Polly is 100% water proof and can be used for things like a water basin to hold water, it can even be used to make

When I'm not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down.  I know it will all be dry when I return later.

When I’m not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down. I know it will all be dry when I return later.

a boat so it has some really great side functions.   For me, the poly works wonders.  Properly tensioned it can take quite a bit of abuse.  I’ve taken good care of my cover tarp and its lasted 6 years, through a roughly estimated 200 days of camping including 4 or 5 good storms.  It is wearing out though, I’ve lost 3 grommet holes and it’s faded to a color of nearly robin egg blue from the original dark blue, but it’s still going.   I am going to retire it and replace it for this year’s Scout Summer camp in 2 months.   Not bad for an $8 tarp.

I've lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I'll be retiring it soon.

I’ve lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I’ll be retiring it soon.

My two older boys have been tarp camping about as long as I have now, and they still like the simplicity of the single pole design, but my oldest boy just tosses out on the ground his military sleep system most of the time.  Gortex cover keeps him dry.

It's getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

It’s getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

If you want an inexpensive way to test the waters of tarp camping, you can’t go wrong with a poly tarp.  $8 per tarp, $3 for a set of stakes, and a $3 roll of cordage and you’re in.  Hope you enjoy your experimenting as much as I have.  But above all else, get out there and camp and have fun.

Here are a bunch of pics from other styles we’ve used and the styles my boys still use over the years.

The quick and easy single pole.  This works very well in heavy weather.  Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

The quick and easy single pole. This works very well in heavy weather. Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

My oldest boy and one of his setups.  This was great util it stormed,  the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

My oldest boy and one of his setups. This was great util it stormed, the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

This was at -19.  I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up.  Got a good night sleep.

This was at -19. I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up. Got a good night sleep.

Scout camp a couple years ago.  The tent was just to store gear and change clothes.  All the scouts slept under tarps.

Scout camp a couple years ago. The tent was just to store gear and change clothes. All the scouts slept under tarps.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration.  Worked great.  The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration. Worked great. The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

This is why I like this configuration.  My youngest boy and I can watch the starts, and if it rains.  I just climb under the lean-too and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

This is why I like this configuration. My youngest boy and I can watch the stars, and if it rains. I just climb under the lean-to and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

You can see the burrito roll.  When I'm not at camp this keeps the gear dry.  (There was no rain so I didn't pin the ends down.  Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.

You can see the burrito roll. When I’m not at camp this keeps the gear dry. (There was no rain so I didn’t pin the ends down. Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.


Stanley Adventure 24 oz Camp Cook Set

I have used an Army Canteen cup since I was issued the first one in Germany for most of my camping needs.  The one I used for the first 12 or 13 years was the newer wire handled.  And after it was lost, I found one of the single handled WWII models which I much preferred.  Well low and behold I haven’t been able to find it for 2 months.   Kind of bummed.  I loved it.

2 10 oz cups nested inside.

2 10 oz cups nested inside.

But figured it might be time to try something new.  I have seen this Stanley cup set for a while at various places.  Ranging from $15.99 to $22.00.  Finally broke down and grabbed one when it was the last one on the shelf and on clearances for $11.99.   It comes with 2 x 10oz insulated cups and a self-standing plastic tab on the lid.  It has a folding handle that holds the lid on when it’s stowed away.

The handle locks in the down position VERY securely.  Excellent design.

The handle locks in the down position VERY securely. Excellent design.

One of the ups on top to show the size.

One of the ups on top to show the size.

Not a bad size.  Not too big, not too small.

Not a bad size. Not too big, not too small.

The Good:

The pot itself is excellent.  Not ungodly heavy, but not an ultralight.  Thick enough to handle some abuse and live to tell the tale.   The gradient numbers on the side are a nice touch.  I don’t measure much when I’m cooking in the field myself, but they are very clear and easy to read.

The handle has two positions.  Extended and lid locked.  When extended it locks into position very well.  This makes pouring a breeze.  The thin metal handle cools down quickly, but as any metal handle on an open fire, be careful.

The plastic tab on the lid locks into a vertical position which is very handy.  Makes it easy to handle and control the lid.  2015-03-22 14.35.51 2015-03-22 14.35.41It is plastic so be careful what kind of fire you put the cup on to ensure you don’t melt it.

Stays locked shut very well.  You can just toss it in a bag and not worry about it coming open.

The Bad:

I don’t care for the cups, they are very heavy and thick, way thicker than necessary for thermal protection.   They are billed as insulated, but without a lid, they won’t make a tremendous difference in heat retention.    They also take up nearly 50% of the inside volume when stored.  A pair of thinner nested plastic cups would leave far more volume for other gear, spices, food, coffee, coffee, (Yes I said coffee twice LOL).  I’ll be on the lookout for a cup that fits well inside without burning up so much space.

No carrier option.  I got really used to my canteen cup carabineered to my pack.  It was always handy and ready to go.  This system would need to go inside a bag or come up with a strap option.  (I’m currently working on using an old laptop bag strap to clasp it.

Final take.  For the price.  It’s worth it just for the pot alone.  Where it will really shine is mods, what you do with it after you own it.   For example.  I ran across this mod below.  The funny thing is.  I dropped my French press in the kitchen 2 days before I wrote this.  Broke the glass so I tossed it.  Well. Tonight before I started writing this, I watched the video below, went out and dug through 4 bags of garbage to find the one I had the broken press in, dug the parts out.  Washed them and presto, fits like a glove.

Cooking away on a fire my son built.

Cooking away on a fire my son built.

So for me, this is not going to be my normal carry cup, however, this set will become my lightweight coffee system.   Normally I use a percolator and a camp stove, or just make cowboy coffee, so it will be pleasant to have the features of a French press along with a kit that will cook a meal as needed.

My oldest boy and I enjoying some tea.

My oldest boy and I enjoying some tea.

Check out this video by Team Disoriented that showed me that my broken french press was going to have more life!

2015-03-27 21.36.07

French Press parts

2015-03-27 21.36.36

The press fits in to the upper crimped area and you can just pour through it like a strainer.

Fully pressed, snug and perfect fit.

Fully pressed, snug and perfect fit.


CRKT Woods Kangee Tomahawk

Image Courtesy of CRKT

Image Courtesy of CRKT

Finally managed to get around to picking up some new gear to test.  I almost bought a couple of the SOG hawks which I’ve done a little hands on with and liked, but I’ve been eyeballing the CRKT Woods Kangee for some time now.  For the price (About $41) it’s an impressive piece of gear.  It is heavier than the SOG hawks and feels excellent in the hand.  Let’s run down the first impressions.

Field expedient replaceable handle. The primary reason I like hawk designs over most hatchet designs is the ease of replacing the handle in the field.  Yes, you can carve a fancy handle to match A Gransfors Bruks but it will take quite a bit of time.   Also, there is a small amount of extra time involved fitting the head and pinning it with a wedge.  (I have done this in the field and it’s not difficult, but does take some extra work and if you don’t do it well, the head lands in a patch of poison ivy 30 feet away).    Comparatively, you can strip a limb and narrow it down with a knife (Or the head of the hawk, which is VERY comfortable to use on its own) and slide it onto the new handle with a few tweaks.  That being said, yes, the better designed hatchet/axe handles are more comfortable and the angles and bends can give them a little more power and control.  So that is the trade off.  Everyone

Top Edge Notice how different the bevel is than the bottom edge.

Top Edge Notice how different the bevel is than the bottom edge.

Bottom edge is nearly perfect.

Bottom edge is nearly perfect.

has to decide which is more important to them.  If I’m planning on building a small log cabin, I’d prefer a larger dedicated axe.  But just something to keep strapped to my pack for small shelter building or to tear a stump apart to get to some fat wood or even to dig a root out of the ground, the hawk form just has a bit more flexibility.

Hawk vs Axe.  We touched on the hawk vs axe above, but to expand, I like dedicated tools that perform best for some functions.  So in my van when “Car” camping, or setting up a base-camp I always have a full sized axe available for big chopping tasks.  But when I head out on the trail, I don’t want to lug too much weight with me, so I like smaller more multipurpose tools.  This is the primary reason I decided to try out the Kangee.  It’s a bit heavier than most of the hawks out there but still lighter than a full sized ax.   The heavier head gives it an advantage over most hawks when chopping.  The longer handle also gives it a comfortable 2 handed chopping grip.  It also fits well on a pack hung through a carabineer.  The Kangee has a spike on the rear rather than the typical hammer.  I was split 50/50 on whether to get the Chogan model with the hammer or the Kangee with the spike.  So I sat down and decided what exactly am going to do with it in the woods?  The hammer is nice for pounding tent stakes, or pressing some dirt in to level a cook stove, but those are tasks that can be accomplished easily with just a piece of wood.   The spike however is useful for tearing apart wood (To reach fat wood, or if you REALLY need the sustenance, grabbing some grubs) or ripping apart a troublesome knot.  It also works great for digging, (Using it in the frozen ground was excellent.  Could breach ice and frozen dirt far better than a stake).  It works kind of like a mini mattock.  So having used many hatchets with hammer backs over the years, I decided to go with the spike.  Glad I did.  The spike is a great shape for tearing stuff apart.  Fat enough, with a good bevel on the edges.  It REALLY digs in.  (One cautionary note, the Kangee does NOT come with a sheath or holster.  There are some aftermarket kits for it though.  I am in process of building a leather “Bungee” cover for it.  I’ll post that project when it is completed.

The heavier weight and design of the spike makes it dig in deep.

The heavier weight and design of the spike makes it dig in deep.

Spike really tears stuff up

Spike really tears stuff up.  (My oldest boy really enjoyed tearing the stump up with it).

One thing that did disappoint me was the edge.  I’ve been a big fan of CRKT for many years, every knife I’ve ever received from them was shaving sharp right out of the box.  When the Kangee arrived, the first thing I noticed was the bevel was off, (about a 30% difference on one end of the blade, and about 10% on the other.  There was a huge overgrind on one side that left a very large bur along the top 1.5 inches of the blade.   It literally would not cut paper out of the box.  I had to do some work on the blade.  Took about 10 minutes to clear the bur and re-profile the edge so that it was somewhat even on the cutting surface.  This is not a problem for me, I’ve done it on many blades, but if you’ve never worked an edge like this, it could be difficult to get an edge and if you aren’t a big knife guy/gal, you could use this out of the box and not be able to cut anything with it.  I spent a little more time tonight fixing the edge.  It’ll shave but it’s still slightly off.  Most of the fit and finish of the head was outstanding, the hickory handle is fully functional and long enough to get a really full swing out of it even with both hands.  But the quality control on the blade edge bugged me.  I have seen online that this has been an issue on many of the Kangee and Chogan hawks.  Again, it’s not difficult to fix, but it is a little disappointing on a tool coming from CRKT.  I will contact them about this and let you know what I hear.  They have been a good company to deal with in the past, so I’m sure they will handle this well.

My oldest boy using the hawk to fuzz some wood

My oldest boy using the hawk to fuzz some wood

Price, this is what blows me away.  The cost for this hawk ranges from $39 to $50, I paid $42 for mine through Knifeworks.com.  There are a lot of high quality hatchets out there like the Gransfors Bruks, which are outstanding tools.  But for the price, this is really a tremendous bargain.  Will this last as long as a Gransfors?  Maybe, maybe not, but at 1/3rd the cost, you could purchase 3 of these, and if by any chance one finally wears out some

Spike splits a frozen stump really well.

Spike splits a frozen stump really well.

time in the next millennia, you can pull out the new one and keep on truckin and STILL have a spare waiting in wings.   I do like high quality stuff, but I will absolutely jump on something that come close.  Only time will tell if the quality is good enough for a lifetime.  But from

Makes short work of a 3 inch limb quickly.

Makes short work of a 3 inch limb quickly.

initial testing, and what I’ve seen from others.  The quality is outstanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I like high quality stuff.  I REALLY want a Gransfors axe someday, but in the meantime, it’s hard to justify spending that much money on a single tool, when I could get something like this and have enough left over to get another high quality knife or tool.

After spending some heavy cutting time with it, I do have to say it chops like a dream, but being heavier it does wear on you a bit more.  That heavier head does its job very well.

 


Stanley Thermos Test (UPDATED)

SEE UPDATES AT END:  Normally I test new gear, however, I’ve had this Red 1.1 Quart Stanley thermos for about 3 years now, (or maybe it’s 4, I forget).  I’ve always loved this thing, it does a great job of keeping coffee hot.  I use it all year long, (I drink a LOT of coffee).   Stanley claims that it will keep hot stuff hot or cold stuff cold for 24 hours.  I have used it many times to make coffee late Saturday morning, pack it up and leave it at base camp and have coffee still good and warm the next morning (Around 20 to 21 hours I estimate).  After a brief discussion with several people who did not think the Stanley could keep coffee hot for 24 hours, we decided to have a “Thermos Showdown”.  (As of the time of this posting, this is the only thermos tested so far).

Sorry for the lousy pic.  The bright blue LED messed it up.  This was the initial setup before I slid it to the cold corner

Sorry for the lousy pic. The bright blue LED messed it up. This was the initial setup before I slid it to the cold corner

The results were actually quite surprising and will require further testing.  There are several factors including whether the thermos was “Primed” (Using hot water to heat the inside elements prior to putting the coffee in it), as well as the outside temperature. (This was tested at approximately 63 degrees air temp).  (Colder area near the floor at an outside wall of the house.  This was verified by the 3rd and 4th sensors on the digital temperature gauge.

Note on Priming.  I did not prime my thermos the first 2 or 3 times I used it, but a scouting friend pointed it out to me at that first summer camp with it and I’ve primed it ever since.  I do not know how much of a difference it makes, but will find out in future tests.

The following results included these conditions:  63 Degree air temp and Percolated coffee at 212 degrees and a thermos that was primed with 212 degree water for 10 minutes.

The bottle was sealed for the first 10 hours but I thought there had to be something wrong with the sensor that it only lost 9 degrees in 10 hours, so I opened it and dropped in a second sensor.  There was a dramatic temperature loss after opening it of 6 to 9 degrees an hour.  So I’m going to want to re-run the test without opening it. (There was nothing wrong with the sensors by the way.  Both read identically to the tenth of a degree).

I had to leave for work the next morning so my last read was at 5:45 AM (Written down as 6:00 on the chart)  at 154 degrees which is still plenty hot for drinking).  At the 24 hour mark I buzzed my son to get a final 24 hour temp and was surprised when he told me it was still 149.   I didn’t give it another thought.  Got home to get ready for a Cub Scout meeting and decided to pull the thermos and dump it, figuring it would be too cold to drink.  But in that last 6 hours it only lost 6 more degree!!.   The final temp before I opened it was 143 degrees after 30.5 hours and it was still respectably warm to drink.  Not lip burning hot by any means but more than warm enough to drink. (And the coffee still tasted pretty darn good too, LOVE my Palermo Coffee) I was totally blown away it was still that warm.  I truly expected it to be at room temp after 30.5 hours.

The Chart shows the measured temps (Estimated between 2:00 AM and 5 AM by the 10 degree drop)

The Chart shows the measured temps (Estimated between 2:00 AM and 5 AM by the 10 degree drop)

I’m going to re-run the test with a few other conditions.  Such as not priming it first, as well as putting it outside the front door while the outside temps are below 10 degrees and also test it without opening the entire time (Which is how I normally use it) as well as opening it and pouring a cup out every couple hours.   Expect those tests in follow ups in the future.

All in all, I am pleasantly surprised by these results.  And the Stanley’s claim of 24 hours is on the mark.   Now I need to borrow the thermos models my friends have and put them all in a back to back test.  (I can do 4 at a time with 4 sensors).  It will be interesting to see how they all compare.

UPDATES: Stanley un-primed and Walmart Thermos Primed.

Since the first test, I have had a chance to rerun the test on the Stanley without priming it, as well as run the 2.1 Quart Walmart Brand Thermos in another back to back test.  First things first.  The difference between priming and not priming is SUBSTANTIAL in the first 8 hours.  Checking out the side by side results below, you can see that not only did we lose 10 degrees in the first 10 minutes to the prime, the temp drop reached nearly 24 degrees cooler in the first 8 hours. After that the temps leveled off and by 24 hours were roughly 4 degrees different. So for long term (24 hour) storage, priming doesn’t make as significant a difference, but in the at first 6 to 8 hours (Typical for Lunchtime or normal workday use), priming makes a good bit of difference.

Thermos Brand 40 oz and Stanley Red 1.1 Quart

Thermos Brand 40 oz and Stanley Red 1.1 Quart

Now on to the Thermos model 2.1 liter compared to the Stanley.  The Stanley came out of the gate better, holding temp roughly half way between the primed and un-primed tests of the Stanley.   At the 8 hour mark, it was holding 5 degrees hotter than the un-primed Stanley, but 19 degrees behind the primed Stanley.  And after 24 hours, all three thermos tests were within a few degrees of each other at roughly 145 which is plenty warm for drinking/eating.

All in all, either thermos will work, but the Stanley 1.1 quart does perform better when primed than the Thermos brand.

Thermos Test

Side By Side, Stanley Primed, Un-primed and Thermos brand.


 

 

 

 


Tops HOG 4.5 Review (UPDATED)

I like knives, I have several knives (Understatement warning) and each one has its plus and minus points depending on what I am using it for.  My favorite has been an original Cold Steel SRK that my brother gave me many years ago.  I loved it so much that I never used it.  Kept it like a special keepsake.  A good friend (Thanks Rich, You know who you are!)  Told me a year ago, “A good knife is meant to be used, get out there and use it”. So I started using it and it has been my go to knife ever since.  If you go through the blog history you will see many of the knives I own and use.  I have never done a review on the SRK because, quite frankly it’s not the current model most people could get their hands on.

First of all, a little history.  Well, a couple years ago, I was introduced to the Norseman (Gunnery Sgt. David Williams), long before he retired from the Marine Corps, on the back end of the TSP Forum.  I liked this guy from the outset.  Well spoken, tough as nails with a sense of honor that is far and few between these days.   He was developing a knife he called the “Surviveology” and hand building versions of it.  (There is some great info about the knife in the bio on tops, or on the http://www.survivalhardwarellc.com website, check it out)!  I had wanted one for a long time, but my finances never allowed me to get something at that level of quality custom made.   Along the way, my middle boy got into knives and started designing his own knives on paper.  I wanted to encourage him, so I had him and my oldest boy both draw up knives for me.   They had no idea what was in store.  I copied their designs and sent them to David and he built them to spec and got them back to me in time for Christmas.  (I have to tell you, that was the absolute best Christmas EVER).   Those were the first hands on I’ve had with any of his knives and I was duly impressed.  I’d have to say I don’t know exactly what he does for heat treats, but its freakin magic.  TOUGHEST knives I’ve ever seen.

Time goes by, David retires and moves onto a homestead and starts up www.survivalhardwarellc.com and starts doing these knives and renames it to the H.O.G.  (Hunter of Gunmen) and gets the knife into Tops.  The Tops version is what I have.  Top’s does some amazing work on knives.  (Read the write up on Tops for more details about this knives creation http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?products_id=434 ).   And as for the price, you can’t get them any better, however, after my experience with the two he made for my boys, I’d HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting one directly from the maker. Just check out his website and he throws up new knives as he completes them.  I don’t know what Norse magic he puts into them, but they are the hardest, toughest tools I’ve ever used.

But back to the tops version.  I’ve had this knife for a couple months now and have put it through its normal set of paces just by using it for everyday tasks both in and out of the woods.  I don’t “Torture” test a knife to the extreme.  Mostly because,  A:  I can’t afford to buy 2 of each knife and beat one to death and B:  others do that and this is “Average Guys Reviews” so the typical average guy isn’t going to hammer a half dozen of them into a stone wall to make a ladder out of so we really don’t need to go there.  I have no doubt in my mind that this knife can take that kind of abuse, but for those of us in the real world, it just needs to do what we want it to do and this knife not only excels at that, but I’d trust my life to this knife in any way shape or form even under those “Extreme” conditions and uses.

Image Courtesy of Tops Knives

Image Courtesy of Tops Knives

Let’s start with the knife, Tops always sends some decent kit with a knife, Got a good whistle, and an interesting (Though bulky) sheath.  I like the leather sheaths that Norseman makes on his site for the hogs, maybe I’m a bit more old school, but they are just more comfortable, hang better and look amazing.  I kind of wish I’d dropped the extra coin to pick up the leather sheath instead of the tops sheath.   But it works well and has plenty of options for mode of carry.  The sheath can be strapped on any way you want to carry it.   The sheath has an extra pouch to add a tinder box or a sharpening stone or whatever suits your needs in the field.

SRK on Left, BG middle (With personalized Veff serrations from the man himself) and the Hog with sheath on the right.

SRK on Left, BG middle (With personalized Veff serrations from the man himself) and the Hog with sheath on the right.

Out of the box this knife was shaving sharp, in fact the first thing I did with it was shave the right side of my face.  I won’t be trading in my straight razor for shaving anytime soon though, but the knife cuts well enough.   I have not touched up the edge yet.  I want to see how long it will hold an edge before I put stone to it.  So far, 2 months of moderate to heavy use hasn’t even phased it.  It will still shave the hair off my arm with a little bit more drag though.  (Update, I finally touched it to my stone and steel last night (2 months to the day after purchasing it).  I took 8 swipes on the stone (Very fine synthetic) and 4 swipes on a steel and it’ s back to shaving sharp.  no edge damage from my usage (And I’m a little “Primitive Pete” with tools sometimes so that’s saying a lot).

Fuzz stick trial

Fuzz stick trial

I’m not an expert at fuzz sticks, they don’t look pretty when I make them, but they catch a spark just fine.  You can’t see it very well in the picture with my thumb in the way, but this shaving is so thin it was opaque.  The other picture with the tiny fuzz stick shows the fine work capable with this knife.

Paper thin shavings

Paper thin shavings

Note the detail work, that fuzz stick is barely bigger than the 2nd bevel of the blade.  For a decent sized field knife, this can do some amazing fine work.

Note the detail work, that fuzz stick is barely bigger than the 2nd bevel of the blade. For a decent sized field knife, this can do some amazing fine work.

The stick is barely bigger than the secondary bevel on the blade!.   The handle is remarkable, fills the hand exactly where you would expect it to.  It is a tad short for my over sized meat hooks, but not enough to bother me.   The ring in the handle was originally designed to be a retention device, but serves many other uses.  Pin a carbineer through it and you can clip it to your gear pretty easy.  I like to run an 8 inch paracord lanyard through it as you can see in this pic, this allows me to grip the knife further back with just my two fingers for chopping which makes this knife chop like a much bigger knife.  The grind is not quite full, which give the best compromise between grind and spine strength.  You can baton with this knife and not worry about being too rough with it.  It can take it just fine.

8 inch (16 inches folded) with 2 knots for adding clips or carbiners

8 inch (16 inches folded) with 2 knots for adding clips or carabiners

Talk about a well-balanced knife.  You’ve probably heard that term before, and many people will lay a knife across their finger at the hilt and if the knife balances, they call it well balanced.   That is not a well-balanced knife, that is just a knife balanced between the handle and the blade which is good for some application, but not for others.  This knife feels like an extension of your hand.  You can close your eyes and draw with the tip of this thing in the sand.  Typically called “tip awareness”, this knife truly feels “Balanced”.  Normally this kind of balance makes for a great working knife, but not a great chopper,  but with a lanyard in the tail, it chops pretty damn well.  My SRK is bigger and heavier and chops well, but the dead straight handle does not help it for chopping and this knife chops better.  I would not recommend using it to build a log cabin, but it will make short work of 2 inch branches for building a shelter.

The details of the knife specs are as follows.  Overall Length is 9-3/4” with a blade length of 4 3/8” (In Iowa where I live this means the knife is not qualified as a weapon and can be carried without a license).  Your local and state laws may be different so do your homework.  The knife is 1095 High Carbon steel.  (Which in my opinion is a great steel for knives).  It does require the user take care to keep it clean, but well worth it for the price.  You can pay far more for more exotic steels, but the small improvements over 1095 just don’t add up mathematically for me.    The handle is a palm filling Black Linen Micarta which gives great feel and texture.   With so much emphasis on skeleton knives and paracord wrapped survival knives these days, this handle is far and away one of the best and most comfortable I’ve ever used.

A good notch working a try stick.

A good notch working a try stick.

Unfortunately, my hands are far larger than “Average” (Pun intended).  I could use an extra ½ inch on the handle, but even though it’s a bit short for me, it still feels amazing.  The swells fill the palm in just the right places no matter what grip I use.  I can be doing a fine work, choked up on it, I can have it in a two or three finger chopping grip, a standard full grip or even a revers defensive grip and the handle just blends to the hand.  I can’t emphasize enough how well done these scales are.  If you read the description on tops, you’ll understand what went into the design and you’ll understand how it can fit so well.   I don’t think I’ll ever use another skeleton knife again.  (Except a Tibo, I still wanna to get one of those little guys).

This blade is 3/16ths thick and uses a high flat grind so it gives a good blade thickness without becoming a sharpened pry-bar yet still has a solid spine for heavy duty work and batoning etc.

The blade coating is the standard epoxy based black friction coating.  It is VERY tough, but does add a little friction to the blade (Hence the name LOL).  This is another tradeoff.  Normally I don’t like coatings, but since this is a non stainless knife, I’ll keep it on to help protect it.

The handle is just amazing, can't say enough about the comfort and feel of this knife.

The handle is just amazing, can’t say enough about the comfort and feel of this knife.

I love everything about this knife.  I do have to be fair though and everyone is different, and uses a knife for different purposes so a knife that is perfect for one person or for one use may not be perfect for another person or use.  This knife covers all the bases so well it is as close to a perfect knife as I’ve found.  It’s features work well across different uses.

A little better on the fuzz stick with practice.

A little better on the fuzz stick with practice.

Where some knives compromise between 2 features or styles and never quite work for either, this knife blends them and gives the full range of use.   If I could change anything about it (Simply to suit me, not that it needs any changes), I’d extend the handle about a ½ inch for my big hands and I’d reduce the distance between the rear blade edge and the handle for fine close up work.  This is more a cosmetic thing as it works fine as is, just one of those little things that I personally like.

The tops price on this knife is $179.00 and it’s well worth it.  However, if you want something a bit more unique with the makers own personal heat treat (Which I consider one of the best I’ve ever seen), then hit up www.survivalhardwarellc.com and watch as one off pieces show up on the site.  Each has all the features that make the Tops version outstanding, but with some mods or tweaks that make them uniquely beautiful as well as imminently functional.

As always be safe out there and enjoy what you’re doing.  Take the right tool along for the job and you’ll be happy you did.

Doc

 

 

Almost forgot my favorite pic of the HOG in action on my boys 9lb blue cat.

The HOG in action on my boys 9lb cat he dragged in with light tackle.  Worked as well for the thin slicing as it did for cutting through the heavy bone.  Very Functional Knife.

The HOG in action on my boys 9lb cat he dragged in with light tackle. Worked as well for the thin slicing as it did for cutting through the heavy bone. Very Functional Knife.

 

UPDATE ADDED!

 

After playing with the ring a bit.  I made another modification to the kit I use with the knife.  I took about 38 inches of paracord, and dropped a figure 8 on each end.  This gets run through a mini carabiner and through the ring.  This is a very flexible setup.    I noticed after doing a lot of chopping (I went through two 4 inch chunks of maple as fast as I could) with the carabiner through the ring that it could pinch every once in a while and the carabiner could give some hot spots on the fingers.  (Gloves would alleviate this).  I had a chunk of paracord to extend it for both a lanyard and for extending to chop with, but the lanyard isn’t very flexible and too short to do much of anything with.

So see the pictures to see how I set this rig up.

Pic 1 shows the full cord separated with the carabiner and the Hog

2014-08-26 18.31.43

Finished cord is 32 inches long loop to loop.

Next pic is the normal carry position.  This gives about 16 inches of lanyard, enough to go round the elbow and lock the knife into the hand (Gives counter pressure to the knife while its being used).  I found this turns the knife into an extension of your arm.  For chopping I reverse the loop and run the middle of the lanyard through the ring and keep the carabiner through both end loops on the loose end.  That lets me hold just cordage for chopping which for me was a bit more comfortable.   This can then be clipped to gear or a vest if your working close.

Carabiner in loops in knife.

Carabiner in loops in knife.

Last is the long leash,  This is for working over water or in terrain where dropping your knife could be disastrous.    The figure 8 loop is wrapped through itself at the ring of the knife, and the carabiner clips through the other loop and connects to your belt or chest strap of a pack etc.  32 inches is ideal for me (It gives me near full extension from the backpack ring on my chest or belt).

Full Length Rig

Full Length Rig

The ring is very useful.  Since it’s larger than a standard lanyard hole, it adds much more functionality.


Technology in the Field

Let’s face it.  There are 2 kinds of outdoors people.  Those who use tools as tools as intended (to gain the benefits of those tools), and those who poo poo on others for not using the “Right” tools, or for using tools they don’t know how to use themselves.    I’m not a fan of tent camping for example, I love to camp, and I throw up a simple tarp to keep the rain off if needed, but that’s not for everyone.  I might rib a friend for using a tent, but it’s all in fun.  Tents are fine and they do keep the bugs off.  So to each his own and if you prefer a tent or an RV or whatever, more power to you. I’m happy you’re out there enjoying yourself.  Whatever gets you out there in the woods is a good thing!

Technology is one of those things that bring out the butthurt in some people.  Personally, I see technology as simply another tool.  If you have it, great, if not, no big deal.  Just like any piece of gear or kit, if it fails, can you get by without it?  (Snap the blade off your knife batoning wood with it and you’ll get the picture).  If the answer is yes, then you’re fine.  If the answer is no, then you may need to work on the skill sets a bit more.

In this day and age, there are tools (GPS for example) that can replace or supplement an older piece of kit.  Sometimes this is good, GPS is a great tool for tracking your hikes, marking locations, finding out exactly how far your hike has taken you, planning the next leg of your hike, etc, etc.   Yes, this can be accomplished with a map and a compass (albeit quite a bit more slowly), and if you can use both you are better off yet.  But just as a compass can be lost or damaged, so can a GPS or the batteries can go dead.   Same with a phones or radio. It’s much harder to call for help using a hatchet than with a phone.  Particularly if you are injured.

Technology can be incredibly useful in the field.  No matter how much I learn, I don’t know and can’t know everything, or even a fraction of whats available  (if someone believes they do then don’t follow them into the woods, they may just get you killed)!  Having resources available at my disposal to supplement my skills and knowledge can be invaluable.   A simple cell phone can contain, encyclopedias of data, pictures, videos etc that you could not possibly memorize in a lifetime.    I love having the ability to look something up I don’t know (A new plant for example) while I’m out in the woods, rather than have to take pictures and wait till I’m back at home to research it.  Also, I hate dragging several books with me to research plants or birds etc in the field, so much weight, and there is no difference between the info on the phone vs the info in a book.  One is just far more convenient to transport than the paper variety.

So just as any tool in your kit, learn to use it and learn to use it effectively!   Don’t turn a tool into a crutch.  Just because you have that much information at your fingertips does not mean you should not be learning it.  I like to try new things, but the best way to learn is to do, so I may download something to the phone, take it in the woods and learn by doing.  Best way to keep the skill in my head.   Then if I ever need to refresh or go back and review the info, it’s still there.  And if I don’t ever need to go back to look at it, its only bits, don’t weight a thing.

This brings us to the #1 enemy of technology in the field.  Power.   Without power, technology becomes extra weight.  I tend to take storage batteries with me in the field.  These are high density, low weight/size to power ratio devices that can recharge my phone or GPS several times over.  In fact my two current power supplies can power my phone, my GPS, my Tablet and my camera for about 5 days of typical use or 3 days of heavy use.  I don’t want to carry much more weight, so rather than carry additional heavy battery packs, I have added solar charging to my kit.  I use the solar charger to recharge the 2 battery packs as I alternate them.  One is with me to keep my gear hot, while the other charges.  Then I swap them the next day.    I have enough power to hold out for a couple of days with no sun between the two units which is never a problem.

The solar charger I ended up with is the Goal Zero Nomad 13.  I choose this panel because it fit several criteria.  It produced a high enough voltage to charge my high voltage  IPAD or other tablets, as well as my Duracell Jump starter for my vehicle.    It also has multiple connection points to include a 12v socket so I can use a multi-car charger to charge several low voltage devices like phones and my AA/AAA rechargeable batteries for flashlights and GPS.    I am immensely impressed with the Nomad 13.  It folds down to roughly the size of an inch thick piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper.  It weighs very little and can strap on the outside of a backpack as you hike to charge devices as you go and you won’t notice it at all.      The performance is out of this world.  Even if it’s overcast and barely any light is making it through (Even with total thin cloud cover), it produces enough voltage to charge my low voltage devices like my phone.  I’ve managed to get power at times I figured there was not enough sunlight at all.   In full sunlight, it will fully charge my phone in 2 hours.  The folding design makes it easy to place where it can get an optimal amount of sunlight without you having to move it every 30 minutes.    I highly recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 13.   I’ve used the little 6 inch folding chargers and for a device this size and weight, it hands down blows them away.

Charger in action on a scouts phone.

Charger in action on a scouts phone.

So get out there, enjoy your outdoor experience, and if you need a little boost to keep your gear going, look into solar.  You really can’t go wrong with this.


Value, what is it?

Rather than a gear review this week, I’d like to put up something a little thought provoking instead.  Something we hear every day is, “it’s a good value” but what does that really mean?  I’d like to put my perspective on it.

Value (as taken from Webster’s dictionary), is:

  1. Relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.
  2. Monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.
  3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.
  4. Equivalent worth or return in money, material, services, etc.: to give value for value received.
  5. Estimated or assigned worth; valuation: a painting with a current value of $500,000.

How does that translate into gear?  Is the most expensive piece of gear more valuable than all others?  Is value simply the amount of currency paid for an item?  This oversimplified idea just doesn’t fly in the real world.

Value is what you get for what you pay for to accomplish the task you set for it!  For example:  Is an $80,000 Italian sports car more valuable than a $40,000 minivan + $40,000 in cash, or $50,000 pickup truck + $30,000 in cash?  Some would say yes, some would say no and some would say they are equal.  (From a monetary point yes they are equal, but from a value point on the individuals perspective they are not equal).    Perspective plays a big role in this.  To someone who only cares about speed, the sports car is more valuable for the price, however to someone who has to drive a family of 5 around the Minivan + Cash would be more valuable, and to someone who has to haul a trailer or loads of wood, the pickup +Cash is more valuable.

Now how does this play into gear?  The same principal applies.  If you have several similar pieces of gear available, say one is $10, one is $20 and one is $40, which one is the best value?   Some would jump on the $40 because it’s the most expensive so it has to be the best which is rarely the case.  There are many parameters that affect “Value”.  Quality or “How long will it last”? is probably the most important.    If Item 1 will last about 1 year before it’s falling apart and needs to be replaced, it would take 8 of them to last 8 years.  And if the $40 item will last 8 years without replacement, then the more expensive item is easily the better value.   But as in every aspect of equipment, we hit a point of diminishing returns.   In this example we see that point.  The $20 item will last 7 years.  Is the doubling in price worth it for the extra year on the more expensive piece of gear?  In this example I would say no it isn’t.

When it comes to gear, we see a point of quality that I like to call the 90% line (or the value line).  Once we find gear that is better than 90% of the other similar gear, we start to get so close in quality, that the tiny percentage gains in quality no longer match the rapidly rising price.  (What’s called diminishing returns).    Cheap gear won’t last and you’ll be replacing it constantly.  Middle of the line gear is ok, but you’ll still replace it more often than necessary and probably at a faster rate than the numbers justify.  But once you start working with gear in the 90th percentile, you start to gain very little as the price increases much faster than the quality can improve to match it.   The two lines (Quality and price) are not parallel.  They trend closer to each other as you move along the scale.

If you are planning on putting a piece of mission critical gear through hell and back in an area where you need to trust your life to it, you can easily justify the extra cost to gain the small return of quality difference (Think soldiers in combat for example), but for the average guy or gal, value is much easier to find in that 90th percent arena.  That doesn’t mean you buy cheap gear, far from it, cheap gear below the curve will be replaced too often to be of value.  NEVER buy cheap gear.  It will frustrate you, it will fail you and it will cost you more in the long run with replacements.

The best bet is to find your own “Sweet spot” for value that you are comfortable with for the task the gear will be used for.  I don’t mind getting 2 for 1 if the quality is at the 90% mark or higher.  In a back pack for example, I can buy 1 pack that will last me 20 years or I can buy 1 pack that will last me 15 years for ½ the price.  Even if I replace the pack at 12 years with something newer and more efficient with more modern engineering, I’ve gotten a far better value.    Value isn’t “Cheaper” far from it, value is more efficient for the cost.

As with everything else, value is what you get out of it, don’t short change yourself when you need it, but don’t throw money away either.  I hope this explanation helps you to find your own best value in gear.


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