Category Archives: Power

Lighting Your Way Today

Considering that roughly one third to one half of every day is in the dark (Depending on where you are and the time of year, and not accounting for storms, eclipses, giant spaceships blocking out the sun, etc.) one of the more critical things we as human beings rely on is light.  That could be candle light, kerosene lantern light, firelight, electric lights or battery powered lights.

I always carry a flashlight on me, in fact, I generally have two or even three depending on time of year and clothing.  If I’m running around in shorts and a T-shirt, I’ll have 1, I have a spare in my spring jacket and when wearing heaver clothing I keep 2 spares (1 spare hand light and a headlamp for hands free use).

3 lights

Lots of light in a small amount of space

Any ole flashlight will do in most situations.  I was lucky enough to see a motorist one night (-28 degrees, middle of winter) trying to change a tire in the dark.  I pulled in and walked up to see if I could help.  He didn’t have a flashlight and could barley see what he was doing and had already spent 20 minutes in the freezing cold feeling around and figuring out how the spare tire release and jack worked in the dark by feel.     Simply pointing a light allowed him to finish in 3 or 4 minutes what would have taken another 10, (And would have turned a 30 minute job into a 7 minute job had he had it to begin with), which in that kind of cold might save a few digits.   Keep a flashlight in your vehicle at all times.  (I recommend you put it in a Ziploc bag with 2 sets of battery’s,  don’t load the batteries in the light or they may corrode and make it useless when you actually need it).  This can be a cheap flashlight.  Most alkaline batteries will last 8 to 10 years so you have plenty of time.

I do recommend going with an LED light over a bulb light.  If you use bulb lights, throw an extra bulb in with them.  However in this day and age LED’s are just as inexpensive now and offer both equal lighting AND longer battery life.  Can’t really go wrong with them.  They also work in temperature ranges higher and lower than bulb lights.  (I’ve burned a couple of mag-light bulbs in sub zero temps back in the old days (yeah, I’m 45 LOL) so the spare is always a must).

I also recommend keeping a headlamp in place of a standard hand light for most “Storage” lights, like home, car, pack etc.  (EDC “Every Day Carry” light exceptions we’ll discuss in a minute.   Head lamps have the benefit of keeping both hands free and if it has an adjustable angle bracket, can really keep light exactly where you need it.  i also discovered that as I got older I developed a gag reflex if I hold items in my mouth like a flashlight.  When I was younger I could do it all day.  Now, if I hold something in my mouth like the butt of a light for more than about 10 seconds, I start getting the urge to vomit.  Not sure why this came up on me as I got older, but it is what it is.

EDC lights:  I carry three lights with me most of the time unless it summer and I don’t have a coat or lite jacket (no pun intended. LOL).   Four if you count my FAK/Pack light.

I’ll go over the 4 I carry and why I carry them and their particular features.  Everyone has different needs, so by all means, do the research, find the lights that work best for you and your purposes.   This is just to help you see my own thoughts and if they help you figure out what works, great!

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Olympa RG245

First of all, my pocket light, the one that is on me everywhere all the time.  The one I use the most.  I got lucky on this one, I picked up an Olympia RG245 for about $30.  This light is typically $42 to $55.  Now, everyone knows I like value. I don’t generally go spending $40 or $50 bucks on a piece of gear unless it’s critical.  And when you can buy inexpensive led lights for $8 r $10 that can take some abuse and work well.  It’s hard to justify spending more.   But it’s worth it.

What you get for the extra money are a few features that are very useful.    Good circuitry that allows for even battery usage and extend life of the battery.  A temporary flash mode to let you know when the battery is getting low. (Otherwise it would just suddenly shut off).  Instead of a light that is just turned on or off, you get multiple settings.  There is a high beam good for defense to temporarily blind an adversary or at least interrupt their vision.  Or when you need a lot of light to light up a large area or see a good distance of 245 lumens.  This runs for about 1 hour on a single CR123 battery.  The second mode is a medium mode (just 1 more click of the tail cap button) A little less than half the brightness (about 110 lumens) which is good for most tasks, I spend most of my time in this mode.  The battery will last about 3.5 hours at this light level.  The low power mode is 20 lumens and the battery will last for an amazing 45 hours.  I’ve used this mode a lot when I’m camping and I need to get something out of a bag or light a stove or something.  Doesn’t completely destroy your night vision but offer plenty of light even to read by.

There are also a couple other modes like Strobe and SOS.  Strobe flashes rapidly which can be used for signaling and can improve performance in foggy or smokey conditions.  The SOS mode is useful in case you are hurt or need help.  You can set it down and let it flash for you.  It flashes the light in the universal Morse Code SOS pattern (dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot).

The light is small, easily fits in the palm.  I wouldn’t call it a defensive light like some of the slightly larger lights with raised ridges that can be used as a kubaton.   CR123 batteries are a bit more expensive, but the lifespan and power they produce are well worth it.  It would take a flashlight large enough to hold 2 AA batteries to get the same performance so it helps keep the light small.

I prefer the hooded tail caps like the Olympia because they don’t get turned on in your pocket the way side switch often do.  And they are much faster and easier to deploy than the twist off/on style.   Although even with the hood, I have on occasion turned it on in my pocket and the temperature after a few minutes goes up enough to let me know I did it.  As you can tell by the picture it’s well worn and function quite well.  It’s been dropped many times and that solid state circuitry and LED still work great.

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The second light I keep in an inside pocket of my jacket is a hands free light.  I’ve had a lot of the cheap little 30 and 50 lumen single LED headlamps that cost about $12 bucks and they work, but don’t seem to last very long.  My father in law had given me a pelican headlamp many years ago that lasted me 12 years of horrible abuse and is still going strong so I decided to see what the latest and greatest Pelican because I knew it was tough and would last me.  Not only was I happy with their latest models and features, I was quite surprised by the price.  I only paid $31.99 for the Pelican 2720 headlamp.    This thing has every feature I could hope for and a bunch I wasn’t even aware of.  Since this would be my primary “Work” light.  I was looking for features.  Simplicity is great, particularly in an EDC light, but for the main workhorse, I wanted a bit more and this thing nailed it.

  • Just a quick rundown of features.
  • Low level Red LED night vision that helps preserve night vision
  • Variable light mode from 100 % (200 lumens) for 3.5 hours all the way down to 12 lumens with over 100 hours run time.
  • Output magnification and beam control, can make it wider or narrower as needed.
  • 3 standard AAA batteries, easy availability
  • touch-less on off controls for when your cleaning game or or processing food and don’t want to touch it.
  • SOS beacon (Just like the Olympia).

Yep, this thing does it all.  And at $32.00 it’s tough as nails, waterproof and really just does it all.  The head-strap is outstanding, (I personally prefer the single strap on this model without the center cranial strap but to each his own).

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The backup light as I call it is a slightly larger light that I picked up through an online offer.   I believe it was around $30 or so just for the light but I got the full kit with it for that price.  It’s a Gun Shack G3 (Branded form the Helotex G3) but for the life of me I can’t remember what I paid for it.

This is a unique light because it came with all the connectivity for a weapon light with external switched and end cap, as well as conversion pieces to switch it between a dual CR123 and 3 x AAA so if you can’t find CR123’s where you are, you can sure find AAA’s.  Its a big handful of tough weapons grade aluminum with some serrations or “Skull Crusher” ridges on the front bezel.  It’s 160 lumens is not as “Tactically” strong for defense as the smaller Olympia I carry, but still plenty strong enough to interfere with vision.  (Anything over 120 lumens is considered defensively bright).   The flexibility of this light makes it a good backup light.


The last light I carry is my pack light.  This is actually a custom light prototype created by the owner of Z.A.S.C.  (Zombie Apocalypse Survival Camp) Guy Cain.  Which I have been involved with since ZASC’s inception.   You can build this or a similar light pretty easily buying the parts online fairly cheap.   We never produced these lights, but may at some time.  It’s starts with a sealed 6 panel led that does 18 lumens (3 lumens per LED) Then that is wired to a 9V battery socket.  I added a flexible wire “bungee” strap that allows me to hang or stand or strap the light wherever I need it.  The best thing about this light is the time it runs.  On a typical 9V batter this light ran for just shy of 500 hours.  Yes, I ran this light continuously on a single 9V for 21 days straight.  If you were to just use it during 8 hours of darkness continuously, it would run for about 2 months, and if you only used it for an hour a night (more typical usage), it could go for nearly a year and a half on a single 9V battery.  This is a great little light.

I hope this info helps you find the ideal lights for your daily treks and shows that you don’t have to break the bank to be the hero when the lights go out.  🙂







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.

High end portable battery power for your phones (or any USB device for that matter).

Just prior to the summer camp this last summer (I’m a Boy Scout leader and spend a week every year a at a camp with the scouts in my troop) I purchased battery pack.  You see, by day I’m an IT Manager for an electric cooperative, and I’m on call 24/7/365.  So you can imagine my need for constant connectivity with the office is pretty great.   I’m in luck (or maybe unlucky) that the location for most local camps has cell phone reception.  I run smart phones and the battery typically lasts about 18 hours, but at camp the phone will roam for a signal which chews the battery up in about 6 hours.   So I had good luck with the little solar charge (SBC-10) which gave me one ½ charge, but didn’t recharge via solar fast enough to be useful for extended period.  (It still works great if you leave it on your dashboard and grab it to go).

So I went out and did a little digging and found a more powerful device.  The Tekkeon MP3450.   It’s a bit expensive (Runs retail about $140 on Amazon).

But this thing has adapters for most laptops and will supplement power to a laptop.  I only tested this once and it bought me about an extra 2 hours or so on my Fujitsu tablet.   However, the real benefit of this guy is charging my phone.  I was able to fully charge my phone 8 times with this before the battery was depleted.   That’s 8 FULL charges form a battery pack that is the size of your outstretched hand and weighing in at only 1 lb.  Just plug your USB device into a USB cable and plug it into this device.

The device automatically resets to the lowest required power draw for whatever device is plugged in so you can’t over charge your device.  (This also extends the battery in case you leave a device plugged into it for too long.

I will be conducting further testing with this pack.   It is an expensive power option, but if you need to have flexible power EVERYWHERE, this device works.

You charge it at home typically but you can charge it off of compatible laptop power supplies also so you would not have to carry the power brick for it with your laptop to charge.

It comes with 9 different tips and fits most laptops.  (Check the website for details

It does come with a cheesy pleather type slip cover, but I keep mine in a pelican clear case like this. 

If your looking for solid, long term dependable power, this guy will get the job done.   Supplement this with a solar charge (Review coming up) and you’ll always have power when you need it.

Some gear coming up

This month, I’ve been trying to get some reviews done on some more electronic gear.  Unfortunatly my work and family schedule has not been cooperating.  I have some pieces below that I will be posting this and next week.

Kiwi Choice U-Powered KWS1 Solar Portable Charger – A nice little folding portable charger, superior by a factor of 3 to the previous reviewed model.

Acer Iconia Windows Tablet W500 Tab.  A windows based tablet for those who want real world compatibility vs the Ipads with a few trade offs.

CRKT M21-14SFG Tactical Folder.  This has been my EDC carry knife for about 8 months now.  Love this knife.

SBC-10 Solar Charger (With Battery)

Found this little guy on listed as $59.97 with a $50.00 discount.  Too good a deal to pass up I assumed.  So I ordered a couple of them.

Prolynkz SBC-10 Mobile Power Pak Solar Charger

First of all, at the full (Supposedly retail?) price they are not worth the cost.  However, most internet searches turn them up at between $9 and $13.   I would buy these at up to $12 but no more.

First of all a little description.   This is a combination solar charger/battery pack.  It has a battery (not a very big battery).  Some nice features for such a cheap device.

It comes with a USB charging cable (To charge from a USB port), and adapters for several of the current run of phones and MP3 Players.  It also includes an embedded sollar cell to charge the battery in the field.

I spent a week at scout camp and did some testing with this device.  I will say right out of the box that it is a little underpowered for my phone.  I use an HTC Touch pro 2 smartphone and from dead battery, this device (fully charged) got me about 1/3 to 1/2 a charge which is good for the price.

The solar cell produced enough voltage to show charging on the phone, however, after 1 hour of solar charging (on a dead battery on the device) in direct sunlight, it only charged 20% on the phone.

This is what I would call cheap insurance.  I put one of these on the dashboard of our vehicle and its always charged and ready to go, throw it in a pack or pocket and head out the door.   It will run your phone in an emergency just fine.   Or get you the extra 20 minutes needed to finish a call etc.

All in all, its a great device for the cheap price.  I now have 4 of them and give them as gifts to other family members.