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Author Archive | Matt

On Foot, Off Grid: Suntactics sCharger-14

I’ll just say up front that this sCharger-14 is easily the best portable solar charger that I have used and then I’ll spend the rest of this article telling you why. The bottom line is that the quality is excellent, they are assembled and supported here in the USA, and they have a feature that is an absolute game-changer (more on this later).

sCharger-14 Specifications:

  • Output: 2800mA, 5.1V, 14Watts
  • Circuitry: 2-USB Ports, Patented Auto-Retry (Auto-Reset)
  • Weight: ~21oz (596 Grams)
  • Water Resistant: 40 Feet, Corrosion Resistant, IPX7 Rated
  • Dimensions: 11.6″ x 7.25″ x .25″in (closed) / 11.6″ x 14.5″ x .125″ in (open)
  • Solar Cell Efficiency: ~20%, Mono-Crystalline
Suntactics sCharger-14 (upper right) shown with another panel during testing. There will be a review available on the other panel soon.

Observations from Use

To understand what makes the Suntactics panels so great, it helps to have some context for the state of the solar charger market and some experience with the challenges of solar charging devices in the field. I’ll try to provide that context before explaining how Suntactics addresses both.

Regarding the state of the market – It only takes a quick search on Amazon to see solar chargers from a variety of names you don’t recognize and a few that you might. Many of these brands are based in China and appear to exist solely for the purpose of selling inexpensive electronics on Amazon. In my experience, their quality is often dubious and their specifications aren’t trustworthy.

Suntactics, however, has been making excellent portable solar panels since 2009 and their panels have been very well vetted by several demanding user groups including the through-hiking community and military personnel They work. Their panels have no moving parts. They are laminated in such a way that they submersible and they shrug off poor weather conditions. I have used a USB voltmeter to verify their output claims and this panel will often deliver a charge in conditions where my other panel gives up the ghost which speaks to its efficiency. On top of that, their electronic design is superior to anything I have tried… which brings us to the game-changing feature.

Regarding the challenges of solar charging in the field – You may be aware of the fact that the sun’s position in the sky changes throughout the day. You may also be aware that things occlude the sun, like clouds, exist in significant numbers. What you may not know is that many devices like battery chargers and cell phones just aren’t built to handle the realities of solar charging and the voltage changes that come with it.

In many cases, a cloud passing in front of your solar panel will cause the output of the panel to drop which induces a charge error and the device stops charging. Many cell phones are also a little picky about their charge level and will simply not adjust as the panel output changes with the solar conditions. This can lead to more charge errors or slower charging than is necessary. Basically, all of this means you have to babysit your solar charger at all times so that you can unplug and replace the USB device as necessary to reset any potential charge errors.

All Suntactics panels have a feature that addresses this issue very elegantly. They call it “Auto-Retry” and it basically means that the panel automatically restarts the charge every 5 minutes. It is as if you are standing there unplugging the device and then plugging it back in every 5 minutes. You can leave Suntactics panels unattended with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that charge errors will be dealt with automatically. It’s basically magic.

This photo was taken during testing to illustrate some very challenging conditions. See the next image for actual multimeter readings during these conditions.
In this real-world test, the sCharger-14 was still putting out 4.59 volts at .44 amps with the sun occluded by clouds. The other panel tested during this time was producing charge errors.

I originally purchased my sCharger-14 as more of a preparedness item than a backcountry item. It is the largest panel that Suntactics makes in the sCharger line but I still find it to be quite portable and lightweight compared to many panels so it has seen time in the mountains. That said, I would like to pick up one of their smaller and lighter panels eventually for backcountry use with my preferred power banks (see previous article regarding power banks).

I’ve done things like charge 2 cell phones at once (though only one USB socket will have the Auto-Retry feature). I have charged 18650 batteries in the field at 2 amps (the panel will do it if the charger and solar conditions allow)! I can’t do either of those with the other chargers I have tried. I should also note that this particular panel tops off my battery banks relatively quickly which I appreciate.

Wrap Up

I am not an electrical engineer so I likely won’t dive that much deeper into the stats or tech for this panel. I’m just a guy who has spent too much time screwing with other solar chargers before stumbling on a brand that works. The Suntactics panels are efficient, exhibit great quality and efficiency, and that is all great but… What really sets these apart is that they have obviously been designed to address the challenges of solar use in the field.

Suntactics makes a number of sizes and configurations in the sCharger line. They seem to be made in batches and their website is kept up to date with only the particular panels that are available at that time. Suntactics.com

They also sell direct via Amazon with Prime shipping which is where I purchased my panel: Suntactics on Amazon.com.

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Wilde Custom Gear Kyll Backpack and Other Backpack News

Wilde Custom Gear is pushing into a new space – backpacks! Their new Kyll Backpack is now available.

The Wilde Custom Gear Kyll Backpack is a heavy duty, low profile solution for multiday trips, Everyday Carry (EDC) bag or bug out bag.

The Wilde Custom Gear Kyll Backpack is a 31+ liter backpack and features three zippered compartments. The main compartment has an internal hydration sleeve, one slit pocket, one zippered mesh pocket and one full length zippered fabric pocket.

The exterior of the main compartment has a grab handle at the top and sewn the full length of the bag. The top of main compartment has a hydration tube port.

The back is padded and stiffened, and unzips to access a sleeve which can be used for safely carrying up to a 15” laptop.

The outer compartment features an external zippered pocket, internal zippered mesh pocket and internal organizer for pens, pencils and other small accessories.

Two side pockets can carry small and flat items. The pockets are equipped with a laser cut MOLLE panel and elastic to expand to fit a standard U.S. canteen or 1 liter Nalgene water bottle. The side pockets lay flat when not in use.

A soft velour lined zippered pocket for glasses or electronics is located at the top of the pack.

Laser cut MOLLE makes the backpack fully modular and maintains a low profile look.

The tapered outer compartment provides a sleek, low profile look.

The suspension system is based on heavy duty padded shoulder strap yoke and internal stiffener in the back.

The Wilde Custom Gear Kyll Backpack uses a rear ventilation system that provides increased comfort and cooler operation. Contoured foam profiles covered with air mesh create multiple air channels. This keeps the pack off the back which maximizes air circulation while the foam provides comfort and stability.

The Kyll Backpack is currently available to order from Wilde Custom Gear but it is a pre-order with fulfillment coming in about 4 weeks. They will begin regular ordering once they have production in full swing.

Wilde Custom Gear also tells us that we can look forward to a smaller EDC pack to be released in the next few weeks so stay tuned details.

WildeCustomGear.com

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KE Arms Celebrates 15th Anniversary of the Sunset of the Federal “Assault Weapons Ban”

September 13th 2004 the Federal “Assault Weapons Ban” Expired. Today is a day to be remembered as a victory for constitutional rights.

American citizens were once again able to buy modern semiautomatic firearms with the features they wanted and standard capacity magazines at prices not artificially inflated by a restricted supply. The sunset of the ban kicked off a renaissance of innovation of new firearm designs and products in the industry.

In honor of the 15th Anniversary of the sunset of the Federal AWB we will be offering 15% off site wide at www.KEArms.com now through September 30th. Use Coupon Code AWB15 at the checkout and the discount will be applied.

Next week Congress reconvenes and bills to restrict and infringe upon the rights of all Americans are on their agenda. Make sure to contact your elected representatives and encourage them to oppose any infringments on your rights. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

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TOPS Knives and Viking Tactics Bloodline Series

Viking Tactics Bloodline Series of knives is available for purchase directly through Viking Tactics and now through TOPS Knives as well. VTAC’s founder, Special Operations SGM (R) Kyle Lamb, knows a thing or two about tools and weapons. He wanted these knives to pay homage to different warriors from different eras, and they do. Each of the knives in the series includes two-toned handles, Viking vines on the spine, a fuller and TOPS’ famous differentially heat treated 1095 steel.  So whether you’re looking for a large combat knife, a concealable mid-sized knife, or a capable EDC, the Viking Tactics Bloodline Series has you covered.

Pick up any of the Viking Tactics Bloodline knives from a TOPS authorized dealer or from TOPS at https://www.topsknives.com/

Viking Tactics Norseman

  • Overall Length: 11.5”
  • Blade Length: 5.88”
  • Cutting Edge: 5.5”
  • Blade Thickness: 0.19”
  • Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
  • Blade Finish: Acid Rain
  • Handle Material: Green Canvas/Tan Canvas Micarta
  • Knife Weight: 10.1oz
  • Weight w/ Sheath: 14.6oz
  • Sheath Material: Tan Kydex
  • Sheath Clip: Small MOLLE Lok
  • Designer: Viking Tactics
  • MSRP: 225.00

Viking Tactics Crusader

  • Overall Length: 9.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.63”
  • Cutting Edge: 3.63”
  • Blade Thickness: 0.16”
  • Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
  • Blade Finish: Acid Rain
  • Handle Material: Green Canvas/Tan Canvas Micarta
  • Knife Weight: 7.2oz
  • Weight w/ Sheath: 11.2oz
  • Sheath Material: Tan Kydex
  • Sheath Clip: Small MOLLE Lok
  • Designer: Viking Tactics
  • MSRP: $210.00

Viking Tactics Patriot

  • Overall Length: 6.75”
  • Blade Length: 3.0”
  • Cutting Edge: 3.0”
  • Blade Thickness: 0.13”
  • Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
  • Blade Finish: Acid Rain
  • Handle Material: Green Canvas/Tan Canvas Micarta
  • Knife Weight: 2.4oz
  • Weight w/ Sheath: 4.6oz
  • Sheath Material: Tan Kydex
  • Sheath Clip: Beta loops
  • Designer: Viking Tactics
  • MSRP: $190.00
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CMC Triggers Releases Its Long-Awaited Remington 700 Ultra Precision Trigger

Fort Worth, Texas: CMC Triggers, the original manufacturer of the AR Drop-in Trigger Group since 2003, today announced the official launch of the CMC Remington 700 Ultra Precision Trigger. Known for creating the best aftermarket match grade triggers for the AR-15, AR-10, AK and more recently the Glock trigger, CMC has expanded their collection to include the new Remington 700 bolt action rifle trigger.

CMC is not the first company to offer an aftermarket Remington 700 trigger, nonetheless, following extensive research and testing, CMC’s Engineers saw a need to improve upon the trigger’s design where others missed the mark.

Obsessed with safety and compelled to apply it, CMC developed their patent pending Over Center Dynamic Locking System (O.C.D. ™ Locking System).  Analysis of existing OEM and aftermarket Fire Control Systems for the Remington 700 platform exposed multiple opportunities to significantly increase the margin of safety provided by the Fire Control Systems safety mechanism, such as:

  • Interdependency of trigger pull weight, pre/over travel adjustments, and safety margin
  • Unnecessary complexity of the Fire Control System’s safety mechanism design
  • Safety mechanism components manufactured using inferior materials and methods
  • Safety mechanism acts only on sear

CMC Triggers developed their O. C. D. ™ Locking System to overcome all these safety issues.

  • Safety mechanism independent of pull weight adjustment, pre/over travel adjustment
  • Safety comprised of a single internal precision S7 Tool steel investment cast component
  • Manufactured to a .001″ total tolerance using state of the art manufacturing processes
  • Renders all Fire Control System components immobile

Arguably the safest R700 trigger on the market, the CMC Remington Ultra Precision Trigger is an integrated, self-contained trigger assembly with no loose components, and is easily installed requiring no special tools. The CMC Remington Trigger has an adjustable pull weight for long-range precision, tactical use, and hunting. No removal or disassembly of the trigger is required to adjust the weight from 8oz to 3.5lbs. The trigger will come factory set at 2.5lbs.

For ease of trigger installation, the integrated bolt release catch is pre-installed. The trigger and internal components are manufactured from superior S7 tool steel, coated with a proprietary blend of advanced PVD and Hexagonal boron nitride coating giving ultimate corrosion wear-resistance and an ultra-low friction coefficient.

CMC manufactures their Remington Ultra Precision Trigger at its Texas-based state of the art manufacturing facility from CNC-machined aerospace alloy components and CNC-precision tool steel investment castings. Components are finished with cutting edge surface treatments and coating to ensure the highest level of functionality, longevity, and appearance. Like all CMC Trigger’s products, this trigger is exceptionally well made, much more durable than the standard stock Remington trigger, and includes CMC’s Satisfaction Guarantee and Lifetime Warranty.

CMC Triggers Remington 700 Ultra Precision Features: 

  • Integrated self-contained design
  • Easy to Install
  • Zero Over Travel & Zero Creep
  • Available in CMC patented Flat Trigger Bow or Curved Profile
  • O. C. D. ™ Locking System
  • Adjustable trigger weight by user whilst installed in rifle
  • Adjustability Range is 8oz – 3.5lbs – comes factory at 2.5lbs
  • Made from 7070 T6 Aluminum and S7 Tool Steel
  • CMC Triggers Lifetime Warranty
  • Made in the USA in the Great State of Texas
  • Patent Pending O.C.D. ™ Locking System

CMC Triggers modernizes America’s oldest gun manufacture’s bolt action rifle and creates the safest Remington 700 trigger available. Gunsmiths, rifle builders and OEM customers can take advantage of this easy to install rifle upgrade.

CMC Remington 700 Ultra Precision Triggers are shipping now to dealers and distributors across the country and are expected to move quickly. Anyone interested in acquiring their own CMC Remington 700 Ultra Precision Trigger should act now and contact their local dealer.

For more information on the CMC Remington 700 Ultra Precision Trigger or other products offered by CMC Triggers, please visit www.cmctriggers.com.

“Remington” is a federally registered trademark of RA Brands, LLC. and is one of many trademarks owned by RA Brands, LLC. CMC Triggers is not affiliated with nor endorsed by Remington Arms or RA Brands, LLC. This is an aftermarket product listed above, designed to be compatible with the Remington 700 rifle.

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Criterion Barrels – 6.5 Creedmoor DPMS Pattern Rifle Barrels

Criterion Barrels has DPMS pattern barrels chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor for your next AR10 build. They are available in 16’’, 18’’, 20’’, and 22’’ lengths.

Features:
  • DPMS Compatible
  • Barrel extension by JP Enterprises for improved feeding of 6.5 bullet designs
  • 0.750” Gas Block, dimpled for ease of installation
  • Rifle length gas system compatible with AR15 gas tube lengths
  • Gas hole tuned for proper function both with and without a suppressor
  • Hand-lapped rifling for a pristine internal finish—aids in barrel cleaning and paramount for accuracy
  • Finely polished chambers for reliable extraction
  • 5/8-24 TPI muzzle threads compatible with a wide range of muzzle devices
  • Nitride finish for corrosion resistance and improved barrel life

Find out more at CriterionBarrels.com.

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OST Target Stencils

Pre-cut, pre-made cardboard silhouette targets are nice but it can be hard to spend money on them when it seems like a never-ending supply of cardboard is delivered to us almost daily in the form of delivery boxes. Operator Survival Tool is now offering stencils that can help you turn that cardboard trash into training treasure.

Their stencils are made from 10mil thick Mylar material which should basically last forever. They are available in a variety of styles including multiple sizes and styles of silhouettes and some shoot/no-shoot indicators.

You simply trim the carboard however you see fit, lay the stencil over, and spray with your choice of spray paint. You don’t even really need to cut the cardboard to a specific shape and you can even spray multiple targets on the same sheet to create various scenarios.

Check out all the stencils at OperatorSurvivalTool.com.

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How (and Why) to Ditch Hydration Bladders

I remember when I purchased my first hydration bladder. It felt like a superpower. I could basically just conjure water like a wizard. Abrakadabra… Hydration. Several years, experiences, and broken hydration bladders later, I now question whether they are even a good idea.

Why…

A list of grievances:

Hydration bladders are more fragile than almost any bottle. I have broken at least 6 hydration bladders from a wide variety of manufacturers including your favorite. In the best case, your stuff gets wet. In the worst case, you lose your most vital resource.

They don’t handle the cold as well as a bottle that is built for cold. Granted, the bladder itself is usually well insulated enough inside your pack to prevent freezing but your mouthpiece and hose will likely freeze. This can happen even if you are careful about blowing out the hose if it is cold enough.

They are more expensive especially compared to free bottles. That’s right. There are some really good bottles that are basically free with the purchase of something like Smartwater, Gatorade, or maybe those tradeshow freebie sports bottles. Even if you have to buy some bottles for specific purposes, they are less expensive than a bladder (and they lost longer with less maintenance).

They are terrible to clean. If something requires tablets, special brushes, and weird expanding drying rack to clean, it kind of sucks. Those bladders and hoses get really, really nasty if you don’t clean them well.

They make it easy to over-utilize your resources. “Gee whiz, this climb is kicking my tail. I’ll just take a quick swig.” Do that a few times and before you know it, you’ve knocked back all 3 liters and you’re looking for a place to refill. You need to hydrate but hydration bladders make it easy to take in more than you need.

They have the word “bladder” in their name. That’s a little weird, right?

I will grant you that they do have some advantages. The convenience can’t be beat but, again, this is a double-edged sword. They are also often lighter in weight than the bottles required to carry the same volume of water.

This pack in this photo (HPG Ute) has 6 liters of water on board. 5 liters are in bottles on the outside of the pack and an extra liter is tucked inside in preparation for an overnight trip with no water access.

How…

The “how” basically boils down to a few key factors. The first is having the right gear. You need to make sure you have the bottles you need to carry a sufficient amount of water and then you have a pack that will support your new hydration bladder-less existence.

The bottle part is easy. Just find bottles that will let you carry as much water as you would have with a hydration bladder. I like to use the big Nalgene 48-ounce bottles. They are the same diameter as the typical 32-ounce bottles so they fit all the same pouches. Two of them will carry roughly the same amount of water as a 3L bladder. Alternately, the 1-liter Smartwater bottles are a great shape for packing in a backpack.

Speaking of backpacks, I like Hill People Gear packs for carrying a lot of water since they typically have ample bottle pockets and provisions for attaching bottles to your pack belt. I can easily and comfortably carry 5 liters of water on my Umlindi or Ute without even having to stash any water inside the pack. I can place additional bottles in the pack as necessary.

This Hill People Gear Umlindi has almost 5 liters of water on board in preparation for a day far from any water source.

Once you have the gear sorted out, you can address the convenience aspect. This is important because, while hydration bladders can lead to over-hydration, you still don’t want to make it hard to take a drink. My standard is that I must have at least once bottle that can I drink from without having to stop to access it, drink from it, or stow it again. I like to use a sports bottle as you might use on a bike but really, almost any bottle will work. The key is to make sure this bottle is easy to access like on your waist belt or lashed to your pack strap. I just rotate water to the easy access bottle from other bottles when I get a chance.

Don’t submit to the tyranny of hydration bladders any longer. Save money, save headaches, and save water by switching to bottles.

Attaching a bike bottle to your pack strap is easy. Photo Credit: Hill People Gear
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Kit Badger Launches New Swag Shop and Shirt Design at Ballistic Ink

Many of the vendors that firearm-related content creators have traditionally used for merchandising are not on our side when it comes to protecting the Bill of Rights. Ballistic Ink is different. They are veteran owned and have been formed specifically to serve the 2A community.

Kit Badger now has a Patriot Partner store on Ballistic Ink. The store contains all of Kit Badger’s previous prints like the Professional Human and Grey Death Adder designs. The newest design, Tyrants and Patriots, is also available on t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, and sweatshirts.

BallisticInk.com

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