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Archive | EDC

Benchmade 8 Hook with Glass Breaker (BLKWMEDR)

Benchmade Safety Cutters are some of my favorites pieces of gear because they just work so well. Their reliability and cutting power amazed me when I reviewed them. Now Benchmade has expanded the Safety Cutter line with the new 8 Hook BLKWMEDR which features a carbide glass breaker.

I keep a Benchmade 8 Hook in my truck where I can reach it easily in case I need to cut my seat belt in an emergency. This new 8 Hook incorporates a carbide glass breaker which makes it even more well suited to emergency use in a vehicle. It gives you the ability to cut your seat belt and break a window to extract yourself from your vehicle in an emergency – all in one simple to use tool.

Check out the 8 Hook BLKWMEDR and all the other 8 Hook Safety Cutters on the Benchmade website.

Fire Ant Red and Venom Green ESEE Izula from BladeHQ

My favorite compact fixed blades are the Izula and Izula II from ESEE. They fit the hand well, are bull strong, have a great warranty, are made right here in the USA, and come with a very versatile sheath system. The Izula may be small but, 99% of the time, it is all the knife that I need.

Small knives like the Izula are easy to carry but they can also be easily lost. BladeHQ has teamed up with the folks at ESEE to offer exclusive Izulas with high visibility coatings. They are offering a bright red color called Fire Ant Red and a fluorescent green color called Venom. These bright colors make it easy to find the knife whether you are rummaging through your pack, searching on a forest floor, or even if you drop it in water while crossing a creek.

High viability colors make a lot of sense on a survival tool as important as your knife and, let’s face it, they look pretty darn cool too. Check out the Fire Ant Red Izula and the Venom Green Izula exclusively at BladeHQ.

Velcro Backed GP Pouches from Mountain Ridge Gear

It is becoming more and more common for EDC or Tactical bags to feature Velcro on the interior so that users can easily customize the organization layout of their bag. Mountain Ridge Gear (MRG) makes one such bag – the Tactical Man Purse Wide Extreme. I have reviewed the original Tactical Man Purse on JTT and it is an excellent bag. Now MRG is making Velcro Backed General Purpose (GP) Pouches to work with this style of bag.

The pouches come in 3 different sizes that should handle everything from cell phones, radios, and GPS units to larger items like first aid kits and water bottles. The pouches are made to Mountain Ridge Gear’s high standards which you have to experience to believe and are available in a variety of colors including Multicam and A-TACS.

Each pouch features a 2″ wide vertical strip of hook side Velcro on the back which is nice. In this case, full coverage Velcro is not needed and this allows the pouch to be more easily removed and repositioned. The narrower Velcro also lets the pouches be squeezed closer to together when you are positioning them. The pouches also feature a small pull tab that makes removing the pouch even easier and can serve as an atachment point for a carabiner to hang the pouch on a pack.

The pouches are currently 25% off for the weekend so be sure to check them out on Mountain Ridge Gear’s website.

4Sevens High CRI Lights

4Sevens has introduced a limited run of a handful of their most popular models with special high CRI LEDs. CRI stands for Color Rendering Index and high CRI basically means that these lights put out light that is a similar color temperature to sunlight, thus rendering colors in a very lifelike way.

When LEDs first started finding their way into consumer lighting products, many people were put off by the bright blue coloration of the light that the LEDs produced. This blue light could be somewhat hard on the eyes and could make objects appear flat and lifeless.

LEDs began to improve and the light they produced became whiter, but it still lacked the warmer tones that sunlight contains. Many people think LEDs produce white light, but for the most part they are still lacking the warmer tones of the light spectrum. These missing parts of the spectrum are important for rending colors true to life and for cutting through things like smoke, fog, dust, and mist. High CRI LEDs correct these short comings and allow truer color rendering.

4Sevens has brought this high CRI LED technology to their line of edc flashlights. Sadly, none of their tactical lights have received the high CRI treatment. This type of light makes good sense for the military, law enforcement and the armed citizen since it cuts through a variety of environmental conditions more effectively and it makes potential threats appear less flat and more lifelike, thus allowing them to stand out more from their environment. Hopefully we can look forward to more high CRI options from 4Sevens.

You can check out all of the limited edition lights are 4Sevens.com.

Review: Advanced Outfitters Khyber Belt

As a shooter and someone who carries a concealed handgun, it seems that my belts become thicker and more rigid with each new belt. Thick, rigid belts work great when you are carrying a gun on your belt all day but there are times when a low profile belt is really what you need. You would be hard pressed to find a more low profile belt than the Khyber Belt from Advanced Outfitters (AO).

The custom Ti G-Hook is the key to how thin this belt is. I'm not sure you can make a belt any thinner than this.

The Khyber Belt is hand made by Kevin at Advanced Outfitters and there are a ton of options. The two main options are 1″ and 1.5″ widths. The belt can also be had in single and double thicknesses. Even the double thickness belts are very low profile. There are additional hardware options (more on that later) and other options like a concealed spot that adds no thickness to the belt to carry cash. I chose the double thickness 1.5″ width since I would occasionally be using this belt with a holster and that is the belt that is the subject of this review.

Buckling and unbuckling is simple.

What’s the Point?

This belt was designed to be low profile. Kevin’s innovative use of an ITW G-Hook as a buckle is the key to how low profile this belt is. The G-Hook is barely thicker than the webbing from which the belt is made. The 1.5 inch versions of the Khyber Belt use a custom made titanium version of the G-Hook which also keeps the belt very light.

There are times when a belt must be able to ride beneath something like the padded hip belt of a backpack. The belt must be capable of holding up your pants but low profile enough to prevent hotspots from a heavy pack bearing down on it. The Khyber Belt excels at these situations. I purchased one to use specifically for hiking and for use under a padded MOLLE belt. It is perfect for both uses.

Try this with your gun belt!

Versatility

The Khyber belt is no one trick pony. The 1.5″ version with double thickness webbing is extremely thin and flexible but still substantial enough to carry the weight of gun though it isn’t the best choice for carrying all day. The belt features some additional stitching that helps to stiffen it enough for some additional comfort when carrying a handgun. I have been wearing this belt frequently over the last several months. Kevin is up front about saying this isn’t a gun belt but it does an admirable job of bearing the weight of a gun for such a slim, flexible belt.

It is perfect for wearing under a load bearing belt like a MOLLE belt rig. This is how I use it most often. I am able to wear my concealed handgun to the range on the Khyber belt and then switch the gun to the belt rig that I use in training. This belt is more than sufficient for traveling to and from the range. In fact, it is low profile enough to wear with a Velcro inner belt. They both fit under the belt loops.

If you aren’t carrying a handgun, you will appreciate how light and flexible this belt is. It is probably as close as you can get to not wearing a belt at all. It won’t look quite right in an office, but it is probably the perfect belt for just about any outdoor activity.

Simple hardware makes for an easy to adjust, easy to use, and very comfortable belt.

Hardware

Now that I have spent a lot of time with this belt, there is something that I would do differently if I were buying one all over again. The belt uses a triglide to adjust the length. Kevin makes this with a plastic version of the triglide(less expensive) and a titanium version (more expensive). The titanium version is considerably thinner than the plastic triglide. If I was starting over, I would definitely spring for the Ti version. The plastic slider is by far the thickest part of the belt and the Ti version fits better with the overall purpose or the belt.

Conclusion

I thought that this belt would fill a niche for me. I didn’t expect that I would find it so comfortable and useful as a general use belt. It is easily the most comfortable belt that I have used under a padded hip belt or padded gun belt. It is also a great weekend belt for outdoor pursuits. The icing on the cake is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, even with the custom Ti hardware.

If you want to order your own Khyber Belt, you should contact Kevin. There are some nuances to fitting that he can talk you through (it isn’t complicated). The double layer belts like the one reviewed have a smaller adjustment range than the single layer versions. You can contact Advanced Outfitters through their website, on Twitter, or on the Usual Suspect Network.

New Website and New Products from EXOTAC

EXOTAC, my favorite manufacturer of amazingly well designed, modular fire starting gadgets, has a great new website and some great new products.

Among the new products are the nanoSTRIKER XL which is a larger version of the previously reviewed nanoSTRIKER. Its larger ferro rod section gives you more strikes at the cost of some extra weight and size.

They have also introduced the MATCHCAP XL which is a larger version of the MATCHCAP. The MATCHCAP series is the perfect way to keep matches completely protected from the elements until you need them. They also work well as a place to store some emergency tinder like petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls.

The new products that interest me most are the polySTRIKER and polySTRIKER XL. This is a new line of ferro rod products that features a molded plastic handle. The plastic handle features a slot that retains the striking tool so that it is safe from loss and very compact. The plastic also keeps weight and cost to a minimum. In fact, these are priced on par with many other ferro rods that don’t have nearly as nice a handle as the polySTRIKERs.

You can check out the new site and all the new products at EXOTAC.com.

 

Review: Flowfold Billfold

Wallets are simple things… or at least they should be. Too many wallets on the market have Velcro straps, snaps, zippers, bellowed pockets, and all sorts of other stuff that has nothing to do with organizing some credit cards, IDs, and bills. Typically, the more features a wallet has, the thicker it is and I have no tolerance for thick wallets.

Several months ago, my leather magnetic money clip type wallet began to loosen to the point that cards were falling out, so the hunt was on for a new wallet. I searched high and low for a wallet that was thin, durable, and that would retain my credit cards well. That search lead me to Flowfold.

The Black Pearl color scheme is now discontinued... too bad for you.

Not Leather and That’s a Good Thing

The first thing that you notice about Flowfold Billfolds is that they are not made from leather. That is probably obvious but it is one of the keys to what makes this such a great wallet. Flowfold makes the billfolds from sailcloth which is a great material for wallets because it is very thin, very durable, very lightweight, and water resistant.

Thin, Like Really, Really Thin

My favorite thing about this wallet is how thin it is. Back when I bought the Flowfold Billfold, I had a rough idea of when it would arrive in the mail. On that day, I checked the mailbox and was disappointed that it didn’t contain a package. I walked inside and sorted through the mail only to find that the wallet did arrive. It was packed inside a standard business letter sized envelope. The envelope containing the wallet was thin enough that it looked and felt like any one of the other letters that arrived that day. This wallet is thin and I mean thin.

It's thin when it's empty.

It is still thin when it's full of 8 cards/IDs and $12 in cash... That's right, $12 cash.

Tactical Level IV Credit Card Retention… or Something

I also like that the Flowfold Billfold’s credit card slots are basically loss proof. The bifold design keeps this wallet thin but it also allows the credit card slots to open in toward the fold of the wallet. When the wallet is folded, the card can not come out unless you pull them out. I was surprised at the number of cards that this could hold without becoming bulky thanks to the 2 separate cards slots. Each slot easily holds multiple cards rather than some designs that have a separate divided slot for each card.

ID Slots – 2 is 1 and 1 is None

There is a transparent ID slot on each side of the inside of the wallet (2 total) that is perfect for an drivers license or that credit card that you use most often. That second ID slot is especially convenient if you work somewhere that requires you to carry identification that is specific to your job.

Double ID slots all the way! What does it mean?

I Sit on This Wallet All Day and It Still Works

The workmanship is very good. All of the edges of the sailcloth are finished with nylon ribbon. The wallet may feel unsubstantial at first (especially if you are used to thick leather wallets) but that is just the nature of the thin plastic sailcloth. Experience has proven to me that this material is not unsubstantial at all. I have seen just how durable it is. My wallet started off fairly rigid but it is now breaking in nicely. It isn’t showing any serious wear and tear. It is just starting to conform to the shape of my backside.

Get One

I would be thrilled with this wallet if it was just thin. The fact that it is very durable and water resistant is just bonus. I have never owned a wallet that I actually liked until now. So it isn’t made from 7000D Multicam printed nylon, but it the best wallet that I have ever owned and that is saying something. The Flowfold Billfold would make a worthy addition to anyone’s EDC gear. It would also be a great gift for those of you who like to do your holiday shopping before Christmas Eve.

Right now, if you buy a Flowfold Billfold in the “Nori” color scheme, 100% of the profit will go to Hurricane Irene Relief which is near and dear to my heart considering what Irene did to northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up. Check out “Nori” and all the other great color schemes on Flowfold.com.

Lumens Factory E Series LED Conversions

Many people revere the Surefire E Series lights for their compact size and durability. For years, these lights were only available with incandescent bulbs and the selection was fairly limited. Lumens Factory stepped in and began providing a variety of quality bulbs that were compatible with the E-series lights. Now they are doing the same thing with LED conversions.

The Lumens Factory E Series LED products are different than any other conversion that I have seen for the Surefire E Series lights. Rather than a self contained drop in head that can never be upgraded, Lumens Factory gives you options. They make an E Series bezel that accepts a number of LED modules that have a variety of features and outputs. These features include different input voltage ranges so that they can be used with different battery configurations and different output modes like single or 3 (high, medium, low) mode configuration. These head use Cree XP-G, R5 LEDs so the output should be impressive.

LED technology seems to improve daily so users who like to have the latest technology will appreciate the modular nature of these heads. Rather than buying a whole new head when the latest LED comes out, you can simply replace the LED module.

These are some impressive LED conversions. Check them out on the Lumens Factory website.

EDC Cooper Tactical Pack

I have always liked the concept of making your knife sheath into a compact survival kit. This idea has been taken to its functional extreme by products like the ESEE Pack Kit which is actually a pack with a sheath inside rather than the more traditional sheath with a pack on the outside. I think it is a really slick concept and I am happy to see a new option from Cooper Tactical Gear.

The EDC Cooper Tactical Pack is different take on the knife based survival kit. It is similar to the ESEE Pack Kit in its function but different in its form. It is a pack that can be carried a variety of different ways and can be used to carry everything from a knife, to flashlights, to fire starting tools, and whatever else you can fit.

It features a ton of really well thought out organization features. There are internal and external slip pouches, elastic loops galore, and internal and external hook and loop fields for customizable organization potential. I especially like the card carrier that can be affixed to the outside of the pouch. It would be perfect for carrying reference cards like those from ESEE.

The pack is constructed from 1000D nylon and features Lenzip zippers that are made in the USA. Zulu Nylon Gear constructs the pack for Cooper Tactical Gear so you know it will be bomb proof.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the features of this pack. You will definitely want to check out the EDC Cooper Tactical Pack on the Cooper Tactical Gear website.

Review: Benchmade Safety Cutters

Hopefully, most of you reading this blog right now are in the habit of carrying a first aid kit when you are shooting and, hopefully, you have at least some training on its use. If you do carry a first aid kit with some regularity, you are likely familiar with the ubiquitous medical shears that are a part of so many kits. These shears are, with few exceptions, cheaply made but passable for clearing obstructions like clothing and gear from a wound site. Those shears have been used for years, but, as with most pieces of gear, eventually someone gives us something better. The someone is Benchmade and the something is their Safety Cutters.

The 8 Hook sheath is on the left and the 7 Hook sheath is on the right.

Removing the Safety Cutter from the sheath is easy. Just lift the flap and pull out the cutter.

Some Background

To really appreciate the Benchmade Safety Hooks, you have to first understand what they replace (or at least supplement). Shears, medical shears, EMT shears, or whatever else they might be called are both a blessing and curse. On one hand, their design allows them to cut through some incredibly durable materials. This is often demonstrated by cutting a penny in half. However, their cheap construction can render them useless in a matter of minutes. They often dull very quickly – even after cutting just one pair of pants. They can flex and bend. They aren’t comfortable to use for strenuous work and can fatigue your hand very quickly. They can also take quite a long time to cut through some material or to make long cuts like in the case of a pant leg. In spite of all of that, you will still find a pair in any serious first aid kit because they work, at least for a while.

A Better Way

Benchmade Safety Hooks represent a better way to do many of the tasks that you would traditionally complete with shears. They are easier to carry, easier to use, faster, and they last nearly indefinitely.

I own several of the 7 Hook/Safety Cutters and 1 of the 8 Hook/Safety Cutters. They weigh about the same as a set of shears but are much more compact and easy to carry. Benchmade Safety Hooks come with a sheath and in the case of the 7 and 8 Hooks, they come with a MOLLE compatible sheath. The sheath is simple and effective. It retains the Safety Cutter with a hook and loop secured flap and a secondary elastic band. In the event that the flap catches on something and is pulled loose, the elastic band can retain prevent the Safety Hook from being lost. The sheaths even come with the MALICE clip that is necessary to mount it.

The sheath mounts easily with a provided MALICE clip.

Even if the flap is accidentally released, the elastic loop serves as secondary retention.

Using a Benchmade Safety Hook is easy. “Grip it and rip it” has never been a more appropriate phrase. As soon as you have one in hand, you know how to use it. You hold the grip area in your hand and hook whatever you wish to cut with the hooked end of the cutter. Then it is simply a matter of pulling the hook through the material. The hooks are so sharp, that this takes very little strength and effort.

I stated above that the Safety Cutters are faster than shears and you may be wondering how much faster. I compared a brand new set of shears that had never cut anything with a brand new 7 Hook/Safety Cutter by using each to cut from cuff to waist on an old pair of BDU pants. The shears did the job in a respectable 46 seconds while the 7 Hook zipped through in less than 4 seconds. Not only was it faster, but it was considerably easier. 4 seconds is a lot faster than 46 seconds.

The 7 Hook made it through these BDU pants 42 seconds faster than brand new shears.

Benchmade has tested their Safety Hooks for hundreds of cuts and while they do eventually get harder to cut with due to dulling, they will last many more cuts than a pair of shears. The 440C Safety Cutters are hardened to 58-60 Rockwell and the edges are refined to a high polish. It is amazing how long the edge lasts. If it does start to dull, you can simply return it to Benchmade with a small fee to cover return shipping and they will bring it back to life for you. You can also maintain it yourself if you are handy with strop compound. I use compound loaded into a thin leather strap to keep the hooks sharp. Harsher abrasives like ceramics or diamonds should not be used.

What Will They Cut?

I have used the Safety Hooks to cut all of the mundane stuff like tubular webbing, first aid tape, pant legs, para-cord, and heavier rope. However, what is most impressive is how they cut more difficult items like multiple layers of 1000D nylon in a chest rig and even a leather work boot.

This chest rig opened with an 8 Hook like it had a zipper. The straps were also cut easily so the rig would fall away completely.

If you need to access a chest wound, the Safety Hook can be used to strip away clothing and even gear. It zipped through no less than 3 layers of 1000D nylon and a layer of MOLLE webbing in one pull when I tested it on an old chest rig that I had laying around. Searching for buckles is wasted time when you have a tool like the Benchmade Safety Cutters.

Even tough leather work boots are no match for the 7 Hook.

If you need to clear a boot, don’t waste time trying to untie the laces, loosen the boot, and then remove it. Simply pull the cutter straight down from ankle to sole and then forward toward the toe and the boot falls away (you don’t need to cut both sides). It only takes a few seconds and it is amazingly easy to pull the hook through multiple layers of leather and fabric.

Even thicker items like climbing rope can be cut with these Safety Cutters. You simply start the cut with a small rocking motion to get into the inner layers and then pull. It’s easy.

Conclusion

Both the 7 Hook and 8 Hook Safety Cutters are excellent. The 7 Hook is more compact and its foam rubber grip is more comfortable and easier to use with gloves. I think it is the better all around choice, but some users may prefer the more nimble feeling and slightly longer reach of the 8 Hook. There is also a newer version of the 8 Hook that integrates a carbide glass breaker which really adds to an already excellent tool.

These Benchmade Safety Cutters outclass every similar product that I have ever tried. They represent a huge improvement over shears for first aid tasks. They are so reasonably priced (especially considering the sheath and MALICE clip) that it makes sense to own at least two of them so you can be sure to have one even if the other is sent out for sharpening. They work so well and are so easy to carry that there is almost no excuse not to add one to your kit today. I consider them among my most important pieces of first aid gear.

You can check out the 7 Hook and the 8 Hook along with all of the other Safety Cutter models on Benchmade’s website.

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