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Archive | Preparedness

Sawyer Squeeze and Mini Water Filters

When it comes to outdoor equipment (or really anything) the best is rarely cheap. That is exactly what makes the Sawyer Squeeze and Mini Water Filters standout. They are the best trail filters that I have used and they are also the cheapest. That is a tough combination to beat.

Sawyer Squeeze PointOne

I’ve owned a Sawyer Squeeze since before 2013 when they updated the model to include some new fittings and redesigned bags (much needed, the original bags don’t hold up well). That little filter has produced a lot of clean drinking water in that time and it has earned a permanent place in my hiking pack. I have had the Sawyer Mini for much less time but it is equally easy to use, has more versatile connections, is smaller, weighs less, and costs even less (I’ll compare the two later in this article).

Sawyer Mini

Rather than go on and on about these filters, I’ll lay out what I like about both of them. Then, I’ll address them each individually.

What I like about both filters:

  • Compact and lightweight – The Squeeze weighs in at 3 ounces and the Mini at 2 ounces. Both are considerably smaller than any of my previous filters. They are small and light enough to live in my pack – even if I am just on a day hike and carrying all the water I will need.
  • Affordable – These cost between $20-30 for the basic packages. That is less than 1/4″ the cost of my previous ceramic trail filter. The entire filter with bag(s) cost less than just the replacement filters my old system.
  • Durable – These are made from plastic with no ceramic elements. They can take a beating.
  • Reliable Filtering – Both filters boast an absolute .1 micron rating. They get the nasties out.
  • Easy to Use – There is no pumping, no inlet hose to clean, no ceramic filters to clean, and no fuss. Squeeze dirty water through and drinkable water comes out. It’s easy.
  • Versatile – These work with the provided bags but they also thread right onto standard 20 ounce and 2 liter bottles. They can be set up as inline filters on your hydration bladder or as gravity filters on something like an MSR Dromedary Bag.

What I like about the Squeeze:

  • The Squeeze filter has more filter media than the Mini so it is slightly easier to drink from. If you plan to use the simplest set up, which would be to gather unfiltered water in bags/bottles and drink directly from them, the Squeeze works best but…

What I like about the Mini:

  • It is smaller and lighter than the Squeeze and can be used in all the same ways.
  • It has more versatile attachment points built in.
  • It costs less.

The next obvious question is which should you choose. I would (and did) probably just buy the Mini in most cases. It does everything the Squeeze does minus a little flow rate. It’s smaller, lighter, costs less, and a bit more versatile. However, the Squeeze is a bit easier to use in the most straightforward setup so it may be a better choice for cavemen.

Tips:

  • If you are using Sawyer’s water bags, roll them like a toothpaste tube instead of squeezing. They last longer that way.
  • Don’t let your filter freeze (true for all filters, not just these). It can wreck the filter media and there is really no practical way to test the Sawyer filters for damage. Bring it in your sleeping bag at night and tuck it inside your coat during the day to prevent freezing. If you think it froze, replace it.
  • 2 Liter bottles (or any bottles you can scavenge) are great for use with these filters. They are light weight and can be squeezed hard without breaking. Keep the cap so you can squeeze the air out and reseal to take up less space in your pack.
  • I know Sawyer has improved their bags but I have trust issues with them due to my original bags failures. Evernew makes great water bags that have compatible threads. I own several and greatly prefer them to the Sawyer bags. The threads on Platypus bags don’t quite match but some users say they can get them to work.
  • Filling water bags completely full unless you have some tricks up your sleeve. Blow them up with your mouth before submerging or place them under falling water to make filling easier. You can also make a lightweight scoop by cutting the top off of a bottle and capping it. The scoop makes it easy to get the last few ounces of water into the bag.
  • Even if you don’t hike and hate the outdoors, these are so compact and light that they are right at home in a car kit or “bug out bag”. I use a rubber band to wrap a water bag around the filter so it stays compact. You can add a short section of tubing so you can drink right from the source if necessary.
  • They are so small and light, you might even want to carry two – especially in cold weather.

If they were already convenient enough… You can stroll right into most Walmarts and buy them. They are available with a dizzying array of options and even multi-packs. I generally just buy the basic set up and I bought my Mini on Amazon for less than $20.

Sawyer PointOne Sqeeze Water Filter on Amazon

Sawyer Mini on Amazon

Sagewood Gear Spool Card with Bank Line

Bank line is a great cordage to carry for use in the outdoors. It packs smaller than paracord, ties well without slipping, and is very strong. Like any other type of cord, it turns into a tangled mess if you don’t take care of it. That is where the new Sagewood Gear Spool Card comes in.

The Spool Card is designed to hold 50 feet of bank line. It is made from .093″ kydex and features a simple retention notches at both ends of the card. The notches allow you to secure the end of the bank line to ensure it doesn’t come unraveled in your pack. When you need cord, you just spool out as much as you need, cut it, and then secure the end in the closest notch. The Spool Card comes pre-loaded with bank line.

Sagewood Gear Spool Card with Bank Line

Sneak Peek: Updated RMJ Tactical Shrike

When you picture an RMJ Tactical tomahawk in your mind, there is a good chance you picture the Shrike with its distinctive, drop forged construction. We reported months ago that the Shrike was going to see some changes and would be machined from billet rather than drop forged.

RMJ recently released a first look at the new machined Shrike (below). Everything that made the Shrike great is still intact. The thin tanto spike that easily fits inside the hasp of many padlocks is still there. The wicked sharpened beard is still in place. It also looks like RMJ used lightening cuts similar to other machined tomahawks in their line to preserve the Shrike’s balance.

RMJTactical.com

Review: GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster Gen 2

I’ve professed my appreciation of the Kenai Chest Holster from GunfightersINC on these pages before. It is a handy holster to have if you spend time in places with large, sharp toothed critters wearing gear like a backpack or hip waders that hinder traditional carry methods. It is, in my opinion, the most modern and best iteration of a classic guide holster… Then GunfightersINC went and changed it!

Lucky for us, they made it better.

Better Holsters Through Better Manufacturing

To understand the improvements in this holster, you have to understand a little bit about how kydex holsters are made. The kydex is heated until it becomes pliable, then it is pressed over a form of some kind and allowed to cool. The kydex (or similar material) then hardens as it cools, retaining the imprint of the form. That is the basic overview but the exact ways all those steps are accomplished has changed over the years.

On the original Kenai, the two holster halves where molded over the form with blocking in place for things like slide stop levers, extended barrels, or anything else that either needed to be accommodated or that would foul the draw stroke. The holster was molded in two halves, roughly equal in depth, and joined together to make an entire holster. At some point, the part of the holster that received the shoulder strap would be reheated (this sometimes shows as a shiny spot on the kydex) to be slightly reshaped to receive the strap. The holster body was finished by polishing edges, adjusting fit, etc. GunfightersINC turned out great holsters using these methods.

GunfightersINC is now improving their processes from top to bottom. They are now machining their own custom molds and using vacuum forming to create their holster bodies. All of the improvements to their holsters have been made possible by these changes and the design flexibility, control, and definition that they make possible.

Original on left, Gen 2 on right

Kenai Chest Holster Gen 2 Improvements

The first thing you will notice when you look at both holster bodies is that the Gen 2 version has much better definition – the lines are more crisp. That translates to a cleaner looking holster and, more importantly, it also translates to improved retention, a smoother draw stroke, and a more distinct click-in/click-out. This kind of definition is really only possible with modern vacuum forming.

When you dive a little deeper, you see improved blocking and molding. My Gen 2 holster body is molded for a Glock 17 so you see things like a channel that allows the slide stop to run all the way out of the holster without touching anything, the slide lock area is no longer molded creating a potential unwanted drag on the draw stroke, the magazine release is partially shielded to prevent accidental release, and theĀ  retention pad in the trigger guard is large and made to a consistent depth.

If you dive deeper still, you’ll notice GunfightersINC taking full advantage of their new manufacturing processes to really get the most out of the Kenai Chest Holster. The accommodation of the shoulder strap is actually molded into the back plate of the holster. This saves a manufacturing step and creates a stronger, cleaner holster overall. Finally, the two halves of the Kenai area actually molded to different depths with the majority of the pistol being molded into the front panel of the holster. This allows the Kenai to lay flatter, closer, and more comfortably against the wearer.

Original on left, Gen 2 on right

Wrap Up

GunfightersINC didn’t just redesign a holster, they redesigned how they make the holster. The result is more control over the end product, easier accommodation of various options, and, most importantly, better holsters for the customer. You can expect to see these manufacturing improvements touching all the holster in the GunfightersINC line up.

See our review of the original Kenai Chest Holster for more information on its background and use. Check out GunfightersINC to learn more about the Kenai Chest Holster or purchase your own.

TIHK HK2 – The Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key Receives an Upgrade

TIHK, originators of the Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key, just released the details of an upgrade to their namesake product. The new TIHK HK2 retains the small size, non-ferrous construction, and integral clip that made the original TIHK so great.

However, the HK2 also boasts two major improvements over the original. Teeth have been added under the clip to ensure that it is stays in place. The integrated clip and it’s ability to hide the TIHK in places that make sense (like behind your back on a belt loop) is part of what made the original TIHK great so improving this feature makes good sense.

The second improvement comes in the form of some changes to the key portion of the TIHK that allow it to work more easily with a wider variety of cuffs. TIHK specifically references the HK2 working better with Peerless style cuffs. My original TIHKs can be made to work with the ASP cuffs but it was difficult. It will be interesting to see if the new HK2 version offers an improvement in function with ASP cuffs.

Check out the TIHK HK2 at TIHK.co

What Is Really Happening to All the Ammo Cans?

It wasn’t that long ago that you could walk into any surplus store or decent gun show and buy stacks of real surplus ammo cans. In fact, resellers where often competing to have the lowest price at the gun show and offering bulk discounts.

Prices on ammo cans have climbed steadily over the years and the explanations for why this is happening varies depending on who you ask. I’ve heard theories as tame as they are being crushed and as conspiratorial as the Obama administration doesn’t want people to be able to easily store ammo long term (which is ridiculous on a number of levels).

Recently, Old Grouch’s Military Surplus weighed in with some actual facts on why there are fewer real ammo cans available and how poor quality, overseas made cans are flooding the market. You can read more in their newsletter. If you are in the market for ammo cans, I suggest you take some caution to ensure you receive actual surplus cans.

Wndsn XPD Distance Calculator

I highly suggest you take a look at Wndsn XPD. They currently offer a number of products including their very slick Distance Meters which are trigonometry based with no moving parts and no electronics. These cards allow the user to make use of a specific length of cord, a scale printed on the card, and an object of known size to determine distance (instructions).

This has obvious applications for outdoor pursuits but if you are a precision shooter, it probably sounds very interesting to you too. Wndsn XPD is currently developing a new version of their Distance Meter and two shooting specific tools (one is pictured below). The upcoming shooting calculator will allow the user to simply stretch a string or straight edge across scales for known size and MIL or MOA reticle reading to determine distance.

Check out Wndsn XPD

TIHK Escape Stick

TIHK first came to prominence with their namesake product, the Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key. Since that time, they have continued to develop other clever and compact products designed to escape illegal restraint. Their latest product, the Escape Stick, is now available.

Part of what separates TIHK products from other products aimed at the same market is the care that TIHK puts into the design of their products. They seem to realize that not only does a tool like this have to work, it also has to be able to be carried and concealed in a way that makes sense.

The new Escape Stick is a great example of that. The tools are important and useful – a handcuff key, a rod saw, and thin metal saw. However, the form factor is just as important. This slim tool is just 3″ long with a 3/8″ diameter and most of the tool is encapsulated with a rubber tube. This design allows it to be concealed almost anywhere – even against the skin of the user.

Escape Stick at TIHK.co

Review: Berne Concealed Carry Workwear – Echo Zero Six Cargo Pant and Short, Echo Zero Eight Softshell, Echo One Zero Vest

I’ve spent more than 5 months wearing items from the Berne Concealed Carry Workwear (CCW) line nearly every day. I wore them on the range, on a tractor, in town, in a chicken coop, and even to church. I’ve worn them at a desk, while helping move two households to new homes, mending fences, and hiking. I’ve worn them in heat, cold, rain, and snow. Now I’m ready to talk about them.

There is a lot of ground to cover in this review and I’ll do my best to structure it in a way that maintains readability. I’ll start with what all the garments have in common: The Adder System. Then, I’ll share some observations on each specific item and finally observations in general.

The Adder System’s best trick is how it can help you conceal a handgun in a way that is easy to access and completely concealed.

Background and Disclosure

Before I dive into the review, I should mention my background with Berne Apparel. I used to use a certain brand of insulated coveralls. Eventually the brand I used started to go beyond affordable and more toward cheap. They shortened zippers, the material became less durable, and they didn’t feel as warm as they once were. That sent me looking for a new brand of work wear and I landed on Berne. The quality was as good or better than anything else I laid hands on and it cost a bit less. On top of that, the company seemed to be run by people like me (and you). We even have some of their coats for our daughters.

I featured their CCW line on these pages a few times and last summer, someone from Berne reached out to me. In the interests of full disclosure, you should know that these 4 clothing items were sent to me free of charge. However, you should also know that I am a long time Berne customer who has plunked down plenty of my own cash to wear their gear.

The Adder System

The Adder System is at the heart of every garment in the Berne CCW line. I liked the idea of before I tried it and now, having used it for several months, really appreciate the details that went into getting it right. It also has it’s own website where you can learn all about it.

The Adder System is a clever pocket setup that is designed to carry handguns and other gear in a way that is easy to access, discreet, well organized, and versatile. The outside of an Adder System pocket appears like any other flap covered bellowed pocket, because that is what it is. This outer pocket is placed over an inner pocket that contains a matrix made up of MOLLE compatible alternating elastic and loop material webbing. This matrix gives you the ability to mount hook backed pouches, MOLLE compatible pouches, and holsters inside. Alternately, the elastic webbing can be used to secure all kinds of things without a pouch.

As cool as the inner pocket and it’s organization potential are, the really subtle features are all found in the outer pouch. The outer pouch secures over the inner pouch with hook and loop around the entire perimeter and snaps at the corners. In order to ensure that the pockets mate up squarely even if they are stuffed with gear, the designers added bellows to the both the inner and outer layers of the outer pocket. This allows it to expand for the contents that are both in it and behind it but still mate up flush which is key for hiding the inner pocket.

The webbing matrix concealed in the Adder System pockets is good more than just tactical stuff. I use the pants pockets to carry tools while I work around our property.

The outer pocket is closed with a flap not unlike what you would find on any pair of cargo pants but even this shows thoughtful design. It is a somewhat large flap but still proportional to the pocket and it has a single snap in the center. This creates a large, easily gripped corner of flap on both sides of the pocket that can be grasped and pulled down to instantly reveal the inner pocket. It’s a subtle but clever touch that shows that the designers were switched on and this design is key to the Adder System’s function as a concealed carry method.

When using the Adder System to conceal a handgun, the drawstroke is fast and easy with two hands and slightly slower but still easy with one hand. You simple grab the flap, rip the pocket down and open, and then index your handgun. I found that the MOLLE-Link holsters from KCT work very well for this application but you should be able to adapt a number of holsters to work.

Blue Force Gear’s Dapper line is a great match for the Adder System.

I also found that Blue Force Gear’s Dapper line of pouches were ideal for use with the Adder system when carrying mags, tourniquets, or other items. The Dappers lay flat when not in use and can be installed and removed easily thanks to the hook packing. So far, I have used the Adder System to carry handguns, first aid items like tourniquets, spare magazines, hand tools, and a host of other things.

When you buy a Berne CCW garment, you are basically buying the functionality of the Adder System. It’s thoughtfully designed and functional.

Echo Six Zero Cargo Pants and Shorts

The Echo Six Zero Cargo Pants and Shorts are basically identical save for the length of inseam – one is pants and one is shorts as you can tell from the name. They are made from a lightweight cotton/poly blend with some spandex for a little stretch and some kind of treatment that makes water bead on them. There are several features that ensure full range of motion including a stretch waistband and a gusseted crotch. All the important seams are triple stitched, the front pockets feature an internal coin/mag pocket along with reinforcement for pocket knife clips, and the waistband has a series of elastic loops sewn in the interior for discreet organization.

The Adder System on these is tucked away behind the cargo pockets on the upper thigh. This location is well suited to carrying items like tools, first aid, and some magazines but I found it to be too low and loose for use with a handgun.

The belt loops on these pants are excellent. They are wide and very securely fastened to the pants. I am glad to see that since a lot of “tactical” pants get this wrong.

These pants and shorts are comfortable, durable, casual, and good looking.

Echo Zero Eight Soft Shell

The Echo Zero Eight Softshell is an important part of the Berne CCW line because it is probably the piece that will be most at home in urban, everyday, and even office settings. I live in a community where workwear is normal everyday apparel but that isn’t the case everywhere. The Echo Zero Eight is the Adder System garment that bridges that gap and looks very smart while doing it.

It is made of a heavy duty soft shell material with light fleece backing. It’s very warm for its weight, breathes reasonably well, stops wind, and sheds water very well. The cuffs are adjustable, there are two chest pockets, and a generous flap over the front zipper. The Echo Zero Eight also features a media port so ear buds can be routed to the outside of the jacket while your smart device is stored in an inner pocket.

The Adder System pockets here are located on the lower front of the coat. The length of the coat is such that a holster carried in these pockets would be placed in a similar position to AIWB carry though slightly higher. I frequently carry a J-frame revolver in these pockets wrapped up in a KCT MOLLE-Link holster. These pockets are suitable for smaller handguns like the J-Frame.

If you are carrying your handgun on your belt, the Echo Zero Eight has you covered there too. It features break away side vents that allow immediate access to a belt mounted holster.

Echo One Zero Vest

The Echo One Zero Vest has the appearance of a standard workwear vest. It is made from a heavy duck canvas material with a fleece lining. It also features a similar pocket layout as the Echo Zero Eight Softshell with chest pockets and dual front Adder System pockets but the pockets are taller which can give you room for a larger handgun.

I wear this layered over a wool sweater or fleece frequently while working. It is very warm, lets me carry gun even if something like insulated bibs preclude the use of a belt holster, and absolutely bomb-proof. I usually use the same KCT holster as I do for the softshell.

Observations from Use

The quality of these garments is quite good – on par with other Berne Workwear that I have been using for years. I’ve used them like workwear and they have taken it without complaint. The pants and shorts have washed well with only very mild fading which should be expected for as much as I have worn them.

The Adder System is very clever but you will want to pay attention to Berne’s sizing system. Some of the garments may have Adder System pockets that will not conceal larger handguns. Berne does a good job of labeling each garment online and on the hang tags you’ll find in retail stores.

I can see these garments being used in much the same way any tactical garment line is used but they fill a more specific niche than that for me. These are clothes that blend into my world and provide me options for carry when my options would have otherwise been limited. We all know you should be carrying on your belt when possible but what if you are wearing insulated bibs? What if it is extremely cold out and you need to spend time seated while driving a tractor or truck? The Adder System provides a method of carry that addresses the access issues that typically come with several layers of winter gear in addition to discreet casual carry.

Even when you carry your handgun on your waist, the Adder System provides a mean to discreetly carry additional supplies like magazines and first aid items. The system is versatile enough to serve a lot like a chest or belt rig would but completely integrated into your garments.

Wrap Up

These garments have found a place in my everyday life and that is probably the highest compliment I can give them. I am just an everyday joe living on property with lots of work to do and they suit me well. However, my gut tells me they could have all kinds of interesting potential for all kinds of interesting people.

The Adder System is at the heart of the entire Berne CCW line and it does not disappoint. It’s thoughtfully designed, discreet, and versatile. If you have ever worn any other Berne apparel, you know the quality is right.

Solid design and solid quality come together in this line. I highly recommend them.

Check out the Berne Workwear CCW line at BerneDirect.com.

GunfightersINC Introduces Gen2 Kenai Chest Holsters

GunfightersINC just took the wraps off their Gen2 Kenai Chest Holster. The popular chest holster will benefit from improved production processes being phased in at GunfightersINC. The holster shell will now be vacuum formed using molds that are machined in house. The new processes allow for a holster that lays flatter against the chest and promises to be even more comfortable.

The Gen2 Kenai is already available for the following models:

  • Ruger SRH
  • S&W N,X,L Frames
  • Glock 20/21, 40MOS, 17 and 19

Additional models will be phased in over time. Check out the Kenai Chest Holster and accessory holster shells at GunfightersINC.com.

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