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Archive | Preparedness

New from RMJ Tactical: Kestrel Trail Light Tomahawk

RMJ Tactical released the Kestrel Trail Tomahawk, a more outdoors oriented variant of their Kestrel Tomahawk with a hammer poll, late last year. Now they have announced the impending arrival of the Kestrel Trail Light Tomahawk which is a lighter weight version of the original. If the Kestrel Trail is a bushcrafty brother to the Kestrel, you can likely think of the Kestrel Trail Light as a bushcrafty brother to the Kestrel Feather Tomahawk.

The original Kestrel Trail Tomahawk weighs in at 24 ounces. The new Kestrel Trail Light sheds 6 ounces and weighs in at just 18 ounces at 13″ long. This is accomplished by using thinner steel stock.

You can look for the Kestrel Trail Light to arrive at dealers and on the RMJ Tactical website in about a week.

RMJTactical.com

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Review: Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boot

I’ve been wearing Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boots for more than 4 years now. My first pair is still going strong after those four years and last summer I came across a deal on a new pair that I couldn’t refuse so I purchased a second pair. I wear them exclusively when I am hiking, shooting, and daily in the winter. I have no way of knowing how many miles I have on the first pair, but it is a few hundred in hiking miles alone not to mention the daily winter wear. I know these boots inside and out and it’s long past time I wrote a review.

I won’t waste a lot of words giving you an overview of these boots. They are Goretex lined hiking boots. The same can be said for a lot of boots. Instead, I will focus in on what sets these boots apart for me and why I like them.

Longevity

There are really two forms of longevity when it comes to footwear. The first is obvious and has to do with how long a pair of boots can last. I have found these boots to be extremely durable as evidenced by my experiences above. These boots have hiked over Selkirk granite and dusty summer trails. They have spent time in snow, rain, and been submerged during creek crossings. They have been worn as work boots while felling trees for firewood. They’ve been through a lot and the soles are still attached (although I did have to use a bit of Shoe Goo last summer), the toe cap is still attached, they are still water-proof, and the support hasn’t broken down.

The other form of longevity is just as important. There is nothing worse than wearing out a pair of boots that you love only to find that you can’t buy them anymore. Fortunately, the Quest 4D GTX boots have been in continuous production for years. They are actually in their 3rd generation now and while there are small changes, the fit and important features have remained the same (at least through the first two generations that I have used).

Fit and Support

You can boil down the reasons I tried these boots in the first place to two things: fit and support.

The fit is perfect for me and everyone that I have turned onto these boots has found the same thing. I find them to be somewhat narrow through the heel and arch, not overly so, but narrow enough. The toe box is very generous. When laced, I find that the shape of the collar provides plenty of room for your ankle to articulate in the direct that it should articulate. My feet aren’t narrow or wide but I do have high arches. These boots accommodate me very well.

When it comes to support, I have never had a better boot. Wearing the Quest 4D Boots is like wearing ankle braces on the trail. This is accomplished a few ways. First, the ankle area is very sturdy and shaped so the foot can hinge forward and back but has plenty of support for side to side flex. Second, the way these lace is excellent. The first few lace loops are fixed. The first lace hook actually grips the lace aggressively so you can really lock in your heel and set the tension on the lower part of the boot. This is the first boot I have owned with this kind of locking hook and it might be the most important feature to me.

These boots have taught me the importance of locking in the heel for my long term comfort. They actually have a rigid plastic heel cup that works with the previously mentioned locking hooks to really immobilize and support your foot. This has been key to how well these boots support my ankles and prevent blisters. That same rigid plastic component runs all the into the arch for extra arch support. I have never sprained an ankle in these boots (if you know me, you know that is saying something). I have also never had an out of control hotspot or blister in these boots. Those are the functional benefits of good fit and solid support.

Water-Proof Performance

I swore off Gore-Tex boots before I tried these. Some water-proof boots that I have owned have left me with extra foot care problems like blisters from moisture build-up. That hasn’t been the case with these though I do still wish there was an identical, non-waterproof version.

Salomon does make a Quest 4D Boot without Gore-Tex in their military focused Forces line but it appears to have a different lace setup which has made me wary of trying them. If you have them, I would love to hear from you.

If you are stuck with water-proofing, at least it is well executed in these boots. My 4 year old Quest 4D Boots are still water-proof so the water-proofing has proven to be very durable. I also like that Salomon runs the waterproof membrane most of the way up the sides of the tongue, sort of like webbed duck feet. You have to submerge the boot all the way to the second lace hook before you have a chance of water ingress at the tongue which is handy during creek crossings.

Grip

I wear these boots hiking in conditions that vary from damp forest floors, to dusty summer trails, to miles of exposed granite, loose rock, and snow. These boots have an aggressive, long wearing sole that seems to grip wall across all those surfaces and in all directions. The soles on my 4 year old boots have been fairly long wearing and are still offering solid grip on the trail. The new boots seem to be somewhat more aggressive but it is hard to tell if that is because they are new or some change Salomon made to the sole.

Wrap Up

These are my go to boots for pretty much everything. They offer the support, grip, and sneaker like performance that I like for the shooting range or training courses. They have the fit, support, and durability I need for logging miles on the trail. They lock the heel and support my ankles better than any hiking boot I have ever owned. I like them so much that I keep a spare pair, broken in and ready to go.


A note on price… Premium boots are not cheap. These will typically cost around $230-$240 a pair. That hurt at first but using the same boots for 4 years stakes some of the sting out of paying up for them. BUT… You can shop around and save a ton. Salomon seams to roll out new colorways or even new generations of these boots with some frequency. If you can settle for last season’s color, you can save a lot of money. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner too.

I have purchased my first pair for $240 at REI so I could try them on. I purchased my second pair for about $150 off retail because it was a discontinued colorway on Amazon. It is hard to pass on a $240 pair of boots for around $100 shipped.

Click Here: Salomon Quest 4D Boots on Amazon

Often Overlooked Emergency Light Source

When it comes to prepping, I try to keep things practical and realistic. That means making sure that many of my “preps” are things that are already useful to me or my family instead of stacking my shelves deep with items that I will never use. That kind of attitude probably wouldn’t make for a very compelling prepper blog.

One thing that becomes apparent very quickly when you are consuming “prepper” content is that there are a number of items out there marketed specifically toward prepping or emergency preparedness. The weird thing about that is that many of these items have more mundane counterparts that you might actually use even when there isn’t a zombie hoard beating down your door.

Lighting is a great example. You can buy lights that have all manner of emergency oriented features just for when the power is out. Maybe you will actually use a big, heavy, and often poorly made rechargeable lantern with USB ports and an SOS function in your day-to-day life. I won’t…

But, I will use cordless power tools.

When it comes to modern cordless power tools, you aren’t just buying a tool. You are basically buying into an entire ecosystem of tools that share the same battery. You might only have a drill but if you go down to your local big box, you are likely to find all kinds of tools that share the batteries you already have to include flashlights, lanterns, work lights, and even USB chargers that clip onto the battery to charge other electronic devices.

These lights have a few benefits over a lot of the garbage marketed as emergency preparedness items. First, they are reasonably rugged given their intended use on job sites. Second, you are probably already using their batteries regularly so you are likely to keep them topped off and they will stay in working condition longer since you are cycling them. Third, they might be able to grow with you as battery tech continues to improve since many tools are backwards compatible. Finally, some of the lights available have pretty decent run times thanks to the solid capacity of cordless tool batteries.

Why not check out what kind of lighting options are available for the cordless tool batteries you already have instead of filling your shelves with items you’ll never use and might not even be in working condition when you do need them?

Teaser: Hill People Gear Designed Knife

Hill People Gear is teasing the potential release of a knife of their own design. This back-country traveller’s knife has very specific features included and omitted on the basis of the Hill brother’s backgrounds and experiences as outdoorsman. That is an approach to gear design that has worked out pretty well for them so far…

Here is what we know:

The knife will come with a kydex sheath that includes two snap loops. This will offer a wide variety of carry methods and it is always nice when a knife comes with a sheath that is actually functional.

Many of the design elements come from the Hill brother’s experiences in the outdoors along with some Kali training. The squared butt is specifically designed to work with a reverse grip in a nod to their edged weapon training. Much of the romance of bushcraft is exchanged for the pragmatism of modern back-country travel. The spine is NOT a squared, 90 degree spine as the Hill brothers find that feature to be more of a help than a hindrance in a cutting tool. The blade has a pronounced guard for safety. This is clearly not a “bushcraft” knife.

The handle slabs are made from G10 for toughness. Hill People Gear states that toughness will key because of the thinner section of handle material that run up into the guard area of the knife. You can also see that care has been taken to scallop the grip near the blade which can help with various grips like a pinch grip.

This knife will make use of 1/8″ thick blade stock from an undisclosed steel. It features a high saber primary grind with a 17 degree secondary edge. This is relatively thin stock compared to many knives on the market and a relatively fine edge. It is obviously made to cut.

Specs:

  • 8.25″ overall
  • 3.5″ cutting edge
  • 1/8″ thick blade
  • 5/8″ thick handle
  • 17 degree final edge

There is an excellent discussion of this knife already in progress on the Hill People Gear Owners Group on Facebook. They have already discussed the included and omitted features as well as the reasoning behind those decisions at length. If you use Hill People Gear products, I highly recommend the group as there is a lot of knowledge to be gleaned there.

Stay tuned for pricing and availability.

HillPeopleGear.com

How to Add Retention to Your Mora Sheath

Mora knives are great. I think we all know that by now. Most of them cost between $9 and $15 but they offer performance and quality well beyond their price point. I like them… a lot. I like them enough that, while I own several expensive knives (even customs of my own design), I carry and use Mora knives most of the time. They are so lightweight, so inexpensive, and so capable that it is hard to justify the pack weight of other knives.

But… There is always a catch. The sheaths that come with Mora knives are actually mostly functional but don’t always offer enough retention for use during very vigorous activity or for carrying lose in your pack. This problem can result in a lost knife, ruined gear from a loose knife flopping around in your pack, or even injury. I highly recommend addressing the issue somehow, especially if you are going to carry a knife in your pack. Fortunately, it can be fixed easily and inexpensively.

In my experience, there are two easy ways to fix the retention issue. One is VERY inexpensive and one generally costs more than the Mora itself but still offers a good value. I’ll start with the more expensive way.

The Expensive Way – Replace the Sheath

There are a ton of kydex benders out there who would be more than happy to fold a sheath for you. The benefits of buying a kydex sheath are numerous. The most important benefit is that, if the sheath maker is worth their salt, the retention should be improved enough that you can carry the Mora without fear that it will come out of the sheath on its own. Additionally, you can choose your own belt attachment method (or no belt hardware at all), features, and color.

If you can, consider supporting a kydex bender that is local to you. If not…

You can spend a lot on a sheath but you don’t have to. Armory Plastics makes a great sheath for the Mora Companion (one of my favorite and most common Moras in the line right now) for around $20. It is made in the USA – the great state of Idaho to be specific. It comes with a very stout rotating belt clip that I like a lot, offers great retention, drains well thanks to a molded drain hole, and is available in orange or black (mine is orange): Armory Plastics Mora Companion Sheath on Amazon (affiliate link).

The Cheap Way – Ranger Bands

If you don’t want to drop the coin on an aftermarket sheath, you’re in luck. Most Mora sheaths can be rigged with a ranger band in order to retain the knife. The sheaths with a drop hook belt attachment can generally except a thin band near the top of the belt hook to create a retention strap (see image below). This includes models like the Pro (C, S, Robust), Craftline, and Companion series. You simply pull the band up and over the butt of the knife to release it and the band stays attached to the sheath.

I like to use Gearward Ranger Bands for this because they are the perfect size for this task and are very robust. You can make your own too.

The sheaths with more of a bucket-like design, like the venerable 510, require a wider band. Simply cut a band that is around 1.5 – 2″ wide and fit it around the top of the sheath so that it extends above the top of the opening. It will grip the Mora’s handle and add just a bit more retention. You will eventually cut it when inserting the knife back into the sheath, but it should continue gripping the knife even when cut.

As a bonus, ranger bands make a great firestarter in a pinch. They can be lit with a lighter and will burn long enough to buy you some time to ignite less than ideal tinder. You can probably cut a 2″ wide band into 4 smaller fire starters or just use the whole band to light especially poor tinder.

Hill People Gear V2 Original Kit Bag SAR Version

Search and Rescue professionals have been using chest harnesses and Hill People Gear Kit Bags to keep their vital gear close at hand for years. Now they can rely on a new SAR specific version of the Kit Bag – the V2 Original Kit Bag SAR Version.

The SAR Kit Bag was designed with input from instructors at Randall’s Adventure and Training. It features 500D nylon construction in the internationally recognized red. It is based on the V2 Original Kit Bag and retains all of the features. It also adds a loop field on the front for patches, ID, or organizing small gear and a diagonal PALS webbing field (2 rows, 3 columns) for mounting knives, radios, or other tools.

HillPeopleGear.com

Note: The new V2 Original Kit Bag SAR Version is sold out at Hill People Gear but it is currently in stock at 5col Survival Supply.

SEREPICK OSS Tool Set

If you are a lock bypass nerd like me, you likely remember the SEREPICK OSS Tool Set that we previewed here on the pages of JTT. I have good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news… The initial run of 100 OSS Tool Sets sold out almost immediately. Poof. Gone.

The good news is two-fold. You can see images and specs of the kit at SEREPICK.com now and SEREPICK tells me that they will offer subsequent runs of the OSS Tool Sets based on demand. I would think that selling 100 units in the blink of an eye shows sufficient demand for another run.

The OSS Tool Kit includes several items. The tool itself has two different rakes (Bogota and City Rake), a long reach hook, and stainless saw blade. The tension wrench is included and the entire kit nests inside a rubber carrier that can be easily concealed.

The best way to get one of these hot ticket items is to keep your eyes on SEREPICK’s Instagram feed. They often announce the availability of limited runs there first.

SEREPICK.com

Review: Speedbox Endurance-40

Speedbox is known for their “modular container systems for palletized cargo” which is a fancy way of saying they make rugged cases that stack together easily and are sized perfectly for various pallets in use by the military and other groups. The palletization features are very cool and very useful for some people… but not me. I have no military background and no need to palletize gear but a rugged, water resistant box that I can roll pretty much anywhere? Well, that I can use.

Speedbox Endurance-40 in FDE

Overview

The Speedbox Endurance-40 is the second similar product from Speedbox (the first being the larger Voyager-70). It is a 40 gallon capacity container (33.40”L x 19.95”W x 26.00”D) with a footprint that is sized to maximize the capacity of the ISU 90 and 463-L pallets. It has features that allow it to be locked together with adjacent Endurance-40s and to be stacked on other Endurance-40s.

It features durable rotomolded polymer construction with steel and aluminum parts. The interior of the case is sprayed with a textured liner used in marine applications. It has both a drain plug and breather vent to help equalize the interior atmosphere with the exterior.

The lid is secured with rubber cam locks that serve to compress a large gasket that keeps the Endurance-40 water-tight. The hinge for the lid is beefy and pivots on a solid rod.

The Endurance-40 rolls on large, no-flat tires that are mounted on a 5/8″ thick through axle. It can be rolled on those wheels with it’s “Never-Fail Handle System” that is constructed with solid aluminum square stock with steel reinforcement plates.

Who Might Want One

I am not the original military market for the Endurance-40 but it is versatile enough and unique enough to have broad crossover appeal to anyone who spends time outdoors. Gear and the outdoors go hand in hand so having a way to haul that gear is handy.

I have used the Endurance-40 to cart my family’s gear down to our favorite swimming hole. That involves a quarter mile hike on the trails on our property to get to a creek that is dominated by glacial granite boulders of various sizes. It takes everything we need in one trip and rolls over everything along the way.

I’ve used it to access shooting spots on public land where there are no sidewalks. It can hold multiple Defense Targets RSTs (think B-C sized silhouettes), short 2×4 target uprights, my shooting bag, lunch, and still have room to spare. Best of all, I can throw my rifle bag over my shoulder and get everything from my truck to the shooting line in one trip. Once I arrive, it makes a decent shooting table.

Ivan at KitBadger.com shared with me that his gear often had to be palletized when he was serving as a security contractor. He thought something like this would offer a lot of peace of mind for someone who’s gear was sitting out on a hot or rainy tarmac for hours at a time.

It could provide rolling, semi-secure storage for a hunting camp. It could store extra gear at a camp site or vacation spot. It could be used to pack for a carbine course. A firearm instructor could keep all their course supplies packed and ready to roll. You can even use it as a cooler in a pinch!

If you need to carry a lot of gear into a rugged place, you can probably put something like this to use.

Observations from Use

Is it possible to fall in love with tires? Because, I think I am in love with these tires. There are other wheeled boxes out in the marketplace but they are usually geared more toward photography equipment or tools and their wheels range from tiny rollerblade wheels to hard plastic wheels that look like they came off of push-mower. The Endurance-40’s wheels are one of the keys to its usefulness and what sets it apart. This thing is purpose-built to go to rough places. I have rolled the Endurance-40 on interior surfaces, gravel driveways, sidewalks, hiking trails, glacial granite rock, and grassy fields. It rolls over all them with varying degrees of effort. I am not talking about dragging the case. It actually rolls.

40 gallons of internal capacity can hold a lot of stuff! I fit 3 steel targets including their uprights and stands along with a large range bag, a lunch bag, 2 water bottles, a belt rig, and still had room left! I can fit my full overnight hiking pack into it with about 2/3rds of the interior space to spare.

A word to those who plan to carry this in a pickup truck. It is a BIG case and it may not fit under a bed cover upright. I just lay mine on its side in my F-150.

Shown: Handle, Valve, and Plug

I appreciate the build quality of this Endurance-40. When you look at it, you initially see a lot of polymer. When you really start paying attention, there are some absolutely over-built design details. The wheels ride on a 5/8″ solid axle and the area between the wheels has been angled so that when you lift the front to roll the case, additional ground-clearance is created. The handle is built extremely well from solid aluminum square stock and reinforced with steel plates so that there is never metal bearing on polymer under load.

Steel Reinforced Handle Interface

The handle is not only solid but comfortable to use. The handle itself is large enough to grip comfortably and spins freely so that you never have to reposition your hand as the angle of the Endurance-40 changes when lifting or rolling over uneven terrain. I do wish there was some way of securing the handle when it wasn’t in use like a friction lock or something along those lines. It hangs freely and can stick out when the Speedbox is tilted.

I think Speedbox may have also missed some opportunities for internal organization with the Endurance-40. If there were something like like molded in ledges that could hold a tray used to organize cargo or maybe molded slots that accepted partitions, that could be useful. The military market might not have need for an internal trays or partitions but the guy who buys this for personal use might and he would likely pay extra for the parts!

The Endurance-40’s gasket is huge.

Testing

I tried to come up with some tests that would simulate the kinds of rough treatment a box like this might experience in regular use. I wanted to see if the Speedbox was up to transporting and protecting gear in a variety of conditions.

The most important test in my estimation was loading it heavily and rolling it on very uneven surfaces. The best test of this was likely my shooting loadout. It was well over 150 pounds with 3 steel targets (nearly 40 pounds each), loaded magazines, spare ammo, and everything else I need on the range. It was rolled over completely unimproved footpaths, dirt road, and rocky hillside with no signs of damage to the axle or where the axle interfaces with polymer body. It has also been rolled for more than a mile hiking trails and small glacial boulder fields (golf ball up to basketball size round stone) on its way too and from our creek with zero detectable change in the wheels or axle.

The Enurance-40 lodged on the rocks during testing.

Speaking of the creek… The most fun testing that we completed was the float test. I sealed the empty Endurance-40 and let it roll down the same 50 yard section of the creek twice. At the end of the second float, it lodged on some rocks were it stuck with the full force of the creek behind it. This isn’t a dive case and getting stuck on the rocks with the pressure of a creek behind it is probably beyond what Speedbox intended but the gasket did its job. There was no water in the case though a few drops did force their way just under the gasket.

Finally, I pushed the Endurance-40 off the tailgate of my truck (which has a 3″ lift) 4 times. I did it twice empty and twice with a load of firewood in it. The LZ was my gravel driveway. Ouch! The box took some gouging, especially when full, but the lid remained sealed, the cam buckles didn’t break, the hinge is fine, and its integrity is completely intact.

I am impressed.

Price

I rarely comment on price in reviews, preferring instead to let you make your own judgement on value. I am going to comment on price here because these boxes are not cheap but I believe the price should not be a surprise.

I’ll draw a few comparison to illustrate what I mean. Any and all high-end rugged, water-proof, rolling, polymer gear cases (usually geared toward firearm transport or camera equipment) are relatively expensive. You can also price similarly sized rotomolded items like high end coolers as a benchmark. The Endurance-40 is sort an amalgamation of both of those with other features thrown in like large rubber tires and an over-built handle. The Endurance-40 also happens to be larger than most high end cases.

Rocky hills? No problem.

Wrap Up

If you have seen Speedbox’s offerings online before and passed right by thinking they weren’t for you because you don’t need to palletize gear, you are missing out. I like to think I put the Endurance-40 through some realistic testing (maybe even some testing beyond realistic) and it proved to be extremely durable. It has a combination of features that make it useful in lot of situations.

I don’t know of another storage container that do what Speedbox does and, more importantly for me, go where Speedbox goes.

Speedbox.us


Disclosure: The Endurance-40 was sent to me by Speedbox free of charge for the purposes of writing a review.

TOPS Knives Backpacker’s Bowie

TOPS Knives has released their new Backpacker’s Bowie and it scores some major nostalgia points with me. When I was a teen, a good friend of mine had a Jet Pilot Survival Knife that I thought must have been the coolest knife in the world. The blade shape and grind of the new Backpacker’s Bowie bears a strong resemblance to that iconic knife.

When I am backpacking, I want a knife that is stout but not dead weight. The Backpacker’s Bowie weighs in at just over 7 ounces. It is stout enough to help with emergency tasks like wood processing and shelter building. It is also useful in camp with its built in pot lifter notch so you won’t have to wait for an emergency to use it.

From TOPS Knives:

Bowie knives have long been popular among knife enthusiasts. They are versatile in a wide range of uses. Most Bowies are larger knives, however. TOPS set out to make a shorter version that even a backpacker would carry (every ounce counts). The result is a 4” blade that could be the most important piece of kit that goes on the backpacking trip. Aside from the normal uses a knife affords, the notch on the spine is for breaking wire or pulling a pot out of the fire and the swedge can be sharpened upon request. The Backpacker’s Bowie, because you should always carry a knife.

Pick up the Backpacker’s Bowie from a TOPS authorized dealer or directly from TOPS at www.topsknives.com/backpacker-s-bowie

Specs:

Overall Length: 8.25”

Blade Length: 4.5”

Cutting Edge: 4.13”

Blade Thickness: 0.16”

Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58

Blade Finish: Tumble

Handle Material: Green Canvas Micarta

Knife Weight: 7.2oz

Sheath Material: Black Kydex

Sheath Clip: Rotating Spring Steel

Sneak Peek: SerePick OSS Mini Pick Set

Do you wish you had an original WWII issued OSS Lock Picking Knife? Of course you do, those things are awesome but they are expensive, hard to find, and the state of the art has passed them by. Fortunately, SerePick is working on a modern incarnation of the original that benefits from everything SerePick know about bypassing locks and building tools to do it effectively.

The images included with this post show a prototype. Some production features are not shown like an included nesting tension wrench. However, you can see the included rakes, reach hook, and stainless saw blade.

Stay tuned for images and information on the production version.

SerePick.com

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