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Archive | Preparedness

FHF Gear Tech Pouch

Cold weather can be hard on electronics. The cold shortens battery life which is no good for critical gear like GPS or cell phones. FHF Gear’s new Tech Pouches are built with this reality in mind.

These pouches have two features that help protect and preserve electronics during backcountry travel. First, they are insulated. This helps keep the cold out an the warm in (more on this in a moment). It also protects from impacts. Second, these pouches have a hand warmer pocket (chemical or electronic) that warms the contents of the pouch.

The pouch is constructed from 500D Cordura with laser cut Dyneema backing. The backer is MOLLE compatible and can be set up for belt carry. The Tech Pouch is available in two sizes – Standard (phones up to 6.4 x 3.25″) and Plus (phones up to 7 x 3.5″).

FHFGear.com

ITS 10-4 Radio Pouch

Radio pouches can be an exercise in frustration. The majority of them seem to be built specifically to prevent you from actually operating the radio. That doesn’t appear to be the case with the ITS 10-4 Radio Pouch. It has several interesting access, retention, and mounting features that keep your radio close at hand and usable.

From ITS:

Our ITS 10-4 Radio Pouch™ is lightweight and skeletonized, offering rapid acquisition, the ultimate in retention and multiple mounting methods for Baofeng UV-5R style radios (transceivers) with extended batteries.

The 10-4 Radio Pouch™ doesn’t impede any functional operation of your Baofeng radio, leaving buttons and ports available for use. While it’s possible that other radios on the market of similar size can be utilized with the 10-4, we can’t guarantee the fit. Please refer to the dimensions below for specifics.

Our patent-pending 4-Way Mounting System™ allows you to mount the 10-4 Radio Pouch™ vertically on a duty belt, vertically to MOLLE (PALS webbing), horizontally on a belt or even vertically on a backpack or chest rig strap. The mounting possibilities are truly unlimited.

This revolutionary pouch features four built-in levels of retention, first using the interior opening webbing base to align the radio into place. Next, the adjustable shock cord locks in the radio, while still allowing easy insertion and removal. Additionally, the integrated hook strip facilitates faster operational access and stowage, providing temporary on-the-go retention. Lastly, the durable slide release buckle provides the final retention strap for ultimate security.

Optional Retractor Combo

The ITS 10-4 Radio Pouch™ features an integrated retractor pocket, designed to hold the optional retractor/lanyard combo we offer for sale separately. Acting as a dummy cord, this retractor/lanyard combo prevents unintentional loss of your radio during removal and won’t leave unnecessary cordage hanging around. The small slide release buckle connecting the retractor to the lanyard can be disconnected for full removal from the pouch to charge your radio or hand it off to someone.

Check out the 10-4 Radio Pouch at ITSTactical.com.

Sometimes You Choose the Adventure… Sometimes It Chooses You!

If you haven’t caught on yet, Ivan at Kit Badger and I live near each other and are friends… even off the internet. We both love a good adventure and have been on a few together including hiking a local mountain this summer. That mountain happens to be very near my home and it was much cooler than either of us expected given that is not nearly as well known as other peaks in our area. It was scenic and accessible enough that Ivan filed it away as a potential filming location.

Recently, he called me asking if I wanted to head up there again for an overnighter. I wanted to go but unfortunately had some plans that would keep me down below on the valley floor. We briefly discussed conditions up there. The road in was fine – mostly bare dirt – and the weather has been mild and dry for December. Given that this is one of the smaller peaks in its particular area, we reasoned that it shouldn’t be too socked in yet… This is where you should probably take a moment to view Ivan’s video.

As you can tell from the video, it turned into a massive suck-fest for Ivan from the start. Post-holing through knee deep snow up hill for around 2500 vertical feet with 2 rifles, camera gear, winter weather camping gear, and no gaiters will ruin an outing quickly. Surprisingly, this particular mountain, though remote, has perfect cell phone coverage at the top (likely due to line of sight to some of the cell towers that service the nearest town). Ivan called me from the top, conveyed that he had no real hope of getting a fire going in the current conditions, and managed to talk himself into hiking back down after having just arrived. Darkness comes well before 4PM in these parts so he needed to hustle.

Later, he shot me a text to say he had made it back to the Kit Badger-mobile. I told him to come by my place for coffee and Christmas cookies. I expected to see him in about half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, but the next call I received was from Ivan saying he was off the road and needed a ride. He also said I shouldn’t bother bringing recovery gear because me and my truck wouldn’t be able to get him back on the road (he was right).

I drove up to get him in my truck. The particular forest road that he was on is fairly tame until you get about 6 miles in where the grade becomes very steep and it narrows significantly. Ivan had gone off the road about a mile up this grade. Surprisingly, the roads were bare dirt until I was within a few hundred feet of Ivan where there was a stretch of very thin, packed snow that had glazed into ice. The ice was basically isolated to just this spot but it was treacherous.

When I arrived, it was immediately obvious why Ivan said the recovery was going to take more than just my gear and truck. The Kit Badger-mobile was sitting just inches off the road but well below the level of the road. He had spun almost 180 degrees and gone off backwards, dropping down the mountain side from the road grade, so that his front bumper was parallel with the road. The only thing holding him on the mountain was a cluster of 3 Western Red Cedars that had grown together at their base. I wasn’t able to measure the angle of the face that his vehicle was clinging to but it was steep enough that you basically had to climb down using the vehicle itself. It was so steep, that the first part of his SUV to hit the tree was his roof!

The road was narrow enough that I would have to drive up beyond Ivan to use a passing area on this single lane forestry road in order to turn around. This would require that I drive up to where the slippage would have occurred. I did the worlds slowest 6 point turn and came back down to Ivan and attempted to stop. The road way was slick and graded down to a ditch on the uphill side of the road so my truck, in spite of the fact that I was absolutely creeping, would not stop. It slid forward about 4 feet and then to the side. This dropped both passenger side tires into a ditch. The ditch was a bit muddy but not terrible. The worse part is that there was a large culvert 8-10 feet in front of me that limited how much I could move the truck to free myself. If I moved too far forward, it would have been a double recover.

This story is already getting long so I will say that we were able to self rescue my vehicle by wedging branches under the passenger front tire to give grip and create an easier transition back onto the road surface. Ivan was able to watch my forward movement to keep me out of the culvert. Fortunately, I had just enough clearance to prevent hanging up on the road’s transition to the ditch and I had the confidence to keep trying to rock the truck out because it was always able to move at least half a vehicle length at all times instead of just bogging down in one spot.

We finally got down the mountain to my place, ate some dinner, and started calling the right people to get the Kit Badger-Mobile recovered before some impending weather made it even more difficult. While we were waiting for the wrecker, a local sheriff’s department SUV pulled into the driveway looking for Ivan. It seems someone had found the now unoccupied Kit Badger-Mobile and called it in when they couldn’t find a driver. The sheriff’s office called the towing company to see if someone was taking care of the vehicle and the towing company passed on Ivan’s name and location (my house). The sheriff’s deputy was brief, courteous, and professional. He requested, if this ever happens again, that we notify them to head off any concern or effort. Which leads right into lessons learned…

Lessons Learned

Ivan and I were so focused on getting off the mountain and starting the recovery effort that we didn’t even think of calling local law enforcement. We won’t make that mistake again. It is also comforting to know someone would have eventually come by and found Ivan if he couldn’t get a call out. It’s nice to live in a place where people still stop to help and call.

This entire story also highlights the importance to having some kind of vehicle based emergency kit, especially in winter or when you choose to go places that are inherently risky. Ivan was fortunate to have both his regular vehicle kit and all his winter camping gear. He could have gone overnight if he had to or he had what he needed to potentially walk down the mountain. I however, only had some recovery tools. I had not moved my winter kit into my truck for the season yet but has already been fixed. It was probably not wise to run out the door without more preps.

These events also highlights the importance of having some know-how if you are going to seek adventure. We have at least some recovery skills. I could have very easily made my situation worse with my truck by burying it up to the axles. However, we were watching the situation and as long as I could move the truck forward and back, I was feeling free to keep trying. I also had some tools that I could have used but they would have been a last resort.

Perhaps the biggest take-away here is the importance of building yourself a safety net BEFORE you begin your adventure. You should always, at a bare minimum, let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return. In our case, Ivan let me know where he was and when he was there. I would have gone looking for him if he couldn’t get a call out.

Finally, I strongly recommend having a very good roadside assistance plan. Both Ivan and I carry roadside assistance with our insurance providers (USAA) and they have been excellent. They completely covered his recovery effort except for a chain-up fee. They would have even covered the tow all the way back to Ivan’s place had the vehicle been disabled. I should note that you should be prepared to deal with a call center employee that is helpful, but more used to dealing with flat tires on the highway than backcountry recoveries. Just be sure you are able to talk directly to the local recovery company after your roadside assistance provider makes the initial contact.

Wrap Up

The adventure wasn’t really over yet. The recovery wasn’t straight forward and the narrow road coupled with ice complicated things. It was so slick that the wrecker pulled itself into the ditch while it was pulling up Ivan’s SUV. Think about that. The wheels were chocked, brakes set, and it was pulling from down hill in relation to Ivan’s SUV. That means it pulled itself uphill and into the ditch in spite of the wheel chocks. That is how slick this road surface was. The wrecker driver got himself out of the ditch and they both drove down the mountain.

Ivan ended his already long day with a 60 mile drive home with no rear windshield in 20 degree weather… but at least he made it home.

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

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

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