Sagewood Gear has launched a new website. The new site includes an improved look, improved navigation, and several new sheaths for you to browse.
Apparently cutting tool design runs in the Espinoza family’s blood. TOPS Knives newest tool, Grandpa’s Ax, was designed by Lorenzo Espinoza, father of TOPS Knives President and Chief Designer, Leo Espinoza.
In 2016, a challenge was issued to the employees of TOPS Knives. Whoever can design the best hatchet, tomahawk, or ax will get it approved as a design, be credited as the designer, and TOPS will produce it. This hatchet was the winner of that contest. The winner? Lorenzo Espinoza Sr. Lorenzo is Leo’s father. Leo is the President of TOPS Knives, the main designer, and the guy who approves all outside designs. You know what they say: like father, like son.
Grandpa’s Ax is an excellent mix of size, weight, and chopping capability for a small hatchet. Weighing just under 1.5lbs, this is a tool that can be easily carried long distances, making it excellent for backpackers and minimalist campers. The weight is in the head of the hatchet and its shape leaves it balanced to chop very well for its size.
Overall Length: 11.0”
Blade Length: 4.0”
Cutting Edge: 4.0”
Blade Thickness: 0.25”
Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
Blade Finish: Tumble Finish
Handle Material: Green Canvas Micarta
Knife Weight: 22.7oz
Weight w/ Sheath: 27.1oz
Sheath Material: Brown Leather
Sheath Clip: Belt loop
Designer: Lorenzo Espinoza Sr.
The July 2017 TacPack has arrived at JTT HQ. I’m just going to say this up front. This is the best one yet. It is full from top to bottom and front to back with stuff I will use. Let’s look inside.
BreakThrough Clean Kit – I don’t really spend a lot of time cleaning guns but everyone has to grudgingly clean once in a while (I’ll never understand you weirdos who like cleaning guns). If you have a gun, you can use this. It comes with solvent, oil, 2 packets of grease, a doubled ended nylon AP brush, and a microfiber towel (which will change your life if you haven’t used one before). I’ve generally been happy with BreakThrough clean products and I especially like that they are pretty much odorless. This is a useful addition.
EZ Accuracy Gas Block Dimple Tool – Most AR-15 manufacturers offer low profile gas blocks as an option but the majority of them still don’t dimple the barrel as a reference for gas block alignment. This product solves that problem. You back out one screw in your gas block and replace it with the special hollow screw provided in this kit which allows you to center punch the spot to be dimpled with the included punch. The hollow screw then acts as a guide for a 1/8″ drill bit so you can quickly and easily dimple your barrel to ensure that the gas block goes back on in the exact same place should you ever need to remove it. You won’t use this every day but you’ll be glad you have it.
Fusion Climbing Runner/Sling and Locking Carabiner – The hits keep coming with this box! I don’t climb but everyone knows you can use a carabiner in about a million ways. I use them all the time in rigging for all the wood cutting I do. The included steel screw gate carabiner will be put to use right away. If you don’t climb, you may be less familiar with runners (or some people call them slings). They are basically really strong loops used for all kinds of things in climbing. I use them to girth hitch things like snatch blocks/pulleys to trees for redirecting pulls with the come-along winch I use when wood cutting. You can find all kinds of uses for items like these from tying into your tree stand to hanging a bear bag on your next overnighter.
5.11 Tactical Wharn Knife – The 5.11 Tactical value knives are actually solid little knives for the price. Knife nerds won’t get off on the AUS 8 blade steel but knife users know it as a fine grained steel that takes a refined edge easily. The ergonomics on this Mike Vellkamp design will take you by surprise. The blade moves VERY smoothly and it locks up well. This is probably the best knife to find its way into a TacPack yet.
MOAB Patch – And you thought MOAB stood for Mother of All Bombs… Nah. It’s Mother of All Bottlerockets!
I rate these boxes on the basis of whether or not I will actually use the included items. With that in mind, this is easily the best box to date. Everyone reading this right now needs gun cleaning items. Even if you don’t know it yet, carabiners and runners/slings are really handy. You can easily find room in a kit for a knife like this and I never would have known about the EZ Accuracy GBDT if it weren’t for TacPack. It is boxes like these that keep me talking about TacPack.
If you want to try TacPack, you can check them out at TacPack.com. TacPack hints that the August box will contain some Mission First Tactical gear.
Disclosure: I receive this subscription box from TacPack, free of charge, for review.
RE Factor Tactical is offering 20% off their Wilderness and Hostage Escape Cards for a limited time. I’ve given several of these as gifts and they are always a hit.
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.
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).
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.
- 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.
Survive! Knives has been hinting toward big changes for a while now and their upcoming SK series of knives hasn’t exactly been a secret though details were sparse. That all changed yesterday when Survive! rolled out new details on the future of the SK and GSO series.
The Survive! GSO series of knives have been in high demand and that is an understatement. The demand has easily outstripped the pace at which the semi-custom line can be produced and the knives are back ordered out more than a year in most cases. Enter the SK series. The SK series of knives will be more of a high end production line. Millit Knives will be handling the production grinding for all of the SURVIVE! knives. The SK Series blades will be completed at Precision Plus. The hope is that the SK series would be able to be kept in stock to meet the demand of most users and the GSO series can continue to be Survive! Knives’ more hand finished line.
The SK series consists initially of 3 different models: SK 3.5, SK 6, and SK 12. Pre-orders are already open on the SK 6 and SK 12. You can read details on all the SK models on their product page: SK product page at SurviveKnives.com
You can read what Survive! Knives has to say about the transition on their blog and view the video below for more details.
TOPS Knives just released their TOPS Sling and, if you are being honest with yourself, you want one as bad as I do.
From TOPS Knives:
Feel like a kid again with the TOPS Sling
If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a small town before every household in America had multiple TVs and several touch screen gadgets, then you likely knew the joy of playing with a slingshot as a kid. While these tools have their place in hunting some small game and/or birds, the vast majority of slingshots out there are for fun, not survival. The TOPS version honors that. Leo Espinoza, President of TOPS Knives said, “Childhood memories. That’s why I designed it. I was just thinking back to when I was a kid and I used to make my own and wanted to do that again.” So the next time you’re looking for ways to get your kid away from his smart phone, grab your TOPS Sling, head out of town, and make some memories.
Pick yours up today from an authorized TOPS Knives Dealer or at www.topsknives.com/tops-sling
- Overall Length: 6.25”
- Fork Length: 3.5”
- Fork Gap: 2.13”
- Thickness: 0.19”
- Steel: 1095
- Finish: Tumble Finish
- Handle Material: Black Canvas Micarta
- Weight: 6.7oz
- Weight w/ Sheath: 9oz
- Sheath Material: Brown Leather
- Sheath Clip: Belt Loop
- Designer: Leo Espinoza
- MSRP: $130
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.
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.
TOPS Knives may not send every prototype to the Amazon rain forest for testing but they do send more than a few. Joe Flowers, who has designed a number of knives for TOPS, also happens to run a venture called Bushcraft Global – a survival/bushcraft training business that gives students the opportunity to train along side locals in the Amazon rain forest. TOPS Knives has been closely aligned with Bushcraft Global and that partnership has produced opportunities for real world testing of prototype products.
If you have ever wondered what kind of testing TOPS does before bringing a knife to market, this video about TOPS Knives Yacare prototype can give you a taste.