Archive | Outdoor Gear

Review: Eberlestock Bando Bag

I walk a lot, hike whenever I can, and run occasionally. I tell you this to justify the fact that I wear a fanny pack regularly… almost daily during some parts of the year. I even like doing it. Please don’t judge me. It is a convenient way for me to carry the items I want to have ready access to when I am outdoors and that includes a firearm.

It has been my experience that you can carry a firearm in almost any fanny pack but not all fanny packs are well suited to it. Access is the key. That is where my Eberlestock Bando Bag comes in. This fanny pack has a dedicated pocket that makes accessing a firearm quick and easy. I have been using it since December of last year.

There are other fanny packs that are suited to carrying vital self-defense items but what sets the Bando Bag apart is its appearance. It looks like any other sporty, outdoor-brand fanny pack and this is what I appreciate about it most. I don’t wear it into town but if I did, it would look like every other fanny pack you see in an outdoorsy area.

The Bando Bag features three compartments. The firearm compartment (5.5″ x 9.5″) is accessed via a full zipper. It can be “torn” open to allow full access by grabbing one of the zippers or hooking your thumb in the gap between the double zippers (my preferred method). It works well. This compartment will just barely fit a G19 (I usually use a G43 or small-frame wheelgun) but the new XL version fits full-sized handguns.

The second compartment is a very generous cargo compartment with organization. There are two small slip pockets and a large mesh zippered compartment with plenty of other loose space for larger items like phones. The third compartment is a zippered stash pocket on the front which is great for small items like chapstick or a lighter.

I have found the Bando Bag to be comfortable to wear and efficiently laid out to allow me to carry anything I would otherwise have knocking around in my pockets. Drawing from concealment is easy with practice. On top of all that, it is significantly less expensive than most similar bags. I like the first one I bought so much that I just ordered the new XL version to try.

Eberlestock.com

As of the time of this writing, the Bando Bag and Bando Bag XL are on sale for 20% off on Amazon (the regular size Bando Bag is less than $40!): Bando Bag and Bando Bag XL on Amazon.com

Review: Flextail Tiny Pump 2X

You may be surprised to see a small, lightweight, USB-C rechargeable air pump on these pages but this Flextailgear Tiny Pump 2X has earned a permanent place in my backpacking gear.

This is sold as an air pump for sleeping pads but I think of it more as a lantern that happens to blow up sleeping pads. That is how it earned a spot in my pack… it kicked out the backup light/lantern that I was already carrying out of my pack.

Maybe it is weird to start out a review of this pump talking about its secondary functionality as a lantern, but is actually a very useful light. The included bail makes it easy to hang up in or near your tent and it has broad, floody beam with three well-spaced output settings. It’s a better backup light/tent light than what I was carrying before and it weighs less than many similar lights.

The main reason that I appreciate the pump feature is how easy it makes setting up my sleeping pad. After a long day hiking up hill the whole way, it’s easier to push a button than to blow up the pad with your lungs. It’s also nice to not introduce the moisture from your breath into your sleeping pad where mold can form. This might help extend the life of your sleeping pad and help you sleep a bit warmer.

At around 3.5 ounces and roughly the size of a shot glass, this Tiny Pump 2X packs a lot of usefulness into a small space. I would probably never carry a dedicated pump, but a lantern that also happens to pump up my sleeping pad effortlessly… I can get with that.

I bought my Flextailgear Tiny Pump 2X on Amazon.com but shop around, as sometimes there are better deals direct from Flextailgear.

Review: ThermoWorks ThermoDrop Zipper-Pull Thermometer

I picked up this ThermoDrop Zipper-Pull Thermometer to help fill in the temperature data gap in my favorite areas to explore in my area. The forecasts in my area come out of a city that is about 2 hours away by car and there are countless microclimates between here and there. There are mountain weather websites that do their best to make some algorithmic guesses about forecasts but they often miss the mark which leaves me guessing about how to gear up for trips into the mountains.

Last summer, I spent a night out on a mountain bench just below the tree line. According to forecasts for that elevation, I should have seen temperatures down around 32F. The actual temperature never went lower than 56F which was MUCH closer to the forecasted temps for the valley below. This will help inform future trips into this area.

There are a few specific attributes of the ThermoDrop that make it so useful. First, it is extremely compact and lightweight (smaller than the diameter of a US quarter and weighing in at half a gram). Second, it shows the current temp but also records the lowest and highest temp since it was activated which is the real game changer versus most cheap zipper-pull/keychain thermometers.

I have found no end to the usefulness of this little thermometer. I’ve used it to monitor the temperature inside a cooler during power outages, check temps in a crawl space during a cold snap, test my comfort level in various sleeping bags and insulation layers, and even check temps on training runs/walks during hot summer days.

This is GREAT gear that has changed the way I hike and train. It is small enough that you’ll never leave home without it and useful enough that you won’t want to. I highly recommend it.

ThermoWorks.com

Review: Pokka Pens

Pokka Pens are one of my favorite purchases of 2023. These tick all the boxes for me as an EDC pen – they’re affordable, they’re lightweight, they’re easy to carry at the bottom of a pocket, they last of LONG time, and they will write in places that a nicer gel pen or roller ball might not.

The real innovation of the Pokka Pen is the form factor. It is a half-size pen that has a long, snap-on cap. When the cap is posted, it is long enough to create a full-size pen. They are so compact that there is no need to clip them in a pocket. Just drop it into the bottom of your pants pocket and you’ll never know it’s there until you need it.

Pokka Pens can be great as your only pen for EDC or as a second pen. The latter is how I typically use them. I like nice pens and I typically carry one daily. However, when it comes to being able to write on almost anything, it is hard to beat the good old ballpoint pen with its oil-based ink. There are a lot of things like receipts that gel pens, roller balls, and other inks just struggle to write on but the Pokka Pen handles this easily (this includes Rite in the Rain paper).

These are available in several versions and with a variety of add-ons like clips, aluminum caps, and more. All of that is nice, but for how I use these pens, I like the plain-jane ballpoint type (similar to a Bic pen). The basic ballpoint Pokka Pen does everything I need it to very, very well. If you intend to use these in the elements, Pokka Pens does make a slightly more expensive version with pressurized ink that will write in even more challenging conditions.

When I am carrying a nicer pen, there is Pokka Pen in the bottom of my pocket as well. When I only carry one pen, it’s a Pokka Pen.

Where to buy:

Refills are available direct from PokkaPens.com and are very easy to install. I buy my Pokka pens in multi-packs on Amazon where they are available in a variety of colors: Pokka Pens on Amazon

Lightning Review: Hewlett Two-Side Diamond Sharpener Medium/Fine

There are many, many overdone field knife sharpeners on the market but very few that I would consider carrying regularly. That is why I love my USA-made, easy-to-carry Hewlett Two-Sided Diamond Sharpeners with medium (600) and fine (1800) grits. I have had a couple of these knocking around for years now. It might be the most versatile, easiest-to-carry, field sharpener I own.

These diamond plates are the right size – small enough to carry in their included sleeve and large enough to actually work. They are just under 4″ long, 1.25″ wide, and just about 1/16″ thick. They weigh just over 1 ounce.

I rarely use the medium side but it is coarse enough to get some mild reprofiling done in the field should you take some chips out of an edge. The fine side is all I usually need to touch up an edge before finishing with a quick strop.

I have even used mine to strike a ferro rod and scrape tinder like fat wood thanks to the crisp edges on the plate. It isn’t meant for that and I am sure it isn’t good for it… but it works.

I bought mine on Amazon: Hewlett Diamond Sharpener Medium/Fine

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