Archive | Preparedness

Stocked Tourniquet Ankle Band from Gadsden Dynamics

Gadsden Dynamics is now offering their Tourniquet Ankle Band with a stocked option. The package includes the Tourniquet Ankle Band in your choice of colors, a QuikClot Combat Gauze, and a Combat Medical TMT Tourniquet. All you need to add is your ankle and some training.

GadsdenDynamics.com

On Foot, Off Grid: Suntactics sCharger-14

I’ll just say up front that this sCharger-14 is easily the best portable solar charger that I have used and then I’ll spend the rest of this article telling you why. The bottom line is that the quality is excellent, they are assembled and supported here in the USA, and they have a feature that is an absolute game-changer (more on this later).

sCharger-14 Specifications:

  • Output: 2800mA, 5.1V, 14Watts
  • Circuitry: 2-USB Ports, Patented Auto-Retry (Auto-Reset)
  • Weight: ~21oz (596 Grams)
  • Water Resistant: 40 Feet, Corrosion Resistant, IPX7 Rated
  • Dimensions: 11.6″ x 7.25″ x .25″in (closed) / 11.6″ x 14.5″ x .125″ in (open)
  • Solar Cell Efficiency: ~20%, Mono-Crystalline
Suntactics sCharger-14 (upper right) shown with another panel during testing. There will be a review available on the other panel soon.

Observations from Use

To understand what makes the Suntactics panels so great, it helps to have some context for the state of the solar charger market and some experience with the challenges of solar charging devices in the field. I’ll try to provide that context before explaining how Suntactics addresses both.

Regarding the state of the market – It only takes a quick search on Amazon to see solar chargers from a variety of names you don’t recognize and a few that you might. Many of these brands are based in China and appear to exist solely for the purpose of selling inexpensive electronics on Amazon. In my experience, their quality is often dubious and their specifications aren’t trustworthy.

Suntactics, however, has been making excellent portable solar panels since 2009 and their panels have been very well vetted by several demanding user groups including the through-hiking community and military personnel They work. Their panels have no moving parts. They are laminated in such a way that they submersible and they shrug off poor weather conditions. I have used a USB voltmeter to verify their output claims and this panel will often deliver a charge in conditions where my other panel gives up the ghost which speaks to its efficiency. On top of that, their electronic design is superior to anything I have tried… which brings us to the game-changing feature.

Regarding the challenges of solar charging in the field – You may be aware of the fact that the sun’s position in the sky changes throughout the day. You may also be aware that things occlude the sun, like clouds, exist in significant numbers. What you may not know is that many devices like battery chargers and cell phones just aren’t built to handle the realities of solar charging and the voltage changes that come with it.

In many cases, a cloud passing in front of your solar panel will cause the output of the panel to drop which induces a charge error and the device stops charging. Many cell phones are also a little picky about their charge level and will simply not adjust as the panel output changes with the solar conditions. This can lead to more charge errors or slower charging than is necessary. Basically, all of this means you have to babysit your solar charger at all times so that you can unplug and replace the USB device as necessary to reset any potential charge errors.

All Suntactics panels have a feature that addresses this issue very elegantly. They call it “Auto-Retry” and it basically means that the panel automatically restarts the charge every 5 minutes. It is as if you are standing there unplugging the device and then plugging it back in every 5 minutes. You can leave Suntactics panels unattended with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that charge errors will be dealt with automatically. It’s basically magic.

This photo was taken during testing to illustrate some very challenging conditions. See the next image for actual multimeter readings during these conditions.
In this real-world test, the sCharger-14 was still putting out 4.59 volts at .44 amps with the sun occluded by clouds. The other panel tested during this time was producing charge errors.

I originally purchased my sCharger-14 as more of a preparedness item than a backcountry item. It is the largest panel that Suntactics makes in the sCharger line but I still find it to be quite portable and lightweight compared to many panels so it has seen time in the mountains. That said, I would like to pick up one of their smaller and lighter panels eventually for backcountry use with my preferred power banks (see previous article regarding power banks).

I’ve done things like charge 2 cell phones at once (though only one USB socket will have the Auto-Retry feature). I have charged 18650 batteries in the field at 2 amps (the panel will do it if the charger and solar conditions allow)! I can’t do either of those with the other chargers I have tried. I should also note that this particular panel tops off my battery banks relatively quickly which I appreciate.

Wrap Up

I am not an electrical engineer so I likely won’t dive that much deeper into the stats or tech for this panel. I’m just a guy who has spent too much time screwing with other solar chargers before stumbling on a brand that works. The Suntactics panels are efficient, exhibit great quality and efficiency, and that is all great but… What really sets these apart is that they have obviously been designed to address the challenges of solar use in the field.

Suntactics makes a number of sizes and configurations in the sCharger line. They seem to be made in batches and their website is kept up to date with only the particular panels that are available at that time. Suntactics.com

They also sell direct via Amazon with Prime shipping which is where I purchased my panel: Suntactics on Amazon.com.

How (and Why) to Ditch Hydration Bladders

I remember when I purchased my first hydration bladder. It felt like a superpower. I could basically just conjure water like a wizard. Abrakadabra… Hydration. Several years, experiences, and broken hydration bladders later, I now question whether they are even a good idea.

Why…

A list of grievances:

Hydration bladders are more fragile than almost any bottle. I have broken at least 6 hydration bladders from a wide variety of manufacturers including your favorite. In the best case, your stuff gets wet. In the worst case, you lose your most vital resource.

They don’t handle the cold as well as a bottle that is built for cold. Granted, the bladder itself is usually well insulated enough inside your pack to prevent freezing but your mouthpiece and hose will likely freeze. This can happen even if you are careful about blowing out the hose if it is cold enough.

They are more expensive especially compared to free bottles. That’s right. There are some really good bottles that are basically free with the purchase of something like Smartwater, Gatorade, or maybe those tradeshow freebie sports bottles. Even if you have to buy some bottles for specific purposes, they are less expensive than a bladder (and they lost longer with less maintenance).

They are terrible to clean. If something requires tablets, special brushes, and weird expanding drying rack to clean, it kind of sucks. Those bladders and hoses get really, really nasty if you don’t clean them well.

They make it easy to over-utilize your resources. “Gee whiz, this climb is kicking my tail. I’ll just take a quick swig.” Do that a few times and before you know it, you’ve knocked back all 3 liters and you’re looking for a place to refill. You need to hydrate but hydration bladders make it easy to take in more than you need.

They have the word “bladder” in their name. That’s a little weird, right?

I will grant you that they do have some advantages. The convenience can’t be beat but, again, this is a double-edged sword. They are also often lighter in weight than the bottles required to carry the same volume of water.

This pack in this photo (HPG Ute) has 6 liters of water on board. 5 liters are in bottles on the outside of the pack and an extra liter is tucked inside in preparation for an overnight trip with no water access.

How…

The “how” basically boils down to a few key factors. The first is having the right gear. You need to make sure you have the bottles you need to carry a sufficient amount of water and then you have a pack that will support your new hydration bladder-less existence.

The bottle part is easy. Just find bottles that will let you carry as much water as you would have with a hydration bladder. I like to use the big Nalgene 48-ounce bottles. They are the same diameter as the typical 32-ounce bottles so they fit all the same pouches. Two of them will carry roughly the same amount of water as a 3L bladder. Alternately, the 1-liter Smartwater bottles are a great shape for packing in a backpack.

Speaking of backpacks, I like Hill People Gear packs for carrying a lot of water since they typically have ample bottle pockets and provisions for attaching bottles to your pack belt. I can easily and comfortably carry 5 liters of water on my Umlindi or Ute without even having to stash any water inside the pack. I can place additional bottles in the pack as necessary.

This Hill People Gear Umlindi has almost 5 liters of water on board in preparation for a day far from any water source.

Once you have the gear sorted out, you can address the convenience aspect. This is important because, while hydration bladders can lead to over-hydration, you still don’t want to make it hard to take a drink. My standard is that I must have at least once bottle that can I drink from without having to stop to access it, drink from it, or stow it again. I like to use a sports bottle as you might use on a bike but really, almost any bottle will work. The key is to make sure this bottle is easy to access like on your waist belt or lashed to your pack strap. I just rotate water to the easy access bottle from other bottles when I get a chance.

Don’t submit to the tyranny of hydration bladders any longer. Save money, save headaches, and save water by switching to bottles.

Attaching a bike bottle to your pack strap is easy. Photo Credit: Hill People Gear

Gadsden Dynamics Adds Combat Medical

Gadsden Dynamics is now a Combat Medical dealer. They currently offer the TMT Tourniquet, a CoTCCC approved TQ, with plans to carry additional Combat Medical products soon. The TMT fits the Gadsden Dynamics Tourniquet Ankle Band and Elastic Tourniquet Holder perfectly.

GadsdenDynamics.com

The Best Things No One Has Told You About the HPG Umindi

There are probably a few hundred reviews of the Hill People Gear Umlindi out there already. All of them are going to tell you that the Umlindi is versatile enough to slide from daypack to overnighter thanks to HPG’s system of pockets, comfortable thanks to their unique suspension, and durable thanks to their materials and production in the USA. That’s true of all the HPG packs. This article is about what no one else told you…

Overview and Background

The Umlindi is a mid-sized pack with a capacity of around 30L/2000ci (the capacity can be greatly expanded with HPG’s Pockets). The pack can be worn without a belt as a backpack or paired with HPG’s Recon or Prairie Belts (which I highly recommend) to be worn as a lumbar pack. It features HPG’s excellent compression design and harness which is a key to the comfort of any HPG pack.

I purchased a Kifaru G1 Molle Express (MOLLEX) more than 10 years ago and it really opened my eyes to 1) how versatile a mid-sized pack with a well-designed suspension system could be and 2) to a very different concept in suspension (different to what I was used to at least). The MOLLEX was the first pack that I owned that relied heavily on “delta” straps to pull the weight of the pack close to the wearer and into the hip belt rather than load lifters.

About a year ago, I bought an Umlindi to serve as the lighter, less tactical, cooler-to-wear MOLLEX replacement that I have always wanted. Both packs use wrapping shoulder straps and waist belts rather than heavy padding, both rely on delta straps instead of load lifters to direct the weight into the belt, and both carry the weight of the pack low. The Umlindi suspension is really only similar in concept as the HPG shoulder harness really sets it apart with additional comfort and increased mobility.

The Umlindi is more of a lumbar pack than a backpack when used with a hip belt (I use the Prairie Belt) unless the wearer has a shorter torso. It rides low on the back. This lumbar pack DNA is what makes it somewhat unique, one of the major keys to its usefulness as a pack for me, and the source of the unique benefits that I have been alluding to all along.

The Best Things No One Told You About the Umlindi…

As a reviewer, I am often guilty of spending so much time wrapped up in features that I don’t adequately relay the benefits of those features. I suspect that is true for a lot of reviewers and maybe why some of these benefits haven’t been put to paper:

Plays Well with Rifle Slings – If you have ever tried to sling a rifle while wearing a backpack, you know what a pain it can be. This is doubly true for 2-point slings that wrap over the shoulder and across the back of the wearer. With a traditional pack with load lifters, the must either be run under the pack or it rides on the wearer’s neck if worn over the pack. The Umlindi keeps the wearer’s shoulders and upper back mostly free except for the harness which lays completely flat. It allows a 2-point sling to worn completely normally over the pack and even makes it more comfortable as the sling rides on the harness!

It is a little hard to see what is happening in this picture. It shows my shoulder from above and right. My 2-point sling is ridding on the padding of the HPG harness and wrapped naturally around my back while I snowshoe.

Keep It Cool – The Umlindi does a better job of keeping me cool than any of the ventilated packs I have tried. My shoulders and upper back are more exposed and when the pack is properly fit, the wearer can create an air gap above the lumbar pad that can be opened up based on the delta strap adjustment.

Ruck n’ Roll – The Umlindi is a great training pack. This is due in part to the ventilation mentioned above and because it carries weight low and focused into the belt. I have used a kettle bell as weight but more recently I’ve been using a cheap ruck plate which carries more naturally with less shifting. This pack is a real back-saver if you spending a lot of time with a weighted pack.

Don’t Touch My Hat – This is one is fairly off-beat but it has turned into one of my favorite things about the Umlindi. It doesn’t bump into hats with wrap-around brims like a Tilley or cowboy hat. That may not seem like a big deal but when it is 100+ degrees, bone dry, you are above tree line, and the sun is absolutely relentless… its a big deal.

Clearance, Clarence – Finally, I live in an area with a TON of trails. The agencies and volunteers that maintain these trails can only do so much in a season. Additionally, we tend to have thick second growth of tree species like Grand Fir in off-trail areas that have been logged. This means ducking under a lot of thick branches and deadfall when hiking on and off-trail. The Umlindi provides plenty of clearance for when you need to duck under objects.

Wrap Up

When you combine everything that has been written a million times about all Hill People Gear packs with anything above that might be important to you, I hope you are getting the picture that the Umlindi is a great pack. I like it so much that I am sorely disappointed when my loadout necessitates a larger pack.

Umlindi at HillPeopleGear.com

Guest Post: The Modern Minute Man and Other Standards – Bill Rapier of AMTAC Shooting Instruction LLC

Today’s guest post is penned by Bill Rapier of American Tactical Shooting Instruction LLC (AMTAC Shooting). Bill is “retired after twenty years in the Navy, where his duty assignments included several years at SEAL Team 3 and over 14 years at Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Positions held include assaulter, breacher, sniper, team leader, troop chief and military working dog department senior enlisted adviser. He has always been an avid shooter and is heavily involved in combatives.” Now he is lead instructor at AMTAC Shooting and designer of the AMTAC Blades Northman.


For the last two years I have done the Sniper Adventure Challenge Race.  It has been a great way for me to have a goal to train for and to keep pushing the boundaries with training, fitness, shooting and gear.  New for this year, one of my local friends (Jake Hoback) and another local buddy were going to team up and do the race.  This was great for me as it gave me other dedicated training partners.

Eventually one of the guys had to drop out so I started trying to find my buddy Jake a partner for the race.  As I started going down the rolodex of guys to call as potential race partners for him the conversation would usually go something like this: “So, are you up for doing a race next month?  You need to be prepared to walk 40-50 miles, carry a 40-50lbs ruck, shoot out to 1500 yards, be proficient with pistol, navigate with map and compass (no GPS) and be prepared to perform a wide variety of other tasks.”

Usually what followed was a long pause, a “maybe”, a “next year” or a “no” with laughing.  As I was talking with my friend and race teammate “Chainsaw” about my frustration with the lack of guys that have the willingness, ability, time, and resources to do the race he said, “Yeah, that is modern minute man stuff”.  That got me thinking.

The term “minute man” comes from the time just prior to the American revolution.  Basically, the minute man was someone skilled at arms with a base of physical/ martial prowess, able to be “ready to go” in a minute.  This is what the National Parks Service has to say about the minute man:

Old school minute man

Minute men were different from the militia in the following ways:

  1. While service in the militia was required by law, minute men were volunteers.
  2. The minute men trained far more frequently than the militia. Two or three times per week was common. Because of this serious commitment of time, they were paid. One shilling per drill was average. Militia only trained once every few months (on average) and were paid only if they were called out beyond their town, or formed part of an expedition.
  3. Minute men were expected to keep their arms and equipment with them at all times, and in the event of an alarm, be ready to march at a minute’s warning – hence they were called “minute men.”

What does a “modern minute man” look like?  What would the standard be?  Should all American men be able to to meet the “modern minute man” standard or are there different levels, standards or roles that we are called to fill?

As I started digging deeper with this concept and discussing it with friends and mentors, it started to make sense that it should be broken up in to different levels with the “modern minute man” just being one of them.  Here is a breakdown of the different levels and the standards that should be associated with them:

Responsible Armed Citizen (RAC)

This is the baseline that every American man should be at.  The RAC standard is:

  • A high level of situational awareness
  • A foundational ability to fight/ use a blade,
  • A baseline level of competency with a pistol (perform the Amtac Shooting Pistol RMD or similar task)
  • A commitment to carry your tools.
Controlling hands and feeding with a blade
Framing
Spear elbow, weapons retention shooting position

Follow Me (FM) :

Still working on a better name for this as the infantry has been using this term for a long time.

  • Be proficient with a carbine (Amtac Shooting Carbine RMD or KD4 Carbine hat qual)
  • Have the ability to follow someone, walking for 6 miles while carrying your carbine, 6 mags and water (10-15 lbs)
  • Be physically in shape enough to run your carbine after the walk
Working carbine drills with plate carrier
High kneeling shooting position
Roll over prone shooting position

Modern Minute Man (MMM): 

  • Be able to navigate 20 miles while carrying a 25-30lbs load
  • Have a base level of bushcrafting skills
  • Have a base (line of sight) comms ability
  • Be able to shoot out to 600-700 yards.
Hill People Gear Umlindi Pack with heavy Recce strapped to back
Improvised shooting position, sling wrapped around the tree, engaging target at ~800 yards.
Working yard lines with a hybrid carbine

Jedi Modern Minute Man (JMMM): 

  • Be able to navigate/ walk 40-60 miles
  • Carry 40-60lbs
  • Shoot out past a mile
  • Make your own ammunition
  • HF comms ability
  • Ability to work/ travel/ live in the winter in the mountains
Snowmobile supported kneeling, shooting BC steel around 500 yards with a Recce rifle.
Medium ruck day (50 lbs) running a BPT Outback chest holster to ensure a fast draw stroke while wearing a ruck waistband.
Amtac Shooting Fall Course 2018. Guys working land nav and field shooting positions. Terrain was challenging.

Where do you fall out in these standards?  Where do you want to fall out? None of these standards are easy and none of the standards once achieved do not require continued training to maintain.  Regardless of if you are just starting this journey and want to achieve the RAC standard or if you have been doing this for years and have your sights set on the JMMM standard the only way you will get there is by deliberate intensive training.  More to follow on training and gear as it relates to the MMM concept.

Amtac Shooting Fall Course 2018. Improvised shooting positions, men honing modern minute man skills.

Wilde Custom Gear Redesigns Active Shooter Bag

Wilde Custom Gear’s updated Active Shooter Bag boasts a number of features including:

  • Three adjustable flap magazine pouches that can fit two rifle magazines in each pouch
  • Rear slit pocket covered with laser cut MOLLE loop Velcro that can fit most pistols with interior loop velcro lining for attachment of velcro backed pistol holsters
  • Laser Cut MOLLE webbing on each end
  • Full Laser Cut MOLLE loop velcro interior lining for attachment of velcro backed and MOLLE accessories
  • Full-length heavy-duty adjustable webbing strap with quick detach buckles for easy grab and go deployment

The redesigned Active Shooter Bag is available now at WildeCustomGear.com.

Evernew Cross Stand 2 for the Trangia Spirit Burner

I’ve been using my Trangia Spirit Burner (alcohol stove) for a while now based on the recommendation of the folks at Hill People Gear. In the time I have used it, I have tried several pot stands and haven’t really been over the moon about any of them. The biggest problem is that they are often too large for use with a small pot. They also often too bulky or inefficient due to placing the pot too close to the jets.

A friend recommended the Evernew Cross Stand which is an “X” shaped stand made from titanium that is designed to sit on top of the Trangia (or Evernew Alcohol Burner). However, I found that it sat too low on the Trangia. Fortunately, Evernew makes a second version, the Cross Stand 2, that sits higher and places the bottom of the pot about 1″ above the jets.

My experience with the Cross Stand 2 has been excellent. It weighs less than an ounce as you might expect for something made of thin titanium with plenty of skeletonization cuts. It packs completely flat and should fit inside just about any mess kit. It’s height allows for a very efficient burn and it is really optimized for solo cook pots or nesting cups. I pair it with a simple aluminum foil wind screen to further optimize efficiency.

The Cross Stand 2 is marvel of simplicity and it has been a great solution for me. If you carry a Trangia in your hiking gear or preparedness gear, this could be a good solution for you toon. They are available on Amazon: Evernew Cross Stand 2 on Amazon

You are like to find even lower prices if you shop around.

Sneak Peek: Hill People Gear Snubby Recon Kit Bag

Hill People Gear gave a sneak peek of their upcoming Snubby Recon Kit Bag.

Just in case you don’t speak Kit Bag… “Snubby” refers to Hill People Gear’s smaller pattern Kit Bags for more compact handguns (up to a Glock 19 or similar in size). The “Recon” moniker means that it has PALS webbing on the front for attaching additional pouches.

This particular iteration of the Kit Bag fits the Bino Pouch so well that it will likely serve as a popular base for building a bino harness.

The Snubby Recon Kit Bag will be available soon. Check out the rest of the Kit Bag line at HillPeopleGear.com in the mean time.

New Colors and Fabrics at Hill People Gear

Hill People Gear just added three new color and fabric options to their product line. The Recon Kit Bag, Umlindi, and Palspocket are all sporting some new options.


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