Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nite Ize Figure 9's...

Just prior to Practice What You Preach in April of this year, I picked up a pair of Nite Ize Figure 9's to test out. These handy little rope tighteners are designed to securely tighten up guy lines and tarp lines without having to tie knots in the lines. I know, I know - if you learn your knots you don't need gadgets like this. However, I like the ease of setup and quick tightening of lines that the INGENIOUS gadgets allow...

Care and I used the Figure 9's to set guylines for poles and to connect short pieces of line to make longer sections. We used them to hang tarps and for hanging clothes and equipment lines at every placed we camped from North Carolina to the Canadian border...

The bottom line on Nite Ize Figure 9's is that they work and work very well. On the several instances where rain had stretched lines that needed to be tightened quickly, the chore was a snap - it was quick and extremely easy to make adjustments. It also made camp set-up and tear down a heckuva lot quicker to achieve...

The small size Figure 9's shown were able to handle everything from mason's line to decoy line and to 550 cord. I like them so much that I now carry a half dozen of them attached to an S-Biner on my Timbuk2 Metro "get home bag". The added weight is unnoticeable - the Figure 9's are feather light.

I give the Nite Ize Figure 9's a double thumbs up.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SgtMike & Care at WAR...

Packs, bags and bins loaded, Care and I left for our third deployment to WAR - the Wilderness Adventurer's Rendevous in Chateaugay, NY hosted by Marty and Aggie Simon over the Labor Day Weekend. Here's a few shots from the awesome time we had...

Taking advantage of the woodpile for testing some chopping tools...

Taking advantage of some quality R&R time by the fire...

Mick Jarvis conducting a pack basket making class...

Some one on one instruction in the art of flintknapping...

Chef Jerry conducting a dutch oven cooking class...

Sgt. Mike & Care's humble abode...

Care in her kitchen, making another camp treat...

The Big Top...

Friends solving the world's crisises...

Prof. Estela conducting a knot tying class...

All in all, we had a tremendous time. Great friends, good food, and some excellent training. Everyone should make it a point to attend an event like WAR or PWYP...


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whistle tests, Part Two

This round of testing was conducted at Marty and Aggie Simon's Wilderness Learning Center in Chateaugay, NY. Again, the tests were conducted out in the woods, not in a sound chamber. All of the ambient noises you'd expect in the woods played a part in this series of tests. As I expected, my observations from the initial series of tests held true. Those observations are:

1. Any whistle that was capable of routinely reaching 105 decibels (db) or better is worthy of serious consideration for everyday carry and/or inclusion in a PSK or 1st Aid Kit. Reaching/surpassing the 105db mark is going to get someone’s attention!

2. Ease of blowing to reach or exceed the level of 105db is a serious consideration. One with a lung condition such as asthma, COPD, or chronic bronchitis would be well advised to look at the whistles that have been noted as being “Very easy to blow” or “Easy to blow.”
3. Whistle construction is critical if you’re going to depend on it to survive. Look for quality construction. If you opt for a metal whistle and live in a cold climate, take precautions to cover the lip piece of the whistle with a protective sleeve of some type to prevent lip damage.

For this round of testing, I through in some interesting sound test twists. Enjoy...

TOPS Knives (pealess)
Adult Average: 123.6
Child Average: 117.3
Overall average: 120.4 db
Very easy to blow. Two cord sounds gets everyone's attention. Irritatingly loud.

Victorinox SOS (pealess)
Adult Average: 122
Child Average: 110.6
Overall Average: 116.3 db
Same comments as above. Very similar design between these whistles with very slight differences in execution of design.

Bison Spy Capsule Whistle (pealess)
Adult Average: 108.6
Child Average: 111.3
Overall Average: 109.9 db
Very, very easy to overblow. Lip placement is critical with this model.

The following two whistles from Bison failed original testing due to construction flaws. The reeds were removed from both whistles and epoxied in place prior to this test.
Bison Small Cylinder (pealess)
Adult Average: 107.6
Child Average: 107.3
Overall average: 107.4 db
Very easy to blow. Easy to manipulate the sides of the exhaust port to change whistle tone.
Bison Large Cylinder (pealess)
Adult Average: 106.6
Child Average: 103.3
Overall Average: 104.9 db
Easy to blow. Very easy to manipulate the exhaust port to change tone.

US Navy Issue STORM (pealess)
Adult Average: 120.6
Child Average: 111.6
Overall Average: 116.1 db
Easy to blow. Requires a little more airflow than someone with a lung condition might be able to muster. A tad large for small kit consideration.
REI/Nexus Buckle (pealess)
Adult Average: 106.3
Child Average: 105.3
Overall average: 105.8 db
Very easy to overblow. Lip placement is critical.

London Metro PD Type / Railroad type (pealess)
Adult Average: 116
Child Average: 102.3
Overall Average: 109.1 db
Not so easy to blow. Requires a lot of airflow to achieve a high decibel meter reading. Unique sound surely gets folks attention when at max output.
Soda Can Whistle (pealess)
Overall Average: approx. 99db
*NOTE* We included this because it's something you can make in the field from a tin soda or beer can. Instructions can be found by attending Marty Simon's training classes. While the soda can whistle only achieved a decibel meter reading of 99, it's one heckuva lot easier to use this whistle than to expend your energy or voice shouting for help.
Some interesting twists -
Human Scream (pees after coffee or soda)
Adult Average: 107 db
Child Average: 104.3 db
*NOTE* Our adult tester, Kevin Estela (aka Estela216, a Moderator at KnifeForums), screamed three times the first at 110db, the second at 107db, the third at 104db. After the third scream, his voice was notably affected. By the next morning, he suffered a slight case of laryngitis from the event. Important to note! CARRY A WHISTLE! Our young adult tester, Becky Two Knives, screamed three times, the first at 101db, the second at 107db, the third at 105db. During her second scream, she belted out a change in tone that didn't even register on the decibel meter. That scream damaged the hearing of all present and scared the coyotes off Marty's property for a night.

Car Horn (pealess)
Average: 104 db

Tester with lung condition (pees after Yuengling)
US Navy STORM average: 102.6 db
Bison Capsule average: 115 db
*NOTE* It became blatantly apparent to me during this test that ease of blowing the whistle is of critical importance in whistle selection.

More tests to come in the upcoming months - stay tuned...


Edited to add a special note of Thanks to my assistants; Kevin Estela, Matt (cyclist), and Becky Two Knives.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cold Steel Pocket Bushman goes to WAR

Several months ago, I received a Cold Steel Pocket Bushman for test and review. Opening the box, my first thought was, "Man, this is one big honkin' knife!" That's not a bad thing...

Here's the specs on the Pocket Bushman:

Blade: Shaving sharp 4 1/2" Krupp 4116 Stainless Blade

Handle: 5 3/4" Bead blasted 420 Series Stainless

Overall: 10 1/4"

Thick: 3.5mm

Weight: 6.1 oz.

The locking mechanism can best be described as a sliding bolt that locks up the Pocket Bushman like Fort Knox. It takes two hands to close this beast of a knife once it's open and locked. When locked, it's as close to a fixed blade knife as I've seen in a folder. Here's a shot of me closing the Pocket Bushman. Note that my strong hand thumb is pushing off the pocket clip for leverage (And, Yes, it takes some leverage.)

I have used this knife all summer at home and on several excursions, including use as my primary knife for the WAR encampment at Marty and Aggie Simon's Wilderness Learning Center in Chateaugay, NY. Over the course of the summer; I have batoned the Pocket Bushman through birch, cedar, red elm, and ash. I've used it to cut camp meat, cordage, a few packages, some boxes, and to shave up some fatwood for fire lighting. The Pocket Bushman took it all in stride...

Through all this, the Pocket Bushman has not yet been resharpened. I have made it a habit to strop the edge occassionally to help delay the inevitable. It's working...

The Bushman still shaves hair! Not only is it still sharp, it locks up just as tightly as it did on Day 1, with absolutely no blade play of any type.

Another nice feature of the Pocket Bushman is that the spine of the blade is adequately sharp to strike a decent spark from a FireSteel...

The Pocket Bushman is tough as nails. What I like about it is that I can keep it in my Timbuk2 metro bag with my other "go gear." It doesn't take up a lot of space and still offers rock solid performance in a very economical package.

I've seen the Pocket Bushman on-line for as little as $23.99 USD from EDC Depot.

My only criticism of the Pocket Bushman is that Cold Steel would do well to eliminate the thumb studs and save the machining expense. The lock is so tough that you need gorilla thumbs to use the thumb studs for one hand opening. Even so, I give the Pocket Bushman a double thumbs up.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Pair of Great Outdoors Lights...

During our excursions to Practice What You Preach, to the Virginia Tidewaters and to the Wilderness Adventurer's Rendezvous; Care and I decided to test some different lighting strategies. I selected the PAL Survival Light, while Care opted for the Pak-Lite for our basic around camp and in-the-tent lighting.

Here's some specs on the PAL Survival Light:

Weight: approx. 3 oz
Size: 2.75" X 1.25" X 1"
Push button switch with 4 modes: Always on, Medium, High, and strobe.

The PAL Survival Light was a wonderful addition to my gear loadout. It's constant on feature made it a snap to find at zero-dark-thirty when nature called. The PAL's white LED light is cast through a lens and as such, the beam is relatively tight with very little side spill. The medium setting was all I needed for finding gear in the tent and to read by. Medium was insufficient for trail navigation. The high setting was ample for safely navigating outside the tent - especially in the South where venomous snakes are a concern.

While the PAL is no powerhouse in the projection department, the light is a major contender for run time honors. I can't say how long the battery lasts. Mine has been running constantly since March, 2008 in the always on mode with quite a few minutes worth of medium and high runtime thrown in. There's no observable loss in light output at this writing.

The PAL has earned it's place in my gear and sets in a place of high honor every night at home. It's always on beam projects light onto my pistol safe lock.
I purchased my PAL Survival Light from Cabela's for $14.99 USD.

Here's some specs on the Pak-Lite:

Weight: 1.5 oz with Battery
Two White LED Bulbs (10,000 hour rating)
Burn Time:
Duracell Alkaline=75+ hrs. high, or 600+ hrs. low
Ultralife Lithium=200+ hrs. high, or 1200+ hrs. low
Slider Switch with low & high modes
ABS Plastic Glow In The Dark Cap

The Pak-Lite has become a mainstay in Care's gear. Coupled with a three pack of spare batteries in a Tools Aviation battery carrier, she has hundreds of hours of personal lighting available at her fingertips.

Care found the low setting ample for in-the-tent reading and gear searching, while the high setting was adequate for trail navigation after the sun set. Finding the Pak-Lite during midnight nature calls was easy, since the entire top of the Pak-Lite is glow in the dark material.

The Pak-Lite fits inverted into the Tools Aviation battery carrier. With the Pak-Lite attached, the bottom of the battery sticks out of the carrier slightly for easy removal. Carried as such, the LEDs are protected from scuffs or other damage.
I was also impressed by Care's Pak-Lite system. So much so, that I bought a second one to store in my get home bag.

The Pak-Lites were purchased from Lighthound at $17.99 USD each. The Tools Aviation carriers were also purchased from Lighthound for $5.95 USD each.