Category Archives: Gear

I’ve been gone awhile.

In the time that I posted my last, I’ve taken TWO classes from Graham Combat and they’ve completely changed the way I’ve looked at the world and the way that I carry myself in daily life.  If you ever get the chance to take one of his courses scrape up the cash and figure out a way to do it.  In the meantime, go subscribe to his youtube channel.

I also took a class from Dark Angel Medical.  Medical training, I believe, is second only to mindset training.  You’re way more likely to use a tourniquet than a pistol in your life.  Shooting classes are fun, no doubt, but I’d highly suggest some sort of advanced medical class beyond your basic Red Cross first aid/CPR.

Also, carry a damn tourniquet.  They’re not big, they’re not expensive, and you can save a life.  Doesn’t have to be a gunshot -any number of trauma incidents can cause massive bleeding.  You wanna be that jackass that’s standing there at a car accident watching a 12 year old girl bleed out from a femoral artery because you couldn’t be bothered to take a class and learn how to properly use a TQ?  As Matt Graham says – “It’s 2016 and the American medical community kind of frowns on people bleeding to death.”

Heck, the DHS even says to carry one in their new campaign – Stop The Bleed

 

I’ve also bowed to pressure from my friends and retired my camping Crocs.  I’ve now transitioned to Chaco sandals.  They’re insanely comfortable and while my wife keeps making fun of me, I don’t care.  I have 4 kids and drive a tactical Toyota minivan.  What do I have to prove anymore?  I embrace my dirty hippy side sometimes.

After all, who expects the dude in the Chacos and the DMB t-shirt to be appendix carrying a G19?

Speaking of appendix carry, yeah, I get it.  It’s not for everyone but if you are one of those who enjoy it, the two best holsters I’ve found are the 5 Shot Leather SME made by my friend John Ralston and the JM Custom Kydex AIWB.  They’re both fantastic, just depends on your leather/kydex preference.

I’m planning on being around a lot more.  I have a lot of crazy stuff floating around in my head that needs to be put to paper.


Knives.

I like knives.  I like big knives, small knives, tactical knives, and traditional knives.

For the past year I’ve been pretty religiously carrying an Emerson CQC-7V.  I like the 7V because of the V grind as opposed to the standard Emerson chisel grind.  It’s easier to use and easier to sharpen.  Lately though, I’ve been gravitating more towards smaller and lighter knives as I streamline my daily carry.

To this end, I picked up a Spyderco Delica4.  It’s light, thin, sharp, tough, and inexpensive.  What’s not to like?  It carries like there is nothing there, it doesn’t scare people when I pull it out of my pocket, and it’s a very useful tool.

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I like it.

The other one that I’ve been carrying lately while working one of my moonlighting jobs is this Benchmade Griptillian.  It’s made in the USA and is basically the Glock of pocket knives.

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You see that edge?  I didn’t do that.  Albert at Seattle Edge did that.  He’s a master at sharpening knives and turns them into little lightsabers.  His prices are very reasonable and his turnaround time is quick.  I highly recommend him.


Out with the old, in with the new. Hey! Bring back the old!



There are few more hotly contested items in the EDC/Outdoors world than packs.  There are the budget/low end packs like The North Face and Jansport and then there are the “Tier One” pack makers.  These include Mystery Ranch, Triple Aught Design, and GoRuck as well as many others.  Sometimes they decide to make changes to time tested designs for whatever reason that don’t quite make much sense.  The newest iteration of the Mystery Ranch Sweet Pea, arguably one of the very best single day packs made, is an shining example of this.I happened to have my hands on an older Sweet Pea (March ’13) and a new Sweet Pea (Jan ’14) and thought it would be a good idea to do a pictorial documentation of the major changes.

 

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First, the specs straight from MR.

Sweet Pea

VOLUME: 2000 cu-in (33l)
WEIGHT: 3 lbs 9 oz (1.6kg)
DIMENSIONS: 18″x11.5″x8.5″ (46cm x 29cm x 22cm)

 

The older one is the Green/Grey and the newer one is the black one, for reference.

Change #1 –  They got rid of the Stick-it pocket.  Don’t worry though, they added some PALS webbing at the bottom so you can add your own Stick-it if you want…. for another $59 + shipping + tax.

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Change #2 – They got rid of the PALS webbing and the internal bladder hanger.  Why?  It makes no sense.  Those PALS panels are a perfect place to put an admin pouch like the TAD OP1.

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Change #3 – They got rid of the pass throughs on the sides.  Now, I’m not a skier, but I have some buddies who live and breath the slopes and I can definitely see why they’d like to mount their skis on the side and snowshoe up the hill.  Getting rid of the pass throughs makes near impossible with this pack.   You can still easily carry a 320z Nalgene in the outer side pocket, however.

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The one thing they should have changed but didn’t is that they still use these stupid buckles to attach their chest straps.  They’re way too easy to break when you’re taking them on and off.  It would be much better if they used the replacement style webbing buckles instead of these.

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Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying the newest version is all in all a bad pack.  It’s still the same bombproof, Made in the USA quality that Mystery Ranch is known for.  I’m just not quite sure why they made the changes they did.  If I were you, and were in the market for a new pack this size, I’d search out an older model.  They came up on the various forums and eBay from time to time.


Nemo Meta 1P

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I have gear ADD. I can never fully commit to a single piece of equipment and am always looking for something better. To this end, I decided I needed a new single person tent for my yearly multi night backpacking trip in the Pasayten Wilderness. The Pasayten is an unforgiving place. It can be the middle of August and start snowing at 7200 – 8000′ or be 75 degrees at night a couple thousand feet lower. Because of this you need a shelter that will protect you and keep you comfortable in all ranges of temps and conditions.

I looked at a few ultra lightweight tent/tarp setups and finally settled on the Nemo Meta 1P. I had contemplated a tarp but there are way too many bugs up high at the lakes to make that feasible. I’d also contemplated a hammock, but when you’re up above the tree line that’s not always an option. I’ve had a few different Nemo products and have loved all of them. Their Astro Air sleeping board is the best inflatable I’ve ever used and the Cosmo with pillow top was even comfortable enough for my 8 month pregnant wife.

The Meta 1P weighs a paltry 1lb 15ozs in your pack. It compresses almost to the size of a Nalgene bottle. The lack of tent specific poles really helps with both packability of the tent and weight savings. I love the use of the trekking pole to support the tent. It makes a tool that I’m already packing with me multi purpose.

The Meta 1P is a breeze to setup. The first time I did it it took me about 10 minutes. After I got it down it took me about 4-5 minutes to get a nice tight tent.

I have two gripes with this tent but they’re minor. First is the condensation. I get that with single wall tents that condensation is going to be a problem but its still annoying. Second is that the ends of the tent, unless you guy them out pretty tightly, sit low enough to the ground that the wall of the tent can be pretty close to your face. This can be easily rectified by getting a real tight line off the loop on the outside of the tent. You can use your second trekking pole or a tree for this.

All in all, this is a great tent and I think it will be with me for quite a while.


Backup Comm Devices

We all prattle on endlessly about our EDC.  Our pistols (G19), knives (CQC-7V), watches (SKX031), and all the other assorted crap we carry day in and day out.  When we get tired of that, we start debating the merits of the best BOB/GHB and the necessity of the contents therein.  One item I think is vastly overlooked in all of these discussions is the absolute need forbackup mobile communications devices.  We all carry cell phones.  Most of us only carry one. What happens when there is a natural disaster or other event in your area and your provider goes down?  Now you’re unable to call 911, call your loved ones, or call your buddies to come get you out of whatever mess you’ve gone and got yourself in.  Wouldn’t it be a smart idea to have a backup phone on another carrier that would hopefully be ready to go at a moments
notice?  In this article I’m going to explore a few of the different options for backup devices that we have in the United States.  I can’t speak to OCONUS work as I’ve never done that and it’s better left to those that have.

First, we need to look at our specific areas.  In my AO Verizon is BY FAR the best carrier.  They are head and shoulders above the rest.  AT&T is second and T-Mobile and Sprint are so terrible they don’t even merit a mention in this guide.  My primary phone is an iPhone 5.  I couldn’t live without this thing.  I use it daily for navigation, traffic, email, browsing, messaging, and anything else I want to do.  Verizon is normally a very robust network but things happen and that’s why we always need to be prepared with a backup.  The iPhone also isn’t the toughest phone made. They break and having them go down on us in an emergency would be less than ideal.

The proliferation of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), especially on the GSM networks, has made it much easier for us to pick and choose plans that work the best for our needs. Let’s look at a couple of our options here.

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Option 1 – VZW Primary/AT&T Backup

The best MVNO I’ve found on the AT&T network after extensive research is H2O Wireless. You pay $100 for 2000 minutes and it’s good for a year.  You stick the SIM in your phone and the phone in your pack or your car (turned off with a full charge) and you’re ready to rock when you need it.  The problem with buying a smaller amount of minutes, I’ve found, is that while it is cheaper in the short term a lot of plans don’t allow for rollover and you have to remember to reup the minutes every month or you lose what you have.  It’s an easy thing to forget to do when you’re never
using the phone.  I’ve done that a couple times and just end up wasting money.

If you’d rather pay $10 a month and have your phone ready to go and pay by the minute, you can always go with a quality no contract provider like Consumer Cellular.  I’ve used them in the past and their customer service is great.  You pay $10 a month and you have your number with no worrying about having to re-up as it can be automatically billed.  No minutes are included in this deal but they’re reasonably priced if and when you do need to use the phone.

Option 2 – AT&T Primary/VZW Backup

There are 15 MVNO’s in the USA that use the VZW network.  I’ve not done as much research on them as I’ve not needed to use one but one I’ve seen get very good reviews is PagePlus. Also, certain phones on the old standby TracFone run on the VZW network but not all of them – you’ll need to verify to be sure.

The second thing we really need to look at is what kind of phone we’re going to use as our backup.  We need something, if we’re going with a GSM MVNO, that is quad band and unlocked.  If you’re going to use a VZW MVNO you’re going to probably need to buy a device from the carrier. It’s not as simple as dropping a SIM card in these phones.  We don’t want a fragile phone so the iPhone and most of the Android phones are out.  We don’t want something that is going to suck up battery power like a hoover so we’re going to be looking for basic dumb phones.  All we need to do with this device is talk and text. I looked around a while because that’s what I enjoy doing and after looking at a ton of basic phones I settled on the Nokia C2-1.5. I was looking specifically for a Nokia device after I read this article but don’t feel constrained to that one manufacturer.  The C2-1.5 is a great phone.  It does everything I need and nothing I don’t.  The battery lasts for days and the sound quality is great.  There are a bunch of options out there for GSM phones that will work in the USA, make sure the one you get will work on at LEAST the 850/1900 networks.  Quadband phones are better so you can use them worldwide but sometimes they’re not as available.

The third item that would be good to have is a portable power device or a second battery. There are quite a few options out there including battery powered ones by Duracell and Energizer and solar powered ones by Solio.  Wouldn’t it suck to go to use your phone and have the battery be dead?  Make sure that’s not a problem with prior preperation.

Fourth, make sure you have all your important numbers pre-programmed into your phone.  I don’t remember half the numbers I call on a regular basis.  When all you’re doing is scrolling down the phonebook to a person’s name why would you remember the number?

Quick recap on the features and accessories you’re looking for in a backup phone –

1)  Durable, unlocked, Quadband GSM device
2)  Good MVNO provider
3)  A full second battery or charger
4)  Pre-Programmed contacts list

Another side benefit of rocking one of these phones as a secondary device is so that you don’t have to give out your primary phone number to people you’re doing deals or meetups with.  I don’t have a landline anymore.  I’m sure a lot of you don’t, either.  I, for one, would rather not have every person I do a craigslist deal with know the same number that I give to jobs and family. If you have a plan with enough minutes on it, it’s great to be able to give that phone to Jimmy Jack that you’re meeting to sell a backpack too.  If you need to use a new phone number for whatever reason, just pop in a SIM card from another company and you have a built in burner.  There are tons of reasons that people would use a second cell phone.

For more information on prepaid MVNO networks check out http://www.prepaidmvno.com and for an information overload on cell phones check out HowardForums.


Chromebook

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I recently picked up this Samsung Chromebook for light web surfing, word processing, and daily use.  I really like it!  As long as you understand the limitations and aren’t expecting too much, it’s a great piece of equipment at a killer price point.

Oh, the PPQ M2 is pretty sweet too.  I was pretty excited to get a PPQ with the thumb mag release instead of the Euro paddle style.  Makes transitioning between guns much easier.


Quick & Light

Light EDC

The less crap you have in your pockets, the faster you move and the less dorky you look. Awesome new blog.


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