Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Pocket Slingshot

 I took  a chance with Ali Express and bought myself a cool little gizmo that I'd seen online.  I got a pocket slingshot. These are really jut production version of a childhood toy that I remember fondly. In Victoria where I live, the humble Y shaped slingshot is a restricted / quasi-legal item, for whatever reason.

The concept is very simple, a plastic tube forms the frame to which an elastic pocket is attached. The pocket becomes the motive force to propel its projectiles. The package also included an archery brush attachment which is threaded and fits onto the plastic ring outer face, when the cover is off.

The elastic pocket is shaped to included folds and pleats to add to both its elastic potential but also add stress relief. In the old homemade pipe and taped on rubber washing-up glove fingers
 versions, the interface between pipe and glove always seemed to be the place where it would tear.

The plastic ring has a 5cm inside and 6cm outside diameter, and with either the threaded cap or the brush-bristled archery lid is only 3.5 cm deep. Its a very compact little unit. When the cap is on, the air can be expelled and the elastic pocket compacts down into the ring. Thusly sealed, there is even space for the ammunition of choice in the contained pocket.  I also bought a 100 unit lot of 6mm steel BB's and raided my daughters toy box for glass marbles. The third ammunition type are arrows.

When coupled with the archery lid, the soft round rubber notchings of the included arrrows protect the elastic pocket from tears that might come from traditionally nocked  arrows. The included arrows are only half-length more likely  to be crossbow bolts than traditional bow-archery shafts.

Now, it's hard for me to measure the functional power of the slingshot, as I don't have a chronometer handy, of an means to measure impact force. So all I can tell you about the force of the slingshot is anecdotal at this stage.  I did accidentally put a BB through the steel mesh of my front security door, hard enough to have it ping off the concrete wall on the other side of the street. (Always know what  you're shooting stand what's behind it!). I've managed to punch through a number of single and double thickness cardboard boxes.  I think I ill try soda cans and plastic bottles next. Glass marbles weigh more than individual BB's but also pack more mass. As with any caliber discussion: big and heavy hits harder but small and fast hits deeper. Further testing required.

It shoots pretty straight, and I've contentedly lobbed marbles the length of my house's long hallway into my target box. With no sights, aim is a matter of lining up the  pocket and the hang-held ring and eye-balling it. Using a couple of archery tricks like being aware of the archers paradox and practicing!

So, last night I set up a little range in the backyard. with a tactical crate as my target cage and partial BB trap. I put in a can of out-of-date Pepsi-Max and took a shot from a few feet away.  I wasn't wanting to do a test for realism, I just wanted to get a feel for its penetrative performance. At 2-3 feet away, and at a 2/3 draw, my BB hit in the bottom1/5 of the can, and in a riot of sugar-free foam, the can ruptured. After it finished draining I inspected the can and noticed that there was an exit hole too. I'd  call that a good trial run, though more testing may be required, I have a bunch of that old nasty Pepsi-Max siting around ...

So, the pocket slingshot is a fun little toy, and I suspect if you had a rodent or pigeon pest issue it might be a useful tool, and certainly fun for plinking cans with.  I don't think it would be much use hunting with, for anything bigger than maybe a squiril or rat ,and even then  I suspect you'd have to get a head shot. better to trap I suspect.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Tensile style Skytent

I love tents and I love hammocks, and I've expressed a desire for one of the Tentsile aerial tents for a long time, but they are quite expensive. Not wanting to miss out forever, I kept an eye out and checked out AliExpress, where real things go to be replicated. For Giftmas I bought myself the one-person equivalent. I always feel a bit bad buying knock-offs but at the very least, its getting the very innovative concept out there.

So, given my ongoing stroke recovery and my work situation, we haven't ben able to go away camping, so I hadn't been able to tryout my aerial tent. Australia Day came around and we were invited to BBQ in a park, sounded like the perfect opportunity to try it out. I took some extra webbing strapping, in case we had trouble finding tree's to sling it on, but as it turned out the picnic table we picked was close to three gum trees. I unrolled the skytent from its stuff-sack bag and took stock.

The contents included the triangular base, made from webbing reinforced ripstop with a low (70D) Cordura number and (high quality silicon coating to give it a waterproof index of 2000-3000 mm) the base, which is about 4m a side, had built in reinforced eyelets for the two sets of shock-cord threaded anodised aluminium alloy poles and a light, waterproofed (to 1500-2000 mm)fly sheet to connect to.

It also came with three sets of 6m (19') loop-ended webbing, and shackles to for it to the base. At one end a ratcheting system for increasing the tension was supplied.
The base triangle comes with a breathable B3 bug-screen net with twin zippers. Built into the "roof" are two sleeves to feed the poles through to keep the roof in place and add stability when setting it up and to drape the fly over.

Once set up, which took a bit of doing (pro-tip; set the tent part up on the ground in the middle of your space, then string your straps. I rigged my straps with a truckers hitch. Getting partial tension on the tent to set it at a good height was just matter of sliding the webbing up to the right height, one tree at a time and tightening the truckers hitches once they were even. PRO-TIP 2: get the three corners as evenly high as possible. this will stop you sliding "downhill" on the slick ripstop nylon.

Once set up, the remaining slack can be eaten up with the ratchet, but this takes some doing. I'm glad we weren't setting it up in the rain. Once fully tensioned which it really needs to be, we put the fly on, which  had nylon hook hardware and shock-cords. The 240D fly has a single up-and-down zipper which coupled with the wide door in the flyscreen, makes a nicely framed entry/exit and window when pegged back. with its attached toggles.

The interior is spacious, the 4m sided equilateral triangle provide  almost 7m². of floorspace, with 1.2m (the almost 4') of loft, with its quite steep sides, there is  a lot of real-estate.

The wide webbing reinforcements throughout the base distribute weight nicely. I'm 192cm (6'4") and weigh 90kg (200lbs).  Laying right down the middle, legs splayed to the bottom corners, I was very comfortably supported.

This skytent is rated to carry 400kg (880lbs) and the heavy-duty ratchets buckles have a staggering 2.5 ton minimum breaking strength. Even so, the makers recommend only stringing it at a maximum 1.2m / 4' from the ground. As a good rule of thumb, you shouldn't set a hammock up from higher than you would want to fall from. Or climb into.

The supporting poles that give the skytent its vertical structure are seated in these washer equipped eyelets, and with the shaped ends of the poles, they seat securely and remain in place even with the rambunctious efforts of Tactical Baby. The seams are all also all double stitched. The whole tent is well finished.  I had had worries about the quality, given it was a knock-off, but it's been well made and put together.

All packed down, the tent weighs3.0kg or so, including the included webbing and the ratchet. and packs down into a stuff sack measuring 50cm x 20cm x 20cm. It's not too bulky nor heavy and would make an excellent addition to a backpack for a camping trip.

Internally as I've said it is spacious, but good set-up is key. if any one point of the triangle is higher or lower than the others the effect is a slow and steady slide to the lowest point.

I took it camping off to a full-emersion live action roleplaying weekend, "After The Fall" .
So I found myself three trees and set myself up. As with most tents, second time was much quicker and easier, and i'd had my lessons learned from my first attempt so it was pretty quick.  I even slung a second hammock along side, for lounging in when I was in my full tyre-armour kit. TO somewhat disguise the bright green of my tent and its fly sheet  I draped the whole thing in some scrim. One thing I didn't want was anyone tripping and falling onto me as I slept, so I put it a little higher than previously.

So high in fact I needed to step up onto one of my tactical milk-crates that I pack my camping gear into. I also stowed my kit under the hammock, off to one side from the Skytent, in case I did have a fall.

Inside at one of the three apexes was a pocket system which worked quite nicely with a jumper stuffed in it as a pillow. I used the zipper as an attachment point for my night-light as there weren't any internal loop hangers.

All in all I am both impressed by and happy with my SkyTent, and would heartily recommend you al lgo check out the original design at TENTSILE - Stingray

After an afternoons romping by Tactical Baby, and perhaps more roughhousing than was necessary, one of the poles has been warped and now adds an uneven curve to the dome, but no real issue there.  Certainly no fault in manufacture. I've managed to straighten it out a little but eventually  I might either replace it or run it through a pipe bender in reverse.

The Skytent handled nicely when occupied by two. even if one was little and bouncy and the other big and lumpy. Alas, I haven't tried it with two adults, but they are rated for it.
I put  a yoga mat in it when I camped, just as insulation, it was plenty comfortable to lay in in warm weather but any breeze below will chill you right down. Setting up an under-quilt like those made by the Go-Outfitters would work  a treat, but you'd need a triangular one.   

One thing I found was that the fly lifted and flapped about a bit, so I lashed it down underneath with some handy paracord.

All in all and excellent product and not just a gimmicky concept. all the benefits of a hammock and tent combined.

Pro-tip #3: set your doorway at chest height if you-re expecting friends to pop by. Nicer conversations for everyone when you can be eye-to-eye.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wish-Lusr: American Kami / Boker - Chickenhawk

US Fathers Day was coming up, and so was my birthday. This got me to thinking about shiny things to add to my collection, things I've thus far considered extravagant — but are perfect for my adoring tribe to buy me. First published on Breach Bang Clear in time for Father's day, here:

One such item is a piece from one of my favorite bladesmiths: D.J. Urbanovsky of American Kami. I already have one of his Super Colubris knives . It's my go-to camping kitchen knife and is on my hip at most outdoor cooking events. No ham is safe from me and my AK.

Something that always catches my eye when sorting through the American Kami range are his badass axes. As only an occasional lumberman and recreational camper, I've never had the practical need of a very expensive bespoke axe (much as I may have lusted after them). Things changed when D.J. released his line of smaller tomahawk-sized axes, in the Micraxes and heftier maniaxes.

Suddenly they are in my dilettante price range!

Grunts: dilettante.

Better still, just recently D.J.'s CHickenHawk tomahawk was picked up by Boker Plus for mass production. This is great news for us collectors who want a piece of the man's work, but don't need (or cannot finance) the man's actual blood, sweat and tears in the grooves of our chopper. I'm quite happy to have some German factory worker's skin cells stuck in mine. Anyway, this frees D.J. up to design and build new pieces of badass steel.

Sitting at an overall length of just over 9", the Chicken Hawk is significantly more versatile in terms of transportation and carrying options than a classically proportioned tomahawk. My current go-to tomahawk is my Boker Tomahook . You may not care, but it's my article so I'm going to tell you anyway.

The Tomahook sits at a hefty 18 1/8" overall, taking up a fair about of pack and hip space. The Boker Chickenhawk features full-body 440C steel construction, and is sandwiched between G-10. For those of you with deeper pockets, the American Kami hand-made version is cut from 6.3mm thick D2 steel making for an essentially indestructible tactical tool.

With its main cutting edge length of 2 1/4 in. (though still in keeping with we've seen from D.J. in the past), the axe head is also dressed along the top edge all the way to the eye. The concept is rounded out by the impact element formed on the pommel. Weighing in at a not insubstantial 576 g (1.3 lbs), it has the mass to make its presence known.

The ergonomically shaped handle not only supports classic hacking, but also permits a securely chocked grip for detailed work, be it for whittling, scraping or cutting. Not to mention levering if popping Masterlock Padlocks is something within your remit to do.

The Boker Chickenhawks feature a thick spikes pick at the butt, but some of the American Kami version featured the alternate hammer face. I'm of two minds about this; hammers are excellent tools and effective at delivering impact force, but a well made, tempered spike can save your regular fixed blade knife from being used inappropriately. If I had to choose just one from a pair of near twin, I think I'd pick the spike over the hammer.

The included Kydex sheath with strap cannot only be carried on the belt or gear but also under the arm. These early models (not in my collection) have eyelets for simple paracord lacing attachment, but the Boker Plus production runs have a multi-point lacing construction for attaching them to packs, belts or chest rigs. I think I'd like to see how running one in the arm-pit would work for me and my adventures on and off trail.

The Chicken Hawk is a beautifully designed and executed, vicious but sensible looking little axe that I'd very much like to add to my collection, should any of my family be thinking of ways to treat me this coming Fathers Day, to save myself from socks or pouches (another favorite). Knowing the quality of the American Kami originals and the Boker Plus mass-productions pieces, I'm happy to recommend anyone interested in one of these to get in there and add one to your tool collection (or that of your dad's).

If you're planning to get your Nathaniel "Hawk-eye" Bumppo or Ragnar Lodbrok on (or you think your old man will), you could do far worse than having one of these at your hip or tucked unobtrusively under your arm.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: Savoury Tooth - Not-Sweet bars

Whilst getting ready to get back to work, I went and got some new pants, as I'd lost enough weight that my pant-size had changed. Whilst in Kathmandu looking or suitable pants, I came across some interesting snack-bars and thought I'd give them a go. Given that my job entails me sitting at my desk tapping out code and putting out electronic fires, I eat a lot of food-bars as it's fast and easy. However, mindful of my diet, I was intrigued to see these are not sweet-candy bars like many trail snacks are, I've covered some in the past. The Bounce food-balls and the Blue Dinosaur Paleo Bars which are both good products, but both pretty sugary.

These protein bars are primarily made of a whey protein concentrate purported to lower blood sugar levels when consumed before a high glycemic meal and is the most complete protein.

They feature a polydextrose binding agent, where something like treacle or molasses might be used in other food. The one used in the Savoury Tooth bars is a low GI soluble fiber with prebiotic properties.

It helps to slow down the digestion process alleviating blood sugar spikes. Reducing sugar rush effects.

Heavily spiced, with woo-seeming ingredients like turmeric for its active polyphenol known as curcumin purported to help provide an ideal intervention for type 2 diabetes. Ginger, chilli, cinnamon, coriander, lemongrass and garlic have also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels.

Importantly, these bars taste amazing, and had a really nice texture: Not too hard to bite or chew, but not mushy or pasty. Dense and rich. The seeds included gave each bite a variety of texture. Food fatigue is a real thing, and having some variety makes a lot of difference, remember that when you're loading up your bunker or bug-out bag.

The Svoury Tooth bars come in "Thai Green Curry" and "Thai Peanut Stay". Both really do taster like they are described. For me, after a few chews, and rolled the bite around in my mouth, the flavours emerged and I found myself recalling street meals I had in the streets of Bangkok and Singapore I had growing up. I'd go as far as to say these were authentic flavours, from my non-native pallet. Jut a hint of spice, certainly enough to get the mouth juices flowing, but not so much as to drive me to rinse my mouth out or reach for he milk. Certainly enough to satisfy the Texan in my culinary history. Not Jakarta Crazy-Wings hot, by a long shot, but not Vanilla thickshake either.

From a nutritional perspective, the

Savoury Tooth protein bars are great after any workout. Each 50g bar offer s 870kJ of energy, or 10% of a 2000cal daily diet. 21-19% of the protein intake 13% of the fat and 6% of the carbs. There is quite a lot packed into these little bars, but the heavy seed and spice content, the bars come with a reasonably short best-before dates, ofonbly a few months as the rich aromatics would age poorly.

I've found the couple I bought to be very tasty and fun to eat and a perfect break from other sweet snacks. Not as satisfying as beef-jerky, but still, a good pre-packaged snack.

The advertising was great too, these post-cards made me chuckle even months later when I pulled them out.

Low in sugar, with complex carbs, high in protein, and dietary fiber, Gluten free these seem to be really viable healthy alternatives to other candy-like sports and protein bars. I'm not a big fan of woo, and straight edge vegan, paleo lifestyles, but these healthy bars don't wrankle me as soy-based, cruelty-free fair-trade hippie-bars might, they are more the granola eating, merino-wool beanie mountain climber food. plenty of bang for your mass!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: CampMaid's Charcoal Chimney

I love cooking, and I love fire. cooking outdoors is always so satisfying, especially when done over fire. BBQ's a re primal, an whilst LPG or propane is fast and convenient, its not quite the same. However. getting a fire going takes time and effort and can be fiddly and messy, not to mention frustrating if you're running to a schedule.

I came across a tool to assist In the starting of briquette bbq's on Kickstarter, and thought it would be a good investment. Camp Maid make a variety of camp-fire cooking tools, mostly focusing on cast-iron Dutch oven type cooking tools, but their Kickstarter project for a collapsible charcoal chimney caught my eye.

CampMaid's Charcoal Chimney is a unique twist on the traditional concept to quickly heat charcoal for outdoor cooking! The twist being that the sides of the chimney are hinged so it folds flat for storage and packing. Designed to fit inside the lid of a 12" Dutch oven to keep all your sooty-gear together!

The principle is pretty simple. Up to 45 briquettes at a time are loaded into the top of the chimney, onto the fold-down grill that creates an air-space under the coals for you r kindling or solid-fire-starter cubes. I typically use the fire-Cone starter and kerosene from the big old tank on our property (a hold over from the redundant oil-heating system the house was built with. Once lit, the Quickly heats charcoal in about 7-10 minutes and you're ready to grill.

A handle on the side assists with placement and emptying once its hot and ready to go. The handle is supposed to be heat-safe. However, id recommend wearing gloves. and take care. my handle melted and caught on fire! Once the plastic sloughed off and burned away, it was fine but be aware.

Both the body of the chimney and the handle fold flat for easy of storage, though I found once fired, it took some manipulation to get it fully flat. The inner grill needs to be folded up but the inside of the chimney has space for it.

Also it can be used as a hobo stove. with the internal grill down, pretty much any solid combustible fuel can be placed in its burn chamber, and the rigid sides act as a base for a pan or pot, or even to hold the skewers for your rat-on-a-stick. For camping, tailgating, scouting, backyard, beach, survival the CampMaid Charcoal Chimney makes for a simple, dependable, portable fire pit you can leave in the trunk of the car.

So, it's a simple enough piece of kit, is small enough to slip down the back of a backpack (when cool, and maybe even rinsed off). It not only gives you a contained fire-pit, and a chimney for rapid charcoal lighting.

The fact that the handle melted and caught on fire was a bit distressing, but it's loss has been inconsequential to its ongoing use. One thing to note is hat they do rust, especially after firing. This has made the hinges a bit stiff, but a dose of WD40 should fix that. I've thought of painting the whole thin with a fire-tolerant paint but its probably unnecessary. I might cut some notches into the upper lip to give my skewers some purchase but again, not essential by any means.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wish-Lust: Go Outfitters UnderQuilt.

Here's a pre-emptive Kickstarter post for the new project by GO! Outfitters, who bought us one of my favorite camping hammocks, the  asymmetrical GO! Hammock  
and the outer-shell for it, the Apex Camping Shelter & Hammock Camping Tarp and the upcoming, and freshly released Kickstarter Project, the Adventure Under Quilt: Hammock Camping Insulation. 

The idea of the UnderQuilt is to ensure that the underside of the  hammock sleeper stays toasty warm. As more people are switching from tent camping to hammock camping. they are coming across an unusual phenomenon; they often find that their backsides can get cold fast, because it's exposed cool air and wind. Some people use sleeping bags in hammocks but the insulation gets compressed and doesn't work as it would on the ground.

Others sleep on sleeping pads, but keeping them in place can be a nightmare in a hammock. They slide around and bunch up inside the walls of  the hammock, and can be far from comfortable. The UnderQuilt adds a layer of insulation to the outside of the hammock, freeing up the internal space, which is at a premium, as well as adding an extra layer of weather-proofing.

Filled with  100% Polyester Max Loft 10° Insulation.  but we have set the Temperature Rating of the quilt conservatively at 20°F). plenty warm enough for anywhere  I would want to camp in a hammock, to be sure. with a
210T Ripstop Polyester, Calendered, Water and Wind Resistant Shell Fabric and
210 Polyester, Breathable Liner Fabric not that it matters greatly as you won't be touching the liner, as the whole thing sits under the skin of your hammock. Designed with their own Hammocks specifically in mind, but will suit any gathered-end hammock, thanks to the ingenious cinching self-locking drawstrings and built in attachment systems, the UnderQuilt will suit up to a 7' user. 

It is 81 long and " 52" wide, and comes with its own weatherproof stuff-sack packing down to a mere  1lb. 9oz. (Includes: Under Quilt, Compression Stuff Sack, 2 Carabiners, and Built-In Shock Cord Suspension rig) all in a  8" diameter  x 10" long bundle.

I really like the idea of this, and hope to back it myself, for those rare camping trips I get  to take. Winter is coming, and I'm a skinny kind of guy at the best of times, and my bony ass needs all the warmth I can give it.   Do check out the deals on their Kickstarter page, the bundles would make an excellent way of starting your own hammock camping collection.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review

So it seems someone signed me up for Recoil's OFFGRID. Awesome surprise when I got home. Review to follow. 

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