Friday, February 25, 2011

Link: Organic Lawn Care For the CHEAP and LAZY! :)

Great article by Paul Wheaton, permaculture expert enthusiast extraordinaire!
Lawn care simplified. Have the best looking lawn on your block with less mowing, less watering and less money. The cheapest lawn care AND the laziest lawn care.

Make sure to check it out :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Gear: "SaberCut" Pocket Chain Saw

Another new bit of gear I got is a "SaberCut" pocket chain saw.

It's a 24 inch chain with bi-directional teeth built-in and flat nylon handles on each end. You wrap the chain around the thing you want to cut and pull back and forth to cut it. It comes in a nylon pouch with a belt loop and a buckle closure. The pouch feels a little flimsy but it's not as if some super sturdy pouch is really required for an item like this so it does the job just fine. I should also mention the slight detractor that the nylon handles can sort of hurt your hands if you're pulling really hard, but if you've got some climbing or gardening gloves to give your hands a little extra padding that helps.

I keep mine strapped to the bottom of my right-side backpack strap to have it easily available whenever I need it. So far I've used it on a very annoying woody vining plant in my backyard (approx. 2in diameter) as well as long fallen branch on a hiking trail that I frequent (approx 3in diameter) and both times it worked just fine for my purposes. The saw teeth can bind every once in a while if you're holding the two ends very narrowly though so I'd say it's best to hold them nice and wide for best results.

Overall, it's not a bad item if you need a compact cutting tool, not the best either but does what it's supposed to.

Total weight of case and saw together is 6 ounces.

I got mine at a slight discount for a little under 25$ US at

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Gear: Maxpedition Volta™ Battery Case

So another new piece of gear I've acquired is case to store spare batteries for my headlamp and flashlight. The Maxpedition Volta™ Battery Case is a 1000-denier nylon pouch with a velcro flap closure which attaches to a pack via MOLLE webbing.
Can I just take a pause for a second to say that I love MOLLE webbing? I don't understand why nothing non-military makes use of it's capability to securely attach extra accessories to a backpack. It seems like something that should be more widely used among general hiking and camping gear because there really are a lot of cool little add-on things you can use it for.
Anyway, inside the pouch comes a plastic case which can hold up to 8 batteries of size AA, AAA or CR123. (Apparently if one were so inclined it could also hold 5 shotgun rounds, or even a cell phone or iPod. I actually did put my phone in there once while hiking). The plastic case itself is actually two parts which can be detached from each other. I think I heard it described that some folks use the two sides for "new" and "spent" to keep track, but I don't use that method. I keep it full and just hope I can figure out which ones are spent. I've only had to change a battery out once so far so it hasn't been an issue yet.
I keep 4 spare AAA batteries in one side for my Petzl headlamp and 4 CR123 batteries on the other side for my little Leatherman LED flashlight.
The nylon pouch seems well built, the plastic case is not bad either. It does feel like the two halves of the case come apart rather easily, but if they're in their proper place inside the nylon pouch that won't be any kind of an issue anyway.

Some additional info: There's also a small grommet hole at the bottom of the nylon pouch for water drainage. I'm not sure if the plastic cases are watertight but I'd imagine they'd hold up okay for a short amount of time .
The velcro (or "hook & loop" since I think "velcro" is a specific brand) closure seems to stick out a bit, but it's secure enough.
Also the plastic case fits very snugly inside the pouch. You have to push it out from the bottom side of the nylon pouch to get it out so I'd say it's pretty secure.

I think it ran me about 15$US and I'm comfortable enough with that considering it doesn't feel like something I'm going to have to replace anytime soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Gear: Original S.O.E. Gear Tear-off IFAK

I've been in a mood to re-assess my preps lately and add to them and one thing I bought recently was a new medical pouch to mount on the outside of my backpack. This is my new "Original S.O.E. Gear" brand "Tear-off IFAK" medical pouch.
It consists of a panel that attaches right to my hiking backpack via MOLLE webbing, as well as a separate pouch that velcros on to the panel and is further held in place by buckled retention straps.
The benefit of having all of my first-aid stuff on the outside of my pack is that if I need it I can easily unbuckle the retention strap, grab it by the red handle (which denotes medical) and tear it away from the velcro backing to quickly retrieve everything at once and have it in an organized manner, rather than wasting time digging through my bags to find loose items. It also frees up room inside my bag so it's not so jam packed in there.

As for the contents and storage features, let's start on the outside.
On the outside is a small flat-ish pocket which can be held closed with the velcro that lines the edge. Inside of this pouch I keep a small waterproof pouch which used to be a "pocket medic" kit but I used up most of the contents. you can see this peeking out of the pocket in the image above, or in the bottom-right corner in the image below. Inside of this pouch I keep:
  • a multitude of different sized bandaids
  • disinfectant wipes
  • some tweezers and safety pins that came with the original med-kit.
The inside opens fully in a clamshell design for easy access to all of the contents. Even though my purposes are only basic first-aid and convenience items for hiking and camping, it's still really nice to have everything organized and easy to access.

The top half has three different sized sets of elastic straps, one large pouch, and one small pouch. In this area I keep:
  • Sunblock
  • Bug repellent spray
  • ibuprofen (pain relief)
  • generic benadryl (allergy relief)
  • hydrocortisone cream (itch relief)
  • triple anti-biotic ointment
  • hand-sanitizer
On the lower half is one large set of elastic bands and a big zippered mesh pocket. I haven't come up with anything to use keep in the large elastic bands yet, but in the mesh pocket I keep:
  • two 4x4 sterile gauze pads
  • two 3x4 non-adherent bandage pads
  • one set of assorted moleskin blister pads
  • bite & sting kit (a suction kit for such wounds)
A couple of things missing right now that I plan to include are some ace-wrap bandages (such as to wrap a sprained ankle), and some medical tape.

All in all I'm very pleased by the quality of workmanship that goes into Original S.O.E. products. I have no doubt this thing will serve me well on my camping and hiking this coming summer and will be something that will likely outlast me in it's usefulness.