Some Things Just Don’t Get Old

Point of post~~  a twenty year old “flashlight”.

I got this EverReady “neon tube” light when my late wife and I got our Toyota RV camper in 1996.

  • Works off four AA’s.
  • Two light levels.
  • No idea if the tubes are really neon or not, but it’s a darn nice light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

I don’t think I have had to change batteries more than two or three times. Zero battery drain over time. This is a light you can count on. It sits in the bathroom in case the power fails.

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YuHan USB LED RGB Rope Light~ 5ft. Review

A couple of years ago I followed the LumiNoodle Kickstarter, which was successful, and which went on to become available as a retail product. Like almost all appealing gadgets these days, it has now been cloned. I picked this “YuHan” branded clone up on Amazon for $15. The identical unit is also available from other distributors. While it does not have the remote control the multicolor LumiNoodle unit has, it comes in at less than 50% of the price.

The RGB, of course, stands for red/green/blue… This is a multi-color unit, and it does have 20 different colored light “models”. Any color can be displayed as either static or dynamic, and including the multicolored cycling, there are 20 different modes of flashing and glowing.

     

Completely waterproof and flexible, the rope light comes packaged in a nice white drawstring bag, and includes three noodle-bead ties to strap it to lines or objects. The three blue slides are also magnetically enabled if you want to slap it on the side of a car. The modes, colors, and cycling are all controlled from the three-button widget on the line itself.

 

There are five levels of illumination for each color in the static modes, and five speeds in each dynamic. At the brightest level, it produces a very large amount of light from the 60 LEDs. Personally, I find the lowest level of the most rewarding.

Nicely, the bag also acts as a diffuser if you want to use it more as a lantern.

 

 

 

 

I paired mine with a five dollar “lipstick” powerbank from FiveBelow° that is rated at 2200 mA. It ran for over three hours last night without dimming.

I figure to try powering it up again each evening until the battery gives out. That should give me a good guestimate of my total burn time, but I don’t expect it will give out in a couple of hours of use each evening on a weekend camping trip… I plan to use it as a ridgeline light inside my hammock bug net.

 

Nearly everyone in my hammock and crowd has some kind of party lights rigged on their hammock. Not only are they kinda fun, but when you have 20 or 30 hammocks hung up in the night woods, it’s difficult to figure out which one is yours after full dark. One friend, who is a former airline pilot, had a landing light strobe hung on his last weekend. I found most of the ultralightweight wire type lights flimsy and too likely to break, and I had no interest in the ones that are shaped like plastic hula dancers or jalapeno peppers, so this it a lot more to my liking.

Fits the 90%/50% criteria, seems sturdy,  as long as the battery life is decent, I’m going to give it a shot the next time we have a group hang.

 

[Edit~ I ended up getting right at 9 1/2 hours of total run-time for the YuHan Light Rope utilising both static and dynamic modes… and this was with only the one full charge on the 2200mA. cheapo battery. That should be plenty for two or three nights camping. I highly recommend this one!]

Good light and great customer service

We had a power outage just over a week ago, and when I got my new “emergency” light out of the bucket, it didn’t work. It left me far less than happy because it had only been received back around the first of August. I had tried it out, charged it up fully, and put away for emergencies… seemed like what it was for.

I contacted customer service of both the distributor and the manufacturer with my complaint. Within the first 24 hours I had a response. They asked for a video, so I showed them one of me pushing the button and the unit not turning on. They replacement was authorized that same day, shipped as two day priority, and arrived Friday. I thought that was pretty good turnaround for two companies based out of southern China. Fortunately they had a US distribution warehouse in LA.

Who & What:

 

<< the Photo is a link       [BW provide a really nice presentation… You get a lot more information there than I could possibly put on this post]

Mine came from BangGood and they were the ones who ended up making good on the replacement.

Two of the features that most appealed to me in this unit were that it could be used as a power bank for charging up electronics, and that it had a red light mode to preserve your night vision. That extra utility helped make it appealing, not only as an emergency light, but also as something to take hammocking. The power button is a large, ball-point pen style clicky on one end. It is water proof/ covered by a glow-in-the-dark rubberized cap. [In my experience, by the time it is full dark and you need the light, the glow-in-the-dark cap has glowed out during twilight and can no longer be seen. You can punch it right back up with a quick exposure to a pocket flashlight though]. The other end of the cylinder is a tightly fitting, screw down cap that covers the charging port and power bank outlets. The power button end has a nice stainless steel bale for clipping on a carabiner, or to run a piece of line through to suspend the light from a branch.

The only “cons” to the BW-LT5 is that it is a bit heavy at 4.5 ounces [128gm] and the light source is directional… just one side of the device illuminates. I think I would’ve preferred full 360° lighting myself. [EDIT: an additional minor downside to this unit is that the clicky switch has to be cycled through all five modes to turn the device off.]

The original unit failed in that it would flash the four blue light pulses which supposedly indicated a full charge. However it would only do this when plugged into a USB outlet, and even then would neither turn on as a the light or provide charge-out as a power bank. The new unit works flawlessly. The failure of the original is actually puzzling because these things are built as solidly as the proverbial brick outhouse. I really don’t anticipate the replacement unit also failing.

Despite the inconvenience of the original device having failed, at the current [BangGood] price of just under $13 US, I still think the Blitz Wolf LT-5 is an incredibly good deal.

[you can buy these units on Amazon but the cost is nearly $30, and since BangGood ships from youthe US anyway and obviously stands behind their products, buying from them seems to be a 90%/50% deal].

 

This is probably an appropriate place to throw in an update as well. All the way back in August 2014 I posted about receiving a damaged SingFire LED Solar Powered Camping Lantern

[you can read the original post here ]

It too had been intended as an emergency light in case of power outages. As I indicated at the time, after a bunch of hassle I was able to make it function, but it has never worked quite right. You sometimes have to jikky with the knob to get it to even turn on, and the variable illumination control is pretty variable in its performance.

This came from my original go-to Chinese outlet in Sham Shui Po, DX [or Deal Extreme].

I’m happy to say that they also stood by their product, and while it took a couple of months for a second delivery, they did replace the unit with a brand-new one that worked right out of the box and still functions perfectly. I was even allowed to keep the original because of the ridiculous cost of reverse shipping.

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Both the original and the replacement can take on a full charge in about 4 to 6 hours out the sunlight. They seem to give a bit more than four hours when run at medium to high. I do not actually keep the four AA batteries in the units as backup power. My battery drawer is right here at hand if the solar charge should give out too quickly. The batteries add quite a bit of weight, and I’m always concerned that they might corrode from disuse and damage the light between emergencies.

As I noted originally, this lamp is far too large for backpacking but gives a very nice illumination in a campground site. I’m one of those people who absolutely loath it when one of my campground neighbors turns on their Coleman SuperNova Klieglight that casts harsh shadows at 100 yards. The SingFire Lantern is bright enough for most purposes, and still allows you to be a good neighbor. It gets a recommendation because the replacement unit works so nicely. The link above shows that it comes in the slightly changed form now, but the price point is still about what I paid…. under $20US. However, if you only want one of these lights, buy the BlitzWolf since it gives comparable illumination, is backpack friendly, and also doubles as a power bank.

Let There Be Light!

I have always found it handy to keep a small flashlight in my pocket as part of my EDC [Every Day Carry]. When you do so, you find yourself reaching for it many times daily. That tiny screw you just dropped on the carpet, forgetting to have turned on the back porch light when you come home in the dark, making sure you don’t stumble over a resting cat when you enter a dark room… the list is endless, and the benefits immense.

My own preference is for a light powered by AAA batteries. Their size makes it proportionately smaller than those with the AA’s, and since I also carry a small multitool, a lighter and a pipe-tool, I don’t like the feeling of an overloaded pocket. For several years now I have carried an MX Power ML-108 with a Cree Q3-WC emitter [on LED flashlights the bulb and it’s accompanying electronics are unitary… that together is the emitter]. The ML-108 is rated at 150 lms, which is fairly standard on a AAA, and a fully charged battery will give me daily use for the better part of  a month. MX Power [along with SingFire, UltraFire and Raysoon] is one of the Chinese manufacturers of low-cost, but surprisingly well-made flashlights and they are all marketed by DX.com.  Sadly, as you will see if you have clicked the link, the ML – 108 is no longer available. On DX, when things are shown as temporarily out of stock, it generally means you will not find the same item again. It makes me grateful that I had bought a couple of extras. At the price, they were just add-ons to my next purchase; ones that I could keep or give away as gifts.

As you can see in the photo below, my old daily MX has banged around a lot over the years. So, I was thrilled when I saw that UltraFire was introducing a new AAA light that was even smaller, and it came in the new burnt-orange anodized color that makes it easier to see if it’s set down… especially outdoors. I pretty quickly talked myself into getting one. and my new UltraFire SA-1 came in the mail today.

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Other than the size and shape, the major difference between the two units is that the SA-1 twists on/off by turning the front inch or so of the tube, while the ML – 108 has what’s called a “rear clicky”… a click-on/off push button with a rubberized cap on the rear-end. The milling and fit of the “Aircraft grade aluminum” parts on the SA-1 is first rate. There is a soft, silicon O-ring underneath the twisty head to keep it watertight, if not waterproof and the diamondcut knurling provides a secure finger grip as well as one-handed use of the twisty head. While the photo does not make it clear, the anodizing is not actually as a bright orange as it might appear. Rather, it is a burnt orange or copper color. It makes for a nice alternative after the years of black and silver anodizations on most lights and tools.

Just like the MX, the SA-1 is a 150 lm light and AAA powered. However it uses the newer XP-G R5 emitter. The difference between the two versions of the emitter does mean that the two lights cast very different illumination pools. Here they are side-by-side, each with a freshly charged Eneloop AAA battery.

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If you are unfamiliar with the newer generation of small LED lights, the illumination that they provide is truly astounding. This is not your father’s Ray-O-Vac D-cell. My tiny little ML –108 will spotlight the side of my barn 50 yards away. Since I haven’t had a chance to use the SA-1 at night yet, the jury is still pretty much out. I anticipate that it will light up the wall of the barn, but without the spotlighting focus. I expect something much more diffuse. However, even though it may be more widely spread out, it is still a remarkably bright illumination pool for a light not much larger than its own battery.

IMG_3243

 

While I am in no way dissatisfied with the service I have gotten from the ML– 108, the real selling point with SA-1 was the smaller form factor…. and, besides, the orange color was really cool! I was perfectly fine with the trade-off in the location of the switch, but less so with the lanyard attachment point on the butt of the SA-1. The MX will “tail-stand” and toss back a great reflective illumination from a ceiling or the overhead foliage. Because of the lanyard loop, the SA-1 will have to be poked into the dirt, or will need to lean against something in order to cast the light upward.

So far so good. The SA-1 makes it on lighting efficiency. A big win on the smaller size. Nice, bright color. Fit and finish is great. All at a cost of just over $10… so it meets my criteria of getting the 90% usability for way, way less than 50% of the cost of lots of other name-brand flashlights.

So? What’s not to like?

Well… One great big, glaring, unfortunate design flaw means that this nice little light probably won’t get carried in my pocket all that often. [or at least not until my ML 108 actually dies on me]

The problem was immediately obvious to me as soon as I inserted a battery. I twisted the front of the light to turn it on, twisted it enough in the opposite direction to turn the light off, only to find that just the slight pressure of my index finger against the front of the light would cause it to come on without twisting at all. Unless I rotated it back at least a full half-turn of the circumference, the smallest sideways pressure would cause it to blink back on. The possibility of it lighting up the inside of your pocket unbeknownst to you, as you move through your daily grind, is all too predictable… and a drained out battery just when you need the light is just what you don’t need. I’m sure I could get used to that massive effort of adding the extra quarter turn to assure that my pocket didn’t have that “refrigerator glow”, but I find it annoying that, on an item as nicely made in all other respects as this one is, it would have such a quickly obvious defect. However, and especially, because I use the extremely long-lived Eneloop rechargeable AAA’s, I will probably give it a try out to see how long the battery actually lasts in comparison with the ML – 108… and I’ll keep watching my pocket for the telltale glow.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained… Hey, it’s paid for!  I’m certainly not going to send it back for a fairly trifling irritation, However, I probably won’t be buying anymore backup units of this light.

 

 

New Stuff !!

The post office unloaded a few things on me yesterday that I have been waiting for. As you have probably figured out by now, in order to find good deals, I buy a lot of stuff off the Internet. Some of it comes from overseas and the shipping delays can always be pretty unpredictable. The worst of these is a company out of Hong Kong’s ShamShuiPo tech district. I won’t name names until they piss me off even more, but it seems that their nearly constant refrain is “some items are on back-order” even when they show available for immediate shipment on the site. AND they frequently don’t post that fact for a week or more, and then it appears, but with the date of the post matching the date of the order. Bad business practices. But stuff you can’t get anywhere else at the price, and some stuff at any price. And they do free “shipping” no matter how slow it is. So, I keep going back for the abuse again and again.

Yesterday, I finally got a solar powered, LED lantern that I had ordered a month ago when we first started planning the river-rafting trip.

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SingFire is usually a fairly predictably quality product. I have a couple of their AA and AAA flashlights that are my favorites. This lantern, however, was DOA.

It seemed to have suffered a torturous death. While there were no batteries included, one of the battery terminals was caked with blue-green corrosion. There was moisture inside the battery cover, and even more moisture visible when I opened the carcass. The rechargeable battery also had water in its mounting shell. One wire inside was not even connected to anything, and the adjustable light switch/dial was disconnected and freewheeling. A little screw was in there, but had either come undone or never been attached in the first place. Since, once it had actually shipped, it only took five days to get here, I don’t believe that the corrosion could’ve happened in transit. The shipping package itself showed no trace of moisture. That I have to believe happened previously, while warehoused, and anyway there was absolutely no excuse for the manufacturing defects. So I had to send off a request for my money back…  Despite their other failings, they are usually pretty good about claims, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

However, when I checked it for salvageability, the rechargeable battery slammed the needle off the scale on my battery checker, so I decided to see what I could do. After a three-hour search for my soldering iron, and then the solder, and then the flux, I was able to jury rig some new wires onto the rechargeable battery and then heat shrink them to the miniscule wires provided. A few more minutes spent trying to figure out how the switch went together and I got the screw back in place. I wiped out the case to get all the moisture, and scraped down the terminals. Once I got it back together, I turned the switch and it lit up, so it wasn’t a total loss.  I need to let the rechargeable run down completely before I can determine whether it actually charges by solar power, or if the circuitry was damaged by the moisture… Just because it turns on once doesn’t mean that it works the way it’s supposed to. Most consumers would’ve just dropped it in the trash. And end-users should not have to go through complex home repair processes to have a functioning item. But we’ll see what they have to say. I certainly feel like I’m entitled to a partial refund for the trouble I had to go through.

All the hassle aside, it’s a nice light. Despite being LED, which generally only dim up/down in increments, the knob will take it from very dim to somewhere around 100 lm. with a nice firm “click” when it snaps off. Perfectly fine for a campsite or in a tent. At eight or 10 inches tall, it’s too large for backpacking, and with four AA batteries in place to provide back up power, it’s not the lightest thing I’ve ever seen, but it hangs or stands, and if it charges, it will provide some nice light when we take off on the river-rafting trip next week… IF it keeps working!

 

 

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Next out of the POBox was a very nice Buck Knife Model #692 that I bought from eBay out of Israel. I was a little hesitant because the 692 is a knife that comes heavily pirated out of China, A lot of unscrupulous people buy them and then attempt to resell them as originals. Those just do not have nearly the high-quality steel that Buck Knives uses. One of the major differences to look for is that the Chinese counterfeits all have stainless steel butts and tangs. The real Bucks feature brass. The photos and description on this knife claimed that it was brass mounted, but the knife sheath, with its Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation logo appeared to be pretty much what you would expect with the Chinese knockoffs. The RMEF logo seems to be a big favorite with the Chinese pirates. They use it on a whole bunch of different sheaths. I guess they think that if you think it’s a specialty, “custom” product you will be more likely to buy their “BUCK” knives… GUYS!… The problem is that you cannot buy a real Buck Knife starting at $.99 !!

Years ago I bought a DH Russell Model #1SF belt knife from Grohmann up in Pictou NS in Canada. We went to the factory on a whim and my wife was nice enough to buy it for me as a gift. But the Grohmann is a REALLY NICE KNIFE! It was pretty expensive back then, and, as much as I love it, I would hate for anything to happen to it. As a result, I have been looking around for a good, fixed blade knife as a knock-about to finish out my camping gear.Because the 692 “model” features a fairly thick, heavy blade with the same saber grind as the Kershaw 10 Camp Knife, it looked like it would be perfect for splitting out really small kindling.

I had originally even figured on just buying one of the Chinese knockoffs, [which are not a bad deal on their own given that they go for eight or $9. At that price it’s a pretty good beater… even with cheaper steel… It would certainly fulfill my 90% of the utility for 50% of the price qualification], however, when the auction for what actually seemed to be an original model 692 was going down at only a few dollars more than the Chinese knives, I went ahead and snipe-ed it. For this deal, the shipping out of Israel only took a total of five days. And, my optimism seems to have paid off. I don’t know what happened to the original sheath, but the knife itself certainly seems to be an original Buck. It is hallmarked “BUCK \”, and the hallmark is where it’s supposed to be. On the Chinese knives the word “BUCK” is stamped horizontally along the top of the blade on the left side just in front of the tang, and they also use a typeface that is more drawnout and wider than the one that Buck themselves use. The additional “\” indicates that the knife was made in 1994 just as the gentleman from Israel purported.

When it got here, the knife needed a little little cleaning up. The brasses [for they were indeed made of brass] were badly tarnished and the handle was covered in grime and dirt to the point that it was more gray/brown than black [that fact had also given me some pause before I made my eBay bid], but the blade itself was in exceptionally good condition with no sign of nicks or mistreatment. It arrived just shy of “hair-popping” sharp.

I was really pleased. With just a little bit of work and cleaning, it came back to the condition it left the Buck factory in back in 1994. After cleaning it, I gave it a touch up on my Arkansas stone and looked over the blade edge with a loupe. It had polished up like glass. I really don’t think that the Chinese steel was going to be capable of taking an edge that clean, so, I am fairly certain I do indeed have an original knife. Regardless, at the price, it was an incredible deal, knock off or not… 90% for 50%.

I then took it out to the stump and was able to split out matchstick sized pieces from a short chunk of oak. With a few quick taps on the back of the blade with a spall I was able to chunk up a 6 inch piece of maple. Taken together with the Kershaw 10 for the heavier work, I think I have found the perfect combination for easily and efficiently working up fuel for the small, “Leave-No-Trace” wood stoves that I have started using as my go to cook setup.

 

Other received deliveries that I will get around featuring here include an elastic cargo net to secure loose stuff to the outside of the OneCoolBackpack, a big bag of those wrist-coil mosquito repellent bands that I will be testing out up on the campout, a bunch of nice, new paracord in various sizes and colors. I’m still waiting on some new mini LED lights, some nicer compasses, and some decent aluminum whistles for the emergency kits… Those are languishing in the clutches off  THAT HK shipper.

And the final good news is that I understand from Mikhail at MerkWorks that the KickStarter FireAnt titanium stove is in production and will ship out in the next couple of days. It would be wonderful if it made it in time for the river-rafting trip.

Onward through the fog…

When the lights go out all over the world…

When the lights go out all over the world...

Last evening, just as I stuck the toothbrush in my mouth getting ready to go to bed, the lights went out. I didn’t even have to glance out the window to see it wasn’t just me. My peripheral vision had let me see everything else on the hillside across the valley blink out.

I could’ve lit a candle of course.
But just the other day I had taken one of those solar walkway lights that I got at the dollar store and stuck the top part into a small, opaque jar just secured with the strip of electrical tape. It was like a two-minute job.
I figured it for out on the porch railing. I like to preserve my night vision, but I don’t want to trip over anything, like the catz, in the dark and I found the sharp point of light from the path stake LED a little of obnoxious.
Anyway, last evening I ran downstairs and brought it up to the bedroom. Works wizard. Plenty of light to see what I was doing, but not nearly bright enough to be a distraction falling asleep.
It was still glowing this morning, not much diminished, at 5:30 AM.
It seems like if I can find a convenient way to mount this high up on the top of the pack where it could get a charge, it would be a nice little addition out in the woods of an evening. It has a very soft, but quite satisfactory glow. And it doesn’t weigh more than an ounce or two.

I’ll get together a quick little instructable, and put it up here.