“FftzzzzZap!”

 

Everybody Hate’s ‘Em….

Everybody brags about their’s!

 

 

 

 

 

“Who you gonna call….?”

 

 

 

Mini zzzZZapper !

PETA certified [People for the Electrical Termination of Annoyances]

My own personal choice is the MINI ZAPPER Electric Bug Eliminator from Yankee Trader. Yeah… mine comes from down at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop, SoSorry. No link. But only $3.99 for the mini & $5.99 for a full sized one.

[Plenty of others out there to choose from…]

The “Mini” is 16 inches long, that’s about four inches shorter than the full-size unit. Both of them run on two AA batteries… Not Included of course. And both of them seem to deliver the same 3200 V of  ‘skeeter blasting, blue light flashing,  ZzzZap!!-ing power.

I had grabbed one of the grey, full-sized units last summer. It does do exactly what it’s advertised to, and when I saw the mini version that would be a little easier to stick into my camping tote, I snatched it up last week. Doesn’t hurt to have an extra unit to pass around the fire circle.

My original was a great hit each time I took it out group camping last summer. Our first hammock hang was in late May, and last year, both the mosquito and the blackfly populations were vicious. Everybody wanted to borrow it…

I do not actually have any particular problem with bugs biting me. They are attracted to certain blood types, and to certain pheromones [Chemical trace scents that are unique to individuals]. My own whiffy package seems to be on the less desirable end of their scale. I get swarmed by the blackflies swirling in my face and crawling under  my collar just as badly as anybody else, but I don’t get bitten or have any sort of allergic reaction.  And the high-pitched buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as a mosquito homes in on you as just as annoying to me as to others.

But, regardless of your own desirability to the bugs, these “zappers” are really great to have around the campfire during the worst of bug season. They are not only efficient but there’s a fairly high level of entertainment value as well.  There is just nothing like hearing the hummmm of a mosquito back behind your ear, pushing the button, swinging the racket alongside your head, and hearing the rewarding “fffzzzZAP!” as that particular little bugger bites the dust…. everyone else in the circle gets rewarded by seeing the sparkling flash blue light as the critter goes to meet its maker in a sizzling whiff of burned hair stink. With the blackflies especially, sometimes a single swing can take as many as five or eight to a crackling doom.

Now if we could just come up with something to take care of the ticks….

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Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

Return of the Prodigal Spork

18 months ago I lost my sweet SnowPeak titanium Spork.

I broke camp in the middle of the night because of the appalling nature of the coked-up junkies in the next site. They had returned at 1 AM, started a screaming match, and were being abusive to a three-year-old child. I left to go to the police department and turn in a CHINS report.

When it came time to sort my gear out down cellar after I got home, I discovered I must’ve left my spork behind. I knew it had been sitting out on the picnic table, and I pretty much assumed that I had just overlooked it in my hurry to be gone. I wrote it off as “Oh,well…” and eventually got around to ordering another one off of Amazon when they went on sale.

I was really fond of that little sucker. So fond that I actually used it around the house on a daily basis. [I am on my own since my wife passed away, and using the spork for a lot of things made it easier to just stay caught up on my dishes]. That’s why I sprung for a second one.

For under $10, I highly recommend these. They are available from Snow Peak and several other folks in basically identical form factors. You can even get them heat-anodized into various colors. The prongs are just long enough and sharp enough actually hold food, and the”spoon” is decently sized for scooping up liquids. If your broth is really thin, you are probably better slurping it up over the edge of your cup bowl and using the spork to clean up the chunks. And it’s just long enough cannot leave your fingers completely grotty if you were dipping down into a freeze-dry bag. It’s a great choice if you want to hold your carry down to a single eating utensil. With a good knife to cut things up, It’s really all you need.

Anyway, for all those reasons, I was really delighted when I put on my hunting vest recently and found it tucked in a pocket. I hadn’t “lost” it after all.

All Things Tarp Peg

Enough things have arrived through China Post to go ahead and start a few quick reviews.

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One one of the cheapos-from-China sites had an odd 11-11 sale on November 11th. Just about everything was discounted nearly a third. This made it pretty inviting for me to put together an order for a mixed lot of small camping stuff. My experience has been that the gear that I get almost always passes my 90% of the utility for 50% or less of the price guidelines. This lot certainly seems to qualify.

First up, in the front of the above photo was a package of five “Snow & Sand” stakes… Why five? No clue. It does seem like an odd number.  But was perfectly fine for me, because what I intended to do was to take a hacksaw to one of the snow stakes and make a little cat hole shovel.

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Five minutes work with the blade and a file, a mini’biner and a piece of cord, yielded me exactly what I wanted.   30 grams [or just over 1 oz.], easy to see if dropped, easy to hold, and since the package of five pegs was only just over $5 US, it cost me less than almost any other solution I could’ve found. Together with a pair of mil-spec toilet paper packages, and I’m good to go… a-yuh… pun intended.

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The other pegs are just your standard 7″ Y-stake with a nice annodized coating. They are available in red, black, gold, silver,and can sometimes be found in blue. Most sites give you a random pick, but some allow you to specify a preference. I honestly don’t recall whether I chose or went random, but mine are fine by me in the bright red. Whatever, the price of $.50 apiece for what to all intents and purposes is an MSR Groundhog stake** [and those are usually priced at around $2.00 each] made them a good buy. These claim to made of the same 7001 grade aluminum as the more expensive ones, but since nobody sends their units out for professional metallurgy testing, who knows about either ones claim. All I care about is that at the Chinese price point I can bend quite a few and still have quite a few left… and I could not bend one with bare hands. [** the MSRs are actually 4/10″ longer, but also 6gm heavier each… 19gm vs. 13gm]

The more important part about these pegs is the little plastic dongle shown in the photo above. Earlier in the fall, at one of our NEHHA hammock hangs, my friend Alex showed me this trick. $o.93 cents down at the hardware store got me a T-connector for flexible piping like you use for yard sprinkler systems. I went ahead and put a couple pieces of tape on it for easy visibility, and I will also probably end up putting a piece of cord on it.

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You just shove it over the top of your tarp stake as a handle, and use it to push the peg into the ground with a little wiggle to avoid rocks or roots. When you want to pull the peg out, you simply slip the vertical through the loop and give it a tug. Easy-peasy. The best part is since you are not using a rock or your foot to force the stake into the ground, you have almost completely removed the possibility of damaging it.

I am relatively happy with these purchases. I now have some redundancy in terms of pegs for my multiple setups, so that I don’t have to go pirating for some each time I want to use a different tarp. I also believe that the orange cord on the Y-pegs is going to turn out to be reflective, which is a nice little gimme when you’re stumbling around in the dark. The cat-hole shovel turned out so well that I may just vandalize the rest of the snow stakes to make some more as giveaways for my friends… gawd knows I’ve got tons of the MRE toilet paper packets down cellar to go with them. Since they are in that bright, anodized red color, they might make a really great stocking stuffer for the holiday season…

The Nasty Bid-niz Bucket [or a portable cathole for the woods]

It’s one thing to “surrender” to the call of nature. It’s another to leave leave those white flags scattered around the wild.

I have done things similar to this before, but not with such refinement and versatility. Not much for a backpacking journey, but a great idea for your SHTF prep or canoe camping. And not a bad idea to just have in the bottom of the bathroom closet in case the well/pump/power fails, or the sewer line breaks…

[EDIT: one of our readers pointed out a safety issue that I had not considered, and that was not mentioned in the video…       You need to be certain that the bucket to be used is sound. Apparently white buckets, like those for drywall compound, will deteriorate under sunlight/UV more readily than the darker colors. This could cause them to fracture under the weight of your tuckus. You might want to stay away from those older buckets that’ve been out in the shed for a couple years. It is not as though 5 gallon buckets are difficult to find. I am using a green bucket that originally contained deli pickles that they gave me down at the variety. It seems to be made of a heavier weight material than the white buckets I use for mulch. Better safe than sorry.]

Emerson/Kershaw CQC-6K mid-size folding knife

I have been looking for a knife that would fit someplace between my little CRKT EDC blade and the big Buck 692 Vanguard that I use for working up smallwood for my stove. It’s a mil-spec classic Goldilocks problem… the 2 1/4″CRKT is too small, and the Buck is too large to want to tote along some of the  time.

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I need to say that I have never owned a midsized folding knife [like the Buck 110 and its descendents and imitators]. Prior to the advent of the side/pocket clip I had always carried multi bladed knives like a Stockman, an old-style Boy Scout knife, or a Swiss Army style. They are great for whittling, small chores and general messing about, but they are not much for bushcraft. Then I moved on to single blade, clip-on knives for my EDC needs and belt-hung multi-tools for utility. Neither of these are great for bushcraft/woods-craft either.

When I saw the reviews by Tony Sculimbrene over on Everyday Commentary and the Xaviers on More Than Just Surviving for the Emerson/Kershaw CQC-6K,  I was fairly certain that I had found my perfect solution. They recommended it as a truly great deal without breaking the bank. While their tastes and budgets can frequently run to products far above my pay grade, I have found their reviews to be fair and impartial, and right on the money with my own opinions when I have had a chance to see products they have reviewed firsthand.

I took their suggestions that this knife was an excellent value for the price and picked one up over on Amazon for about $30. I may have more to say, in more detail, about it later, but for right now I just want to give my early impressions of the knife and I would certainly suggest you to read the fully detailed reviews on the two sites I linked above.

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I can start by simply saying that this is a wickedly good-looking knife. The blade has a great shape. The incredibly sharp point swoops gracefully into a dead flat cutting section for the rear two thirds of the blade. This means that the front two thirds of the knife will slice easily into material, while the rear two thirds allow for vigorous force to be applied. I love the  decision that Emerson/Kershaw made in using the G-10 material only on one side of the knife. The scale gives a nice grip where a right-handed person’s fingers wrap around the handle and the soft glow of the stonewashed steel on the clip side is a pleasure to behold. It’s also nice to be able to see the clean lines of the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism itself secures the blade open with not even the slightest sense of wiggle, but it allows the blade to be freed and then closed with no effort at all. When you look down on the closed blade it is perfectly centered within the frame.

The knife fits in your hand quite naturally. The gimping cuts run across both the top of the handle and the back of the blade and align perfectly. They are rugged enough to allow firm thumb pressure, but have been rounded down sufficiently to not feel too rough or harsh enough to cause hotspots on the ball of your thumb. The finger choil is set back into the curvature of the handle and not right behind the blade. It’s almost impossible to imagine your finger slipping forward under the blade even under force.

The CQC features Emerson’s “Wave” deployment assist “hook” on the back of the blade, and utilizes a small disk screwed to the top of the blade in place of the thumb boss that gets used on most knives. I am a bit ambivalent on both of these features. I have used old school pocketknives for so long that I am completely in the habit, and am completely comfortable, with using two hands to open the blades. I am not a “tactical” kind of guy. At 65 I still have never found myself in a position of needing to flip out a knife, blade already open, and to commence to some kind of crazy Shaolin/ninja/kung fu BS. As a result, I find myself a little concerned that the vaunted “Wave assisted deployment” feature will just result in me pulling the knife out of my pocket only to have it flick open on its own accord, either slitting my jeans, cutting my leg open or slashing my belt and causing me to inadvertently drop trou. This may take some getting used to, and might be something that gets addressed when I get around to second opinions.

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Here you can see my three knives lined up showing the relative sizes, and the weight and thickness of the blades. It also lets you see the thumb deployment disk on top of the CQC blade. Since I cannot see myself using the thumb disc on a very frequent basis I will probably remove the screw and set it aside. [E/K sent an extra set of slightly longer screws that will allow you to move the pocket clip to the scale side of the knife. I have seen in some of the comments that some folks either misplaced these or failed to notice them in the packaging, and then were complaining that the existing screws were too short to move the clip. I got mine! … Anyway, I’ll just toss the disc into that little baggy in case I change my mind]. My major reason for removing the disk is that it prevents nearly 5/8 of an inch of the blade from sliding through a stick of wood. This is nearly 25% of the length of the 3 1/4 inch blade. Since batoning sticks to work up firewood is one of the major chores that I envision using the knife for, that’s a substantial reduction in its utility.

That’s pretty much all I have to say. I like this knife and I think that it will fit into my kit well. If I am planning on being out for extended periods of time, I will of course take along the Buck 692. It’s much heavier duty, but I think that the CQC-6K it’s going to suit me quite well for those in between times. Absolutely everything in its fit and finish, including the fact that it was razor-sharp out of the package, belies the fact that the knife only cost $30. Elegant appearance, ergonomic form, efficient utility, high quality materials, and great execution… the CQC-6K seems to have it all.

Now in conclusion:  Some of you clever readers might have noticed that in the top photo there is a second knife shown already open.  The first unit that I received, the one shown open, did not close with any sense of detent. There was no snap, or click. No “chunk”, or thump. The knife blade simply revolved smoothly back into the handle… and drifted open just as smoothly. NOT SAFE!  I asked both Tony and the Xaviers if they had experienced this and if it was just a standard feature on the CQC. They were both kind enough to get back to me almost immediately, and assured me that the knife was supposed to snap closed with a certain sense of actual closure. I contacted KIA and they got back to me almost immediately as well, confirming that this must be a defect or a poor adjustment. KIA said that they would be happy to replace the knife, but I elected to return it through Amazon since the wait time was considerably less. The new knife does indeed close with a smooth snap, so we can add in solid support from the manufacturer and vendor to the CQC’s attributes.

 

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.

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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.