Sunday, December 11, 2011

Check out my latest review at WoodsMonkey!

I recently had the pleasure of checking out the GSI Glacier Stainless Dualist cook-set and I've got to say, GSI has done it again with another amazing quality item!

You can find the review right HERE

Let me know what you think and thanks for reading! I have some more gear reviews coming up in the very near future that is only for Hoosier Bushcraft & Outdoors, so stay tuned :-)

- Bill

Monday, November 28, 2011

Latest review and some other things

I haven't posted much lately due to how busy I have been with work and life in general. Woods Monkey posted my latest review I did for them recently, the Sugar Creek Knifeworks Campcrafter, which is styled after Horace Kephart's design.

I worked with the knife for a few months and fell in love with the design, it's weight and durability. I'm also a big fan of Sugar Creek Knifeworks and Mike, the owner and creator of everything sold on his site - Sometime on the near future, I hope to purchase one of Mikes Bushcrafter Knives and put it through some testing as well.

Along with everything I'm doing for Woods Monkey, I've got a few nice things to review for this blog, as well and a few new guns that I want to try out and post all of the info here in the coming days :)

Until then, check out the link to my latest review above and let me know what you think!

- BP

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Emberlit Stove - Review

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I can a fan of camp stoves, particularly stoves that are easy to transport and use natural material for fuel. A while back I bought a two pack of the Swiss Ranger Volcano Stove and have used them while in the woods and while camping with the family. That stove works pretty well, but it has one flaw that that is evident right from the start...air flow. It doesn't take very long before the air ports at the bottom of the stove get plugged with debris which forces you to clean it out with a small stick every so often. Depending on that you are trying to cook, 10-20 times of doing that and you can't wait to be done cooking, which should be a fun experience.

I recently had the chance to work with the stainless steel version of the Emberlit Stove while out on a solo camping trip. This compact little stove also uses natural material for fuel, much like the Swiss Ranger. The main difference (and a big plus) is that the Emberlit collapses down to a nearly flat state and fits in a zip-lock bag for storage. This is great because just like any other time you'e burning wood, you are going to get ash and soot on your stove and with all of the pieces contained within  zip-lock bag, you don't need to worry about getting you gear dirty. Since the stove is flat while broken down, it fits in your pack easily and at only 11.3oz, you don't need to worry about added weight.

Assembly is pretty straight forward, and the included instructions make it fairly easy to accomplish. It is a good idea to read the instructions the first time you assemble the unit. Starting with the bottom of the stove, you add the three walls that have the slit towards the bottom used to hold the base in place. The walls are help securely together by stainless tabs that stick out on both sides of each piece.

Once you have the three primary walls assembled, it's time to add the final piece which consists of the fuel port for feeding materials into the stove while it's in use. With one side hinged together, you need to twist the stove slightly to assemble the final side. It doesn't require any effort and from start to finish, takes less than a minute.

With my hatchet, I processed some of the wood I had set aside for my fire that evening. One thing to keep in mind is that you don't need to cut up wood to use this stove. Just by using a handful of twigs and having a small stack or larger sticks on hand will get you by. I had my canteen and canteen cup ready to go. For a quickie meal, I used a regular can of Campbell's veggie and beef.

I added the smaller sticks I had gathered and the feathered wood I had processed earlier. At the base, I added a few cotton balls to get things rolling along. To light the fire, I used my trusty Auora Fire Starter. Two strikes later, the cotton ball caught and the tinder took off with no effort at all. The first thing I noticed was that the airflow into the stove was great, which allowed the wood to burn nice and hot right from the start. As the first layer of wood started to produce some coals, I began feeding some larger pieces of wood into the fuel port on the side. Just like the instructions said to do, as the wood burned, I would slowly push the larger pieces into the stove. The flame was always even and strong.

The one thing I had problems with was finding a way to balance my canteen on the top of the stove. It took a little monkeying around, but I did finally figure out a way to balance the cup on the edge. Later on, I would find a a YouTube video showing how someone used a square piece of wire fencing to create a grill-top for smaller cups (video posted below). Something the size of a tea kettle or a small frying pan wouldn't have any issues at all. I still managed to balance the cup on the stove and it didn't take very long at all before I had a hot meal ready to eat. It only took about 6-8 minutes to heat up a canteen cup full of soup; I'd say that is a pretty short amount of time to wait for a hot meal!

All-in-all, I'm very pleased with this stove and plan to make it a permanent part of my pack. It's compact size, ease of use and the ability to find fuel just about anywhere makes it a valuable edition to anyone's kit. the stove can also act as a wind screen for your alcohol stove, camp candles or anything else, making it a multi-use device as well.  Here are my final thoughts:

- Compact design for easy transportation.
- Stainless steel design for durability (now a Titanium version is available!)
- Clear instructions that was easy to follow.
- Cooks food fast and even.
- Fuel source is abundant

- Difficult to balance a canteen cup (or something similar in size)

The pros outweigh the cons substantially and I would highly recommend this stove for anyone looking for an alternative to carrying around a larger stove and it's fuel. Special thanks to Mikhail for allowing me to review his product!!

Emberlit Homepage
Emberlit YouTube Page (great tips and tricks)

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have and thoughts of questions on this product!

- Bill

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grand Trunk Mosquito Net Review

When you're in the woods and the weather is nice and hot, you can typically be sure of one thing, you will get to deal with bugs at some point in your trekking. One of the worst times for the little nuisances to come around and start pestering you is when you are trying to rest and relax

There are several ways to deal with the little critters and it's entirely up to you. You can hose yourself down with sprays, which will usually work well, but leave you with smelling like a chemical factory and all sticky. You can light citronella candles or other brand name chemical candles and take care of some bugs, but you never really thwart all of them that way. One thing I like to do is to keep a fire smoldering throughout the night and while that usually works great, you can't keep all of the little biting critters away.

Enter the Grand Trunk Mosquito Net. I have been a big fan of Grand Trunk when I first got my single wide hammock from them a few years back and have become a devoted "hanger" when camping, or just on the trail. At night, I find it relaxing to sleep in my hammock and found that I can get a very good nights sleep while hanging from some trees. I've been pretty lucky with the crazy bugs here in Indiana, but there are always a few that like to get a snack while I'm sleeping or taking a nap in my hammock. For more about Grand Trunk Good, check out their site here and take a look at their selection.

The GT Mosquito Net is a lot like the military models that many of you have probably seen, either in person or in several catalogs. The night thing about this net is that you get a few modern additions that make it easy and enjoyable to use. The first thing that caught my eye was the carry bag it comes with ( a rather standard thing that GT attaches to their hammocks and like items) and the fact that the entire thing was able to fit into a fairly small pouch that is kept closed by a drawstring closure and a cord lock. It also comes with a handle on the side, which I found handy since I stood the pouch on end in my pack to save on space.

Once pulled out of the carry bag, you notice that the entire net is rolled up very tight and the first thing you think to yourself is "Man, I sure hope I can roll this up the same way and fit it back in that sack!" Unrolling it reviled the two 32" Spreader poles that break down much like most collapsible tent poles. The poles are meant to spread the top of the net out on both corners to give you more room, a task that they handled without any issue. There is also a long length of cord that runs along the top of the hammock for hanging purposes.

The first step was to unroll the netting, find of the the ends, make sure you have the right side up and slide it on over your hammock. I already had my hammock set up so I could rest in it throughout the day. It was a simple matter of unhooking one of the ends of the hammock from the tree straps and just slide the netting over until the other end reaches the other side. On the net was in place, I got out the two spreader poles and put them together. Both poles fit just right in the provided fabric slots that are sewn into the netting itself.

With the hammock spread out, I hung up the cordage that was attached to the top of the hammock via some eye-lets to the same two trees that the hammock was hanging from. I found that hanging the net about 2-2.5 feet above the tree straps seemed to provide distance between the hammock and the top of the net.

With the top taking shape, it was time to add spread out the floor and add the aluminum tent stakes that I brought along. Note that the GT Mosquito Net does not come with stakes, BUT it does give you the ability to stake down the four corners of the floor, which made for an excellent place to store my gear!

Two more nice features that the GT Mosquito Net has is a two sided zipper door to get in and out of the net easily. I found that the zipper was easy to work (a comfort for that 4AM bathroom break). Another nice thing is that the opening for the hammock tree straps has a pull cord so you can tighten the holes completely and use the provided cord lock to keep everything closed up all the time leaving no holes at all for those uninvited guests. I slept through the night very well and also had a peace of mind that I wouldn't wake up in the morning with bugs using me as a pin cushion.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the GT Mosquito Net and would highly recommend it to anyone who already have a hammock and lives in an area where bugs thrive. The net worked flawlessly with my GT Single Wide hammock and all of the materials were top notch. I even managed to roll it back up nice and tight so that it fit back in the carry bag!

Let me know what you think about this review and if you would like to see more. Thanks for reading friend and thanks to Grand Trunk for making such a great product for us bug minded people :-)

- Bill

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SOG Tactical Tomahawk F01T, Mini-Review

I've had my SOG hawk for a little while now, but never really got around to posting much about it in my blog. One thing I want to say up front is that this hawk, along with my SOG Trident Tanto - Black TiNi are my basic every day carry items. Whether I'm on the road, or busy working, they are never far away.

There are several things I like about this hawk. Two things that stand out is it's durability and weight. I can slide this hawk into my pack and not even notice it's in there. Most text books today weigh more. As for it's durability, one of the first things I did when I received it was to head into the backyard and chop up some kindling wood out of quarter rounds. The hawk made short work of the wood and still had it's sharp edge that came from the factory.

The sheath is made of a heavy nylon that is three snap closures at the bottom so you can open and pull the hawk out with minimum effort and fast (assuming it's reachable at that time). I'm not a huge fan of the small belt loop on the back of the sheath due to it's smaller size, but that's much to squawk about. I normally just slide this hawk into my belt when I want fast access to it, or it's waiting to be used in my bag. The material seems heavy enough and should last the life of the hawk, unless you are extremely rough on your tools...then you may possibly pop on the the rivets loose, but it wouldn't be easy.

The handle is made from a heavy duty ballistic polymer and us textured in a way so that it won't slip out of your hand when taking a swing. I've read somewhere that some people like to add rubber o-rings to their handle on this hawk for even more added grip, but I haven't lost my grip on it yet and like the way it feels right out of the box. It would take an act of god to break this handle...that's how tough it is. At the bottom of the handle is a hole, in case you want to add a lanyard to your hawk. This is usually the first thing I do :-)

As for the blade itself, I'm one again pleased with what I see and how it performs. Granted, I've never split anything other than wood with this hawk, but in a life threatening situation and in close quarters, this would be my hand-to-hand weapon choice. The head itself is made from a nice piece of 420 stainless steel which features a 2.75" edge on one side, and a spike on the opposite side that can be used for any number of things (breaching, digging, ect) The tang of the head actually goes down the handle a short ways (about 2.5 inches) and is secured in place by two matching allen screws. for added strength, SOG also included a steel band that  wraps around the body of the handle just below the screws. This gives it a nice clean finish, but also adds strength to the hawk as well.

The total weight of the hawk is right at about 24 ounces. I personally like the weight and the heft of the hawk as it feels good in my hands. I've never tried to throw this hawk like I do with my Cold Steel hawk, but I have seen videos of folks tossing a hand full of the these tactical hawks at a target and sticking each one with precision. Another good things about tossing this hawk would be that you WONT break the handle, no matter what.

I decided to go out back and cut up some logs with this hawk. I've done this before, but didn't get any pictures at the time and wanted to post some proof this this is not only a good tactical hawk for defense, it's also a good chore hawk that can keep up with about anything you toss at it.

Since I have a wood stove and use it a lot in the Winter, I keep a good stock of wood on hand. It's never hard to find some good wood to work with around my house :-)

A single swing and i was about half way through this piece of pine. You can really feel the heft to this hawk when it's moving through the air. One more solid chop and the log split in two with no trouble at all.

I decided to get out a bigger piece and see how it would fair. This was a very solid 6.5" piece of pine. I was actually surprised at how well the SOG Tactical Hawk split this this piece of wood on the first cut. This was the first time I tried to split a piece of wood this thick with the SOG Hawk and I was able to without any trouble at all. When I was done, I had some nice kindling ready to go when I need to get my fire going.

In all, I am very pleased with the SOG Tactical Hawk F01T-N and plan to continue using it as my EDC tactical tool, along with my SOG Trident Tanto folder that goes everywhere with me.

Thanks for reading folks! For added humor, here's a pic I just took with me holding the SOG hawk :-)

- Bill

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great Raffle For a Great Cause!

If you would like the chance to win some amazing gear and at the same time, contribute to a very good cause, check out the Team Woods Monkey Leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Beer and Gear” Fundraiser Raffle.

A single raffle ticket only costs $10 and the more you get, the more chances you have to win some excellent gear. Here's an idea of what they have to give out to some lucky winners:

Grand Prize Package:
-                      Blind Horse Knives custom Bushcrafter Knife, 4 inch, O-1 Steel with a convex edge, Natural Micarta Handles and Red LLS Liners with a custom lanyard by Scott’s Knots.
-                      JRE Industries Leather Bushcraft Sheath With Firesteel
-                      JRE Industries Stropbat
-                      Spyderco Endura folder, brown handles, flat ground VG-10 steel
-                      Spyderco Sharpmaker Sharpening System
-                      Condor Tool & Knife Woodworker Axe
-                      Gerber Suspension Multitool
-                      Novatac 120CL Classic 120 Lumen LED light
-              Canteen Shop set consisting of a Nalgene canteen, Para-cover, cup, Grill Top stove,and set of Heavy Cover lids! Plus a Titanium spork in the back!
-                      Signed copy of Dave Canterbury’s book "Survivability for the Common Man"
-                      Signed copy of Les Stroud’s book “Survive!"
-                      Woods Monkey hat and stickers
-                      1 year magazine subscription to Self-Reliance Illustrated
-                      Assorted other swag from our donors

Runner-up Prizes:
1.                   SOG modern “Nessmuk Trio”: Double Headed Axe, Powerlock Multi Tool, and Aura Hunting Knife, plus a great SOG hat!
2.                   EDC Depot set including a tactical flashlight, Firesteel, Maxpedition belt pouch, Cordage and more, along with a KA-BAR Big Brother knife!
3.                   Gerber Back Paxe II, Freeman Guide folder, Stag 2-blade Stockman, and Flik multitool!
4.                   A Camping survival set including a day pack, an Aurora firesteel, Wetfire tinder, paracord, and a Pocket Cooker stove along with a Gerber Suspension Multitool, and a KA-BAR Becker Companion knife!
5.                   A TOPS Interceptor knife, TOPS t-shirt, and a Spyderco Police folder!
6.                   Gerber Back Paxe II, Freeman Guide folder, Stag 2-blade Stockman, and Flik multitool!
7.                   A KA-BAR Becker BK5 Magnum Camp knife, and a Spyderco Ladybug!
8.                   A KA-BAR Heavy Bowie, and a TOPS Gent-X folder!
9.                   A TOPS Strikar XL knife, a fire steel and paracord from Camping Survival, and a TOPS t-shirt!
10.               Gerber Back Paxe II, Freeman Guide folder, Stag 2-blade Stockman, and Flik multitool!
11.               A KA-BAR ZK series Death Dagger, a Spyderco Ladybug, and a Gerber Suspension multitool!
12.               A TOPS Nite Chaser knife, a Condor Wilderness Tool, and a Vulcan Fire Piston and paracord from Camping Survival!
More gear is coming in all the time.
For more information, check out Tim's fundraising page and best of luck to everybody!
Thanks for reading!!
- Bill

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Condor Bushlore, Mini Review

OK, I admit it! I'm a big fan of Condor products, but it's for a good reason. I don't have hundreds of dollars sitting around that I can spend on custom knives and equipment. While shopping around, I found Condor's website and started to do some research on their products. I was generally impressed with most of the reviews that folks have done over time, but even more impressed at how well Condor was listening to their customers complaints and taking them to heart when working on future products

The 2011 lineup of Condor products is a clear example of customer service at its best. They have changed the design of their axes, going back to a more traditional style that is tried and true. Their various bush knives are now equipped with a sharp edge that goes down the entire length of knife to the handle, as opposed to earlier versions.

One knife that I recently had the chance to work with is the Condor Bushlore. I had a really good time working with it and had good results as well.

I was very happy with my initial impression of the Condor Bushlore. The knife arrived with a factory grind and from everything I have seen from past models, the 2011 model really makes the cut. Here are the quick specs on the Condor Bushlore::

Knife Length: 9 1/4 inches
Blade Length: 4 5/16 inches
Blade Width: 1 1/4 inches
Blade Thickness: 1/8 inches
Blade Material: 1075 carbon steel
Type of Tang: Full
Blade Grind: Single bevel with a convex edge
Handle Material: Walnut inlays
Sheath Material: Leather
Cost: $39.98 msrp(us$)

One thing that I really like about Condors' knife line is the leather sheath you get with each piece. You almost get that "hand sewn" feeling with each knife sheath when you hold and inspect it. I think the sheath alone could sell for $25 or better.

I was able to baton through small to medium sized logs without an issue at all (sorry for the lack of pics) With a few days of heavy use, This knife was still sharp and ready for field use. I don't see this model being a good tool to do super fine wood work with (hard to beat a Mora for that) but this guy will certainly handle any camp related work you can toss it's way.

The walnut grip feels really good in your hand, making standard chores easy to handle.  The lanyard hole is nice to have as well. 

In conclusion, I really don't have a  negative thing to say about the Bushlore. I will say one thing about the 1075 Carbon Steel...Don't let water sit on it for long or you will get rust spots. I was toying with this knife in the rain while I was out and didn't get it as dry as I had hoped. The next morning I had to buff out the spots. Live and learn, as they say :-) If I had to grade this knife, this is how I would do it.

Value:: 10
Durability:: 9
Edge Retention:: 8.5
Factory Sheath:: 9
Total Score:: 9

Take a look at Condor's site to check out the Bushlore and many more quality products.

Thanks for reading guys and I hope to add a lot more in the coming days. Be safe out there and let me know if you have any questions!
- Bill