Gear Review: AVAWO Hunting Rifle Bipod

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received this article free from the vendor for review purposes. Other than the article reviewed I was not paid by the vendor and and the opinion expressed in this review is purely my own]

I use a Remington 700 as my hunting rifle and I currently have a VOKUL bipod that I use when I go hunting that I paid less than $20 for and is perfectly serviceable.  The AVAWO bipod is at roughly the same price point as the VOKUL selling for $17.99 on Amazon at the time of this writing.  As I always do when reviewing products, I tried to research where the item is manufactured.  That I could not easily figure out.  A quick Google search overwhelmingly takes you to Amazon links for the vast array of products sold under the AVAWO brand name.  There is also a company website at http://www.avawo.net/ that has only an email address on the contact page.  A little further digging reveals that the AVAWO brand is a registered trademark in Hong Kong and the US to a holding company called HONGKONG EASYTOP TECHNOLOGY CO., LIMITED incorporated in 2013 in Hong Kong that has registered several brand trademarks.  Since there is no place of manufacture data on the packaging or bipod itself and given the location of the company that owns the trademark, I am left to conclude that the bipod was most likely manufactured in China, which explains the price point quite well.  That does not mean this is not a good product, just that I am a natural cynic and want to know the origin of the products I buy or recommend.

First, the specs of the bipod off the manufacturer’s website:

  • Material: Hardened steel, aluminum; Color: Black; Leg Height: 6″ / 152mm (retracted) –  9″ / 225 mm (fully extended) Light weight: 10ozs
  • Features: Ultra-light spring loaded folding mechanism bipod; Compact and light weight; Non-rust black anodized finish ;Rubber padded on top to protect fore-end of gun
  • Durable with new design high quality that you can quickly attaches to sling swivel stud.
  • Lleg height: 6 to 9 inches.
  • Adjustable leg length (5 settings) with return springs.
  • The legs can be folded forward or backward.
  • Heavy duty and made of hardened steel and aluminum.
  • With a non-rusting black anodized finish.
  • Compact and light weight.
  • Quickly attach or detach from the rifle using the existing swivel stud.
  • This bipod does not have a swivel top and does not tilt from side to side.
  • Adjustable height & foldable arms with spring tension

I got the AVAWO Bipod in the mail and interestingly the box it is package in was labelled as a fishing adjustable swivel holder.  Opening the box, it is packed in bubble wrap and there is no data sheet or instructions for mounting.  Mounting is actually straightforward but if you are a novice and have never messed with a swivel mount bipod I could see how the lack of instructions could lead to confusion as it takes a bit of thought to figure out how to mount the bipod.

Upon unpacking the bipod, I examined it and at first glance it is fairly sturdily constructed.  After closer examination, aside from some minor cosmetic differences such as phillips head screws vs allen head screws, and different types of rubber for the pads, it is exactly the same as the VOKUL bipod I have and not a lot different from the much more expensive Blackwhawk!! Bipods.  I suppose that has a lot do with the fact that form follows function and other than materials and craftsmanship, a bipod is pretty much a bipod.

The legs of the bipod are adjustable and spring load when fully closed such that if you press the release button they spring to fully extended and it is possible to adjust the leg height at roughly 1/2 in interval from fully retracted to fully extended.  It is possible to mount the bipod with the legs either forward or backward on the rifle.  I mount mine with legs forward to keep the fore-grip unobstructed but it is preference thing.  When opened the bipod legs are quite stable.  If you abuse them I am sure they would bend but they are plenty sturdy for typical hunting and target shooting.

The bipod mounts to the rifle easily and is quite stable once tightened down.  I suppose you could loctite the lock down screw to prevent loosening but I do not since I remove the bipod when I clean the rifle.  The sling mount on the bipod fits standard rifle slings, I have a real-tree sling from BassPro and it goes on quite easily.

All in all, this is a great value for the price.  Personally I have issues with it being made in China but if American or European companies insist on pricing themselves out of the casual market then I cannot help them.  I refuse to pay 4-5 times more for a similar quality American product.  I am not rich and I assume most of my readers are not either.  If two products of are equal quality then I will pick the greater value every time, that is basic economics at work.

This is an excellent bipod at an excellent price and if you are looking for a quality, low-priced bipod for a hunting rifle, the AVAWO bipod fits the bill quite nicely.



Gear Review: Beileshi All in One .22 to .50 Caliber Rifle Gauge Red Dot Laser Bore Sighter Boresight

At first glance I thought this was going to be a good product. I received it in a cardboard box with foam inserts with slots cut out for all the separate components.  I put it together, installed the batteries, and checked it for initial function at home and everything worked first time out of the box.

How the boresight comes packaged.

How the boresight comes packaged.

There are instructions included with the boresight but at best they are rudimentary and do not go into how to use the boresight to sight in a rifle.  The instructions essentially tell you how to install the batteries and turn the laser on and off.

I finally got it out to the range this past weekend. The boresight comes with 4 different inserts that attach to the bore end of the scope to ensure a good fit in the barrel and accurate boresight. I got out to the range to boresight my .308 Remington 700 and the new scope I just got. I placed my rifle on the gun stand, sighted on the target with the iron sights, mounted the scope, selected the barrel insert, inserted the boresight into the barrel and then looked though the scope to try and find the laser dot to boresight off of. No dot in sight. I then reverted to a trick I used in the army when using similar laser boresights. I took a piece of paper and held it in front of the barrel to find the dot then started walking downrange to see where the dot was at. Luckily this is a visible instead of an IR laser so I did not need any NVG’s to fins the dot. Needless to say, the laser dot was roughly 10 target forms right of my aim point with my zeroed iron sights at 25m.

The unpackaged boresight ready for use

The unpackaged boresight ready for use

I initially thought that I had inserted the boresight incorrectly so I went back and checked it out, rotated the boresight in the bore to see if the laser would line up, I even got a guy waiting behind me in line to try the boresight in his 30 .06 and he got the same result. Then to top it all off, I thought maybe the rubber insert was not tight enough so I use the proved screwdriver to tighten it down a little bit and reinserted it into the rifle but was still nowhere near my known aim point. At this point I gave up and went to remove the boresight whereupon the rubber insert slipped off the small screw and became lodged in the barrel of my rifle. Luckily, I never go to the range without a cleaning kit and barrel rod so was able to push it out of the barrel whereupon I zeroed my scope the old fashioned way by pulling my zero target in close enough to get on the paper then making adjustments and firing at progressively longer ranges until I got it zeroed at my desired range of 150m.

A few things; I don’t expect a laser boresight dot to align with my aim point on a zeroed weapon, indeed I would be amazed if it did. I did however expect it to be somewhere in the ballpark maybe ½ to 1 target forms off of a zeroed aim point. It did not achieve that and thus was useless from the standpoint of boresighting my rifle. A boresight that does not align with the barrel is of no use. It gets one star because I cannot give it zero and at least the laser works even though it does not align with the barrel as it is supposed to do. You never know, I may just have gotten a defective boresight.
On the bright side, I can use the laser to irritate the neighbor’s cat since I certainly cannot use it to boresight a weapon as it was designed to do.

At first glance I thought this was going to be a good product. I finally got it out to the range this past weekend. The boresight comes with 4 different inserts that attach to the bore end of the scope to ensure a good fit in the barrel and accurate boresight. I got out to the range to boresight my .308 Remington 700 and the new scope I just got. I placed my rifle on the gun stand, sighted on the target with the iron sights, mounted the scope, selected the barrel insert, inserted the boresight into the barrel and then looked though the scope to try and find the laser dot to boresight off of. No dot in sight. I then reverted to a trick I used in the army when using similar laser boresights. I took a piece of paper and held it in front of the barrel to find the dot then started walking downrange to see where the dot was at. Luckily this is a visible instead of an IR laser so I did not need any NVG’s to fins the dot. Needless to say, the laser dot was roughly 10 target forms right of my aim point with my zeroed iron sights at 25m. I initially thought that I had inserted the boresight incorrectly so I went back and checked it out, I even got a guy waiting behind me in line to try the boresight in his 30 .06 and he got the same result. Then to top it all off, I thought maybe the rubber insert was not tight enough so I use the proved screwdriver to tighten it down a little bit and reinserted it into the rifle but was still nowhere near my known aim point. At this point I gave up and went to remove the boresight whereupon the rubber insert slipped off the small screw and became lodged in the barrel of my rifle. Luckily, I never go to the range without a cleaning kit and barrel rod so was able to push it out of the barrel whereupon I zeroed my scope the old fashioned way by pulling my zero target in close enough to get on the paper then making adjustments and firing at progressively longer ranges until I got it zeroed at my desired range of 150m.

A few things; I don’t expect a laser boresight dot to align with my aim point on a zeroed weapon, indeed I would be amazed if it did. I did however expect it to be somewhere in the ballpark maybe ½ to 1 target forms off of a zeroed aim point. It did not achieve that and thus was useless from the standpoint of boresighting my rifle. A boresight that does not align with the barrel is of no use. It gets one star because I cannot give it zero and at least the laser works even though it does not align with the barrel as it is supposed to do. You never know, I may just have gotten a defective boresight.

On the bright side, I can use the laser to irritate the neighbor’s cat since I certainly cannot use it to boresight a weapon as it was designed to do.

I initially posted this review on Amazon in early June, 2016 and within 24 hours the company that makes the boresight contacted me and offered to replace the product at their cost if I were willing to revise my review upon receipt of the new product.  I have not yet received the new boresight but when I do I will take it out ot the range and update both here and on Amazon.  At a minimum I am impressed with the responsiveness of the manufacturer.

Update # 1 29 June, 2016 – The seller contacted me after this review went live and offered to send me a free replacement which I just got in the mail yesterday. I plan on taking the new boresight out to the range in the next few weeks and try it out to see if it works any better than the first one I got. I will post another update then and perhaps change my rating depending on how it goes.

Final Update – 8 July, 2016 – I got the new boresight out, put it together, and tried to use it.  This boresight works.

Old and new boresights together

Old and new boresights together

First let me explain how a boresight works.  The boresight is supposed to help you align adjustable sights, whether open/iron or a scope, with the barrel of the weapon such that when you shoot using proper techniques you are closer to zero than starting from mechanical/manufacturer set zero or if you have somehow knocked your sights out of alignment.  Boresighting and zeroing are two entirely different things.  Zeroing aligns your sights, the way you hold the weapon, and your line of sight such that the strike of the bullet aligns with the iron sights or scope crosshairs.  A boresighted rifle is not zeroed, you still have to take the weapon out to the range and fine tune the alignment because it is very rare that mechanical and personal zero are the same thing, I have only ever known one person who could pick up a mechanically zeroed rifle and be zeroed herself.

View through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot did not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope

View through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot did not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope

I did not expect to boresight and go shoot hitting the x-ring every time without having to additionally zero the weapon.  As detailed above, my first experience with this boresight was disappointing to say the least.

I played around with it a bit because I still had problems and I think I have diagnosed the problem with it.  As stated above I have a Remington 700 in .308.  There are four different size rubber inserts that come with the boresight.  You are supposed to choose the appropriate size insert and screw it into the end of the boresighter so that the boresight has a tight fit and aligns properly with the barrel.  One of the problems with this is that in order to get a tight fit on my .308 I had to use the insert that says it is for .350-.434 cal weapons, the insert for .280-.349 cal just does not quite get tight enough to provide a stable seat in the barrel.  Given that .30 cal/7.62mm is one of the most common calibers in the world it floors me that they don’t have an insert for that caliber in the kit or at least one that I could buy separately.

Boresight inserted into the end of the barrel

Boresight inserted into the end of the barrel

Be that as it may, I selected the .350-.434 cal insert and screwed it very loosely onto the boresight and then put it into the barrel pushing until the boresight was firmly seated and had as little play around the end of the barrel as possible.  Then I turned it on.  I had my rifle on a gun rest to keep it stable and put the crosshairs of my already zeroed scope on the target.  Initially the dot was at least on the paper but several target forms left.  I rotated the boresight 90 degrees and it brought the dot ½ target form right and ½ target forms down from the aimpoint.  I assume I did not have it seated as tight as I should have at first and rotating the boresight seated it fully.  Since I am not going to adjust my sight I just wanted to confirm that the new boresight actually works.

I then went to remove the boresight from the barrel and the fun began.  Just like with the first one, the rubber insert popped off the screw on the boresight and stayed lodged in the barrel.  Not so bad this time as I was prepared for it and already had my cleaning rod put together and just pushed it out.  I will have to rod the barrel with patches a couple times to ensure there is no rubber caught in it but I can live with that.

Before insertion in the barrel

Before insertion in the barrel

After removing from the barrel.  Note the rubber insert pulled off the retaining screw

After removing from the barrel. Note the rubber insert pulled off the retaining screw

I started thinking about ways that the problem could be fixed and came up with two solutions.  The most obvious and probably cheapest fix from a manufacturer perspective to me would be to have small washers slightly smaller than the minimum caliber size of the inserts to ensure that the insert does not come off and lodge in the barrel.  The other would be to have exact caliber inserts available as additional purchase items.  This is not actually a bad piece of equipment and the price is just about unbeatable for a multi-caliber boresight.  A few modifications and this would easily get 5 stars.  I have adjusted my rating to 4 stars mainly because the first one I got was garbage and even with the second some patience and knowledge of actual boresighting procedures is necessary because the instructions are essentially worthless, and lastly because the inserts still get stuck in the barrel, which I find extremely annoying.

I have attached several pictures to the review.  The first two were in the original review and are of the boresight as I got it.  The 3rd is the old and new boresights together.  The 4th is the view through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot sis not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope.  The 5th is a picture of the boresight inserted into the end of the barrel. The 6th and 7th are picture of the rubber insert before and after I put the boresight into my rifle.  This is so you can see where it attaches and how it popped off the little retaining screw when I removed it from the rifle.

After all I have been through with this I now like it and think it is a good value for the price.  You do have to be aware that there may be issues with it and it requires a little finesse when using it, I finally got a serviceable boresight but it turned out to take longer and be more painful than I originally thought it would when I spotted this little bargain.

Gear Review: Dry-sacks – 20l Outdoor Research and multi-size Outdoor Products

I actually have two different brands of drysacks. I have two 20l Outdoor Research dry sacks and a three-pack of Outdoor Products multiple size dry sacks in 2.1l, 4.1l, and 7.9l sizes. I will review them in order.

The Outdoor Research bags are pricier than the Outdoor Products bags at almost $30 a piece but for the price they are extremely durable and of heavy-duty construction. They are also waterproof to the point where you can submerge them completely and they remain dry inside. I would even guess that one of these could be used as an emergency flotation device if you needed one. I tested my first one of these by weighing it down with a t-shirt wrapped brick and a few wads of toilet paper inside and leaving it submerged in the creek behind my house over the weekend. It stayed bone dry on the inside over the weekend.

20l Outdoor Research Dry sack. The ruler is a standard 12in school ruler.

20l Outdoor Research Dry sack. The ruler is a standard 12in school ruler.

I have two because I use these as my main dry sack for inside mine and my wife’s BOB bags. I have used other Outdoor Research gear over the years and never been anything but impressed. I had a 30l dry sack for over ten years that I always took to the field with me because it was better than the Army issue dry sack. Unfortunately, the dry sack was not shrapnel proof and a too close IED in Iraq put paid to that one.

One thing in particular that I like about the Outdoor research bags is that they have nylon loops on the outside so that you can attach your dry sack to the outside of your ruck if needed. I personally have mine on the inside right now but like the fact that the loops provide the versatility of keeping the sack if I need my main ruck compartment for something else.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Outdoor research dry sack if you want a durable, heavy duty dry sack to keep your essential gear dry that won’t break the bank. They are made of durable material and the robust construction shows the quality of the bag throughout. It is available in multiple sizes so you can get the size you need for your particular setup. A great bag.

Now to the second set of bags. Outdoor research also has three-pack of ditty bad dry sacks that were almost twice as expensive as the Outdoor Products ones when I bought mine. At the time of writing the Outdoor Products 3-Pack Dry Sack go for $16.00 and the Outdoor Research Dry Ditty Sacks three-pack is $31.00. When I bought mine the Outdoor Products bags were $10.00.

The Three Outdoor Products dry sacks. The ruler is a standard 12in school ruler

The Three Outdoor Products dry sacks. The ruler is a standard 12in school ruler

When I first got them I thought they were kind of flimsily constructed and was very skeptical on how well they would work. I did the same test with them as I did with my 20l bag and to my surprise the contents stayed dry even though they are specifically advertised as being not suitable for submersion.

They are made of a nylon weave and fairly thin which makes them super light compared to my other bags. The three sizes are useful as you can use the size you need instead of using more bag than necessary. I would be careful about putting anything with sharp points or edges into these bags but they are great for keeping spare socks and a t-shirt dry without taking up a ton of space.

I like these bags as they are lightweight and it is easy to carry an empty one as a spare without sacrificing space. I have only had these about six months and have not really used the hell out of them yet but am not sure they will last in the long run as I am sure my Outdoor research bag will. These are a good interim choice if you are on a budget but I would plan on buying more expensive but also more durable bags in the future as you continually improve your kit.


Gear Review: 1 Liter Nalgene Bottle with Human Gear cap

I have had my current 1 liter/quart Nalgene Water Bottlefor a little over 2 ½ years now and have absolutely nothing to complain about. I did replace the lid that comes with the bottle with a Humangear cap. The cap I use is not compatible with tubed hydration systems. That is mainly because I hate CamelBaksand everything similar. I must have 4-5 different backpack hydration systems in my basement gear room that I got during my military career and one that I bought on the civilian market and I uniformly dislike them all. It is not that they are inconvenient, they are extremely convenient. My problem with backpack style hydration bladder systems is that they are so damn hard to keep clean. I had serious problems trying to keep mine clean in Iraq where I had a secure FOB and at least rudimentary facilities. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to keep one clean and hygienic in a bug-out situation where civilized facilities are plain unavailable or erratically available at best.

Therefore, I went with this bottle. I have two of them and a garden variety 2-quart Mil-Spec canteen in a MOLLE pouch attached to my BOB. I won’t even bother reviewing the 2-quart as it has been around for decades and is battle tested. If you buy a Mil-Spec canteen you cannot go wrong.

Back to the Nalgene bottle though. As I said, the cap I have is actually a cap with a cap on it. That is it has a smaller cap on top that is more appropriately sized for drinking directly from the bottle. I have used this bottle every day to take a drink when I go to work and also when zi go on day hikes with the wife. The great thing about Nalgene is that it does not take odors. If you ever used an old army plastic canteen you know that as soon as you put kool-aid or something else in the canteen you are cursed to always have a slimy taste in the water no matter how much you wash it. That is not the case with Nalgene. I have put all kinds of stuff in my bottle from Tang to coffee and just plain water. It simply does not absorb odors, which I love. The bottle itself is almost indestructible. I have dropped it 20 feet onto rocks and all it got were some scratches.

The Bottle and accessories I tote on my daypack

The Bottle and accessories I tote on my daypack

I love this bottle and consider it an essential item. It is has a more economical shape than a regular canteen for attachment to my Bob and the Rothco Molle Water Bottle Pouch and Bottle Mug I use are extremely practical designs as well.

If you are looking for a water bottle to add to your BOB or just your daypack then you cannot go far wrong getting this extremely durable and functional bottle. It is so great it makes me wonder why the military sticks with the crappy designed canteen they have.


Gear Review: Gerber Gator Combo Axe II

I recently got the Gerber Gator Combo Axe II as an addition to my BOB. I wanted a good sturdy hatchet that was small enough to fit on the outside of my ruck without being bulky and big and rugged enough to do the jobs I wanted it to do.

I ordered this off Amazon and got it for $29.91, which is almost $35 off the regular list price of $64.80. I went with Gerber because I have used Gerber knives and multi-tools for years and love them. I also figured that with Gerber they stand behind their products and if there was anything wrong with it they would fix it. I have had three multi-tools replaced over the years, one of which got caught in a Bradley track sprocket and Gerber has replaced them all no questions asked.

Gerber # 1The hatchet is 15 ½ inches long including the handle and weighs just a little more than 1 ½ lbs (708g). It has a polyurethane handle that wraps around the head and inside the handle held in place by a small rubber retaining strap is a 6 in saw.

I have used it a couple of times so far around the house cutting firewood into kindling and I used it to chop up the Christmas tree so I could burn it and it has worked just fine. I have not has to get too rough with it yet but it has held up better than expected to the use I have put it to. It is a handy size and weight for extensive use. It is easy to control and very well balanced. One of the features I like the most is that the handle is rubberized so that the grip is outstanding when compared to a wooden handled hatchet. The blade holds the edge very well. I have used it for about 10 hours total and have not needed to sharpen the blade yet and it has not chipped at all, even though I hit a couple of nails splitting kindling from old lumber. The saw works pretty well and sheds sawdust efficiently without fouling but it is only really suitable for use on smaller branches of under 3 in diameter.

Gerber # 2The sheath that comes with it is perfectly adequate if you want to carry the hatchet on your belt, I do not. I wanted to mount my hatchet to my ruck so I would have it when I needed it but it would not be banging around on my waist while humping through the woods. I tried to find a MOLLE compatible hatchet sheath with no luck. I am sure they are available but I could not find one. Instead I did what any good Joe does and improvised. I had an old Blackhawk! MOLLE Small Utility Pouch that I was not using. I took the pouch and snipped out a portion of the bottom of the pouch large enough for the hatchet handle to fit through and the Gerber hatchet fits in there perfectly. This allowed me to mount the hatchet to my ruck where I get easy access and it is out of the way.

The only negative I see is that because the handle is shaped such that the head is embedded if the head wrapping cracks or the handle breaks it is probably impossible to fashion a replacement handle without a professional shop. That being said, I have a Fiskars maul I use for splitting wood that is built the same way and I have never had a problem with the head on that as opposed to traditionally handled axes that you eventually have to shim the head because it gets loose so I don’t expect that to be a problem.
All in all I have to say I am pleasantly surprised with this hatchet. I expected it to be a good piece of equipment because it is made by Gerber, I just did not expect it to be this good. I expect to get years of use out of this hatchet. If all you want in a survival hatchet is a rugged tool useful for shelter construction and firewood gathering this should fit the bill perfectly. If you are one of those warriors that thinks your hatchet should be a tomahawk too then this is probably not for you. Then again, if you think you are going to be tossing tomahawks at enemies post SHTF you are probably what I would call a victim because while you may take a few people out you will probably die and die quickly because you are not focused on survival but in reenacting COD or Resident Evil.

My ratings on the Gerber Gator Combo Axe II are:

  • Price –                4 Stars
  • Ease of Use –      5 Stars (It’s a Hatchet)
  • Versatility –        3 Stars (It is designed to do one job)
  • Durability –        5 Stars
  • Overall Rating – 4½ Stars


Gear Review: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

I have been using the Sawyer Mini Water Filter for the past two and a half months and so far it is working great. I had to backwash it once because it got some crud in it but it cleaned out very easily and has worked fine since then.

IMG_2969
The filter itself is light and not bulky making it easy to carry and store in my BOB and GOTH kits. The water comes out clear even when I stir it up and run silt filled water through the filter. That is the main reason I had to backwash it because I wanted to see how it worked using dirty, unprefiltered water. Other than one time I have been straining the dirty water through a cravat to remove the gross particles before running it through the filter.
My only real complaint with the system is the hard plastic bag that comes aspart of the kit. It is very stiff and difficult, actually impossible, to fill to its stated 16 oz. capacity. I have generally been getting somewhere between 10-12 oz. in it. My other issue is that with winter coming on it is cold outside and I am starting to see some small cracking in the bag where it folds when I store it. I am pretty certain that before long the bag will crack open completely and become useless. I started to give it a negative review because of that but on further reflection I decided there is a workaround. I have several CamelBak 3L Packs from when I was in the Army. I actually hate wearing a CamelBal although I know many people love them. My workaround is to take one of my old 3L bladders, of which I have 5 or 6 and use it for the water and just attach the Sawyerto to the hose on the CamelBak. That works great. Not only can I fill the wide mouth bladder up faster, I can hold my cravat over the mouth and pre-filter as I fill it up thus eliminating a step in the filtration process.

This is definitely going into both my BOB and my GOTH kits. It can’t be beat for lightness and compactness. I recommend this filter as one possible solution for filtration in a SHTF situation.

My ratings:

  • Price                          4 Stars
  • Ease of Use                5 Stars
  • Versatility                   5 Stars
  • Durability                    3 Stars
  • Overall Rating             4 ½ Stars

Gear Review: Survival Life and the Everstryke Match

IMG_3082I decided to try out the Survival Life free offers they push all the time just to see what I would get. I ordered the free Everstryke match. It cost $4.95 shipping and I got two of them about 3 weeks later. They are obviously not the highest quality items in the world but what do you expect for $4.95? They are still pretty neat though.

Essentially it is a plastic reservoir with a ferrocerrium rod glued to one side. The piece that screws into the reservoir has a small striker and a cotton wick. You fill the reservoir with Zippo fluid and then strike the match against the rod to get a flame. It makes a pretty good flame and as long as you have fluid you can probably use one for a good while. One thing I don’t IMG_3083IMG_3084know and could not see was how to change the wick. I don’t see how this is a whole lot different from a Zippo except that the flame is on a stem and thus should be slightly easier to light tinder or kindling on fire with than is a Zippo.

My conclusion is that they are worth $4.95 but I would not pay much more for them unless the construction were a lot sturdier. As for Survival life and the buying experience. You have to be careful when ordering because they sneakily try to rope you into subscribing to their survival newsletter at almost $20 a month. You can pay with either credit card or Paypal. I used Paypal because I will be damned if they are getting my credit card #. The ordering page is full of pop-ups and hidden code. I don’t know if I will take advantage of their offer again because frankly, with my background in IT I don’t trust the security of their ordering site.

They have several different items they offer as introductory deals on their products page, all you have to do is sign up for their email newsletter and accept some aggressive marketing.  They are definitely aggressive and good at marketing.  That being said, Survival Life does have some pretty decent articles on their main site if you can wade through the ads and other marketing.

My reviews will be a combination of text and then a few ratings criteria.  The ratings will rate an item on:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of Use – 4/5
  • Versatility – 1/5 but then this is a single use item
  • Durability – 3/5 although I am not yet sure how well the plastic construction will hold up under normal use
  • Overall Rating – 3/5 two for $4.95 is pretty unbeatable and even if they don’t last very long they weigh next to nothing and are very small.

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Gear Review: Guru Cache Paracord Spool Tool

Everybody should have 550 cord in their BOB, if you don’t have it or something similar you are wrong.  The question I see is what is the best way to store it?  Traditionally I have stored 550 cord looped and secured with a sinnet knot.Knot1  That lets me take out what I need without getting the cord tangled up but it is not the ideal solution.  I have wanted some sort of spool device like you sometimes get with fishing line or kite cordage for a while now and I finally found one a few weeks ago surfing the net. Spooltool # 1

It is a ParaCord Spool Tool from Guru’s Cache.  This turns out to be just the thing I was looking for.  It easily holds 100′ of 550 cord and you could probably fit 125′ on there if you wanted to.  It has multiple features:

  1. A clip that fits a mini-Bic© lighter
  2. Razor cutting tool
  3. Multiple size burn slots for 550 cord
  4. Integrated hole for attachment with a karabiner.
  5. Two starter holes for attaching the cord prior to spooling

Using it is very simple and straightforward.  There are two starter holes in the center and you simply thread the cord through and tie an overhand knot to secure the end of the cord.  Then wind the cord around the spool.  Keep the cord tight as you wind to keep the bulk of the end result down.  It does not effect unspooling  if you do this.  When you need a length of cord simply unspool the amount you need, cut it with the cutting tool, set it into the desired burner slot, then seal it with the lighter from the integrated clip.

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This is a deceptively simple tool and one I am surprised more people have not thought of and manufactured before.  The tool is constructed of high impact, high density plastic that should be pretty durable.  The design is very well thought out. The razor cutter is actually a standard razor blade such as is normally found in a box knife and it can be replaced easily by the removal of two screws.  Attention was paid to detail in the design as is evidenced by the detent on the lighter storage clip to prevent the gas button on the light from being pressed while it is stored and the addition of a spare screw for the razor retainers.  As my readers are aware from my other gear reviews, I am all about finding domestically made products and am even willing to pay a little more to support my fellow countrymen.  This  tool is not only Made in the USA, it is made by a small business and has a lifetime warranty.  That does not affect my recommendation though, what does is that this is one of those products that once you have it you wonder why nobody else has been making one before now.  This is an invaluable addition to my BOB as it is light, compact, and makes getting the right length of cord without a mess easy and fast.  I highly recommend the ParaCord Spool Tool as an invaluable addition to every prepper’s BOB.


Sawyer Mini Filter use experiment update:

I have been drinking the water out of the creek behind my house for the last week using the Sawyer Mini Filter and so far no sign of ill health. I have even stirred up the water a few times to get silty water to run through the filter. I will say that silt clogs the filter up faster but it still comes out nice and clean and backwashing the filter is extremely simple with the included big-bore syringe.

I would say that if you have this filter, like any other, you need a pre filter method to get the bigger particles out before you run the water through the filter. I have an old army cravat hat I have used as a pre filter and it gets the worst mud and garbage out of the water and is easy to rinse off and shake out.

I am also not totally impresses with the included water bag. It is made of very stiff plastic and I can envision it getting very brittle when used in the cold. you also have to ensure the filter itself does not freeze or the crystallizing water will destroy the fibers in the filter but the filter itself is so small it will easily fit into an interior jacket pocket where it won’t freeze.

So far I am fairly pleased with the Sawyer Mini Filter but will reserve judgement until I have used it for a few more weeks. It is supposed to have a filter life of 100,000 gallons with proper care and maintenance, which is essentially forever. I would guess that average water consumption in a temperate climate is roughly two gallons a day. That equates to 50,000 days, or almost 137 years. In Iraq we planned on 5 gallons per man, per day and sometimes exceeded that but even at 5 gallons a day that is a service life of 54 years 9 months.

I have a video I am putting together of using the Sawyer Mini Filter and hope to have it up next week if I can get the time to finish the editing and a full review will be forthcoming but I wanted to put out an update on how this experiment is going.

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter: Initial Thoughts

I got my Sawyer Mini Water Filter filter last week and finally had the time to play around with it. Here are my initial impressions:

I have a few LifeStraw Personal Water Filters in in my BOB and GOTH kits right now but they are not very versatile and once used they are shot out. That is, once they get clogged you are SOL because then the only thing you can do is throw them away. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is fairly long and kind of bulky and you have to keep it sealed until you are ready to use it, which makes packing and handling of it kind of a chore. I am happy with them and will keep the Lifestraw in my vehicle kit but I wanted something more versatile for my ruck based GOTH that I tote around every day.

While doing some research on alternatives I found the Sawyer website and ran across their description of the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. This is a fairly small, all in one water filter that most importantly for me, you can backwash when it gets clogged instead of having to discard it and be shit out of luck for a water filter. They are fairly economical at roughly $20, which is comparable to the price for the LifeStraw per filter and each filter comes as a complete kit with filter, straw, 16 oz. bag, and backwash syringe.

IMG_2967The whole set up takes up no more space than a LifeStraw and seems to be much more versatile. The filter unit itself has nipples at both ends sized so you can make it an inline filter on a camelback or similar hydration system if you wanted to. It also comes with a bag that you can fill with the water to be purified and then attach dIMG_2968irectly to the filter unit. Supposedly you can just squeeze the bag to force the water through the unit and drink directly from the filer unit similar to how a Lifestraw works.

So far I am impressed but I have not used my unit yet. That testing will come today as I will filter and drink some of the water out of the creek that flows past my backyard. I will make a video and post it as well as writing my thoughts on how easy the Sawyer mini is to use. I am going to stir the IMG_2969water up initially so I get some pretty silty water out and then test the efficiency of backwashing the filter. It seems fairly idiot proof as instructions for both use and backwashing are on the bag that comes with it. The only thing that concerns me right now is a prominent warning on the packaging about nor letting your filter unit freeze because that destroys the filter medium. The unit is so small that I don’t really see that as a problem as you could easily put the unit inside your jacket in the cold months to keep it from freezing.IMG_2970

If this works as advertised I think I have found my new GOTH/BOB water filter as the versatility of the filter is not something I have seen in another packable filter unit. That final determination is yet to come though. I expect to post next week on how my experiment worked out.

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