Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 2011 Gear Check

Its always good to check out the gear that you would use during the Zombie Apocalypse. And its a good excuse to have some fun camping! So, without further ado, here is our most recent gear check from a weekend camping trip into the central Idaho mountains.

Condor Summit Tactical Soft Shell Jacket

I tried out my Condor Summit Tactical Soft Shell Jacket that I had bought recently (it has been unusually wet and cold this year). My hope was for a jacket that I could comfortably use as a light jacket (wind breaker), but still be water-proof. The jacket I bought was black, but they have other colors including tan and coyote brown.

First, let me explain what I was replacing. My prior jacket was a poncho-style outer shell made by Helly Hanson, although the particular model is no longer available (the most similar current model seems to be their Vortex jacket). I liked that it was light-weight and would pack into its own front pocket. I also liked the extra flap on the front of the hood to keep rain off my glasses. However, my gripe with it was that it was not as good as I liked at venting inside moisture, such as from sweat. If the weather was warm, or I engaged in a moderate amount of activity, I ended up being almost as wet as if I hadn't used it in the first place. I needed something more breathable.

My first attempt at a replacement was a Mad Dog Growler uninsulated camouflage jacket. It seemed to breath better than the H/H jacket, and worked great in the rain, but I quickly realized that I didn't want to be wearing camo all of the time. Sort of makes you stick out at your favorite coffee shop, if you know what I mean.

So, I then moved to the Condor jacket, as it seemed "tacticool" but still uptight enough that I could wear it to work on a rainy day. Also, it wasn't a budget buster.

As the sales literature notes, it uses a three layer system: a polyester outer shell, a "breathable film membrane" that is supposed to keep water out, but allow body moisture to pass (similar to Gor-tex), and a fleece inner layer. While I wasn't doing any heavy labor with it, I think it breaths better than the other two jackets. Temperatures were getting into the mid-40s where we were camping, and it seemed to be warm enough (and I think if I had been wearing a hat and long pants I would have been toasty warm even without a fire).

The jacket has plenty of pockets: upper arm pockets on both sleeves, and a lower arm pocket on the left sleeve; a large side pocket on both the right and left sides of the jacket (which has lots of small pockets to pack a wallet or other gear into) which is partially accessible from the inside of the jacket (the inside liner also have a cross-cut access hole to pass wires for your VOX transmitter (or iPod)); and a pocket on the lower back of the jacket that is accessible from either side. All pockets zipper shut. The jacket also included a hood that rolls up and stuffs into the collar (Since it didn't rain, I didn't try out the hood).

The jacket has a pretty cool venting system. There are zippers in each underarm area that can be unzipped to allow air circulation. Also, the rear pocket I mentioned--it is made of mesh, so if you unzip both sides, it will also allow some air circulation along your lower back.

There are a couple other features worth noting. First, it comes with velcro attachment points on each upper arm for the velcro backed patches. My jacket is now sporting a Zombie Hunter patch. Second, the back of the jacket is longer than the front (similar to biking jackets) to keep your waste covered even if you are bending forward. Now for those of you who like "crack," this may be a disadvantage....

There are a couple downsides with the jacket. If you are use to sticking your hands in side pockets to warm your fingers, you are out of luck. The standard outside pockets on each side are missing. You could probably use the large side pockets I discussed above, but it seems a little awkward. Also, there is no storm flap on the front zipper. I don't know if this will be a problem since the zippers are pretty tight, but I thought I would note it.

Finally--and this is a big issue--try the jacket on if you can. I think they modeled these on anorexic pygmies. I had to buy a size larger than normal to fit decently (an XXL instead of an XL). If you are planning on using anything heavier than a base-layer or a regular shirt under this jacket, or want to use a shoulder-holster or similar upper-body carry system for a handgun, you will probably need two-sizes larger than normal. (Frankly, if the store I was at carried an XXXL, I probably would have bought it, but since this will likely be used as a middle-layer, it isn't a big deal).

I will update this review once I get a chance to use the jacket in rain.

Swedish Fire Steel

Another new product I tried was the scout model of the Swedish Fire Steel. It worked great, in that it created lots of sparks. However, the user didn't work so well. I was trying to light the fire with dried moss (old man's beard) as a tinder, but couldn't get it to light. (In retrospect, I probably should have ground it up so it was finer). After several minutes, I finally gave it up as a lost cause and used a match, and had a good roaring fire in a few minutes. So, the lesson here is to practice with your equipment so you can use it under stress.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Odds and Ends

I came across this today at SniperCentral: a sniper simulation game. I haven't had a chance to play it, but will give it a shot in the near future.

Good advice here: "How Everything Goes to Hell During a Zombie Apocalypse".

Finally, at the Art of Manliness, a DIY zombie apocalypse shotgun. I do have a slight problem with the bayonet/knife--it doesn't extend past the end of the barrel!!! Of course, it doesn't look like its really up to the task of splitting zombie skulls. Additional criticism here. A couple commentators at the last link suggest the M-1 Garand with the original 18 inch bayonet. May be a good discussion for the next meeting.