In years past, Outdoor Retailer hasn't been a particularly fertile ground for me, SHOT Show is generally where the big influx of new gear comes. However, this year there were quite a few interesting new products in Salt Lake. Combined with the TracMe excitement, it was a very busy four days.
The new gear is not presented in any particular order. Prices quoted are manufacturer's suggested retail price as provided and rounded to the nearest whole dollar. In some cases, items will not be available until much later this year or next year. When we have been given an expected production date, we have included it, but manufacturers often miss such targets.
SPOT Inc., a subsidiary of Globalstar, the satellite phone system provider, introduced its subscription-based SPOT Satellite Messenger at O.R. SPOT is being promoted as a multi-purpose tool that can used as a distress beacon as well as providing options to request help without a full blown Search and Rescue (SAR) response. SPOT can also be used to notify friends, family or associates that you are okay and as a means to track your location (only if you initiate the tracking).
SPOT utilizes a GPS receiver (accurate to within 20 ft. according to SPOT) and a Globalstar satellite transmitter. Like current 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), all communication is one way, but SPOT offers a lot more flexibility in what and how you communicate. As such, it provides some obvious potential advantages over a PLB, being a multi-purpose communications tool. With regards its distress alerting capability, the jury is still out on that aspect. So, let's take a first look at the technology and see what the pros and cons are and how it compares, bearing in mind that we have yet to actually test the device and all we've seen are prototypes at OR.
Due to the length of this First Look report, it has been placed on its own page. Click here to read the full First Look SPOT Satellite Messenger report.
Procter and Gamble have teamed up with Reliance Products, perhaps best known for their water storage products, to commercialize their PUR Purifier of Water humanitarian disinfection product that has been used extensively in the third world and for disaster relief since 2003. P&G's Childeren's Safe Drinking Water program is designed to prevent sickness and death from unsafe drinking water that is a serious issue in many third world countries. It has proven effective both at its primary mission and to spread goodwill. P&G provide the product at its cost to non-profit humanitarian groups.
PUR Purifier of Water (PPOW - what a mouthful) is a combination of flocculating and coagulating agents and a chlorine based disinfectant. The flocculating and coagulating agents pulls most of the organic and sediment contamination from the water which also capture cysts and the like at the same time, while the chlorine goes on to disinfect any other bacteria and viral bugs that remain. In many respect this duplicates the standard treatment for domestic water supplies in the first world, including most in the U.S. Get the sediment and organics out of the way and then treat with chlorine.
This is also similar in action to the Chlor-Floc water treatment used by the U.S. military and also available commercially. PPOW currently suffers from a similar drawback, it is packaged for treatment of large quantities of water, 10 liters or about 2.5 gallons. Unlike the Chlor-Floc tablets, however, it is easy to use only part of the packet of powder, though we were told that it would not be a good idea to save leftovers for any length of time, it is designed to be used immediately when the packet is opened.
The Clean Drinking Water Kit comes with two collapsible 2.5 gallon Reliance containers, one for dirty water, one for clean, a stirrer, cloth for filtering, 3 packets of the PPOW and a safety cutter to easily open the packets. The EPA requires that the packets not be easy to open to protect children, so some means to cut open the packet is necessary, or at least preferred.
Disinfection is straightforward. Pour the PPOW into the water to be treated and stir for 5 minutes (which can be interrupted, but must be 5 minutes total). As you stir, the flocculating and coagulating agents do their thing and the water starts to clear a bit. After stirring let the water settle for five minutes and the organic material and sediment captured settle to the bottom of the container and the water is virtually clear. You then pour the water into the clean water container through the cloth filter and leave it to sit for 20 minutes. While they provide a cloth, something as simple as a t-shirt will do. That's it.
The end result tastes about like most municipal water that comes out of the tap with a very slight chlorine taste. If you are one of the majority of Americans who drink such water, you probably wouldn't even notice it.
The complete Clean Drinking Water Kit will be $29. A box of 6 packets and a filter cloth will be $15. That's pretty inexpensive as far as chemical water treatment goes, about 25 cents a quart/liter, no doubt less on the street. You don't need to purchase the kit if you already have containers you can use (for example, they used a bucket to demo the product since it was clear and easier to see it working) and a stick works as well as the provided stirrer.
Besides P&G putting any profit from the production and sale of PPOW to Reliance into their humanitarian program, Reliance will also contribute the cash equivalent of a day's supply of PPOW for one child for every PPOW product (kit or box of packets) they sell. The Reliance donation will go to PSI. Sales will commence as soon as all state approvals are received, estimated to be around the end of this year or early 2008.
I asked if or when we might see a smaller packet size for treating individual amounts of water, like the typical 1 liter bottle. I was told that if this proves a commercial success, the
earliest we might expect to see a single serving size product will be 2
years. That may also be in a different form, such as a tablet.
When it comes to filters, the key words were "hollow fiber." First introduced by Sawyer, this technology is coming on strong. Its key advantage is a high flow rate, always a bugaboo for water filters.
Prismedical was at OR last year, hawking a repackaged version of their Mainstream filter designed to produce sterile water for medical uses in the field. The lesson they took home was they needed to go back to the drawing board and come up with a purpose-designed outdoor and military field product. This year they showed up with the Triton M series of water filters, garnering a lot more attention.
This is a modular design with components that can be used together or separately. Each is contained in an ABS plastic housing and they screw together as needed.
The most basic module uses hollow fiber technology to filter down to .3 microns absolute. With that limit, you'll still need a need a viral agent if that's a concern and they currently provide a small bottle of sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach to the rest of us) which is used to pre-treat the water, 3-4 drops per liter. Free chlorine test strips are included to assist the user in confirming viral inactivation. A tablet instead of liquid is a future possibility.
A carbon module uses activated granular carbon to improve taste, odor and clarity. It also targets volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides and herbicides. Activated carbon is particularly effective at removing chlorine, so that chlorine pre-treat will be eliminated. In other words, make sure you allow the pre-treat enough time to do its thing before you run it through the carbon module.
There's a "deionization resin" module that is claimed to reduce the amount of lead, arsenic and other chemicals and heavy metals.
Finally, there's a pre-filter module to get the large gunk out before it clogs the other modules.
Depending on the configuration, TRITON M systems can achieve flow rates of up to 1 liter per minute and volume output of approximately 500 liters. When the carbon module is added to the hollow fiber module the flow rate is .5 liters per minute. We were not provided the flow rates of all three modules, but it's probably safe to assume that the more modules, the slower the flow rate.
PRISMEDICAL is offering the product in five distinct configurations. Just to make matters more confusing, each is offered in both a blue housing, for the civilian market, and in a desert tan housing for the military and tactical markets. The product line includes:
The modules and systems range from just under 3 ounces to 13 ounces
TRITON MC Hydration Pack Water Filter ($40) includes only the Carbon module to improve the aesthetic quality of typical drinking water. At slightly over 6 inches in length and weighing less than 3 ounces, the MC is designed to be inserted into the drink tube of virtually any hydration pack or reservoir. The module is 5 x 1.8 inches and weighs 2.8 ounces.
TRITON M1 Hydration Pack Water Purification System ($60) includes the anti-virus treatment and the hollow fiber module. The M1 is also designed to be inserted into the drink tube of virtually any hydration pack or reservoir. The M1 also includes the anti-virus solution and the test strips.
TRITON M2 Hydration Pack Water Purification System ($80) adds the carbon module to the M1's hollow fiber module and anti-virus treatment. The two filters combined weigh 4.1 ounces. The M2 also includes the anti-virus solution and the test strips.
TRITON M2 Multi-Purpose Water Purification System ($100) is a gravity system that includes two 3-liter roll-top plastic bags (one for source water and another for collecting purified water) are added to the M2 filter combo along with a storage sack.
TRITON M2 Traveler is essentially the same as an M2 Multi-purpose, but uses smaller 1-liter source and clean water pouches. The Traveler’s 1 liter drinking water pouch has a pop-up drinking cap and stands on its own when filled with water. The Traveler also includes the anti-virus solution and the test strips. A nylon case keeps the filter modules, plastic bags, tubes and clamps, etc. organized for easy use. It is small enough to fit in a suitcase or carry on bag.
TRITON M3 Multi-purpose Water Purification System ("roughly" $115) includes all three modules (carbon, hollow fiber and resin), the anti-virus solution, test strips and the 3-liter bags and hoses.
Each configuration, except the Traveler and MC, also includes the pre-filter. The source and clean water bags are reputed to be tough enough to drive over without damage. They are not really designed as hydration packs, but it would be simple enough to use a hydration pack to replace the clean water bag.
The connecting hoses are less than a foot long, so it's apparently not necessary to have much head for the gravity filter configuration. A plastic pinch-off clamp is installed on both the inlet and outlet hoses.
The hoses are attached to the bags with quick connects, so it's easy to set up and take down the gravity filters. The one-liter clean water bag has a capped spout, but the three-liter clean water bag only had the inlet port for a hose. A capped spout is planned for the 3-liter bag as well.
PRISMEDICAL expect first deliveries in October.
Cascade Designs introduced two new filters using this technology, one a pump from MSR, the HyperFlow MicroFilter, the other a gravity filter. Both use the same filter element. The gravity filter is being offered in two different kits, one under the by MSR brand as the AutoFlow Gravity Filter, the other under the Platypus brand as the CleanStream Gravity Filter System. The filter is rated at 0.2 micron, absolute, so you'll still need to add chemicals if you are concerned about viruses.
Anyone who has used gravity filters in the past will testify that they have been very, very slow. As long as you have plenty of time, they would work, but don't you be in a hurry. This new gravity filter flows at 1.5 liters/minute, so a full four liter bag will take just 2.5 minutes to drain! It was pretty amazing to watch it in action in the demo at the booth, that's fast enough to watch the level drop as you're standing there. Supposedly, the rate isn't all that adversely affected by how dirty the water is, which is our experience with the hollow fiber filters.
The filter cartridge is rated for a life of 1500 liters. It cannot be disassembled; it is simply replaced as a unit. It was demonstrated how easy it is the clean by backflushing, no muss, no fuss. The filtered dirt in the demo was continually recycled by backflushing into the dirty reservoir for another demo. Weight of the filter alone (dry) is 4.23 oz. (120 g).
The Platy CleanStream includes a pair of 4-liter Platypus wide-mouth reservoirs, one marked "DIRTY," the other "CLEAN." The MSR kit includes Cordura Nylon coated with polyurethane reservoir (same as used in the MSR Hydromedary bags) with a roll top seal and a clear plastic window to see the water level. This is reportedly a bit more robust and abuse resistant than the Platypus bags. CD believes this will probably appeal to the hard core user, while the Platypus set-up will appeal to the weight and volume conscious.
The inline filter is contained in a cylindrical plastic housing with an inlet on one end, and outlet on the other end, red (for production) for the MSR and blue for Platypus. An inlet hose is designed to attach to the dirty water reservoir with a quick connect fitting. This makes it easy to set up and disassemble. The outlet hose for the MSR is fitted with a bottle adapter that will fit a customer supplied Nalgene style bottle or a MSR Dromedary bag, etc. The Platy outlet hose is fitted with a Play cap adapter to fit any of the Platy reservoirs. The outlet hose has a pinch style stainless steel shutoff clamp.
Both the Platy CleanStream and MSR AutoFlow will be $80 for the "kit" when available in January 2008. A replacement filter cartridge will be $40 and this could be used inline with your existing gear if desired.
The MSR HyperFlow MicroFilter ($100) is MSR's smallest and lightest filter and flows a lot of water per stroke. MSR claims 20-30 strokes per liter and is claimed to deliver 3 liters/minute. It is a direct pump style, which is a bit more awkward and requires more effort to pump than one with a lever handle, like the traditional MSR filters, but it flows so much water, it didn't seem like that would ever be a problem.
We tested it by pumping it a few times and the effort was not bad at all, considering how much water you get with each stroke. We are used to seeing a relatively thin stream of water come out the pump, but this is more like you turned on the tap at home (OK, maybe a little exaggeration).
The HyperFlow is just under half a pound, 7.4 ounces (10.5 oz for the whole kit including the bottle adapter) and is 7 inches long by 3.5 inches round (17.7 x 8.3 cm). MSR rates it at 1000 liters. A replacement cartridge is $40, replacement prefilter is $15 and the maintenance kit is $20
We asked about cleaning, which is accomplished by backflushing, and this is what MSR told us (we didn't have an opportunity to try it): "To backflush, the user needs to simply reverse two check valves and pump clean water back through the filter cartridge. Dirt can be seen being purged from the filter - continue pumping until the water flushes clear (approximately 0.5 Liter or so, depending on how long its been since the pump was backflushed, how dirty the water is, etc). Then open the filter and switch the two check valves back to their original positions (the valves should both face the direction of the water flow - towards the outlet for filtering, towards the inlet for backflushing) to continue filtering water." No tools are needed for complete disassembly of the filter.
The inlet is very large pancake style with an integral prefilter. MSR says it is able to pick up with as little as 0.25 inch of water, so just about any muddy puddle would work in a pinch. I was told that it will work with even less and could be used with small seeps, for example With that sort of flow rate, it becomes practical to just hook up to your hydration bladder hose and pump it full. It also comes with a 63mm Nalgene style bottle adapter.
Expect to see these in stores in January 2008.
As long as we are on the subject of Cascade Designs, the entire line of Platypus Hydration reseviors and bottles has been re-engineered. The the new models will be introduced in 2008, some earlier, some in Spring. The new bags are much more flexible, not as stiff as what we have become accustomed to. It feels much better in the hand, the edges are not so hard, which was always a wear and comfort issue. Polyurethane is now used for the outer layer and is reported to be more durable in addtion to the flexibility is provides. The the inner liner is a metallocene polyethylene with an "anti-slime" coating. This represents a major upgrade of materials.
They also addressed some ongoing issues and made some nice ergonomic improvements. The new Platypus bottles will have a molded in handle. The new Hoser has a hanging loop built in.
The Platy Big Zip SL hydration bladder now incorporates a quick-disconnect fitting for the hose, which means it is easy to remove the bladder without having to unthread the hose and then rethread it again. The Big Zip's wide mouth zipper closure top is now equipped with a plastic slider that ensures it will not come open, as has occasionally occurred. You can use the slider to close the Zip top closure, or close it conventionally with your fingers and then just slide it over.
All in all, looks like some very worthwhile improvements.
McNett's Aquamira Frontier Pro ($20) is a follow on to their Frontier Emergency straw configuration filter previously introduced and uses the same filter element which filters to 3 microns absolute (NOT 0.3 microns) using a "porous plastic" filter cartridge. While 3 microns will catch the larger bugs, it certainly isn't on par with the typical 0.1 and 0.2 micron filters that are considered the standard for serious filters.
There is a pre-filter and each filter includes an additional 3 replacement pre-filters. You unscrew the end to install. There's no provision for cleaning or replacing the primary filter, the entire unit is disposable. McNettt rate it at 50 gallons.
The filter is 5.5 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter. Weight is 4 ounces. Besides the gray shown, an orange bodied version is also expected.
It has an integral bite valve and a cap to cover it. The cap is attached via the same rubber that encases the outside of the housing, so it cannot be easily lost. You pull the cap up past the top of the valve, stretching the rubber, and then set it over to the side.
The inlet side can either attach to a typical hydration system hose or can be screwed onto a typical water bottle or water bladder with a 28mmm thread, like a Platy reservoir.
The Frontier Pro is expected to be available in September.
Essential Gear gets the nod for having the coolest little gadget at OR, their eGear Dyno-Mite 2-LED key chain flashlight ($7.00). Pretty much everyone who saw it either said, "cool!" or "wow!" It weighs in at 15 grams (0.5 oz) and is available in multiple body colors.
There's a small rechargeable battery that the dynamo crank charges up. It seems to get about 4 to 5 minutes of light per minute of cranking, depending upon how fast you crank. That is a decent enough ratio to make it practical for limited use. The instructions are very specific, limit your cranking to 90 turns per minute and no more than 2 minutes at a time, or you'll overheat and damage the mechanism. Allow it to cool down for 1-2 minutes and then you're good to go again. We weren't able to determine what the maximum run time was off the battery at full charge or how much cranking was required to get there.
Unlike some dynamo lights, these LEDs were quite bright and provide plenty of light. I'm not sure how durable this light will be, but it is fun for however long it lasts. I predict this will be very popular as a promotional giveaway.
Beyond that, one beef I have with most of the dynamo lights, beyond having to crank or sqeeze them to make them work, is they are too big and bulky for any modest advantage they might possibly offer over a lithium battery
powered light in long storage situations. So this definitely solves that problem, though it's admittedly not all that robust a light. eGear also showed a somewhat larger and more robust light, the 3-LED Palm Light ($10). It's a more practical iteration of the concept, but still small enough to be
unobtrusive and easily packed away for an emergency. It also includes a 5 volt DC out port, which can be used to charge a cell phone.
At the Photon booth, David Allen had a couple new lights to show off and another item of important news. In reverse order, he was very excited over the prospect of introducing a new, even brighter 5mm white LED to all the lights in the line. David tells us that these new Nichia LEDs will be exclusive to Photon initially. As with the last LED upgrade, this one is claimed to once again almost double the light output compared to the existing Photon lights! And, once again, also does so with no appreciable increase in battery drain. You just got to love this sort of incredible advance in the technology. Photon will make this a running transition starting in September.
The new ReX ($30) is the first rechargeable Photon and the first inherently rechargeable truly key chain sized flashlight. However, key chain size doesn't mean it's as small as the conventional Photon. As can be seen from the photos (click here to see a size comparison), it's quite a bit larger. It's also thicker and it weighs double the Photon Freedom at 14 grams (0.49 ounce) (without any accessories like the clip attached). But, it's smaller, in many cases much smaller, compared to the auto remotes we all carry. So, it's still small enough to be easily carried.
The charging system is about as compact as possible. The circuitry is built into the light, so it's just a matter of hooking up and charging the lithium-ion battery. David's solution is a keyed plastic adapter (only fits one way) with gold plated magnetic contacts and two short wires with gold-plated rare-earth magnets on the end. Simply connect the magnets to the positive and negative terminals of any 6 volt or less battery (typical AA through D-cell size or CR-123 for example, but not a 9v) and it charges the light.
You will get only about 2 charges out of alkaline AAs, much more out of larger batteries. It'll work off rechargeable batteries as well and David recommends using nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as the best choice. Using these, he says the cost per charge comes down to less than 1/3 of a penny, plus you're helping the environment. He estimates using a D-cell costs about 6 cents a charge. Either way, that's a whole lot less than the considerable cost of the typical coin cell lithium batteries.
To be the most efficient, you have to keep track of how many time's you have used the source battery. It would be helpful if Photon included a chart showing typical charges per type and size of battery. That would make it easier.
When hooked up and charging, the LEDs flash very dimly. As it charges up the flashing slows and eventually it stops when fully charged. Time from fully discharged to fully charged is approximately 2 hours and the ReX will get pretty warm as it charges. Because the lithium-ion battery has a very flat discharge rate, you will get virtually full brightness even off a very short charge, it just won't last as long. So, this offers some flexibility, you don't have to wait for it to be fully charged.
Expect about 300-500 charge cycles from the battery, depending upon whether you charge it when it's partially discharged or allow it to discharge further before recharging. After that point it will start to have shorter operating life on a full charge, just like your typical cell phone.
You will get about 1.5 hours of full brightness light out of each full charge, then a modest decrease for a half hour, but still very bright, according to David, and up to 48 hours at the dimmest setting. After about 2.5 - 3 hours the ReX will provide about the same amount of light as the current Photon Freedom single LED light.
The wires wind around the adapter and the battery contacts are held in place by friction. David emphasized the considerable effort that's gone into ensuring the adapter and wires withstand the abuse they are likely to see. Each thin 22 gauge wire has 56 individual copper strands and a silicone rubber sheath for maximum flexibility. The contacts are also covered in silicone rubber and incorporate a strain relief.
We also saw prototypes of a planned USB adapter, so you can charge it off your computer, as well as a small solar charger only a couple inches square. With the USB adapter there is enough power to charge the light and use it as well, so after charging instead of turning it off when fully charged, it turns it on.
David also showed off a headband with a clip that will allow hands-off use (image left). You can also double up the headband and use it as an arm band. These will be available as separate accessories. There are no plans for a clip like for the smaller Photons, it would be too bulky to provide a similar range of motion and the ReX itself is not exactly tiny, so weight beomes an issue.
The ReX is equipped with four 5mm white LEDs. These will be the new brighter LEDs discussed above from the start of production, expected to be in late Fall. Control is via a glow-in-the-dark soft-touch rubber button with the same Freedom digital circuitry as the Photon Freedom. That means a wide range of light levels, ramping up or down, plus SOS, Morse code momentary and flashing beacon modes. The tactile feel of the button is great with a definite "click" for function.
We also saw the late prototype of the updated single AA-cell Proton Pro. This replaces the multi-LED array with a single 2-watt Cree LED and a PMMA (polymethylmethacrylate) lens. It still retains a red LED for night vision protection and the same control circuitry; click and ramp down for white light and hold and ramp up for red. Unfortunately, the Proton Pro retains the same button on the side of the body. We'd prefer a tailcap switch, or something less likely to switch on in a pocket.
The new Cree LED provides 2-3 times the light output of the
original Proton array, depending upon how you measure it, with identical
battery life, a nice gain. Look for deliveries early next year with no
increase in price.
MSR's E-Wing ($80) was designed as an emergency one-person tarp shelter. Very lightweight at six ounces, it comes factory compressed into a sil-nylon stuff sack a bit smaller than a soda can (see photo right, Cascade Designs President, Joe Mc Swiney, holding the E-Wing in his hand with it set up in the background), 2.5 x 4.5 inches (6.35 x 11.43 cm). Shades of those compressed washcloths, it's about as hard a rock; it would hurt if you hit someone with it, but they have succeeded in making it as compact as possible. If it's small enough and light enough, then you might carry it with you and it'll be there when you need it. It would save you a huge amount of time and energy over assembling a shelter from natural materials, a significant advantage in an emergency or survival situation.
The shape is an elongated hexagon. It can be setup using trekking poles or sticks to form a ridge or lean-to, or by tying off guy cords to a convenient tree, bush or similar object. There are 8 reinforced tie-off and staking loops, one on each of the six corners and two along the centerline, allowing for versatile setup.
Since you'll never get it back into the original stuff sack, it also includes a more conventional sized one for after you've used the shelter (hanging from the left-hand pole in the photo). Material is yellow ripstop sil-nylon. The E-Wing will be available in January 2008.
Generally associated with the mass market end of the market for packs and camping gear, Outdoor Products has come up with what appears to be a well-thought out concept for preparedness (survival) kits. Marketing these under the name SAFEGUARD Emergency Preparedness, the kits are built around a modular packaging concept that is designed to make it easy to find the gear and supplies you need.
The kits range from three "cube" modules for individuals to a large rolling 7 cube kit, plus extra gear, for four people. Prices range from $80 to $300, but I expect to see them discounted way below that. Very reasonable pricing. There are a variety of basic modular cubes such as First Aid & Anti-Exposure, Tools & Gear and Food & Water. Each cube is like a binder and opens up to reveal a pair of netted pockets, one each side, to hold the components. It opens and closes like a book. The modules are clearly labeled on the "spine" with black text on yellow background.
While the concept is great, one thing I disliked about the packaging was the color of the containers. Black is not the best color for emergency or preparedness gear. While the bright yellow front is easy enough to see, if the front is hidden, it becomes a much less conspicuous container with only the small yellow logo on the sides being particularly visible, and even that was missing on the largest kit. If they insist on black, then perhaps use a much larger logo so it isn't easily hidden or missed.
Each kit is contained in a nylon pack with a see-though clear plastic top. The top zips open and folds back for easy access. The four-module Two-Person Kit converts into a backpack. The Four-Person kit has grip handles, wheels and an extension handle, like a piece of rolling luggage.
A cursory examination revealed a mixture of good quality and middling quality gear, better in many respects than we have come to expect from most commercially assembled kits. I was pleasantly surprised to see little that stood out as real junk, which is a welcome sight indeed. We hope to get some samples and will provide a full rundown on the components when we do. In the meantime, this is one of the best preparedness kit concepts I've seen in a long time.
For some circumstances, it makes sense to get your gear into as compact a package as possible. Aviation is a prime example. You put up with the lack of easy access to specific gear to save space and weight.However, for most residential or office type preparedness kits, you can afford to give up that compactness in exchange for making it so much easier to get to the gear you need.
It would be nice if they would also offer the containers and
cubes modules empty at a reasonable price. For a lot of people who already own
a good preparedness kit, this would allow them to better organize it.
Leatherman showed off their new Skeletool in both plain and fancy dress, the Skeletool ($72) and Skeletool CX ($96). They are scheduled to start shipping in November. "Skeletool" was originally shown in prototype form at SHOT Show earlier this year as the "Freestyle." Despite the name change, there will still be a Freestyle, but it will be a more basic version of the Skeletool that will be introduced at a later date.
The basics of the tool have not changed much since the prototype we reviewed in our Shot Show 2007 Report, so I won't go over those elements again except for where the production version has changed. There's no titanium version that was rumored, at least not yet.
The Skeletool CX incorporates carbon fiber on the frame and the stainless steel frame and blade are coated in black Tungsten DLC scratch-resistant Coating. The combination makes this the classiest looking production Leatherman by far. The Skeletool has a satin finish all stainless frame.
The blade shape remains the same, a cross between a drop point and clip point. It is easy to open via the large opening hole. The Skeletool has Leatherman's standard 420HC stainless, the Skeletool CX gets 154-CM stainless, but unfortunately, unlike that shown in the photos, will come with a combo edge partially serrated blade. Just when you start to get a little excited about a product, they mess it up.
The bit holder is equipped with a rocking button style lock to lock the bit in place, which is an excellent addition. No more easily losing the bit. The pre-production units were a bit difficult to operate, recessed too far to easily press down, but we're told minor changes are planned for production that will make it much easier to use. To use the screwdriver, the tool must be unfolded, which works just fine.
The pocket clip looks good, but is a bit on the narrow side; we'll have see how well that works in the long term use. Narrow clips have been known to accelerate pocket wear compared to wider clips. It will differ slightly from that shown on these pre-production models by having a bit more upturn at the tip to ease slipping over the pocket. Based on a very brief test in my pocket, my initial reaction is that it seemed to carry fairly comfortably, like the medium frame pocket knife for which it is designed to substitute. The clip is right hand only and not removable. Being so thin, not being able to remove the clip isn't as big an issue as it is with some knives with bulky clips. I barely noticed it in the hand.
I'm inclined to think that the clip will prove a lot more useful and functional for carry than the built-in carabineer/bottle opener at the end of the one handle. I rarely see knives with carbineers for EDC; that seems to be a narrow niche. No sheath is offered, this is been positioned strictly a pocket tool, a pocket knife replacement, really. It's much thinner than a Charge, for example, and I don't see the need for a sheath.
The pliers jaws have some very shallow lightening recesses, though how much weight they actually save can't be much, they are very shallow. But, they do look cool. The design engineer we spoke with said that these smaller and thinner pliers still retain about 80% of the strength of the pair of pliers on the Wave/Charge (view comparison).
While the Skeletool doesn't appeal to me, I'm a traditionalist that prefers a folder with a robust blade and a fully equipped multi-purpose tool, there's little doubt in my mind that they will find a ready market for this concept. It is a practical and functional compromise for someone who wants to carry only a single tool in their pocket that serves most of their likely needs. Add pliers and screwdrivers to a knife and you've covered most of the bases for most folks. In many respects, the Skeletool is the closest tool conceptually to a traditional Swiss Army Knife that Leatherman has produced to date.
Victorinox introduced camo versions (in Victorinox's miniaturized take on the Swiss alpenflage pattern without the red) of the 111mm Adventurer ($39), Hunter($49) and Outrider ($59), the latter two with a Phillips screwdriver instead of a corkscrew. Surprisingly, to me, no camo One-Hand Trekker.
The 84mm Cadet ($30) is now being offered in five new anodized colors: red, black, gunmetal, autumn orange and olive green.
Tie-dye is back (and I'm afraid I'm old enough to remember the first time around), and Victorinox climbs on board with four tie-dyed color variations of the Classic ($18.50)
They have dressed up the SwissTool Spirit S in black oxidized finish ($95), as well as black anodized versions of their LED flashlights (manufactured by the INNOVA folks) with a silver Swiss cross. Very classy, not at all tactical looking. The lights have also been upgraded to more powerful LEDs, 2 and 4.8 watt, respectively ($35 and $50).
Finally, a portion of the sales from the translucent pink
versions of the Classic SD and SwissCard will now be donated to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure organization supporting breast cancer research,
support and advocacy.
Benchmade also got with the pink, showing off a pink handled
model 556 Mini-Griptilian. All the excellent attributes of the Mini-Grip remain, including the 2.9-inch 154 CM blade and Axis Lock. Only the handle color changes. Every female friend I showed a photo to said, "I want one." A portion of the sales will be donated to the Breast Health Education Program at the Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Institute (read the Benchmade Press Release).
Buck Knive's model 761 Twin Peaks ($45) is similar in concept and design to the 760 Summet, replacing the screwdriver with a one-hand opening 1.75 inch Wharncliff plain edge blade. The can opener morphed into a combination bottle opener/screwdriver, which works for Phillips or flathead screws. The liner locking main blade remains a 2.5 inch partially serrated drop point. All three open with a thumb stud. Both blades are 420HC stainless steel. Plus, don't forget to bring the wine, it's got a corkscrew.
There's an lanyard loop integrated into the liner. Thermoplastic handles are contoured and textured. Length closed is 4 inches and it weighs 3.5 oz.
I suppose the biggest news with Ultimate Survival is that they were at the show to begin with. After the bankruptcy of the old Survival, Inc., the new renamed company is not only back in production with the old favorites, they have plans for new gear as well.
First up are the reintroduction of an orange StrikeForce, a new translucent orange Blastmatch and a new Jetscream Whistle, with prototypes shown here. The whistle especially is an early prototype and we were told may differ significantly from that shown.
We were also told that they are planning smaller versions of
both the StrikeForce and Blastmatch fire starters. Those would be very welcome
as these products' biggest drawbacks have been their large bulk and weight. In
addition, we saw prototypes of some new survival kits, so things are looking up
at Ultimate Survival.
Multi-fuel stoves make a lot of sense from a preparedness standpoint, providing more options for situations where you don't know what fuel will be available. Heretofore, that meant multiple types of liquid fuels (white gas (Coleman fuel), unleaded gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel, etc.). Two companies showed off multi-fuel stoves at OR that would also work with commonly available industry standard gas canisters.
The Coleman Exponent Denali Expedition ($175 - top in photo right) requires two different adapters for either gas or liquid fuels which connect to the stove's fuel hose with a quick connect. Brunton's Vapor AF ($149 - bottom in photo right) has a single adapter that converts between the two fuel types. It does not require the user to replace any jets or take anything apart to switch between fuel types. A simple turn of the burner cup adjusts the fuel to air mix.
The Denali weighs in at 20.1 ounces with both adapters, the Vapor AF is 16 ounces. Both are rated to support an eight-inch pot.
The Denali is rated at 14,500 BTUs on canister fuel, 11,000
on Coleman fuel and 10,000 on kerosene. Brunton claims 12,000 BTUs on canister
fuel and 10,000 BTUs on liquid fuels.
Waterproof containers that allow you to store and carry small items are always intriguing. The new imported (Israel) line of Blue Desert Keep2Go containers might fit the bill. These are waterproof translucent PET plastic tubes (vials?) with a screw-on top. The top has a 0.5 inch (13 mm) hole to attach a lanyard or carabineer.
The tubes and caps are available in multiple colors and three sizes, 40, 60 and 80 ml (1.3, 2 and 2.7 ounces). Each comes with black braided lanyard with a cord lock, but it isn't a safety lanyard. All will be priced at $5 each.
The Keep2Go tubes are food safe and will also hold liquids and are sized so you could use them to carry liquids on the airlines; they are all under the TSA's 3 ounce maximum (though the large one is close enough that you might get hassled by their inconsistent enforcement agents).
The cap threads also fit most commercial water bottles. That also means that many commercial water bottle caps will fit the tubes. I just love their illustration using a push-pull sport cap on one of the tubes labeled as alcohol--rubbing alcohol, of course.
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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: August 18, 2007
Revision: 03 October 20, 2007
© 2007 Douglas S. Ritter & Equipped To Survive Foundation, Inc.
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