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August 31, 2006

September is National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month according to the U.S. government. A whole pantheon of organizations are joining together to promote preparedness, from the expected, such as Homeland Security and the Red Cross, to some you likely never heard of.

Perhaps a little publicity, nightly news stories and community led efforts will help jump start those who seem inclined to procrastinate or simply ignore their responsibility. It is a responsibility, after all. Beyond being responsible for yourself and your family, its also a responsibility to society. While individual tragedies are horrific when disaster strikes, the cost to our community and country is huge, and far higher than it ought to be. The tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and September 11 are still vivid in our memory, but has it motivated you to do anything? Preparedness is everyone’s personal responsibility.

As noted last month, a recent Time article, Why We Don’t Prepare, chronicled how few people are prepared or feel even the need to do so. They not only cheat themselves, they cheat their neighbors and we all, every one of us, pay the price. I am so tired of paying for their failure to take responsibility for themselves.

American's At Risk coverSince then, other similar articles and the like have been appearing. Diane Rehm had Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and author of “Americans at Risk” on her show August 25th. Redlener is highly critical of government preparedness efforts since 9/11 and while he a bit over the top at times, as many pundits are, this interview might be enlightening and the book makes for a good read and makes solid points for the most part, even if it is a wee bit politicized and somewhat hyperbolic at times. Purchase “American’s At Risk” through this link and support the Equipped To Survive Foundation.

Max Mayfield, the retiring chief of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center discusses his fears in an article that appeared on MSNBC, “Megadisaster is coming.” As Mayfield points out, a recent study found that “60 percent of people in hurricane-prone U.S. coastal areas have no hurricane plan.” He goes on to say ““I think the day is coming. I think eventually we’re going to have a very powerful hurricane in a major metropolitan area worse than what we saw in Katrina and it’s going to be a megadisaster. With lots of lost lives.”

In the event you are reading this little diatribe and have not yet taken steps to be prepared, let me exhort you to get your proverbial you-know-what in gear and get with the program. Being prepared for a disaster is no different than buckling your seatbelt, it’s the only rational thing to do to help yourself. The Equipped To Survive web site is a great place to start and we’ve got the perfect article to get you going, how to prepare your own 72-Hour Kit. It’s neither expensive nor difficult, especially if you do it over time.

Most of you reading this are already believers. You are already members of the Church of Preparedness, so to speak. The question then becomes, how do you make converts of the others around you, those who snicker at your Every Day Carry gear, your trunk full of preparedness gear and supplies and your Bug Out Bag?

I wish I had a really effective answer, but it is difficult. It seems that it is human nature for a significant percentage, apparently a majority, of people to stick their head in the sand. Given that unfortunate reality, the best one can do is to lead by example.

Beyond that, take advantage of every opportunity that the news provides to point out how much less tragic the news would be had those involved been better prepared. The sad thing is, there’s no shortage of examples to point to, so you won’t run out of opportunities to make your point. However, be careful not to come across as a fanatic, make your points in a low key manner and use humor when possible. You’ll only turn people off if you sermonize or are condescending.

Being a missionary for the Church of Preparedness can be a thankless job at times, but it is through such efforts that the blind will be led to see the truth: Preparedness is everyone’s personal responsibility.

August 28, 2006

Mother of all Swiss Army Knives?

Filed in Gear , News

Wenger Giant SAKWenger poured 100 years of craftsmanship into their showpiece Giant Swiss Army Knife. This hand-assembled unique knife contains all 85 tools produced by Wenger at the time, which have a total of 110 functions. While it was developed primarily as a marketing exercise to generate buzz and serve as a show piece for trade shows and dealers, it’s also turned out to be popular among collectors, even at $1200 a pop.

The knife is a bit of a brute, weighing 2 pounds 11 ounces and measuring 8.75 inches. Its selection of tools includes six knife blades, three types of pliers, countless screwdrivers, saws, wrenches, and other tools. A few of the more unique implements included are a bicycle chain rivet setter, flashlight, cigar-cutting scissors, laser pointer and tire-tread gauge, as well as the requisite toothpick, tweezers, and key ring. Instead of the old fashioned style SAK handles, it features Wenger’s unique EVO ergonomic handles that were introduced last year.

Click here for a look at Wenger’s new EVO Swiss Army Knives.

Click here for a look at the latest locking blade EVOs from Wenger introduced at SHOW Sow 2006.

This is strictly a show piece, the blades and implements are permanently open. I can’t imagine having to open and close all of them, but it is fun to imagine the look on the Terminally Stupid Administration dimbulb’s face if he or she pulled this one out of a carry-on.

Wenger Nail ClipThe example pictured here, “Giant Knife, Version 1.0,” has already been superseded by a new one, Version 2.0. Wenger recently added a nail clipper tool to their line of key chain size EVO Swiss Army Knives (image left), so a second version had to be commissioned to add that to the show piece. (BTW, there will also be a version of this new nail clipper tool with a small screw driver blade substituting for the knife blade, so it’s perfectly legal to carry on, “No, sir, I really do NOT have a Swiss Army KNIFE in my carry-on.”)

“This is not exactly going to win any awards for lightest, smallest, or most efficient tools with which to going backpacking. It is however, getting a lot of attention and is a great platform for showcasing our product capabilities,” said Dennis Piretra, Director of Marketing for Wenger NA. “The most often asked question is about whether or not we have a pouch for it. Our answer is simple. You don’t need a pouch, the knife has a key ring – in fact, it has two!”

Wenger Giant SAK “This knife is a compliation not only of Wenger’s entire family of tools but Wenger’s history,” added Piretra. “100 years of quality craftsmanship is compiled in this collector’s item and is a testament to Wenger’s ingenuity and creativity while still upholding Wenger’s Swiss made quality of excellence.”

Click here to view more and higher resolution images of this knife.

What’s included? Here’s the list of everything included in the first version:

1. 2.5” 60% Serrated locking blade
2. Nail file, nail cleaner
3. Corkscrew
4. Adjustable pliers with wire crimper and cutter
5. Removable screwdriver bit adapter
6. 2.5” Blade for Official World Scout Knife
7. Spring-loaded, locking needle-nose pliers with wire cutter
8. Removable screwdriver bit holder
9. Phillips head screwdriver bit 0
10. Phillips head screwdriver bit 1
11. Phillips head screwdriver bit 2
12. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
13. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.6 mm x 4.0 mm
14. Flat head screwdriver bit 1.0 mm x 6.5 mm
15. Magnetized recessed bit holder
16. Double-cut wood saw with ruler (inch & cm)
17. Bike chain rivet setter, removable 5m allen wrench, screwdriver for slotted and Phillips head screws
18. Removable tool for adjusting bike spokes, 10m hexagonal key for nuts
19. Removable 4mm curved allen wrench with Phillips head screwdriver
20. Removable 10mm hexagonal key
21. Patented locking Phillips head screwdriver
22. Universal wrench
23. Laser pointer with 300 ft. range
24. 1.65” Clip point utility blade
25. Metal saw, metal file
26. 4 mm allen wrench
27. 2.5” blade
28. Fine metal file with precision screwdriver
29. Double-cut wood saw
30. Cupped cigar cutter with double-honed edges
31. 12/20-Gauge choke tube tool
32. Watch caseback opening tool
33. Snap shackle
34. Telescopic pointer
35. Compass, straight edge, ruler (in./cm)
36. Mineral crystal magnifier with precision screwdriver
37. 2.4” Springless scissors with serrated, self-sharpening design
38. Shortix key
39. Flashlight
40. Fish scaler, hook disgorger, line guide
41. Micro tool holder
42. Micro tool adapter
43. Micro scraper-straight
44. Reamer
45. Fine fork for watch spring bars
46. Pin punch 1.2 mm
47. Pin punch .8 mm
48. Round needle file
49. Removable tool holder with expandable receptacle
50. Removable tool holder
51. Multi-purpose screwdriver
52. Flat Phillips head screwdriver
53. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
54. Spring loaded, locking flat nose nose-pliers with wire cutter
55. Phillips head screwdriver bit 0
56. Phillips head screwdriver bit 1
57. Phillips head screwdriver bit 2
58. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
59. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.6 mm x 4.0 mm
60. Flat head screwdriver bit 1.0 mm x 6.5 mm
61. Can opener
62. Phillips head screwdriver
63. 2.5” Clip point blade
64. Golf club face cleaner
65. 2.4” Round tip blade
66. Patented locking screwdriver, cap lifter, can opener
67. Golf shoe spike wrench
68. Golf divot repair tool
69. Micro straight-curved
70. Special tool holder
71. Phillips head screwdriver 1.5mm
72. Screwdriver 1.2 mm
73. Screwdriver .8 mm
74. Mineral crystal magnifier, fork for watch spring bars, small ruler
75. Removable screwdriver bit holder
76. Magnetized recessed bit holder
77. Tire tread gauge
78. Reamer/awl
79. Patented locking screwdriver, cap lifter, wire stripper
80. Special Key
81. Toothpick
82. Tweezers
83. Adapter
84. Key ring
85. Second key ring

If you can’t live without one of these ultimate SAKs, give Wenger a call at 800-431-2996 (U.S.) or +41 32 422 61 81 (Switzerland).  They’ll get one to you in  three to four weeks.

August 26, 2006

Are You Ready For Hurricane Season?

Tropical Storm Ernesto ProjectionThe first hurricane of the season with potential to seriously impact the U.S. is fast approaching. Are you ready? By that, I mean, have you prepared to either shelter in place or evacuate with adequate survival gear and supplies? You don’t have to go out and buy a commercially assembled kit, though that is one way to do it with the least effort. Like most things that save you time and effort, however, it will cost you more in most cases, and the quality varies a great deal. You can assemble your own preparedness kit from gear and supplies you already have on hand and which you can buy at the grocery and hardware stores. While the least expensive way to do this is over a few weeks or months, even now it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as many assume. Read about how to prepare your own 72-Hour+ Kit.

August 22, 2006

Why We Don’t Prepare

Time Magazine has published an excellent article on “the national culture of unpreparedness.” It notes,” Because the real challenge in the U.S. today is not predicting catastrophes. That we can do. The challenge that apparently lies beyond our grasp is to prepare for them.”

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,1229102,00.html

August 18, 2006

New Leatherman Tools and Hunting Knives

Filed in Gear , News

Leatherman Charge Changes

Leatherman Charge AL and ALXThe cast titanium handles on the current Leatherman Charge Ti and XTi will be replaced by smooth 6061-T6 aluminum with a black Type III hard anodized coating. The Leatherman logo is engraved onto a polished stainless steel insert that is riveted to the aluminum handle.

I was told that weight is virtually unchanged. The Leatherman representative said the reason for the change is the significantly higher price of titanium since the Charge models were first introduced. If they continued with titanium, they’d have to raise prices on these models. With the change in handle material come new model names; the Charge Al and ALX (Ti and XTi replacements, respectively)

Leatherman Charge TTiOn the other hand, the titanium handled Charge isn’t disappearing entirely. The new Charge TTi retains the same titanium handles, albeit at a higher price, though we were unable to get anyone to commit to exact pricing. This new model is based on the original XTi, with notable changes. Its configuration is reported to be the result of all those letters, emails and forum posts many of you have made asking for this particular combination of tools. The pliers’ jaws retain the crimper of the XTi, but one of the bit driver holders is replaced with the scissors from the Ti. Even better, steel for the plain edge blade is upgraded to Crucible’s CPM S30V. As for the small driver that many find little use for, that’s still there.

So, the full list of features for the TTi reads: Titanium Handles, Needlenose Pliers, Regular Pliers, Wire Cutters, Hard-Wire Cutters, Crimper, S30V Clip-Point Knife, Serrated Knife, Cutting Hook, Saw, Wood/Metal File, Diamond-Coated File, Scissors, Large Bit Driver, Small Bit Driver, Large Screwdriver, 8 Double-End Bits, Ruler (8 inch/19 cm), Bottle/Can Opener, Wire Stripper, Fixed Lanyard Ring, Quick-Release Lanyard Ring, Removable Pocket Clip.

Availability for all three new models was given as “early 2007.” If you are a fan of the titanium handled models, like me, and like the tool configuration of the Ti and XTi, I’d definitely suggest you put them on your shopping list before they disappear.

Leatherman Goes Hunting.

Leatherman Nehalem and Klamath foldersWe also got a preview of the new line of hunting knives from Leatherman. The new hunting knives are unigue in many ways, proof that new management at Leatherman is thinking way outside of the box.
There is both a one-hand opening (right hand thumb stud only) lock-back folder and a “fixed blade” in two series, the Ukiah and Nehalem, Steens and Klamath respectively. The lower priced series features 154-CM steel and molded glass reinforced nylon handles ($90 and $110, folder and fixed blade). The higher end series ($110 And $130, folder and fixed blade) has S30V steel and polished aluminum handles with rosewood wood inserts. Other than that, the knives are identical. Both handles were comfortable, with a decent half guard, but neither knife is a lightweight.

The folders have a 3.75 inch (9.53 cm) blade, the fixed blade is 4-inches. Weight with GRN handles is 7.2 ounces (204 g) for both, with aluminum handles it is 8.16 and 8.64 oz (231 g and 245 g), respectively.

Leatherman Blade to gut hookBoth knives incorporate a gut-hook. In the folder, it slides out from the butt of the knife handle. It books rather awkward to use in that configuration, but we’ll hold off on a judgment until we have a chance to try it out to see if, as the Leatherman spokesperson showing it off declared, it is a “natural.”

In the fixed blade access to the gut hook is similar to SOG’s Revolver with its saw. Release the button plunge lock and rotate the blade into the handle and the “tang” which includes the gut hook rotates out to lock in place at the end of a long arm. As with the Revolver, “fixed blade” in this case may be something of a misnomer in the traditional sense.

Leatherman Fixed Blade HuntersThe fixed blade also incorporates a unique bone saw that folds out from the handle to cover the edge of the blade using a thumb post (right hand only). There are two rows of teeth with a spacer. Leatherman claims it cuts better, and that wouldn’t surprise us.
The flat ground blade has a step in it for the bone saw to slip into, with the top of each blade settling into this cutout. We’ll have to see how that works in the real world. For simple slicing chores it seems like it might be a problem in some situations with some things you might want to slice up around camp. We were told it hasn’t been a problem in their field testing. The plunge lock also locks and releases the bone saw.

Both knives also come with a diamond sharpener. I like the concept, but wonder how many hunters today actually know how to sharpen their blade with a straight rod? In my experience, very few. I suppose that it will be better than nothing, even for someone who hasn’t the experience to use it expertly. In the case of the folder, it slips out of the spine of the handle, held in place with o-rings. The same sharpener is held in a loop on the sheath of the fixed blade. You pull the sharpening rod out from a stainless tubular handle, also held in place with an o-ring. The sharpening rod itself appears to be identical to the EZE-LAP S model with a “D” shaped rod and a fishhook sharpening groove that according to the Leatherman literature is “an additional groove…ideal for fine-point work.”Speaking of sheaths, there’s no clip on the folder so a sheath is required. The GRN handled knives come with Realtree camo ballistic nylon sheaths, the higher end come with dark bridle leather sheaths with a stainless post fitting for retention. The folder sheath has elastic sides like the latest Leatherman tool sheaths. They are pretty classy looking.

Neither folder nor fixed blade has a lanyard hole, a definite shortcoming in my opinion. We’re looking forward to putting these novel designs through their paces out in the field.

August 14, 2006

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Report

Filed in Gear , News

Here’s a few of the new products that captured my attention at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City this past week.

While PLBs aren’t new, it was gratifying to see the ACR booth busy (McMurdo didn’t attend). Industry perception of PLBs is improving and there’s a lot more interest. ACR’s signing of Aron Ralston, he of the cut-off arm, as a spokesperson definitely improved their exposure in this market.

I also did a brief podcast with Backpacker Executive Editor Peter Flax discussing some of the latest, greatest survival gear, including PLBs. Go to http://rodale.typepad.com/backpacker_podcasts/2006/08/index.html and scroll down to “Matters of Survival” (and my really bad photo). Click on the arrow button to hear the podcast.

Now, on to the new gear:

Adventure Medical Kits Essentials

AMK Bivvy II and Heatsheets BivvyAdventure Medical Kits has now upgraded their standard 1-person Emergency Blanket to the new “special low-density polyethylene” Heastsheets material previously introduced this spring only on the larger “1 or 2-person” Heatsheets Survival Blanket. This is a vastly superior material compared to the typical Mylar version most everyone is familiar with.

Anyone who has read up on this subject on ETS knows how much I dislike the traditional Mylar emergency blanket. “Hate” would not be too strong a description. They have all sorts of problems, the most serious being that they are extremely fragile. They puncture easily and once punctured rip to shreds. In addition they are a real pain in the you-know-what to unfold and noisy as all get out. How effective any of these reflective blankets are in the real world at reflecting heat back when wrapped around you is a subject of much debate, but they could serve well as windproof and waterproof personal shelter, as a vapor barrier and they could be improvised into various emergency shelters. Which would be great, except for the fact that the Mylar versions usually fail pretty quickly in wilderness survival situation, making them somewhat less than useless.

The new polyethylene material makes an emergency blanket which solves most of the drawbacks of the typical Mylar blanket. The poly is much tougher and more resistant to puncture and once punctures does not shred. It unfolds easily and can even be refolded with relatively minor agro. It is also pretty quiet. Not quite as quiet as cloth, but many times quieter than the Mylar. The only down side is that it is tenths of an ounce heavier than the conventional Mylar blanket of the same size, but that’s not much of a penalty. Once side is coated in bright orange which allows it to also function better as a survival signal when needed. Click here to view a photo of my finger stretching this new polyethylene material.

AMK Heatsheets BivvyThe Heatsheets Emergency Blanket ($3.99) is 56 x 84 inches and weighs in at 2.5 oz, compared to 60 x 96 inches and 2.8 oz. for the Heatsheets Survival Blanket ($6.00). It’s very difficult for me to justify carrying the smaller version considering how much more functional and versatile the larger one is. Unless your budget is severely cramped, it is well worth the 0.3 oz. and 50% upcharge in my opinion.

AMK also developed the Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy out of this same material. The seams are taped and laid flat it is 36 x 84 inches, the same size as the Thermo-Lite Bivvy, but weighing in at only 3.5 ounces. MSRP is $15. The Bivvy is packed into an orange sil-nylon stuff sack that is large enough to stuff the bag back into. As originally packed it is 2.5 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches long.

The AMK Thermo-Lite II Bivvy will replace the popular first generation Bivvy with some notable improvements. It features what AMK claims is 30% stronger material on the bottom half of the bag and the bottom is now tapered to save some weight. Weight is down to 6.5 ounces, 1.5 ounces lighter than the current version. The yellow sil-nylon stuff sack is now orange, reportedly because it better signifies “warmth.” MSRP is $33.

These should be appearing in stores around January, 2007. I’m looking forward to testing the two new Bivvys.

Petzl e+LITE

Petzl e+LITEPetzl introduced their e+LITE “emergency headlamp,” the smallest headlamp in their line. There are a trio of 5mm white LEDs and a 3mm red LED. Weight is 0.9 oz (26 g) with its pair of 2032 3v lithium coin cells (10 year storage life). Packed in its storage case, it weighs 1.6 oz (45g). There’s a lever action switch to the side of the LEDs with 8 positions. In the lock position, the switch handle is almost flush with the case to help prevent inadvertent switching, Rotating counterclockwise (when looking at ti form the front) the switch positions are: Off, Economy (low brightness), High, Flashing White, Flashing Red, Steady Red and then another OFF position. The switch is easy to operate one handed and once moved off the Lock position, can be operated with heavy gloves on.

To give you an idea of scale, the circular switch portion of the e+LITE is almost exactly the size of a quarter.

The single elastic headband has a plastic cord-lock style slide for quick adjustment. The plunger on this also does double duty as a tool to open the battery compartment. The light can be removed from the headband easily via slotted attach points and then can be clipped to a cap or clothing using a broad spring clip that’s integrated into the backplate. This spring clip will only accommodate relatively thin surfaces; a cap visor would be about the maximum. Using the clip, the easy way is to slip it onto a stiff mounting point, such as a visor, because it was a bit difficult to manipulate manually (think: paper clip). It does not squeeze open like a conventional clip.

For storage the backplate is folded up against the face of the light. For use, it rotates behind the case using a ball and socket attachment on the bottom of the light, presenting a smooth surface to your head. This ball and socket allows a wide range of adjustment both up and down and side to side.

It comes in a translucent red hard plastic storage case with its slip-on cap held in place with an o-ring that wraps around the perimeter of the case. The light itself has a black body with red switch and backplate. It’s rated waterproof to 1 meter.

At $30 MSRP, the e+LITE costs twice that of my current favorite micro-headlamp, Essential Gear’s eQ Hands-Free Multi-Light (which is also available as a Doug Ritter Special Edition with a yellow case). With three LEDs, on high setting battery life is rated at 35 hours, but would inevitably be at least half to one-third compared to the eQ with a single LED and the same batteries. Petzel claims 45 hours on the “economic” setting.” Petzel claims 16 lumens on high in a flood pattern, no focusing lens, but it’s difficult to compare output since there is no industry standard. Subjectively, it is certainly brighter than the single LED eQ at short ranges, with wider illumination, but the difference is much narrower at longer range when the lens comes into its own. On economy the e+LITE is quite a bit dimmer than the single LED eQ, but plenty adequate for reading and finding your way down a trail or around camp in the dark. Options are nice.

Bottom line is that it performs quite a few more tricks, at the expense of the KISS principle and a much higher price. Still, the price is quite reasonable for all that’s there. Any way you look at it, it appears to be a very nice package and very well thought out. Availability is listed as January 2007, though the Petzl representative indicated there may be limited availability for the 2006 Holiday season.

Brunton Storm Lighter

Brunton Storm LighterBrunton introduced their aluminum bodied “Storm” waterproof and wind-resistant (80 mph claimed) lighter, a cylindrical piezo-electronic ignition, refillable butane lighter with a screw-on waterproof cap. On the down side, the cap and body can be separated and one or the other lost. There’s a lanyard hole in the cap, but it’s the body you definitely wouldn’t want to lose. On the up side, by having the cap completely out of the way it should be lots easier to get the lighter down where you need it to light a fire. On most waterproof lighters, the hinged cap is in the way.

On balance, I think I like it; we’ll see how it works when we get a sample. There’s a removable pocket clip on the body. Both the body and cap are black type 3 hard anodized. MSRP is $50 with availability of Fall 2006.

By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, Gerber (Fiskars) is in the process of buying Brunton, with the sale expected to be finalized shortly. A Gerber spokesperson said there are no plans to move the company from its longtime location in Riverton, Wyoming.

McNett Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets

Aquamira Water Purifier tabletsMcNett joined Katadyn and Potable Aqua with their own chlorine dioxide water purification tabs, “Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets,” joining their Aquamira two-part liquid chlorine dioxide treatment they have offered for some time. Unlike the two-part liquid, these are EPA certified. These chlorine-dioxide tabs are all exactly the same product, just a different name on the packaging.

One seemingly minor difference that actually helps a lot is that the packaging is printed with a blue background that makes the instructions easy to read, as compared to the others with aluminum backgrounds which makes it difficult to read. Unfortunately, the instructions still say wait four hours, which is only the case with cold water water with high organic content, the most difficult test. So, many shy away from these excellent products because the EPA is being stupid.

In many instances you can use the shorter contact times in the table below from the official EPA registration test results.

Microorganisms
Killed
Contact Time
EPA Water #1 (clear, 20°C/68°F) EPA Water #2 (dirty – high organic content, 4°C/40°F)
Bacteria 15 Minutes 15 Minutes
Virus 15 Minutes 15 Minutes
Protozoa / Cysts1 30 Minutes 4 Hours
1 includes Giardia and Cryptosporidium

McNett is offering theirs in packs of 12 and 24, vs. 10, 20 and 30 for their competition. MSRP is $7.95 and $13.50, respectively.

August 8, 2006

RSK Mk3 Fixed Blade Introduced

Filed in Gear , News

RSK Mk3The Doug Ritter RSK Mk3™ fixed blade is my first fixed blade design to reach production and it is a direct descendant from the very successful RSK Mk1™ folder. The RSK Mk3™ is a medium-sized lightweight fixed blade with premium steel designed for practical survival, hunting and everyday utility use. The 4.5 inch (11.43 cm) CPM S30V blade is a bit over an inch longer than the full-size RSK Mk1™ folder, but is otherwise similar to that well-received design in many respects.

Basic specs: 4.5 inch CPM S30V blade, 9 inches overall length, machined 3-D G10 composite handle. $175 for the serialized first production, $165 introductory price thereafter.

For full details about the Doug Ritter RSK Mk3™ fixed blade click here, but if you just want to order, click here to go to the order page on www.aeromedix.com.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Doug Ritter RSK Knife goes to support the non-profit Equipped To Survive Foundation.

Off to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market

Filed in Musings

It’s time for my semi-annual trek north to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. While this show rarely has anywhere near the number of new product introductions  as does SHOT Show, there’s usually something of interest to the survival and preparedness community.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to use this blog to make note of anything worth mention.

August 2, 2006

Knife Owners Advocacy Group Formed

USKTA Logo

Knives are man’s oldest tool. A diverse group of concerned knife and tool owners has formed the United States Knife & Tool Association (www.USKTA.org) to oppose efforts to restrict knife ownership and carry. Recent events have escalated concerns about efforts to implement irrational and needless restrictions on civilization’s most fundamental tool.The July 25, 2006, Wall Street Journal article titled, “How New, Deadly Pocketknives Became a $1 Billion Business,” has served as a wake up call to knife and tool owners everywhere who see in this a desire by a vocal and well-financed minority to quite literally take away our knives. Portraying well-designed knives and tools that incorporate safety features such as locking blades, ergonomic and non-slip handles and one-hand opening as “deadly” is deliberately disingenuous.

Regardless of the errors and obvious bias in this article, it appeared in one of the most respected and widely read newspapers in the nation. This venue lends it credibility that certainly will result in other media outlets copying the tone-implying the need for restrictions on ownership of pocket knives and related tools.

Virtually every threatened sport or product in this country has an advocacy group that represents the industry and also a separate and independent advocacy group that serves the end users. For firearms, the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) represents industry and the NRA (National Rifle Association) represents individual gun owners. In general aviation, GAMA (General Aviation Manufacturers Association) represents the industry and AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) represents the owners and pilots. In recreational boating, NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) represents the industry and BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States) represents boat owners and operators.

Even though there is some overlap both in membership and financial support, these groups are complementary, not competitive. The two organizations work closely to be more successful than either alone could ever hope to be. The difference between an industry group and an end user group is a very critical distinction to politicians and bureaucrats. The end users more pointedly represent voters to elected officials who often respond only to whatever may aid them in the polls.

The knife industry has an organization that represents its interests, the American Knife and Tool Institute. Knife owners deserve an organization dedicated to serving them, to not only provide for advocacy against unreasonable restrictions on their enjoyment and use of knives, but which also can provide the services and advantages that other owner groups provide their members.

The United States Knife & Tool Association (USKTA) will serve knife and tool owners as their advocate against restrictions on knife and tool ownership and carry.

A web site has been established to solicit support for USKTA and where interested individuals can sign up to receive more information: www.USKTA.org

The site includes additional information on USKTA and a link to the text of the WSJ article, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions page addressing the most common issues that have been raised. www.USKTA.org/faq.htm

July 31, 2006

Robinson Helicopter has an Epiphany

Robinson Helicopter Company apparently has had something of an epiphany and has released the following:

Safety Notice SN-40

Issued: Jul 2006

POSTCRASH FIRES

There have been a number of cases where helicopter and light plane occupants have survived an accident only to be severely burned by fire following the accident.  To reduce the risk of injury in a postcrash fire, it is strongly recommended that a fire-retardant Nomex flight suit, gloves and hood and helmet be worn by all occupants.

Well, I certainly can’t argue with the concept of this bit of CYA, but the reality is that virtually no civilians are likely to wear a Nomex flight suit, let alone a hood and helmet. However, you can still take a big step for safety by avoiding the common low-temperature melting point man-made fabrics such as nylon, polyester and the like which MELT in a fire, causing much worse injuries than you might otherwise sustain.

Anytime you fly, whether in a general aviation aircraft or by the airlines, always wear natural fabrics that will not melt.  Many natural fabrics and materials, such as silk, wool, and leather, also have some natural fire resistance.

For colder weather, you can now get Nomex fleece clothing, both as underwear and as jackets and the like. The down sides are that it’s not readily available and it’s expensive. While it isn’t microfiber or fleece, I find that SmartWool makes excellent products that many find very comfortable. This is not your father’s scratchy wool underwear. Wool also has relatively high fire-resistance and it will also provide good insulation even if wet, unlike most synthetics.