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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Update On the Nebo “Twyst” Flashlight

A little over a year ago I posted a product review of a new flashlight, the Nebo Twyst. I recently got a chance to give it a bit of a torture test and thought it would be a good idea to post an update with what I learned.

Testing Conditions
I work at a farmer's co-op, mainly in the grain elevator but I'll do whatever needs to be done to keep things moving. The location where I work is old; the original concrete bins were poured somewhere around 1919. This means that things have been modified, jury-rigged, repaired, replaced, and added onto for almost a hundred years. Some of the work wasn't very well done and a lot of pieces and parts are worn out, leading to leaks. Corn and soybeans, as well as dust, seep out of small cracks and holes, making a mess and providing plenty of food for vermin.

We recently changed management, and there is now an emphasis on housekeeping that didn't exist for the last twenty years or so. We're cleaning up big messes, and most of the cleaning is underneath grain storage and handling equipment, where access tunnels and “pits” for machinery had accumulated up to 6 feet of spilled grain, which was rotting. Cleaning is done with an industrial vacuum mounted on a modified semi-tractor and lots of water to sluice the mess into the 3 inch vacuum hose.

All of that is a description of a hot, wet, dirty, dusty, dark, rat-infested confined space. I spent three full working days underground, with half-hour breaks when the truck got full and had to go dump about twice a day. I had my Nebo Twyst with me and it got used (and slightly abused) but came out still working.

Notable Conditions and Issues

Water-Resistant Construction
I lost track of how many times the light got soaked by the high-pressure wash down hose, and it found its way into standing water a few times as well. I also washed it off every day and gave it a once-over to make sure it was still in good shape. I did have to unscrew the front bezel that holds the glass lens in place and reseat the o-ring there after the light fell once, but no moisture got through the seals. It may not work underwater, but rain or splashing water isn't going to hurt this light.
Rugged Construction
Several times it fell onto rough concrete from 3 to 5 feet above the floor. One of its fold-out legs got bent, but I was able to straighten it out with a hammer and metal bench. The light picked up some scars and dings, but everything still works.

I really enjoyed how bright it is, especially since it was the only source of artificial light we had while 15-20 feet underground in a concrete box with a manhole on top. Most of the spaces we were working in did not have light fixtures, and the few light fixtures we did have were turned off for safety reasons (wash-down hoses and old electrical equipment don't mix). The boss was working with me and he was impressed with it, so there may be one in each company vehicle soon.

Battery Life
The manufacturer claims 4 hours at full power using the main light. I haven't changed batteries in a year, and we were using the main light for at least 5 hours each of the three days we worked (at least 15 hours of non-continuous use). Since this is normally my truck flashlight it gets used infrequently, this was a good chance to test the run-time. I am very impressed with the battery life.

Magnetic Base
Being able to stick the light onto a conveyor or piece of structural steel freed up our hands to work a bit more efficiently. However, neither rust nor thin sheet metal are suitable for holding a magnet, which is why the light sometimes fell.

All in all, this is one of the best flashlights I have ever owned. I've given a few of them away as gifts and they are greatly appreciated once the recipient actually uses it. I highly recommend this light for keeping in your vehicle or tool box, as it's still too heavy to be an EDC light. 

Given this performance, I may have to try out a few other unique lights that Nebo is making in the near future. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prudent Prepping: Info Dump

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Here is a heads-up on a sale from one of my favorite camping/outdoors stores! Yes, it is a sale at REI, a company with which I have a love/hate relationship due to missing out on bargains and close-outs.

REI Labor Day Sale
The sale starts August 26 and runs through September 5, with savings up to 30% and other ways to save more! By signing up for email alerts you get a 15% off coupon and early notification of all sales. For those with good credit, REI offers their branded credit card which earns 'cash back' from all purchases and a $100 gift card on issue.

Some of many things that jumped off the page at 25% off were all Lifestraw items, MSR liquid stoves and cooking items, plus all Petzl lights and climbing gear!

REI has changed their way to sell their closeouts and discontinued items. Now it is through the REI Garage, formerly The Outlet. What has changed is the ability to see items coming into The Garage before they are up for sale. I like the new setup and expect to shop the Previews every week for bargain additions to my gear.

New Purchases 
Last week I did say "no new purchases are planned", but things changed: while eating lunch at work, a friend found she had left her plastic knife and fork at home, leaving no way to cut her food. Usually there are plastic utensils available in the break room, but not this week. Since I had a sandwich to eat and this lady had made me lunch many times in the past, I gave her my Sea-to-Summit Knife and Spork set to keep and use. I really was happy to pass this on, because it was going into my camping gear, anyway as I was getting a bit tired of not having a real spoon. Several friends who like a spork seem to complain about the poor fork performance, but I have found a lack of spoonability to be what bothers me.

I replaced my set with this:

Sea-to-Summit Alpha Cutlery Set
From their website:

The Alpha Cutlery Set uses a durable aluminum which is hard anodized to add strength. This hardened shell also encapsulates the aluminum, to eliminate the risk of the alloy leaching into food. The Knife, Fork and Spoon of the Alpha Set all have a hexagonal hole (3mm, 4mm or 5mm) in the handle which can be used as a wrench for stove repair. Supplied with a mini-carabiner.

Product Details: 
  • Lightest metal cutlery on the market 
  • Ultra-light & strong aircraft aluminum alloy 
  • Conforms to FDA food safety standards 
  • Smooth matte finish 
  • Excellent-value utensil set which comes with a mini carabiner 
  • Note: the cleanser used in dishwashers will damage the anodization, so Alpha Cutlery should not be washed in a dishwasher
Also purchased was a find at my local discount grocery outlet: orange juice in a can. This is real, 100% orange juice from concentrate in a can, so no refrigeration is needed! I really like orange juice in the morning, and having the ability to carry some with me that is not damaged by heat is great! This particular product is in a 12 oz. can from Welch's, and appears to be discontinued. Priced at 2 for $1, I bought 12.

The Takeaway
  • Keep an eye open for sales and bargains wherever you shop. 
  • Take care of your friends, especially those who return the favor with great food!

    The Recap
    • One Sea to Summit Alpha Cutlery Set: $18.95 from REI, also $18.95 from Amazon with Prime. 
    • 12 cans of Orange juice: $6 from a discount grocery outlet. 

      Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running! 

      If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

      NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

      Tuesday, August 23, 2016

      Mini Survival Kits: The Covert Kit

      Last week, we I put together the Spare Parts survival kit, which is suited to a purse, backpack, or other bag. I promised something more pocketable and this week, with the caveat that it wouldn't be an Altoids can. With that said, let's look at the Covert Kit.

      The first thing to address is why I chose to not go with the classic Altoids can: quite simply, everyone wants a mint. They see a mint tin, and they're bound to ask. The same goes for hard gum containers; I have a Mentos gum canister on my cart at work that is full of screws, and about once a week, I hear a cry of disappointment when someone finds out that it contains nothing that is either nutritious or delicious. (We have a fairly open munchies policy among friend, so if it's in the open, you're usually sharing.)

      So, in the name of security, we need a solid container that contains something most folks won't want to share. The unlikely yet perfect solution is a chewing tobacco tin. I don't advocate tobacco use, because it's not great for you; but if you chew, get some extra use from your chew cans, and if you don't, it's quite likely you know someone who does, and you can generally have their discarded cans simply by asking. The cans you're looking for are either metal and plastic or all metal; cardboard chew cans don't hold up enough to be much use.

      Snus cans are the holy grail for this exercise. They're a bit bigger than dip cans, with a much handier shape. They're also all-metal, with a nearly watertight lid. Close observers will note there is a hole in the top of my snus can; that's because I used my char cloth tin for this demonstration. Whatever can you use, be sure to wash it out first, or else all your gear ends up smelling like tobacco.

      The contents of the can.

      In one snus can, I was able to fit all of the following, with a bit of room to spare:
      • 50' of 6# test fishing line
      • 3 1/8oz jigs
      • 10 strike-anywhere matches
      • a small pocketknife
      • a ferro/magnesium rod and striker
      • a handful of jute fibers
      If I'd had any handy, I'd have added some large-ish sewing needles. (I have no clue about the proper sizing, but ones with eyes large enough to thread 6# fishing line.)

      Fishing line is handy general-use cordage, in addition to being handy for catching fish.

      I chose jigs instead of bare hooks so that I don't need to carry separate weights. This saves space and prevents loss of parts.

      The knife is just a little thing I've had around forever. It holds a decent edge and fits very nicely in the tin.

      The fire supplies are something I've gone over several times. I carry a couple methods at any given time, and jute is well-known as my favorite tinder. I could fit a lighter in in lieu of one of the methods in the can, but I keep a Bic in my pocket as a general EDC thing, so I'd rather have a different option in the can.

      Everything fit in the can, with room to spare.

      The most important part of any mini kit is to tailor it to you. Plan it around your environment, your needs, and your priorities. If very little of your time is spent outside of town, fishing gear is likely to be wasted, but first aid gear could be very commonly needed.

      I'd really like to see what the readers can come up with. What unique containers do you use? What interesting bits do you carry in your kits? How have you grown and changed your particular kit?


      Monday, August 22, 2016

      Making a Screw-Modifying Tool

      Once you start modifying or maintaining your own gear, sooner or later you'll need to make a bolt or screw shorter because you can't buy one that's just the right length. Or you've got one that's just right, but the end is a bit buggered, and needs to be cleaned up; no big deal, except that with smaller screws, holding onto them can be a problem.

      Longer ago than I care to remember, I saw a picture of a gadget designed just to make this easier, and a few years back I made one*.  This knowledge might come in handy for preppers, so here's how to do it.

      You know that steel strap they use to hold bundles of brick and such together? You need some of that (you can often find some being thrown away at home improvement stores, or where someone's building a house).  

      This piece is 7" long. (Yes, the strap is a bit rusty; it's trying to rain outside, so pulling the buffer & wire brush out of the shed wasn't happening.)

      Break or cut it in two.

      Find a screw and nut of suitable size

      You can use a pop rivet if you have the tool for it. I like the screw and nut better.

      Drill a hole through both pieces near one end, just large enough for the screw to fit through.  Put the screw in and snug the nut down; only needs to be tight enough to give smooth movement when you pivot the arms.  Then cut the screw off so it sticks out just a bit from the nut.

      Now take a hammer -- a ball peen is best, but any will do -- and peen the end of the screw down, especially at the edge. That will spread the end out, and keep the nut from ever being able to come off.

       And it's almost done.

      Here I have a screw, just an ordinary screw picked at random. Find a drill bit that'll make a hole just big enough for the screw to slip through.

      Drill a hole in one arm of your tool.

      Slip the screw through the hole so that the other arm, when rotated over, traps the head.

      You can hold it by hand, or you can clamp the ends in a vise as you cut or grind the screw to length, and then file or sand the end smooth.  You won't burn your fingers trying to hold it as it gets hot, and you don't have to worry about that moment it slips from your fingers and vanishes into the ether, never to be seen again.**

      *Not long after that someone told me just where I'd seen it: the Brownell's catalog. So if you'd rather buy it than screw with making your own, they have them. And lots of other stuff, too; they're a good company to do business with.

      **A bunch of screws vanished from my ken are probably hiding in a corner of  Schrödinger's Box, where the cat is playing with them as he waits for someone to open the damn thing.

      Sunday, August 21, 2016

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #105 - Purple Ponies at the Gun Rights Policy Conference

      Erin "Voodoo Princess Daintyhooves" continues her nefarious plot to turn everyone in the gunblog world into ponies. This time, it's Sean "Unicorn Rampant Sable" Sorrentino who has fallen into her hoofy clutches!
      • The GunBlog VarietyCast is now a proud member of The Self Defense Radio Network.
      • Beth gives us some good pointers for on how to take a date to the range.
      • Why does he do it? No, not the "NC Teen who's been arrested dozens of times before being charged with murder;" why does Sean do the "Felons Behaving Badly" segment? We're glad you asked.
      • It sounds like a science fiction movie, but it's actually evil website design. Barron tells us all about "Dark Patterns."
      • In our main topic, Sean and Erin talk about the Gun Rights Policy Conference in Tampa, and Erin talks Sean into doing something he'll regret. Want to see Sean in a Purple Pony tee-shirt? Go to the GunBlog VarietyCast page and click "Make a One Time Donation" in the right sidebar" to contribute to Sean's ponification!
      Cunning likeness, wouldn't you agree?
       I'm thinking about calling him Purple Brash.
      This is a work in progress of Sean's ponysona, one of three shirts I'm going to make him wear (yes, a pony shirt for each day of the conference).

      Would you like to embarrass Sean?
      Send donations to the following link:

      • Did you know that Erin has a YouTube channel? She does Apocabox unboxing videos. What's an Apocabox? Erin explains.
      • Weer'd didn't want to leave out all the other anti-gun nuts at the Massachusetts AG press conference. It's their turn getting a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
      • And our Plug of the Week is for NBC's TV show Aquarius.
      Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Read the show notes here
      Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support. Go to to join.

      And a special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense at Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

      Upcoming Law of Self Defense Seminars:
      • September 10 - Alabama specific - Talladega, AL
      • September 17 - Minnesota & Wisconsin specific - La Crosse, WI
      • October 1 - Pennsylvania & New Jersey specific - Bensalem, PA
      • October 15 - New York specific - Poughkeepsie, NY
      • October 22 - Iowa specific - Johnston, IA
      • October 23 - Iowa specific - Central City, IA
      • November 5 - Oregon and Washington specific - Sherwood, OR

      Friday, August 19, 2016

      Apocabox Unboxing #13 (August 2016)

      Not actually Erin.
      & is used with permission.
      Once again, the curse of the Apocabox strikes. (This post is backdated to Friday the 19th, but I'm actually publishing it on Sunday the 21st.)

      That's the bad news. The good news is that I've gotten the hang of my video editing software and I've cut out the transitions between items, which means the video is shorter while still having the same amount of good stuff in it. Now if I can just remember to keep my hands in the center of the frame...

      Anyway. enjoy the video. This box, the Blackout Edition, was a box of extremes: there were some things that fell flat, but the good parts were really REALLY good, so it all evens out.

      Thursday, August 18, 2016

      Guests when TSHTF

      Whether it's due to hurricane, fire, flood, or economic disaster, it's worth planning for the problem of how to deal with house guests. When TSHTF, not everyone is going to be prepared or able to bug-in, and some will be caught flat-footed with no plan. If they are strangers knocking on your door, you should have a defensive plan in place. If they are family or tribe, they may end up staying with you for a while, and that can create a set of problems that needs to be prepared for.

      Family is a mixed bag. Some families get along well and help each other out on a regular basis; other family dynamics more closely resemble the Cold War theory of MutuallyAssured Destruction. You need to look at your family members now, before TSHTF, and decide how much aid you're willing to give each of them them. Personally, I've seen:
      • Families move in with parents after losing their house in a fire.
      • Family members move in with a sick sibling to take care of the house/kids until the illness was eliminated.
      • A father adopt his grandson when his daughter proved to be unable to care for him (medical bills and treatment).
      • Another father adopt both of his grand-kids after his daughter was found to be unfit to raise children.
      • Adult children moving in with their parents after losing jobs. This is becoming quite common.
      • Adult children moving in with their parents after a divorce. This is also becoming quite common, since divorces usually mean the loss of the house to one or both parties.
      • Parents moving in with an adult child due to medical issues.
      • Families bouncing from relative to relative, looking for a place to stay after losing their house in a flood. This can be a sign of inflexibility or incompatibility on the part of the migrant family members.
      • Adult siblings living together for a week or two following a nasty blizzard. Blocked roads and downed power lines can make it difficult to get to and from work.

      Family dynamics can be a can of worms. There are college-level courses covering the subject, but here are some highlights that I have witnessed.
      • Most parents have a difficult time accepting their children as adults, no matter how old the children are. Grandchildren help alleviate this to a small degree.
      • In-laws can be easier to deal with than blood relatives. Less history in the relationship means fewer opportunities for problems.
      • Siblings tend to treat each other the same way they did in high school (some folks never progress beyond their teenage years).
      • Some family members are emotionally toxic and not worth sharing a home with. Pay to put them up in a cheap hotel before you let them destroy your life. A tent in the back yard is also an option.
      • “My house, my rules” becomes a cudgel to some families.
      • Unresolved issues will come up. They only have to be unresolved on one side to become a problem.

      Tribe is a bit better than family, because we get to choose who is a member of our tribe, and this ensures a minimum of shared interests and goals. For many folks, it is easier to get along with a roommate than it is a sibling; this makes it much easier to accept a tribe member as a house guest. I have tribe members that have offered me a place to live (not just stay) if I ever need it, and I have made to same offer to several of them. Some I've known for a few years, others a few decades, and one I've known most of my life. These are the people I trust with my life, and living with them would be pleasant. 

      If there is a chance you may have family or tribe living with you after a disaster, be it natural or man-made, there are a few things to consider when making plans.
      • Have a clear set of rules that apply to everyone. Nothing fosters animosity quicker than preferential treatment. If lights-out (or quiet time) is 10:00 PM, then it has to apply to everyone. Little Debbie doesn't get to stay up watching TV until midnight, just because she wants to.
      • Depending on circumstances, share and expect everyone else to share food, funds, chores, and materials. After a fire or flood they may not have much more than the clothes on their backs, but they can still help out around the house.
      • Set an end date or conditions as soon as you can discuss it. Unless you're dealing with TEOTWAWKI, house guests will eventually leave. Make sure that is agreed upon as soon as possible.
      • Compatibility of pets might be an issue. If your sister brings four St. Bernard dogs to live with you and your three Pekingese, someone is likely to get sat upon. Exotic pets (snakes, fancy rats, etc.) may be seen as food to your pets, so plan accordingly.
      • Sleeping arrangements. Spare beds, couches, and inflatable mattresses are all good options for guests. Try to provide as much privacy as possible for your guests; it will be appreciated.
      • Make sure your expectations are clear. If you expect your guests to do their own laundry, they need to know that.
      • Good guests will try to avoid being a burden but some may have trouble making the shift from “head of the household” to “guest”. Major decisions are up to you to make, not your guests. Remember, they will leave eventually.
      • Don't be a doormat just because they're family, you need to keep your household running and they may not always see or do things your way. This is another good reason for privacy and separate sleeping (and living) quarters when possible. Keep reminding yourself, they will leave eventually.

      With the flooding in Baton Rouge, the riots that seem to pop up every week or two, and the various personal disasters that can strike out of the blue, we all should be willing to help out those we love and trust. Planning now will make things go a lot smoother later, which is one of the tenets of prepping.

      The Fine Print

      This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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