Sunday, July 31, 2022

Electronic Road Flares

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Road flares can be incredibly useful if your car breaks down on the road, especially if it's dark outside or you're in inclement weather which restricts visibility. These flares will demonstrate that you need assistance while also alerting other drivers to your stopped vehicle and, hopefully, preventing those other drivers from crashing into you. 

Unfortunately, flares are also on fire and as a result can cause severe burns to people who accidentally touch them or set fire to things which shouldn't be on fire. 

Electronic road flares eliminate the burn hazard of conventional flares while also having the benefits of running longer and being reusable. Some can even be configured to flash, thereby increasing their ability to get the attention of other drivers. 

I recently picked up a set of three LED road flares and, while I have not tested these under real-world conditions, I am pleased with their performance and am satisfied with their reviews (4.7 stars and 1,244 reviews).

The Ecoangel USB Rechargeable LED Road Flares have the following features:
  • A rubberized coating (for grip and to cushion against impacts) over a plastic body which the manufacturer says can survive being run over by a 30 ton vehicle. The casing is also said to be waterproof. 
  • A 650 mAh rechargeable battery with a claimed runtime of at least 2 hours on the highest setting (solid-on, high) and 48 hours on the lowest (single flash). The manufacturer says the battery will hold a charge for a year. It recharges via a micro-USB port. 
  • The lights can flash in 9 configurations, including SOS and a 3-LED white flashlight. 
  • The bottom of the puck has an N35 magnet and a deployable hook so that it can be used as a work light.
I don't understand why these come with 9 configurations; I think it would work just fine with single flash, SOS, solid-on, and the LED flashlight. It was probably just a matter of being super-easy to program them with multiple patterns, and so they were added because why not? I don't have a problem with this; I just think it's a bit odd.

I don't know how bright these are in terms of lumens or candela. What I can tell you is that these are not eye-searingly bright, even at their highest setting, so they won't render you flash-blind if you look them. However, they are plenty bright even when indoors, and at night they are quite the attention-getter. 

Some people might have a concern with these losing their charge, and that's understandable. I'm not worried because I also have in my car a 20,000 mAh power bank which, in addition to being able to jump start a dead automobile battery, also has USB outputs for charging other devices like a phone, GPS or tablet. If these lights run low I can use that to recharge them. However, if that's a concern you have then you can buy a version of these lights which take three AAA batteries instead

As I said I have not tested these, so my opinion of them might change in time, but for right now I am happy their performance for their very reasonable price ($20 and Prime shipping). 

Friday, July 29, 2022

A Minimal Motorcycle Medical Kit

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

I've wanted this for a while now, and everything finally aligned so I was able to buy it. So what's the "this" that I wanted?

Why, a Ducati 1260S Multistrada!

This is a 2019 model, so it's not the current V4, but instead the traditional V twin that has made Ducati famous. It's sporty enough to have fun with other riders after taking the bags off, and comfortable and powerful enough to carry a second rider and gear for extended rides. I'm looking forward to having fun with this!

My New Bike

It's set up as a touring bike, with pannier/saddlebags that will hold about 12 gallons of gear. This seems like a lot... until you look at what 12 gallons converts to in the real world. My bike will hold about what the average kitchen trash bag holds (well, before it's overstuffed to the point the seams almost split, anyway). 
What's in the (Saddle) Bag? 
There seems to be more room than actually available, which is the reason for saving as much space as possible with things that are permanently carried. There's a bare-bones tool kit stored under the seat, along with required paperwork, so first aid supplies will have to go into one of the bags. I decided to do pretty much what I have carried in other bags with some slight differences.

From the Amazon ad:

  • Includes QuikClot gauze, trauma pad, triangular bandage, and other key supplies for your trauma kit
  • Nonallergenic QuikClot first aid gauze speeds up natural clotting and stops bleeding within minutes
  • Used by hospitals, EMS/first responders, military, law enforcement, general public & outdoorsman
  • Fits perfectly in any first aid kit, suture kit, medical kit, iFAK pouch, EDC pouch & survival kits
  • Travel safely with QuikClot in your car first aid kit, camping essentials & backpack emergency kit

I own a duplicate of this Trauma Pak and have actually used it before. I am very satisfied with its contents and performance. 

There's a little overlap in the contents between these two kits, but since there's a possibility of serious injuries to myself or others in an accident, I don't feel bad about that. 

Another consideration was the red color. I have been trying to switch out from black back pouches and gear to things that might be a bit more visible in low light/dark areas, and red is the universal First Aid color.

From the Amazon ad:
The M-FAK, North American Rescue's Mini First Aid Kit, was designed to be the most compact, multi-use IFAK for delivering immediate critical care for penetrating, blast or other traumatic injuries. Despite its reduced size, this kit comes fully loaded with the critical medical equipment most requested by First Responders operating in the line of duty. 

Dimensions: L 6 in. x W 3 in. x D 3 in.
Weight: 13 oz.

Treatment pack includes: 
  • 1 x CAT Gen 7 Tourniquet Orange, 
  • 1 x 4 in. Flat ETD, 1 x S-rolled Gauze (4.5 in. x 4.1 yd), 
  • 1 x HyFin Vent Compact Chest Seal, Twin Pack, 
  • 1 x pair Bear Claw Nitrile Trauma Gloves, lg.

I don't plan on taking any trips soon, so there are several small items that may still go in/on the bike as I sort out what I want to take, either as permanent items or as trip-specific items. At the top of my list is a flashlight of some kind. Reading through the Owner's Manual (400+ pages!) I found there is a built-in USB port under the seat. That gave me the idea to look for a USB rechargeable light like the Nitecore MT21C 1000 Lumen 90 Degree Tilt-able head LED Flashlight.

This is still a Work In Progress, as I need to determine exactly how much room I have under the seat for a flashlight, I may need to look for a smaller format light, or possibly run a cable from the port into a saddlebag for charging.

Regardless, it's good to have options.

Recap And Takeaway

  • A new vehicle needs basic supplies, and a small vehicle needs to be very efficient in what is carried. 
  • Resisting my Packrat tendencies is hard.
  • Purchased from Amazon: M-FAK Kit$89.94 with no Prime shipping available.
  • Purchased from Amazon: Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak. $24.70 with Prime shipping.

Stay tuned, this is difficult to figure out.

* * *

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, July 26, 2022

Product Review: Fix It Sticks

I'm a collector of tools. Show me an interesting, unusual, but functional gadget and you have my attention... and possibly my money. 

I'm especially fond of compact hand tools; from Swiss Army knives to pocket multitools, I've owned and carried many. I've been aware of Fix It Sticks and their various offerings for a while, but I'd never had a chance to look at them in person until a recent trip to Nashville when I stopped at a gun shop and saw they had some for sale. 

I looked at the Shooting & Hunting Edition and decided $35 plus tax was a reasonable price for what was offered.

According to the Fix It Sticks Website:
The Fix It Sticks Replaceable Edition Shooting/Hunting offers unmatched portability, functionality and versatility. Two Fix It Sticks (which combine to form a T-Handle) and 16 bits are held in a molded bracket for portability / storage. Extra room on each end can hold two additional bits.

Replaceable Set includes two sticks, bracket, and 16 different bits:
  • 2.5mm hex3mm hex
  • 4mm hex
  • 5mm hex
  • T-10
  • T-15
  • T-20
  • T-25
  • T-30
  • 1/8" Hex
  • 5/64" Hex
  • 3/32" Hex
  • 5/32" Hex
  • 3/16" Hex
  • Slotted #5
  • Phillips #1
The ultimate gun maintenance tool. Take the shop tool experience with you on the road.
  • High quality steel construction (can withstand 40Nm of Torque)
  • Compact
  • Durable
  • Accepts any standard 1/4" bit
  • Weight: 116 grams

One of the more interesting features of Fix It Sticks is the ability to combine their parts into a T-handle to drive any bit. This gives the user considerable extra leverage when dealing with overtightened or stuck screws and bolts.

This kit has been added to my range bag for use at work. I'll likely need to swap out or add bits for specific firearm screws, but that's just the nature of the technology.

I have high hopes for this compact and versatile tool and, so far, I consider it money well spent.

(Editrix's note: Fix It Sticks: Shooting & Hunting Edition is available at Amazon for $40 with free shipping for Prime members.)

Monday, July 25, 2022

EDC "Pocket" Dump

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Since 2009 I have used the Urban Tool HipHolster for my Every Day Carry needs. Unfortunately, a decade-plus of regular use takes its toll, and my HipHolster was starting to fall apart. Normally I'd just buy another, but Urban Tool is a European company; back in 2009 it sold its products through ThinkGeek, but not any longer, and I have a strong moral objection to paying $40 to have it shipped overseas. 

I needed another leg bag, but I couldn't find what I wanted. The ones which looked like they would hold my gear also seemed to stick out 6 inches or more, and I wanted something with a lower profile so I wouldn't be hitting things as I walked through doorways or got into/out of my car. The lower profile bags, however, were dainty little things which didn't carry nearly enough gear to satisfy me. 

Finally I settled upon this, the Ghost Racing Drop Leg Bag. I've been using it for about two months now, and while it isn't everything I wanted, it's performed better than I thought it would. It doesn't have the individual pockets that the HipHolster did, but the large main pocket can hold more items. 

From top to bottom, left to right:

Clipped to the zippers and whatever you want to call that triangular thing is a Resqme car escape tool, Sonic Defender earplugs, and a little micro flashlight I got at a convention (great for finding my seat in a dark movie theater when the CL-42 would be far too bright). 

Attached to the belt (seen in the first picture) is a case for my cell phone and a can of Sabre Red pepper gel. (My knife is carried separately.)

It's not a bad little bag for $28. The zippers are easy to open, the straps hold the bag to my waist and leg securely but not so tight as to be uncomfortable, and it holds a fair amount of gear. I don't know if it will last for a decade plus like my old leg bag, but I'm willing to find out. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Product Review: Stansport Freighter Pack Frame

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
When I re-vamped my Get Home Bag last year, one of the things I said was while I liked the features the bag had, I didn't like how it attached to me even after significant tinkering. 

Well, I tinkered some more, and I just couldn't make it comfortable enough to wear for an extended period. I considered getting a different bag, but I couldn't find another which did what this one did. 

So I finally gave up and bought an external frame and attached my GHB to it. 

I am simultaneously happy with my purchase and defensive about my choice. 

I'm happy because:
  • I got the frame for a great price;
  • The pack fits on it well;
  • I had extra room, so I attached a cheap tent and moved the first aid kit outside where it's easier to access;
  • The frame is super-comfortable and evenly distributes the weight of the pack;
  • I can even use my chest rig with it. 

I'm defensive about it because:
  • I feel like I over-complicated things;
  • The pack takes up more space and isn't easily stowed in my car (I have to put it in the trunk now instead of the back seat);
  • I just have this weird feeling that people reading this will see it, arch an eyebrow, and judge me. 

But you know what? No matter what happens, I have an amazing external frame that I can use. Even if I end up using a different GHB format in later years, I can always get a "proper" pack for it and use it that way. 

The frame itself is the Stansport Freighter, and while you can get it from Amazon for $90, I was able to get mine for substantially less at my local Lowe's.

I was even able to fit a MOLLE holster and magazine pouches onto the hip belt, which I didn't think was going to work. 

I love everything about this frame except for one thing: the end caps on the side bars are a slick plastic, so if you don't have the shelf down and you set the frame down onto a smooth surface, it can slip and cause the entire system to fall. While this will likely only lead to inconvenience, I can think of some situations where it could result in damage to the pack or its contents. 

Fortunately, there's an easy solution for this. The frames are one inch in diameter, which is the same size as many canes. I bought this $8 package of two replacement cane tips which slid on easily, and now my pack frame is quite steady wherever I choose to lean it.

So I am pleased to report that I have solved my Get Home Bag issues, and I am completely happy with my solution and I desperately crave your approval don't care what anyone thinks about it. 

Don't judge me!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Product Review: Lock Laces

Just over four years ago Erin reviewed Hickies-brand no-tie shoelaces for use with her zip-side boots. Since that post they've come out with an improved version and they're also available in a variety of colors.

I wear zip-side boots at work, so when I saw Erin's post, I had to try those strange elastic lace things. They were just what I needed to make my boots more comfortable, as well as easier to get on and off.

However, all good things must come to an end, and earlier this year I had to replace my zip-side boots with a new pair. Unlike the previous ones, the eyelets on these are oriented vertically and spaced wider apart on the boot. This meant my beloved Hickes wouldn't work. I tried, but several broken laces later, I accepted defeat (de feet?).

Thankfully, I was able to find an alternative called Lock Laces, strands of tough elastic that are threaded through the eyelets in a traditional manner, then clipped, trimmed, and capped. When I ordered my new Hard Drive I added a set of these to my cart, using Amazon Smile to benefit Operation Blazing Sword of course.

Front and back of Lock Laces packaging

The package instructions made installation simple, and my boots are easy to put on and take off while maintaining a snug fit when worn.

Lock Laces installed on author's boots

One note: the spring keepers are on upside-down in the above picture as I didn't realize their orientation was important -- with the release lever in the position shown, they can loosen during normal activities. I've since rotated them so they're correct. The only challenge in that was with the end clips, which required a small flat screwdriver blade and some finagling to open.

I haven't had these Lock Laces long enough to get a feel for their longevity, but the Amazon reviews are quite good:  4.6 stars with nearly ten thousand reviews.

While I prefer the versatility of the older style of elastic laces, the new ones seem to be more easily adjustable. Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Cleaning Up the Car Trunk

I tend to ignore the more cosmetic aspects of cleaning my car, which include not only the seats but the trunk as well. I have a trunk organizer that I talked about in this post, which makes it really easy to access what I want when I need it, and going through everything that ended up in those sections I found things that were put there with the Good Idea to come back and remove everything "Later"'. 

Taking Out
Well, Later is Now and it's way past due. Besides the washer fluid, coolant, window cleaner, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and Get Home supplies that were first put in when I had a very large territory, there was mostly junk in my trunk (quiet in the peanut gallery!). I don't mean garbage, but rather things that really needed to be put where they belonged, and where they belonged wasn't in the trunk organizer:
  • Seldom-used tools.
  • More freeze dried food than I need to Get Home.
  • Too many changes of clothes.
  • Several partial quart bottles of motor oil. 
  • Several small specialty tools that I thought were lost but simply fell out of tool kits when they were moved.
I found my missing needle file set in the bottom of one pocket, the set that I've used to touch up copies of house keys that just don't quite match the original. These came from Harbor Freight and do exactly what I need for the times a set of small files are required, which for me isn't very often.
My File Set

I removed a wrench and socket set, since there isn't much that I would be able to fix on the side of the road without a parts store close by. Also coming out are any cold weather items, and I think there will not be any weather specific equipment added in the future. 

Going/Staying In
My car is used for commuting to my work and also for trips, but when it is driven with two or more people, specific gear is added depending on the destination. Besides switching Purple Pack Lady's bag out of her car to my trunk, there is a small suitcase pre-loaded with trip basics for two: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and underwear. Clothes for the destination go in and we are packed!

I also keep a case of water, Sawyer water filter, MSR pot and Solo stove permanently in the car.


Food goes in and comes out depending on what we are doing, where we are going, and how long we are staying. I have reviewed freeze-dried food  a long time ago, but not these specific items. The above review is a little humorous, but testing equipment and gear before an emergency hits is just good planning.  I have duplicates that I will soon have PPL taste test in a camping setting. 

Freeze-dried food

Okay, it's car camping, but I've got to start some place. Baby steps, you know? Finally, here is a shot of more "essential" food items that must always be readily available. Different people have differing ideas on daily requirements. 

Necessities. Really! (or so I'm told)

I'm learning to deal with it.

Recap And Takeaway

  • Keeping your vehicle clean and organized helps make finding your emergency equipment easier.
  • With gas prices doubling, having less weight to carry helps improve the Miles Per Gallon.
  • Find food that is acceptable to your entire group. I'm only stocking for two now. so my choices are wide open.

* * *

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, July 5, 2022

Back That [Data] Up

This is going to be a shorter than usual post for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Last week, while working on a project, my computer crashed. This isn’t anything special; many people have experienced something similar. What was different was when I restarted the computer, the Power On Self Test (POST) reported an impending hard drive failure. Not good!

I make it a habit to back up my files, images, and downloads on a regular basis. Before a trip out of town, I do a full system backup on two different external drives, and one comes with me while the other is left in my safe. I’m not a fan of cloud storage, because if I don’t have access to the server it’s stored on, it’s no longer my data.

Even though I worked in IT for over thirty years, I’ve been out of the field since about 2018. Things change in IT, and they change quickly, so my knowledge of available storage options was outdated. I’ve been using traditional magnetic platter-style hard drives since the mid-1980s.

However, times and technology change. Solid State drives have come a long way over the last decade; capacity has gone up and cost has gone down. Thanks to some good friends, I was able to select a new 2 Terabyte SSD that's on it's way to me right now, and if necessary, I’ll get an old-style magnetic platter drive for extra storage.

My new drive should arrive tomorrow, and after I get home from work my real labor will begin: installing Windows, applications, and restoring backed up files.

For those who value their data -- which should be everyone -- make sure you have a backup plan in place and make sure it’s followed.

Monday, July 4, 2022

MOLLE Attachments

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Buddhism says that attachment is the root of all suffering. Be that as it may, sometimes attachment is good, especially when you want to secure loose gear to MOLLE straps. I certainly fall into that category, and this 30-pack of attachment hardware -- 10 each of Strap Management Tool Buckles, D-Ring Grimloc Locking Gear Clips, and Web Dominator Elastic Strings -- is very useful for making my Get Home Bag more accessible and less rattle-y. Each has its own purpose, and each has found its way onto my gear. 

To my great surprise, these have been the most useful and versatile of the three types. Not only can they used to police the loose ends of straps as their name suggests, but they also hold the straps with enough friction that if you have a cinch buckle which is not doing its job and is allowing a strap to work loose, a single application of one of these will lock it into place.

Moreover, these buckles can also be used to fasten two sets of MOLLE loops together in a manner that is both secure and quick to unlock. 

I ended up buying a second package just because I had used all of these and wanted more. 

D-Ring Locking Clips

Strangely enough, I found these the least useful of the three and I'm not entirely sure why. As you can see they have big D-shaped loops which will attach to a variety of objects, and you can either thread them onto a MOLLE strap or just daisy-chain them together. 

I think the fact that they are so large is what turns me off, because whatever you hook onto them can still shift and twist, and that gives the illusion of insecurity. That said, I still use them, and if nothing else they make marvelous (if large) pull tabs for zippers. 

Web Dominator  

The Web Dominator shines at attaching odd or awkwardly-shaped objects to MOLLE straps. It's a glorified bungee cord, so it doesn't hold things with any particular strength and there's always the possibility the object could wiggle out the ends. However, there are times when nothing else will do the job. 

I couldn't fit this Israeli Bandage into my first aid bag, so since it's vacuum-sealed into a thick plastic package I decided to let it ride outside. This also allows me to get to it quickly, which is a definite bonus. 

I had to link two pairs of them to reach around the tent, but they hold it well enough, and the tent itself is long enough that I think it's unlikely to work its way out. 

The kukri machete is a very odd shape that, due to its weight, needed to be secured in multiple places. I have a MOLLE strap on one end and a Grimloc securing the belt loop on the other; the Web Dominators are there mainly to keep it snug against the pack so it doesn't swing while moving. 

I am a big fan of all three of these connectors, and if you have MOLLE gear I am certain you will find them useful. You can buy them on Amazon for $13 with Prime shipping and they come in black, foliage green, olive drab, brown, coyote tan, and gray.

The Fine Print

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

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