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The Olight R20 Javelot Rechargeable Flashlight




OLight: Three Rechargeable Light Reviews

Part 2: R20 Javelot Rechargeable

By Mike Bondra

Hello, again, flashlight fans. Here is my second installment of a three part review. To recap, the OLight models that will go through the rigors will be the palm sized S10R Baton II, the traditional sized R20 Javelot, and the beefy SRMINI Intimidator II. All three are excellent examples of the CREE-based flashlights currently available today, and each of these have unique features that help them stand out in a crowd.

Today, I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the R20 Javelot Rechargeable flashlight. As the name indicates, this light comes with a single OLight 18650 battery, as well as a lanyard and micro-USB charging cable. The current MSRP is $59.95, and a smart online shopper can find them new for about $50.00. A word of caution regarding online shopping – the R20 Javelot Rechargeable is the only model I found in my research to have the batteries removed. I didn’t find any indication of blatant fraud, but read the sellers fine print, especially where the price seems too good to be true, because it may not include the battery.

After I opened up the box and began my initial inspection, something caught my eye. I’m a big proponent of craftsmanship in everything you do. Sure, when I was young I loved duct tape and kludging. Over time (and my own maturity) I realized that there was more value in a repair that did more than get thing functioning, and a thing built is better for the aesthetics than its pure function. I look of the little practical improvements, and I was happy with the details put into this light right out of the box. My old eyes have a bit of trouble with threading needles now, but I had no issue with placing the lanyard’s anchoring string due to the slight cut out on the reveres side of the rear access hole. More than just a countersink, there is a small indentation that makes catching the string as it pokes through the rear casing. Sure, it would have been possible without this, but the fact that the designers thought, ‘how can we make this one act better’ says a lot about their attention to detail.

My initial impressions firmly set, I began to explore the rest of the R20 Javelot Rechargeable. A good solid light made of aircraft grade aluminum, and coated with Type II hardened anodizing, it has a comfortable feel in the hand.

As stated, the light is recharged in a similar fashion to its peers via a micro-USB cable. In the case of the R20 Javelot Rechargeable, the charging portal is found under a collar near the top of the light. This collar has gaskets and screws securely in place, and provides a great seal against the elements, and probably momentary submersion. Okay, I’m SURE it provides a good seal against momentary submersion, since I accidentally fumbled and dropped mine while I was taking it out of my pocket, and it splashed down into a puddle. Again, that’s yet another reason you should always use your lanyard. After about 2 hours, the 18650 battery was fully charged, and I took it out into the back yard for my unofficial testing.

The R20 Javelot Rechargeable has the activation button on the rear of the light, like many of its competitors. This medium sized flashlight, at approximately 5 ¼ inches long by 1 ¼ inches in diameter, packs a whole lot of power in that size. The Cree XP-L Hi LED single light has three settings the user can cycle through. The highest setting is the first one that is enabled upon pressing the power button, and is designed to put out 900 lumens for 2 ½ hours of operation. The medium and low setting produce 100 lumens / 11 hours and 10 lumens / 100 hours respectively. As I’ve said before, statistics don’t mean much to me, but real world usage does. I took the R20 Javelot Rechargeable into my back yard and cast the light to try to read a ‘5’ I had printed on 8 ½ x 11 paper, at about 100 yards. The number was visible at that distance, no problem. The LED generated beam was concise and didn’t’ scatter over the distance, but it was about at the maximum for the light. There were a few detractors with the lighting configuration and set up. As with its ‘big brother’ the SRMINI Intimidator II, there was no ‘moonlight’ setting. This setting is designed to produce a very subtle light, good enough to walk by, and greatly enhances the battery life. Also, there is no memory function to the R20 Javelot Rechargeable, so the user is forced to cycle through from High, Medium, to Low. This can be annoying, especially if you have night adjusted eyes and have to deal with the sudden glare of the initial setting. Finally, there is no strobe feature to the light. This is not marketed as a ‘tactical’ flashlight, and I don’t really consider this a significant issue, but I felt it should be pointed out.

Those points covered, I really enjoyed using this light during my tinkering around the place, and while camping. In my shop and poking around the darkened places in our house and garage, it worked perfectly. I had no problem with colors washing out, and the less intense settings made return glare easy to manage. I particularly liked the size. It wasn’t too long or bulky, and not so small that I felt I would drop it and never find it again. We also took this light with us on our annual family camping adventure, and it got a lot of use tromping around the woods and fields. The lack of a moonlight setting did produce some after images after shutting it down, but the large 18650 battery held its charge for an entire week, with juice to spare.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the performance and features of the R20 Javelot Rechargeable. A good tight beam and long life make for a very reliable workhorse of a light, and one that will perform again and again with less recharging time than others of its size.

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Olight SRMINI Intimidator II

OLight: Three Rechargeable Light Reviews

Part 1: SRMINI Intimidator II

By Mike Bondra

I have had the good fortune to review three OLight flashlights, and this will be the first installment of a three part review. The models that will go through the rigors will be the palm sized S10R Baton II, the traditional sized R20 Javelot, and the beefy SRMINI Intimidator II. All three are excellent examples of the CREE-based flashlights currently available today, and each of these have unique features that help them stand out in a crowd.

I’m going to start out with the biggest and the baddest looking of the three. The SRMINI Intimidator II is a high performance light in both output and durability. It arrived in a case that looks like it could hold a 1911 comfortably (I measured; it would be a bit tight.) In addition to the SRMINI Intimidator II, my kit came with a Micro-USB charging cable, lanyard, and holster. The MSRP of this package is $129.95, and you can find them discounted online for around $100.00 if you do some research for a better deal. There is another package choice that also includes the light, three OLight 18650 batteries, and a USB Vehicle Power Adapter.


Unpacking the case, I was first struck by the shape and design of the light. The body of the light is black Type III hard anodized aluminum, with generous cuts to provide a secure grip. On the front of the light is a thick stainless steel bezel. This prevents damage to the lens if it happens to fall face down, and has a very aggressive look. The lens design is heavy acrylic that includes a cross hatched pattern which provides for a more even beam delivery from the three CREE XM-L2 LED lights. The flat tail cap allows the light to be placed face up to stand by itself for area illumination. The overall dimensions are 5 ¼ inches in length, and 1 7/8th inches in diameter, and just shy of 15 ounces with batteries.

The SRMINI Intimidator II looks like a light saber from Star Wars, and is darn close to one in brightness. While I wasn’t able to cut a hole through my garage door with it, I could sure see everything in the garage in pitch black. After trying it out for the first time, I’m pretty sure my first deer-spotting light I got in the mid-80’s had less candle power than this thing! There are four settings that can be selected and a strobe as well. I’ll get into the details of the intensities in a moment. This bad boy is definitely not made for rattling around in your tool box, but treated like fine instrumentation.

As I mentioned earlier, my SRMINI Intimidator II package did not come with batteries. Of course, actual 18650 OLight batteries are available online (for around $35.00 for a two pack), however my patience was non-existent after opening up the case. I needed to light this up and see what fun I could have. After a bit of research online, I discovered that there was an alternative to the OLight 18650 batteries from an unexpected market. eCigarettes have raised the demand for 18650 style batteries, and therefore can be found at most big-box electronics stores. A word of caution: do the research and get the best voltage/amps for the light. The inferior ones won’t work as well and will end up being a waste of your money.



The SRMINI Intimidator II functions as its own recharging station by connecting the Micro-US to a laptop, PC, or other USB configured power source. It took me 6 hours to get from manufacturer empty to fully charged. There is a port on the side which is accessible via a slide door, and a charging indicator light that turns from red to green when charging is completed. I love the idea that I don’t need to remove and replace batteries when they are used up, however I will say that I found the slide door to be a disappointment. The manner in which it is mounted seems to allow water through. I would be very concerned turning it on after accidentally submerging it without first completely drying the charging port. Although if you dropped it in more than a shallow stream, you’re going to have to be awfully fast to grab it before it is claimed by the deep. That is the second reason I used the lanyard on the SRMINI Intimidator II. The main reason I had the lanyard secured to my wrist was the light’s weight and aggressive tactical-like bezel. Frankly, I didn’t want to accidentally drop this on my foot. I imagine that would do a number on my leather boots, not to mention the poor toes within.

Now usually this would be the point in the review where we go over the technical details on the light output of the flashlight. In other articles, those are the spots my eyes glide right over, and I’m not going to subject you to that. If you really want to find out the lumens and candle values, go ahead and browse the internet. For me, I just want to know how the light will work in the real world, and over the years I have come up with three simple tests. First, is how well the light will work inside the shop as a task helper. Secondly, how well it will work when I’m trying to navigate in a dark forest or other outside setting. And finally, how far the beam will cast, and how well you can use it for long distance spotting.


Using the SRMINI Intimidator II in the shop was the first test I performed, and there were some unexpected results. The light will cycle through three settings (low, medium, and high) and the last selected setting is held in memory for the next time you use the light. There is also a strobe feature and a ‘Turbo’ setting that is the most powerful. I tried out all four settings (not the strobe) in my workshop / garage. Both the Turbo and High settings were great for whole room illumination by setting the light on its base in the middle of the floor. The reflected light was good enough for me to read manuals, and identify the color of wires. The only issue I had was these highest settings naturally come with a high battery consumption rate, and makes the barrel of the light pretty darn warm! Also, neither setting was at all good for close up work. While holding the light on ‘High’ and trying to use it to illuminate my drill press, the reflected light was too bright for comfort. Of course, that’s like saying a Ferrari can’t hold more that 3 bags of mushroom manure on the passenger’s seat (meaning; why the heck would you use a sports car to haul manure). The ‘low’ and ‘medium’ settings worked just fine for close up work, and were what I used the most when in the shop.

The second test was stomping around the woods near my house. The three CREE XM-L2 lights made a wide beam that was perfect for illuminating snags and trips at medium and low settings. High setting was great for spotting things at a distance – no more ‘wonder what made that stick break’ questions. I was tempted to try the strobe on a raccoon, but I’m not that kind of guy. Again, it is heavier that most hand held lights, but that’s the trade off for the brightness. I accidentally turned it off while wearing gloves, but easily found the switch again. Interestingly enough, I didn’t’ realize how night blind I had become from the reflection on the medium setting! I waited about 40 heartbeats until I saw the stars clearly, and walked back to the house on low.

For my final test, I wanted to see how far the light would cast for practical use. Following the example set by a friend, I printed out a great big ‘5’ in black on a normal letter sized sheet of paper. The size of the final number is about 6 inches high and 3 inches wide. I then tack the paper up on a tree on the back of my property, and see if I can read if from my back porch, which is about 300 feet away. As I’ve said before, I’m all about the practical.

So on a moonless night in early spring, I took the SRMINI Intimidator II out on my back porch to ‘see what I could see’. Boy, could I ever see! The beam cast out by the three CREE XM-L2 lights on the Turbo setting looked like a pipe of white slicing through the air. The first thing that I noticed was the amount of vapor in the air that evening. For the same reason you shouldn’t use high beam lights in the fog, the super bright beam illuminated all of the mist in the air. Even still, there was no mistaking the clear ‘5’ on the tree. I could easily make out bark patterns well into the tree line for another few dozen yards, until the trees became too thick to discern one from another. Reducing the setting to ‘high’ allowed the same level of detail on my target sign, and also reduced the scatter from the air vapor. In fact, I was having so much fun, I completely ran out the batteries, which brought to light another minor fault. There is no ‘warning mode’ that some other flashlights have that alerts you to impending battery failure. Boy-howdy is the world a dark place when you go from Turbo to nothing! A moonlight setting to both conserve battery and act as a warning level would be my suggestion for future models.


If you’re looking for a light that packs a punch and can let you spot things way out there, then the SRMINI Intimidator II is the light for you. A thick beam with a wide variety of intensity settings will perform well for about any task. Just remember that like any other high performance piece of equipment, you need to be mindful of energy consumption, and keep your charger cable handy. If you are working into the evening hours outside, or going on a long weekend camping trip, this hefty light is all that you need.
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The Spyderco Proficient

By Christopher Warden

Family camping season is now in full swing and rather than spending time alone in the woods practicing bushcraft skills and chasing whitetails, my weekends will be spent at campgrounds chasing my kids around the playground and pool and carving pot hooks while sitting under the awning of my camper. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need a good knife with me. I was looking for a knife that was just as capable cutting up steak and vegetables, as it was at fire prep, and one that required as little maintenance as possible. I decided to look to the Spyderco Proficient to fit the bill.


At first glance the Proficient, looks almost like a full flat grind Spyderco Bushcraft model, and rightfully so. Both Spyderco models were designed by wilderness expert Chris Claycomb of Bushcraft U.K. Both knives are 8.75 inches long, and have superbly contoured handles. They also share the ambidextrous black leather pouch sheath. This is where the obvious similarities end and the differences that make the Proficient stand out in the crowd become obvious.


Immediately I noticed the black space age solid carbon fiber scales. They are sleek, polished, and have a slight classic coke-bottle contour. Carbon fiber knife scales have a reputation as being light weight, strong, but also brittle with regards to impact resistance. The Proficient’s scales had a fair amount of heft to them, giving the blade a light and nimble feeling in the hand. Strong, you bet; brittle, not even a bit. While batoning wood for camp fires, the Proficient needed to be rescued a few times. With a well placed wallop on the tang and scales, she was free, none the worse for wear.


While the Spyderco Proficient’s bushcraft lineage is quite evident, it steps out of that comfort zone with its blade shape and design. It has a drop point blade, rather than a spear point, and a full flat grind, rather than a Scandinavian grind found in more traditional bushcraft blades. This blade shape inDSC_0872 DSC_0886combination with the full flat grind make the Proficient well suited for many everyday and typical bush tasks. The Proficient has a v grind secondary bevel. I found it a little obtuse for making feather sticks, but serviceable, even on seasoned oak. The bevel was strong enough to hold up to pretty heavy batoning and indispensable in helping me harvest fat wood from a pine log. The tip, although thin and very pointy, was strong and made splitting kindling a breeze. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite knife for fire craft, but it was proficient (see what I did there.) Where this full flat grind and v bevel really shined were on those everyday tasks like breaking down cardboard boxes, opening toy packaging, cutting cordage, and food prep. The Spyderco Proficient made butterflying a whole chicken and trimming steaks fun and sliced onions so easy I didn’t even cry.

Another departure from its bushcraft roots is the use of stainless steel. Crucible Particle Metallurgy s90v is similar in toughness and corrosion resistance to 440c and D2, but has a much greater wear resistance. What that means for us average knife-a-holics is a tough steel that doesn’t need oiled all the time and has a long lasting keen edge. Over two months of use, I oiled and stropped the Proficient one time. Any food prep that I did for testing, blade clean up after was only done with soap and water, and to be quite honest sometimes not even at all. Onions and steaks that I have cut up with O1 tool steel blades in the past have almost instantly created a patina on the blade. The Spyderco Proficient looks just as pretty as the day it came out of the box.


Proficient, competent or skilled at doing something, is a pretty simple but explanatory name for this offering from Spyderco. Here are some considerations to keep in mind if you’re looking to pick one up for yourself. Stainless CPM s90v steel is definitely a little tougher to sharpen in the field than high carbon steels like O1 and 1095, so keep a strop or ceramic honing rod in your kit to keep that edge really keen. You’ll have some extra room since you might not need that can of oil. There is a plastic insert in the ambidextrous pouch style sheath, and I found it a bit tricky sheathing the Proficient several times while on my belt and trying to navigate my tactical muffin top (yes it’s a fat joke.) I overcame that problem by wearing the Proficient in a neck carry fashion by simply threading some paracord through two of the six grommet holes in the sheath. It is a little on the large side for knives that I like to neck carry, but still light enough that I didn’t find it uncomfortable. You just may want to remove the insert or add your own dangler attachment. With a four inch cutting edge and four and one half inch handle, it might be a bit on the small side if you have extra large hands.


If you’re looking to get your hands on a Spyderco Proficient head over to and check it out. Don’t let yourself have sticker shock with an MSRP of $489.95. It is a small king’s ransom, but expected for the up charge in carbon fiber scale material and CPM s90v stainless super steel. With a little practice of the ancient art of Google Fu, you can find a more reasonable price of $293.97 over on For an all around low maintenance bushcraft and camp knife, check out the Spyderco Proficient, jack of all trades and master of some.



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The UCO Leschi Lantern + Flashlight

The UCO Leschi Lantern + Flashlight

By Bob NevesIMG_0762

As someone who frequently goes camping, backpacking and spends time outdoors, I’m always looking for the newest gear of good quality. The UCO Leschi lantern is a great little light for the money. It is small and weighs very little at 1.6 ounces without the battery. It gives off a good beam when used as a flashlight and the size is just about perfect for use in the tent or on a picnic table as a lantern.


For use as a flashlight just turn it on with the light in its smallest closed configuration. To use the light as a lantern pull the reflector out from the main tube shaped body and the light expands revealing the clear plastic to illuminate the area.


It is a 110-lumen light and the size to weight ratio for hanging in a tent worked great. It runs on one AA battery with IMG_0766an IPX rating of 5. The light has three modes. Low which is 34 lumens with a run time of 4 hours, high which is 110 lumens with a run time of 2 ½ hours, and strobe which will run for approximately 7 hours.

I appreciate the intention of the light, which was designed in the United States but manufactured in China. The quality of construction is not bad, but not great either. It is of plastic construction, which I would label as good. Not as robust as an aluminum design. I tested this light for a few weeks since receiving it and dropped it a few times but I did not abuse the light.  As for all weather testing yes it took splashes, it got wet and continued to function in damp conditions.


I ran the light on the low mode for over two hours without any issues. The light has a good O-ring to seal out moisture but I did not fully submerge the light in water. I like the light for its versatility size and weight. You can put it in your pocket or pack, hang it inside a tent or out with the included tethered bungee. The elastic bungee attached to the light works great with mounting the light in a variety of positions for hands free use. The tether is made of small bungee/elastic cord, which is permanently attached to the side of the light on one end, and the other end is removable to secure the light to objects such as sticks, packs, tree limbs, tent loops etc.


The Leschi can be used as a one light option for minimalists and lightweight backpackers or it could be used as a backup light in conjunction with a headlamp or a larger lantern. One negative item to note, which I found bothersome, was the silicone tail cap mode sensitivity. It was very easy, too easy to switch between low, high, and strobe. One feature, which would be helpful for UCO to add, would be memory of last mode used. Currently the light runs through the modes so when you turn it off the next time you turn it on it switches to the next mode.


Accidents happen and sometimes gear is lost while on trips in the wilderness or elsewhere. You will not be at a big loss financially if you lose this little guy like you would with similar more expensive lights. I enjoyed this UCO light; the positives far outweigh the few minor negatives. Yes, there are much better responsive clicky switches on the market and a memory for the mode selected would be appreciated but for the money all in all this little light can’t be beat especially if you are on a budget. It retails for $14.95.




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Campfire Cookbook Review

Review by Stefanie Bondra


Camping is a wonderful pastime. Fresh air, nature, sunshine, and nights around the fire are something everyone should try to experience. Whatever the images are that leap to mind when camping is mentioned, the one question we all ask is: “What are we going to eat?”  While you can get by with GORP, trail mix, and “hot dog on a stick”; I say, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?” If it is all you have, absolutely, eat it. Then find civilization, because you aren’t going to last long on just that. If, however, you are planning a day, weekend or longer (like I do) you are going to plan meals and pack for the adventure.

The Campfire Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (Thunder Bay Press) meets this basic need of life, and while trail mixes are included, it is not the only offering. From foil packet suppers, to zabaglione and snacks in between, there are recipes sure to please most palates. Though the cover of the book says “eating well in the wild”, it is worth noting that this book is not simply a camping cookbook. Rather it is a cookbook and mini guide to camping in one.

The first thing you will note about this book is its plastic zippered cover. A great idea for a camping book, as things tend to get wet; whether it be from dew overnight, a spilled cup or pot, or the sudden rain cloud floating by your campsite. The book can be removed from its protective cover, which is nice because plenty of times, I’ve spilled right on top of my cookbook. Being able to remove the cover to clean behind the plastic, is a nice touch. Another idea is to store extra recipes in the jacket flaps inside the cover.

Inside the book is divided into four parts: “Way to Go”, “Campside Kitchen”, “Get Set…Pack”, and the actual recipe section. The first section is an overview of camping etiquette such as, leave nothing but footprints. I’m sure seasoned campers realize this, but some are not and so it bears repeating. This section also includes an overview of basic weather forecasting, such as what the different cloud formations look like and what type of weather is common with their presence.  Other “tells”, such as a heavy dew in the morning, usually indicating a dry day is something I never knew until this book.

campfire cookbook photo1

While I thought the recipes would be my favorite part of this book, I’m finding that it actually ties with the section on nutrition. The Philpott’s cover the calorie needs of an adult taking part in various activities as a starting point.  They go on to say that energy requirements on your trip will determine the level of calories you should consume. Continuing on, they touch on what types of ingredients a diet should contain (Protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and that combining them properly fuels your body for better performance.  They also mention the importance of increasing your fluid (water) intake, which many neglect while out and about. I know that in the group we camp with in the summer, it’s something we are constantly reminding each other about, because dehydration is really not pleasant.  Speaking of dehydrating- the last part of this section is a good beginner guide to dehydrating foods.  They even cover dehydrating in a conventional oven, which is super helpful. I don’t have the room for another kitchen gadget.

Campside Kitchen covers how and where to set up your kitchen. Considering things like shade, light, storage and cooking methods are introduced first. From backpacking stoves to Dutch oven cooking (my preference); the Philpott’s do a great job of briefly explaining a few methods to give you options, for example, a backpacking stove is great for a short, one man trip, while the Dutch oven lends itself more to the static camp. This section also touches lightly on foraging, fishing, finding natural water, and some tips about what to avoid eating. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it is sound advice.

“Essential equipment” for the camp cook is also covered. Understanding that what kind of method you use to cook your food can affect what utensils you will need is helpful so one does not over or under pack. Of course, you can get by with only a knife, pot and spoon (for a solo trip), but if you know you will be camping, why not be prepared?  Maybe that will be the only things you require, but I know when I camp, that is definitely not the case.

campfire cookbook photo2

“Get Set…..Pack” is final section before diving into the actual recipes. Packing is covered-not just food, but sleeping bags, tents and food. My favorite thing is included here-lists! I am a great believer in writing things down. Pen to paper, engaging the senses to encourage memory growth. That and I can be super forgetful in the frenzy to get ready. These lists are not meant to be packed in their entirety-rather it is meant as a reminder for the things that we may or may not think about packing. Anyone ever forget their toothbrush because you just “weren’t thinking about it?” yeah….me neither. Sample menus and pack lists finish this section.

campfire cookbook photo5

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for- the meat and potatoes (see what I did there?) of the book. This could be another whole article reviewing the recipes included (there are about 80). The common things are definitely included (trail mix, foil packets, and bannock) and while they are mainstays of the camping tradition, there are many other meals that are just as easy to add into your repertoire.


It is worth mentioning that while most of these recipes can be made at camp, some should be made at home for brevity’s sake. Make the granola, energy bars and cookies before you leave. In addition, every recipe states if it requires an “at home” component in addition to the “at camp” directions. The directions are very well laid out and easy to follow.

campfire cookbook photo4

Some of my favorite recipes are the breakfast casserole, curry couscous, goulash, and jambalaya. With the exception of the couscous, they all include a protein, carb, and some fat, so they are great to eat at any time of the day. Our camp usually has a “leftover” cooler, so sometimes there is jambalaya for breakfast-but not for long.  Also, the tomato, cucumber, and red onion salad is super delicious. It reminds me of tabbouleh without the bulgur wheat.

One thing I saw was the inclusion of “boil in bag” recipes, like “scrambled eggs n’ coffee (page 68). I have never cooked anything in a plastic bag, so like anyone these days, I “googled” it.  For as many folks out there that use thick zipper close bags, there are as many that say “ACK! Never do that!” Even a name brand zipper bag recommends NOT using the bags to boil food. I wracked my brain because I know boil-in-bag rice is a thing. I haven’t used it, but I know it exists. So back to the internet. I found that one online site sells “boil-able bags”, but they weren’t cheap.  I pondered and wondered for about a week. Then I had to go to the store for more vacuum seal food bags and when I opened them, eureka! Right on the bag it said, freeze, microwave, BOIL! So, your local big-box, blue (or red) department-type store probably sells them in the kitchen/housewares aisle.  What a relief, you can make your scrambled eggs in a bag without worry now. You are welcome.

I have to say that I have not tried all the recipes in the book. I am not big on fish and lamb is really expensive here, but as with most cooking (not baking) recipes proteins can be swapped, carbs exchanged, and spices substituted with abandon. As I always say, “add what you like, leave out what you don’t”.

campfire cookbook photo3


The authors have numerous years of experience under their belts. Both as travelers and with writing books on food, drink, and travel.  At an MSRP of $15.95 and as low as $11 online, cookbook and guide in one, this little book packs a mighty punch. Practical tips, techniques and a substantial amount of recipes are just a few reasons to add this book to your collection.

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SOG Reactor Multi-tool Video Review

By Jim Holman
New for 2016 SOG Reactor Multi tool
This new multi tool from SOG is a standout in several categories, But the most impressive is its size and strength.  It fills a size niche in EDC multi tool category.
This is a small tool at 3.8 inches closed and 4.1 oz.There are certainly larger and stronger tools, but you will not want those clipped in your pants pocket all day for obvious reasons.  The Reactor packs ten useful features into a small package which fits in the pocket, and carries more comfortably than any other multi tool I own.
See my video review for a close look at this new offering from SOG.




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Coast HP3R Focusing Rechargeable LED Pen Light

By Ian Fielder

There is a multitude of companies producing high quality pen lights on market. Most of these lights are pretty standard and have fairly common set of characteristics. If you are not a flashlight collector it is easy to overlook products. Generally, when I am looking for a new flashlight I want a brighter light and can carry it in a pocket. Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to use the Coast HP3R rechargeable LED pen light and have been extremely impressed by its functionality and technical features.


The Coast HP3R is a rechargeable LED pen light that is manufactured from lightweight aluminum. It weighs in at 1.8 ounces and is close to 6 inches in length. The barrel diameter is measured at .63 inches and includes a removable clip. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery or a pair of alkaline AAA batteries. The rechargeable battery on high output setting provides 245 lumens for 1.5 hours. Using Alkaline batteries, it illuminates at 86 lumens for two hours. On the low output setting the rechargeable battery provides 26 lumens for six hours and the alkaline battery lasts 26 hours at 10 lumens. The different batteries and settings also give a variety of maximum ranges. Using the rechargeable battery, the flashlight will project out to 305 feet on high power and 102 feet on lower power. The Alkaline batteries will project out 180 feet and 62 feet respectively. One of the best features of the flashlight is its twist focusing mechanism. Coast’s name for it is the Universal Focusing Optic System. The mechanism is smooth and easy to adjust the beam from spot to flood. Even more noticeable is the extremely clear bright white light that doesn’t have any dark rings that you often get with other flashlights. Turning the flashlight on and off is achieved with a rubberized tail cap. Moving between high output and low output is accomplished by clicking the tail cap a second time. By far the coolest feature of the flashlight for me is all of the charging options that come with the light. A quarter turn and slight pull of the barrel near the tail clip will unlock the charging port. The Coast HP3R comes with AC, DC, and USB adapter, which provide enormous flexibility in recharging the battery. So whether you are on the road, on vacation, in the office, or out in the woods multiple options exist to keep the flashlight functional. The Coast HP3R is water resistant and comes with a lifetime warranty.


I took the Coast HP3R on three trips to the beach for the express purpose of testing it while walking on the beach at night. Using the rechargeable battery on its high output setting the HP3R was awesome to use. On the second trip in Myrtle Beach I stayed in a condo that was several stories tall. From the balcony facing the beach I was able to project the light out into the surf. It easily illuminated the beach sand far below especially with the beam focused down to its smallest setting. When walking on the beach I used it to look for crabs in the water. There were a lot of people doing this activity and the Coast HP3R was the by far the brightest flashlight on the beach.CoastLight4

Last fall I went on my second hunting excursion in Western Pennsylvania and the Coast HP3R was my flashlight of choice for getting into the woods long before dawn. I charged up the battery using the AC adapter the night before and it was ready to go by morning. Moving across a brush covered field was a relatively easy trek using the light. I used it at wide focus so that I could avoid thorns encroaching on the cut path. Once I got to the tree line I focused down the beam to illuminate the treacherous path of fallen trees and thorn bushes. The 245 lumens of the flashlight was more than enough to get me safely to a spot in the woods for a gray dawn and no deer.




The last test I used the Coast HP3R was around my house. I purposefully, late at night, turned the lights out and walked around my basement and garage to locate various objects. For these tests I switched back and forth between the high and low output settings. Both settings were sufficient for use in doors and it allowed me to easily and safely navigate both basement and garage hazards.



The best features of the Coast HP3R all have to do with battery use and recharging. The flashlight comes with one rechargeable lithium polymer battery. It can also use 2 AAA alkaline batteries. Versatility is important when using this flashlight over extended periods of time. While the lithium battery allows for more light it comes at the cost of less time. Alkaline batteries give less light but last a lot longer especially on the low output setting. If I were to take this hiking or camping where I cannot recharge the batteries using the AC adapter I would add a couple of pairs of AAA batteries to use once the rechargeable one is done. What would be interesting is to get a small portable solar charger and use it to recharge the lithium battery. I currently do not own one but I think this would be a great way to keep the rechargeable battery powered up.


The only extremely minor issue with the HP3R would be the lack of a lanyard. This is by far the best flashlight that I have personally used for an extended amount of time and a lanyard would have been especially useful to me when hunting. There were a couple of times when maneuvering through brush and thorns that I almost dropped the flashlight.

CoastLight8smOverall, the HP3R is the nicest, most technologically sophisticated flashlight I have ever used. It offers a CoastLight9smlot of flexibility in terms of battery use, recharging options and all around quality. Having used the HP3R for several months it is my go to flashlight for any and all tasks. It is water resistant as I submerged it in water and it didn’t stop functioning. In addition, I am impressed by the packaging and accompanying literature with the flashlight. The box is durable with foam cutouts, bags for the chargers, and color printed reference card that is also repeated on the exterior of the box. Kudos to the staff at Coast for the presentation of the product as it is some of the nicest I have seen.


The MSRP for Coast’s HP3R is listed at $94.99 according the company’s website. A search of the Internet will find prices generally about a third less than list. I believe that it is a great product and completely worth the money. If you are in the market looking for a solid rechargeable pen light, then I highly recommend the HP3R.



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Step It Up With the Tor Ultra Hi Trekking Boots


Step It Up With the Tor Ultra Hi Trekking Boots

By Daniel Hui

Meeting up with a friend for an impromptu day hike gave me the perfect opportunity to test out my new Tor Ultra Hi waterproof boots from Hoka One One.


On Your Mark

I wasn’t previously familiar with the Hoka brand for hiking boots.  The company is relatively young and their primary focus has been on high-performance running and trail shoes.  Yet given Hoka’s proclivity for rugged outdoor destinations, it’s not surprising that hiking and backpacking covers the same ground, both literally and figuratively, as trail running. Vista


Get Set


At first glance, the trail running pedigree is immediately visible in the design of the Tor Ultra Hi boots. Hoka One One’s website says their goal was to combine “running shoe cushioning and supportive trekking uppers,” and overall I’d say they succeeded.  More on that below.


The Tor Ultra’s quality is also reflected by their appearance.  The pair I tested was black and grey with red and orange highlights (black/flame) but they also come in an equally flashy grey/cyan version sporting blue and green highlights.  Either model might be a bit garish for the hiker accustomed to traditional brown leather boots, but I didn’t mind the vivid color because I cross-over into the road runner category and am used to having brightly colored shoes for high visibility.



The testing ground for the boots was Trough Creek State Park in James Creek, Pennsylvania — chosen for its relatively central location between two friends living on opposite ends of our massive state of Pennsylvania.  The park itself offered several trails varying in length and difficulty, and we were able to hike most of them during our day-long excursion.


The Weight is Over

One of the first things I noticed when I put on the boots was their light weight.  At 17 oz. each, they are much lighter than a typical pair of hunting or work boots and significantly lighter than hiking boots I’ve worn in the past.


Normally, a lighter-weight shoe would raise some concern for someone with a heavier-than-average frame like mine, but Hoka’s emphasis on stability engineering was apparent.  The VibramMegagrip outsole is paired with blended high-performance rubbers in the midsole to maximize both traction and a cushioned step, and the overall rocker design didn’t hurt either:  I could not detect any compromises in terms of support in the heel or ankle throughout our hike.  This was especially true during the numerous elevation changes on the more difficult Terrace Rock, Copperas Rock, and Boulder trails. Vibram_Megagrip


When the Rubber Hits the Road

Several portions of the hike required careful navigation of slippery, uneven surfaces, like when I ventured out onto the charming Rainbow Falls — and long uninviting stretches of rocky terrain, as on the aptly named Rhododendron trail.  However I never slipped, rolled my ankle, or felt any discomfort in the well-cushioned sole, as has been the case with previous boots that I have owned.






I even traversed a creek via a large fallen tree without much difficulty, confirming that the grip was great, and the sturdy boots were nimble enough to easily navigate a swinging suspension bridge.


The ultimate payoff for all the rugged climbing we did was some magnificent vista views of the surrounding area, which consisted of Great Trough Creek as it runs through the Terrace Mountain Gorge and the surrounding Rothrock State Forest.




With the boots providing consistent performance throughout the 4.5 miles or so that we hiked, we were able to extend our trekbeyond our initial loop and check out more trails in the park.  Highlights included an abandoned ice mine, the ruins of an old dam, the remains of the Paradise furnace, and a fascinating cemetery nestled deep within the woods and lost in time.


Get Fit

In terms of overall fit, I will put out a disclaimer that the shoes I tested were a size too small for me.  I normally wear an 11 ½ running shoe, and I usually go with a 12 in boots to accommodate thicker and more padded socks.




I tried to compensate for the smaller size by wearing a much thinner sock than I would typically wear for hiking, and all things considered, I didn’t have any major problems with the fit.  I did notice some cramping in the toe area as my foot shifted forward during terrain descent.  On the other hand, I found the heel portion of the boot to be quite roomy even though the boots were a little tight on me otherwise.Toe



Stretch Before and After

I also found the boots to be surprisingly flexible, with my ankles enjoying a full range of movement.  As such, I did not have any problems with the fact that the boots were brand new.  These are boots that did not seem to require any breaking-in and, for me, were good-to-go right out of the box.  My takeaway from all this is that standard boot sizing should apply, so go with a pair a half-size larger if you are planning to wear thick wool socks.


Don’t Forget to Breathe

On that surprisingly warm and humid late-August day, breathability of the boot was more of a concern than, say, in the middle of winter.  In this regard, again I found the engineering of the shoe to be above average: My feet were adequately ventilated and never overheated.


Stay Hydrated!

eVent1Sometimes, good breathability comes at the expense of water protection, but I will say this is an area that I did not test extensively.  The boots do feature eVentliners, a waterproof material with mixed reviews and common in outdoor gear. The trails were primarily rocky and the ground mostly dry, for once.  We did venture into shallow creeks to pester crayfish hiding under rocks, but the water was never deeper than the rubber outsole.  I’ll be curious to see how much protection the eVent provides in ankle-deep water.




The Thrill of Victory

In terms of form and function, my first experience with the Hoka One One brand definitely proved that they deliver all the important features I demand of a boot: providing adequate comfort and support while earning high marks for being noticeably lightweight, breathable, and flexible.



The Agony of Receipt

Whether that engineering justifies the price is debatable, and you can certainly find some degree of these features for less money in other brands, but I do appreciate the quality of the Tor Ultra Hi, as well as that additional visual flair that emphasizes that the company is trying to give us something a little different.

With a MSRP of $230, the boots are not inexpensive.  But as of January 9, both REI and are selling them for about 25% off; and, which is currently selling Tors at $108.45 a pair, offers an even deeper discount of $99.41 each if you buy two or more pairs.


A Safe Bet

It should be noted that the company does have a 30-day guarantee that allows you to return the boots for a full refund if you are dissatisfied.


So, if a discounted price and the overall look suit you, I would certainly recommend trying a pair on, making sure they fit properly, and giving them a test run.



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The Council Tools ApocalAxe

Council Tools ApocalAxe

By Dan “Doc” Holiday

Hatchet, hammer, gutter, skinner, and bottle opener.   The Council Tools ApocalAxe is built to perform an ambitious list of tasks for the hunter, hiker, or camper.ApocalAxe2


The ApocalAxe is drop-forged high carbon steel, 15 inches long, and weighs 2.0 pounds.  Head and handle are one solid piece, with a polymer molded grip at the handle end.  The knuckle-guard grip behind the blade is not covered.  The axe blade has a slight curve and has a total cutting length just short of six inches.  The head is topped with a gut hook and backed with a hammer head.  As mentioned, the head is cut out behind the blade, with a contoured finger grip on the heft to allow for fine cutting work.  The bottom of the handle is pierced for a lanyard, and features a built-in bottle opener.ApocalAxe5
The tool has a solid, reassuring weight.  It is predictably head-heavy, but, given the short overall length and low overall weight, balance did not pose any problems.  I did find that the tool was occasionally tricky to remove from the sheath:  the axe is lifted through the snap-close top of the sheath, and the rim of the polymer coating on the handle would catch on the bottom edge of the sheath.


The ApocalAxe worked well as a basic hatchet, cutting branches and splitting kindling well with the factory edge.  The hammer back handled a few roofing nails and both aluminum and plastic tent stakes easily.  The polymer grip, however, is only contoured for the axe-side, so using the hammer on an extended basis (and one struggles to imagine why one would) would probably be uncomfortable eventually.


I did not have a chance to test the gut hook in the field, but I did pull it through a couple of pieces of 1/16 inch thick cowhide leather.  It needed an initial knick with a sharper blade, but I was able to pull the hook and open a cut.  I think a little time spent sharpening the hook would probably be needed before relying on it as a primary tool in the field.ApocalAxe7As mentioned, I did not actually skin an animal.   I did spend some time whittling furring strips and other close cutting with the axe blade, holding by the knuckle guard.  My control was not a fine as I would like, and I found myself bumping my forearm into the handle frequently.   The top of the blade is rounded, and, as I found myself using the very top of the axe blade for fine cutting, I thought a more squared off end might serve better – but also thought that it may limit its use as a skinner.  I found a ¼ inch thick piece of cowhide, and used the axe edge/knuckle guard grip to split it to get an idea of what it may feel like skinning.  Awkward as my simulation was, the axe performed fairly well.ApocalAxe8

Of course, all of that hard work deserved a reward – and the bottle opener popped open a Yuengling Porter just fine…ApocalAxe9

The ApocalAxe comes with an accompanying twenty page booklet.  It gives some background about Council Tools and its founder, John Pickett Council, as well as a whirlwind tour of the history of axes from the Paleolithic to the present.  More importantly, it gives thorough instructions for sharpening, storage, and care of the tool.



For me, the tool would not eliminate the need for a good pocket knife, but a good hatchet/hammer combination, at only two pounds, is probably worth it in the backpack , and it is easy enough to take along for a base camp.  The solid construction tells me that, if cared for according to instructions, it is a tool I would have for a long time.  However, the ApocalAxe lists for $134.45 on Council Tool’s website:  for my own use, too much more than other tools which it would not completely replace.


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Benchmade Jungle Clip Point

Only a tenderfoot carries a big knife.  Yep, I’ve heard that one too.  I’ve also heard that a big knife can do the job of a small one but not the other way ’round.  I’m sure there’s plenty of guys out there that think they can do anything with their Swiss Army Knife, and some others that think unless they carry a 14 inch Bowie that’d feel at home in the Alamo they’re totally defenseless.  Truth be told, I’m somewhere in the middle.  And so is the Benchmade Jungle Clip Point.  A big knife with a fantastic design, built tough in the USA, at an incredible price point.  Let’s take a look at it.


The Benchmade Jungle Clip Point is pretty big in reality, but that does not mean it’s bulky.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Its blade comes in at 9.69 inches with an overall length of 14.29 inches.  It’s long, but surprisingly it weighs only 10.9oz.  For crying out loud, my multi tool, the Leatherman MUT, is 0.3oz heavier than that!  The handle is made of what Benchmade calls Santoprene, which I understand to be a proprietary polymer.  It’s slightly soft, tacky, and excellently shaped.  In reality, the 9.69 inch blade needs this exact handle.  It’s very comfortable.  When you hold this knife, you really understand why it’s such a sleeper in the Benchmade line up.


The blade is made up of my favorite carbon steel, good ol’ 1095.  Now a lot of folks look down on 1095 because it’s not the latest and greatest super steel on the market.  But 1095 has been getting things done for knife blades since the old school ass-kickers were charging Normandy.  Add Benchmade’s excellent heat treat, and you get edge resistance, blade toughness (57-59HRC), and durability.  The blade is saber ground, meaning it’s V ground about half way up from the edge, then flattens into the full thickness of the stock, in this case, 0.195”, or about 4.95mm.  For a knife this size, the saber grind makes a lot of sense.  It adds strength to the knife in its thickness, but provides cutting ability with good edge geometry without the need for bull.  A sharpened pry bar this thing is not!



sheath backBenchmade provides a very nice leather sheath with the Jungle Clip Point.  The sheath issheath front brown leather, well-stitched with two rivets at the top, and a nicely sized belt loop.  There is, however, no secondary retention to the sheath.  Like a good friend of mine once told me regarding his pistol holster, it stays in there with “friction and gravity.”  Turn it upside down and shake it, it’ll slide out.  Leave it vertical in your pack, on your belt, or as I carried it, inside the compression straps of your pack, and you have nothing to worry about.  Still paranoid?  Run some shock cord though the belt loop, then through the lanyard hole and loop it back on the handle.  Paranoia solved.

Over the course of nearly two months now, I have used this knife for everything I could.  On an overnight 4×4 trip into the Colorado backcountry, the Jungle Clip Point was used for everything I needed a cutting implement to do.  It started off doing a little chopping and hacking to beat back some fallen trees across the road.  The Jungle Clip Point chops extremely well, almost like a smaller hatchet, with a sweet spot right behind where the radius straightens out near the tip.  At camp, the Benchmade cut tent guy lines, chopped and split firewood, prepared dinner and breakfast, and served as a scraper to clear caked up mud off an air intake so it could be removed to service the carburetor.  Speaking of splitting firewood, the Jungle Clip Point batoned wood extremely well.  I was splitting 6 inch and larger sized logs easily.  I mean, easy.  The rubber Santoprene soaked up all the shock, and the saber grind drove the two halves apart.  This is one of the best fire prep knives I’ve used in a long time.  Even after the work out around the fire, I was able to push cut curls of aspen, and easily clip small chunks into manageable sizes for my BioLite stove.




On another adventure, I used the Jungle Clip Point to pry out globs of dried juniper sap from several old tree wounds.  The juniper sap burns extremely well, and likewise, entertains the heck out of a four year old!  Putting up a hasty poncho shelter with the knife was simple as well.  Cutting and carving stakes for the corners was a simple affair, and it was surprising how well the big knife handled the small chores.  While not a dedicated wood carver, things like trap triggers, pot hangers, and stake notches were easy to do.

The Jungle Clip Point held its edge very well.  Over nearly two months of hard use, finding excuses to test it, I’ve only touched up the edge twice.  Once on a ceramic rod then the strop, the second time only on the strop.  The handle and blade cleaned easily in soap and water when needed.  The only modification I’ve done to the knife was to Sno-Seal the sheath.  From the factory, it has a light coating of some sort, but still soaked up a little too much moisture for my preference.  Sno-Seal has been a long standing favorite of mine, and with a thick coat and a heat gun, I’m confident this sheath will last for decades.


So, is this a one knife option for the outdoor adventurer?  Yes, I think it is.  It’ll do everything you want, and really excels in some areas.  I think it’s best paired with a small knife like a Swiss Army Knife or a multi-tool.   That combo would really cover all your needs.  Speaking of the whole package, typical price for this knife comes in at just a tick over $100.00!  $106.25 seemed to  This very well may be the sleeper of the Benchmade line.  If you’re a Woods Monkey, you’ll love the Benchmade Jungle Clip Point.



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