08 December 2018

What's In Your Parka?



Living, working, playing in the depths of winter? By winter I don't mean anything north of zero Fahrenheit. The winter I'm referring to commonly has temperatures well below zero and wind chills in the significant double digits below zero. Skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, or working for a living in extremely cold environments can put a person in a bad place if not properly prepared.

*While I do carry my main gear in my pack, it is possible to become separated from it. As a result I carry immediate need survival equipment in my parka pockets.

The Parka


Empire Canvas Works is the company that produces the parka (Permafrost Parka) I've been using for several years. They're also fellow denizens of Northern Minnesota, and they've been producing solid winter expedition quality gear for a long time. I've been very pleased with mine and have come to rely heavily upon it when I'm spending time outside in the depths of winter.

Before we get into the specifics of the gear let's cover a few important aspects of the parka itself. It's is the primary piece of kit within the system.


A parka in my mind isn't some huge bulky insulated single garment. That's a coat you wear to the mall. A parka for true winter use is a shell that breathes, keeping you from getting cold from perspiration. Blocks wind which is the single largest warmth robbing monster you'll have to deal with. Cold without wind is just cold, cold with wind is an ice demon hell bent on freezing your soul. It should have plenty of easily accessible and roomy pockets. It needs to be able to be cinched down, at the hem, at the waist, and around the hood.

Speaking of the hood, the fur ruff around the hood isn't merely for style points. Wind removes heat from your face by convection, and the faster it blows, the more heat it removes. When the wind hits a solid object, a boundary layer is created in front of the object, inside which the wind slows down. The larger the object, the thicker and more insulating the boundary layer.



In 2004, a research team from the universities of Michigan, Washington and Manitoba quantified this boundary layer effect using a heated model of a human head, thermocouples, a wind tunnel, and a variety of hoods. As expected, the most effective hood by far in slowing heat loss had a sunburst ruff. It was particularly superior to other hoods when the wind was blowing from the side.


Beneath each armpit on the parka there is a delrin loop, these are for cording your mittens off. I like being able to keep my mittens where I need them when my hands are not in them. I frequently remove my hands when nimble fingers are required and simply drop the mitten, it'll hang just below my waist via the dummy cord to the delrin loop.

What's in the pockets?


There's a lot going on in the image above, let's simplify by focusing on the four pockets. There are two chest pockets and two cargo pockets.

Top Right Pocket



 On the parka's upper right pocket there is a wool triangular cravat (15 Uses of a Triangular Bandage), under the cravat there is a Bushcraft Outfitter's Signal Panel. I cannot say enough good things about this thing. It's a signal panel, a bag, a pad, a pillow, scarf, fire prep pad, and tons of other uses. It weighs less than 4 ounces, is 29" square, the material is 70d waterproof ripstop nylon. Blaze on one side, multicam on the other..

Top Left Pocket

The other chest pocket holds my camera and or phone, and a pair of revision photochromic ballistic goggles. I prefer those over a dedicated pair of snowmobile or ski goggles. I also carry a small bottle of Ops Drops anti-fog and a cleaning cloth.



Lower Right Pocket


A red zippered bag made by Foxlite Gear holds some basic goodies. The bag slips easily in and out of the pocket, and there's room for more gear if I need to add to it.

Inside the bag I have what you see in the image above. A tin of caffinated chocolate, Scho-Ka-Kola, medicated chapstic, two cliff gel shots, each equals 100 calories. Couple packs of gum from an MRE along with the TP. a small compass, a Petzl e+Lite, a tin with a fire kit that includes hurricane matches and other goodies, a flannel handkerchief. Incidentally, do not by Scho-kakola from Amazon if you're looking for it. It's three times as expensive through Amazon as it is buying from Varusteleka. Seriously, $3.99 a tin vs $12.99 @ Amazon!

Important parts are energy and caloric.  Your body requires fuel to burn in order to make heat, surviving extreme cold on low energy and low or no calories is very difficult. Besides the calories, the caffeine in both the gel shots and the chocolate help keep me alert and energetic.

Lower Left Pocket

There is a white FoxLite Gear bag in this pocket that has a pre-built pocket 'Super Shelter'. If you're not sure what a Super Shelter is, it is the creation of one Mors Kochanski, one of the most well know Bushcraft and Survival instructors on earth. Author of Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival. This particular version is a prebuilt shelter, it needs only a ridge-line in order to set it up. Here's a video showing the pocket super shelter in action, averaging a 50 degree increase in temperature over ambient outside temps.



Also in that pocket is a small pouch from Centerline Systems. Within it I have a titanium whistle, a Exotac Titan Light, a ferrocerium rod, a compass and a signal mirror. Also attached is a PSK blade.





I practice with this gear regularly, and some of it I use as a matter of course in my activities. There are a number of people who die every year while enjoying winter, some of them because they were not prepared for the unexpected. Snowmobiles break down, run out of fuel, getting lost happens, injuries occur, you might face a night or two before search and rescue locates you or you may be required to effect self rescue. Being prepared isn't hard or that expensive, however, the price for not being so may be the ultimate one.

19 September 2018

Road Gear; The Air Armor M240

It was a dark and stormy night, the highway was empty, black and wet. The double yellow vaguely illuminated by the headlights, a ding sounded twice, the low air warning flashing on the dashboard. The right rear tire was under inflated...

It was a cold morning, the sun hadn't cleared the horizon, he could see his breath on the air as he walked to his car. "Crap" he said as he noticed the flat tire...

He saw the hazards flashing in the distance and began to slow. The car was pulled off the road onto the shoulder and a woman was standing at the rear of it with cell phone in hand. He pulled off behind her and noticed she had a flat...

He had driven the old logging road earlier that day, heading to his favorite neck of the woods. After spending the day afield with his best dog he returned to the truck only to find he had a flat tire...
After spending a day on the water and the sun sinking behind the mountains the couple pushed their boat towards the docks.

Their faces red and windblown, smiling but tired. With the boat waiting at the ramp to be loaded on the trailer they found one of the trailer tires flat...
You don't have to be a hard core off road enthusiast to appreciate the ability to air up a tire without needing roadside assistance or a gas station's air pump. Needing air in a tire is one of the most common occurrences motorists face on the road, and off.

I had been looking at various options for a vehicle based air compressor.  Some were mounted and others were not. Prices ranged from under $100 to over $600. Those over $250 were eliminated as they didn't fit my budget, and some of them which required mounting and plumbing of air lines were overkill for what I wanted. I'd come to the conclusion that I wanted a mobile air compressor, not overly large but still capable of inflating large tires.

After reading multiple reviews and recommendations for several products I finally decided to give the Air Armor M240 a go.

Here's the description provided on Amazon for the M240;


CONVENIENCE: The M240 12v air compressor powers directly from your vehicle’s battery and delivers air with a 25’ service hose. Included is a box of tire parts, tools, and accessories. All this in a tough as nails steel storage locker to have with you where ever you go.

MULTIPLE USES: You won’t be the operator caught dead on the road because you lost a part in the dirt - the M240 air pump has your back. Packed in the accessory box is an arsenal of 27 tire care and repair parts which includes a tire repair kit, 4-way tire valve tool, 2 gauges and an assortment of commonly lost or damaged tire parts like valve caps and cores.

EASY TO USE: At the core of the M240 is a 12-Volt, direct drive, high volume air compressor with a 10’power cord that clips directly to your vehicle’s battery. This 40mm powerhouse provides optimal performance in the critical tire inflation pressure range. Delivering 2.11 CFM you can inflate a full size truck tire in less than 2 minutes. Fully inflate a 35” tire from 0-35 PSI in less than 5 minutes. The system boasts an instrument panel with built-in air pressure gauge and type "M" style 1/4" air fitting to attach the unprecedented 25’ straight easy-to-coil air hose with lock-on ball foot commercial air chuck. Airing up has never been easier thanks to an extended 50% duty cycle and hose that reaches all 4 tires of even the longest wheelbase vehicles.

GREAT GIFT IDEA: The perfect gift for the rugged off road, outdoor enthusiast, Jeep owner who needs to air up and air down quickly and easily. A popular item with our Military and First Responder customers.

I purchased one on September 17th of 2017 and I've since used it countless times. A six week road trip exploring the American West in 2018, I used it every day. This was because I was airing down for a trail and then airing up again after finishing the trail. I covered over 6,000 miles on this trip, much of it off road in the back country of Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming.Early on in the trip I was in Idaho on a trail that would put me in Wyoming. The road started as a rough gravel washboard road and eventually turned into a dirt and rock goat path. I aired down and like an idiot, set the M240 on my trailer's tongue box and drove off. Three miles later I realized what I'd forgot, turned the jeep around and headed back. I found the M240 scattered across the rough gravel road. It had fallen off and hit the road at probably 25mph. The ammo box was separated from the lid and the components were scattered about. I wasn't hopeful.

I reconnected the lid to the box, hooked the alligator clips to the battery terminals and hit the switch. The unit fired right up and worked just fine! The images below are post fall.
Keep in mind that I wasn't just airing up four tires for this trip, each time I aired down I did so on my overlanding trailer as well. So each time I aired up I was airing up six tires!
How Quick?

I'm running 35x12.50s, these are some large beefy tires. Typically I'm running 37psi on the street and air down to 23-25psi on the trail. Super slow rock crawly type stuff and I'll air down into the teens. For most of this specific trip however, the lowest I went was 23psi.

The M240 has a claimed CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) of 2.11.  To be able to inflate a 35" tire from 0-35psi in less than five minutes. While nearly all of my re-inflation efforts were quick, I don't know if the 0-35psi claim is realistic. On average, to inflate from 23 to 37 took about 3 minutes per tire.  The speed can be affected by the battery the unit is drawing from and heat generation of the compressor. There are some other factors but they tend to be not as impacting as battery and heat. I'm sure elevation has an impact as well but I don't know how much of one.

The unit is durable, surviving a 25 mph impact with the road. The tools it comes with are all nice additions. I would recommend a high quality tire repair kit like Boulder Tools Tire Repair kit, additionally I'd recommend a good quality tire deflation kit if you're airing down regularly, the Boulder Tools Tire Deflator kit.

For the non off-roading type the unit is still a worthwhile purchase. The scenarios at the beginning of this article are common and could be resolved with a unit like the M240. A can of Fixaflat could potentially resolve them as well, however, there are a number of reasons you might not want to use Fixaflat. Tire Repair With Fixaflat-Use Caution lists the some of the reasons.

Having owned the M240 for a year, and used it extensively I can recommend the unit with a couple caveats.

1. If you're planning to use the unit to inflate tires larger than 35" you're going to have issues.
2. If you are inflating 35" tires it's likely going to take a little longer than the advertised times.

It's a quality product that fit my needs and performed as expected. Even exceeded my expectations when it comes to durability.

Happy Trails!

02 April 2018

American Grouch Discount


For those who may be interested, follow the link below and take 15% off your entire order at Survival Nomads. Lot of new products recently added!

https://survivalnomads.com/discount/americangrouch


16 March 2018

Survival Nomads

I can't say that 'retirement' is filled with idle time, in fact I'd say it's quite the opposite. I'm staying busy, tween the kids, the house, the chores (I'm still raising chickens and goats) plus cutting and splitting firewood to heat the place, I'm fairly engaged.

However.

My latest endeavor has been bringing a few businesses online, besides www.outdoorsman.net www.woodsmansremedies.com http://goapocalypse.com there is also www.survivalnomads.com

Survival Nomads is my online shop selling various outdoorsy type goods. It's young but operational, and growing. I'm continuously trying out new stuff and discarding stuff. The goal being to carry some good reasonably priced gear, and eventually offering a range of items from low priced but still good quality to best in class gear that of course comes with the corresponding price tag. I want to carry stuff people would find useful and would feel like they could depend on it.

I've been an outdoors-man my whole life and I mean my whole life. At three years of age I sat in the creek in front of our house that didn't have electricity or running water and shoved my finger into critter holes in the bank. I was a happy kid then.

My point is, as I go through the goods in the store I'm ditching stuff that I don't think is useful to someone.  Having spent my life outside and using various tools I've come to appreciate some design elements. Not all of the designs currently stocked would fit my tastes but that doesn't mean it wouldn't for others.

Not only do I hope you'll visit the store, I hope to hear from you. Likes, dislikes, it's all good and it helps me grow. If you've got product suggestions I'm very eager to hear them. If I can source what you're looking for at a competitive price I'm all for it.

So, if you've the time, come see me at Survival Nomads.


13 March 2018

My Son

My second oldest son is off and running, and I am proud to say, following in his old man's footsteps to and extent. (I hope he avoids most of my mistakes along the way).

If you've the time, his work is worth the follow, he writes his own blog now.

Check him out at Notes of the Nomad.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-QsbWEGU_0Sw/WeA2qfMnzfI/AAAAAAAAAMo/fdFfY3VoHFYP2onAdPGdZHZKsdRlpEm_QCK4BGAYYCw/s940/received_1384476341661526.jpeg

And to use his tag line, "Stay safe out there!"

Good luck in your travels, my son.