29 November 2012

Hill People Gear 'Kit Bag' a Hunter's Perspective

 My first impressions of the kit bag were good, and have really only gotten better since I started using it. I've tried different loadouts almost weekly except for a two week period where what I was carrying remained static, a result of hunting season but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Hill People Gear (HPG) is a small family based company producing some truly innovative products designed for backcountry travelers, their gear more designed for users, not so much North Face pimps who never leave the sidewalk.

From their website:
There is a bewildering array of outdoor gear you can choose from in this day and age, with REI and EMS being almost as common as 7-elevens. However, the popularity of outdoor pursuits have pushed a lot of gear design in the direction of fashion rather than function. "Fast and Light" is just as much of a fashion imperative now as the neon clothing colors were a few years ago. In some cases there is real function there, and in some cases not.
At Hill People Gear, our focus is timeless designs that solve unsolved problems using the best advantages of modern materials. We think in terms of what will work for someone living close to the land day in and day out over a period of time. Some of our products will appeal to hunters, some of them will appeal to soldiers, and some of them will appeal to folks who are looking for simple, functional, and reliable gear. Most of all, we'd like to think that our gear would be the first choice of our "Hill People" forebearers if they were around today.
The company is headed up by brothers Evan and Scott Hill, both of whom grew up out of doors and never got far from that root. Their experience coupled with input from other users has given them a unique perspective in my opinion. They've used top end gear themselves from other makers, and they've found ways to improve certain products while also bringing very original designs to market. Their Mountain Serape for example is a truly innovative piece of gear. I'll be writing about that one in the future.

I don't remember where I saw the first kit bag, or even if the first one I saw was indeed a HPG kit bag or if it was a Kifaru Koala which is a similar piece of gear, and in fact there is a reason for that, Evan designed it. What I do remember thinking was that 'there's a damn fine idea', and the reason it's a damn fine idea is simple really. The original concept was to facilitate discrete pistol carry while also carrying a full sized backpack on your back. Carrying in the kit bag put the handgun at center chest, I guess you could say at a classic position sul, albeit a bit high. The design is such that for those who wish to carry a handgun while wearing a pack on the back, likely with a waist belt, can do so comfortably on the chest in a kit bag.

That was the original intent. It didn't take long however for users to see the benefits, even if they were not packin' heat. Any one who has to carry stuff, wants to stay organized, has a need for quick access to things or will be repeatedly accessing certain items like a compass for example, will find huge benefit in the kit bag. Which incidentally is one of four models now, and the largest of the four. Others are seen here. As an example of use without a handgun in the mix, during rifle season I carried my Leupold 10x42s in the center compartment with a spool of bankline and a tracking + field dressing kit, a 10x7 ultralight tarp in the pistol compartment with a couple granola bars, and all of my navigation, fire, and other miscellaneous goods in the front pocket.

We all carry stuff, be it day to day, backcountry, runners, gunners, drivers, you name it we carry stuff. For me personally, there are some critical pieces of gear that I classify as first line, meaning they need to be attached or on my person in such a fashion that I cannot be easily parted with them. I'm not a fan of stuffed cargo pockets, I hate being disorganized, I don't like having to sort through my backpack for critical to me gear and kit. I like having things at my finger tips. The kit bag puts whatever you want, in a highly organized manner, right at your fingertips and under your eyes, literally.

Kit Bag in Ranger Green in this image there is a full size Glock 35 in the rear compartment.

The material is highly durable and abrasion resistant, 500d cordura, they are sewn in the USA by First Spear. If I had a fault with the material it's related to how noisy it can be under certain circumstances. Because of the material, the weave and nature of it any limb that it hits, sapling limbs or branches for example, walking through thickets etc, all of this makes noise when the contact occurs. To me it seemed very loud, in context this is the wilds, it's quiet or at least I'm trying to be quiet. This material isn't. I've adapted to it, putting my arm which is usually covered with wool up between the bag and object that might pop or rub against it. This is a short term solution, longer term I believe I'm going to mod up a piece of wool or fleece that can be connected to the bag's top two and bottom two tabs. In the image above for example, you can see the coyote brown d-ring. This would make a great place to attach a simple rectangular piece of cover made of some soft and silent fabric.

Zippers are stout and unfortunately loud, which can be combated by gripping the zipper base in the palm of the hand with the hand closed instead of just pulling the zipper pull itself. Sounds more complicated than it is, just imagine trying to muffle the sound the zipper makes by cupping your hand around it while using it.

 There are three compartments.  The first, on the front of the bag is a flat pocket with two internal slash pockets for organization. Also a couple points to dummy cord important things like a compass.

The middle compartment is the hauler, ample space for a fair bit of kit and another two organizations pockets. The rear compartment is for concealed carry, or other items of course. It does not have slash pockets but does feature a strip in the center of loop material for affixing hook and loop organizers or holsters. There's also a loop in the bottom center for dummy cording.

Straps and back panel are same material, back panel is mesh and using it under a pack was not an issue. It's thin, offered no problems or bunching, worked like a charm. Easy to get on and off. Well thought out and executed.

In this image there is a pair of 10x42 Leupold binoculars in the center compartment and a 10x7 tarp in the rear.

I don't foresee any quality concerns, stitching is top shelf, material and zippers are both highly durable and plenty rugged. Color availability is Ranger Green, Coyote Brown, Foliage, and Multicam. I'm starting to swing towards Ranger Green, sometimes called smoke green as it blends here better than any of the other offerings. In fact it doesn't do a bad job of blending in during all four seasons here.

I've seen commentary around the kit bag elsewhere, suggesting the kit bag is too large if you only intend to use it as a chest mounted possibles bag. I completely disagree with this suggestion, for hunters. Perhaps if your soul intended use is concealed backcountry carry then this might be true, however, for myself and most of the actual hunters that I know this bag is used for more than a pistol centric carry option. Game calls, for example, binoculars, communications when  using GMRS radios or the like. Of course all of these things could be relocated to belt pouches on the backpack or in the backpack but now we're back to being tethered to the backpack at all times. Hunting out of a base camp, which is my preferred method, usually means I'm going light and leaving the bulk of my gear behind. The kit bag offers a comfortable carry option for the critical necessities I like to carry. Again, if your central purpose is using the chest pack as a pistol carry platform then I guess maybe so, I just find it damn hard to believe that a pack with so much to offer would be relegated to a simple pistol humping platform. Each his own.

All of the miscellaneous items I consider first line critical kit are in the bag and it's completely out of the way and utterly unobtrusive. I've affixed a spudz lens cleaner from Kuiu Gear to the zipper pull, this makes cleaning lenses on scopes, binoculars or even glasses easy, and keeps the microfiber cloth out of pockets where they pick up debris and end up scratching lenses. 

The kit bag is designed with tabs at the top where grimlocs can be used, for hanging on another pack, or for use with a Lifter Kit for docking to a host pack.  There are a pair of bottom loops on the kit bag that are located at either end that are used to connect another pack or in conjunction with a stabilizer kit that will keep the bag from bouncing while running. I would encourage you to review these features at the HPG website as I've not used either as of this time. If you follow this link and scroll down below the picture set you'll find the instructions for using the lifter straps. I simply haven't needed to. One of the reasons I was drawn to the pack was carrying critical items independently of my backpack. For this reason I really don't see me ever using the docking capability, at least right now and since I don't do much running through the woods I don't think I'll be using the stabilizer either.

So far I've been pretty satisfied with the kit bag, really satisfied. I've been able to shed the pockets off my pack's waist belt which I was never fond of anyway. All of my critical gear is affixed to me, the items I access a lot are right where I needed them, not in a pocket, not hanging around my neck.

I'll do a longer term thoughts and impressions in a couple months, right now I'm still in the honeymoon I guess. I'm stoked about this kit bag as it's fulfilling multiple roles and completely eliminated some other carry options. Even beyond handgun carry it has proven itself at carrying glass, or camera lenses, along with shelter, hydro, navigation, fire and so on. If you've been considering alternatives to traditional carry methods or if you are looking for a pistol carry option in the backcountry you could do a lot worse than HPG's kit bag. For the price point, quality, and layout and features you could definitely do a whole lot worse.

Check out the Kit bag and the other three models, I'm pretty sure that if you're looking for a chest pack they have what you want.

Our Wilderness

The natural world, and isn't it odd that this is a common way of referring to the out of doors? Almost as if humans live in a parallel universe of their own making, one the world of concrete and steel, the other the gilded pathways of the wood and mountain, river and lake. I guess this is a by product of the industrial and then technological revolution leading humanity down a different path, parting ways with 'the natural world'. Every year this divergence increases and because our education isn't centered on this natural world there is a growing ignorance regarding how to interact with that 'natural world' as opposed to our then by default 'artificial world'. Where once that relationship and interaction had understanding, cause and effect, and the consequences of actions there is now an expanding enigmatic view of how the wild places and how we interact with them. Philosophies have sprouted up that are not rooted in solid, real, and tangible science. It's is almost as if we've allowed the disconnect with the natural world to grow to the point that there is a schism between our day to day and the back of beyond. Emotional decisions are carried forth more often than not, science in some regards has taken a back seat and as a result we're doing damage to the very thing we believe we are protecting.

The early years of my life were spent on a homestead in rural southwest Virginia, there was no power or running water. Light was oil lamps, water was bucketed in from the creek that ran fifteen yards in front of the house. The house was situated in a valley that t-d off to the south at the base of a mountain. To the north was a large expanse of 'up' for lack of a better way to say it. It had been cut and cleared at least a hundred years prior and the fields were now hay. Behind the house to the west was a steep hill covered in thickets and briar, home to rabbits and quail. The front door faced east and the rising sun. I remember cold mornings watching that sun rise above the frost on the grass, I remember its warmth spreading through my face and chasing the chill away.

My room was a loft, to access it we climbed a old hand built wooden ladder from the front room. The square hole I climbed through was like the access door to the barn loft where hay is stored, I'm still not completely convinced that old home wasn't in fact a barn prior. The ladder was nailed to the wall, to the right was an old cast wood stove, a behemoth of a thing that sometimes glowed cherry red in the night. I still remember the smell of red oak stacked in the corner, our only defense against the freezing winter winds.

My days were spent sticking my finger in small snake holes along the creek bank, turning over rocks looking for crayfish. Chasing squirrels and rabbits with an old .410, climbing the ridges to what seemed to me to be the spine of the world. As I look back on it I cannot imagine a more enjoyable boyhood playground. It stuck with me because I've never been able to live anywhere that I didn't have access to that kind of playground.

I think part of the draw to the backwoods while rooted in my youth, is also the utterly uncomplicated nature of it. While it can be challenging, or even dangerous it isn't duplicitous, the wild doesn't possess man's seemingly innate ability to twist or turn or mislead or over complicate things. It simply 'is' yet at the same time the relationship with the wild is dynamic and ever changing. As I've learned to listen I've realized that there is an engaging conversation occurring every minute spent in 'the natural world'. The ebb and flow of the wilderness is a cycle like the tied but spanning centuries instead of a day. Sometimes it seems to me it is a massive organism so large in fact that it is beyond my mind's ability to truly understand.

In Utah there is a clonal colony of Aspen called Pando. It is a stand though that word is inadequate, of male Aspen trees that all stem from a single root structure and all are genetically identical to one another. It's a single organism that covers 43 acres. To anyone unknowing of this, each would seem to be just another tree among many that look the same. The giant banyan trees in India are the largest trees in the world.  One individual tree, due to branching propagation, covers over 19,000 square meters.

I believe man has hit the height of hubris, believing we know pretty much everything. Something about pride goeth before a fall.

I go to the wild not to pass through to another destination but rather be accompanied by the wild on a journey.  Along the way, once I stopped thinking of these journeys as time spent getting 'there', I began to see things differently. Where once there were trees there were now a tree that I saw singularly the way we see an individual person when we look. Each year I cut trees in my forest, I cut them for firewood, I cut them to open the forest floor, I cut them to improve the environment and the habitat for other trees, animals, plants and the general life within that forested area. This is not counter intuitive to someone who loves the wild places, no, it's stewardship of those places. It isn't something I just look at, or through hike, I interact with it, it improves my life and makes it possible. In return I do as I can to improve its overall health. A symbiotic relationship.

As a society I believe we are dangerously close to a line where the understanding of existing with the wild in a symbiotic manner is fading, being replaced with look but don't touch mentalities that don't really understand what they are doing. We need to return to scientific process, grasp a biological understanding, not manage from afar through emotionalism. We've been here before. At the turn of the century the US Forestry Service had a policy of fire suppression. As author Jared Diamond states in 'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed...

"The U.S. Forest Service in the first decade of the 1900s adopted a policy of fire suppression (attempting to put out forest fires) for the obvious reasons that it didn't want valuable timber to go up in smoke, nor people's homes and lives to be threatened. The Forest Service's announced goal became, 'Put out every forest fire by 10:00 A.M. on the morning after the day when it is first reported.' Firefighters became much more successful at achieving that goal after World War II, thanks to the availability of firefighting planes, an expanded road system for sending in fire trucks, and improved firefighting technology. For a few decades after World War II, the annual acreage burnt decreased by 80 percent.

"That happy situation began to change in the 1980s, due to the increasing frequency of large forest fires that were essentially impossible to extinguish unless rain and low winds combined to help. People began to realize that the U.S. federal government's fire suppression policy was contributing to those big fires, and that natural fires caused by lightning had previously played an important role in maintaining forest structure. ... Take the [Montana's] Bitterroot low-altitude Ponderosa Pine forest as an example, historical records, plus counts of annual tree rings and datable fire scars on tree stumps, demonstrated that a Ponderosa Pine forest experiences a lightning-lit fire about once a decade under natural conditions (i.e., before fire suppression began around 1910 and became effective after 1945). The mature Ponderosa trees have bark two inches thick and are relatively resistant to fire, which instead burns out the understory of fire-sensitive Douglas Fir seedlings that have grown up since the last fire. But after only a decade's growth until the next fire, those seedlings are still too low for fire to spread from them into the crowns. Hence the fire remains confined to the ground and understory.  As a result, many natural Ponderosa Pine forests have a park-like appearance, with low fuel loads, big trees well spaced apart, and a relatively clear understory.

"Of course, though, loggers concentrated on removing those big, old, valuable, fire-resistant Ponderosa Pines, while fire suppression for decades let the understory fill up with Douglas Fir saplings that would in turn become valuable when full-grown. Tree densities increased from 30 to 200 trees per acre, the forest's fuel load increased by a factor of 6, and Congress repeatedly failed to appropriate money to thin out the saplings. Another human-related factor, sheep grazing in national forests, may also have played a major role by reducing understory grasses that would otherwise have fueled frequent low-intensity fires. When a fire finally does start in a sapling-choked forest, whether due to lightning or human carelessness or (regrettably often) intentional arson, the dense tall saplings may become a ladder that allows the fire to jump into the crowns. The outcome is sometimes an unstoppable inferno in which flames shoot 400 feet into the air, leap from crown to crown across wide gaps, reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, kill the tree seed bank in the soil, and may be followed by mudslides and mass erosion.

"Foresters now identify the biggest problem in managing western forests is what to do with those increased fuel loads that built up during the previous half-century of effective fire suppression. In the wetter eastern U.S., dead trees rot away more quickly than in the drier West, where more dead trees persist like giant matchsticks. In an ideal world, the Forest Service would manage and restore the forests, thin them out, and remove the dense understory by cutting or by controlled small fires. But that would cost over a thousand dollars per acre for the one hundred million acres of western U.S. forests, or a total of about $100 billion. No politician or voter wants to spend that kind of money. Even if the cost were lower, much of the public would be suspicious of such a proposal as just an excuse for resuming logging of their beautiful forest. Instead of a regular program of expenditures for maintaining our western forests in a less fire-susceptible condition, the federal government tolerates flammable forests and is forced to spend money unpredictably whenever a firefighting emergency arises: e.g., about $1.6 billion to fight the summer 2000 forest fires that burned 10,000 square miles."
Anyone whose been watching the forest fires of the past five years will tell you, it's gotten much much worse. The point is, we need to understand before we meddle, we need to know before we go down a path that might be hugely detrimental to the very things we love. Humans were not meant to live externally from the wild, believing that we are is a modern concept relatively speaking, and the further we remove ourselves from it the less we understand about it and the higher the potential cost and consequence there of. While I don't care for the idea of returning to the trees and masses of the population trying to 're-wild' themselves, we've gone way past that. No, I'd rather we look at our relationship with the wild and wilderness through objective scientific lenses tinted with wisdom, understanding, and foresight, not through wrongheaded though well intentioned emotionalism.

28 November 2012


Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter - Steven Rinella

I picked up a copy back in October but didn't get a chance to start it until mid November. Unlike most of my reading where I toss another round in the wood stove in my den and settle into it, I decided to read this one while in the woods. So it was read while in ground blinds and on tree stands, sitting stumps and other places I chose to take seat while hunting. More than an hour was spent turning a page after page and looking about with a smile on my face from both the book and being there.

Steven Rinella grew up hunting and never left it. Hunting obviously left a indelible mark on him, formed, fashioned, and sculpted a mind and a philosophy around eating from the efforts of ones own hands. He writes of his youth with an honesty that burns sometimes, and glows at others.

He documents events and adventures that have spanned time and place, all the while weaving the tales through the convoluted mazes of modern societal perceptions, deftly divulging truths and consequences in a manner that is refreshing. There is no couching of terms, it's both raw and yet refined in the delivery, something that I think can only be done when writing honestly and straight from the heart.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read from cover to cover. I found his words matched my thoughts on more than one occasion, and by the end I couldn't help but feel some pride over the fact that another hunter had said succinctly what so many others have failed to say. Rinella has crafted through words a clearly understandable and well reasoned articulation of why we hunt.

Of special interest to me was the sustenance hunting aspect, as this is where I have been for many years now. Meat is what I wish to have at the end of a hunt, and while the experience of said hunt is of equal importance, the meat of it is far more important to me than antlers or other 'trophy' aspects of hunting. I am not condemning trophy hunting, each his own, I am a meat hunter and reading Steven's thoughts on it as well as the adventures in earning meat was very enjoyable.

Regardless of hunter or non-hunter there's something in this book for both camps, something that could build a bridge or two in my opinion, if given half a chance and an open mind.

Steven has done a service to hunting and hunters everywhere with his delivery and substance, I dare hope he has also given some food for thought to those same hunters, and those who don't hunt just the same.

It's well worth the price of admission.

Nicely done Steven.

27 November 2012

A Grouch's Grouse!

Minnesota is the top Ruffed Grouse state, something I didn't know until recently. I guess I sort of knew because I've seen and eaten more grouse over the past four years than any other period of my life. They've become something of a passion for me, that passion consisting of how challenging they are to hunt with a bow and just how good they are to eat!

Something else I didn't know, it's called the Grouse Cycle.  
The Ruffed Grouse population has a cycle, and follows the cycle no matter how much or how little hunting there is. The cycle has puzzled scientists for years, and is simply referred to as the "grouse cycle.
The ruffed grouse population cycles about every ten years. Ruffed grouse populations, as well as those of snowshoe hares, rise and fall in a cycle of about 10 years and are synchronous.  In Minnesota the cycle is most noticeable in the grouse range in the northeast.

No one really knows what drives the cycle, though it has been studied extensively. I think the closest explanation to right is related to snowshoe hares more than anything else. Hares breed prolifically, their boom in population provides cover for the grouse as the hare becomes the primary food source for foxes, coyotes, bobcats, owls and so on, thus allowing the grouse to boom. Eventually though the rabbit die off happens as they'll just breed to the point of running out of food. The problem with the theory though is the grouse cycle happens outside of the hares range, in fact it happens everywhere regardless of predator populations. Even so I think the riddle has an answer related to the natural cycle of their habitat, one way or another.

I couldn't tell you how many times my heart has nearly leaped out of my chest when a grouse busted cover and gained altitude to escape. It's down right explosive and matched only by the pheasant in my opinion, that particular critter I've taken to calling a 'Devil Bird' for the sheer startling capability of it when it flushes. Typically both are hunted with shotguns, and often with dogs as well. My old bird dog loved pheasants, and while he pushed more than one grouse he never took to them the way he did pheasants.

I like to still hunt their trails with a longbow, watching for them closely and being ready for their flush. Sometimes I'll try to take them on the wing but success is marginal for this archer in that regard, more often than not I'll send a blunt as soon as a good shot presents itself though I do try to get the arrow off when the bird is facing straight away from me. I seem to have more luck with this method than any other.

Recently I spent some time up on the Laurentian Divide with some heavy snow on the ground. Slipping between the big old growth spruces and marveling at the gigantic tracks left by the snowshoe hare I also saw grouse sign. There was a aspen thicket that paralleled the old spruces, it didn't take long before I realized just how good the habitat was for them, and not long after that grouse was back on the menu!

Fun to hunt, great over a campfire, looks like the grouse is becoming one of this old grouch's favorite quarries.

23 November 2012

Good Bye Old Friend

Koda has been a faithful companion for many years, this morning was my old bird-dog's last.

Going to be hard, not having him walk beside me, not seeing him as I look out of my windows. He was getting up there in years. The last month has been the worst, lost most of his muscle mass, barely moved. We took our last walk early this morning, he never stopped wagging his tail.

So long my friend, may the birds be plentiful and the fields unending, you will be missed, terribly so.

15 November 2012

The Things We Keep...

I don't think I am alone in this.

The keeping of things that have since been improved upon, newer models, some vastly superior in function over the old yet we hang on to them anyway. Sometimes for sentimental reasons, sometimes because we don't like to change from what we are comfortable with, and sometimes just because. One of those things for me, among probably too many, is a compass.

I'm a bit of a compass freak for a lot of reasons. Beyond the pure functional use of a compass they also represent something more to me, not just to navigate from A to B and beyond, but symbolically as well. A man has a moral compass, a spiritual compass, or a navigational compass. The common thread herein is a device be it mechanical or something inside that points the path into our future, to a destination we cannot see but only imagine. For this reason I tend to put more into a compass, attach to it something beyond the pure function. It's a tool garnished with history and the wisdom and knowledge of those before me.

My Grandfather did my raising, a man who walked a bridge between two centuries. Born in the early 1900s he saw the dying of an age and the birth of another. The horse passing and the coming of the automobile, the dust bowl, two world wars, a great depression, and a country coming of age. He had a gift for communication, for reason, and a love of the outdoors I've not seen matched in my lifetime.

In the early 1950s he purchased a Leupold & Stevens Sportsman compass from a hardware store somewhere in southwest Virginia. A constant wanderer of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, he hunted and felled timber through holler and ridge alike for most of his life. That compass came to me as a young man also enthralled with the woods and streams of my youth.

It's not liquid dampened, it's not cutting edge, it doesn't have the attributes of many a modern compass, it has something else though. Not only will it tell me a heading, the history of the man who carried it before me helps to keep me on a path through life that he would be proud of, that I can be proud of. Much like my Grandmother's cast iron frying pan that I lug into the Boundary Waters annually, this compass is a link to a time, a place, to people that I do not wish to forget.

So what do you keep that's dated and has been improved upon repeatedly, that you just won't part with for whatever reason? I'm fairly confident I'm not the only old stubborn fool with a sentimental attachment to things old and irreplaceable.

14 November 2012

Catching Up...

I spent the first three days of our deer season hunting out of the camp built earlier in the year. I got in late the evening before the opener and it was quite cold, around 25 degrees that day. I didn't have a lot of light left so first order of business was getting some wood in and a fast warming fire, a teepee fire.

Before ignition.

After, when it took off it really took off!

Hung my water supply from the cooking pole to keep it from freezing. That stainless steel bottle is a new one for me, it's 64 ounces!

Dinner was beans and slabs of pork from a boar I killed earlier in the year over in Michigan. Before I started cooking I converted the fire lay to a star.

Camp that night was quite cozy indeed.

The next morning it was cold and some snow had hit the ground. First order of business was coffee, another teepee fire.

And then set off for the day under some cold battleship grey skies.

Deeper in, there was a cold mist moving through the woods, coupled with the snow the conditions were not good. Our weather has been a roller coaster this season.

Around noon I spotted this guy about thirty five feet up a tree.

I contemplated taking him for the pot but they are often way more trouble than they are worth, though I have to say the first one I ate wasn't bad at all.

Skunked for the day, cold and wet, I headed back to camp. Pretty scenery but rather treacherous.

Back in camp, a log cabin fire lay and dinner, more slabs of pork.

I've got venison, hare, grouse, squirrel, in the freezer and the late season left to go. It's been very challenging so far this season, weather is wild and all over the place. Deer are hunkering down and not moving much. Good heavy snow is late, but once it sets in the hunting will dramatically improve I think.

Hope your seasons are going well!

02 November 2012

Latest take on an old favorite...

Any reader of these rambles knows I prefer a ferrocerium rod, firesteel, etc. I'm not going to argue the composition, the make up or the name of these items. They are a hard metal rod that when struck with another metal object, the spine of a good knife, sparks fly. Over the years this has become my most used method for getting a fire going. Tough to lose if you do your part, damn near idiot proof, last a long time, and utterly dependable for me.

Deviation from normal ensues.

Yes there are many many ways to make a fire and all of us have our favorites, for some it's primitive friction fires. Great skill and know how to be sure, practical for everyday or emergency fires? No, not really. They are fun to do, they can be effective, should we know how? Absolutely, should we rely on it exclusively? Oh hell no. Nothing wrong with a zippo, or a bic, or any other method so long as the method is utterly reliable, bics for example stop working below freezing, pressure inside drops with the temperature.

Sometimes I just want to piddle, build a fire the old way. Other times when the mercury is on an express elevator down with a harsh wind and snow or rain coming sideways, in those conditions I don't want to piddle, I want a raging blaze as fast as I can get it. Short of carrying a road flare, Storm-proof matches are about as good as it gets. If one is going to carry good quality matches, one needs a good quality match case.

Match cases have been around for a very long time, protecting arguably, the single most important resource known to man. The ability to make fire. Take this ability away from a man, he loses sight in darkness, warmth in cold, protection, good food, clean water, even optimism and hope in the face of adversity, the ability to do so many things is dependent upon man making fire.

I've seen and used all manner of match cases, from 20ga shells pushed into 12gs shells making a tight vessel, classic styling gets a A plus, to solid brass units built like a tank, for whatever reason they were not long term for me.

Enter Exotac Matchcap.

Super lightweight, machined aluminum, multiple strike locations, waterproof, made in the USA and claimed indestructible. I picked up both the regular size and the extra large version to see which I liked the most, fully intending to pass the spare off to one of my boys come Christmas time.

Top box shows specs for the standard size, bottom is specs for the XL version.

Orange O-ring on the standard size is hard to see, easier to see the black O-ring on the XL.
 The cases have striker plates for Storm-proof matches, kitchen matches, and strike anywhere type matches. In the image above you can see the strike plate on the smaller unit. While I've had no problem with it in this configuration I think I'll reorganize those matches so the heads are all down. Having some of the heads up and others down increased the capacity but exposes the heads to where if one were to strike the match from bottom up, the igniting match head would be rather close to the other heads in the container. One could always strike downward as well though, just keep in mind the orientation.

Each came with an extra O-ring and extra strike plates. The standard sized case also came with a lanyard, the XL did not. I use para-cord formy lanyards anyway so this was a moot point for me.

Of the two I do like the larger one better, size is good, holds up to twenty five Storm-proof matches, or forty kitchen/strike anywhere matches. Weights about a ounce and a half, and it is a good fit inside my chest kit bag from Hill People Gear. In fact is nestles perfectly in the front pocket right in the middle, between the two inner pockets.

 It's hard not to like something that's made well, this is one of those things. Such a simple and small device, to carry Prometheus' gift, well worth the investment in my opinion.