I love Swiss Army knives but I love me a good multi-tool as well. I have several, from several manufacturers, and since I sometimes go camping I decided to pick up a Leatherman Signal in Cobalt Blue. In most reviews you’ll see the reviewer discuss in almost identical detail the things that are linked in the manufacturers product page.
I’ll just tell you what I like, or don’t like about it. First of all I have a Leatherman Surge and a Wave Plus. I’ve had this Signal for a long time and just never got around to reviewing it.
The Surge is awesome, especially with the accessory tools such as the Rachet Driver and by and large the Wave Plus is my favorite of the Leatherman offerings. I don’t even need to elaborate. Just get one and you’ll likely agree.
The Signal is a different beast entirely. And I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. And in fact I’ll cut right to the chase. The redeeming value this knife possesses for hiking and camping is the Ferrocerium Rod (fire starter) and the hammer for pounding in some tent stakes or likewise. And even then, the hammer has a small face on it and not a great grip for hammering.
Again, cutting straight to the chase here…………..I’d rather be toting a Wave Plus and some other separate ferro rod for starting fires.
Cammenga 3H Tritium
Yeah, this is a Tech blog but sometimes you just gotta be old school. Compasses are pretty old school and in fact the first compass known was about 206 BC! And they were used for navigation first around 1040 AD.
I use a compass to align satellite dishes. Radio is my hobby and I track satellites such as Inmarsat or NOAA GOES Weather Satellites for fun.
Every phone has a compass but I find them to be wildly off, at least on the iPhone. However, if you dabble around on the internet other users will tell you they nail satellites with iPhone compasses all the time. THIS HAS DEFINITELY NOT BEEN MY EXPERIENCE. They either posses great skills or are lucky as heck. Or maybe it is geographical. I dunno.
But I do know a real compass works just fine and a real compass doesn’t need a battery charge or has a screen that’s hard to see in direct sunlight.
And here is the theme of this blog entry: MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO USE A COMPASS AND THIS IS AS VALUABLE A SKILL AS SWIMMING, RIDING A BIKE, HUNTING, FISHING, ETC. IF YOU CAN’T USE A COMPASS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
Yeah, you’re laughing at me. But you laughed at me before the Hurricanes, and you laughed at me before COVID 19. This Country Boy™ can survive.
Let’s learn some more about the humble compass……….
One of the Rites of Passage for being a geek or a nerd is doing things with Altoids Tins. You can google for hours the things that people do with them. Since we are in the midst of some kind of crisis (real or imagined) I thought I would slap together a little Altoids Survival Kit. It’s easy to do, it’s fun, and it might just come in handy some day. In addition to that there is ALWAYS space for an Altoids tin in the glovebox or purse and they’ll even fit in your jeans pocket.
And of course you can build them up with stuff YOU think is useful but the challenge is to find stuff that will fit and be usable. Let me show what I came up with.
Problem: My Camper battery was dying every 3 to 5 days.
The absolute worst thing you can do for a lead-acid battery is to drain it below 50% of it’s fully charged state. It greatly reduces the number of battery cycles you can obtain if not outright KILLS THE BATTERY.
So I got a deep cycle AGM battery after I KILLED ANOTHER BATTERY. The AGM battery can be discharged to about 20% remaining capacity without reducing the number of cycles or KILLING THE BATTERY.
Even with the new battery after about 4 days the AGM battery would be at about the 50% state. I paid almost $300 for that battery and I ain’t killing this one. It’s a real PAIN IN THE A** to hook a charger up every few days and even worse in my garage. I won’t go into that but I don’t have enough outlets, something else gets unplugged and backing the truck over the extension cord (which you aren’t supposed to use with a charger) always causes problems.
Why does the battery drain? Two words. PARASITIC DRAIN.
Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator
I like gadgets. And I like useful gadgets. Why not a portable refrigerator? Truckers use them. People who own smaller boats use them. People who boondock camp use them. Or how many times have you holiday driven home and thought it would be nice to have some cool drinks or lunch meat for sandwiches available so you aren’t eating expensive, just off the interstate, food. I drive quite a bit for work and live in hotels a bit as well. Now that we’ve identified a need let’s identify a product solution.
Enter the Alpicool C20 portable refrigerator/freezer. That’s right, it is also a freezer. Cost new was $179, however I must have caught that just right as it is now $209. I have a three way (120v, 12vdc, gas) Dometic refrigerator in my camper. It sure is nice but it is NOT a freezer. I think we all know what happens to chicken and pork after 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. If we go out in the woods for any amount of time we may need some method of freezing food unless we want to eat MRE’s. I do not.
If you go look at campers there almost always is a sticker on the camper or the dealer will tell you it is “Solar Ready”.
Wow! Sounds cool. Let’s delve into what that means. In the case of my camper, a Rockwood A122 pop up A Frame camper it means there is a 2 pin connector, SAE style located on the frame.
Zamp SAE style Solar Connector
The top pin (male) is wired to the battery and the bottom pin is wired to the frame (ground). Note that the sticker says to only hook it up to a ZAMP Solar Charging System. Okay. If you look at the ZAMP systems they are basically a suitcase solar panel with a charge controller on them. They want like $700 for them. It’s crazy.
If you go to Amazon you can get a 100 watt Renogy Solar Suitcase with a waterproof charge controller for about $240. That’s a no brainer. What’s the catch?
The Good Life
A couple of years ago my daughter left for school and I found myself for the first time maybe in my adult life all alone. I knew I had to shake things up in my life so I went and bought a camper. I never camped, never thought about camping, and I’m still not sure what compelled me to run to the bank and borrow a bunch of money to buy a camper.
I’m two years into this thing and I’ve learned a lot about camping and figured I’d scratch down my thoughts in the hopes it helps some other middle aged crazy guy.
First of all I have to state that my camper choices were limited by one gigantic factor. It had to fit in the garage. I live in an HOA that doesn’t allow campers in the driveway, street or even in your own fenced backyard. I’m essentially a rule follower so that was my major criteria for selection. There are not many campers that fit under an 8′ garage door. Buying a bigger camper and storing it at a pay lot were out of the question as well. At that time the budget was quite a bit tighter than it is now. So it had to fit in the garage. That was that.