Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses

It's been great seeing how far replacement lenses have come in the last few years. They've gone from cheap crap to being better than the manufacturer's lenses in most cases. I used to retire my shades and get a new pair once the lenses got all scratched up. Luckily I saved some of the frames, like my Oakley GasCan pair, which has probably seen and tested a dozen pair of replacement lenses.

And the technology is just getting better. Just having polarized lenses used to be a big deal, but that's now pretty much standard. The process where they etch the lenses to be polarized has become much more precise, and manufacturers like Walleva and Revant Optics are doing all sorts of things with coatings and taper-correction. Every pair of lenses seem to be an improvement and the coatings even look better too ... because, well, I'm vain and don't object to looking good.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Product Link


These pair of ISARC lenses provided to me by Walleva come with an inner coating they call "inner side anti-reflective coating" which is supposed to reduce the flare effect from light coming inside the sunglasses at an angle, usually in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low on the horizon.

Product Description

Price: About $22 online

These are polarized replacement lenses for my Oakley GasCan sunglasses, which have turned out to be great frames to test new lenses. This pair of lenses is polarized (I won't wear non-polarized) and features their ISARC technology, which is just a fancy way of saying they have an inner coating. These ones have a reddish coating on the front. At 22 bucks, I would call these budget lenses.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Lenses Mounted


Official Specs (From Walleva)

The lenses are:
  • Polarized (for some models, reduces glare and enhances contrast)
  • Mirror coated (for most models, bring beautiful look and other people cannot see the wearer's eyes)
  • 100% UV protection (exceeds ANSI Z80.3 and EN 1836:2005 standards)
  • Dust repel
  • Water repel
  • Shatterproof
  • Impact resistant - passed FDA Drop Ball Test and Z87.1 Test (standard for safety glasses, for most of our lenses) 
The lenses come with some free accessories:
  • A micro-fiber cleaning cloth
  • A lenses bag and a lenses box
  • A pair of T6 screws(some models only)
  • A screw driver(some models only)

Installation


The first time someone offered a pair of replacement lenses, I said no, it sounds like I'd be too clumsy, but at least for these Oakleys, it takes literally a few seconds to pop the old lenses out and pop in the new ones. Now I'll wake up some days and pop in a pair of purple or blue mirrored lenses. I still can't seem to get the stock lenses out of my Ray-Ban Wayfarers, but I've replaced the lenses on several pair of Oakleys, and it's always easy. The stock lenses on Oakleys can sometimes be a little tight, but I've never had any real issues.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Lenses Unmounted

Initial Impressions


Opening up the box, I see they come inside the standard micro-fiber pouch, with a little micro-fiber cloth for cleaning. Nothing fancy.

The lenses themselves have a rich, red hue. I wasn't too sure about the color when the lenses were sitting on the table, but inside the frames they look pretty good, and I instantly started getting compliments for the look.

Putting on my shades, I noticed that everything has a blue-ish tinge, probably because of the blue inner coating. Like other lenses I have with this type of inner coating, it takes a little getting used to the tinge but it's something my brain tunes out a few minutes after I put them on my face.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - In Box 2

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - In Box 2

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - In Box 3

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Open Box

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Package Contents

Build Quality


At some point, the quality of replacement lenses got to the point where it's really hard to gauge the build quality because you practically need a microscope to see any flaws. Also, the difference between low and high quality lenses is usually (to me at least) the way they stand up to normal wear, or in my case, extreme wear.

So, having said all that, the build quality seems excellent. The inner and outer coatings look very uniform, and there's no aberrations in the lenses that I can see. The extreme edges have a little bit of distortion, but I have to take them off my face to see it, so it's not really a complaint.

Fit and Finish


Overall, excellent. One thing I really look for is a good, tight fit in the frames, which this pair has. If they fit too tight, they're hard to take out, and you can damage the frames. If they are too loose, they not only rattle and move around, but tend to attract dirt and debris. So, they fit as well as any pair of lenses I've seen. Not too shabby for budget lenses--bravo Walleva!

The coatings look good: no scratches or chips, rough spots, and the polarization seems nice and crisp.  A couple times I thought I found flaws in the coating, but mirrored lenses show dirt and thumb prints more than matte coatings, which is what I've been mostly wearing.

Clarity


Another thing I'm picky about is clarity. Once you look through a clear pair of polarized lenses, it's hard to go back. The clarity on these is good, but not as good as a few high end pair I have, which I'm assuming is because they're not taper-corrected.

But overall the clarity is acceptable, especially for budget lenses.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Clarity


Glare Reduction


One thing about mirrored lenses is that they're very good with glare reduction, and this pair doesn't disappoint. I've never tested it, but it's always seemed like lenses coated red or brown seem to do a little better in direct sunlight. It's been 20 years since I got an A in physics, but that's been my experience, and a couple people have told me the same thing.

So, the red mirrored outer coating with the ISARC inner coating really seem to deliver when it comes to reducing glare.

Look and Feel


Functionality is the number one thing I care about when it comes to sunglasses. Looking good is just a nice little bonus, and these lenses look great in my GasCan frames. I've gotten a few compliments on them, and my brother is jealous because he normally only wears red mirrored shades.

The GasCans in my opinion tend to look better with mirrored lenses.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Mark Doesn't Smile 1

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Mark Doesn't Smile 2

Normally I use my brother as the model, but I made a rookie mistake with the camera auto-focus and he's been working long hours, so this is the best I could do. It looks OK as a thumbnail though.

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Blurry Matt

And here's a photo of the brewery as I said "Hey Matt, come outside and put on these shades!"

Walleva ISARC Replacement Lenses for Oakley Gascan - Brewery

The couple random shots turned out good, and they like me posting photos of the brewery, so here's a couple more!

(This is also where my sunglasses fall out of my pocket after a couple cold ones.)



Usability


So far these have been a decent set of lenses and on par with anything I've seen in this price range. There's nothing really to pick on other than the clarity, and it's something I only notice side-by-side with high end lenses.

They have done pretty well with driving and working outside and seem to do really well with glare. But the funny thing is that sometimes the sun hits at a certain angle and I get a little glare inside the lenses. It's happened a couple times where I get a little bit of red glare on the inside if I hold my head a certain way. It's not a huge deal, and could just be a quirk of this model frames, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

Overall they seem like good lenses day to day for driving and being outside during summer. It's been sunny and in the 90s and 100s here lately, which is good weather for testing shades and lenses.

The real test of replacement lenses is use over the long term. I've seen 5 dollar polarized sunglasses that work great until the coatings get scratched and rubbed off, which starts happening almost immediately. The two weeks I've spent beating up these lenses would probably be enough to pick up a scratch of nick, which hasn't happened.

But I do have a couple pair of their budget lenses that have seen 6+ months hard use in rural areas with hardly a scratch or nick, so I'm pretty confident saying the coatings on this one seem pretty decent. The factory Oakley lenses were unusable after about 6 months. These pair have probably seen a dozen clumsy drops on the ground so far--they like to fall out of my shirt pocket.

Having that little bit of red inner glare has been a little disconcerting, but it's only happened a couple of times, and hasn't been a deal-breaker.

Conclusions


I think Walleva is really nailing it, and I think these are a solid pair of budget lenses. Obviously I usually prefer the higher end lenses, but my guess is that these budget lenses are better than the factory lenses. The best complement I can give a chef is an empty plate, and the best compliment I can give Walleva is to wear their lenses every day.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: Morakniv Garberg [Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife]

Mora has been one my favorite brand of fixed blade knives for years. Simple, cheap, durable: there's not much not to like. I've carried a 15 dollar Mora Companion in my camping gear as a backup, but it always seems to come out for use around camp. I've abused it, neglected it, and drug it across the whetstone when it gets all corroded from neglect.

Many people prefer their carbon steel knives, but just as many people get confused that they stain and corrode. Personally I like both carbon and stainless steel: both have their pros and cons, and Mora makes lots of knives with different steel, thickness and even full tang.

So when someone handed me this Mora Garberg and said "hey you should review this new bushcraft model" I jumped at the chance.

Morakniv Garberg - Product Link


Product Description

Price: About 90 dollars online

The Garberg is a full tang bushcraft style fixed blade made in Sweden from 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel. It features a true Scandinavian ("Scandi") grind on the blade, and it's a good bit thicker and heavier than most of their other models.

Initial Impressions


My very first thought was "wow, pretty knife, but they still can't make a decent sheath." But inside the box is a few attachments to customize the sheath, which is at least an improvement.

The knife itself is gorgeous. I've always liked Mora, but they really outdid themselves on the Garberg. It better be good for being damn near 100 bucks. That price point has some fantastic bushcraft knives from brands like TOPS, Fallkniven, Benchmade, etc. for a few bucks more.

Morakniv Garberg - In Box 1

Morakniv Garber - In Box 2

Morakniv Garberg - In Box 3



Build Quality



Mora has a reputation for really good build quality that's a little rough around the edges. They're known as a budget brand after all, and not many people complain for 15 bucks. But for 90 bucks, it still seems well built.

The full tang, Sandvik stainless blade is as good as I'd expect it to be, and so is the ballistic nylon (plastic) handle.

The sheath, not so much. It feels a little cheap for the price point. It's a step up from their cheap-as-dirt sheaths, but not quite where I'd expect it to be, even with all the sheath paraphernalia it comes with. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with the sheath functionally.

Morakniv Garberg - Product View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Product View 2

Morakniv Garberg - With TOPS Fieldcraft and Mora Companion 1

Morakniv Garberg - With TOPS Fieldcraft and Mora Companion 2
From Top: Mora Companion, TOPS Fieldcraft, Mora Garberg

Morakniv Garberg - With Mora Companion and Mora Craftline Robust 1

Morakniv Garberg - With Mora Companion and Mora Craftline Robust 2
From Top: Mora Garberg, Mora Craftline Robust, Mora Companion


Fit And Finish


Overall, very good. The first thing I look at with a Mora is the spine of the blade. Even their mid-range knives usually come with a rough, unfinished spine. The Swedes are practical if nothing else. But the Garberg has a polished spine--it's more polished than the blade itself, which has a stonewashed finish.

The fit and finish is mostly fantastic and in line with what I would expect from a knife of this price. The etched logo is crisp, the handle doesn't look unfinished like their other models, and the machining and grind are brutally precise. Three's a tiny mark on the bottom of the handle near the blade where the handle was injection-molded.

Really looking hard for a flaw, the best I could find is that the edge isn't as sharp out of the box. It also doesn't look great on the photos. I've had 300 dollar knives with an edge no better than this out of the box, but companies that make knives this nice can do better.

The plastic sheath is well done for looking a little cheap, though I can't find really anything to pick on specifically. The snap is a little tight, but that's pretty much normal. The leather on the strap seems a little cheap, too.

Blade


The blade is the heart of any knife, and the heart of this one beats strong. Other than the edge, the blade itself seems perfect. I love full tang fixed blades, and I love blades with a true Scandi grind, and not the "Scandvex" double-bevel (also called "modified Scandi")

There's a pommel, aka "extended tang" where the steel continues past the handle to function as a hammer or striker for your magnesium firesteel rod. Love it! The extra bit of steel also gives the knife a better balance in your hand.

Mora has always made good steel, and most people know them for their high carbon blades which corrode if you basically look at them harshly. It's never been a problem for me, though: just a few drags across a whetstone with the flat of the blade, and the corrosion comes right off.

But the Garberg comes with  Sandvik 14C28N stainless blade, which some people have mixed feelings about. High carbon steel has its advantages, but so does stainless, and I mentioned the Swedes make good steel, right? I think it's a fine steel as long as you're aware of the trade-offs, and most people get really confused when their knife starts corroding from  normal use.

Folks considering buying this knife would do so for the blade, and I don't think would be disappointed.

Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 2
Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 3
It's supposed to be a true Scandi, but it sure looks a) like a botched edge or b) like a "Scandivex" grind

Handle


The handle is made from hard, ballistic nylon. Some people turn their nose up at "plastic" handles, but they're great if done right. And Mora does it right for this model. From using Moras over the years, I've found that it's almost easier to take a chunk out of the blade than the handle, and that's for their cheap knives.

Some of their cheaper models come with the handle slightly unfinished where the handle meets the blade, but they really paid attention to detail for this model. Again, 90 dollar knife.

This model comes with a beefy looking lanyard hole integrated into the full tang blade near the pommel, and I would expect your paracord lanyard to break before the handle does.

Build quality, texturing, thickness, fit and finish: it's all what I'd expect. It gives the Garberg a solid, grippy feel in my hand. The lighter handle material also contributes to the great balance it has in my hand.

So I guess what I'm saying is that the handle is perfect.

Morakniv Garberg - Handle And Pommel View


Sheath


I'm not sure how to put the sheath other than it's hard to have a love affair with Swedish knives when they make such shitty sheaths.

They do offer a version of this model with a leather sheath, but it's 20 bucks more and the sheath still looks kind of cheap. For that price, I can get a USA made Benchmade bushcraft knife with a beautiful leather sheath.

The sheath for this model comes with an insert to make the sheath "snapless" as well as a military style molle mount, which at least makes the sheath fully functional for tactical applications if it's not very pretty.

But again, this isn't a knife you'd be buying for the sheath, although these cheap plastic sheaths perform much better in damp or wet environments which would turn a leather sheath into mush. The Swedes aren't much for flash, so again, it's hard to find much to pick on functionally, other than I hate the stock snap-on strap.

Morakniv Garberg - Sheath View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Sheath View 2


Usability


This knife is pretty much all business. Don't get me wrong, it looks beautiful, but this is a knife you can be in an abusive relationship with. I tend to beat up my fixed blades, and this knife just reeks of durability.

Some people prefer the dual bevel Scandi grind, but I've found those much harder to sharpen. It's pretty much impossible to end up with anything other than a hair popping edge with a few drags across a whetstone--there's no skill necessary.

The stainless steel isn't quite as tough as high carbon steel, but I doubt most people would ever see a difference in performance. Theoretically carbon steel is better for applications like batoning firewood, where you're pounding on the knife with a hammer, but this is still a true bushcraft knife, and I couldn't imagine this knife being damaged by anything short of intentional destruction.

Morakniv Garberg - In Hand 1

Morakniv Garberg - In Hand 2
It's hefty, even in my gorilla hands!


Weights & Measures



Everyone tells me "find me the best camp knife" and when I hand them a full tang knife, they complain it's too heavy. For a full tang bushcraft knife though, I think the weight of the Garberg is perfectly reasonable. But it's definitely much heavier than their cheaper models.

Morakniv Garberg - On Scale

Morakniv Garberg - Next To Ruler


Conclusions



The Garberg is a well done knife, even compared to higher end knives in its price range. I think it's a good value, but it's still a tough sell for the price point. For 20 bucks more, in some ways my TOPS Fieldcraft knife is in a different league: High end tool steel, high end G10 with liners, etc.

But there's one reason where I would almost carry this knife at any price: it's a Mora, and their reputation is pretty much unmatched. I've seen YouTube videos where people try and fail to destroy their cheap models, and you won't find many hardcore fixed blade enthusiasts who don't at least respect Mora. Plus, I've carried and used them for years, and even the cheapest models continue to impress me.

So, if you are a Mora fan, you will like this knife and appreciate the value and proven performance of their knives. This is a working knife you can beat up on every day. And if you're not a Mora fan, you'll scratch your head and wonder what the fuss is about.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shadowhawk Flashlights Get More Scammy

I've written extensively about the Shadowhawk Flashlight Scam, which is run by known scammers. Pretty much everything they claim is either patently false or completely misleading. From videos/photos of different products, to fake, sock puppet reviews, they run the full gamut of deception in order to get you to pay for a two dollar flashlight they buy wholesale.

Now it appears they are using geo-location to spam the world telling people that the local police in their city are urging them to buy their product.


It's not even very sporting to point out all the falsehoods. The photo above isn't even a flashlight, not to mention the product they are trying to sell you. And the Portland police aren't urging anyone to buy ultra-cheap, Chinese flashlights, the exact product you can buy direct from China or even from Amazon with very little markup. They certainly aren't urging anyone to buy Shadowhawk flashlights, and neither are the police in whatever location the ad geo-target you with.


I happen to know that none of the "reviewers" exist in the traditional sense of actually existing. How do I know? These are the same fake twitter accounts I wrote about for a different flashlight scam. @mattontheGo is a genuine Twitter account but actually someone else.




The photo above is a multi LED emitter flashlight and much larger, as you can see by the pattern the light makes.Most of these scams just regurgitate the same photos, some of which were stolen from legitimate reviewers like me. Of course, I watermark my flashlight photos for just this scenario!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Flashlight Scam: Nightforce MiliTac Flashlight

The ridiculous claims are similar to the other scams: "Should this military grade flashlight be
banned?" It's the typical scam of trying to sell you a flashlight they get for two dollar wholesale by convincing you that it's carried by the Navy SEALs and is not suddenly available to the public. It's not even suddenly available to Amazon.


The answer of course is yes, it should be banned, because no military in the world would carry such cheap crap, it's not made in the USA, it's not the world's brightest and the photos are the same regurgitated ones shown by most of the other scams, and not even of the product they are selling.

At least this incarnation of the scam doesn't show you fake twitter accounts like the others. It just gives generic "testimonials" like "My husband got the new Mili Tac. Made in the USA!"

Notice in the "testimonial" below that the guy is holding a much larger flashlight, probably with multiple LEDs judging by the light pattern.

The only thing truthful about the ads is that you may get a flashlight if you give them your money. And of course, if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll find out (surprise, surprise) that none of the claims are true and this is an "advertorial."

Notice the disclaimer text is grayed-out, with a big empty space above it.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fighting The Flashlight Scammers With AdSense

Several readers have pointed out the irony that sometimes when I do an article on the flashlight scammers, the ads for the scam flashlights appear on my site, right alongside the article. It's very frustrating because Google Ad Words tries to connect people with what it thinks they are searching for.

So what I have to do is go through all the thousands of ads that Google wants to serve up on my web site, and block them one by one. I don't know many sites that do this. Most sites are more than happy to serve up whatever Google gives them.


And what's worse, Google is the least shady of all the ad networks. Since there's not many ways a web site can support itself, I'm pretty much stuck with Google.

Lately I've been blocking every ad network whenever I see one of those scammy flashlight ads. The problem is that they create and launch new ads faster than I can go through them, and that's why they sometimes appear on my site. Sometimes it seems like a losing battle.

Hopefully they can't create new ad networks that fast, and the less scammy ad networks will refuse to run their ads. I have knowledge that this is already happening. The biggest scammers are still in business but feeling the heat, and one even posted a vague legal threat in the comment section of one of the articles.

I know who they are, and they know who I am, so this should get even more interesting over time.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Send Text Messages And Use Location Services Off The Grid

Living in a remote or rural area definitely has its challenges. Spotty cell service or wi-fi can put a real damper on your ability to communicate with friends and family. Living in a cabin in the woods, I tried everything short of satellite: wi-fi range extenders, cellular signal boosters--with mixed results.

I wandered into this product on Amazon, and it looks really interesting. You can pair this device to your phone or tablet and send texts and location data to other people who also have the device. And that's the limitation: you can't make a cell signal where there is none, but you can fool your phone into being a text walkie-talkie.

So it won't let you use the Google machine or play the Pokemans, but you can text your wife if you get lost, and that could save you from having a really bad day. I'm not living off the grid anymore, but it would've been nice to have something like this, so I thought I'd pass it along. I also make a small commission from the Amazon links, so it's a good way to support my work if you find it useful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another X700 Flashlight Scam

It would be comical if people weren't getting ripped off. The scam is to sell you a two dollar flashlight for a great deal more than that by convincing you it's banned military technology. Sounds exciting!

There's so many variations of the original G700 and Shadowhawk scams, I'm creating a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

I hear the biggest scammers make about a million dollars a day, and that's only one scam. There's so many copycats that the copycats even copy each other. I do my best to fight these scams, but it's a losing battle. I also try to educate people about flashlights, as well as referring them to the Budget Light Forum, which is an entire community dedicated to getting good flashlights for less money.

One of the problems for the scammers is that the inventory can't keep up with all the different company names, product names and web sites, which is what I believe we're seeing here with a variation on the AlumiTact X700 scam. Too many flashlights lying around with "X700" stamped on them, so start another web site and drop the "AlumiTact" and viola, it's a hot new product!

The scam itself is just a regurgitation of most of the same ones floating around, with the same ridiculous claims and "sock puppet" fake reviews. For a while they were just pasting the same few fake twitter reviews over and over, but their fake Twitter accounts at least all look different this time.

Pretty much everything about the ad, its claims and the product are false and almost identical to the rest of the flashlight scams. Hey, when something works, stick to it I guess.


Uh, and I have a Chinese bridge to sell you.

All the "reviews" are fake, too. Looking up the Twitter accounts of the supposed reviewers illustrates my point.

Let's start with Jim Henkel, who seems pretty happy with his purchase:

The only problem with that is that the Twitter account @jimh33 looks like this:


Oops, but maybe this review by Kate Wentz is real. She does seem pretty stoked to have gotten 75% off, even though the product photo is identical to other fake reviews used by other scams, and identical to the AlumiTact X700.

...and nope, there's no @kate_wentz on Twitter. But maybe, just maybe, Keith Coleman's review is real.

Keith seems to be the envy of all his friends with his new MILITARY FLASHLIGHT. He even put it in all caps, just so you don't forget that it's INCREDIBLE MILITARY TECHNOLOGY. I wish he was my friend.


Here's the Twitter page for @kcoleman_22 who doesn't seem at all like a huge flashlight fan.


There's a Keith Coleman on Twitter, but his feed is private.


By now it should be obvious that there's not a tiny shred of truth in this "advertorial" which is basically just slang for "fake blog post with fake reviews to get you pay a premium price for cheap Chinese crap."

But wait, buried at the bottom, they tell you that ... wait for it ... basically none of it's real, even though they are "dedicated to bringing readers honest financial information."

Click on the image to see it large enough to read. Look, they even used the word "honest."



Did you get all the fine print? So basically "the claims are all false, the reviews are fake, but hey, we tell you so in fine print in a tiny font at the bottom."

So ... none of it is real except the part where you give them your money. Sounds like a scam to me!