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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Box Of Knives In For Review

Ganzo and SanRenMu have great reputations for making quality pocket knives, so I was very happy to receive a couple of each from Gearbest.com which I didn't realize had started carrying pocket knives.

But even a bigger site is no guarantee of getting a legit product, so I'm putting these 4 through their paces. Ordering direct from China can reward you with a gem like some of the ones I have, or a knockoff of a knockoff if you are unlucky. So far these look good, and I have a friend who is a martial artist trained in knife combat helping me carry and test them.

Instead of having a Facebook page for The Outdoor Nerd, what I am going to do is just post more to the blog.

Below, just in for review:

- Ganzo G720
- Ganzo G740
- SanRenMu 7010
- SanRenMu 4077



Friday, July 3, 2015

No More Facebook

The Facebook page for The Outdoor Nerd had some loyal fans, and I apologize for deleting it. There was no way to keep the blog's page and delete my own personal page. I did a gut-check and I just wasn't into social media. I used to tell people who felt the same "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" but in the end for me it came down to too much dirty bath water and not enough baby photos. The bad outweighed the good, and it was time to walk away.

Ultimately my connection to the few friends and family I only had interaction with on Facebook wasn't enough. The cute baby pictures no longer justify seeing the worst of my friends of my friends and family. With everything I lost, it's just too painful seeing most of what I see on Facebook.

So, aside from annoying loyal readers, it's a net positive for me. Every minute I used to spend on Facebook will be spent at the lake or with my dogs. I'll miss some family photos, but the flip side is that I won't get to hear what and who my friends hate or are angry at.

Rather than getting sucked into all the negativity at a tough time in my life, I'd rather take a deep breath and stand at the river with my camera.

Thanks to the people who liked my Facebook posts, and feel free to drop me an email at markwing at theoutdoornerd dot com if you have any suggestions or feedback about what I'm doing with the blog. I love to hear from readers!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recipe: Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough

For about the last 10 years or so I've been making pizza with a dough recipe from a web site that no longer exists. I don't even remember the exact name of the defunct site, so I can't even give it credit. But I remember the recipe and I can share it!

Most people who try this pizza don't even talk--they just make animal sounds. The dough is only half of it though, and I will give the recipe for my own sauce in another article.



Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white or brown sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup milk, heated to 115 degrees
1/2 cup water, heated to 115 degrees
dash of olive oil (my addition)

Mix everything together in a bowl but don't over-mix it. Cover the mixing bowl with a paper towel or cloth and let it rise several hours. Once it rises, roll it fairly thin on a floured cutting board. At this point the original directions just said bake it in a pre-heated oven at 400 for 20 minutes, but doing that never worked for me.

If the dough is sluggish to rise, you can proof it by putting it sun or heating it at 200 for 10 minutes and letting it sit in the oven and come up to room temperature, which should do the trick if your yeast cooperate.

Mama Celeste used the window sill to proof the dough, but whatever works...
What I do is press it into a greased pan or cookie sheet, and then put the pan int with just the dough for 20 minutes. Then I take it out of the oven, add the sauce, cheese and toppings, then I bake it another 10 minutes. Even then sometimes I need to give it another 5. It really depends on the oven.

Note: I know people who let it sit in the pan for a second rising, which will make the crust a little fluffier and less dense.

Above you can see the crust is mostly done when I put the sauce and cheese on
The finished product above. It's as rich as two large pizzas from the local delivery joint, not to mention 100 times better

Garlic & Herb Twisty Bread


Make the dough as above, getting to the point where you roll it flat. Then take a rolling pizza cutter and cut thin strips in the rolled-flat dough. Then take the strips, either folding them in half and twisting them into strips, or taking two strips and twisting them together.

Lay the strips into a greased cookie sheet and let them rise a second time. Once you've done second rising, brush the bread strips with olive oil and then sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top. There's other things you could sprinkle on like fresh garlic as well.

Then bake just like the pizza dough in a pre-heated oven at 400 for 20-30 minutes depending on the oven, until the top is golden brown. You may need to turn the pan halfway through, again depending on how evenly your oven heats.

"We want some pizza!"

Notes:


  • Vary the cooking time depending on how thick you make the crust. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it. If it's thin enough, you won't have to pre-cook the crust.
  • I usually use a half batch of this dough to make a pizza.
  • I use olive oil with my fingers to grease the pan, but you can just as easily use a different kind of oil, spray or even margarine.
  • If you make the pizza from leftover sauce, then make sure to reheat the sauce first. Cold sauce will cause the pizza to be under-cooked. The sauce doesn't have to be piping hot, just as long as it's not cold.
  • As the pizza is close to being done, it starts to pull away from the pan.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Exploring Kress Lake, Washington

People ask me what I think of this area, and I tell them it's breathtakingly beautiful, and they hug me, and I know that I belong in the northwest. I have a fishing license, though I haven't gone fishing yet. As much as I want to go fishing and explore the area, I want to find spots where I can bring some or all of my dogs.

Today I went on a scouting expedition to Kress Lake, there was one other car there, so there was a whopping 3 people at the lake counting me and my friend. I looked it up on the Internet and it looks like I do not need the parks pass if I'm at an area that's primarily used for fishing.

The lake is 15 minutes from where I live, it's stocked by a fish hatchery a few miles away and seems only to be used by locals. How awesome is that? 




I probably won't start with all 4 Chihuahuas, but certainly I can take one or two of the better socialized ones like Ty. But certainly I can pick a spot on the far side of the lake and my dogs won't be a problem. Someone to carry a couple crates or a little cart like I used to have in my previous life, and I'm pretty sure I can sit at the lake with all my doggies.

This entire area is dog friendly. No one looks twice at a pack of Chihuahuas except in amusement. I can't think of one person I've met in this city who doesn't own at least one dog. People I've known for years will say "Hey come visit, but can you leave your barky little dogs at home?" 

It's tough, and hurtful to hear that, but the most amazing thing happened: I met a bunch of people who say "Hey, come visit and bring all the dogs!" Of course around here it's "and be careful around the bigger dogs, and watch for hawks, and be mindful of the heat" and so forth. 

In the next couple days I plan to visit Kress lake again and maybe take Ty for a walk on the trail and take some photos.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Revant Elite Blue Mirrorshield Lenses for Oakley GasCan Sunglasses

For the last 8 months I've worn the blue regular polarized lenses from Revant on my un-retired
Revant Elite Blue Mirrorshield Product Link
Oakley GasCan sunglasses. During that time I've downsized a huge household into a single guy living in a cabin in the woods with some dogs and a good sound system. I'm abusive towards my shades on a good day, so 8 months of rough days seems a reasonable amount of time before noticing that no, it's not dirt my lenses, the coating is worn out. The stock lenses on my GasCans didn't last half that long with much less abuse, so I think their plain polarized is a good value. They've seen at least 5,000 miles of driving.

It was probably only a week or two between when I started digging through bins for another pair of lenses I reviewed, when Revant Optics emailed me about their second generation of the Elite lenses and asked me if I wanted an upgrade to the blue pair I was wearing. Hell yes I wanted the upgrade.

When I did the review of the original pair of Elite lenses, maybe I missed that they came in colors other than black, or maybe blue is a new color for their top end lenses, but I really like the blue. I won't lie and say I'm not a little vain, because these do look awesome. But mostly I spend a lot of time outdoors and driving and I prefer the blue ones slightly over the dark black ones which I have squirreled away somewhere. The black ones are good for driving, but the blue and green ones I've tested over the last year seem a little clearer. Neither are quite as clear as my Italian-made Ray-Ban Wayfarers, but those have kind of an ugly green tinge that these Revant lenses don't have.


Product Description


These are replacement lenses for my Oakley GasCan frames which have now seen several pair of their lenses. These are blue Elite series lenses which are their high end polarized lenses with the laser-etched "Elite" logo. Revant makes replacement lenses for an increasing number of high end sunglasses.




Official Specs (From Revant.com)


  • HC3® Ice Blue Mirrorshield® (high clarity, comfort, contrast) - 1 pair of lenses
  • Precision polarized for complete glare elimination and vivid contrast
  • Repel Plus™ nano-coating - withstands harsh environments and preserves color
  • 100% infused UV and blue light protection
  • Injection molded and taper corrected to eliminate peripheral distortion, ensuring accurate and comfortable vision
  • 8% light transmission - warm rose view tint
  • Superior clarity and impact resistance (exceeds ANSI Z87.1 high mass, high velocity impact standards)
  • Includes Revant Elite microfiber transport bag with tension bead for a secure closure that cinches tight






Initial Impressions


The laser-etched "Elite" logo is a little cleaner looking than the first generation. I'm not a fan of the logo on this or the Ray-Bans, or any other shades. At least not on the lenses. But I guess I'd rather see a sleeker, cleaner logo that I don't like.

Putting the lenses in on a sunny day rewarded me with very clear eyesight. The last blue polarized I had from Revant had a slightly pinkish tint, which isn't unpleasant. It's hard to describe the tint on these other than saying that these are so clear that it's hard to see a tint.



Fit and Finish


Overall, excellent. The first pair of Elite lenses I reviewed fit perfect, and this pair fits perfect. I've seen a couple of their lower end models have a lens that didn't fit perfect, though still acceptable. The first pair of Elite lenses had a logo that looked like it was etched by a Chinese kid without proper eye protection, and the logo on this pair looks much better.

2nd Generation


This is the second generation of their Elite lenses. The pair I reviewed was stealth black-on-black so it's harder to directly compare this second set, which is ice blue. One thing I remember about the first pair was that for being solid black, they had more clarity than most other pair I've own.

So these are much clearer than the regular polarized and maybe even clearer than my Ray-Bans. Revant claims they are improved and it sure seems that way to me. The cleaner etched logo also seems less distracting.

Polarized


The pair of regular blue polarized I just upgraded from had a weird visual artifact. At certain times of the day I would be driving and reflections of the sun would look pure, immaculate blue. It wasn't unpleasant but a little distracting. These lenses don't have the artifacts, and the glare protection seems really good. I won't drive without polarized lenses, though it makes looking at LCD screens harder when I'm at a stop light or stopped.

Either way, the polarization on these lenses seem like a step up from the last ones.

Impact Resistant


These lenses claim to be impact resistant. I haven't had any impacts against this pair, but the last pair probably had a thousand things kicked up from the weedwacker and such. It's always scary to hear a "thwack" on the lenses.

So for now I will have to take them at their word. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and something will hit me in the face eventually. I have dropped them lots of times so far, but it's hard to tell if the lenses were struck. Just today they bounced on concrete.

Just a matter of time before this thing kicks something into my face

Tint


I had a hard time thinking about how to describe the tint on these lenses so I looked it up on their web site and it says rose color. I would say it leans more toward the brown side, but it's not unpleasant.

Usability


Revant has a slick web site touting all these technological advancements, but honestly I wear their products day to day because lower quality EDC gear like sunglasses just don't last very long.  People tell me "I don't wear nice sunglasses because they won't last me" but the truth is that the cheap ones are lucky to even make it home for me. Not to mention they don't protect your eyes very well, and what are your eyes worth to you?

This pair of lenses has seen about 2 weeks of solid sunny days so far. I almost want to say they let too much light in but I'm not sure. They are so clear that it's hard to tell if it's more light or clearer light.

More brown than rose, but again, not unpleasant


Is Revant Legit?


It sure looks like it to me. I don't test the lenses scientifically, and they load me up with lots of free lenses, so don't take just my word for it. All I can say is that if they sucked, they would come off my face about 10 seconds after the review because I care about my eyes a lot.

I see the search traffic trying to research if the company and its products are legit. They are close to where I am living now and we crossed paths on them giving me a tour of their building in Portland. I know their products are made in China but I still want to point my camera at them someday. They are nice to me and the few people I have talked to seem to feel the same.

Certainly I am easy to find an email if any people who have bought the lenses have anything to say, bad or good, and I welcome any comments. We did a giveaway on the budget light forum and the winner was on the other side of the world and seemed very happy.

But any time I'm a big fanboy of something I got for free, I feel ethically bound to raise my hand. It's so much easier being a Spyderco fan because I've purchased every knife with my own money to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and I'm a bigger fan every one I buy. It's very rare for someone to give me something I would buy myself, and even then it's usually friends and family. So I'm in strange territory here.

My not-overly-enthusiastic selfie partner

Conclusions


So far I've had good luck with Revant lenses, and these look like a notch up in quality and especially clarity. As hard as I am on my shades, I'm surprised the GasCan frames have lasted this long, but they are starting to look like I might need new ones. They no longer make the frames in the USA so I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I might try to look for some used frames now that I know how easy it is to replace the lenses.

Two weeks into wearing these lenses, they fit good, they look good, and they are crystal clear without any visual artifacts. 56 bucks does seem a little steep for the lenses, but it seems more reasonable in the context of reviving older frames I paid 200 bucks for and retired because of worn out lenses. A few pair of Oakley frames got thrown away, which I'm kicking myself over.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: OLALA 3,000 mAh Power Pack

Our phones and tablets all use lithium polymer batteries which are flat, lightweight and power-dense, so it makes sense that there's a proliferation of chargers using these types of batteries. For the last few years, I've either built or bought power packs based on 18650 lithium-ion cells, which are also used inside laptop batteries, high end flashlights, and now even cars built by Tesla motors.

Battery packs built on 4x or 6x 3,400 mAh Panasonic cells have a ton of capacity but they are also very heavy. Also, most of the ones sold today don't use name brand cells and don't test anywhere near their capacity. How do you know which ones have Samsung or Panasonic cells in them and which ones have ultra-cheap knockoffs? Build your own I guess...

You can never have too many of these power packs, and I am always happy to accept them for review, with this one being provided courtesy of OLALA Gadgets of Amazon.



Product Description


This is a power pack capable of charging most devices that can use a USB charger. It advertises fairly basic specs of 3,000 mAh and with a charging rate of 1,000 mA. I cannot find anywhere where they state what the device itself recharges at, though I know it to be 500 mA.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • 1. Elegant design: This Y1-3000mAh Power Bank has elegant design which will be a good helper in your daily tech life.
  • 2. Ultrathin: As slim as 8.5mm and only weighs 73g, light and portable features enable you to carry it more convenient.
  • 3. Safer Casing Material: Encased in ABS+PC Material Housing.
  • 4. Conversion Rate:Above 85%.
  • 5. Compatibility: Compatible with 99% Digital Devices, widely compatible with Apple, Samsung, HTC Smart Phones and other 5V input devices.





Initial Impressions


Wow, it's light. This power pack uses a lithium-polymer cell, the same as the phones and tablets that it charges, and that's why these devices use "lipo" cells. But a cell about this size and weight isn't normally in the 3,000 mAh range. I'm pessimistically jaded about the way vendors state their capacities, but hey, I'll test it all the same.

Build Quality


The build quality is acceptable. If I press the center of the unit between my thumb and forefinger, then it makes a slight grinding/crunching sound. But other than that, it's sleek and light, and I don't see any areas of concern. 

Testing


Why am I normally pessimistic about testing? Because every power bank I've tested has an overstated capacity. Most of those "lipstick" style power banks advertise 2,000 mAh and are lucky to see half that.


Capacity


This power bank advertises 3,000 mAh and my tests showed it to be just shy of 2,000 mAh, which is acceptable given its size and weight. This should give most of a full charge to most smart phones, and closer to 2/3 of a charge for the power hungry phones. I don't understand why they just don't advertise the actual capacity.

Output


The unit advertises a 1,000 mA charging rate, which looks spot on.

Input

The unit advertises 1,000 mA but it only charges at 500 mA -- half that.

Usability


This model is sleek and light, but not overly rugged. I personally carry it in a tool pouch that use to hold my misc. stuff like a pocket knife, hand sanitizer, etc., that I throw in the truck when I go somewhere. It would also be ideal for a purse, or anything that keeps it from getting crunched.

My little "man purse" tool pouch has a bunch of small and lightweight tools, and this power pack seems to do well even though I treat the pouch roughly, so we'll see. I have another "power pouch" with rugged but heavier chargers and one of those lipstick chargers as a backup, so we'll also see if this one earns a spot in that pouch. 



Conclusions


This is a decent power pack, and it has a good power-to-weight ratio. It's also the perfect form factor. Now if I could get it at double or triple the capacity and with a lightweight aluminum case without making it too bulky or heavy, then it would be the perfect power pack.

I really like the idea of lithium-polymer based power packs if they could get the capacity up. I have a smart phone that with a battery about 2,000 mAh, so this unit does good when I'm out running errands and notice my phone is running low. 

For serious use, I have a DYI Runiovo power pack I built using 4 scavenged 18650 Sony cells I got out of a laptop battery that I never used, and they all test at 2,000 mAh. It's a little bulky though, and at about 4 full charges for my phone, it's totally overkill just for a day or night on the town. 

So if you like to travel light and want to carry most of a spare phone charge, this power pack is decent. And at 9 bucks a piece with free shipping, it's probably worth it having a few in the glove box, luggage, etc.

Gallery










Tuesday, June 16, 2015

5 Tips For Living Off The Grid Part 1: Getting Started

I knew that living in the woods in a cabin would be hard, as pretty much everyone in my life felt the
need to point out frequently. I had a pretty good idea of the challenges I was going to face, having grown up with a love for camping and all the wilderness classes my dad put me into.

It's not so much that life is harder here; it's just different without indoor plumbing or reliable electricity. I spend about the same amount of time doing mundane things like the dishes or cleaning. Same vacuum cleaner, though I need to fire up the generator to run it because I'm scared it will melt my rickety electrical connection to the neighbor.

Having learned some of this stuff the hard way, and being a blogger, I figured that I would start sharing some tips for living mostly or completely off the grid. And then someday maybe I'll combine all the tips and write a really big article or a book.

The steps below are going to start with the basics and gradually get more advanced, but other than that I'm just throwing out random tips for now.

1. Keep Clean


Having trash lying around a cabin or tent is much, much worse than trash lying around your house in the city. Leave some food out for a couple days in your house and you'll have flies. Do the same at your cabin, and you'll have mice, rats, flies, raccoons, deer, coyotes, bobcats, etc., and about a million different kinds of insects or small animals in between, all competing in the food chain for your bacon grease.

So, food discipline is a must, but general cleanliness is valuable as well. Being more likely to get an infection and being farther away from medical services in a rural area can be a painful combination.

Hand sanitizer is something I've never been a huge fan of, but out here in the woods it's not always possible or practical to wash my hands, so I keep a small bottle handy.

Make sure though in your quest for cleanliness that you don't harm the environment. Castille soap is a good choice for most things, and camp soap works too.

2. Keep Organized


My first night here, I cleaned all the pots and pans and put them back on the counter where I had found them when I moved in. My second night here, I heated a can of chili because I didn't have much food here. I did have cheese, and as I was sprinkling it on the chili, I noticed a few specks of something weird in the chili. Did I forgot to double check the pots were clean? I looked in the other pots and was aghast. After one day, the mice running over the pots had managed to get droppings in almost every single pot!

Everything sitting out in your tent or cabin has the potential to have bugs or rodents crawling on it. Most cans of food keep 5-10 years, and it's easy to justify letting them sit out. But I won't be eating those diced tomatoes once enough slugs have crawled over the cans.

Clear plastic bins work very well as a basic barrier to keep living things off your stored food. It keeps out most anything without thumbs, and you can easily see what's in it. I use them to store cans and kitchen supplies like dish towels and tin foil and such.

Metal file cabinets also work well. Where some larger animals such as raccoon and bears might be able to get into a plastic bin (they'd still need a can opener to get in the cans,) you'd need bolt cutters to get into mine when they are locked. I use the top drawers for valuables like electronics and the bottom drawers as a pantry for produce and bread and such.

Pots and pans are now hung from hooks on the ceiling, European style.

And don't worry about making mistakes, the mice will point those out to you, which leads to the next item on the list.

Much harder for mice to climb on my pans like this!

3. Kill All The Mice


I'm a pacifist. I don't even like killing bugs if I don't have to. Not that I'm morally opposed to it--circle of life and all--I just don't like it. My first day here, "Ma" said "I don't want you killing anything you're not going to eat" which was fine by me. She later clarified to exempt mice from that statement, and I said "I won't be killing the mice, either" and everyone in the room laughed. Someone said "We'll see how your tune changes after you've been in the cabin for a while..."

Yeah, my tune changed. The place was completely infested, with furry the critters literally crawling all over us while we slept, not that we slept much with being crawled all over. I could hear them in the walls, and I'm pretty sure many of them held permanent residence there, since the cabin had been unoccupied for a couple years.

Resolved not to kill them, I hunted them with a squirt bottle of plain water. Maybe negative reinforcement would train them not to live in the cabin? I didn't know what to do. Even with good organization and food discipline, there were still mouse feces all over the counter and floors no matter what I did. They were like slob roommates from hell.

One day I saw Smokey, one my Chihuahuas, eating mouse feces off the floor. Then it clicked, The mice had to go. They were a health hazard, and they weren't going to peacefully co-exist with us. I don't blame them for being drawn to the humans and human food. I don't wish them ill at all, but that doesn't change anything.



After much spirited discussion with my sister who is also a pacifist, I decided to buy both lethal and non-lethal traps, starting with the non-lethal traps first. The two non-lethal traps were catching mice about as fast as I could set the traps, and in mostly rainy weather, I was getting dressed up in full rain gear to set them loose away from the property. It wasn't working out because in the back of my mind I was always wondering if any of those mice found their way back. Also, the neighbors weren't too happy to hear that I might be releasing the mice towards their property.

Then it clicked that I had to start using the lethal traps. The catch-and-release traps were just punting the problem, possibly to someone else's property.

Cats also work, and a few people suggested cats, but being outdoors for long periods of time is fairly dangerous for animals about the size of cats and small dogs like I already have. I thought about bringing my cats here when I moved, but they are much safer at my sister's house. Not to mention your cat could catch a disease from a feral mouse. The mouser cats in rural areas are considered work animals which are expendable, and cats to me are pets just like dogs.

No, the mice had to all die. I got the extra-velocity traps that claim to be more humane, but who knows. I do apologize to every one I kill, and they all get a proper burial so I don't create more problems.

Now the traps catch about one mouse a week, which I presume to be scouts. The scout doesn't come back, and the rest of the mouse clan moves on. Oh, and the traps are outside now. Moving the "battlefield" to the outdoor kitchen has made the cabin mouse-free for a couple months now.

4. Keep A Solid First Aid Kit


There are all manner of things in the woods that bite or sting. Most of them will leave you alone if you reciprocate, but even a bee or wasp can have a very bad day and take it out on you.

Far away from medical services and without reliable phone service, something that would be a trip to the ER and a few stitches in a city could easily become life threatening. I'd like to think they'd get a chopper in here to quickly get me to a hospital--who knows. They certainly wouldn't afford one of my dogs the same treatment.

The first time I seriously needed a first aid kit in the cabin, my first thought was: I don't have one. Luckily I remembered that my bug out bag was in the cabin, and it had something resembling a fully stocked trauma kit. I'm still building and fine tuning it, but it's fine for the basics.

Stocking a first aid kit is an elaborate subject in itself. But clearly there are common injuries and conditions you can prepare yourself for--the low hanging fruit so to speak: bandages, antiseptic, tweezers, scalpel, Tylenol, antihistamines, etc.





5. Keep A Good Fire Extinguisher


Any Neanderthal can come out to the country and start shooting stuff and lighting it on fire. But I came here to make this place better, not worse, and one way I could make it worse is by burning it down. It would be my luck, but at least I'm going to do everything I can do, which is have a few various fire extinguishers.

My sister the prepper survialist had the foresight to put a large household extinguisher here, and I brought mediums and small ones from my old empire.

The original homestead on this property burnt down. The memories were too painful to come back, so they built their next house on a different property. Every other structure on this property has caught fire at least one time--I can see the signs of burnt posts and panels.

So it's no joke here--fire is a very real danger in this area during the summer months. I tended to focus my efforts on health and well being first, and then work on luxuries like personal comfort. There's no well being possible without being alive and not on fire.