Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Shown With Maxpedition Rat Wallet and Maxpedition CMC WalletShe calls it a man purse. I call it a tactical pouch. Whatever you call it, it's a handy organizer for all your every day carry widgets like pocket knives, flashlights, pens, notepad, tweezers, scissors, etc. I tend to prefer carry more lightweight items most of the time, but some days you just need to bring the hardware, and this
little pouch is made for those days.

Product Description

Price: $25 Online

This is a rugged, "tactical" style clam shell zippered pouch for organizing your EDC items. It has quite a bit of space and lots of little loops, dividers and pockets to attach your gear to. It's very ruggedized, featuring ballistic nylon construction, over-sized YKK zippers and Teflon treatment for water resistance.

This review sample was purchased from goinggear.com, and it's also available from Amazon with Prime.


Official Specs (From Maxpedition's Web Site)

  • Compact 5" x 7" x 0.75" size
  • Drops into pants cargo pocket or backpack/bag
  • Full clamshell opening main compartment with dual zips
  • Inside left: Slip pocket; key ring; elastic organizer with 9 divisions
  • Inside right: Slip pocket; tie-down loop; elastic organizer with 6 divisions
  • Front exterior: 2" x 3" loop field for patches; mesh slip pocket with hook-and-loop closure
  • Back exterior: Oversized handle; attachment webbing
  • MOLLE compatible
  • Attach using two 3" TacTie™ Attachment Straps

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Shown Open With EDC Goodies Inside

Overall Design



This organizer has a clever design. The wife may call it a purse, but it's fairly compact, and makes very efficient use of space, unlike my previous attempt at a pocket organizer, the Rat Wallet. This thing is all business.

Fit and Finish


Overall, good. There's a few issues with the stitching, but I don't believe that it's anything that will affect the lifespan of this unit. The zippers open and close smoothly, and the paracord zipper pulls have a good feel, and give the EDC organizer a rugged look.

Usability


This thing is a great companion to a normal wallet. If I know I'm going on a road trip, or going to help someone work on their car, I can just throw this in the truck and know that I have the mojo to solve challenging situations.

Here is my current configuration for the EDC organizer:

1. Spyderco Tenacious pocket knife
2. Leatherman Wingman multi-tool
3. Jetbeam BA10 AA flashlight
4. Pelican 1910 AAA flashlight
5. Craftsman clip-on flathead screwdriver
6. Toenail clippers
7. Tweezers
8. Utility scissors
9. Ballpoint pen
10. Telescoping back scratcher
11. Ka-Bar Becker BK14 fixed blade knife, with sheath
12. 4 Pack of charged Eneloop AAA batteries, in case
13. Small notepad
14. Bic disposable lighter
15. Sharpie ink pen

Conclusions


This is a great organizer to keep the larger EDC items that I don't always need. I'm not sure I would carry this on my belt, but it's perfect to throw into the truck or another bag like my EDC backpack. I wasn't sure if I would like it, or if it would have enough space to be useful, but it's very useful. It's a little expensive, but it's very durable, and Maxpedition has a good reputation. Even though Maxpedition products aren't made in the USA, the overall quality is still phenomenal.

My new man purse now sits on my desk, ready to join me at a moment's notice. 

Gallery


Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Front With Tags
Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Back With Tags

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Maker's Tag
Not made in USA, but still comparable quality

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Showing Keychain Clip
Closeup of the keychain hook, which stows away behind the divider

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Showing Attachment Loop
It has a nice, sturdy loop of paracord for attaching larger items

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Shown With Maxpedition CMC Wallet
Shown with my new Maxpedition CMC Wallet - it's a nice combo

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Front Tag
Closeup of the front Maxpeditoin tag

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Closeup of rugged YKK Clamshell Zippers
Closeup of the beefy YKK ruggedized zippers, with paracord pulls

Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Closeup of Netting On Front
Closeup of the netting on the front of the pouch
Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer - Closeup of Netting With Ka-Bar BK14 Fixed Blade Knife
I keep my BK14 Eskabar fixed blade knife in the front netting of my EDC pouch

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Starpower Mightystar [Keychain Flashlight]

StarPower MightyStar Keychain Flashlight - Front View
Well made and it even looks cool
The Mightystar is a fairly new keychain flashlight that I've recently become aware of. This is in the same class as the well regarded Streamlight Nano, which uses the same emitter.

Product Description


This is a button cell keychain flashlight. It uses the standard Nichia 5mm emitter, used by lots of other AAA and keychain lights. It has a textured and anodized Aluminum body. The reason I bought this one over the Nano is that the head of the flashlight has a hexagonal shape, which in addition to looking cool, gives the flashlight an anti-roll feature.

My review sample was purchased from Amazon and arrived in only a couple of days. Gotta love Prime. It doesn't seem to be currently available anywhere, though, which is a shame. But I'm still going to write the review because it's a cool little keychain light. Maybe it will come back in stock with the vendor I ordered it from.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • Nano LED Keychain Flashight
  • Machined aircraft-grade aluminum with anodized finish.
  • Powered by 4 alkaline button cells (included).
  • 100,000 Hour Lifetime featuring Nichia Hhigh-Intensity LED.
  • Water Reistant and 18 Lumen Measured Output

Nichia 5mm Class


This light is part of a whole class of lights that use the same Nichia 5mm LED emitter. Other lights in this class include the Streamlight Nano, Fenix E01, Nitecore T0, Sunwayman R01A, just to name a few.

The tint with this emitter is always the same hideous purple, and the output is usually around 10 lumens for any lights in this class. Lights that use this emitter have two things going for them:

First, it's a very efficient emitter, and 10 lumens is plenty of usable light for most tasks. AAA lights in this class for example usually get around 12 hours of light, and can "vampire" every last bit of charge out of your batteries.

StarPower MightyStar Keychain Flashlight - Shown With Sanrenmu GB-763 Folding KnifeSecond, lights in this class are varying degrees of indestructible. The Fenix E01 for example is widely accepted as being literally bomb-proof. There's youtube videos of people freezing, smashing, running over, and dropping E01's out of tall buildings, trying to kill them.

Fit and Finish


Overall, very good on my sample. The machining and anodizing are first rate, and the included attached lobster claw is above average. The twist action has a smooth feel, but it's a little too smooth, and probably risks the head working its way loose and falling off.

I don't know where it's made-I assume China- but it's well designed and well made.

Conclusions


This is a well made light, but I have a concern that the head will have the tendency to unscrew while jostling around on my keychain, never to be seen again. I thought about putting some teflon tape on the threads to keep it more secure, but I think I'm going to just attach this light to a zipper on my EDC electronics backpack, where it will make a great backup light.

I really only use lights of this class on keychains and as last-resort backups, which I feel they are ideal for. And this one has a well-made lobster claw for easy attachment to pretty much anything. In my opinion it will probably do better in an environment which won't work the head loose, like a backpack or keys kept inside a purse. Other than that, it looks to be a very durable and reliable light. It doesn't seem to be any brighter than an E01 so I would say that the 18 lumen output is overstated.

StarPower MightyStar Keychain Flashlight - Front of Package StarPower MightyStar Keychain Flashlight - Back of Package

StarPower MightyStar Keychain Flashlight - Clipped to SwissGear Backpack
I think I'll keep it on the backpack


Monday, March 25, 2013

Kukri Knife From Nepal

Kukri From Nepal
My sister picked up this Kukri years ago when she was in Nepal working for the Peace Corps, and gave it to me. It's a beautiful, hand made knife, and it's the pride of my knife collection. When she gave it to me, she said "This is the real deal, not the one they sell to tourists. This is the one they make for actual use." and it only takes one look at it closeup to tell that statement is true.







Kukri From Nepal - shown in sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Utility Knife

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Pommel

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Handle

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Utility Knives

Kukri From Nepal - Shown In Medium Size Hand

Kukri From Nepal - Shown With Sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Shown With Sheath And Utility Knives

Kukri From Nepal - Another View With Sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Another Closeup Of Utility Knives

Kukri From Nepal - Another Closeup Of Sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Another Closeup Of Handle

Kukri From Nepal - Another View

Kukri From Nepal - Another View With Sheath

Kukri From Nepal - Just The Knife

Kukri From Nepal - Showing Blade Thickness

Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Brass Bolster

Kukri From Nepal - Another View Of Kukri In Average Size Hand
Kukri From Nepal - Closeup Of Pommel

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top 10 Best AAA Flashlights in 2013

The AAA flashlight market is a competitive space which sees a lot of innovation, since they are perfect for every day carry (EDC) and so many people like them. It's hard sometimes even for enthusiasts to keep up with the latest models and technology. I wanted to put together a little cheat sheet of the latest models with their pros and cons. This post will probably be updated as time goes by, and new models come out.

The following list shows my favorite picks for single AAA flashlight, listed in order of awesomeness.


#MakeModelProsCons
1OlightI3S- Latest XP-G2 emitter
- Efficient circuitry
- Machined with square threads
- Perfectly flat tail stand
- M>H>L mode order not always ideal
- Hidden strobe a little awkward to access
2ThruniteTi2
- Latest XP-G2 emitter
- Efficient circuitry
- Cool 2 stage switch
- Good tint
- Nice, grippy knurling
- Questionable durability with switch
- Can be a battery crusher
3FenixLD01- A little dated, but still solid
- Efficient circuitry
- High quality construction
- M>L>H mode order not always ideal
- No plans for latest emitter
- A little pricey
4StreamlightMicrostream- Forward clicky switch
- Extremely rugged
- Reversible clip
- Only single mode
- Some report the switch is too stiff
- Clip cannot be removed
5Pelican1910- Forward clicky switch
- Extremely rugged
- Removable clip
- Only single mode
- A little pricey
- Some complain its a little bulky
6FenixE05- Idiot proof operation
- Rugged
- Only single mode
- The lens optic can collect dirt and debris
7LumapowerLM21
- Forward clicky switch
- Only multi-mode clicky in list
- Has headache-inducing PWM
- Initial batch had some QC issues
8FourSevensPreon1
- Latest XP-G2 emitter
- Efficient circuitry
- Optional clicky switch
- Cumbersome user interface
- No texturing on body = slippery grip
9KlarusMi X6
- Great build quality
- Efficient Circuitry
- Rugged

- Strobe mode not hidden
- Not much texturing for good grip
- A bit pricey
10FenixE01- Literally bomb-proof
- Simple, reliable construction
- Idiot-proof single mode
- Dated design
- Horrible, purple tint
- Fairly low output

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Olight I3S [AAA Flashlight]

Olight I3S AAA flashlight, new in box
It comes in a neat little gift box

Product Description

Price: $25 online

This is actually the 3rd generation of this flashlight. The first version was the iTP A3. It was a great light, and had a good following. Then Olight bought out iTP, improved the design and called it the Olight I3. The I3 was an even better light than the A3. It added a screw-on, deep carry clip and tail stand capability as well as using the XP-G emitter.

And now Olight has improved it even more and called it the I3S. My review sample was purchased from goinggear.com, and I see now that there's an Amazon store that beats them by a couple bucks.

Official Specs

(from Olight's web site)

1. Utilizing the newest Cree XP-G2 LED, with the max output of 80 lumens (increased by 20%, based on the old i3)
2. Adjustable output levels: Moonlight, Low, High and Strobe mode (by rotating its head to shift models).
3. High quality stainless steel clip makes it durable and keeps a firm grip on your pocket.
4. The pocket clip is reversible, allowing for hat brim or similar attachment.
5. Aluminum body with scratch resistant type III Hard Anodizing (Only black is available).
6. Flat tail cap allows for tail-standing.
7. Adopt linear current regulation technology, no stroboscopic output.
8. Standard attachment: a triangle ring connects the tail hole with light body on one side
9. Orange reflector, comfortable light fit for close range lighting.
10. 96% transparency ultra-clear high optical lens.
11. Attractive gift box packaging.

Modes


This is a three mode "twisty" with a fourth, hidden strobe mode for emergencies. The mode order is Medium>High>Low, with the strobe being activated by 7 successive twists. Also, the low mode is actually a sub-lumen "moonlight" mode at .5 lumens.

NOTE: There does sometimes appear to be an issue where the light gets "stuck" on medium mode and is hard to get to advance to the next mode. I thought it might be me, or maybe I got a flaky sample, but it's done this on two different lights. It seems to happen mostly when I put a new battery in, and once I get it to advance modes, the circuitry seems to work fine after that. But a couple times it's really annoyed me.

UPDATE: It has been reported on the CPF Forums that the "stuck mode" issue seems to happen when the light and/or batteries are cold. Warming the light up in your hand or cycling through the modes a few times reportedly makes the problem go away.

Beam


Since the XP-G2 has a larger die size than its predecessor, the beam on the I3S has a larger hotspot, and has a beam which is more floody than the I3. Since a floody beam is usually more useful for a small EDC type light, it's actually a plus having more flood. Folks looking for an AAA light with lots of throw should check out the Thrunite Ti, which has the Cree XP-E emiiter with a smaller die size and much better throw.

Tint


Both of my units have a little bit of a greenish tint. I'm not really picky about tint on my flashlights, so it's no big deal to me. Flashlights in this segment are usually a grab bag of tints, except for a few companies that seem to seek out better tinted batches of emitters.But for me it's perfectly acceptable given that it's a budget light.

Clip


The black version has a blacked out clip
The I3S has a reversible, snap on clip. It fits perfect in reverse, so the light can function as a respectable headlamp if you are wearing a ballcap. The clip fits nice and snug. I guess time will tell how this newly designed clip will perform, but so far I'm impressed. And there's not many tiny lights like this with reversible clips, other than maybe the Microstream.

The black version of the I3S has a black anodized clip and keychain, where the other colors have just a plain steel clip and keychain. The keychain is neat because there's a little lobster claw on each end.

Tail Stand


This model will tail stand. It has a completely smooth, flat tail. It will even tail stand on a keychain if you position it right. The ability to tail stand is another feature I look for in all my EDC type lights.

This version has a flat tail, for more stable tail standing

Constant Current Circuitry


It's worth noting that this light uses a very efficient, constant-current circuit. The previous version, the I3, had headache-inducing, low frequency PWM. In my advanced age, the PWM seems to bother me more and more, to the point where I now specifically look for lights that don't have it. Which also means I'm now spoiled on the long runtimes these more efficient circuits offer.

Runtimes


These are my informal runtime tests. I will fill these in as I run each test.


This light appears to be a "vampire" in that it will suck every last bit of power from a battery. Once it can't hold regulation on a mode, it lets it slowly coast down to nothing.



ModeEneloop 2nd Gen.Alakaline
Low118:30 (started to dim at about 112 hours)-
Medium8:12  (started to dim at 7:45)-
High1:22 (started to dim at 1 hour even)-


Comparison to previous version- I3


Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Side by side with previous version, the Olight I3
The new version is a bit shorter
  • The new version is a little shorter.
  • The new version uses current regulation, where the I3 used PWM.
  • The new version has a snap on, reversible clip, where the I3 had a screw-on clip.
  • The new version has a M>H>L mode order, where the I3 used L>M>H.
  • The new version has a much lower low.
  • The new version has a re-designed, perfectly flat tail and comes with both a clip and keychain.
  • The new version uses the newer XP-G2 emitter. Better output and runtime.
  • The new version has better machined, square threads.
  • The larger die size of the XP-G2 makes the new version have a more flood than the I3.

Fit and Finish


Body: This light has a good fit and finish overall, and seems to improve upon the previous version. The twisty action is smooth, and there's no play. This probably has something to do with the square threads, which the previous version didn't have. The threads on mine were lubed, with no grit or dirt, which almost seems to be common these days. The anodizing on the new version is also a little better.

Because of the improved threads, this light doesn't seem to suffer from "mode skipping" such as other lights in its class.

Emiiter: The emitter in mine is almost perfectly centered

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Showing square cut threads
It has nice, square cut threads
Clip: The clip fits well in both positions, and the black version has a blacked-out anodized clip, which also has a decent fit and finish. Other color lights come with a plain steel clip.

Keychain: The keychain is held on by a little triangular piece of metal which is easy to take off, so I'm guessing there could be some issue with it falling off of a keychain. They should've just made it a split ring.


Conclusions


This light is everything the previous versions should have been, and might just be an instant classic. So far it looks like it will dethrone my trusty Fenix LD01 for a daily place in my pocket. I really liked Olight's previous incarnation- the I3- but it had horrible efficiency,  and the PWM gave me a headache. Eventually I moved on in my quest for the perfect AAA light, and left the I3 behind. 

This new one has much, much better circuitry, and also the latest XP-G2 emitter. The flashaholics complained about the I3's horrible efficiency and obnoxious PWM, and Olight clearly listened. With the drastically more efficient circuitry, and the slightly more efficient XP-G2 emitter, this light could very well be the most efficient AAA light currently on the market. 

One thing that baffles me though, is why they abandoned the L>M>H mode order of the I3, especially with the new moonlight mode. Most people use moonlight mode to check on sick children or use the restroom in a camp ground without blinding those around them. In a way, having to cycle through an 85 lumen high mode to get to the don't wake-the-children-up moonlight mode kind of defeats the whole purpose of the mode. But having said that, I understand why they made that choice, and I can live with it day to day. 

I'm not normally a big fan of strobe, beacon, or so-called "disco" modes on AAA flashlights. The one time in a lifetime you'll need it in an emergency probably isn't worth having to cycle past it on a daily basis. But I really like the idea of having the strobe as a hidden mode. Having to cramp my wrist by twisting 7 times in a row in an emergency is a small price to pay for keeping it out of my way the 1,000 times in a row I don't need it.

Olight seems to have hit this one out of the ballpark. I've seen a few people on the forums complain that $25 is too much to pay for an AAA flashlight, but this light might be worth double that. It stops a tiny bit short of being my dream EDC light because of the mode order, but it still looks to be a superb light. And as if all the little design tweaks weren't enough, they even gave the new one square threads, which gives it a much better twisty feel. I've already given one of these away as a gift, and I have a feeling this one is going to be my go-to gift light for quite a while. Will it still be my favorite light once the honeymoon is over? We'll see.

Gallery

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - gift box



Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup showing clip and keychain

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup showing Cree XP-G2 Emitter


Olight I3S AAA flashlight - closeup of steel clip and keychain on the red version
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Closeup of emitters side by side with I3
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Closeup of bodies side by side with I3
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - Showing clip reversed and clipped to ballcap
Olight I3S AAA flashlight - high mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
High mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right

Olight I3S AAA flashlight - moonlight mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
Low mode with I3 on the left and I3S on the right
Olight I3S AAA flashlight showing centered emitter on moonlight mode
The emitter on my sample is well centered