Friday, February 28, 2014

Moonlight Mode Flashlights

Most people who aren't "flashaholics" have never heard of the so-called "moonlight mode" which is a feature
Sunwayman V11R EDC Flashlight
on certain high tech flashlights. Also called "firefly" or "sub-lumen" mode, this special mode gives you a very small amount of light for a very long period of time--sometimes even weeks.

What is Moonlight Mode?


Simply put, moonlight mode is any mode of the flashlight with an output less than one lumen. This amount of light is only really useful to dark adjusted eyes, but it has the benefit if keeping your night vision intact, where a blast from some 1,000 lumen pocket rocket will ruin your night vision.

Why would you want a very small amount of light when modern flashlights can put the power of automobile headlights in your pocket? Well, for most people into having flashlights with moonlight mode, there are generally several reasons:

1. Runtime


A modern 1xAAA flashlight can do about 60 hours on moonlight mode, and it just gets better from there. Since a 1xAA battery has so much more capacity, these types of lights can potentially give you months' worth of light with a handful of batteries.

A couple factors affect the runtime of a moonlight mode flashlight that any enthusiast should be aware of. Some flashlights feature an electronic switch, which puts a small amount of parasitic drain on the battery, even when the flashlight is turned off. And control ring flashlights such as the Sunwayman V series have an overhead due to the design of the control ring. The overhead is small enough not to have a noticeable effect on the runtime when the light is on high, but on moonlight mode, the control ring overhead cuts the runtime in half at least.

Another factor is PWM versus constant current circuits. PWM gives you much better tint at the cost of efficiency (runtime) and constant current gives you superior runtime with a tint people generally complain about, usually green-ish.

So the best runtime on moonlight mode is going to be a twisty, which has no switch, or a simple click switch--forward or reverse.

With the right setup such as a solar charger, in an emergency, moonlight mode gives you enough light to function with most tasks in virtually unlimited amounts. Pretty much every disaster kit should have an efficient, multi-mode flashlight with a long runtime low mode.

Even with some overhead of the electronic switch, the Sunwayman D40A has a ridiculous runtime because of its 4xAA batteries.

Sunwayman D40A 4xAA Flashlight
Sunwayman D40A 4xAA Flashlight - Moonlight Mode

2. Courtesy


Let's say you are tent camping at a public campground. You wake in the middle of the night needing to use the restroom. You don't need to light up the entire camp site just to find the well defined path to the facilities. In fact, turning on a really bright light when you don't absolutely need to could be considered rude, or at least not very neighborly.

This is why I like to have a compact, moonlight mode "twisty" style, flashlight close by me when I'm camping, such as the L3 Illuminations L10, which has been a champ on camping trips. And the Thrunite T10, which also takes 1xAA battery with a nice, and also features an efficient constant current circuit.

The last time I went camping, my L10 on high with a Sanyo Eneloop AA was the brightest flashlight of anyone camped around us, and I mostly just used the moonlight mode for late night restroom trips.

The moonlight mode is also useful for checking on sleeping children when they are sick. You want to see that they are OK, but you don't want to wake them up by turning on the bedroom light. I also use it to check on the missus when she is sick. I can wake her up to take some medications without blinding her, and she can go right back to sleep.

L3 Illuminations L10 with XP-G2 Cool White and Nichia 219 Warm Tint Emitters


3. Tactical Applications


Some people use moonlight mode in tactical applications, and some of the newer lights even have low output modes in red and other colors. There are times when it's beneficial to preserve your night vision and also not have your light be seen by others. I'm just a computer programmer and not a commando, but I have talked to military guys on various discussion forums.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Victorinox Sentinel [Pocket Knife]

The Sentinel was the first Victorinox product that I purchased as an adult. At the time I purchased it, I was
collecting strictly pocket knives, and I wanted to see how one of their pocket knives stood up to the other brands I was buying, such as Spyderco and Kershaw.

Victorinox Sentinel Product Link
My review sample was purchased from Amazon a little more than a year ago, where it sat in a drawer until recently when I started seriously collecting Victorinox.

Product Description


Unlike most of their other products, the Sentinel is just a pocket knife. Sure, it has the trademark toothpick and tweezers common to most of their products, but that's it--just a basic pocket knife with no nail file, scissors or any of the other doodads you'd expect on a Swiss Army Knife.

The Sentinel features one-handed opening and a locking blade. The steel is the same mid-range steel you will find on their other products. This model also features the newer style plastic handle, which isn't as highly regarded as the more classic versions like the Tinker and Explorer.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

Price: $25-$30 online

  • Smooth one-hand operation
  • Slim knife design features four stainless-steel tools
  • One-handed non-serrated locking blade, key ring, tweezers, toothpick
  • 4 3/8 inches long
  • Precision crafted in Switzerland; lifetime warranty

Victorinox Sentinel Split View: Closed

Victorinox Sentinel Split View: Open
Victorinox Sentinel Split View With Doodads

Victorinox Sentinel - Top View

Victorinox Sentinel - Side View

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Logo

Initial Impressions


My first impression was that some of the reviews of this model are correct: the plastic scales on the handle do feel a little cheap. Not a lot cheap, but definitely something noticeable. With a full stainless steel liner, the scales are basically just there to look good and protect the liner, so I understand from a design point they are probably more than sufficient. But flicking them with my finger, they sound cheap and hollow.

The second thing I noticed is that the blade is off center. It's just shy of rubbing against the liner, which it would if it was any more off. It's also a little stiff to open and close. I'm sure that it will wear in and loosen up a little over time.

Other than that, it seems like a decent knife. The blade has the "spidey hole" which makes it a one-hander, and I really like the non-tactical, non-threatening blade geometry that tells the whole world "this is a utility knife" which I have always liked about Victorinox. And the blade is made of the same above average steel they make most of their other cutlery and multi-tool products from.

Fit and Finish


The only thing I would really deduct from the fit and finish would be the off center blade. It never should've made it past quality control like this. Come on, Switzerland. Since the cheap-feeling handles are not really a function of the fit and finish, the off center blade is really my only official gripe.

Blade


The heart of any knife is the blade, and here is where Victorinox got it right. Mine came shiny and with a good edge, just like I would expect from any SAK. It also features the typical hollow grind you'll find on most pocket knives these days.

Lately I've been having a good bit of discussion on certain forums about the steel used by Victorinox. The purists say that it's perfect and the naysayers say that it's a mid-range steel at best. Personally I think the quality of steel is less important for an EDC pocket knife than it is for say a Philips screwdriver, where the softer Chinese steel can and will strip every screw. So it's nice to have the harder Swiss steel, and I will never argue with decent steel. Is it as good as some high end knives and multi-tools? If you are into high end steel, keep looking. But having said that, the blade on this model is above average, and better than 90% of the pocket knives out there.

The blade geometry on the Sentinel is also very appealing to me, and other than being a little stiff, deploys easily with one hand.

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Blade 1

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Blade 2

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Blade 3


Lockup


This model features a simple liner lock mechanism. Interestingly, the release seems to be the opposite direction as every single other liner lock I own, which confuses me. My review sample locks up solid and has a decent feel. There's a little bit of play, but nothing that would jeopardize the integrity of the lock.

Maybe I'm just spoiled on budget pocket knives, but even the little bit of play in the lock is disconcerting at this price range. Heck, I have $8 SanRenMu knives with perfectly centered blades and lockup. But just like your mom said about always wearing clean underwear in case you're in an ambulance, always put your best product out in case it lands in a reviewer's hands.

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Lock

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Lock Release


Handle


I don't own any other models with the newer, larger style shape and newer handle scale material, so I can't say if one of the newer models like the Trekker has the same cheap feel in its handles as this model. Most of those newer style models get much better reviews, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt on future purchases.

Out of my growing SAK collection, the Sentinel is the only one with cheap feeling handles. In fact, I just got a new Cadet with the black Alox scales on it, and what a difference. The Alox is simply amazing, and the Cadet cost less than the Sentinel.

While the scales feel cheap, I'm not convinced that they are cheap. But I'm not sure that matters since I'm having a hard time moving past the perception that they are cheap.

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Handle 1

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Handle 2

Victorinox Sentinel - Closeup Of Handle 3


Conclusions


This is one of those products that just didn't click with me for whatever reason. What's funny is that there's no one thing I can point to and say "this is why I don't like it." Maybe it's because I'm too used to seeing all the tools on a Victorinox. Or maybe it's just a combination of a few little things that contribute to me not really liking it. But it's not a bad knife. Sure, I'm not a big fan of the plastic scales on the handle, but it isn't that bad. And it uses the same good steel found on the models that I do like.

There is a whole lot of competition in the $30 price range this model belongs to. For the same money you can have a Kershaw, Ontario or even low end Spyderco. For example, at this price point you could have a made in USA Kershaw Skyline with much better fit and finish, not to mention much better steel. Or a Spyderco Tenacious, which even though it's made in China is superior to the Sentinel in almost every way. It almost seems like Victorinox just didn't try very hard with this model. So it's not that the Sentinel is a bad knife, it's more like it can't compete with the superb offerings at the $30 price point.

Lately I have become a huge fanboy of Victorinox, but I'm definitely not a fan of this particular model. It's probably fine for an emergency bag or a car's glove box, but at this price point, honestly, buy the Spyderco Tenacious instead.

Gallery


From Top: Victorinox Sentinel, SanRenMu LB-763, Victorinox Tiner, United Cutlery Wolf, Case 0156, SanRenMu 681, Vic Classic
From Top: Victorinox Sentinel, SanRenMu LB-763, Victorinox Tiner, United Cutlery Wolf, Case 0156, SanRenMu 681, Vic Classic

Victorinox Sentinel - On Scale

Victorinox Sentinel - Next To Ruler

Monday, February 10, 2014

Victorinox Roundup

Recently I've been starting to collect more Victorinox. As a kid, I always had a Swiss Army Knife handy. But it's something I lost interest in as an adult, until I started seriously collecting pocket knives. Somewhere I read that no collection is complete without some Victorinox, and I can believe it. Purchasing all these new ones in black has given me a new found appreciation of this brand, and I plan on continuing to expand my collection.
Victorinox Roundup: Explorer, Executive, Tinker, Sentinel, Cadet and Classics
Aside from the 2 classics in red and hunter green which were gifts, I've been buying new ones in black because I think it looks really classy. The black is more prone to scratches, so time will tell if it was a wise choice. Or bummer, I have to buy them all again in red.



Victorinox Roundup: Explorer, Executive, Tinker
Victorinox Roundup: Explorer, Executive and Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen

Executive


The Executive is medium sized for a Victorinox, somewhere in the range between the keychain-sized Classics and the larger sized Tinker. It's probably a bit big for a keychain, but it's ideal for a pocket. The glossy black finish looks really upscale. True to its name, this is a tool that would look good in your suit pocket and at home in the board room. If you like oranges, the Executive is one of the only tools I know of that have a dedicated orange peel tool. It also has a better and finer file than the other Vics in my collection.

It's really an ideal size for every day carry. With a deceptively large blade for its size, you get a lot of knife and just functionality in general for something that doesn't feel heavy in pajamas. Scissors, philips screwdriver--this thing would be perfect if it had a common bottle opener on it instead of a second blade. But as it is, it's close to perfect, and one of the gems of my collection. It's also nice to augment a larger pocket knife without adding too much bulk.

Victorinox Roundup: EDC Friends-Tag Heuer Link, Victorinox Executive, Ray-Ban Wayfarers

Victorinox Roundup: Executive 1 of 3

Victorinox Roundup: Executive 2 of 3

Victorinox Roundup: Executive 3 of 3


Tinker 


The Tinker was appealing to me because it has a normal philips screwdriver tip and shaft. It's not some dumbed-down, compact, lowest-common-denominator tool. It's a real screwdriver. Because it's well machined and uses a hard, heat treated steel, the screwdriver is as good as a mechanic's screwdriver. That's the thing about some budget tools that use softer steels. You're not saving any money if you strip every screw you try to remove, or if you strip the screwdriver itself because the steel is too soft.

The rest of the tools are sensibly chosen. The auger is a nice touch, as is the second blade. The main blade, small blade, bottle opener/screwdriver/stripper and can opener are the common ones standard to the larger model Vics. There are no scissors or other tools, but that's OK because the Tinker isn't that bulky. It's something you'll feel in your pocket, but it's not excessive.

Yesterday it was below zero here, and the battery in my truck picked the wife's grocery shopping trip in the snow to strand her in the parking lot. I grabbed my toolbox and just for good measures swapped the Executive out for the Tinker before I went to go put a new battery in the truck. I also like to carry the Tinker if I'm wearing jeans or cargo pants.

Victorinox Roundup: Tinker 1 of 3

Victorinox Roundup: Tinker 2 of 3

Victorinox Roundup: Tinker 3 of 3


Explorer


The Explorer is where the Vics start getting over the top. It has most of their good tools except for the pliers, and it even has a magnifying glass. Too bad the magnifying "glass" is made out of flimsy plastic. It's still useful, but it's something I'm going to use very sparingly so it doesn't get scratched. The philips screwdriver on the Explorer looks sturdy but also looks a bit odd. At first I thought it must be a flaw in the machining, but nope, it's designed this way.

Of course, this model features the same main blade, small blade, bottle opener/screwdriver/stripper and can opener found on their larger models. Why change a good thing. And because this thing is a beast, it has scissors and also some of the more obscure tools like the corkscrew, auger and hook. I'm not ashamed to say that I have no idea what I would use the hook for.

I read in one of the reviews somewhere that the little screwdriver that fits in the corkscrew on some of their higher end models can be purchased separately and will fit on the Explorer. This model is definitely a little bulky, but you're getting most of the functionality of a larger Leatherman with less bulk, so I try to keep that in perspective when I carry it.

Victorinox Roundup: Explorer 1 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Explorer 2 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Explorer 3 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Explorer 4 of 4

Cadet


The Cadet turned out to be one of the gems of my collection, along with the Executive. It's almost as thin as the Classic, and very light given that it has Aluminum scales. The Aluminum is textured, giving the knife a very good grip. The Cadet is simple: The standard main blade, bottle opener/screwdriver/stripper and can opener. The twist is that in place of the small blade is a file/philips screwdriver. It's not a full philips, and wouldn't normally be my first choice for one, but it should do fine in a pinch.

Since I like to carry light, this is an ideal size for me. I read somewhere that the anodizing is thin and will wear off easily. If it's true, that will be OK because I only intend to carry it for special occasions and/or when I dress up. There's a spot on the back for what looks like an engraving, which I will probably look into. I'm seriously considering getting the silver one for every day carry, which won't show wear as much. But the Cadet in black looks phenomenal.

Victorinox Roundup: Cadet In Black 1 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Cadet In Black 2 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Cadet In Black 3 of 4

Victorinox Roundup: Cadet In Black 4 of 4


Sentinel


The Sentinel. This is the one model in my collection that I don't really get. Maybe because it's not a multi-tool. I'm not sure if it's built cheaply, but it does feel a little cheap and that takes something away from the experience. The blade is a little off-center on mine as well, which doesn't help either. But it's not a bad knife. There's nothing I can point to and say "this is unacceptable" but it's just not something that thrills me.

Mine came with a good edge and the lockup is solid. The lock is a little stiff to release, but that's OK. It's well built and it's made from good steel. Even though it's just a knife (no doodads), it also has the standard toothpick and tweezers. Like I said, it's not a bad knife, but at about 30 bucks, there are a lot of knives competing with this one. For the same money, an American made Kershaw Skyline would be a much better choice for most people.

Victorinox Roundup: Sentinel 1 of 2

Victorinox Roundup: Sentinel 2 of 2


Classics


What can I say, the Classic Swiss Army Knife is iconic. They've been around for decades. My sister makes these great little survival kits, and she often puts used Vics inside them which she buys from eBay. So I went digging through her kits and pilfered a couple I liked: one red, and the other hunter green. The red one has the little ball point pen that comes out--nice.


Victorinox Roundup: Classics 1 of 2

Victorinox Roundup: Classics 2 of 2






Sunday, February 9, 2014

Go Hawks!

When we moved to the Northwest about 10 years ago from Southern California, both the Raiders and Rams had left our area a few years before. And as a fan, I never really felt these teams cared so much about the fans. So imagine my surprise when moving to the Northwest, finding out there was a team that cared enough about its fans to call them the "12th man."

It was very gratifying to see my adoptive team the Seattle Seahawks win the superbowl. I couldn't be there for the game, but I could at least buy a hoodie to show my support. Man, they were like 70 bucks the day after the superbowl. So I waited about a week and sure enough, the price came down. Because if there's one thing we like in this household, it's a good deal.

The artwork on it is actually pretty decent.




Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet Product Link
Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet Product Link
In decades of carrying a wallet, I've never lost one. But I've never found one I liked, either. Some look great at a big cost in functionality, and some are functional but don't have the look I want.  Sometimes it seems like it's too much to ask for a well made wallet that doesn't make me look like a biker or hipster. I don't want to look like anything.

This review sample was either purchased from GoingGear or Amazon. Honestly, I don't remember which for this wallet, and both are great sellers. Maxpedition seems to be one of the brands that Amazon is kind of hit and miss with.


Product Description


This is a rugged, bi-fold wallet made of the same ballistic nylon that Maxpedition uses for most of their other products. The wallet is secured by a large strip of velcro, and features a beefy zippered coin pocket on the outside, and lots of little cubbies and another zippered pocket on the inside. 

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Top View

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Bottom View

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - All the Way Open

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - American Design


Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Hard Use Gear Tag


Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • CMC Wallet
  • Closed: Empty Size: 5" x 3.5" x 1"
  • Divided bill fold area for 2 different currencies
  • Various slots for ID and credit cards
  • Zipper access coin pocket in rear


Initial Impressions


It's got this huge zippered coin purse on the outside. I like that the zipper looks really sturdy, but it's a bit much, and I'll probably cut off the zipper pull and replace it with a small piece of paracord or something. Opening the wallet up, boy is the Velcro loud! I mean having everyone around you stop and look at you loud. There does not appear to be any danger that the wallet will accidentally come open. None. I thought it would be a deal breaker, but I'm used to it now, and it's nice knowing that everything stays put in my wallet.

Getting past the Velcro, the first thing I noticed was a little pocket with another beefy looking zipper. The pocket is nice for some small tech items, such as an SD card or thumb drive. Really nice, but definitely another candidate for a paracord zipper pull.

Thoughts of the annoying Velcro quickly vanished as I saw that this is well laid out for a wallet. I keep my Rat Wallet attached to my electronics bag. It has some EDC and tech knick knacks in it, but I couldn't tell you exactly what it's supposed to be. This C.M.C. wallet doesn't have an identity problem--it's a wallet.

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Velcro 1


Build Quality / Finish


For not being made in the USA, you would never know it. I'm not sure anything currently made in the USA can even rival most of Maxpedition's products. Whatever they are doing, they are clearly doing right. The ballistic nylon coupled with the double stitching and over-sized zippers make this thing ridiculously rugged.

After a few months, mine started fraying the Velcro in a couple small places. I would probably consider it normal wear and tear, but this model has enough extra Velcro material for about 4 wallets, so I doubt it's anything that will ever give me concern. After I took the photo below, I cleaned up the frayed parts with a pair of scissors and it looks much better now.

Other than that, the build quality is excellent, and the fit and finish is good overall. I doubt anyone will decide to love or hate it based on the build quality or finish, unless they get a bad one. By now I have a few of their products, and they are all built like tanks.

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Velcro 2





Coin Pocket


The outside coin pocket is pretty good sized. There's lots of room for change, but beware: putting change in this pocket quickly makes the wallet bulky. The pocket even expands a bit, which also makes it look at first glance like a defect in the way the zipper lines up.

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Coin Purse Zipper


Inside Zippered Pocket


The inside zippered pocket has a nice beefy zipper, just like the coin purse. It's not very large, and probably better suited to very compact and flat objects.

On the outside of this pocket are three little elastic pockets that Maxpedition claims is for memory cards, but they don't seem very well suited for that. I still haven't found anything useful for these little pockets. For memory cards and other small gadgets, I just use the zippered pocket.

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Inner Zipper Pocket

Divided Bill Fold


This is a neat feature, and keeps two sets of bills separate from each other. And for the times I just have one set of bills, the back pocket keeps it snug, as shown in the photo below. It makes it very hard for your money to accidentally come out. The photo below also shows the extent of my riches.

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Bill Fold

Card Slots


The CMC wallet has 3 card slots. Each slot is a pretty good thickness, easily holding several cards. This is my favorite feature of the wallet because the slots are so well designed. The cards stick out just enough to see what they are, but sit deep enough not to be in danger of falling out. The slots are also a little wider than most of my cards, so they probably fit just about any card-shaped object you want to put in there.


Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Card Slots 1

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Card Slots 2


Other Pockets


There are a couple extra card-sized pockets tucked into either side of the wallet: one under the card slots and one under the zippered pocket. I use one side of it for my business cards and the other side for other people's business cards.
Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Other Pockets

Usability


I've carried this wallet daily for about a year, so I'm confident that I know its strengths and weaknesses. For example, the zipper pulls are really annoying, and I often fantasize about cutting them off with wire cutters and putting some sort of cord on it instead.

The dual bill fold area is something I actually use regularly for keeping my pay-the-bills money separate from my play money. In all my time owning this wallet, I have not found a good use for those elastic pockets. They aren't in the way of anything, so right now they are just for decoration.

Day to day, most of what I get at in the wallet is cash and cards, and this wallet is easy to get at everything, and most of the time I will have a few bucks change in it, which I routinely do my best to keep to just what I need. 

The CMC has held up well to my daily abuse. I've seen it called "over designed" by some reviewers, and I guess that depends on how rough you are on your gear. As someone who seems more abusive than most of my material possessions, I really like the rugged ballistic nylon design, double stitching,

Conclusions


This is a well designed and executed wallet. It's a tad bulky for me, but I'm not parting with it, since it's so close to being my ideal wallet. The loud velcro is sometimes disconcerting to nearby random people when I open it, but the flip side is that I have no worries that the wallet will accidentally come open. It routinely gets shoved into backpacks, luggage, jackets, etc., and it's great knowing my money and credit cards are always safe.

For EDC use I currently have no plans to replace this wallet, though I will probably get one of their smaller wallets for situations where I need to travel light and only need my ID and a few bucks, say at a hotel bar. But for day to day use, the CMC is mostly a pleasure to carry. Sometimes if I want it to be a little less bulky, then I'll take the change out. And sometimes when I travel I will bulk it out with extra change for the parking meters, extra cash, memory cards, etc. At that point it's usually in a backpack or duffel bag.

Whatever I have in it at the time, this wallet is never far from me. If they made a slightly less bulky version with slightly less Velcro, I think it would probably be the best EDC wallet in existence. It sill might be. I think I will try the Urban model next, for those times by the lake, where there's no parking meters. From the product photos, it looks like it goes easy on the Velcro, so we'll see...

Gallery


Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Brand New Next To EDC Organizer Pouch

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - Closeup Of Tags
Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - EDC Friends 1

Maxpedition C.M.C Wallet - EDC Friends 2