Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: Two in One Camping Lamp

I'm always on the lookout for good camping lanterns. Most of the store-bought ones use extremely cheap and low-efficiency LED emitters, so I always pay attention to ones that use a good emitter like a Cree. This one uses a Cree Q5 LED emitter in it. A shady company asked me to choose something from their site to review and I wanted something a little different, so I chose this model.

The review sample was provided by a shady seller I no longer deal with, and runs about $10 on their site.

3xAAA Camping Lantern Product Link
Camping lantern product link 

Product Description


This is a single mode 3xAAA camping lantern. It features a hybrid design that allows it to act like a flashlight when the retractable diffuser is pushed in. When acting as a flashlight, the unit has a large, smooth reflector actually giving the unit some serious throw. With the diffuser extended, the unit acts as a lantern, which can stand on its own or hang from the attached ring.

As I mentioned, this model features a Cree XP-E Q5 emitter with what is most likely a direct drive circuit. It's one of those so-called "vampires" where it can drain the batteries all the way dead, giving you every last bit of light.

Official Specs


There is not a whole lot of information out there on this lantern, but here's what their web site has:

Specifications

General
Type: Camping Emergency Lights
For: Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Emergency, Travel
Material: Aluminum Alloy, Glasses
Functions: Long life, low power consumption, bright and no stroboscopic
Specification
Power Source: 3 AAA battery (not included)
Dimension and Weight
Product weight : 0.1kg
Package weight : 0.15 kg
Product size (L x W x H) : 11 cm (Folding Size), 16 cm (Unfolding Size)
Package size (L x W x H) : 13 x 8 x 8 cm
Package Contents
Package contents: 1 x Camping Lamp
3xAAA Camping Lantern 1

3xAAA Camping Lantern 2

3xAAA Camping Lantern 3
It's got a sturdy looking ring to hang it from

3xAAA Camping Lantern 4
The base is Aluminum and looks to be attached with 3 philips screws

3xAAA Camping Lantern Tail Switch3xAAA Camping Lantern Tube



3xAAA Camping Lantern Battery Holder 13xAAA Camping Lantern Battery Holder 2


3xAAA Camping Lantern Battery Holder 3

3xAAA Camping Lantern Threads3xAAA Camping Lantern Tail Cap and Spring

Initial Impressions


This thing is built a little better than I thought it would be at this 10 dollar price point. The main body is anodized Aluminum. The threads are well machined, and the sliding plastic diffuser doesn't feel cheap. The lens and reflector are plastic, but the lantern base is Aluminum just like the body. The reverse clicky tail switch has a good feel to it. The battery holder is of the typical cheap 3xAAA variety you will find on any flashlight in this range. The unit it itself looks durable enough to go into my camping gear, where it will bounce around in the truck. All things considered, it gave me a favorable first impression.

It says "GSWolf" on the cap. I googled it and didn't see this lantern anywhere else.





Fit and Finish


Overall, good. Nothing really surprising given the price point. The emitter is a good bit off center and that affects the beam when the unit is functioning as a flashlight, since part of the beam is cut off. In lantern mode, the emitter being off center does not affect the amount or quality of the light since it's mostly coming out the diffuser. There's also some dust on the flashlight reflector and lens but I don't see a way to take it off, and I don't want to damage it. And again, this issue has no effect on the lantern's operation and probably doesn't really affect the flashlight either--it's more of my OCD wanting to clean it.

Other than the couple minor gripes above, the fit and finish is above average, and I'm pleasantly surprised overall. It's an interesting hybrid of Aluminum and plastic. The anodizing on mine came without any scratches or scuffs and looks nice. The anodized metal base is also a nice touch.

3xAAA Camping Lantern Closeup Of LED 1

3xAAA Camping Lantern Closeup Of LED 2


Flashlight


The large, smooth reflector coupled with the smaller die size of the Q5 give this flashlight a tight beam with some serious throw. If it wasn't for the off-center emitter, this flashlight might challenge more expensive lights in my collection. Other than the funny shape, it's a fully functional flashlight. The plastic reflector and lens are well designed and give this model a nice, tight beam. The tint is the usual cool white you will find on similar flashlights with this emitter. Output is probably in the 100-200 lumen range would be my best guess. Certainly in line with most other flashlights in this category that use the Q5.

3xAAA Camping Lantern Closeup Of Reflector
It's got a pretty good reflector


Lantern


Extending the diffuser turns this model into a decently designed lantern. The output is acceptable for this style, though it only has one mode. The fact that it only gets full brightness for about an hour limits its usefulness as a lantern, but as my wife joked, it gives you three days to use the lantern to find fresh batteries.

The lantern can sit on its base on any flat surface or can be hung from something like a tent using the ring attached to the base. It looks like it may even be water resistant, though I wouldn't push it.

Sitting flat on its base on a picnic table is how the lantern seems to work best, and it's how I plan on using it. For my tent I use a much more expensive setup, usually an 18650 based flashlight with a lot of modes and run time, like the EagleTac shown below with a wand style diffuser. This one will sit on a table like it is below when I'm out at a camp site. It'll be sitting on table while we eat dinner. It might be a bit heavy for backpacking, but probably fine for a disaster "go bag".

3xAAA Camping Lantern On Table 1
3xAAA Camping Lantern On Table 2

Lithium-Ion


I did get an unprotected 18650 lithium-ion battery to fit in the unit. It's fully functional, though the tail cap doesn't screw down all the way with an 18650 in it. Even though it barely fits, it's still nice to know that I could power this thing with a harvested laptop battery if I wanted, and it will vampire that battery down in an emergency.

NOTE: Always be very very careful putting a 3.7V battery in anything that wasn't specifically designed for it. This model could conceivably discharge a lithium-ion cell too quickly, to the point where it could be in danger of melting or even explosion. But if you know what you are doing, it should be useful to know that this model will work with an 18650. I only ran it a couple minutes for my test.

Run Time ("The little lantern that could")


My test was performed with 3 second generation AAA Sanyo Eneloop batteries. My tail cap reading with the 3 fresh Eneloops was 1.3 Amps.

The lantern only gives full brightness for about an hour. I figured that's where the story would end, as it coasted down to nothing. But at 4 hours, it was still bright enough to function as a lantern. Around the 8-10 hour mark, it was really dim but probably enough to still read by in a tent. But this thing just kept going. At the 24 hour mark it was definitely sub-lumen, giving a so called "moonlight mode" and just kept going. At 48 hours it was still probably bright enough to use it to look for fresh batteries! Currently we are just past 72 hours into the test and there's still enough light to see the lantern in a dark room and that's about it. These so-called "vampire" lights often have no circuitry at all--just the batteries straight to the LED emitter and can be handy to have in an emergency, due to the fact that they will suck every bit of power out of your batteries.

The shot below was taken about about the 12 hour mark. This is what earned it points with my wife.

3xAAA Camping Lantern At 12 Hours Run Time


Conclusions


This is a decent little camping lantern that I am happy to add to my gear. It doesn't have a whole lot of output or run time, but given its diminutive size and 10 dollar price point, it's definitely worth throwing into the car for my next camping trip.I also like that it has a "vampire" circuit that will squeeze every bit of juice out of your batteries. That might even earn it a spot in my disaster bag. I'm still deciding.

It's also a pretty good flashlight, mostly due to the well designed reflector. It's made of plastic and so is the lens, but it still appears to be well made. This model should make a decent flashlight. For me it'll be a backup flashlight and a nice extra lantern to have along. I usually bring lots of AAA batteries camping anyway. This lantern also scored points with my wife, who was impressed that it stayed lit for so long.

I don't really have too many complaints about this sample. The fit and finish has lots of room for improvement. Most enthusiasts would return a light with the LED so far off center, though I doubt most casual users would notice. It doesn't affect the lantern, though, so it's not really a concern for me. The dust inside the lantern is really annoying too. I'll probably figure out how to take it apart.

Gallery


Oops. At least the unit was packed in bubble wrap and undamaged

Shown in ounces with the Recyko batteries







Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Kershaw Cryo [EDC Pocket Knife]

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Product Link
Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Product Link
The Kershaw Cryo has been out for about a couple years now. This is a model I put off buying because it has received such mixed reviews. But it does look very appealing, and the Hinderer design gives it "street cred" so I eventually caved in and purchased one from Amazon. The wife liked the Kershaw Brawler I had given to my son in law, so I ordered a Brawler to go with the Cryo. My wife is disabled and has a hard time opening and closing pocket knives.

Product Description


If you like pocket knives, then you have probably at least heard of the Cryo which is a collaboration between Kershaw and Hinderer. Kershaw makes some great products (i.e. "flippers"), so most enthusiasts like myself pay attention to their new products. The Cryo features 8Cr13MoV Chinese steel that you will find on lower end knives and is actually pretty decent steel for an EDC knife. It holds an edge reasonably well and is easy to sharpen.

Other notable features include all steel construction with a frame lock mechanism and assisted opening via their SpeedSafe technology. It also comes with a deep carry clip that can be moved around for tip up and tip down carry. It comes out of the box configured for tip down carry. This knife appears to be intended for enthusiasts.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • Steel: 8Cr13MoV, Titanium carbo-nitrade coating
  • Handle: 8Cr13MoV, Titanium carbo-nitride coating
  • Blade Length: 2 3/4 inches; Closed Length: 3 3/4 inches
  • Tip up or tip down pocket clip
  • Speed safe and flipper opening systems; Frame lock locking system

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Shown With Nitecore SRT3 Flashlight, Casio Watch and Victorinox Executive Pocket Knife

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 1

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 2

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 3

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 4

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 5

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Product View 6
Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Top View

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Bottom View

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Logos

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Flipper

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Another Closeup Of Logo

Initial Impressions


Right out of the box I noticed the blade was way off center. At the time I didn't realize it was because the pivot screw was finger-loose. I could feel the blade rubbing against the frame. But it still had a nice feel flicking it open with the assist. The all-steel design makes it feel really authoritative when it opens. Even with some immediate issues, I could still see the appeal of this model. The frame lock engages nice and solid. Whatever other issues this knife has, there's no doubt about the lock. This thing is staying open.


Fit and Finish


Overall, unacceptable, but just barely. The pivot screw on mine came loose out of the box, with the blade horribly off center. And the jimping on the bottom near the frame lock is really rough around the edges and shows tool marks on almost all of it. Other than that, the rest of it is fine fit and finish-wise. I've always been a fan of Kershaw, and I can tell that they at least tried to give the Cryo a good fit and finish.

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Showing Off Center Blade

Blade


I really like how they did the blade on the Cryo. Kershaw is the master of flipper style pocket knives and it really shows here. It's the typical hollow grind blade, sure, but they've made it look aggressive without taking any functionality away. The 8Cr13MoV steel is also typical of a budget knife, but they've given it a nice coating. Mine came with a good edge on it, and it comes to a nice, sharp tip.

The pivot screw on the Cryo uses a T8 Torx screw. Mine finger loose and was the reason the blade was so off center.

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Blade 1

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Blade 2

Handle


The handle is solid steel and just like the blade, coated with Titanium carbo-nitrade. There is no liner needed because the frame is the liner. Unlike other high end frame locks, there is no scale on one side of the knife. Good, I've never liked the look of those single scale knives. The grip probably suffers a little because of that fact, but that's fine.

Speaking of grip, there is some jimping on the bottom of the frame. My sample was machined poorly--the jimping looks really rough, and the the tool marks are obvious when I look closely at it.

The frame on this knife is nice and thick. This was designed to be a robust knife, and my sample succeeds in that goal. If it's a little rough around the edges, then it's solid where it counts.

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Split View Closed

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: View Of Handle

Clip


The Cryo features a deep carry clip that can be configured for tip up or tip down carry. It comes out of the box set to tip down carry, which is a curious choice given that this is a knife for enthusiasts. All my other Kershaws came that way so at least they are consistent.

Normally the first thing I do with a knife like this is move the clip into tip up position. Unfortunately the T7 Torx clip screws on my Cryo are so tight, it stripped my USA made Craftsman Torx driver which now needs to go back to Sears. The irony wasn't lost on me that the pivot screw came so loose it was about to fall off, where the clip screws are so tight that they wasted what I thought was a good quality driver.

So for the time being, my Cryo will stay in tip down position until I dig up a new T7 Torx driver.

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: View Of Clip 1

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: View Of Clip 2

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: View Of Torx T7 and T8 Craftsman Drivers
Shown with T7 and T8 Craftsman Torx Drivers.


Lockup


This is a frame lock knife in the tradition of more expensive models. The frame lock is probably the strongest locking mechanism you can get, as long as it's done right. My sample looks done right, hitting about 50% of the width of the blade on the frame. This is a nice, robust lock.

Deploying the blade takes a little more effort because this is a decently heavy knife, but to most people it's just going to feel solid. Out of the box, the blade rubbed the frame and the lockup didn't feel too hot. But after messing with the pivot screw, the lockup feels great when I deploy the blade. I can definitely see some of the attraction of this design.

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Closeup Of Frame Lock

Usability


In daily use the pivot loosens and gradually makes the blade off center until it starts rubbing the frame. Tightening the pivot screw brings the blade back to center. This is all well and good, but when the blade is at perfect center, the blade is frozen in place. To free up the blade makes it off center, and what's worse, the pivot screw is loose enough at this point to loosen on its own, fueling a vicious cycle which I've seen a couple other reviews of the Cryo mention.

Other than being high maintenance, and other than carrying the knife tip-down because my screwdriver broke trying to switch the clip, it's not a bad knife to carry. It's a little heavy for me personally, but lots of other people like carrying a more solid knife like this, and solid it is.

With tip-up carry and without the pivot issue, I would like this knife a lot more. As it stands, this is one that I mostly carry just for variety.


Conclusions


Great design, the implementation ... not so much. It's almost like they thought that having a Hinderer design automatically made it a good knife. Psst--you still have to build it. The Cryo isn't an awful knife, it's just probably not the knife that Kershaw set out to build, and that the people wanted. It looks wicked, and it feels sturdy. But the pivot is flawed, and the knife itself is rough around the edges. I'm a collector so I don't regret buying it, but if I was looking at the Cryo as a serious EDC, then I would keep looking. My Skyline doesn't have the 'cool factor' of the cryo, and the Brawler is even a little plain by comparison. If you are looking at flippers, Kershaw still gives you lots of good choices. The Kershaw Skyline doesn't have the assisted opening like the Cryo (or Brawler) but at about the same price, the USA-made Skyline is in a whole different league. There's also the Cryo II. It's a little bigger and supposed to be better made. The thing is though, the Cryo is the perfect EDC size. What I really want is just a well made Cryo. Maybe someday.

A funny thing happened with the Cryo. The more I play around with it, the more it makes me want a high end frame lock knife. If you're an enthusiast who doesn't mind busting out a Torx driver now and again, this probably isn't a bad knife. I don't personally mind having to futz around with tools, so my Cryo will probably be a work in progress. I hear you can put a 9mm shell casing in place of the locking disk.

Gallery


Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Shown With Kershaw Brawler - Closed

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife: Shown With Kershaw Brawler - Open
The Cryo shown with its cousin the Kershaw Brawler

From Top: Kershaw Skyline, Kershaw Cryo Kershaw Brawler, Spyderco Native and SanRenMu GB-763
From Top: Kershaw Skyline, Cryo and Brawler, Spyderco Native and SanRenMu GB-763

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife Next To Ruler

Kershaw Cryo EDC Pocket Knife On Scale