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SKD PIG Alpha Gloves

I’m on my third pair of SKD PIG Alpha Gloves. My previous two pairs have lasted around 15 months. This current pair is on track for the same.

The gloves are lightweight, synthetic, and highly dexterous. While wearing them I am able to tie my shoes, pick up a penny, and load a .22 caliber magazine — all reliable tests for the dexterity of any glove. I wear the PIG Alpha Gloves every day on the bike, and am happy with the 15 month lifespan given both the intent of the glove and their cost.

They are a mechanics gloves, and should be compared to things like the Mechanix Original Covert. The Mechanix were my every day glove prior to purchasing my first pair of PIG Alpha Gloves in 2014. I find that the dexterity is the same in both, but the PIG Alpha Gloves are more comfortable and a bit more durable.

SKD PIG Alpha Glove

  • SKD PIG Alpha Glove
  • SKD PIG Alpha Glove

The greatest selling point of the PIG Alpha Gloves over most Mechanix models is the touch-screen compatible fingers. In earlier generations, SKD accomplished this by sewing silver thread into the index finger. This worked when the gloves were new, but quickly failed as the thread became dirty and began to fall out. SKD fixed this a couple years ago by replacing the silver thread with a conductive synthetic suede on the index finger and thumb. I’ve found that this works great, and continues to do so until the whole glove fails.

When the glove does begin to fail, it does so in the fingers. The fingers and palm are covered in ventilation holes, which slowly grow as the glove is abused. After this I find the stitching in the fingers will start to blow out. At that point I move on to the next pair.

The lightweight, synthetic materials of the PIG Alpha Gloves stay acceptably cool in hot weather. They’re not as cool as wearing no glove, and my hands will sweat wearing them, but I’ve never found them so uncomfortable that I want to take them off. The gloves provide no protection from the rain, but they dry within a few hours of being soaked.

Paracord loops on each cuff allow the gloves to be easily secured when not in use. I cut the D-ring off of the left shoulder strap of my Litespeed and replace it with an ITW Grimloc. This is where the gloves live when I’m off the bike.

SKD PIG Alpha Glove

The gloves do run a little small. I wear a size medium in just about every glove out there. In the PIG Alpha Gloves, size large fits me perfectly.

I purchased a pair of Magpul Core Technical Gloves back in 2015 when Magpul got into the glove game. These are meant to be in the same category of lightweight, dexterous, mechanics glove as the PIG Alpha Gloves and Mechanix, but I found them to be inferior to both offerings. The lack of adjustability in the wrist makes them annoying to put on and take off. The thicker material cuts down on dexterity (while probably improving durability) and makes them too warm to wear in hot weather. The touch screen finger tips are unreliable when the glove is dirty.

Dexterity and durability are inversely related in a glove, but the SKD PIG Alpha Gloves find a happy medium for my use. For poor weather conditions or mountain excursions, I still like gloves like the Kuiu Guide Gloves, but the mechanics glove is a better style for every day use. Right now I think the PIG Alpha Gloves are the best glove of this type on the market. I’ll continue to wear them every day and replace them every 15 months.

This post was published on . It was tagged with review, gear.

Initial impressions of the Kojin Stove are positive.

I purchase a modified StarLyte a couple years ago but haven’t used it much. It burns well but is difficult to light with a spark unless it is slightly overfilled. The Kojin takes a spark easily. It is lightweight, durable, can be snuffed with its lid, and holds enough fuel for a short overnight trip. I haven’t measured fuel consumption or boil times, but it seems difficult to find anything to fault with the Kojin. I doubt I’ll carry a 12-10 with my Ti-Tri again.

Dinner of Champions

  • Burning in the Kojin
  • Mobile Tea

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, gear, stoves.

How I Screw

Fix It Sticks are 1/4” magnetic bit drivers, originally intended as bicycle repair tools. Each stick holds two bits, and can be used individually or connected together in a “T” when more torque is wanted.

I backed the Fix It Sticks Kickstarter campaign back in 2014, selecting the $99 pledge level for the titanium Fix It Sticks reward. For the past 4 years, the titanium Fix It Sticks have been part of my EDC. I carry them with a selection a bits optimized for bike repair, as well as a few supplemental bits that are not intended for my vehicle, but are useful to have on hand for general screwing. Extra bits are carried in a Toolcool bit holder.

Every Day Screwing

The sticks, bits, chain breaker, and tire levers — along with a patch kit and my Pitlock key — are stored in a small Mountain Laurel Designs Carbon Fiber Packing Cube. This lives in the admin pocket of my FAST Pack Litespeed, but also slides easily into a pocket if I’m riding bag-less. I also keep the new Fix It Sticks Magnetic Patch on my Litespeed. If I switch bits while fixing my bike on the side of the road, I can just toss a bit at my pack and the patch catches it.

Every Day Cuben and Magnetic Patch

At home I have an excessive collection of 1/4” bits, including things like socket adapters, extensions, and the Fix It Sticks Glock kit. What’s most attractive about the bit and driver system to me is that these 80-some bits take up a miniscule fraction of the space that I would otherwise need for the tools. I keep a Wera Kraftofmr 816 RA driver at home for those times when I want something that ratchets, but the Fix It Sticks are what I pull out the vast majority of the time.

At work I keep some additional bits, along with a few other tools, in a GPP1. Some of these duplicate my EDC bits, but most of them are things that are not common enough to warrant carrying, but common enough that I like to have them around.

Work Bits

The bits I EDC are fairly standard. 4mm and 5mm hex bolts live in one stick. Those two attack the majority of bolts on my bike. A Phillips #0 and #1 live in the other stick. Those two are most useful for general screwing. In the bracket, I keep:

  • Phillips #2
  • Hex 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 6mm, and 8mm
  • Security Torx 7, 10, 25, and 30
  • Slotted 5mm
  • 1/4” to 4mm adapter, with a Slotted 1.5mm Micro

Carrying the “security” Torx instead of the standard Torx allows me to tamper with tamper-resistant electronics, which is a useful capability to have. They drive normal Torx bits screws just fine, which accounts for the majority of their use. The T25 is a longer (50mm) bit. I use this one as leverage when operating my Pitlocks.

  • Fix It Stick as Pitlock Wrench
  • Fix It Stick T Configuration

The 1/4” to 4mm adapter allows me to run any 4mm micro bit in the Fix It Sticks. Part of the collection of bits in my GPP1 at work are micro bits that I use to attack electronics (at home I have the iFixit 64-bit Kit, which is a great hardware hacking kit for the price). A slotted 1.5mm bit is the right answer for most eyewear, which is why I carry that bit in the adapter every day.

On my scale, a single titanium stick without bits weighs in at 28 grams. Both sticks, with the 4 bits that I keep in them, tip the scale at 74 grams. When I add the bracket with 12 additional bits, the total weight is 148 grams. Adding the chain tool and two tire lever attachments to that, the whole kit is 228 grams, or 8 ounces. That’s pretty reasonable for all the capability those items offer.

Fix It Sticks only made a small number of the titanium sticks for the Kickstarter campaign. The sticks they sell today are steel. The weight of the steel Fix It Sticks Replaceable Edition is listed as 116 grams. I assume that weight is for both sticks and the 8 included bits. With my titanium sticks and the same 8 bits, I’m at 100 grams. So the titanium sticks shave off a little weight, but not really a notable amount — particularly considering that the titanium sticks were the reward for donations at 3x the cost of the steel sticks. I think my titanium sticks are perfect, and if offered I would purchase them again, but if they were lost I’d immediately replace them with the steel version with only a little heartbreak.

This post was published on . It was tagged with bicycle, gear, edc.

Tactical Chucks

The Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boots are a great pair of everyday footwear. Modeled off of Chuck Taylors, they’re a fairly simple concept: a 1000D Cordura upper, large rubber toe cap, and low-profile outsole with minimal lugs.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

The boots provide excellent grip on wet and dry concrete. Altama claims to use some sort of special sticky rubber, though it feels like typical shoe rubber to me. It is not noticeably sticky, like Five Ten’s rubber. The lug pattern is not ideal for dirt and mud, but for an everyday urban shoe I have no complaints. After 6 months, my boots shoe a reasonable amount of wear.

I bought them in a size US 10 / EUR 43, which fit me perfect. In most brands I alternate between a US 9.5 or 10, which usually translates to a fairly consistent EUR 42. They tip my scale at 29.3 oz (832 grams) for the pair.

The laces that come with the boots are ridiculously long. Unless you tuck them into the boot, they’ll catch on things. They constitute a hazard on the bike. I replaced them with Lawson Toughlaces, laced in a double helix and tied in a bowknot. Lawson’s laces are just heavy pieces of Technora with metal aglets on the end. Abrasian resistant, fire resistant to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, and with a breaking strength in excess of 1,000 lbs — you can saw through restraints all day with the Toughlaces and they will still probably last until the heat death of the universe. I have them cut to 54” for these boots.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

Altama ships the boots with removable polyurethane insoles. This material makes sense for the intended water application of the boot, but I worried that they would be hot and uncomfortable for my more pedestrian use. So far I’ve not found that to be the case, but I’ve only had the boots since the end of September, so I can’t comment on their comfort in hot weather.

Neither the insole nor the boots themselves have any arch support, but they are not zero drop. There’s a heel to toe differential that feels like it is probably in the 6mm-8mm range. All of this lift, however, comes from the insole. After replacing the laces, my second modification was to purchase a pair of Ortholite Fusion Insoles. These are completely flat. The size 10 insole fit perfectly in my boots without any trimming, transforming them into zero-drop footwear. Unfortunately, the boots really want a slightly higher volume insole. With the Ortholites installed, I get a small amount of heel slippage that cannot be addressed by lacing. This is not an issue for my typical everyday wear, but would become problematic if hiking.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Insoles

I still find myself switching between the stock polyurethane insoles and the Ortholites, but I lean toward the Ortholite being a more comfortable choice. It’s worth experimenting with them if you find high heels uncomfortable.

The Altama OTB Maritime boots feel like they come out of a latter Gibson novel. Black, minimal branding, fairly gender-neutral, and able to be worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000.

A Better Towel

Discovery Trekking‘s Extreme Ultralight Travel Towels are the best quick-drying, packable towels I’ve found. Typical microfiber towels are scratchy and quick to stink. The Extreme Ultralight Travel Towel forgoes microfiber for Polartec Power Dry with a Polygiene treatment. They are soft, pleasant to use, and resistant to funk.

It’s use may be somewhat unintuitive for those who cut their teeth on traditional towels. Rather than the typical rubbing action, the Extreme Ultralight Travel Towels work best when you pat yourself down.

I bought my first of their towels in 2015. I go to the boxing gym in the morning and shower before work, so I’ve used that single towel multiple times per week for the past 3 years. It has no smell. In fact it is indistinguishable from the new towel I just bought last week.

I prefer the towels in size medium, which measure 28” by 34”. It’s the right size to dry off my whole body, though if I had long hair I may opt for the larger size. The only shortcoming of the towel is that it has no loop to hang it from, but this is easily remedied with a piece of paracord and some thread. On my scale, the size medium (with paracord hanging loop added) weighs 3.4 oz (98 grams).

I own the towels in charcoal and olive brown. The olive brown color is similar to that shown on Discovery Trekking’s website, but is what the rest of the world would call coyote brown. The charcoal color is nothing like what they show on their site. In their images it appears black, but in reality it is a grayish green, similar to foliage green, but slightly darker. I like it.

Normally I would not care about the color of a towel, but I note the colors here because the fabric is comfortable enough that I actually use the towel as a scarf — something which I cannot say about any microfiber towel. It provides warmth in cooler weather, and sun protection in hot weather. The Power Dry fabric is rated at UPF 15. This dual use makes it easy to justify the towel’s miniscule weight and volume in a pack, ensuring you always know where your towel is.

Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Douglas Adams

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, review.

PPE Kits

I began carrying an N95 respirator in my bag every day around 2007. The masks can be easily added to any first aid kit without much of a weight or size penalty, and offer respiratory protection far superior to that of a bandanna or a surgical mask. While useful during an influenza pandemic, my motivation for carrying the mask was centered more around urban disaster. Any time there are buildings coming down, I assume there will be asbestos, concrete dust, and similar contaminants in the air that I don’t in my lungs.

Most discussion of the extended use and reuse of respirators centers around contagions and the influenza use-case. While it seems safe enough to assume that the masks have an unlimited functional shelf life if stored properly, I’ve not found any information related to visual inspection of the masks for proper use. My own respirators get cycled every two or three years, but there is still a lot of room for abrasion in the pack, which I assume diminishes the protection the masks offer.

I had not thought much about this until last year. The respirator was something I carried but didn’t use. After a decade of carry, my first time actually needing to take the respirator out of my pack was this past October during the Napa and Sonoma fires.

After using the masks I had on hand during the fires (and unsuccessfully attempting to barter my surplus for chocolate), I began to better store the replacement batch for next time.

PPE Kit

By keeping the respirator in a 5” x 4” aLOKSAK I’m ensured that no damage is done to during storage. The airtight seal offered by the bag means that the inside of the mask stays clean, at least until the first time I take it out in a contaminated setting. By added a pair of nitrile gloves to the bag, I create a compact, wallet-sized PPE kit. The same thing can be purchased, but all the prebuilt kits I’ve seen are too bulky for me to want to carry. My PPE kits can easily be slid in with the medical supplies in various my first aid and disaster kits. Pair that with EDC eye protection and you have a decently comprehensive solution.

The only appreciable thickness comes from the vent on the respirator, but I’ve found that vented respirators are key. A properly fitted respirator without a vent hampers my ability to perform physically, which isn’t a great trade-off in any situation where I find myself needing to wear a respirator.

PPE Kit with Every Day Carry

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, medical.