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FMP Load-Out

My Field Message Pad is currently loaded with:

  • Pilot Vanishing Point, Fine Nib with a Pilot CON-40 piston converter loaded with Noodler’s Blue-Black. This is my new favorite human input device, but I got mine on eBay for a little less than half list price. I’ve been trying the blue-black ink for a few weeks now, but will probably go back to Noodler’s Black.
  • rOtring 800 loaded with Pentel Ain Stein 0.5 mm HB lead. This is another thing I only own because I found one for less than half the list price. I carried a rOtring 600 in the FMP for years, but I always get stressed about the thin metal tip. The 800 could conceivably be temporarily moved to a pocket if the situation warrants, unlike the pokey 600. And the twist mechanism is fun to play with. Both rOtring pencils are pieces of industrial art, in the same category as Curta calculators, but realistically they are no more functional than the much cheaper Staedtler 925. Quality lead made me reevaluate my previous dislike of mechanical pencils.
  • Fisher Space Pen M4. Sometimes you need to write off-planet. In pen.
  • Zebra Onamae Mackee. I used to carry a Sharpie. Then I decided to check if the Japanese had invented a better Sharpie. It turns out the answer is yes, they have.
  • CountyComm Titanium 15CM Ruler. For many years I carried the General Tools 300/1, but mine became bowed. This is a titanium knock-off of the same. The matte finish makes it harder to read, but I use this more as a straight edge than a measuring device. The bowed-ness of the General Tools stainless version is annoying in that application. The titanium version has been in my kit for 3 years and so far it is still straight and flat.

FMP Human Input Devices

A 14mm binder clip secures used pages, allowing the pad to quickly be flipped to a blank (or currently in progress) page.

I still primarily use the Rhodia A6 pads. I install them backwards, so that the cardboard backing is on top. This provides a writing surface to more easily utilize the back of the pages. Otherwise I’m writing on top of the FMP’s tool slots, which is annoying. (The thing the Canadians got right is to put heavy cardboard on both sides.)

When expecting inclement conditions, I drop the fountain pen and the Rhodia, and install a Rite in the Rain *46. But given my druthers, it’s all fountain pen all the time.

FMP Load-Out

The Mnemosyne Memo Pad

The Field Message Pad remains my primary writing setup. One of its strengths is the ability to switch between pads from Rite in the Rain and Rhodia.

The Field Memo Pad is a useful substitute for quick and short notes. I have multiple, which I keep stashed in different places and bags. But its weakness is that it is dependent upon the Rite in the Rain pad. When not outdoors, I like having the option of switching to normal (fountain pen friendly) paper.

I recently discovered the Maruman Mnemosyne N192A Twin Ring Memo Pad. They label this as B7, which ISO 216 defines as 3.5 x 4.9 inches. But in fact the N129A does not meet the standard. It is instead 3 x 5 inches. This is identical to the Rite in the Rain 135, making it a perfect substitute in this kit.

Mnemosyne Memo Pads

The paper in the N129A is lined, rather than graphed. This is unfortunate, but for my application I’m willing to overlook this imperfection.

In one of my kits I dropped a magnet down the back pocket. This pad now lives on my refrigerator, perfect for grocery lists and other kitchen related notes.

Fridge Notes

Zeiss Terra Operatic Optics

As a gentleman of class and culture, I frequent the opera. I usually cannot afford to sit in the front. Thus I need opera glasses.

Last year I purchased a pair of Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25 binoculars, intended primarily for this application. I think these are an excellent pair of compact binoculars for general purpose use.

Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25

As with my camera and rando bag, I keep Peak Design Anchor attachments on the binos so that I can carry them with the Peak Design Leash or other compatible straps. Dummy corded to one of the anchors is the Swarovski CL Rainguard. These fit perfectly on the Zeiss and help protect the optics from rain and dust when they aren’t in use.

Before purchasing the Zeiss, I borrowed a pair of discontinued Swarovski Habicht 8x20B binoculars. The smaller objective lenses on these made the package slightly more compact than that of the Zeiss, but I find the experience of actually looking through both pair of binoculars similar enough as to be practically identical (even in the low-light environment of opera). The modern version of the Swarovski is the CL Pocket 8x25. When one considers how well the Zeiss compare against Swarovski and the huge price difference between them, it becomes evident how good of a deal the Zeiss are.

The Zeiss binoculars, without strap or rain guard, weigh 325 grams or about 11.5 ounces. The discontinued Swarovski model tipped my scale at about 225 grams, so the extra money does contribute to a lighter package. But the Zeiss are light and compact enough for my needs.

When carrying the binos, I usually keep the lenses spread out. This creates a wider but flatter profile, which I find tends to carry better. I usually take the bus or train to the opera, and walk the midnight streets of Babylon home. With the lenses spread, and the strap worn cross body such that the binoculars rest on my side under an arm, I can comfortable conceal the package under a fitted and fashionable jacket with minimal printing. Most people probably think about binocular dimensions in terms of how much space they will occupy in a bag, but for my application I care more about concealment-when-worn. The Zeiss work well here.

Zeiss Terra: Opera Configuration

In addition to the opera, I also frequently carry the Zeiss binos on bike rides. There are many abandoned artillery batteries and fire control stations around here that make for good spots to watch the world go by. With magnification.

Zeiss Terra: 8x Magnification

I’ve not owned a good pair of binoculars before this. Over the past year of having these I have used them much more frequently than I thought I would.

Hafney FR-06 Mirrors

Last May I lost my right-side Sprintech Drop Bar Mirror in the baggage car of the Amtrak Coast Starlight. The right-side mirror is less useful than the left-side, so I didn’t bother about a replacement until after pedaling the 1,200 miles back home.

Upon returning, I decided to explore what other mirror options there may be rather than immediately purchasing another Sprintech mirror. I rode with a Take A Look Helmet Mirror for a few weeks, but found it to be less convenient than a mirror mounted to the bike. I messed with the D+D Oberlauda UltraLite Bike Mirror for a couple days. It’s a nice mirror, but I couldn’t find a mounting position that I was happy with on my drop bars. (While messing with this mirror I ended up moving my bell from the left to the right side.) Finally I purchased an FR06 from Hafny Components. I was immediately smitten with this, and bought a second FR06 for the other side a few days later.

The Hafny FR06 uses actual glass for the mirror. It is slightly convex – though less so than the Sprintech – and has a blue tint that does a great job of cutting back on glare. The optical clarity of the mirror is really excellent. This is entirely unnecessary for the application, but once I used it I didn’t want to go back to Sprintech’s chrome-coated ABS plastic.

Hafney FR06 Viewport

The FR06 fits snugly into my Rene Herse Rando Handlebars, even with the tail of my leather tape tucked in. After inserting, a bolt is tightened to expand the assembly, locking it into place. The mirror itself is attached to the mounting assembly via a ball and socket joint. A separate bolt allows this joint to be locked in place. Since the mounting assembly can be rotated in addition to the pan-and-tilt of the mirror joint, positioning everything takes a little trial and error. Once the correct position is found, everything can be tightened down enough such that a smart smack will not cause anything to budge. Or it can be left loose enough to allow for in-flight adjustments. I’ve switched between both approaches, and in neither case have I had any issue with visual clarity or the mirror moving of its own accord, even on rough gravel roads.

I mount the FR06 with the logo-side of the assembly facing down. I think this is considered to be upside down, but it allows me to tilt the mirror up a few degrees higher than I otherwise could, providing a better picture of what’s behind me above the actual road surface. With the logo on the assembly facing up I found that the mirror ran into the top of the assembly just 1 or 2 degrees shy of where I wanted it.

  • Hafney FR06 Mounting
  • Hafney FR06 Mounting

The shape of the FR06 mirror is different than the old Sprintech. I don’t find the shape of one to be superior to the other. Both provide me with the image I want to see at a quick glance. But the higher quality look and feel of the Hafney offering makes me happy, and I think contributes to the overall sex appeal of my ride. This is something I prioritize.


Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series Bottles

I’ve been using the Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series bottles for about a year and a half. They are the first double-wall insulated stainless steel bottles I’ve found that are light enough for me to want to carry regularly.

Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series

I first purchased the 21 oz when I happened to come across it on sale. I liked it enough to purchase the 24 oz a month later when I had an REI coupon. A couple months after that I purchased the 32 oz at full price.

I primarily use the bottles to keep cold water cold. I also sometimes use the 24 oz bottle to keep hot tea hot. I’ve not timed how long they hold the desired temperature, but they do so for at least as long as it takes me to drink whatever is in them, thus resetting the clock. They do not insulate as well as my Zojirushi SM-SA48-BA, but the Hydro Flasks are better as daily, general purpose bottles.

When buying a bottle, one of the things I look for is standard threading and neck diameters. I strongly dislike being locked in to proprietary lids. Hydro Flask meets this criteria, allowing me to replace their stock lids – which are adequate – with better options. The 21 oz has a standard narrow mouth. Mine wears a Topoko Straw Lid B. The 24 oz and 32 oz have standard wide mouth openings. Mine both wear the humangear capCAP+.

If not using the humangear capCAP+ on the wide mouth bottles, a splash guard is wanted. The old Guyot Designs SplashGuard will not work, nor will the newer HydraPak WaterGate. I have found the BottlePro SplashPro to work well.

I have used the 21 oz and 24 oz bottles most. I first EDCed the 21 oz for about 8 months, before deciding that I really wanted those extra 3 oz of volume. The 24 oz has been my EDC for the past 8 months. Both carry well on the bike in a King Cage Iris Cage.

Without any lids, the three bottles register on my calibrated scale as:

  • 7.80 oz, or 221.1 grams, for the 24 oz bottle
  • 8.59 oz, or 243.4 grams, for the 24 oz bottle
  • 10.80 oz, or 306.2 grams, for the 32 oz bottle

The bottles are not available in a raw finish. All three of mine are in the obsidian color, which is a nice chocolate brown. The paint does chip, particularly along the bottom, but this doesn’t bother me. One could probably avoid this by using one of those silicone boots, but these are not compatible with bike cages. I have dropped the bottles, and they do dent, but again, this does not bother me. If you’re looking for a pristine beauty queen, these bottles may not be your cup of tea. If you’re looking for functional, lightweight tools for a warming planet, these are great options.

  • Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series: Dents
  • Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series: Chipping

On Wild Rags

The wild rag or neckerchief is an eminently functional tool. Worn around the neck, it protects from ultraviolet radiation. When wetted, it provides evaporative cooling. When dry, it can be used as a towel. It offers warmth when the mercury drops, and protection from the wind. It can be used as a furoshiki to bundle items together, or be tied into an impromptu bag. It may be fashioned into a sling, or used to tie a splint. The devolution of the wild rag into something as dumb as the modern necktie is the greatest crime perpetuated by Fashion since the invention of the high heel.

I bought my first wild rag at a used clothing store in 2004, though it wasn’t till seeing a suspiciously similar looking one as part of Viggo Mortensen’s costume in Appaloosa a few years later that I started to think of it as practical field equipment. By 2009 it was a standard part of my backpacking accouterment. Some time later the wild rag graduated to being just normal clothing, particularly when it is unusually hot or cold out. (The original rag that I bought used 19 years ago remains in the rotation.)

The standard size for a wild rag is 36” x 36”. This is larger than a pocket snot rag, which is typically 22” x 22”. It is large enough to be wrapped twice around the neck, with the tails still long enough to be easily knotted in the front. The wild rag will also usually be offered in a larger 44” x 44” size, but I find this too large to be worn.

The most common way to secure the wild rag around the neck is via a square knot. Being a gentleman of taste and culture, I sometimes tie mine in a half windsor. The so-called buckaroo square knot is another option, but I think it is pretty goofy looking. The only buckaroo I want in my life is Banzai.

A slide can be used in place of a knot. I have a couple of slides which are simply elongated ovals of leather with a snap in them. They work, and look nice, but are not as secure as a good knot when flying down a mountain on the bike. One could also use a woggle, but this is associated with people who march around in brown shirts, which I am allergic to.

The proper material for a wild rag is silk. People will try to sell you polyester rags, or blends of silk and cotton. Both are less functional than real, natural silk. The range of weather conditions in which silk remains comfortable is unusually wide. Avoid all imitations.

Silk rags are primarily offered in either Crepe de Chine or Charmeuse. Charmeuse looks and feels incredibly luxurious. It is very soft. One side is shiny and the other matte. But it is also warmer and slightly heavier than Crepe de Chine. Crepe de Chine has a rougher, pebble-like texture to it. It is lighter weight (by about 10 grams for the finished scarf) and better for warm weather, but still useful in the cold. Jacquard, where a pattern is sewn in with a lighter colored thread, is usually applied to Crepe de Chine fabric. Start out with one Crepe de Chine rag, then get one in Charmeuse. Next buy a few more of both, because this is an addiction.

Hems should be serged. Many sellers of silk wild rags offer the same patterns. They’re probably all buying the same bolts of fabric from the same suppliers. When you choose a seller, what you are really buying is the hem. A silk wild rag is not just a piece of fashion, but a durable, long-lasting tool. Serged hems will provide a longer service life than a hem which is simply rolled and stitched. You may save a little on the price with a lesser hem, but you will be disappointed in the long run. I wasted money before learning this lesson.

The best places that I have found to purchase a wild rag are Cowboy Images and Wild West Rag Co. Both apply serged hems to real silk. I’ve bought from both in the past and will buy from both again in the future.

Alternatives like shemaghs and neck tubes have their place, but my preference sits strongly with the silk wild rag.

Softstar Chukka Resole

The Softstar Shoes Hawthorne Chukka is one of my favorite shoes for everyday wear. I bought a pair in “Hickory” (brown) in 2016, and liked them enough that I went back and bought a second pair in “Onyx” (black) one month later. The chukkas feature a stitched leather midsole with a glued outsole, which means they are resolable. The outsole they ship with is an 8mm Vibram Super Newflex (Vibram catalog number 8868), which Softstar calls their “Geo” sole.

This past February I decided it was time to resole the brown pair. They had begun to feel a little slippery on wet concrete, and when I flipped them over to look at the bottom I could see that I had worn the rubber away completely in some spots.

  • Soft Star Hawthorne Chukka: Original Vibram Super Newflex Sole
  • Soft Star Hawthorne Chukka: Original Vibram Super Newflex Sole

When I visited my neighborhood cobbler, he did not have any sheets of Vibram Super Newflex. He did have a sheet of Vibram Newflex (Vibram catalog number 8870). I went with that.

Newflex is denser and a bit stiffer than Super Newflex, with a classic herringbone tread pattern that feels like it ought to be better for dirt. Newflex is what Softstar uses on their Dash and Primal running shoes (they call this one “Omniflex”) and is what Luna uses to build their classic Leadville Sandal, so the material has strong trail running credentials.

The resoled chukkas are probably a few grams heavier than they would be with Super Newflex rubber, and perhaps ever-so-slightly stiffer, but when wearing them I do not notice a difference in either department. With a fresh coat of Obenauf’s oil I think the refreshed shoe looks great.

Soft Star Hawthorne Chukka: Replacement Vibram Newflex Sole

I liked the Newflex sole enough that I went back to the cobbler 6 weeks later and had him resole my black chukkas. These weren’t as worn down as my brown pair, but were still worn smooth on the balls of the foot (there is a pattern here).

Resoled leather footwear is better than new. You get fresh tread, but keep your well-worn leather that has already molded to your foot. I’m looking forward to wearing both these soles down and revisiting the cobbler in another 7 years.

  • Soft Star Hawthorne Chukka: Replacement Vibram Newflex Sole
  • Soft Star Hawthorne Chukka: Replacement Vibram Newflex Sole

Evaluating the 16340 Battery

16340 batteries are rechargeable batteries in the same form factor as CR123As. Last year I purchased 4 different 16340s to try out:

Two of these have integrated Micro USB ports for charging. That’s a nice feature, but the current iteration of my electronic support package contains a (now discontinued) Olight UC Universal Magnetic USB Charger (the Foursevens USB Flex Charger appears identical in every way but the logo), so I can just as easily charge the other two batteries when out and about.

Over the past few months I cycled through all of these 16340s in the Elzetta Alpha. The Alpha, carried on a Pocket Shield, is still my EDC light. Each battery performed in a manner than seemed identical to me, despite their slightly different specs. They worked great. Until they didn’t.

As a CR123A is consumed, the light output diminishes. This provides ample visual warning that it is time to change the battery. All of the 16340s caused the Elzetta to put out a steady amount of light right until the battery died. There is no visual warning that it is time to charge the battery. You just go to switch the light on and nothing happens. Or it switches on and you get great light for 10 seconds, and then it dies.

The life cycle of the 16340 only works if they are put on a fixed charging schedule that is built around maximum likely use. I don’t want to mess with that for my EDC light, so I’ve moved the Elzetta Alpha back to disposable CR123A batteries.

I’d be happy to save money by using the rechargeable 16340 batteries in an application that was less mission critical. But for all the devices I currently have that take a battery in that form factor, the CR123A is still superior. (Eneloops are still great, however.)