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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.

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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

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Rudy Project Rydon

I’ve used a pair of Rudy Project Rydon Stealth glasses as sun and safety glasses for about five years now. They’re a great eye protection system for active wear, and I think are especially attractive for those who require prescription eyewear. The Rydon offers an adaptable system with interchangeable lenses and full coverage, in a lower profile compared to popular tactical eyewear systems like the Revision Sawfly, Oakley M Frame or ESS ICE.

Rudy Project Rydon System

The temples and nosepads of the Rydon are made from an pliable rubber material that lets the user adjust them however they want. You can have straight temples or hook them down behind your ears. You can move the nosepads to get the right height and clearance on your face. I find that both adjustments largely stay in place after being set. If they do move, it is simple to reset them.

Safety & Durability

The only difference between Rudy’s “Stealth” and non-“Stealth” line is the ANSI Z87.1 rating applied to the frame. Z87.1 is the standard for eyewear protection that will be familiar to anyone who has worn safety glasses or so-called “tactical” eyewear. It describes, among other things, impact resistance. The Rydon lenses are interchangeable between Stealth and non-Stealth variants, and certain lens selections have their own Z87.1 ratings. The Stealth frames are made from a different material than non-Stealth. The non-Stealth Rydons fail to meet Z87.1 standards due to how they shatter1.

Unfortunately, Rudy has not certified the Rydon for MIL-PRF-32432, the military specification for ballistic eyewear.

As you might expect, the Rydon have proven to be very durable. I’ve used them regularly over the past five years. I shoot in them, I crash bikes in them, and I’ve been punched in the face more times than I can count in them. They’re none the worse for wear. Certain lenses have minor scratches, but none that I notice when I’m actually wearing them. The frames themselves are like new. The rubber material does not absorb sweat and odors, which is a complaint I’ve heard of Oakley’s “unobtainium” rubber temples.

ImpactX

Rudy is well known for their ImpactX lenses. They describe it as being a “bullet-proof, transparent, and light-weight material capable of providing superior protection, reliability and longer lasting performance than polycarbonate”. It is what Apache windshield panels are made out of, which makes me feel good about myself2.

ImpactX is actually just Rudy-branded NXT. NXT is a variant of Trivex. I’m not sure what the difference is between NXT and Trivex. It may be that NXT is just a specific branding of Trivex. I do know that the Z87.1 impact protection that NXT/ImpactX claims is a property of the Trivex. Trivex gives equal protection.

Trivex is a polymer that was introduced as an alternative to polycarbonate. Traditionally, most safety glasses are made out of polycarbonate. When you get a prescription insert from Revision or ESS and have them fill the prescription, the lenses they’re putting in are polycarbonate. “Plutonite” is Oakley’s proprietary brand of polycarbonate. Trivex offers equal impact protection, but has a lower Abbe number than polycarbonate, which translates to superior optical quality.

Trivex is slightly more expensive (polycarbonate costs ~$40, Trivex ~$50). Trivex also has a slightly lower refractive index, which translates to Trivex prescription lenses being slightly thicker than polycarbonate. But Trivex has a lower specific gravity, so the Trivex lenses will be slightly lighter than the equivalent polycarbonate, despite the added thickness.

There’s nothing rare or special about Trivex. Everyone does it. You can bring any set of frames into any optometry office and tell them you want to put Trivex lenses in it. As long as your prescription fits the frame, they can do it. The resulting lenses will meet or exceed Z87.1, even though your optometrist likely isn’t going to get them certified for the Z87.1 stamp.

Photochromic

The ImpactX lenses, in addition to offering impact protection, are also photochromic. Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Having a clear lens in a pair of safety glasses is critical for indoor work, and being able to use the same lenses as sunglasses outdoors keeps the overall price down. It is also helpful for transitions. If you start out in the sun and then go inside, or the clouds roll in or the sun sets, your optics quickly respond without you needing to take time to remove the glasses or swap lenses.

When I first purchased the Rydon system, one of the lenses I included was the ImpactX photochromic clear-to-black. This is a neutral lens that offered 18-78% light transmission. A few months ago, I purchased Rudy’s ImpactX-2 photochromic clear-to-black lenses. These offer 9-74% light transmission. In addition to the change in light transmission, ImpactX-2 also reacts faster and is supposed to respond slightly better to non-UV light3.

Other Lenses

While the ImpactX lenses are the only offerings from Rudy with the Z87.1 stamp, the company does offer some other lens options.

Rudy’s Polar 3FX is their polarized lens solution. Polarized lenses reduce glare, which is useful on water and snow. I have a pair of Polar 3FX brown lenses. At 15% light transmission, these offer about the same protection as my old Julbo Micropore glacier glasses. They’re a great supplement to the ImpactX photochromic lenses, and are light enough that I am happy to carry them as a secondary option on backpacking trips for use above the tree line.

The third lens I went with is what Rudy calls Racing Red. These are a high contrast red lens with 28% light transmission. A contrast lens in something like red or yellow is a great option for hazy days when it isn’t bright out and you don’t want much light reduction, but you find yourself squinting from the glare4.

Of the three lenses (or four, since I now have two of the photochromic clear-to-black lenses), I use the Racing Red least of all. They’re great in certain conditions, but the ImpactX(-2) lenses work well in all conditions, so I find that I can just leave them in the frame all the time and never think about it. Plus, Z87.1.

Prescription

Rudy has a few options for people who need prescription lenses. The option that I’ve gone for is the Optical Insert. I used a similar setup back in the day with Revision Sawfly eyewear and their insert, but I think Rudy does it better. While this kind of dual lens system does result in a slight degradation of optical quality, it means that you only pay for the prescription once. Being able to purchase multiple non-prescription lenses that sit in front of the prescription lens is the only thing that makes this kind of multi-lens system tenable.

Rudy offers two different carrier styles: a full metal frame and a “rimless” option.

When I first purchased the Rydon system I went with the full metal frame. It has served well over the years. Like the Rydon frame, it still functions like new. Occasionally a punch in the face will cause the insert to be knocked out of the Rydon, but that hasn’t caused any damage to the carrier, and it only takes a second to pop it back in.

This past spring, when I bought the new ImpactX-2 lenses, I also wanted to purchase another carrier to have my new prescription put in it. This time around I tried the “rimless” model. The “rimless” carrier is not actually rimless: the lenses are held in place by a thin wire that goes around the circumference of each lens. This can result in a thicker lens. With a rimless carrier, the lens need a groove cut into it to accept the wire. Prescription lenses are thinnest on the inside (near the nose) and thickest on the outside. If your prescription is weak enough that the outside of the lens is not already thick enough for the groove to be cut, the thickness will need to be increased.

I’ve not found that the lenses in my rimless carrier appear any thicker than the ones in my old carrier, but that’s something that you may want to keep in mind when deciding between the two carrier options.

When you’ve received the carrier, you can take it to any optometrist to have your prescription lenses filled. Finding an optometrist who has some experience with this kind of setup — whether they are actually a Rudy dealer or offer some other sport brand with an insert system — will like behoove you. With my first pair, I used a Rudy dealer. The optometrist that I used when filling the new carriers this year was not a Rudy dealer, nor had they ever dealt with something like this before. However, they actually grind their lenses in house, which is something I’ve never seen before. When placing the order I was able to talk with the lab manager who would actually be making the lenses, which gave me confidence that I wouldn’t be wasting my money5.

For the prescription lenses, I went with polycarbonate. With a dual lens system like this, both weight and thickness are a concern. While Trivex would have been lighter, we decided that the thinner polycarbonate would be better suited for my prescription. The polycarbonate prescription lenses would be behind the Rydon’s ImpactX(/NXT/Trivex) lenses, so I don’t have much concern about the lower impact resistance.

This time around I went with an anti-fog coating, which I did not have previously. While it was rarely ever an issue, I did occasionally experience fogging with the old lenses. It usually happens when walking into a sweaty gym when it is cold and dry outside. It’s not really the time of year for me to be able to evaluate if the anti-fog coating is doing anything on the new lenses.

I think an anti-glare coating on the prescription lens is unnecessary. The tinted Rydon lenses should take care of that problem whenever necessary.

I did also go with an edge polish on the new prescription lenses. Previously I opted to forgo that option with the old metal carriers, but with the rimless carrier I thought that it would help maintain a lower profile look — both from the outside looking in and the inside looking out. I think it was a smart decision.

Notes

  1. Personally, I think that wearing sunglasses which are not Z87.1 rated is stupid and a waste of money, outside of certain specialty requirements. Eyes are important. You can’t fight what you can’t see, unless you are a time travelling samurai.
  2. When you get down to it, why wouldn’t you protect your eyeballs with the same technology used in gunships?
  3. Traditionally, one of the shortcomings of photochromic lenses is that they don’t work well in cars. Windshields filter UV light. ImpactX-2 is supposed to handle that a little better. I can’t comment on that — I spend very little time in cars.
  4. I also believe that having a contrast lens that you can wear when it isn’t necessarily bright enough for normal sunglasses is useful to combat color-based advertising intended to condition us to better suit our extraterrestrial overlords.
  5. With most optometrists you end up dealing with the people who sell lenses. Talking to someone who actually makes the things lets you dip into a different knowledge base.

A Personal Micro-Cut Shredder

I purchased the AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Micro-Cut Shredder a few months ago. For the price I think it’s a good buy. The CD shredding is a bit of a joke (use scissors), but it handles paper and cards admirably, cutting them into 4mm x 12mm pieces that will foil the casual antagonist. The 8-sheet capacity, compact size, and low cost make it a good choice for personal document filing. Tis the season.

Micro-Cut Shredder

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Everyday Carry OC

This past summer I attended Paul-E-Palooza. One of the courses I attended was Chuck Haggard’s Less-Lethals for the Concealed Carrier, which was all about OC (oleoresin capsicum) or pepper spray. Chuck is a Lieutenant in the Topeka, KS Police Department. He’s been training with OC for a long time and has a lot to say on the subject. I’ve been sprayed with OC before in training, but have not consistently carried it myself or incorporated it into any of my defensive training. After Chuck’s course I decided to rectify that.

OC

I’ve tried a handful of different cans from brands like Sabre Red, Fox Labs and Aerko. They’re all effective products, but I failed to find one that both came in a pocketable form-factor and had a safety design that I felt comfortable with — until I tried an ASP Defender.

The Defender series come in a variety of sizes, but are all long and skinny. This roughly pen-like form factor makes them easy to carry and also usable as a lightweight Kubotan. They feature a safety that inspires confidence in its ability to prevent an accidental discharge, while still being easy to actuate when needed. The capsules are replaceable, and ASP sells inert capsules for training in addition to the live “heat” capsules. They discharge a solution of 10% of 2,000,000 SHU oleoreson capsicum.

ASP Palm and Key Defenders

  • ASP Palm Defender: Inert and Live Cartridges
  • ASP Palm Defender: Disassembled

I purchased both the Key Defender and Palm Defender models. Both are 0.6” inches in diameter. The Key Defender is 5.75” long, while the smaller Palm Defender is 4.5” in length. The Key Defender capsule contains 4 grams of solution. The Palm Defender capsule contains 3 grams.

The stated range for the Key and Palm Defenders are 5 feet and 3 feet, respectively. In my trials I found that the difference in range between the two models was negligible: I achieved 4-5 feet with the Palm Defender, and about 5 feet with the Key Defender. This was outdoors, with the heat cartridges and a small amount of wind. The primary difference was in the number of shots. While the Palm Defender offered 4 cone-shaped bursts of about 1/2-second each, the Key Defender gave me 7.

Given the small differences between the Key and Palm Defender, I personally opt for the smaller form-factor of the Palm Defender for my EDC. My only complaint about this model is that, given the length, I find that I need to grip the body slightly lower so that my fingers do not interfere with the outward swing of the safety. This puts the opposite end of the Defender into my palm. Because of this, once I have disengaged the safety I need to readjust my grip slightly, so that the business end of the Defender is just beyond the edge of my hand — where it needs to be for both striking and discharging the OC. Ideally I would like to see a model in between the Key and Palm Defenders in length. As it is, this is a minor complaint, which I can train around and which does not dampen my enthusiasm for the Palm Defender.

ASP Key Defender: Business End

While the aluminium body of the Defenders is knurled for grip, the safeties are smooth. I addressed this by placing a small strip of grip tape over them, making it easier for me to disengage the safety with my thumb.

  • ASP Palm Defender: Actuating Safety
  • ASP Palm Defender: Safety Disengaged

I have been EDCing the Palm Defender in the front, support-side welt pocket of my pants. My preference would be to find a pocket clip for it — which I imagine is doable, since the Defender is roughly the size of a large pen or marker — so that I could have the option of moving it to other pockets or onto a belt. I’ve also experimented with carrying it on one of Chris Fry‘s Pocket Shields (via a tactical hair tie), but as of yet I have not integrated the Pocket Shield into my daily carry.