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Luer Lock Lubing

Earlier this year I purchased the Occam Lube DIY Kit from Occam Defense. This is a simple but ingenious solution for carrying and applying oil and grease by utilizing the Luer lock system from the medical industry. I shoot tupperware that runs dirty, and I have not travelled enough with firearms to need to think about lubricating them away from home, but I have needed to pack chain lube for my bike on longer tours. In the past I’ve been disappointed by the bottles of both bicycle and firearm lubricant, which may either leak or make it difficult to apply the contents precisely. There’s nothing in the Occam kit that you couldn’t put together yourself, but it is very reasonably priced and I credit it with being my introduction to the idea of using Luer components for lubrication. As soon as I stumbled upon the kit I purchased it.

The Occam kit includes one 30ml Luer syringe, three 3ml Luer syringes, three 22 gauge Luer dispensing tips, three 14 gauge Luer dispensing tips, four Luer caps, and a Luer gender adapter. Oil is drawn up into the large syringe, which is then attached to one of the smaller syringes via the gender adapter. If using grease, the grease is simply packed into the large syringe after removing the plunger, and then pushed into one of the smaller syringes. About 1.5ml of oil (or grease) may be pushed into the small syringe from the large syringe. The remaining 1.5ml of space inside the small syringe is needed to store one of the dispensing tips and the plunger cap. The intent is for the filled, smaller syringes to be placed in various kits and be taken on the road, giving you the ability to store the oil in a leak-proof manner and dispense of small amounts of it in precise areas. For applications where you need very little lubrication, like firearms, this works great.

Luer Lock Lubing

I had never given much attention to what volume of oil I use when lubricating a bike chain, so I wasn’t sure if the smaller syringes would really be useful for this application. I’ve always been a one-drop-per-roller kind of guy, which I think results in the best lubrication with the least amount of waste. With my current oil of choice, I find that I use a bit over 3ml of oil when servicing my chain. When one of the dispensing tips is stored in the small syringe, the remaining 1.5ml capacity won’t work for me. But I can store the dispending tip separately, fill up the entire 3ml with oil, and still have a very compact, lightweight, and leak-proof option for lubricating on the go.

As happy as this makes me, I admit that carrying lube on a bike isn’t the most pressing concern. Good oil lasts, so unless you’re putting on a lot of miles in challenging conditions, you probably won’t find yourself needing to drop oil away from home. However, I have found that the Luer system is useful even at home, with a few additional purchases to supplement the contents of the Occam kit.

Chain-L for Chains

I purchased Luer lock bottle caps for 15-415 threading, 24-410 threading, and 20-410 threading. Between these three sets of caps I can convert most existing lube bottles to the Luer system. If I come across an oil in a bottle with some other type of threading (as is the case with Boeshield T-9), I transfer it into an appropriately sized bottle with standard threading.

I also purchased a few additional dispensing tips (the angled ones are nice), and a package of syringe tip caps to make the lids leak-proof when no dispensing tip is attached.

Tri-Flow for Derailleur Pivots

I can now be sure that none of my oils will leak, which is important to me whether the bottle is in a bag or a toolbox. Using a Luer gender adapter, I can easily transfer oil to a smaller travel sized container, be it one of the Occam syringes or simply a 0.5 oz bottle, or any other Luer-compatible container. Using a dispensing tip, I can accurately deposit precise amounts of lubricant, eliminating waste.

All of this is entirely unnecessary, but I find that small improvements in efficiency like this do translate to a higher quality of life. If you ever find yourself dispensing small amounts of a liquid, and you have a personality that values accuracy and precision (and tidiness), I’d definitely recommend picking up an assortment of Luer components. The Occam Lube DIY Kit is a great place to start.

Travel Tri-Flow

Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles

Last year I mentioned replacing the insoles in the Altama OTB Boots with Ortholite Fusion Insoles. The Ortholite insoles fit well in the OTB boots, and make the footwear zero-drop (or at least close enough to it that I can’t tell the difference). It is a lower volume insole that Altama’s default rubber one, and so requires tighter lacing. Unfortunately, the availability of this insole appears to be limited. I’ve also decided that it is a little too soft for my taste. I like a firm footbed. The Ortholite Fusion, while thin, allows my foot to sink into it slightly more than I would prefer.

When I bought my ranger green OTB boots earlier this year I could not find the Ortholite Fusion insoles in stock in my size. So I went looking for alternatives and ended up with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I bought mine from The Insole Store. I mention this because The Insole Store actually provides measurements for heel thickness, forefoot thickness, and arch height. This is critical information for making an informed purchase of an insole, and yet very few retailers or manufacturers provide it. The Insole Store also supports filtering by characteristics, such as walking and running insoles without arch support, which makes it easy to narrow down the wide array of options. This kind of stuff seems like it would be common sense for anyone selling footwear, but it isn’t, so I give my money to The Insole Store.

The measurements provided by The Insole Store for the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles are:

  • Thickness at heel: 7.75m
  • Thickness at forefoot: 4.6mm
  • Arch height: 20mm

I’m happy with anything up to a 4mm drop. These have a 3.15mm drop, which is close enough to zero that I can barely tell the difference. I wasn’t sure about the 20mm arch height. That’s a 12.25mm climb up from the heel, which sounded high, but I ordered the insole anyway. When wearing them, I don’t notice any rise in the arch. They feel flat, which is what I want.

It’s interesting to compare these Sof Sole insoles to something like the Superfeet Carbon Insoles. This is what Superfeet markets for low-volume, minimalist athletic footwear.

  • Thickness at heel: 5.5mm
  • Thickness at forefoot: 2.75
  • Arch height: 30mm

The heel and forefoot numbers are great. Nice and thin, with only a 2.75mm drop. But the 24.5mm climb from the heel to the arch is ridiculous. I tried a pair of these once, and it feel like standing on a golf ball.

I’ve been very happy with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I ended up buying a second pair. They are trim-to-fit, but the Men’s 9-10.5 size slid perfectly into my size 10 D Altama OTB boots without any trimming. They are thicker than the Ortholite Fusion Insoles, but firmer, which I think allows for better energy transfer. The higher volume translates to a fit that is much more similar to Altama’s stock rubber insoles, but with a material that makes more sense if you aren’t planning to take the boots under water. I’ve tried wearing one Sof Sole insole in one boot and one Altama rubber insole in the other, and the fit feels nearly identical. I recommend the Sof Sole insoles if you’re unhappy with the breathability or tackiness of the insole that came with the Altama OTBs, and I think they are worth consideration for other footwear in the lightweight hiking category. They are likely too thick for minimalist running shoes.

Westcott Titanium EDC Scissors

I carry the Westcott Sewing Titanium Bonded Fine Cut Scissors, 2.5” everyday. Given the choice between a knife and a pair of scissors I’ll choose the knife, but these scissors are small and light enough that I feel I can carry both.

Westcott Titanium EDC Scissors

Scissors offer some additional utility compared to a knife. They’re useful for rounding the corners of medical tape to discourage peeling. They can clean up the area around a tear before repair with the expedition sewing awl. They can trim your nails. And they can go places a knife cannot. I’ve flown with these scissors in my carry-on. They are diminutive enough as to not frighten TSA agents.

I’ve tried carrying other scissors in the past. The popular Slip-N-Snip Folding Scissors (and the various knock-offs) are, I think, a piece of junk. They’re too stiff, the scissoring is too rough, and the blades too thick. The Nogent Folding Scissors look great, but are way beyond my price range. The Westcott scissors do not fold, but are still easily carried. Despite the product name, the overall length of the scissors is 3 inches. They weigh 5 grams (0.2 ounces). The blades are 1 inch long, agreeably sharp, pointy and thin. The scissors can disappear into a bag. I keep a small piece of heat shrink tubing over the blades of the scissors to prevent them from poking things. They get stored in my small EDC toiletry pouch.

Westcott Titanium EDC Scissors

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Elzetta Thoughts

I purchased an Elzetta ZFL-M60-CS2D flashlight in 2013. Elzetta updated their product line later that year, replacing the Malkoff M60 LED unit with their new AVS heads and creating a new naming convention for their products. In this new line, I believe my ZFL-M60-CS2D is equivalent to the Bravo B313 model.

In 2014 Elzetta released the single cell Alpha model, which offered the same build quality as the larger 2-cell in a more pocket friendly size. I was quick to purchase the Alpha A323, and for the past 5 years it has remained a fairly constant part of my EDC.

  • Elzetta Lights
  • Elzetta Lights

There’s plenty of reviews out there focusing on the technical aspects of Elzetta lights – runtime, candela, lumens, etc. I’m not qualified to discuss those aspects, nor do I find them terribly interesting. I’ll just say that I’m happy with the operation of both my lights.

The modularity of the lights requires the user to make some decisions prior to purchasing. I’ve remained happy with the choices I made when ordering the Alpha.

Bezel

I bought the Alpha with the crenellated bezel ring. Elzetta’s crenellations aren’t sharp and pointy, but they do have deep grooves. They’re intended to be used in a twisting motion, thus tearing flesh rather than just puncturing it. I’ve never been convinced one way or the other as to the efficacy of bezel crenellations on flashlights, but I lean in their favor simply because the downside of having them seems limited.

The primary downside the crenellated bezel does have is that it makes some people nervous. I’ve flown domestically with the Alpha in my carry-on baggage plenty of times over the years and it has never been given any attention. But I know that there is the potential for the bezel to make some poor TSA agent nervous, and that possibility in turn makes me nervous. I haven’t traveled internationally with the Elzetta due to this concern.

The modular nature of Elzetta lights solves this problem. Recently I purchased the standard bezel ring. When I fly I now install the harmless looking standard bezel and keep the crenellated bezel separate in my bag. After going through security the bezels can be quickly swapped and I’m back to normal. If the crenellated bezel ring by itself scares someone and is stolen, I’m only out $15.

Lens

I bought the Alpha with the flood lens. The standard lens is more appropriate for long distance, or concentrating a beam of photons in the optical nerve of a ne’er-do-well. But the flood lens is a better solution for my typical flashlight use. I most often use my everyday carry light indoors – lighting up dark rooms, or dark nooks and crannies. Both applications are best solved by the wide, even dispersion of light provided by the flood lens. At these closer ranges – say within 20 feet – the flood lens is definitely bright enough to get a reaction out of anybody it is aimed at. I’m comfortable using it defensively.

I included the standard lens in my recent purchase of the standard bezel ring and forced myself to use it for a while. It confirmed my suspicions about the best lens for me, and I was quick to move back to the flood lens. The modular design once again proves its worth by allowing me to easily switch between the two lenses.

Elzetta Lenses

Tailcap

I bought the Alpha with the high-low tailcap. This is the same interface as on my original ZFL-M60, and I wish it was available on all flashlights. I place a high value on the ability to rapidly turn a light on and off, without that action causing the light to cycle through modes. The high-low tailcap allows me to press the button as much as I want at whatever speed I want. There is no click when pressing the tailcap for momentary on. Applying more pressure results in a near silent click and constant on. The difference between the pressure required for momentary and constant on is great enough that I’ve never accidentally turned the light to constant on when trying for momentary on. A slight counter-clockwise twist in the tailcap switches the light from 415 lumens to 15 lumens. This low output mode is great for close and detailed work in a dark environment (especially with the flood lens) where high output causes too much splash to be comfortable.

Clip

There are a number of pocket clips compatible with Elzetta lights. Elzetta offers their own Speed Clip, which features the typical hallmarks of Elzetta design: simple, eminently functional, and butt-ugly. I keep the Speed Clip on my ZFL-M60, but I think there are better options for carrying the Alpha.

For the first two years I carried the Alpha on my belt with the Prometheus Lights Titanium Pocket Clip. This clip is cool because it is titanium, and everything titanium is cool. Functionally, it works fine, but there’s nothing special about it beyond the material.

Cash Drawer Opened with EDC Tools

Back in 2016 I switched to the Raven Concealment Systems Pocket Clip. This has remained my preferred solution. The clip itself works great. I’ve used it to carry the Alpha on my belt and in my pocket without any problem. The finger O-ring allows the light to be retained while using both hands for a different task – an ability which is particularly practical and should not be limited to the tactical light market. When not in use the finger O-ring lays flat and can be ignored. I’ve never had it snag or get in the way of anything.

Elzetta Alpha w/ RCS Pocket Clip

The Thyrm SwitchBack and Thyrm SwitchBack 2.0 both fit on Elzetta lights, but neither are compatible with the high-low tailcap. They prevent the tailcap from being screwed down all the way, which limits the light to only working in low output mode. I suspect both would work fine with the click tailcap, though possible only in momentary mode.

Durability

One of the factors that initially contributed to my purchasing the ZFL-M60 was Colion Noir’s review. In it he likened the light to a cockroach, joking that after a nuclear blast the only things left would be cockroaches and Elzetta lights. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

The durability of Elzetta lights has been established. The electronics are fully potted, making them waterproof. The body is made from 6061-T6 aluminum. The lens is solid acrylic.

People have abused Elzetta lights by throwing them out of helicopters, shooting them with buckshot, and using them to assault a defenseless coconut. My lack of a southern accent disqualifies me from attempting this type of abuse, but I have used mine as a hammer.

The downside of this durability is that the body design of these lights isn’t exactly svelte. The Alpha is on the fatter side of what I’m willing to keep in a pocket, but it is within the acceptable range. In it’s normal configuration, including battery and Raven pocket clip, my Alpha tips the scale at 110 grams (3.9 ounces).

Both of my Elzetta lights have scratches and small chips (from altercations with concrete), but both still function like new. I’m confident both will outlast me.

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Mirrors on a bike are no different than mirrors on any other vehicle.

They aren’t a replacement for turning your head, but they can be a useful supplement for maintaining 360 degrees of awareness.

Drop Bar Mirrors

I purchased a pair of Sprintech Drop Bar Mirrors last spring. I had never used a bike mirror before, but I’ve grown fond of these over the past three months of use. The viewport is small, but adequate to identify vehicles of any size. I keep the mirrors canted outboard slightly, which means they move if I lean the bike up against a wall. Sometimes I’ll bump one when straddling the bike at a stop light. But they’re easy to move back into place, and I’ve never had them move on their own – rough roads aren’t enough to rattle them – so I don’t mind this. Having never used any other kind of bike (or helmet) mounted mirror, I can’t compare them against their competition, but I think the Swiss are on to something with these. I’d buy them again.

I've found a hand strap to be a useful addition to my e-reader.

I bought the TFY Security Hand Strap for my Kindle Paperwhite 18 months ago. It makes holding the e-reader for long periods of time much more pleasant – especially when reading in bed and holding the device up above my head. No pinch grip required. It doesn’t add noticeable bulk or weight to the Kindle, and I can ignore it completely when I’m not using it. Originally I went looking for some kind of case with a cover that could be folded into a more ergonomic shape to hold, but when this strap appeared in my search results I realized it was a simpler solution to the problem. The strap could probably be made with a wire hanger and some elastic webbing.

Kindle Handstrap at Lunch

Oster Classic 76

I started buzzing my hair in 2009 after six years of long hair.

Haircut

In the first few years I went through a couple different pair of clippers. They were all cheap, consumer-level models that eventually crapped out. I tried a model that had a shape which claimed to be more ergonomic for self-cutting, but it ended up offering no practical advantage.

At the start of 2015 I bit the bullet and purchased the Oster Classic 76. I had heard great things about this brand and model since I first started looking at clippers, but couldn’t justify the price until I had spent more than their worth on other clippers that failed. The Oster Classic 76 is built like a tank. Oster has been building electric clippers in the US since 1928, and it shows in their product. They also build their products to be serviceable. Unlike cheaper clippers, these can be stripped down to their individual parts and repaired.

As with any other pair of clippers plastic comb sets are available. But one of the things I appreciate about the Oster is that you can also purchase metal blades of the preferred length. I cut my hair to 3/8”, so when I bought the clippers I also purchased the 76918-146 replacement blade. I think this offers a better cut than a short blade with a plastic comb.

I’ve been using this setup for four and a half years and have no complaints. Given my limited and personal use, I expect it should last the rest of my life.

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Residual Oil Remover

Late last year I ran out of lens cleaner. In the past I’ve never made an informed purchase of lens cleaner, opting instead for the free bottles given out at optometry offices or whatever generic bottles were presented on the counter of the closest drug store. This time around I thought I’d look to see if there was any specific product worth purchasing. I assumed that there were probably picky photographers who had performed a survey of cleaners for their camera lenses, and that their conclusions would apply to other optical surfaces.

Surprisingly, I found only one useful review: a 2013 post on on the Digital Photography Review Forum, which outlined a testing method for cleaning solutions and concluded:

Three branded cleaners out of about a dozen, after 5 test repetitions, walked away with the honors. They are: Zeiss Lens Cleaning Solution, Nikon Lens Cleaning solution and ROR Lens Cleaning Solution. At the bottom of the list was surprisingly, Purosol, that tied with straight distilled water for having absolutely zero emulsifying properties for removing skin oil in all 5 of our test repetitions. When I spoke with the Purosol folks, and asked “How does NASA use your product and for what cleaning purposes”, I was politely told, “That information is classified, and, we unfortunately don’t know!”

Between the 3 top reviewed products, I flipped a coin and ended up purchasing ROR, or Residual Oil Remover.

ROR certainly works. I use it on my Rudy lenses, my laptop screen and external monitors, as well as the screen of my phone. But because I made the purchase after I was out of my previous cleaner, I wasn’t able to compare it to anything else for a couple months. Later on I found a partially used bottle of generic lens cleaner from my optometrist and was able to do a comparison. ROR cleans better with less rubbing.

I don’t know what the contents were of that last bottle of generic cleaner, or how it compares to the other cheap, generic cleaners that I’ve used in the past. But I am happy enough with ROR that I will continue to use and recommend it. I have three bottles stashed around my frequented areas at home and work, and appreciate its ability to keep the clarity of my optical devices at a maximum.