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Adventure Medical Kits SAM Splint Review

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The SAM Splint is a flexible splint for pre-hospital and wilderness medical situations. It is made of a thin aluminum sheet sandwiched between one blue and one orange layer of thin ethylene vinyl acetate (rubbery) closed cell foam. The SAM Splint can be bent into various configurations to serve as splints and braces. There is a small instructional paper included with each SAM Splint, when purchased in retail rolled form. The SAM Splint Company also offers brief descriptions and videos of how to use the splint on their website. A more in-depth instructional video tape is also available.

+ Dimensions:

I usually store my SAM Splints rolled into a semi-rectangular shape, of dimensions 3.5 x 4.25 x 2 in (9 x 10.8 x 5 cm). The two layers of foam together are approximately 0.15 in (4 mm) thick. The aluminum sheet begins 0.6 in (1.5 cm) in from each end of the foam. The overall (unrolled) shape is that of a long rectangle with curved corners, measuring 4.25 x 36 in (10.8 x 91 cm).

Basic Product Information

  • Manufacturer: The Seaberg Company
  • Year of Manufacture: 2000
  • URL: http://www.sammedical.com/
  • Listed weight: 4 oz (110 g)
  • Weight as delivered: 4 oz (110 g) (Average over seven splints)
  • Size: Rectangular 4.25 x 36 in (10.8 x 91 cm)

+ Details:

In my experience, SAM Splints can be cut or trimmed easily using my EMT shears (which are strong and ever-so-slightly serrated shears for cutting through jeans, seat belts, and other thick items. The shears are also usually associated with Emergency Medical Technicians, hence their name). The SAM Splints do not absorb water or sweat. They clean easily and do not discolor or become brittle while using the American Red Cross advised disinfectant solution of a 16:1 water:bleach solution. The SAM Splint aluminum pieces do not block X-rays and therefore can be left on while X-ray treatment occurs. The blue foam side is significantly thicker and provides more cushioning than the orange side.

+ A Short Comment on the Instructional Video:

While the subject of this review is not the instructional video, it is worth mentioning that I consider the instructional video to be an integral part of using the SAM Splints. Without knowledge of how to properly use a SAM Splint, they are simply floppy pieces of aluminum. I have seen horrendous uses of the SAM Splints in practice by people who are otherwise well trained, and yet have not taken the time to educate themselves in the use of the SAM Splint in particular. Many nuances of the splint, as referred to below, are not readily apparent. The video itself clearly covers all major common usages for the SAM Splint, and is a great clarification and instructional tool. Major portions of the video are also available on the manufacturer’s web site in QuickTime format.


Field Testing

I have used a number of SAM Splints over the course of three years. They are reusable, but I have demands on them which require that I have more than one. Over those three years, I have carried a SAM Splint on every trip more major than taking a walk in my backyard. I have used them to treat around ten major injuries, ranging from a dislocated ulna to a broken second tarsal. I have also used them in demonstrations and activities while teaching three American Red Cross First Responder courses.

Trip Details:

My SAM Splints have been carried and used on trips of all types, including backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, day hiking, skiing, and general outdoor and urban fun. Temperatures ranged from 100 F (38 C) to -25 F (-32 C), and conditions ranged from snowy and icy to dry sandy desert. Elevations ranged from sea level to 14,000 ft (4300 m), and terrain was mostly mountainous.

Important Usage Points:

+ Product as Advertised: Yes, in almost all aspects.
Comments: There are many advertised aspects of a SAM Splint, whether on the packaging or on the website. Some advertised aspects I found to be very accurate, others were not quite as they were claimed to be. I will comment on all the advertised aspects I know of here:

  • Lightweight: Of course, this is very subjective, but I consider it to be lightweight. When I used to carry a simple wire-grate splint with all the padding and edge protection needed to properly apply the splint, the total wire-splint package was significantly bulkier and heavier. Plus, carrying other appropriate materials to formulate a C-collar (which the SAM Splint can mimic) would be even heavier still.
  • Suitable for both adults and children: Thankfully, I have never had to use a SAM Splint on a child in the field. However, children were present in some training situations, and the splint seemed adequate at those times.
  • Easily rolled or folded for storage: Easy to roll and fold, for sure. However, folding more than about fifty times in the same way kinks the splint permanently at the fold mark. Fifty may seem like a lot, but if you are using one to teach a class, or folding one to fit in first aid kits of different sizes, the splint can wear out without any actual use in a very short time frame. I prefer to roll mine.
  • Requires no extra equipment: This is where I disagree with the advertising. I require two additional pieces of equipment: (1) Padding, and (2) Tape. First, I prefer to carry extra padding, in the form of a single or double gauze layer for the length of the splint. I have also successfully used a tee-shirt, a long and wide elastic bandage, and a towel as padding. Nowhere on the site or video does SAM mention the need for padding, and when applying the splint unpadded to the first major injury I treated (a severely sprained ankle) the wearer soon had to remove it because of added pain. We ended up taping the ankle with athletic tape instead. After that trip, I experimented with different ways to make the splint more comfortable, and never again did I apply the splint without padding. I find it to be an oversight of SAM to not mention that padding may be needed. On the upside, the SAM splint is very smooth, and does not rip through padding as wire splints tend to do. But, even if someone, somewhere, has discovered how to properly apply a SAM Splint without padding, I would be very impressed if anyone has managed to secure a splint properly without tape or similar wrap. All properly applied splints must be fixed to the limb above and below the injury, and there is simply no way to do that in many common cases without tape. Even the demonstrations in the instructional video use what appears to be Coban (a sticky sort of bandage). I always carry tape or an elastic bandage along with the SAM Splint to secure it.
  • Does not puncture: I am not sure what the manufacturer means by this, but although the foam on the outsides of a few of my SAM splints punctured and tore with moderate abuse, the aluminum splint portion did not puncture at all.
  • Easy to use: Yes! However, it seems to be also easy to use incorrectly (from observing my students). Personally, once I learned the general stiffening techniques, it was easy to correctly apply the ideas to new uses. It indeed comes with step-by-step instructions (for the retail rolled form only), though the instructions are small and easy to lose in the field.
  • Water, weather, and altitude-proof: They are indeed. Even in the very cold situations I encountered, it remained pliable. However, old crusty snow cut into the foam a little bit and left one of mine looking slightly more worn.
  • Easily cleanable: My splints have only faded, and have never seriously discolored from dirt, iodine, blood, or other substances. I clean mine, as mentioned above, with the American Red Cross recommended bleach solution, and the splints clean easily and well.
  • Radiolucency: This is very true, and useful, but in all cases I have used them the splint had to be eventually removed anyway for setting or casting. Thus, though it is kind of neat to leave it on for X-rays, removal has to happen eventually. But, this is still a great advantage for the comfort a well-applied splint will give during the X-ray process.

+ Durability: Good
Comments: On one hand, every one of my splints looks a little worse for the wear, and a single American Red Cross course usually breaks at least one splint. On the other hand, one of my splints, though being used three times and carried for nearly three years, has outlasted everything else in the first aid kit — including the sack! In my opinion, the durability of these splints is just an added bonus to their usefulness, and I would not mind too much if they ripped after the first use, as long as they worked well that first time.

+ Versatility: Excellent
Comments: Only one of the injuries I have treated using the SAM Splint has been a “textbook” injury. Every other one required me to know three or four basic folds for the splint, and then say “Hmm…ah, padding there…fold there, support there…”, find a good configuration on the fly, and then apply a lot of padding and tape. The only downside to the SAM (or any flexible) splint is that I have found it needs to be used next to or as close to skin level as possible. Whereas the good ole’ stiff board can be (and, in some cases, gains certain advantages from being) used to splint right over five or six layers of clothing, the SAM Splint is too floppy to withstand the added force from clothing slippage.

+ General Usefulness: Excellent
Comments: I cannot say enough good things about the usefulness of the SAM Splint. Thankfully, broken bones and sprains/strains do not happen every day, but the SAM Splint has added more comfort and stability to unhappy situations in the wilderness than any other piece of first-aid equipment I carry, with perhaps the small exception of a Mylar heat blanket.


Summary

The SAM Splint is a compact and flexible aluminum and foam splint which helps out in wilderness emergencies. Although it is not applicable in all situations, it is lightweight, easy to clean and maintain, and, with training and education, relatively easy to apply correctly and improvise with. I find it to be a valuable tool in my first aid kit.

+ Trips that I would bring the SAM Splint on in the future: All of them. Really.

Upsides for me:

  • Easily washable
  • Reusable
  • Applicable to many types of injuries
  • Orders of magnitude better than any other similar product I’ve found

Downsides for me:

  • Long-term durability (folding creates weak points and the aluminum edges cut through the foam)
  • Easy to use incorrectly without training or education
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Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles Reviews

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8.7tech score

 

The Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles are a three-section pole pair with angled grips & Black Diamond’s patented FlickLock pole section length adjusters. They are comparatively simple as far as trekking poles go – there are no cork handles or shock absorbing springs or titanium alloys or carbon fibers. The Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles are simple aluminum poles with standard rubber grips.

These particular trekking poles are very similar to advanced trekkig pol trekking poles of black diamonds , manufactured in 2001 are unpainted aluminum except yellow & black graphics toward the top of the uppermost section. While this exact model is no longer available, it does show up occasionally in inventory sales, and similar contributions While this exact model is no longer available, it does show up occasionally in inventory sales, and similar contributions are now available by Black Diamond. are still manufactured by Black Diamond. Hopefully, that makes this review still relevant.

Specifications

  • Series :  Trail
  • Usable Length :  100-140 cm (40-55 in)
  • Weight Per Pair :  624 g (1 lb 6 oz)
  • Collapsed Length :  63 cm (25 in)

Features

Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles are break down into three sections, making them compact enough for easy travel or an unobtrusive attachment to a backpack when not in use.

  • Angled Grips: The part of the trekking pole is bent at a slight angle (15 degrees, according to Black Diamond) which gives the user an ergonomic advantage when swinging the poles forward. The doctrine is that the pole reaches its forward plant position while the user’s wrist is in a neutral position.
  • Lack of “Extras”: These are essential trekking poles. There are no wreck absorbers in the shafts, no shock absorbing grips, no carbon fiber, no titanium, no compasses or cork built into the handles.
  • Cam grips: The Trekking poles wrist loops fit into a locking cam on the very top of the pole grip. This allows for rapid and straightforward infinite adjustments of the wrist loop lengths.
  • Dual FlickLock adjustability Mechanism: Unlike most poles on the market, the Advance trekking poles do not use a twist expander inside the pole segments that rely on friction to keep the certain pole lengths. Instead, Black Diamond Trekking poles use a patented camming device called the FlickLock that squeezes the inner pole sections securely but allows for very easy undoing. This requires no internal screw mechanism like most trekking poles and is quite straightforward and reliable to adjust both at home and in the field.
  • Tips & Baskets: The tips are just like most of the industry-standard carbide tips found on new trekking poles. Sturdy, small, and extremely durable.
  • Three-section aluminum shaft
  • Rubber grip extension
  • Vari-width nylon webbing strap with woven lining for increased comfort
  • Rubber grip with rib pattern to reduce vibration
  • Replaceable flex tip with low-profile Trekking Baskets

 

 Use and Review

The virtues of carrying trekking poles into the backcountry are many, but I won’t cover them here. If you are unsure of the value, there has been a lot written about trekking poles and a little time spent researching this will offer hours of reading. The comments below on my use and review of these particular poles are for the benefit of those who carry poles and are trying to make a solid choice in which poles to use – not to convert those who don’t believe trekking poles are useful. That said, here is my experience with the Black Diamond Advance Trekking Poles:

The Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles have served me extremely well over the past couple of years. From day hikes to snow climbs to skiing to shelter support, they have risen to the challenges I have presented them. Best of all, I have almost never had to tinker with or even think about them – something I appreciate.

On day hikes and common backpacking trips, they have performed flawlessly. They have not collapsed on me, have not bent, and still work as well as they did when new. This is not something I can say about my other twist-expander trekking poles. My expander trekking poles all have been factory-painted black trekking poles, and eventually, all begin to chip and flake. The unpainted aluminum on the Advance poles is indeed scratched and nicked, but it has not affected the feel or appearance of the poles. After using unpainted poles like the Advance, I will never buy painted metal poles again. The unpainted poles age and perform so much better over time that this has become a priority characteristic in any future pole purchase.

I have not noticed a significant difference between the straight shaft trekking poles and the angled Advance poles. There is a slight difference, to be sure, but nothing so great as to make angled grips a “must have.” They are especially useful on downhill pole plants.

The cam locking wrist retention straps are one of the few places Advance poles could use some improvement. The straps themselves are both too short and too stiff and thick for my tastes. After a year or so of use, I finally replaced the original straps with replacements made from webbing available at local outdoor shops or fabric stores. I used a slightly thinner webbing, added a few inches of length, and with a couple of quick passes of a sewing machine, created a better fitting and more comfortable straps that are easy to replace the stock straps with.

Due to the thickness of the webbing, my stock straps regularly popped the cam open. The thinner webbing allows the cam to get a better bite and hold a strap adjustment much more securely. Better yet, the additional length has allowed me to fit gloved or mittened hands into the wrist loops.

The greatest feature of the Advance poles – and in my opinion the most significant feature of all Black Diamond poles – is the FlickLock adjustment. I had constant difficulty with the twist expander trekking poles, primarily with loosening them to shorten them. To get the poles tight enough to support a full weekend of trail use or climbing adequately, I tightened the expanders quite securely.

This made them almost impossible to undo. Particularly in wet or snowy weather, the effort was often futile. With the flick lock, it is always a straightforward affair with little effort no matter what the conditions are. I have used the FlickLocks in rain, snow, sub- freezing temperatures and brutal heat. The quick opening cam has never posed a problem. An initial (and once a year in my case) adjustment of each cam with a screwdriver determines how tightly the cam squeezes and how much forces are needed to open and close the FlickLock. Proper compression is simple to determine and stays secure once set.

I have bent two pairs of trekking poles while skiing and snapped another pair. After two and half seasons of skiing on this one pair, I have yet to bend or break even a single section of either pole. Each section slides as smoothly and easily into the next as they did when new. This is not something I can say about any other trekking poles I have used. Even with the best of them, it is now difficult to slide sections into each other due to slight bends here and there. Even with my XXL size, I am confident in putting great pressure on the poles when getting up from a deep snow fall.

I have used the Advance as a center pole in three pyramid style tents – the Black Diamond Megamid, the Black Diamond Megalight, and the GoLite Hex 3 Nest. All 3 of these shelters require connecting the trekking poles to each other to gain the needed height to erect the shelter. Using the Black Diamond fabric pole connector, I have successfully used the Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles to support all of these shelters strongly. While certainly not as simple, clean, and attractive as the dedicated poles for them, the Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles has proven every bit as strong and durable.

In this particular use of the trekking poles, the FlickLock mechanism has been invaluable. Slight adjustments to the pole height to accommodate shelter fabric sagging, expansion, or stretching is difficult at best and a nightmare at worst with a twist-expander trekking pole used as a center pole. With the FlickLock, small adjustments can be made easily and accurately with little effort or stress.

In my opinion, users of shelters that depend on trekking poles for support owe it to themselves to tryout FlickLock poles to see how simple and secure this can be done.

Overall, the Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Trekking Poles have been a valuable addition to my backcountry gear kit. No other trekking pole has proven so durable, simple to use, secure, and stable. In my opinion, the FlickLock mechanism – while a little bulkier – is a superior pole length adjustment technology that will likely be copied extensively in various incarnations once the patent expires. Until then, Black Diamond has a great thing going with the FlickLock line of poles. They could be lighter, but for a relatively basic trekking pole that works in all conditions and involves little worry or frustration, the Black Diamond Advance Trekking Poles are a wonderful example.

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Camping Gear ReviewsCold Steel Inc.GEARKnivesTechnology

Cold Steel’s Frontier Hawk Review

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8.2tech score

Suitable for re-enactors from any period stretching from the French and Indian War clear up to the final settling of the West in the late 1800’s. The authentic, good looking Frontier Hawk is one tough customer you’re sure to appreciate.

Comes standard with 19 inch (43 centimeters), and a drop forged, medium carbon 5150 steel head. The head is differentially heat treated. This means that the cutting edge is fully hardened, while the balance of the head is left relatively soft to absorb the shock of striking blows. Photos are available on Cold Steel’s Website.

Cold Steel’s sales pitch includes such colorful language as, “Conjuring up images of the American frontier from the French and Indian Wars to the setting of the West”, “modeled after a classic”, and “authentic and effective”. Consulting several histories on the subject reveals that this is all marketing hype. The history of the tomahawk is the history of an iron tool introduced to stone age people. The term ‘tomahawk’ is taken from the Iroquois word that described a similar native stone tool at the time iron trade axes were introduced by settlers. The shape of the head, while efficient, does not resemble any sample of work from the period.

The Frontier Hawk is produced by:

Cold Steel Inc.

Phone: (800)255-4716 or (805)650-8481

Year of Manufacture: 1998?
Materials: Drop Forged medium carbon 5150 Steel,
Straight Grain Hickory Handle
Warranty: Head guaranteed for life. No warranty on handle.
Handle Length: 19 Inches (43 CM)
Head Length: 5.5 Inches (14 CM)
Primary Edge: 3.25 Inches (8 CM)
Listed weight: 20.4 Ounces (.57 KG)
Weight as delivered: 20.7 Ounces
Item #: #90F Frontier Hawk
Listed Retail Price: $29.99
Country of Manufacture: Taiwan

Available Options:

Langetes (#L90BA Retail: $9.99)

Optional Handles:
19″ (43 CM) (#H90RH Retail: $6.49
24″ (61 CM) (#H90T 24″ Handle: $8.49)
30″ (76 CM) (#H90BA 30″ Handle: $12.99)

Buy now $41.99

Impressions & Use:

I originally purchased the Frontier Hawk from Cold Steel after being impressed with other Cold Steel products. The Frontier Hawk was eight ounces (28 grams) lighter than the tomahawk I was using at the time. At first glance, the Frontier Hawk is a small camp hatchet. In practice, it is a very useful tool that is more versatile than a ‘regular’ camp hatchet. The head is easily removed from the handle and works surprisingly well as a skinning and fleshing tool. The ease of head removal also provides the option to leave the handle at home, and to fashion a handle from a stick found on the trail whenever the tool is needed. (I never exercise this option, but it is possible.)

I use the hickory handle, but I have shortened it. The Frontier Hawk is designed and marketed as a weapon, and the 19 inch handle would work well for this purpose, but is too long for general trail work. I shortened my handle to 15 inches (38 centimeters), which is ideal for me. Do not be afraid to experiment with what length is right for you, and to cut the handle once you have discovered this length. If you ruin the handle by cutting it too short, or break the handle, spares are available as indicated above.

In practical use, I find the Frontier Hawk to be superior to other tomahawks I have used. The 5150 steel retains a sharp edge very well, and edge sharpens well with a diamond hone. It is important to keep a sharp edge, because if the edge is allowed to become excessively dull work with files or a grind stone will be necessary, and the 5150 steel is very hard.

The Frontier Hawk’s head is coated with an unspecified kind of black paint. This paint is not durable, and after driving a few stakes with the back of the head, the paint started to flake off. There is little of the paint left after several years of use. This is purely a cosmetic issue, however, and the performance of the tool is not reduced. I have not experienced excessive rusting, although if the tool is not used for a few weeks, a little red dust does appear. Cleaning and oiling the exposed steel eliminates this problem.

The Frontier Hawk comes without sheath or head cover of any kind, which is a little disappointing. I fashioned one simply out of leather. I have carried it in my pack, lashed to the outside, and in ice ax straps when I have worn a pack so equipped. The traditional methods of tucking a tomahawk into your belt, or making a pouch for the specific purpose of carrying it do not work well for me on the trail.

My primary use of the Frontier Hawk is to prepare wood for use in my ZIP stove. (See other reviews on this list.) The Frontier Hawk serves this purpose well, splitting small logs and scraping dry chips with ease. I have used it for hundreds of different tasks, from driving tent stakes to digging cat holes, and from dressing game to use as an improvised ice axe. It has always served me well.

 

THINGS I LIKE:

Light Weight Retains sharp edge well
Very versatile
Lifetime Warranty

THINGS I DON’T LIKE:

No sheath or edge cover provided Paint durability

Thank you for your time.

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CasioTechnologyWatch

Casio Alti-Thermo Altimeter watch

item_XL_4832370_1461758
7.6tech score

The Casio Alti-Thermo is a digital watch that includes an altimeter/barometer and a thermometer. It gives present temperature and altitude, displays a recent altitude profile and records as many as fifty altitude+time+date+temperature records. The barometer gives current barometric pressure and displays the last twelve hours’ trend. The Alti-Thermo also has the typical digital watch functions one would find on any fifteen or twenty dollar watch: 12/24-hour time formats, calendar, alarm, stopwatch and display illumination. It’s the altimeter and thermometer features that makes the especially Alti-Thermo hiker-friendly.

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BRANDSCamping Gear ReviewsExcalibur DehydratorFood Preparation GearGEARUncategorized

Dehydrator Review: Excalibur 2900

Excalibur_3900b_0
8.9tech score

This particular model is the biggest size they offer, at nine trays. The trays are made of the same high-strength polycarbonate that the U.S. Airforce has used for their jet windshields.

Key features:
  • Large capacity – 9 large trays for about 15 sq ft
  • On/Off Switch Built In
  • Adjustable thermostat,  85º – 145ºF
  • Polycarbonate Trays
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Heavy Duty  600 watts 7″ rear-mounted fan,
  • Airflow – Horizontal back-to-front
  • Opaque plastic blocks light to preserve nutrients
  •  5 Year Extended Warranty Available,1 Year Manufacturers Warranty

Construction:

This is strong stuff! The Excalibur website (http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com) brags that you can drive over these trays with a semi-truck, and they won’t break. I have never tried this, but I have laden these trays with garden veggies, with no problems.

Each tray comes with nine standard Polyscreen inserts, and one bonus Teflex sheet. The Polyscreen is for regular drying use, and the Teflex is special for drying saucy things, like homemade fruit leather.

The dryer is 12½” High x 17″ Wide x 19″ Deep. The surface area of the nine trays adds up to 15 square feet. If you need a visual, 15 square feet is the size of many tent vestibules!

On the top of the dryer is a color-coded temperature dial that corresponds to the color-coded temperature chart right next to it, for different things from herbs to jerky. The thermostat can be adjusted from 85 to 145 degrees. Right next to this is the self shut-off 24-hour timer. The timer is great for drying things overnight – you don’t have to worry about shutting it off in the middle of the night to prevent over-crispifying.

Test Run

We purchased our dehydrator 3 years ago, and use it extensively.    I use the dehydrator for making jerky (venison and beef), fruit leather, dried apple, pear, banana, kiwi and blueberries. I also have dried tomatoes, then powdered them to add to sauces and soups.  I also use it to dry herbs.    We have been very happy with it.  It has temperature settings that are clearly marked as to what type of food should be dehydrated at each setting. The temperature range is 0-155 degrees F.

There have been comments by friends as to the fact that there is no timer.  I don’t find that to be a problem, as I wouldn’t go off and leave it running anyway.   A full load of jerky, will dehydrate in approx. 8 hours.  I load it up at night before going to bed, and turn it off when I get up in the morning.   We do not find it necessary to rotate trays.

Herbs dried at a low setting will be dry in less than two hours.   They retain a very ‘clean’ taste, even when different herbs are dried together.   I estimate that we have used this over 1000 hrs. with no problems.   At harvest time, a friend and I will put both our Excaliburs to use, one doing apples and the other pears.  We then split the results.   When it comes time for hiking or a camping trip, we have all the ‘snacks’ ready.

We plan on taking an extended trip this summer, so I am preparing some more substantial foods.  I have dried vegetables for soups and stews.  After dehydrating, I keep the vegetables in clear, glass jars until needed.  When I am getting ready to make up meals to take on a backpacking trip, I add a little of each type of veggie to each persons container.   With the vegetables, I add some pasta, rice or cracked wheat, seasonings and seal the container.  I keep the dehydrated meat (if that’s what we’re having) when I am ready to rehydrate.  This is just my personal preference and habit.

Cleaning the dehydrator can be a challenge after making jerky or drying things that are ‘wet’, such as tomatoes.  Most other items do not leave much of a residue behind.  The rigid trays get scrubbed in the sink- but they are awkward due to their large size.  The flexible screen  tray inserts prevent foods from sticking and keeps small items from dropping through spaces in trays.   These are easily cleaned in the dishwasher.

Operation:

This machine is built to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the busy harvest season.

To help in your dehydration-fests, Excalibur includes the handy Dehydration Guide booklet. In it are operating instructions, recipes, temperature guide, and even instructions on how to dry photographs!

Operation is simple and streamlined. Trays slide in and out easily. You can remove one or several to accommodate foods in a variety of sizes. The door has no hinges to break. It is simply a panel with a lip that overhangs the top edge. This design allows space around the edges for moist air to escape.

Excalibur estimates it costs between 1 and 3 cents per hour to operate.

Problems:

No problems yet. This is an expensive dehydrator, and you get what you pay for.Compared to some of the newer premium consumer models, the design is somewhat basic.Some users have complained about the unit being too loud.Should you have a problem, the factory warranty is good for one year, with an optional (Read, costs more) additional 10 year guarantee.Controls are at the rear of the unit

 

 

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Camping Gear ReviewsGEARMobileSnowshoeTubbs Snowshoes

TUBBS MEN’S FRONTIER SNOWSHOE REVIEW

zc
9tech score

The Tubbs Frontier men’s snowshoe is an unbeatable value for solo trailblazers and hikers alike. The Frontier features the superior ease-of-use and all-day comfort of our 180™ EZ binding, and its men’s-specific design is both lightweight and efficient on packed trails.

The Tubbs Frontier are advertised as day hiking and all terrain snowshoes. They have a plastic deck with tabs which attach to the aluminum frame. They have both forefoot and heel traction plates made of steel attached underneath the decking. The binding is simple and consists of an adjustable heel strap, two plastic flaps which hug either side of the boot, and an adjustable strap which closes the two flaps down around the boot and buckles to tighten and lock in place. The binding attaches to the frame via a bar which runs under the forefoot and straps on either end to the frame. In the words of Tubbs, the advertised qualities of these snowshoes include:

  • ArcTec decking material, puncture resistant to -40 F (-40 C)
  • Easton 7075-T7 Aluminum frame
  • Rotating Toe Cord which allows the binding and boot to rotate
  • Bear Hug binding with sturdy outside and conforming foam inner
  • Viper stainless steel teeth at forefoot and heel
FLOTATION SOFTTEC DECKING Tubbs SoftTec™ decking provides durable, lightweight flotation.
ARTICULATION ROTATING TOE CORD Rotating Toe Cord design enables the tail of the snowshoe to drop and snow to shed off the tail, reducing cardio-respiratory strain by 7%.
CONTROL 180 EZ BINDING The streamlined180EZ binding features a simple, one-buckle tightening mechanism, coupled with an easy-to-use urethane heel strap for efficient, lightweight support.
TRACTION RECREATIONAL CRAMPON Carbon steel toe and heel crampons feature front and rear braking teeth for a secure grip uphill, downhill and side hill in packed snow conditions.
FLOTATION FIT-STEP FRAME The innovative and biomechanical aluminum Fit-Step™ frame, designed with a slightly upturned, rounded tail, reduces muscular skeletal impact on hip, knee and ankle joints by 10%.

Binding:

The heel strap is adjustable on both sides where it attaches to the Bear Hug plastic flaps. The over-the-foot strap which connects the Bear Hug plastic flaps around my boot adjusts only on the flap opposite the closure buckle. The closure buckle works by inserting a tab into a slot on the opposite flap, and then closing the buckle to tension and lock in a similar fashion as a ski boot buckle. I will concentrate on this in pictures, since I personally think it is a pretty simple and neat design for a binding. In step one, the strap from the inside flap of the Bear Hug binding is brought toward the other side. You can see little nubs on one side of the red buckle (these fit into the black slot on the opposite flap) and a yellow button on the opposite side of the red buckle (which releases the buckle once it is in place):

 

You can additionally see some of the qualities of the bindings from the pictures, including the inner foam of the Bear Hug flaps which is soft and supposed to be conforming. The next step is to put the nubs on the red buckle into their slot on the other side of the Bear Hug flap. At this point, the buckle is still not locked (the nubs only sit in the slot). As the buckle descends into locking position, the two flaps of the Bear Hug tension inward:

 

Finally, the buckle is brought down, which does two things. First, it applies tension to bringing the two Bear Hug flaps together (similar to a ski boot buckle). Second, a catch on the underside of the red buckle slips into another slot on the Bear Hug flap and locks. This is the catch that the yellow button on the end of the red buckle releases. Here is the binding all done up:

 

You can see that the top strap has ratchet grabs on it for lengthening and shortening the strap on the opposite side. The same is true, as mentioned above, for the heel strap. Here is a side view of the binding. This shows a number of things. First, the Tubbs Frontier have nubs on the plate where the sole of the boot rests. Second, the binding rotates freely around toward the toe. (It would actually rotate all the way around except that the binding does not fit through the front opening). Finally, this picture illustrates the ratchet mechanism for adjusting the straps. The two red buckles (the left one for the top strap, the right one for one side of the heel strap) hold the ratcheted length in place. The straps can be pushed shorter. To lengthen them, I push on the ends of the red buckles where there are small grooves provided. This releases the ratcheted position.

 

Details and Other Notes:

The snowshoes have asymmetrical lasts on the bottom of the binding where my boot gets placed. This bottom area is longer in the toe for each foot. The front traction Viper plate has four main teeth in the front, and two teeth behind. The rear Viper plate has teeth which are composed of three sub-teeth. The back plate has four such sub-divided teeth, all toward the rear of the heel. The middle of the heel strap has an oval at its middle with a Tubbs logo on the outside and small grippy nubs which rest against the heel on the inside. All of the steel Viper plate teeth came pretty sharp, and were sharp enough to put some cosmetic scratches on the paint of the frame. The decking has a non-slip pad attached under where my heel comes down on it. The binding attaches to the Viper plate and articulation bar underneath via four Phillips-head screws and bolts. The rest of the attachments on the snowshoes (heel Viper plate, strapping of decking to frame) are non-removable rivets. The attachment of the binding itself to the snowshoe is via the articulation bar which is further protected by a plastic cover.


Field Testing Plan

Trip Details:

My testing of the Tubbs Frontier will occur over about six backpacking and day trips in spring snow. The test location will probably mostly be the Sierras of California, although locations change as my outdoor teaching schedule changes. Weather will definitely include snow, and will likely include temperatures ranging from 80 F (27 C) to below freezing. Elevations will range between 5,000 and 11,000 ft (1,500 and 3,000 m), and the trips will be mostly in mountainous terrain. I expect to see mostly spring snow during this testing, however, the Sierras will likely retain a deep snowpack for the next month or two for flotation testing.

Test Plan Details:

I plan to test the following aspects of the Tubbs Frontier by using them on all my trips for the remainder of the snow season in the Sierras.

  • Flotation and Maneuverability
    • Since snow is a variable medium, I will test how well the Tubbs Frontier do in varying conditions, from deep rime and slush (and hopefully powder in the early season) to compacted icy snow in tight trees. In the winter, I spend a lot of time off trail with a heavy pack, and so being able to use the snowshoes in tight quarters will be important.
  • Comfort
    • I have had all sorts of interesting experiences with snowshoe bindings. Some of them flop around enough to make my feet super tired at the end of the day. Some of them pinch across the forefoot. I will be looking at the effectiveness of the Tubbs Frontier to bind well and comfortably to a variety of footwear, allow my feet to go through a natural stride pattern, and hold easily and comfortably to varying terrain.
  • Traction and Support
    • This is similar to comfort, but has more to do with the versatility and usefulness of the Tubbs Frontier . I want to examine what terrain I can safely use these snowshoes on. Side-hilling, cramponing up stiff snow, and tight route finding in trees all stress the ability for a snowshoe to grip both the hill and my feet. I will see how they perform in many different conditions.
  • Durability
    • This is probably one of the most important items to test about snowshoes. I will see if I can field maintain and repair them, and whether they can stand up to the usual abuse I dish out to my winter footwear. Also, I will document any care and maintenance they need over the course of the test.

Initial Tests and Personal Observations

As soon as I had the Tubbs Frontier out of the box, I started playing with the binding. Most of what I discovered is mentioned above, but needless to say I was impressed with its simplicity and ease of use. One thing that I was worried about from the website is whether the outside flaps of the binding were indeed flexible enough to bind and conform to a variety of footwear. I continued to be worried as they came out of the box, since the Bear Hug flaps did indeed feel stiff. But then I tried everything from my plastic boots to my approach shoes in the binding, and the Bear Hug flaps conformed surprisingly well. The bindings are not flexible enough to make full contact all along each shoe, but I wiggled my feet around with the shoes on them and the floppy binding factor was absolutely zero. Here is a picture to illustrate how flexible the flaps of the Bear Hug are, despite simultaneously feeling pretty stiff. You can also see that this is the right snowshoe, due to the asymmetrical extension under the toe:

Other than that, there is not much to say. These look like very well thought out snowshoes. I have concentrated on the bindings a lot in this report because they have been my main source of concern and failure on other snowshoes I’ve used. In addition, comments on items such as articulation, flexibility, and durability will wait until the Tubbs Frontier have some distance put on them. This is not to say that the rest of the Tubbs Frontier do not deserve mention. The ArcTec decking feels sturdy and stiff, traction underfoot exists where I have enjoyed it in the past on other snowshoes, and the overall design is very clean and simple. I look forward to getting these out in some snow!

 

Field Testing

For each trip I provide a description of the location, conditions, and use below. I then provide a description of how I used the Tubbs Frontier on the trip, and comments on what I thought about the Tubbs Frontier while testing them.

  • Trip One: Climb and snowshoe Baldy Bowl
    • Dates: April 4, 2004
    • Location: Mt Baldy, Angeles National Forest, California
    • Weather: Cloudy and beautiful, 75 to 35 F (24 to 2 C)
    • Elevation: 6000 to 10,000 ft (1800 to 3000 m)

    Description: I carried the snowshoes up the bowl proper because the approach was dry, and the bowl is too steep for snowshoes. I then used them for the heavy snow after the bowl and on the descent.Comments: Snowshoes are always hard to pack, but of those I have used in my experience these take the cake. Though flexible, the Bear Hug bindings are very hard to flatten properly to get one snowshoe to lay flat on the other. And, once flattened, the sides and straps stick out quite a bit on a small pack. I packed them tightly in an outside flap made for such attachment on my pack, and though they were stable, they took a great deal of fiddling to pack and unpack. But that is a small worry, in my opinion. I was wearing bulky insulated stiff leather boots (size 9.5 Men’s US / 43 EU), and the bindings fit at their very outermost setting. Although the binding is simple, it is rather difficult to apply. It seemed easy in my living room, but putting them on in powder on an incline in the wind was much more fiddly. The main reason for the difficulty is the stiffness of the heel strap. To put my boot in the binding, I have to pin down the snowshoe with both hands and push my heel with a good deal of force back into the heel strap. Only then does the ball of my foot line up with where it should go on the foot plate. And only then can I begin fiddling with the adjustment on the Bear Hug flaps with one hand (while still pinning down the snowshoe with the other hand to prevent it from getting launched backwards from the force of my boot pushing back into the heel strap for a proper fit).

    Once my feet were in the binding however, things were much better. The Tubbs Frontier felt quite secure on my boots. I traversed a small amount of terrain which was maybe 30 degrees of incline, and the Tubbs Frontier took it in stride. I experienced no slipping or sliding, and the snow was wind-packed to a very hard consistency. The top and descent saw extremely variable conditions, from rime and slush on exposed sunny patches, to extensive collections of windblown powder which my partners sank into, to hardpack and wind crust, and even to ice covered scree. On the steeper hardpack, it was easier to traverse because the front points of the Viper cleats stick out at such an angle that I can’t really frontpoint on them, and walking flat-footed causes them to catch when I lift my foot up. But all in all, the Tubbs Frontier performed very well. The Viper cleats were deep enough to catch in two-inch-deep (5 cm) rime and crud, and I never sank more than a few inches (3-8 cm) even on the powder which would have been postholing up to the knee. I was a bit worried about the use on the icy scree because I kept punching through a bit down to the rock, but neither the decking nor the cleats show any adverse effects. Only the frame had some of its anodizing get scraped off, and that is only cosmetic.

    The two things I appreciated most about the Tubbs Frontier on this trip were (a) that they handled variable conditions extremely well, and (b) that they allow for an extremely natural stride pattern in most situations. It is quite rare to see so many different types of snow and demands except in late season here in Southern California, and the Tubbs Frontier felt equally as comfortable and maneuverable on powder as they did on rock. As for enabling a natural stride pattern, the binding rotates quite freely, and so it did not even feel as if I had snowshoes on until I tried to side step or go backwards. All in all, the Tubbs were solid and stable performers on a variable and thus demanding day.

  • Trip Two: Backpacking in the Mount Whitney area
    • Dates: April 23-26, 2004
    • Location: Mount Whitney, California
    • Weather: Sunny and slushy, 80 to 25 F (27 to -4 C)
    • Elevation: 8,000 – 14,000 ft (2400 to 4300 m)

    Description: On this trip, I brought the Tubbs Frontier  in the hopes that the snowpack would still warrant the use of snowshoes. Unfortunately, the gully approach turned out to be much steeper than the Tubbs Frontier could really be useful for, but I did have enough opportunity to give them some short run throughs.Comments: Although usage was limited on this trip, I confirmed many of my opinions from earlier. Again, packing was a pain. The bindings protrusions prevented me from securing the snowshoes under the lid of my larger pack (where I usually like to stow snowshoes) and thus they got strapped, tips up, to the back of the pack. In this position, they caught on just about every willow tree on the way up the North Fork gully. To their credit, the Tubbs Frontier took the bashing in stride. The flaps, straps, foam, and frame are a bit scratched, but really only on a very cosmetic level. I half expected the foam on the inside of the Bear Hug binding to be shredded, but it held up exceptionally.

    Actually putting the things on was a bit of a hassle again as well. I had them adjusted properly to begin with since I used the same boots on this trip, but the launching potential from the heel strap tension still existed. On this trip, however, I was more at peace with it. The binding feels so secure once properly applied that I simply chalked the fiddling nonsense up to being a tradeoff. Then, once on, they feel very secure and comfortable.

Comments by Attribute

Comfort and Support: Excellent
Once on, these snowshoes are a dream to walk in. When walking forward on relatively flat terrain, they really do feel like natural extensions of my boots. They are light, stiff, responsive, and do not pinch or bind anywhere. The bindings do not flop around, and they are torsionally stable and supportive. One of the things that has irked me about other snowshoes is the floppiness of the binding. The Tubbs Frontier Bear Hug bindings, however, have a floppage factor of… absolutely zero. This is a huge plus in my book, and well worth the fiddling and packing frustrations. The only item that I find interesting about the comfort (which is more funny than anything) is that (a) the tails drag, and (b) the decking is very stiff. This means that on hard snow, the snowshoes play a little musical tune as they vibrate across the snow on each step. Sort of a step-rattle-step-rattle… etc. But despite this, the binding does not wiggle, and they remain comfortable.

Flotation: Excellent
Slush, powder, hardpack, and with a heavy pack (for a total weight up to 210 lbs / 95 kg) — these guys took it all in stride. The flotation is also very even. When wearing them, I feel like I simply could walk more easily on the snow rather than feeling like I was being pushed up by my heels like with some other snowshoes I’ve used. They also have a very stiff feeling. When I step on powder, there is a little bit of give as the shoe sinks, but then the shoe provides a solid platform to step off of. All in all, they have provided float and lots of it for being so light and small.

Maneuverability: Good
The Tubbs Frontier have a tradeoff in this area. Their comfort is high because of their high flexibility in the forefoot, that is, the binding rotates very easily. Unfortunately, this significantly decreases their maneuverability. When stepping to the side or backwards, the tails immediately flop down and catch on the snow. I have learned to cock my ankle to the side in order to ‘pick up’ the tail and then quickly put my foot down again before the tail falls, but this is still a bit of a pain. So, for the short periods that I was side stepping uphill (on steeper hills) I quickly learned that I would rather posthole without the Tubbs Frontier on than wear them. This same problem affects walking backwards, but since I walk backwards much less than I walk sideways it is less of an issue. However, these issues do not appear when walking forward. They are very maneuverable when making reasonable turns or simply trekking around. The binding attachment is very stiff, and thus the whole shoe turns quite responsively when making my way through trees and the like.

Traction: Excellent
The long big spikes of the Viper traction plates are great. They have not punctured very hard snow, so I would certainly not consider the Viper cleats to be a substitute for crampons, but they provided adequate traction for traversing small and low angle icy patches Other than that, they have provided what I consider to be reliable traction on all types of snow. Additionally, they clean themselves rather well. Snow balled up in the rear plate area, but the flaring front spikes have kept themselves free of snow so far. And it was not from lack of sticky snow, either. The spikes are wide enough to get a good grip in just about any consistency I’ve seen so far.


Summary

The Tubbs Frontier have so far been fun and comfortable snowshoes. They feel very natural on easy slopes and for walking forward, and provide excellent and stiff flotation. They do require a bit of fiddling to get them to fit properly, and their side and backward maneuverability is limited, but overall they have been solid performers so far.

  • Upsides for me so far:
    • Very easy to walk forward
    • Great flotation
    • Stable and secure binding
  • Downsides for me so far:
    • Difficult to walk sideways and backwards
    • Binding requires some fiddling to put on
Field Use Summary

I continued to use the snowshoes into the spring last season, and briefly had a few day opportunities to use them this season. Their flotation continues to be spot-on. My forward stride with them feels very balanced and natural, and the binding rotates evenly and freely.

The terrain I took the Tubbs Frontier into was mostly mountainous, and involved late and early season hard snow as well as warm and mid-season soft snow. Temperatures hovered right around freezing on all trips, and the Tubbs Frontier did not see temperatures above 50 F (10 C) after the Field Report.

The decking and cleats are superb. The decking sheds snow like it is liquid water, and the cleats have excellent grip. I used the Tubbs Frontier mostly in hard snow for their grip, and was never disappointed. The one place I had trouble was during traversing because the decking tended to not tilt enough to get purchase with the cleats, but this was not a problem with the cleats themselves.

When in powder snow, the Tubbs Frontier also performed well. I have had limited snowshoe experience before (I mostly travel on skis) and the other snowshoes I have used feel much softer and more adaptable to changing terrain. The Tubbs Frontier felt dependably stiff, which was nice and natural feeling on hard snow for purchase, and sometimes wobbly on variable terrain in soft snow.

I never understand weight ratings for snowshoes. For the Tubbs Frontier , I consider the weight rating to be accurate for up to about a layer of foot (0.3 m) deep maritime soft snow with a loaded pack. (For me, this is about 200 lb / 91 kg.) With powder snow any deeper, I sink enough to call it ‘wallowing’, and desire a snowshoe with more flotation. I feel that the snowshoe rating that Tubbs lists (just the weight range) is not enough to give the full picture. In other words, in five feet of powder, will they still float 200 lbs (91 kg)? Of course not. Here, I would give a ‘full picture’ rating for the Tubbs Frontier 25 snowshoes as 120-200 lb (54-91 kg) for 0-1 ft (0-0.3 m) powder.

Overall, my biggest problem with the Tubbs Frontier continued to be the bindings. First, I realized that I had not tried soft boots with the snowshoes, and had only used my big hard snow and ice plastic and leather boots. With soft shoes, I had to cinch the single strap on the Bear Hug so tightly that it pinched my feet such that they hurt! And my shoes still kept sliding around because the binding sides and straps were too soft to conform to lightweight hiking boots or tennis shoes. Thank goodness I was only trying it on a short trip.

Also, the boots and shoes must match the angle of the sides of the Bear Hug to fit well. I used some larger, moderately stiff boots with large toes and narrow heels. The heels would always slide around because the one strap would tighten the flaps around the toe, but tons of air would be around the heel. With other snowshoes with multiple top straps, I have been more likely to get a better fit over my range of boots. Oh well.

One other little nitpick I had was their packability. After a while, I got the sides of the Bear Hug binding all flattened out and worn in so they packed a little flatter, but I think having to wear in (or, wear out) a binding in order for the snowshoes to pack well is silly.

But as long as my boots fit, and I had the patience to strap them in with the fiddly adjustment and locking mechanism (which is difficult to adjust to a new set of boots in the field with gloves on — I learned to do it at home beforehand if possible) then the Tubbs Frontier were great. My favorite part is certainly their great cleat design which works very well.

Long Term Opinions

Care and Maintenance:

Overall, the Tubbs Frontier have needed no maintenance. I shake them out and let them dry after each trip, and any dirt just shakes right off. The cleats are clean and shiny and sharp still, even after walking a good bit over rocky parts of snow. The rotation of the foot and binding is not as smooth as it once was, but with my other snowshoes some sewing machine oil solves that issue, so I am not too worried about the binding gumming up in the future. I consider it to be a natural part of snowshoeing.

Durability:

The Tubbs Frontier have been quite durable. The foam around the Bear Hug is still intact, much to my surprise. I have always carefully packed the bindings in toward my pack to protect them when bushwhacking, however. The decking has a number of scratches from endless bushwhacking (including a lot of over-my-head willow groves) on my way to late-season snow approaches. But functionally, the Tubbs Frontier are very much intact and performing well after a great deal of abuse.

Summary

Overall, the Tubbs Frontier are very nice snowshoes with grippy cleats and decent flotation. However, this is only true as long as the binding fits the shoes I am wearing. Some pairs of shoes get squashed, some have the heel slide around, and some fit just fine.

Likes Dislikes
Natural, easy stride Binding squashes soft shoes
Solid decking Difficult to pack
Sharp, dependable, and grippy cleats Binding is very fiddly and grips inconsistently on differently shaped boots
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Snugpak Softie 3 Merlin Review

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