Gadgets and Gear
For the past few weeks I've been carrying and using (and occasionally abusing) some new pieces of gear. It's often tempting to take a piece of equipment, play around with it for a short period of time, then write about it.
When it comes to certain pieces of gear, it's a pretty simple, subjective thing. Either something fits (sizing, weight, shape, whatever) your preferences or it doesn't.
Other gear -like a majority of the items today- require more time before you can decide how you really feel about them. That's because it's better if the tool fits you
rather than your adjusting to fit the tool.
As a lifelong sunglass user, I'm pretty particular about what I'll wear. With aging eyes, I'm tend to lean- heavily- toward the glasses with built-in readers these days, but they don't fit every application. In some activities, whether it's boating, flying or driving my Polaris Slingshot (which requires a helmet since it's technically a motorcycle), it's doubly tough to get glasses that work.
A majority of sunglasses just aren't made for wearing with helmets. For some, there's too-much air gap between the lenses and your eyes, allowing air to get in behind the glasses. Not only does that dry your eyes, it doesn't give you enough protection from "foreign object debris" or the other pieces of junk that occasionally come up off the roadway or the water.
Native Eyewear's "Hardtop Ultra XP" performance eyewear that works -and has a touch of style to boot. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo
That's why I've been very pleased with a pair of Native Eyewear's "Hardtop Ultra XP" specs. They're designed to be worn in high-wind situations, whether boating, biking or simply driving with the top down. That means the stems fit closely to the head, while the temples are actual metal temples with nose pieces, separate from the lenses.
Performance-oriented, the frames are a graphite gray and the pair I've been using offer the choice of polarizing #3 gray or light amber lenses, They're simple to pop in -or out- but lock firmly into place. I also like the way the stems "pop" open-or closed. They stay open-or closed- until you decide otherwise. That's a feature I really like.
Having worn them for a couple of long driving days in bright and gloomy conditions, the lenses don't have edge distortion and offer a good field of view. They're lightweight- but sturdy. In my opinion, that makes them well worth their $129.00 MSRP - which includes the Hardtop XPs, a hard zippered case, cleaning cloth/storage bag and divider for storing the extra lenses.
The 804CF ZT Rexford is brawny, tough and in a pinch can even be driven into the side of a tree for a last-second rifle rest with no ill effects. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
Additionally, I've been carrying a new folding knife in my every day carry gear. It's a Todd Rexford design manufactured in collaboration with Zero Tolerance, and frankly, it's a lot
It's beefy, sporting a 3.9-inch blade that's folded into a carbon fiber front, titanium back frame. All together, it weighs in at 5.1 ounces- which is actually lighter than many comparably sized knives-primarily due to the carbon fiber and titanium usage.
But it's a pocket full of knife- to the point that it actually seems to invite you to put it into tough situations. I've used it to cut yards of cardboard (an edge killer), rope, light electrical wiring and even driven it into the side of a tree when I needed a last-second rifle rest when stalk hunting. Through all that, it's maintained a great edge and has shown no ill effects from having been dropped, tossed and otherwise wallowed around in dirt, mud and shop gunk.
When you're carrying a knife this substantial, you appreciate the beefy -and ambidextrous pocket clip. Likewise the 8.9 inch fully-opened knife gives a feel and heft that's really more like a fixed blade hunter than a pocket knife.
It's not an inexpensive knife, carrying an MSRP of $350 and early street prices falling in the $280 range, but this isn't a knife designed for light-duty. It's designed to be used- and having been using it for a couple of months, it's never seemed anything but mission-capable.
For me- especially with gear your life really might one day depend on, usefulness is the most important factor. The 804CF ZT Rexford is certainly useful.
Finally, a fun accessory that makes your smart phone downright genius. Especially if you're one of those people like me who always wants to know what happens to be going "bump" in the night.
A few weeks ago, the folks at Seek Thermal asked if I'd like to try out a couple of their products. They didn't have to ask twice because I've always been a fan of night vision and have been absolutely itching to play with some thermal gear. But it's never seemed to work out schedule-wise. So the chance to go hands-on with a unit or two without a specific timeframe was ideal.
When a box arrived, I was delighted to find not one, but two Seek devices. But my joy has been dulled a bit because I can't for the life of me get their RevealXR Fast Frame unit up and working. I don't know if it's my problem (probably), but it seems to be "stuck" in the initialization mode.
Seek's $249 Compact Thermal Imaging Camera looks like one of the many action cameras in its protective case (top), but plug it into your smart phone and, viola, you can see heat signatures with focusable clarity (bottom). Jim Shepherd/OWDN photos.
But their smaller- and more affordable -Compact model, designed for either iPhone or Android based smart devices has been a complete blast. Being thermal, it images using differentiation between temperatures. Great if you're looking to see if there's an animal in the bush out back, but I think it's even better if you're interested in seeing where heat is being concentrated- or leaking-from your home.
The size of the Seek Compact is so small that its capabilities (and ability to use the brains of your smart phone and its camera) can quickly blow you away. Sure, it's great for keeping up with the family dog during a late-night romp in the back yard, but I've used it to find an air leak in an AC system as well as verifying that the windows on our house really were "leaking heat like a sieve."
With its 206x156 sensor, 36-degree wide field of view and very low energy consumption -which is a huge factor with our already power-hungry phones- it's a device that you might find yourself using a lot more than you'd imagine. The test unit's hanging on my key ring -and I find myself regularly pulling it out of the case.
Again, not an inexpensive device, but one that can quickly prove its usefulness.
More testing in the pipeline- everything from new accessories to make your AR "cruiser ready" from Hornady to a still (yes, "that kind of still") that has a lot more applications outside making homemade hooch.
All part of keeping you posted. Hey, it's the weekend, get outside- and take someone with you.