Gear Review: NORDIC HEAT Heated Glove Liner (Thin)

Having been thoroughly impressed by NORDIC HEAT in previous years at IWA, at IWA 2018 I made sure to visit them to be able to talk directly about their thoughtful approach to electrically heated clothing; plus I wanted to take the opportunity try some of their products at the show. I was so impressed, I came away with some NORDIC HEAT gloves to take a more in depth look at.

In this case the I’m testing the Glove Liner (Thin) gloves which are the lightest-weight gloves in the NORDIC HEAT range. They give you the option to use them on their own as lightweight heated gloves, or are thin enough to be worn under outer gloves, adding heating to otherwise unheated gloves.

A few more details:

NORDIC HEAT Power Pack-G:

In their logically thought out approach, the whole system is modular and the power packs and charger come as a set to be combined with various items of heated clothing.


A good look round the NORDIC HEAT Glove Liner – Thin – Things to look out for here are:

Despite being a lightweight glove, the construction is solid and attention to detail in the fit and comfort is excellent. The entire inner surface has rubber dots to really add grip, plus there is a touch screen compatible pad on the index finger.
NOTE: (Added at the request of NORDIC HEAT) – NORDIC HEAT recommend fitting the battery pack the other way up to the way shown in the photos. They intend for the power cord to go straight down into the glove rather than being looped round.


What it is like to use?

On this subject of heated clothing, I am reminded of a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:
“one of the lingering questions on NowWhat is how the boghogs manage to stay warm in their skins. It says “if anyone had wanted to learn the language of the boghogs, they would have discovered that they don’t and are just as cold and miserable as everyone else”.”
And this is simply because in the past you had only one choice in the cold, and that was to try and reduce how cold you were with more clothing – ‘try’ being the operative word. Once cold starts to set in, the body reduces blood flow to the extremities and they get even colder. So really you were just a certain level of cold, but didn’t have much choice so got used to the discomfort.
Heated clothing provides us with benefits beyond simply the comfort of feeling warmth; it keeps us functional longer in more extreme conditions.
I use it in a few different ways, all of which are subtly different. These are also based on the fact that there are batteries which will run out, so you can’t simply run them all the time.
The first of these ways of using them involves actively combating the cold to stop it setting in. This is where you start off with the gloves on, and turn them on before even going out into the cold. Keeping the hands warm with heating from the very start means you maintain the best dexterity as long as you have battery power for the heating.
Second, and for me a very important way of using them, is for recovery. There are situations where it is not practical to use the heated gloves initially, and other gloves are used. Inevitably the cold starts to creep in and your hands become colder and colder. Once you reach a certain point you really need to recover. Swapping to the heated gloves and using them to bring back the circulation gets you ready to go again. As these glove liners are not themselves thermally insulated, on their own they do not provide much protection beyond keeping some cold air off the skin, and certainly don’t help with holding very cold tools or touching cold surfaces beyond the active heating provided to the side of the fingers. This is why I frequently use other thicker gloves, most of which are not large enough to allow the use these as glove liners, mainly due to the battery pack bulk, so the ‘recovery’ approach is very helpful.
Third on the list is preparation for the cold environment. We are not always warm to start with and the other gloves you are going to use might be chilled; you can use these heated gloves to give you hands a real boost to start with. The non-heated gloves can then be warmed with body heat from this pre-warming and the circulation boost.
You may find different ways to work with them, but this is what has been good for me.

Though I’m going to move onto observations that are more specific to these gloves, there is one characteristic I need to mention which is the same for all heated gloves that have their own battery packs. Having the battery pack in the cuff gives the gloves a strange balance, bulkiness and heavy feel. In the case of these glove liners, this is even more pronounced as the gloves are lightweight, but it is the same in all heated gloves. The bulk at the cuff tends to interfere with your watch; I frequently go without a wristwatch when using heated gloves. This is something you need to accept if you want the benefits of independently powered heated gloves.

The next comments are supported by the photo gallery coming up next –
Thoughtfully, even though these are called glove liners, a touch screen compatible index finger tip has been included. Though it doesn’t look conductive, it certainly works. Be aware however that, just like every other touch screen compatible glove, the finger contact area is pretty big and imprecise. It is more of a case of being able to answer a call without taking off the gloves than being able to make a call. There is not enough precision to tap on a number or name in a list. Certainly useful if you accept the limitations.
Overall comfort is excellent and the fit is good. In this gallery the first three photos of the glove being worn are without the battery fitted. Skip forward past the photos showing the button illumination to see the bulk added by the battery pack. You get used to this bulk quickly, but it requires some consideration.
It is nice that the power button itself is directly illuminated. When first turned on (using a long press), the first of the three modes is high. To cycle through medium, low and back to high you briefly press the button. A long press is then needed to turn them off again.
Last in the gallery are some thermal camera images of the excellent design of the heating in NORDIC HEAT’s gloves. Each finger is surrounding with heating elements which are clearly visible. Frequently, heated gloves only heat the back of the hand, meaning there is only heating on one side of the fingers. NORDIC HEAT’s method applies heat to two sides of the finger getting more heat in.


Using the FLIR Scout TK thermal camera again to shoot some video, this shows the gloves heating up from cold and those excellent heating elements.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)
Camera – FLIR Scout TK    

How long do they run?:
Using a dual thermal probe to measure the ambient temperature and the temperature in the middle finger of one glove, the time/temperature graph was plotted of the difference between these two temperatures. This was carried out in a cool but sheltered area on HIGH mode.
One glove ran out of power at 1h43m and the other at 1h46m.
Recharging the batteries from completely flat takes around three and a half hours (3h33m for one and 4h07m for the other).
The charging indicator on the charger will be solid red if both batteries are connected and charging, and solid green if they are both fully charged. If the indicator light is flashing red, this means that one battery is charged and the charger is “waiting” for the second battery, or only one battery is connected for charging.

In the graph below, the line marking ‘Glove Battery Exhausted’ is the time when the power light went out.

Some Modifications:
There is only one aspect of these gloves that didn’t work for me, and that was the cuff adjustment tabs. With the batteries adding bulk to the cuff, you really need to open the cuff adjuster to put them on, and then do it up again.
For the first hand this is fine, operating the cuff adjuster with bare hands is no problem, but then we get to the second hand, and now we are using the gloved fingers to grip the tab.
Immediately, as you do up the cuff adjuster, you find the Velcro hook part grabs the fabric of the thumb doing it up. This quickly starts to ‘fluff’ up the thumb fabric and is going to wear it out much faster.
Worse than doing it up, is trying to get hold of the cuff tab to undo it. You really have to press the thumb into the edge of the tab to get hold of it, and so onto the Velcro hooks. This is when the thumb fabric sticks to the hooks and has to be ripped off them.
All it really needs is a little grip tab (which has no Velcro and extends enough to grip with the gloves on) to allow you to get hold of it, so I got out my ‘Velcro control pack’ to make one. As I find the tendency of Velcro hook material to grab things quite annoying I have a selection of hook and loop strips (my ‘Velcro control pack’) that I can cut to size to cover up excessive hook material or in some cases extend it.
The following gallery steps through what I have done for each cuff adjuster. A simple job that took five minutes to do, and has transformed the fitting and removal of these gloves.


Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

All fingers heated on two sides.
Touch screen compatible index finger.
Turns onto maximum power.
Simple and reliable interface.
Adjustable cuff.
Good grip.
Dual purpose, liner or lightweight glove.
Modular design for use with other NORDIC HEAT products.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Cuff adjuster tab too short and difficult to get hold of.
Batteries can be fiddly to fit into the pocket.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in, or start, a discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Gear Review: Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool

Gerber’s Center Drive multi-tool may be one of many in the highly competitive multi-tool market, but its name clearly tells you what its key design feature is. Gerber have gone all out with the capabilities of the built-in screwdriver bit holder, along with considering the ergonomics when using a screwdriver which has a multi-tool as the handle. So Gerber aligned the axis of the bit holder to be as close to the centre line of the tool as possible. The Center-Drive tool also includes a larger than normal knife blade, powerful sprung pliers with replaceable wire cutters plus even more.

A few more details:

We’ll be taking a good look round this tool, first what is in the box, then focusing on the headline feature before taking in the rest of it.

What’s in the box?:


The driver in the Center Drive:


A good look round the Gerber Center Drive – Things to look out for:

With the featured functions of the bit driver and large knife blade, the Center Drive has an asymmetrical layout with one handle carrying these features on the outside, and the other handle having further tools folded into the inside; this gallery takes you around all of these.


What it is like to use?

Having seen some less than positive comments about this tool, I felt the need to address these first before going into more on how I have been getting on with it. In particular I wanted to mention the often overlooked aspect that a multi-tool, by its very nature is a jack-of-all-trades and as such a-master-of-none. All tools have their limits and it is up to the user to apply appropriate force and use the tool in a reasonable way. Multi-tools will get you so far, and are a tool-kit in one package, they can’t do it all. In every job I’ve used the Center Drive for I’ve not been trying to push it to its limits; heavy jobs need dedicated tools. Use it appropriately and enjoy the benefits.

With that said, there is one design aspect you should be warned about. The knife blade has an opening hole for one-handed use, however there is a high likelihood you will cut yourself if you use it. In the sample on test, the knife blade has a good resistance to movement (which helps keep it closed) and this requires a certain amount of force to rotate the blade open. This amount of force pushes the thumb quite hard onto the side of the blade, so much so the cutting edge touches your skin. Initially I found small skin flaps forming on my thumb, then realised where they came from. Check the images I took from my Instagram posts on this in the gallery below an you will see what I mean.


With all that out of the way we can look at what makes this tool particularly good. Personally, my main uses of a multi-tool, in order, are as a screwdriver, then the pliers, the file, pry-bar, awl, after which it depends on the tool, and as I carry a dedicated knife, using the multi-tool knife is generally only a last resort backup.

So my most frequent need will be for the screwdriver tool, and the Center Drive has an extended, centred, standard 1/4″ Hex bit-holder. That is something to take in and consider. No special bits are required, any 1/4″ Hex bits you have can be used. The first thing I did was pop a PZ2 (not supplied) into the bit holder as this is my number one bit type used. Multi-tool screwdrivers are often awkward to use as they are generally to one side or other and not that long; not so with the Center Drive. The extended bit holder make it so much easier to see the screw head, and access internal screws, or those near a corner. Clearly with a folding tool like this you can’t 100% centre the bit holder, but it is centred in relation to the widest part of the tool, and this makes it much easier to use. This is the best built-in multi-tool screwdriver I’ve used.

Onto my second most needed tool, the pliers. Since I first used sprung pliers (probably some jewellers pliers), it makes non-sprung pliers seem a pain to use, especially when manipulating the work piece. Having OTF pliers, the Center Drive is able to have sprung pliers (the unfolding type of multi-tool pliers typically have no spring), and thanks to the spring just become an extension of your hand, allowing you to focus completely on the work.

As you might expect from a multi-tool file, it is not that sharp, but it lets you take off those rough edges from softer materials and non-ferrous metals well enough.

One disappointment is the serrated knife blade, which, in this example, is blunt. The cutting edge has the same black coating as the blade, making it appear as if it never got a final sharpen.

The awl has no sharp cutting edge, so is really just a metal spike, useful for all sorts of little jobs. Next to this is one of the best prying tools I’ve seen on a multi-tool and will get into narrow gaps as well as being able to lift small nails.

All of this is no good if you don’t have it with you. The included pouch has two compartments, one for the set of bits, and one for the tool. Should you want to go lower profile, you can leave the full set of bits out (still having two in the tool itself) and the pouch slims down – belt or MOLLE mounted you’ll have it with you.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Centred, extended, 1/4″ standard Hex bit holder.
Spring loaded Out-The-Front pliers.
Versatile prying tool.
Quality carry pouch.
Replaceable wire cutter.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

One-Handed-Opening the main knife blade can cut you.
Serrated blade was blunt.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in, or start, a discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

CLASSIC Gear Review: 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 and 24 Backpack (MOLLE/PALS compatible)

This review of the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 and 24 backpacks is a classic from 2013, and is the first in the Classic Series of reviews to be published on Tactical Reviews. The original versions of the Classic Series Reviews used a well known image host who will be cutting off the visiblity of 3rd party hosted images at the end of 2018.

For this review I am testing and comparing two of 5.11’s tactical MOLLE backpacks (well PALS really – but we’ll come back to that), the RUSH 12 and RUSH 24.

These two sizes cover the requirements of the average every-day-user for day trips, commuting, camping, hunting etc. Of course the expandability afforded by the integrated PALS system makes these backpacks all the more versatile.

The model suffix, 12 or 24, of these RUSH backpacks indicates the number of hours you are carrying provisions for, so the RUSH 12 should carry the items you need for a 12 hour outing, and the RUSH 24 covering your needs for a 24 hours out and about. These are reasonable guidelines, especially considering the expandability of the packs and options to add MOLLE/PALS system pouches and tie on other gear.

I have previously looked at a couple of lights from 5.11 Tactical, the ATAC A1 and A2 (1 AA and 2 AA versions) and
ATAC L2 (2xCR123/RCR123), which proved to be great quality and very reliable, and backpacks look like they will live up to the same standards.

Initial Impressions:

‘Quality’, ‘solid build’ and ‘feature packed’ are the over-riding impressions that come to mind when you first get hold of the RUSH 12 and 24. This is certainly reinforced by the weight of the empty bags, roughly double the weight of an average rucksack. However the reasons for this extra weight are the heavy duty materials and construction used to make these along with the designs being packed with useful functional features.

Side by side:

The more I’ve used these two backpacks, the more I appreciate how much thought has gone into their design. Before I delve deeper into the design features of each of them, I wanted to start with a quick look round the RUSH 12 and 24 side-by-side to give an idea of how they compare.

On the left is the RUSH 12 in Sandstone (328) and on the right is the RUSH 24 in Flat Dark Earth (131). For colour comparison, the photo was taken in daylight with the camera set to daylight white balance.

The size difference is clear with the RUSH 12 having a capacity of 21.2 litres and the RUSH24 32.7 litres, so the RUSH 12 is has about 2/3 the capacity of the RUSH 24. The main compartment of the RUSH 12 is 45.7cm tall with the RUSH 24 being 50.8cm tall, and the RUSH 12 is 27.9cm wide compared to the RUSH 24 at 31.8cm wide.

The side view shows extra depth of the RUSH24 which has about 5cm deeper.

The straps are in proportion to the overall backpack dimensions, so the RUSH 12 will suit the smaller framed individual.

Comparing the schematics:

Each of the RUSH backpacks comes with a tag which has a helpful set of schematics which do not appear to be published on 5.11’s website. The schematics also provide an excellent comparison between the two sizes and their main features.

Weighing the empty bags, the RUSH 12 comes in at 1200g and the RUSH 24 at 1670g. This compares to a typical 30 litre rucksack at around 750g.

Looking closer at the RUSH 12’s schematics. The representation of the PALS/MOLLE webbing on these schematics give a good idea of the relative sizes of the RUSH 12 and 24.

With side view

And back view

Then the RUSH 24 and the schematic making it easy to compare layout and size.

Side view.

And back view.

The RUSH 12 in detail:

As each of these RUSH backpacks is packed with so many features, I need to take a closer look at each one separately. The RUSH 24 will be covered in the next section.

Even something as simple as the sternum strap has several special features.

The strap is attached using C-loops which allow it to be easily removed and repositioned higher or lower on the shoulder straps to suit your requirements.

The free end of the length adjustment strap is held neatly by an elasticated keeper, and the strap itself has an elasticated section to provide some give for extra comfort.

Both RUSH backpacks have Dura-flex side release buckles incorporated into the shoulder straps. This simple design feature provides two major benefits most other packs are missing. Firstly, in general use, this makes removing a heavy pack much easier. Simply unclip one strap (or both), and then swing the pack off the other shoulder without having to struggle to get your arm out of the strap. Secondly, as the pack is covered in lashing points and PALS webbing, it has lots of possible points to get hung-up on obstacles. The side-release clips in the straps allow for an instant release from the pack if you ever get caught up on anything.

5.11 mention the Dura-flex hardware in the straps, but don’t seem to highlight this fantastic feature.

Also visible is a plain buckle that allows a hip belt to be attached.

In the base of the pack there are two drainage holes, and this most recent version of the RUSH 12 includes four lashing points on the bottom.

Folding the shoulder straps over the main pack reveals the hydration pocket zip.

A hydration bladder can be fitted and secured using the two toggles or suspension strap. The drinking tube is then fed through the top of this pocket and into the main compartment.

From the main compartment the drinking tube can be fed out of either port (one each side of the grab handle), before being routed under the webbing on the shoulder straps.

Inside the hydration bladder pocket, the back support padding and reinforcement can be accessed and removed if desired.

The padded back of the pack has two textured grip pads to help prevent the pack moving in use and between these is the drainage hole for the hydration pocket.

Just next to the grab handle is a small fleece lined zip pocket perfect for sunglasses or small electronic devices that you want to find quickly.

The pocket is pulled inside out here to show the lining and depth.

Each side of the pack has a compression strap with elastic keeper to tidy the loose end, and a series of PALS webbing provides mounting options. The RUSH 12 is constructed of durable water-resistant 1050-denier nylon.

As well as more PALS webbing the front of the pack has a Velcro panels for a name patch and flag.

These Velcro panels allow you to personalise your pack.

At the top of the front panel there is a simple single compartment.

Below this is the main admin panel which has a further zip compartment and several organiser pockets.

Also incorporated are a couple of key keepers

Unlike most backpacks, the RUSH backpacks feature full clamshell opening of the main compartment. The back of the front panel has two mesh compartments and the main compartment includes a large pocket with bungee clinch top.

Keeping things secure:

Before moving onto the detailed look at the RUSH 24, there is a feature common to both RUSH 12 and 24 worth noting.

All zips are self-repairing YKK zips which have large glove friendly tags. These type of tags allow you to secure the zips together to prevent the pack opening unexpectedly.

Doing this is simple once you are used to it and well worth doing. Hopefully this series of photos will explain.

First feed one tag (A) through the other (B).

Then feed B though A

Pulling B far enough through that you can…

…then pass A back through it

Finally pulling tight.

Using this method of passing one tag through the other again and again allows you to secure the compartments from accidental opening without any other hardware.

The RUSH 24 in detail:

Having already covered the RUSH 12 in detail, may of the same features can be seen on the RUSH 24, plus a few more.

The sternum strap is attached with C-loops and has an elasticated keeper, and the strap itself having an elasticated section to provide extra comfort.

Dura-flex side release buckles are incorporated into the shoulder straps allowing the shoulder straps to be opened for easy removal of the pack, or an instant release from the pack if you ever get caught up on anything.

Also visible is a plain buckle that allows a hip belt to be attached.

In the base of the pack there are two drainage holes, and this most recent version of the RUSH 24 includes four lashing points on the bottom.

Folding the shoulder straps over the main pack provides easy access to the hydration pocket. The padded back of the pack has two textured grip pads to help prevent the pack moving in use and between these is the drainage hole for the hydration pocket.

A hydration bladder can be fitted and secured using the two toggles or suspension strap. The drinking tube is then fed through the top of this pocket and into the main compartment.

From the main compartment the drinking tube can be fed out of either port (one each side of the grab handle), before being routed under the webbing on the shoulder straps.

The grab handle is very strong and stitched firmly to the top of the bag.

Inside the hydration bladder pocket, the back support padding and reinforcement can be accessed and removed if desired.

Just like the RUSH 12, next to the grab handle is a small fleece lined zip pocket perfect for sunglasses or small electronic devices that you want to find quickly. Here the pocket is pulled inside out here to show the lining and depth.

The shoulder straps have a yolk system to spread the load, and densely padded straps to make carrying even heavy loads comfortable.

Each side of the pack has a compression strap with elastic keeper to tidy the loose end, and a series of PALS webbing provides mounting options. The RUSH 24 is constructed of durable water-resistant 1050-denier nylon.

The RUSH 24 also has a side pocket (which the RUSH 12 does not).

As well as more PALS webbing the front of the pack has a Velcro panels for a name patch and flag allowing you to personalise your pack.

Instead of the simple single compartment of the RUSH 12, the RUSH 24 has a double sided compartment (here one side is shown open) where each side has a fleece lined pocket and a zip up mesh pocket. This gives three separated storage areas on each side of this top section.

The large admin panel includes a further zip closed pocket and multiple sections and two key keepers for organising the contents.

Inside the main compartment (with full clamshell opening), the RUSH 24 has two more compartments than the RUSH12. On the back of the front flap there are two mesh compartments and a further zip pouch below these. The main compartment includes a large stuff-pocket with bungee clinch top and above this another mesh zip closed compartment.

MOLLE/PALS and what this means for the user

Already highly featured backpacks, the RUSH 12 and 24 are expandable thanks to the incorporated PALS webbing.

Most people are familiar with the more commonly known MOLLE (pronounced Molly) system used by armed forces around the world.

MOLLE stands for MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, and refers to the entire system made up of many components.

Part of the MOLLE system is PALS which stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System, and takes the form of the 1” webbing you see on ‘MOLLE compatible’ gear. The webbing straps are fitted with 1” spaces between them and stitched on at 1.5” intervals to provide a flexible attachment framework.

Most of the time I’ve been using the RUSH 12 and 24 in their basic form, tending to use the PALS webbing to attach items using karabiners or lashing them on, but have also tried them out with a variety of pouches attached.

Here the RUSH 12 has a small pouch (British Army issue) fitted to the side panel. This has now been replaced by a larger utility pouch.

On the RUSH 24 a small utility pouch has been fitted to the front panel.

The best aspect of this feature is its flexibility. If one pouch configuration isn’t working for you, take them off and rearrange them until you find one that works.

What are they really like to use…

Since prehistoric times, the backpack has been the fundamental load carrier for most activities, and a good one can make all the difference.

Both the RUSH 12 and 24 have been improved on from their first versions, based on real user feedback, so are now a mature design, and this is obvious when you use them.

Of the two, the RUSH 12 is the one I grab for most frequently for general day trips. I’ve moved the small pouch from the side onto the left hand shoulder strap and a larger utility pouch onto the left side. The right hand strap has a polymer karabiner for hooking on a compact camera, and if it’s dark, a torch like the Sidewinder shown here is often added.

All the small touches, like the elastic keepers for tidying up all the strap ends, the well laid out pockets, and compartments, and the fully organised admin panel make it easy to locate all the bits and bobs that always seemed elude me and take ages to find when using standard backpacks. Everything is to hand and organised.

The side-release buckles in the shoulder straps now seem to me an essential feature. Why don’t all backpacks have them? With these, there is no more struggling to take a pack off, and instant release to get unloaded or escape the pack in an emergency is straight forward.

On a recent trip, the RUSH 24 was carefully packed to keep within the airline’s specified dimensions (56x45x25cm). If filled to capacity the 25cm limit could be exceeded, so the contents needed to be arranged neatly. This was made very easy thanks to its clamshell opening, and it then came with me as cabin baggage. In this instance the RUSH 24 was loaded with 10Kg of equipment which almost disappeared once on my back. All the pockets and compartments kept various documents and passes close at hand and perfectly organised.

Even going through security became a breeze as my pockets simply transferred to the various compartments around the RUSH 24. Onto the conveyor for scanning and the clamshell lets me take out the laptop and liquids in a flash, and back in again after the scan.

The only time I noticed the weight of the pack was when I had to use the grab handle or when putting it into the overhead lockers.

Once you’ve tried a RUSH backpack, you won’t want to go back to anything else. If you are in the market for a backpack, the RUSH might seem quite expensive, but just look back over the features crammed into each version. All those pockets, compartments, straps, buckles and PALS webbing don’t come for nothing and in the RUSH 12 and 24 (and presumably the 72 as well) have been put together in a robust package with quality materials. You certainly get what you pay for.

These RUSH backpacks will be trusted companions on many adventures to come, and many more mundane trips as well.

Test samples provided by 5.11 Tactical for review.

Gear Review: FLIR Scout TK Thermal Camera

FLIR are a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging sensors and thermal cameras, and though this technology still remains relatively expensive, FLIR have been producing consumer devices that bring thermal imaging within reach for everyone. In this review we are looking at the Scout TK, FLIR’s palm-sized self-contained thermal vision monocular, which reveals details of your soundings and helps you see people, objects and animals up to 100 yards away.

A few details:

When working out the best order for the content in this review, I’ve settled on a good look around the Scout TK before diving into the how and what of thermal cameras. So here we go with the details of this handy scope style camera.

You are greeted by a well presented box with over-sleeve.

With the sleeve off the main box, we can lift off the lid. The Scout TK is well protected by a closed cell foam liner.

In the box is the Scout TK, a neck lanyard, a USB cable and the instructions.

A very neat and purposeful design.

Protecting the Scout TK’s ‘eye’ is a rubber lens cover.

On the left side of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment, to allow the user to focus the view of the internal display.

The top of the Scout TK has a set of four control buttons, plus the USB port cover. The buttons are basically Power, Brightness, Shutter and Palette.

There is a wide, soft, eyecup shield to keep light in/out.

With the lens cover off we can start to see the odd looking thermal camera lens.

Materials and construction of the thermal camera lens are specialised as it is focusing infrared, not visible light.

Pulling back the rubber USB port cover gives access to the micro USB port which is used for charging the internal battery and downloading the photos and video.

Though is it low-profile, the lanyard hole is easy to use.

Being a reasonable investment, it is a good idea to use the lanyard.

Plug in the supplied USB cable for charging and/or data transfer. This has a relatively slim plug, and some other cables don’t fit properly into the port.

Before using for the first time I gave it a full charge.

During charging the indicator light flashes red. This turns green once the battery is full, but keeps flashing.

A little Theory (read at your own risk):

If you just want to get on and see more of the photos and video the Scout TK can give you, then feel free to skip over this section, but if you would like to know a little more about how and what it is really doing, then hopefully this section will help illuminate you, and with this knowledge, you can better understand how best to use it.

What is this camera actually seeing? Just as our eyes respond to visible light (which is a small range of wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Electromagnetic Spectrum), the sensor in the Scout TK responds to a different range of wavelengths that our eyes cannot see.

Electromagnetic Radiation is typically referred to by its frequency or wavelength, and we are going to use the wavelength to quantify where we are on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. For those not familiar with the concept, just think of waves in the sea, and how far apart the crest of each wave is from the previous wave (wavelength). Waves that are closer together have more energy, and waves that are further apart have less, of course the wavelengths we are looking at here are tiny compared to waves in the sea.

A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390-700 nm (that is 0.00039-0.0007 mm). The Scout TK uses a ‘FLIR Lepton sensor’ which responds to wavelengths between 7500-13500 nm – referred to as long-wavelength infrared.

Hopefully you are still with me as this is where is gets interesting.

The reason the sensor in the Scout TK has been made to respond to this range of wavelengths is because this is the ‘thermal imaging’ region of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Objects at temperatures between -80 °C and 89 °C, purely due to their thermal energy (temperature), emit electromagnetic radiation in this band of wavelengths. As the objects themselves are emitting the radiation, there is no need for any ‘illuminator’ or external source of light. The objects simply ‘glow’, in infrared, all by themselves, and the camera sees their emissions directly.

This is a completely passive observation of the objects, needing no visible light or any other source of illumination, but it does bring us to one more important aspect of this to understand.

Because we are passively observing the radiation emitted by the objects themselves, and the wavelength of the infrared radiation ‘seen’ by the camera sensor depends on the temperature of the objects, we are really only ‘seeing’ temperature differences. If everything observed by the camera is actually the same temperature, it isn’t possible to distinguish any of the objects – they all just appear the same shade of grey. So what we want (and need) is temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ with a thermal camera. This concept will become clearer during the review when we look at what you need to bear in mind to get the best out of it.

Now that I’ve brought up the requirement for there to be a temperature difference to be able to ‘see’ anything with the thermal camera, to understand some of the images shown in the review, it is also necessary to understand how FLIR presents the observed picture. The sensor itself is capable of a ‘seeing’ very wide range of temperatures (-80 °C to 89 °C), but if this entire range was used all the time, you would not see the difference of only a few degrees clearly at all. To get round this, constantly during use, the processor in the Scout TK takes the highest and lowest observed temperature values and sets these as the maximum and minimum temperature colours for the palette being used. (The palette is a range of 256 colours used to represent the different temperatures ‘seen’ by the camera sensor.) So, as soon as a much colder, or hotter, object comes into view, those maximum and minimum values shift, and smaller temperature differences lose definition.

Staying in the technical frame of mind, here are a few key features of the Scout TK:

Detector Type – 160 x 120 VOx Lepton ® Microbolometer
Thermal Sensitivity – Waveband 7.5-13.5µm
Field of View (H x V) – 20° x 16°
Media Storage – 1000 images and 4 hours of video
Eyepiece display – 640 x 480 pixel LCD
Refresh Rate – <9Hz Battery Type - Internal Li-Ion Cell Ingress Protection Rating - IP-67, Submersible

What it is like to use?

Hopefully you survived the thermal camera theory, as it helps explain some of what we see in this section.

Although the Scout TK might be the lowest specification of FLIR’s thermal camera scopes, it is also the most convenient to carry. The sort of thing you will take on the off-chance instead of specifically planning to need it.

Small enough to pop in a jacket pocket, or use the neck lanyard to carry around.

Getting started with the Scout TK and power it up with a brief press of the power button. About 10 seconds later the thermal imaging is shown on the internal 640 x 480 pixel eyepiece LCD.

During the startup, you might notice it clicking, and this also happens from time to time as you use it. While it is clicking the image being displayed freezes. This is a calibration process known as flat-field correction or FFC, and an integrated shutter performs the FFC automatically. Due to the nature of the sensor, and the fact it is ‘seeing’ infrared, which it itself is emitting, this calibration ensures that each pixel in the sensor is set to the same level when shown a uniform target (the shutter) ensuring there is no distortion of the thermal image.

So far, apart from when turning it on, I’ve not found a clear pattern of when the calibration triggers, but you will see it from time to time during use.

OK, so most importantly, what do we see? Well there is a lot more, but turn it on out of the box, and this is the sort of thing you immediately have revealed. Here, down a dark unlit path is a dog-walker and two small dogs.

With the Scout TK using an eyepiece display, the brightness of this could be too dim for daylight use, or too bright for dark adapted eyes, but of course, FLIR have included brightness adjustment. You’ll find out how important this is the first time you let your eyes adjust to the dark. Fortunately it is quick and easy to dim the display to a comfortable level. Thanks to the eye shield, I’ve actually found the dimmed display fine for daytime use as well.

The previous image was pretty clear anyway, but change to a different palette (more on those in a minute) and they definitely stand out now.

The same scene again, but using the palette which has become the most useful to me, called ‘Rain’, and there is no mistaking our dog-walker.

We’ll cover the most important feature of palettes in more detail, but before moving on, there is a simple menu system for the few settings you might want to tweak from their defaults. Through this menu you set the date/time and tweak what is displayed. You can also enter the basic Gallery to view photos you have taken (videos don’t play back).

Opening the Gallery means you can browse through the images. They are shown quite small with there being no full screen view, only what you see here. Videos are shown as a still image, but won’t play.

It might not be your first question, but it was one of the things I tried straight away, ‘can it be used through glass?’; this is your answer. Of course modern glasses are specifically designed to keep heat in, including infrared, so it is basically an infrared mirror.

Designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, in the urban environment there are still many things you might use this Scout TK for, including finding overheating appliances, missing home insulation, and this list just goes on and on. In this case I wanted to know which car was the one that had just parked. No question there.

Part of the reason for all the theory included earlier is to understand one possible issue you may encounter in certain situations.
This scene is of a path through open countryside. At the very top, you see just a hint of sky (black). The Scout TK is set to use the Instalert palette to hopefully make it easy to spot any animals.

Lifting the view just a little brings more of the sky into view, and suddenly all of the bushes and grass are on fire! Not terribly useful.

OK, so what happened? It comes down to the way the camera calculates the colours to match the current observed temperature profiles. Moving the camera so you now include the sky in the image means this becomes the coldest thing; there are now fewer colour variations available to show differences in temperature between a bush and an animal. Once you understand this you can avoid washouts like this; to get the best colour contrast, avoid getting extreme temperatures into the image (sky/ice etc).

The term palette has come up several times and these are one of the most useful settings in a thermal camera as each has a particular benefit. One of my most used palettes is ‘Rain’ which works for low contrast scenes. Here a fox is clearly visible in the distance when the other palettes barely showed anything.

Taking these images directly from the Scout TK documentation, this is the full set of palettes you can choose from.

Palettes:

What we have seen so far are still images such as this one of a ……… Oh, yes this not much help, is it, as a still image? Unfortunately this particular sighting did not get captured as a video, and what was clear from the moving image in the eyepiece was that this is a badger.

So, lets have a look at some video from the Scout TK and you’ll get a much better idea of what it is like to use.

Video Edited with – Cyberlink Director Suite 5 (PowerDirector 16 and AudioDirector 7)

In real terms, you will be making your observations live with the Scout TK, but if you want to capture those observations to share, taking still images is good, but taking video even better.

What about the daytime? A thermal camera is going to work best when there are the greatest differences in temperatures, and it is at night when the animals you are looking for will stand out against a cool background. However, it can be quite interesting to use a thermal camera in daylight and you see things quite differently.

At first this image looks almost as you might expect for a black and white visible-light image. The shadows from the cars that are cast onto the pavement, are not exactly that. They are the shadows of the cars, but here we see them as colder areas as the sunlight is not warming the ground. We see the lack of warmth, not the lack of light.

This patchy looking car doesn’t have a funky paint job and white wall tyres, it is actually silver with plain black tyres. What we see is how the sunlight is heating up different parts of the car. The black rubber tyres are soaking up the heat of the sun and get nice and warm. The doors are insulated and so heat up more than the rest of the body, and the plastic bumper is also heating up differently.
Direct sunlight, and the heat it imparts to what you are observing, either conceals or reveals details, so is interesting but a bit hit or miss.

As portable as the Scout TK is, I wouldn’t normally carry it as an EDC, so it was just luck that meant I had it with me when a burning smell was reported coming from the server room at the office. With no obvious smoking or dead equipment, a quick scan with the Scout TK identified the culprit in less than 30s.
The lower battery bank of a UPS was significantly hot on one side and heating the battery bank above it. All healthy UPS units were cold, but not this one.

After electrically isolating the lower battery bank so it was no longer powered, a couple of hours later the two healthy UPS components were cold again with only the problem battery bank showing residual heat. After removing the four battery trays in this bank, the two on the right where the heat was seen had swollen and melted batteries with acid leaking. Thanks to the Scout TK the problem was found and dealt with very quickly.

With the design of the Scout TK, FLIR have kept is simple and fully self contained. This makes it easy to carry and easy to use. Compared to some of the more advanced cameras (and significantly more expensive), the Scout TK has a few limitations, but these are intentional and allow the Scout TK to be easy for anyone to pick up and use. Once you have your preferred palette and display brightness selected, the Scout TK can actually be a single button device – the power button – turn on, observe, turn off.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Self-contained thermal camera. Thermal technology is still expensive (£500-£577).
Scope style body for intuitive use. Gallery display is small and does not play back video.
Wide range of useful palettes. USB data transfer seems to be USB 1.0 speed.
Excellent battery life.
Records images and video.
Robust, easy to use design.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Gear Review: Wicked Edge Advanced Alignment Guide and Low Angle Adapter

This is a supplementary review to the Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener Review as it covers two optional extras that extend the functionality of a Wicked Edge Sharpener. The Low angle adapter has been around for some time, but the Advanced alignment guide is a recent addition which further enhances the precision of the sharpener.

The Low Angle Adapter is a clamp extension for a Wicked Edge sharpener which allows for angles as low as 10°. The Advanced Alignment Guide provides measurable reference points for repeatable knife mounting. It allows a Wicked Edge user to be able to tilt a knife in the clamp to find the optimum knife positioning and record the setting so the mounting position can be repeated during the next sharpening session.

Low Angle Adapter – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

For this supplementary review it makes more sense to combine the different sections I normally use, so we will look at each of these optional extras and how to use them at the same time.

Unpacking the low angle adapter.

The main body of this clamp extension is black anodised aluminium.

An area is milled out of the adapter for the sharpener’s standard clamp jaws to slide into and grip.

The other side has a different profile as there is the adapters blade clamp plate.

Taking this blade clamp completely off shows the milled pocket into which it sits. The milled out areas on each side (for the sharpener’s clamp and the adapter’s blade clamp) ensure precise alignment of all parts of the adapter during use.

To clearly illustrate what this low angle adapter does, here is the standard clamp of the Wicked Edge, and at the low angle set for the stone, the stone is hitting the clamp jaw, so won’t reach the knife edge (unless the knife is very deep).

With the guide rod at the same angle, fitting the low angle adapter allows the stone to completely clear the main clamp and work on a knife blade fitted into the adapter.

All standard angles are still available even with the low angle adapter, but remember the scale on the main clamp will now not be exactly correct as the height of the blade has changed. Make sure you note down the fact the that adapter was used along with the angle shown on the scale for the guide rod.

Advanced Alignment Guide – A few more details & What it is like to use?:

With the Wicked Edge system you note down the various settings used for each blade so that in subsequent sharpening sessions you can repeat the angles precisely, reducing the amount of metal removed. The Advanced Alignment Guide gives you a further level of precision for the positioning of the blade in the clamp, and allows you to angle the blade and record the exact position you used.

When it arrives, the guide has a protective film to ensure you get it completely free of marks.

With the protective film removed you can see the grid printed onto the guide and two holes which are used to fit the guide to your sharpener.

Before this alignment guide was made, you had to use the simple ruler scale built into the clamp to position the blade, relying on the blade spine to sit squarely onto the depth key.

To use the new guide, when you fit the two pronged depth key into the clamp, first pass the prongs through the holes in the alignment guide and then into the clamp. Now you have a 2D labelled grid which allows you to precisely position and record where the blade tip is set. This also means you no longer have to put the blade spine down onto both depth key prongs and can rock it one way or the other to better present the knife edge for sharpening. Another level of precision.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Finer Edge Angles available. Relatively expensive.
Smaller blades can be sharpened.
Blade positioning even more repeatable. Doesn’t sit against a flat surface so can move backwards and forwards.
Much easier than the standard ruler.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Gear Review: Walkstool Steady

Following the review of the Walkstool ‘Comfort 65’ Portable Stool, the most asked question was if there was anything to allow it to be used on very soft ground. Well Walkstool had already thought of this and the solution is the Walkstool Steady, an optional extra to give the Walkstool maximum stability on any surface.

A few more details:

Like the Walkstools themselves, the Steady comes in a mesh carry bag, and is a very neat pocket sized package.

Taken out of the mesh bag, the Steady is wrapped up tidily.

Unravelling it and you now get to see what this is all about. It is both a leg brace, and a load spreader.

Printed on one of the arms is the Walkstool, and Steady logo.

To fit the Steady to the Walkstool, there is a pocket at the end of each ‘arm’, with cords to allow it to be tightened around the foot.

Clearly, as there are several sizes of Walkstool, you might wonder if you then need different Steadys to match, cleverly, there is an adjustment designed into each arm where you simply set it to the matching Walkstool size.

Here it is on the 55cm setting for the Comfort 55 I’m using to test it.

Joining the three arms of the Steady is a triangular plastic ring.

With a second triangular ring positioned in this way, as the arms are pulled tighter, the two triangular rings press together more firmly and grip the webbing securely.

What it is like to use?

Fitting the Steady is simple. Pull the pocket over each foot in turn ensuring you work the cords tight and adjust the toggle to hold the cords in place.

With all three feet fitted into the Steady it is ready to go.

One concern might be that with the Steady fitted, the Walkstool looses some of its ease and convenience, but this is not the case. Opening and folding the stool is almost as easy with the only change being that the Steady can get in the way a bit when working your way round the legs.

And what about putting the Walkstool back in its bag? As you can see here you almost don’t notice the Steady is fitted, with only a little bit of it protruding from the bag.

Of course all these nice clean studio photos don’t show one aspect of the Steady, and what it is designed for. It provides additional stability which is most needed on soft ground, the consequence of which is it will get very dirty, especially if used on a wet soft surface.

Picking the stool up after using it like this will bring plenty of that mud/muck with it, and folding it again will be a messy job. What I tend to do is avoid those really wet and muddy spots, or if next to water, be it river or lake, I dip the end of the legs with the steady into the water and give it a good stir to clean it off.

If you want that extra stability or use a walkstool on soft ground or sandy beaches, then the Steady is a worthy addition to your Walkstool, and can easily be added or removed to suit.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Adds extra strength and stability to a Walkstool Can pick up a lot of dirt if used on very muddy ground.
Stops legs sinking into soft ground.
Adjustable to suit all Walkstool models.
Adds very little bulk to the folded Walkstool.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Gear Review: Wiley X Protective Eyewear – Rogue and Valor

Wiley X is one of those brands that snuck up on me many years ago via one of their collaborations, however since then I’ve seen them as the go-to brand for functional, protective, active eyewear which happens to be very stylish as well. Being a shooter, I only settle for full protection when it comes to me eyes. This requires a good fit, a choice of lenses and of course the safety standards which Wiley X glasses easily surpass. In this review I’m taking a detailed look at two models, the Rogue, and Valor, but these are just part of a large range. With Wiley X, there are models to suit all face sizes (which is critical) so you might find you need to choose a different one to get the sizing right.

The models on test:

Both models come in the Wiley X standard black boxes.

These are very different glasses, let’s get on with the detailed examination.

A few more details of the Rogue (Including lens swapping):

You might recognise the multi-lens type of case the Rogue comes in. Many of the Wiley X models with interchangeable lenses come with this type of case.

Unzipping the case shows the glasses in the main compartment, but a set of pockets in front of the lens.

Each pocket is fleece lined.

The Rogue has two additional lenses which fit into the case so are easily carried with you.

Altogether, as well as the Rogue itself, you have an orange and clear lens, a cleaning cloth, neck lanyard, and instructions.

A removable sticker on the lens reminds you the Rogue has interchangeable lenses. This peels off easily and with no trace.

Aimed at shooting eye protection, the full wrap around style provides maximum coverage.

The front view shows how wide the field of vision is – no restriction or missed targets.

Looking from the side shows the lens is a compound curve (curved vertically and horizontally).

An inside view, note the arms are a little different to most (more on that later).

A fully adjustable nose piece is used which allows you to alter exactly where the frame and lens is positioned on your face.

Inside the arm near the hinge is hollowed out, keeping the weight to a minimum.

Appearing a bit grey here, there is a metallic silver WX logo on the arm.

Every part of the design of the Rogue wraps itself around you making for a very good and secure fit.

And now back to those unusual arms; they are thin. Designed to be ultra-low profile so that when wearing ear defenders the arms don’t deform the muffler pads.
As the Maître d’ said to Mr. Creosote “It’s only wafer thin.”

Included with the Rogue is a neck strap. Fitting is quick and easy thanks to the rubber tubes on the end of the strap.

Depending on the model of glasses, these tubes may be larger or smaller.

The rubber tube is simply pushed over the end of the arms and stays firmly in place.

The hinge pivot is a long screw that fits all the way through the end of the arm.

Detail of the hinge with the arm folded.

Being a wrap around design, even with the arms folded, the Rogue is relatively large, but this is unavoidable if you want that full protection.

Those wafer thin arms do help keep the folded size down a bit.

Using my polystyrene head, you can see how those low profile arms sit against the side of the head.

In this case, the polystyrene head is a medium size head, and the Rogue appears a little wide for it.

With the ear defenders fitted there is minimal muffler pad deformation thanks to the thin arms.

Running through the lens swapping. Here the Rogue has been broken down into its parts with the nosepiece, lens and frame laid out.

Reassembly is a reverse of the take-down. First fit the two ends of the lens into the frame.

Then squeeze the top of the frame down above the nose cutout….

…until it clicks into place.

Similarly, slide in the nosepiece and squeeze…

…until it clicks into place.

Lens Swapped!

A few more details of the Valor:

Without the need to store additional lenses, the Valor’s case is a smaller and simpler semi-rigid clam-shell design.

The inside is fleece lined, and a reminder that you should use the case is included.

Along with the Valor glasses (which have a plastic wrap on them) there is a cleaning cloth and neck strap.

As well as the outer plastic wrap, there is a plastic wrap on one arm to stop them rubbing in transit.

On this model the frame is sporting a Kryptek Typhon camouflage coating.

Due to the way the Kryptek Typhon camouflage is applied, each frame is unique.

A half frame is used, which does allow for lens swapping.

The Kryptek Typhon camouflage covers the entire frame apart from the rubber arm grips.

Fixed rounded rubber nose pads are used.

Taking a close look at the hinge.

A long screw forms the hinge pivot.

Inside one of the arms is the EN166 Personal Eye Protection standard mark.

The end of each arm has a rubber over-mould that provides extra grip.

Not quite as curved as a wrap around, the frame is still curved for an ergonomic fit.

Checking first the left hand side.

Then the right, you can see the pattern is different, and part of the character of this camouflage pattern.

There is an anti-reflective coating on the inside of the lenses.

One of my favourite features is a good polarised lens.

Just like the Rogue, included with the Valor is a neck strap. Fitting is quick and easy thanks to the rubber tubes on the end of the strap.

Depending on the model of glasses, these tubes may be larger or smaller.

The rubber tube is simply pushed over the end of the arms and stays firmly in place.

Overall the Valor are a smaller pair of glasses than the Rogue.

The size difference is clear if you look back at the same polystyrene head shot earlier in this review. Here the frame is a closer fit to the size of head.

More compact than the Rogue when folded, mainly due to the design having less wrap-around.

What are they like to use?

Readers of other reviews might already know that I have hypersensitive eyes, so have to wear sunglasses at all time when outdoors during daylight hours. Currently I don’t require corrective prescriptions lenses. The reason for mentioning this is that it means I’m wearing these a LOT, really a LOT. It really shows any weaknesses in field of vision, comfort and any lens distortion when you use them for hours and hours each day, every day. With so much time wearing sunglasses, I am very critical of lens quality, and Wiley X has never disappointed on this.

For about 9 months now, the Valor have been my main choice of eyewear for daily wear. With the polarised lens, they are slightly darker than the non-polarised lens in the Rogue (good for me), and for driving this is an ideal lens as well.

I had wondered how hard wearing the Kryptek camouflage would be, and in this time, there is not a single sign of wear yet. Yes, I am careful with my glasses (which I treat with the care I would give expensive prescription lenses), but even so, there is day to day wear, knocks and abrasions you can’t avoid. Standing up to intensive use very well.

Without any adjustment in the nose pads, it is crucial that the fit is good, and with the Valor, they were the right size to sit at the ideal position on my face. Although there is no actual benefit to the camouflage in every day urban life, the pattern softens the look of the frame compared to a solid colour of black frame.

As a nice lightweight design they are not at all fatiguing to wear for long periods, and the rubber nose pads and arm grips mean they stay put and don’t need to be pushed back into position.

In fact, having recently had nose surgery (a septoplasty and bilateral sinuplasty for those that are interested) I was able to wear these very shortly afterwards as they were light enough not to cause me any problems.

With the Valor being more suited to my every day needs, the Rogue were worn less, but in particular were used for all shooting or other activities needing wrap around eye protection.
Thanks to the adjustable nose pads, the Rogue’s fit can be tuned to put them in the ideal position. Like this I have nothing obstructing my peripheral vision so my ability to pick up targets is completely unaffected and as good as having no eyewear on at all.

The frame size of the Rogue is a tiny bit too big for me, so what becomes more obvious is that the thin arms are not thin enough (as they sit on my head) to not affect the muffler pads on the ear defenders. (I do wear a Large size motorcycle helmet) So it would need someone with a larger head to really benefit from this feature. Fortunately I tend to wear in-ear hearing protection rather than over ear so this is not an issue. A smaller frame version of the Rogue would be perfect for me.

Following those comments, what more can I say other than that the Valor is my daily wear of choice, and the Rogue comes out for any shooting day.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Rogue and Valor – High optical quality lenses. Rogue – Slim Arms / Ear Defenders feature is only effective for larger heads.
Exceed EN166 Personal Eye Protection Safety Standards.
Interchangeable lenses.
Unique Kryptek pattern.
Lightweight.

There are genuinely a lack of things that don’t work. Assuming you pick a model with the right size frame for your face, then in terms of functionality and quality, the Wiley X range are excellent.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Gear Review: Wicked Edge ‘Field and Sport’ Sharpener

Wicked Edge’s sharpening systems have proven themselves over and over to be the ultimate precision guided knife sharpeners on the market, so much so, many high-end knife makers use them for their knives’ first edge, rather than hand sharpening their blades. Wicked Edge sharpeners are solid, reliable and fast. If you want the most precise and repeatable edge possible, combined with the least blade wear, choosing one of these sharpeners is really the best possible choice you could make.

A little more Background:

In the world of knives, Wicked Edge is one of those aspirational products. Almost everyone wants one, but few people feel they can justify paying the relatively high cost of one. Much like any quality ‘professional tool’ that performs to a higher standard, most people simply do not NEED them. Simpler, cheaper options exist, and do a reasonable job.

Perhaps one of the other challenging aspects of making that leap into the realm of the Wicked Edge is that most often we see the famous mirror polished hair splitting Wicked Edge (which I too started this article with), and to achieve this you need the full set of stone grits and strops. But you don’t need to go that far, or spend that much, certainly not straight away.

The Field and Sport is one of those simpler systems on offer which includes four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and is also designed to be portable and easy to set up. In real terms, the 600 grit will give you a better working edge than a finely polished mirror finish anyway.

For this review, Wicked Edge did send a few extras as well to allow me to show the finer finishes, but they are not needed for Wickedly sharp knives.

A few more details:

As the Field and Sport is a portable model, it comes in a carry case. This is useful for storage as well as taking it with you. Also shown here is a box of the optional glass platens for using the diamond polishing films.

Opening up the case everything is nicely laid out in a closed-cell foam liner.

Looking a little closer you can also see that in this case the optional extra fine 800/1000 stones have been included which are not part of the standard Field and Sport kit.

To be clear, this is the full set of part of the 2016 version of the Field and Sport kit. Included are the blade clamp, g-clamp, guide rods, 100/200 and 400/600 stones, Allen keys, blade stop and marker pen.

Adding in the optional 800/1000 stones that also fit into the case makes the kit look like this.

Although not clamped onto a working surface, this is the Wicked Edge fully assembled with the blade clamp, guides and stones ready to work.

With a knife fitted securely into the blade clamp this shows the arrangement of the stones as you work on the knife.

Most guided systems use just that, guides. I make that distinction as less robust guides can be bent and distorted. Not so with Wicked Edge. Take a look here at the guide rod ball-joints which have smooth but play-free movement.

The rods fit through the entire length of the stones providing a stable alignment.

You can go precision crazy with the adjustments on the guide rod mounts. There are two hand-wheels, the lower one does the main angle adjustment.

The upper hand-wheel locks the fine angle adjustment, and once released you can turn the ball joint bolt and move this out by any amount and lock it in place.

That lower hand-wheel locks into a series of precisely positioned angle holes cut into the guide rod arms.

As you can see, the hole’s spacing changes as you get further from the middle to keep the change in angle consistent for each graduation. If this was not done, when you get to wider angles each adjustment would become a smaller and smaller fraction of a degree.

This version is the 2016 version of the blade clamp, but the principles should be similar for the latest version. One part of the clamp is fixed to the base.

To allow you to fit each blade into the clamp in the same position each time (to reduce the amount of metal removed when you re-sharpen it) there is a folding ruler inside the clamp.

The ruler in the extended position.

You might have notice the set of four holes near the top of the blade clamp. These provide two blade heights that are set by a removable dual pin that you rest the spine of the blade on as you tighten the clamp.

Tightening the clamp is a two stage process where initially you tighten the top bolt.

Then move the Allen key down to the lower bolt and tighten this to bring the clamp plate back out to a parallel position (to stop the blade popping out). This is important or you will have blade instability when sharpening.

Once the clamp is properly tightened you need to remove the blade height stop pin.

With the stop pin removed you will have room to work on the blade.

Altogether the Field and Sport has four grits, 100, 200, 400 and 600, and here I also have the 800/1000 stones. The following series of photos is intended to show how those grits compare from most coarse to least.

100

200

400

600

800

1000

What it is like to use?

This review has taken a while as even a ‘normal’ reviewer doesn’t sharpen knives at the same rate as a professional knife maker, or knife sharpener. What you will also find is that the Wicked Edge takes time to wear in and actually improves over time. Wicked Edge even recommend you start using it on a few ‘inexpensive knives’ first.

During the coarse of this review testing I’ve used the Wicked Edge on all sorts of blades, and in this next sequence is actually a titanium diving knife. Titanium is notoriously difficult to get a good edge on, but you would never know it, I didn’t do anything different and it was a super slicer at the end of this re-profile.

This blunt tip diving knife has had the left edge re-profiled and the right has not yet been done. We will step though the process…

I’ve taken to putting masking tape onto the blade before fitting to the clamp to ensure there are no marks left. This can lead to some movement depending on how thick and soft the tape is, so be careful with the tape you choose and see if this works for you or not. For some blades I don’t do this.

There are plenty of videos showing the Wicked Edge sharpening action. It is a two handed process where you push the stones away from the edge and away from you stroking the entire edge, first one side, then the other. The speed you work will depend on how practiced you are, and how precisely you want to work (and how much material needs to be removed). I also worked the stones up and down when I had a lot of material to remove.

An interesting point to note is that unlike just about every other sharpening system, due to the ability to immediately alternate sides, when doing this, you won’t raise a wire edge. The only way to do this is to stop the alternating action and just work on one side at a time until you have achieved the burr/wire-edge, then swap to do the same for the other side before getting going with the alternating action and working through the grits.

The 100 grit leaves a very clear scratch pattern, and you can see I’ve worked it up and down here as the scratches are at two angles. This was a reprofile so needed a lot of work.

Starting to work out the 100grit scratches with the 200 grit, but some scratches are pretty deep. This is one of the ‘features’ of the new stones, they can have some hot spots which create deeper scratches. Only when really worn-in are these avoided.

Just keep refining through the grits. The precision of the guide system just makes a beautiful edge appear before your eyes. For this blade I did not want to polish the edge as I wanted some bite and micro-serrations, so stopped here at the 600 grit.

Now changing blades and onto a large CRKT folder which needed a re-profile. Here you can see how I’ve used the marker pen to blacken the original edge so I can see when I’ve completely removed it and achieved the angle I want.

In this case the intention was to get to a polished edge…. just because, OK. So here we have the glass platens onto which you stick the diamond films.

The platens have Fine and Coarse marked on them, but this is for your reference and to tell you which side to fit the different diamond grits, not because like this there is any difference.

The Diamond films are simply peeled off the sheets and stuck onto the platens ready to be used as the final stage. These films cut fast and will get dirty pretty quickly. Kyle of Wicked Edge showed me a nice trick for cleaning these up with a bit of alcohol hand rub on some tissue which brought them back to life and gave them a new lease of life, so don’t give up on them too quickly.
NOTE, unlike the diamond stones which can be used onto or off the edge, you MUST use the diamond films OFF the edge otherwise the edge can bite into the film and ruin it – just like any other strop.

What becomes really obvious at this point are two aspects. The first is that the brand new stones make it much more difficult to properly work through the grits and remove the scratches from the coarser grits, and the second is that this will really show you up if you haven’t worked through the grits well enough!! Lessons get learnt.

Ultimately we get there though, and the Wicked Edge precision mirror edge is mine – ALL MINE!

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Ultimate precision knife edge. Can get expensive depending on options.
Fully adjustable for any angle. Needs wearing-in for best results.
Completely repeatable (as long as you note down the settings). It can get time consuming chasing perfection.
Minimal metal removal on repeated sharpening. Addictive mirror edges.
Many options and kits available.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

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Gear Review: Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker (Sharpener)

Spyderco’s Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is a surprisingly versatile sharpening system (based on the V-sharpener concept), designed to be simple to use, and make it easy to maintain a consistent sharpening angle.

The details:

Let’s dive into the details and talk about it more in the next section.

The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker arrives in a combined cardboard/blister pack.
 photo 01 Sharpmaker boxed v2 P1170441.jpg

Included with the Sharpmaker is a set of instructions and an instructional DVD.
 photo 02 Sharpmaker box contents v2 P1170448.jpg

Breaking out all the parts, we have a lid to keep all the components in place, a base plate with various shaped holes, four high alumina ceramic stones/rods (a pair of brown/grey medium grit, and a pair of white fine grit) and very importantly two brass safety guard rods.
 photo 03 Sharpmaker parts P1170452.jpg

The FIRST thing you should do is to fit the guard rods (for whichever angle you are working to). Notice how the lid fits over the base at a halfway point to act as a handle.
 photo 04 Sharpmaker guards P1170458.jpg

These guard rods angle back over the user’s hand to prevent stray sharpening strokes testing the edge on your hand. This is all the more important for experienced users as they tend to work faster and with less care.
 photo 05 Sharpmaker holding P1170461.jpg

Just in case you forget – ‘USE SAFETY GUARDS’.
 photo 06 Sharpmaker reminder P1170463.jpg

The two types of stone included with the Sharpmaker (shown here in perfectly clean and unused condition).
 photo 18 Sharpmaker stones P1170503.jpg

So why are those holes the shape they are? It’s all very clever actually. The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, comes with …. yes, tri-angular stones. The stones also have a groove in them for hooks and other pointed objects.
This means we have three different working surfaces on the stones, the flat side, a pointed corner, and the groove. Here we have the stone fitted into the base so that we use the flat surface.
 photo 08-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-1-P1170470.jpg

Now, taking the stone out and rotating it, it can be fitted back into the base with the corner as the working surface.
 photo 09-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-2-P1170471.jpg

Lastly the grooved flat surface is presented for working with. All with one hole that holds the stone at the correct angle.
 photo 10-Sharpmaker-stone-rotation-3-P1170472.jpg

Here we are, fully assembled with ‘stage one’ sharpening (the coarsest arrangement) and on the 40 degree inclusive angle.
 photo 11 Sharpmaker assembled P1170475.jpg

What it is like to use?

Some of my most used sharpening stones are a set of Spyderco pocket stones, so I know how well the Spyderco ceramic stones perform. However, once you start using diamond stones they can seem a little slow, especially on some of the super-steels.

Though not strictly a guided system, I’m going to consider it one to mention the very specific benefit of these systems, which even people with considerable sharpening experience should not dismiss. Quite simply, guided systems help reduce the amount of steel you need to remove to restore an edge. This means that as well as making the sharpening process easier for everyone, it also makes it more efficient. You only remove as much steel as is needed which prolongs the life of the blade and makes sharpening quicker.

With the triangular stones, this is one of the few systems that can sharpen serrations, and is also happy working on hawksbill and recurve blades. To understand fully why, we need only look at the four ‘grades’ of sharpening that are achieved from the two stones.

In order, from most coarse to finest, we have these configurations of the stones:

1. Brown/Grey stone Corners – Coarse edge reshaping
2. Brown/Grey stone Flats – Producing a utility edge (how Spyderco say that most new knives come)
3. White stone Corners – To achieve ‘butcher’ sharp.
4. White stone Flats – for the finest razor edge.

The Sharpmaker base also has two sets of holes which give an inclusive angle of 30 degrees or 40 degrees. In the design of the Sharpmaker, the 30 degree angle is primarily intended to be used for creating a ‘back bevel’ (to thin out the edge). Though some knives might be sharpened to this 30 degree angle, the 40 degree angle is considered by Spyderco to be the best compromise for most blades.

Serrations can be sharpened thanks to the corners of the stones, meaning steps 1 and 3 can be used. Spyderco recommend that only the step three (white stone corners) is used, as step one is a bit too aggressive. Serrations need a slightly different technique, as generally they are formed with a single bevel (chisel) grind. In this case you work only on one side for three or four strokes, then use a single stroke on the other side to remove the burr that forms.

For flexible blades, you only use the corners (steps 1 and 3) as it is difficult to keep the edge sitting on the flat surfaces.

Having covered some of the theory, let’s get back to looking at the way you use the Sharpmaker. Here is a knife in mid-stroke having started at the plunge/ricasso and being draw down and backwards towards the tip, to run the entire edge over the stone on one side.
 photo 13 Sharpmaker knife P1170484.jpg

Looking directly from behind the knife, this is the critical aspect for the Sharpmaker – you keep the blade held vertically at all times, the stone angle is then determined by the Sharpmaker. Visually, keeping the blade vertical is the easiest position to judge, much easier than any other angle.
 photo 14 Sharpmaker knife P1170485.jpg

Having given one side of the blade a stroke, swap to the other side. Then just keep alternating sides for each stroke. Once you have given each side 20 strokes, you can move to the next stone configuration, refining the edge each time.
 photo 15 Sharpmaker knife side 2 P1170488.jpg

MAKE SURE YOU USE THE SAFETY GUARDS – Can’t stress this enough. I’ve hit them several times during the testing for this review, and would have cut my hand if I had not fitted them.

In one end of the Sharpmaker is another hole for a stone, this time using only one stone at a much lower angle. With a single stone mounted in this position you can sharpen scissors in the same way as you sharpen a knife. Keeping the scissors vertical and stroking the blade across the stone. To take off the burr on scissors you need to use the other stone like a file and lay it onto the blade flat. Doing this will give you a better burr removal than just closing the scissors.
 photo 12 Sharpmaker scissors P1170479.jpg

Also included in the design are two bench-stone options. Using the top channels in the base gives you a wide stone surface for large blades.
 photo 16 Sharpmaker bench stone P1170489.jpg

Flipping the base over and it has two grooves that are close together for sharpening smaller tools like chisels.
 photo 17 Sharpmaker bench stone narrow P1170494.jpg

I’ve already mentioned a couple of characteristics of the Sharpmaker that become quite relevant to start with. Especially compared to diamond, the ceramic stones are not the fastest cutters, and add to this a design that helps keep the overall removal of metal to a minimum by maintaining the angle, and you get a sharpener that can be hard work if you need to reprofile a steep edge angle.

(NOTE: When new, the brown/grey stones have a slight glaze that initially slows the cutting down. This glaze will wear through after a few sharpening sessions, but you can rub the two new stones together to speed this up and improve the cutting performance sooner.)

When starting to use the Sharpmaker, your bevel might not be at 40 degrees, so you can use the marker pen test to see if your bevel angle matches the Sharpmaker. If your initial bevel angle is less than 40 degrees, then you can just touch up the very edge and you don’t need to fully reprofile. Here the remnants of the marker pen are visible where the stones have taken off the ink from the full edge bevel itself. If you find the 40 degree stone angle is only working on the back bevel you are going to need to reprofile.
 photo 19 Sharpmaker check P1250574.jpg

This knife which had a badly damaged edge (from being thrown in with the rest of the washing up) has been restored by running through all four stages and then tested with some thermal receipt paper which simply fell apart on the edge.
 photo 20 Sharpmaker test40 P1250590.jpg

As mentioned above, most sharpening systems actually improve with use, and it was during this session of sharpening a set of sewing scissors that the stones of the Sharpmaker really developed some bite. The difference is significant and you can feel the stones cutting much more aggressively than when new. Perhaps more so than with knives, the process of keeping the blade vertical and drawing it across the stone makes it so easy to sharpen scissors. It only took around 20 minutes in total to get all of these scissors cutting beautifully.
 photo 21 Sharpmaker Scissors P1260926.jpg

Not only is the Sharpmaker simple to use, it is simple to transport and set up. The ceramic stones are used dry so there is no oil/water mess while working, and you use normal kitchen/bathroom cleaning products to clean the stones when clogged. I take it with me to friends and family and into the office kitchen to touch up the edged casualties and give them new life.

The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is NOT just a knife sharpener and I recommend you watch the Spyderco videos that show just how versatile this sharpener is.

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Introduction (1 of 4)

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 2 of 4

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 3 of 4

Spyderco Sharpmaker – Part 4 of 4

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Very easy to use – just keep the knife blade vertical. Can be a bit slow, especially on harder steels.
Extremely Portable. Initially requires reprofiling the edge to 40 degrees.
Hugely versatile sharpener for almost any cutting tool. Only two bevel angles available.
Ceramic stones need no oil or water in use and are easy to clean.
Minimum metal removal lengthens blade life.

 photo 11 Sharpmaker assembled P1170475.jpg

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

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Gear Review: NITECORE SC2 Charger and F1 Charger / Powerbank

With so many chargers to choose from, it can be difficult to pick one, so you may be looking for those models with a little more to offer. NITECORE’s SC2 and F1 chargers both have extra features that make them stand out, so let’s see what they are.

A few more details of the F1:

Starting with the smaller F1. Well ‘smaller’ doesn’t do it justice, this is tiny. I must also point out straight away, that this is not just a charger, but it is a powerbank as well. (NOTE: The F1 is only intended for charging Li-ion cells and needs a Li-ion for use as a USB powerbank.)
 photo 01 F1 boxed P1200108.jpg

Along with the F1, you get two rubber bands which are used to secure an 18650 in the charging slot. This is for when you use the F1 as a powerbank and want the cell to stay in place when you carry it.
 photo 02 F1 box contents P1200126.jpg

At one end of the F1 is a micro-USB socket which is used for the input power to charge the cell fitted into the F1.
 photo 03 F1 input P1200133.jpg

Switching to the other end, the F1 has a full size USB socket which can provide USB power output up to 1000mA.
 photo 04 F1 output P1200135.jpg

The F1 contacts are gold plated.
 photo 05 F1 contacts P1200140.jpg

With a spring loaded sliding contact, the F1 can be used for any of the following Li-ion cells; 26650/18650/17670/18490/17500/17335/16340(RCR123)/14500/10440.
 photo 07 F1 slider P1200150.jpg

Underneath is basic information about the input/output ratings of this charger/powerbank.
 photo 06 F1 underneath P1200144.jpg

A few more details of the SC2:

With the SC2 we have quite a step up in power, and one of the headline specifications is a 3A charge current (if using 3A in one slot the other can only provide 2A), ideal for IMR or high capacity cells. This charger is compatible with a huge list of cells including both Li-ion and Ni-Mh cells.
 photo 01 SC2 boxed P1220057.jpg

With the SC2 you get a suitable mains lead (in this case a UK plug) and the instructions. Don’t throw those instructions away, you will need them.
 photo 02 SC2 box contents P1220065.jpg

Relatively plain looking the SC2 is full of functionality.
 photo 03 SC2 angle top P1220075.jpg

On the top end of the SC2 are the inputs and outputs. The yellow figure-8 socket is for the mains lead. There is also a 12V DC input for use in a car. Above the mains input is a full size USB socket which provides up to 2.1A USB charging output.
 photo 04 SC2 inputs P1220078.jpg

Considering its capabilities, the layout is very simple. There is an indicator panel (lights only, no digits are displayed), two control buttons, and the two slots.
 photo 05 SC2 top P1220083.jpg

On the underneath there are four rubber feet and the list of supported cells.
 photo 06 SC2 underneath P1220084.jpg

It’s a huge list of supported cells; IMR / Li-ion / LiFePO4: 10340, 10350, 10440, 10500, 12340, 12500, 12650, 13450, 13500, 13650, 14350, 14430, 14500, 14650, 16500, 16340(RCR123), 16650, 17350, 17500,17650, 17670, 18350, 18490, 18500, 18650, 18700, 20700, 21700, 22500, 22650, 25500, 26500, 26650
Ni-MH(NiCd): AA, AAA, AAAA, C, D
 photo 07 SC2 compatibility P1220088.jpg

The contacts are the typical chrome plated type.
 photo 08 SC2 contacts P1220095.jpg

A nice detail is that the NITECORE name is stamped into the slider contact.
 photo 09 SC2 slider P1220099.jpg

All the various options are selected using the two buttons. The C and V represent the Current and Voltage settings you can select.
 photo 10 SC2 buttons P1220100.jpg

When first powered on, the SC2 shows a set of lights indicating the default of 2A charging current.
 photo 11 SC2 lights P1220107.jpg

What are they like to use?

The F1 is one of those ‘don’t need to think about it, just buy it’ products for me. Combining the function of a Li-ion charger and powerbank into a tiny, easy to carry, device just makes it a must have EDC device.
When you insert a cell, it also tells you the voltage, so will work as a cell checker as well. If you use li-ions and have a smart phone, you will want one of these.

I’ve given the review sample a really hard time, with the worst conditions being the F1 having a 26650 fitted and used as a powerbank for a set of USB lights that try to draw 3A. Considering this should only output 1A, the actual output current was around 1.5A. Like this it was allowed to run constantly all day for a couple of weeks, swapping the 26650 when required. During this time the F1 did get hot, but expecting this to become a destructive test due to the extended abuse, I was impressed to find the F1 survived this without any issues.

For more details, have a look at the instructions by clicking on this image for the full size version. (Depending on your browser you might need to ‘right-click’ and ‘open in new tab/window’.)

Hidden within the casing are three green indicator lights. These tell you the cell voltage when inserting a cell, the remaining capacity when using as a powerbank, or the charging status when charging a cell.
 photo 08 F1 lights P1200154.jpg

The ideal cell for powerbank use is an 18650, and the supplied rubber bands fit this size cell perfectly. This is how it looks when you have it ready to carry as a powerbank.
It is important to note that there is parasitic drain when in Powerbank configuration which in the sleep/low power mode measures at 390uA. When using a 3100mAh cell it will take 331 days to drain the cell.
According to the YZX Studio Power Monitor, the output of the USB charging port is ‘Android DCP 1.5A’ meaning the D+ and D- lines are shorted.
 photo 09 F1 powerbank P1200158.jpg

Once you are back at home/work, just top up the cell with any USB charging point. Of course another major advantage of the F1 as a powerbank is that you can carry spare cells for it, and swap as needed.
 photo 10 F1 charging P1200169.jpg

Now onto the SC2. This is a very versatile charger, but I have to say it has not been the easiest to work with. Using the defaults is easy. Turn it on, and pop in your cells, the SC2 will charge them quickly, but it is when you want to change modes that it hasn’t been that easy. Because of this I’m not even going to attempt to explain so you definitely will want to refer to these instructions. I did find that some double clicking was required to enter manual mode. This is not mentioned in the instructions, so if it is not responding as you expect, try a double click.
Click on this image for the full size version. (Depending on your browser you might need to ‘right-click’ and ‘open in new tab/window’.)

Here is an IMR cell (from the TM03) charging on defaults. It is now displaying a full charge, as during charging the current lights show the charging current, and the voltage lights are used to display charging status with three LEDs. Once the three LEDs remain on steady, the cell is fully charged.
 photo 12 SC2 lights with cell P1220112.jpg

It is important to note that due to the high charging current, the SC2 will terminate a little early. You don’t quite get a completely full charge. You can always pop the mostly full cell into another charger for that final top-up but you don’t really need to.
This graph has three traces on it and two of them compare the SC2 and D4 chargers (both used to charge the TM03s’s cell).
The SC2’s slightly early termination can be seen with the earlier drop to low mode at around 1h 20m. Considering the vast reduction in charging time, this minor loss in overall output is well worth it.
 photo TM03 runtime.jpg

There is one major design flaw with the SC2 sent to me. The numbers on the display to show current and voltage are only printed on the plastic film on the display. When you unpack the charger you normally expect to remove a protective film from the display. As you do this, you find the numbers come off as well!
I had to put the film back on after finding this which is why there are some bubbles under the film.
My advice is to NOT remove the protective film (unless you have confirmed the number are now printed on the actual display.
 photo 13 SC2 lights close P1220116.jpg

As explained in the user manual, Slot 2 and the USB charging output contend with each other. If the cell in Slot 2 is charging the USB output is stopped. So you can charge a cell in Slot 1 and a USB device at the same time, but if using Slot 2, only once the cell is charged does the USB charging work.
 photo 14 SC2 USB charging P1220122.jpg

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
F1 – Tiny Li-Ion Charger. F1 – Parasitic drain could be lower.
F1 – Tiny Powerbank with changeable cell. F1 – Cell quite easily knocked even with rubber band.
F1 – charges from any micro-USB charger.
SC2 – Super Fast 3A Charger. SC2 – Display Labels Printed on removable protective film.
SC2 – USB charger output. SC2 – Mode changing a bit tricky.
SC2 – Huge list of compatible cells. SC2 – Cells not quite fully charged.
SC2 – Mains and 12V power options.

 

Discussing the Review:

Please feel free to add comments to the review, but the ideal place to freely discuss these reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion.

EdgeMatters – Sponsored Reviews (UK based Forum for Knife Makers and Collectors)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)