Monday, September 29, 2014

First Aid in the Field

A few years ago, in what amounts to a freak accident, a highly experienced outdoorsman I am acquainted with found himself in a remote area with a hunting broadhead stuck clean through his upper arm. The situation quickly became life-threatening as he was alone and had minimal first-aid equipment. After a harrowing experience everything turned out okay, but the scenario caused me to reflect on the supplies I carry into the backcountry.

While what happened above took place due to unlikely and unforeseeable circumstances, potentially serious wounds and injuries are not uncommon in the field.

Over time I have put together a fairly compact and easily portable first-aid solution that has worked well for me off the beaten path and I thought some readers might be interested in an overview.

Imminent Threat Solutions ETA Trauma Kit

I started with an ETA kit designed by Imminent Threat Solutions to treat the 3 leading causes of preventable death due to injury: Extremity hemorrhage (E), tension pneumothorax (T), and airway obstruction (A). Of these, extremity hemorrhage is the most common during recreational activities. This is essentially a "blowout kit" designed for combat, but it contains solid fundamentals. It also comes in a well-designed pouch complete with PALS webbing such that it can be easily attached to just about anything using the supplied MALICE clips. Inside the standard kit you will find:

  • QuikClot Combat Gauze LE (1)
  • HALO Chest Seal (2)
  • MojoDart Decompression Needle (1)
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA) Adj. 28fr (1)
  • Pressure Dressing (1 — 4″)
  • Elastic Bandage (1 — 2″)
  • Z-Fold Dressing (1)
  • Combat Casualty Card (1)
  • Nitrile Gloves (1 Pair)
  • Pencil (1)

Even if you don't feel comfortable using the NPA or MojoDart, these items take up very little space and could potentially be used by a first responder if needed. The ETA can be ordered in a vacuum-sealed, waterproof package separately from the trauma kit pouch, making for a nice addition to whatever pack you already carry.

I like the webbed pouches because my daypack (Kifaru Scout) is already equipped with PALS, and I can attach the trauma kit anywhere I like. There are a variety of fishing, field, and photography packs designed with PALS/MOLLE that make this a versatile solution. As one example, the Smithfly 1x Pouch happens to fit the vacuum-packed fatboy trauma kit perfectly as well.

While this is a good start, there are a few additional components I like to have with me. First is a SOF Tactical Tourniquet which can be deployed very quickly, used with one hand, and also doubles as a pressure dressing.

Second: An EMT Toolkit consisting of bandage scissors, forceps, hemostat, and pen light. Amazon offers a nice setup complete with all of the above in a compact holster for $17. You get a big pair of quality 5.5" shears with this package, but as they are a little bulky I use those in the larger first-aid pack kept in my vehicle. The included penlight works although it's too cheaply made to be reliable (as you would expect for this price, as a quality aluminum penlight costs around $20 by itself). I replace the light with a Pelican 1910 that runs on a single AAA battery.

Compact EMT Toolkit

All of what I have listed fits inside the ITS Trauma Kit Pouch except the tourniquet, which I affix using a ITS EDC Slimline Pouch.  The entire kit is compact and can easily be attached to or tucked inside your favorite pack or boat bag. If you aren't already in the habit of including first-aid basics in your off-grid essentials, please give it some serious thought. Thanks for reading and have a safe and successful Fall season.

Imminent Threat Solutions EDC Slimline Pouch

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reach for the Sky

This is a young deer but obviously there are some genetics at work as his headgear is violating significant vertical airspace. I'd love to be able to see this buck in 2 more years.

Mule Deer Buck

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42 Binocular Review

It's often correctly said that buying expensive optics is the cheapest way to go. The reason, of course, is that entry-level merchandise will produce a noticeably inferior image and potentially severe cases of ODD (Optics Deficit Disorder) . Symptoms of ODD often include doubt, self-loathing, buyer's remorse, and could even progress to the borrowing of a friend's equipment. If you use optics frequently for any pursuit, ODD can be avoided with the purchase of a high quality product (money spent on entry-level glass will turn out to be more regrettable than a case of the crusted, Norwegian scabies).

The question, such as it were, always seems to lie in that "how good is good enough" area. Ultimately, I've never heard anyone say, "Man, I really overspent on these binoculars and wish I had decided to cheap out." Now, I have heard similar assertions emanating from the spouses of optics owners. Normally these comments take on a harsh, grating tone that brings to mind a lack of overall credibility. Since such remarks are never in the first-person (i.e. "The spotting scope John bought last month nearly caused us to default on our mortgage!") they must be considered hearsay and disqualified as serious opinions.

It's a given that brands like Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss produce World-class products for which they exact premium prices roughly equivalent to the cost of raising a child to the age of eighteen. Sportsmen refer to this sum as "well worth it" while their spousal units may employ the term "asinine" (see "well worth it").
I don't know about everyone else, but I've always tried to find a sweet spot in terms of value. As with everything, you have the law of diminishing returns in the world of optics. If I can find a product that delivers extremely high quality without an exorbitant price, it will grab my attention.

Enter Vortex Optics. Around the beginning of 2014 I acquired a pair of Razor HD 10x42 binoculars and was quite frankly astonished at the image quality they produced. I was familiar with Vortex in the rifle scope arena, but for some reason had not been paying close attention to their spotting scope and binocular offerings. As I used the Razors more and more, my feeling was they were either on par with the Big 3 or ceded precious little under the conditions I typically glass.

Blog Size Vortex Razor HD 10x42

Now, these are not inexpensive optics with a current street price of $1,199 until you consider the competition:
  • Swarovski EL 10x42: $2,319
  • Swarovski SLC HD 10x42: $1,619
  • Leica Ultravid 10x42: $2,299
  • Zeiss Victory 10x42: $2,299
I've been using the Razors all Spring and Summer, and have been comparing them most commonly with the Zeiss Victory 10x42. It's difficult to tell if one pair is markedly better than the other. The Vortex binos offer a rubber-armored magnesium chassis, argon purged tubes, extra-low dispersion HD lens elements, O-ring seals, hydrophobic coatings to repel moisture, and an unconditional lifetime warranty. In other words, all the features of optics costing $1,000+ more. I've also appreciated the eye cup mechanism with locking diopter adjustment.

The Razor HDs are simply a top shelf offering where every feature feels solid and professional grade. The focus adjustment moves smoothly with great precision, the hinge feels strong and sure, and the image is crisp with outstanding color fidelity.

If you're in the market for an 8x42 or 10x42 binocular, you owe it to yourself to check out the Vortex Razor HD.

Vortex Optics Razor HD 10x42 Vertical

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sage Evoke Fly Reel

Today, March 14th, is π (Pi) Day.  As we all know, π is an irrational and transcendental number which begins with 3.14159 and continues indefinitely without pattern or repetition.  To date, π has been calculated out to more than one trillion digits beyond the decimal point.

One might inquire as to how this relates in any way to fly fishing.  The answer is simple:  Fly reels tend to behave scientifically much like the post-decimal digits of π - increasing within the angler's collection potentially into the trillions without any particular buying pattern becoming discernible by the fisher person's significant other.

Much as π is no one's fault, the irrational and transcendental nature of fly reel multiplication is simply a mathematical principal for which blame cannot be assigned.

Why, then, might an angler who's cumulative mass of reels might be described by some as "infinite" look to acquire still more reels?

It's because they keep getting better.  Enter the Sage Evoke:

Blog Size Sage Evoke Front

For years I have been a huge fan of the 6000 series for reasons I've outlined in previous reviews.  The reliable, fully-sealed and numbered drag system coupled with the ingenious spool release just makes these fish brakes easy to use under any conditions.

The Evoke takes these features and improves upon them.

Blog Size Sage Evoke Rear

What has always been a great drag knob is now better.  The numbers are now visible through a recessed window, which makes it so they do not rub directly on boat hulls or equipment (potentially fading over time). Tension is ideal and the settings stay readily in place.

Sage has used an open frame design to expose the bottom of the spool and allow for superior palm control under load.  This is a very useful feature for any of the fast movers.

Aesthetically it's a great-looking piece of hardware and offered in 3 finishes.  Pictured is the Stealth/Blaze combination.

Brought forward is the spool release mechanism that really is the easiest all-purpose solution in the industry. Nothing else I have used allows for detachment with essentially a quarter-turn of the release, yet is also highly resistant to unintentional removal.

Are there any shortcomings?  If you need the ability to change retrieve direction, the Evoke may not be for you.  The frame opening for palming the spool is specific to right or left-handed retrieve.  I would like to see the Evoke offered in a 6-weight size but its obvious target market is stuff that pulls harder than your typical freshwater fare.

As your own fly reel collection adheres to the immutable laws of mathematics and begins to be describable only by scientific notation - make sure an Evoke is among the early additions.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Of Tigers and Brookies

I figured it was about time to display some fish porn around here.

The more I visit central Utah, the more it feels like I should spend more time there.  Something about the crustacean-rich waters of the region invariably produces fish with incredible markings and coloration.

Tiger Trout Toned

My brother and I enjoyed a great trip down South earlier in the year.  Trips of years past have been marked by various unusual happenings such as close quarters combat with a fully-primed skunk in the confines of a wall tent .  This season, however, the only noteworthy events involved catching and releasing obscene numbers of beautiful trout.

A Brookie in the Hand...

A few of the desert stillwaters I fish offer vistas about as attractive as Conan O'Brien wearing a pair of jeggings.  Not so in the alpine country of the Beehive State.

Cody - Casting at 10,000 Feet

The full-size version of the above image shows more detail than my blog format allows.  You can click HERE for the larger size.

Cody Touches Fins

Here Cody shows a very typical fish for the area with rich colors and jewel-like markings.

Tiger trout are increasingly common in Utah's waters, but just like other species they seem to manifest more extreme patterns and buttery yellows than in other locations.

Dripping Tiger

All of these images and a few more can be seen in higher resolution in my HIGH COUNTRY FLICKR SET.  Trips with Cody are invariably entertaining in and of themselves, but it was great to touch some colorful fins, take in some thin air, and visit a few new lakes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Den of Reds

Prior to getting started with this post, I feel it may be necessary to define a term:

Shatscatter (noun):  1) An irregular and/or unexpected dispersion of shat. 2) Any voluminous mass consisting in whole or in part of decaying vegetable matter, macerated life forms, mammalian offal, or excrement which can be splashed, sprayed, fallen upon, or diffused in alarming fashion.

If you have never knelt down in a sulpherous shatscatter while wearing a really nice pair of jeans - you may not have engaged in extensive wildlife photography.

This Spring I was fortunate to happen upon a den of red foxes, which is a first in my lifetime of outdoor pursuits.  Numerous trips were made to the location as the kits were actually using two dens, separated by several hundred yards.  One spot was well-suited to morning light from the East, while the other was only approachable from the West and best photographed late in the evening.

Den #2 was an elevated mound in the middle of considerable, swamp-like shatscatter ranging in depth from 4 to 12 inches.  Having scouted the location I brought shat-proof boots that I knew would allow me to approach the den to within 20 yards or so.  The kits had been spending most of their time on top of the den, so I planned on being able to shoot from a standing position, putting me at eye-level with the young foxes.

I setup while the kits were inside the den so as not to alarm them one evening.  To my surprise, as all seven of them emerged to play in the cooler temperatures of dusk, the group became extremely curious.  Three of the foxes left the elevated area behind and moved towards me onto a much smaller mound only 4 yards from my lens and much lower than my line of sight.  Animal portraits are far more engaging when captured from an eye-level perspective, so I knew the only option was to kneel down and sit on my heels.

In one fluid movement, I descended into a shatscatter that would give a muskrat a fit of the dry heaves. This was the type of fetid ooze that a pair of pants never fully recovers from, and that potentially can fracture a marriage upon returning home.  The result was that I avoided casting a shadow into the frame and was able to get the imagery I was chasing.

Sitting Fox Blog Size

Red Fox Kit - Vigilant

Red Fox Kit Watching the Sunset

Blog Size - Red Fox Kit Closeup

Blog Size - Grassy Stare

A number of the images are landscape orientation and best viewed larger than my blog format accommodates.  If you are interested click on over to my Flickr set where these shots and others can be seen in higher resolution:

Red Fox Set on Flickr

Happy 4th of July everyone - get out there and step in something.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sage 6060 Stealth Reel

A few friends of mine claim that I own so many fly reels, that putting them all in the same place could potentially form a gravitational singularity that would eventually consume the Earth.

While I have serious doubts as to this possibility, I choose not to tempt fate and disperse my reels evenly across the geography I have available.

The point is that I'm no stranger to fly fishing hardware, and have owned or used just about everything on the general market at one time or another.  Excellent offerings exist in all categories from a variety of manufacturers.

Still, once in a while something special comes along and in my opinion Sage has just raised the bar in the heavily competitive 6/7 weight arena where, incidentally, 80% of my angling takes place.

Some time ago I wrote a review of the larger 6000-series bodies and found them to be outstanding reels for saltwater or anything requiring a dependable brake and a stick larger than an 8-weight.  At that time I really wished (and discussed in my commentary) that Sage would improve the selection of finishes available to become more competitive aesthetically.  Saltwater is only something I get the occasional chance to enjoy, so also on my wishlist was a 6-weight version of the flagship reel.

Enter 2013, and Sage now offers the 6060 in several new finishes including Stealth, Azure, and Storm for lighter tackle.  It's a dinger of a home run.

Just about every reel I've ever used has some kind of quirk which, in daily use, winds up causing a galloping neurospasm.  Maybe there are no reference markings on the drag knob, or the tension thereof is insufficient and results in unintentional adjustments.  I change spools a lot, especially when fishing stillwater, and many models are flawed in various ways here too.  O-ring seals become very difficult to remove in the cold, some have small parts that may come loose and can potentially be lost, and others utilize spool releases that are tiny or difficult to access with gloves.  I happen to cast and reel with my right hand, and changing retrieve direction can be a hassle with a number of current designs (a few are even best left to the factory or dealer).

The 6000-series addresses all of these issues...perfectly.

Releasing the spool, as anyone who has used this lineup knows, is a true industry innovation.  It's easy, can be done with gloves, works regardless of temperature, and is exceedingly unlikely to happen inadvertently.

Blog Size - Sage 6060 Stealth - Front

The drag knob has an ideal resistance, as well as being incremented with readily visible numbers.  As a big plus, it also traverses the full range of adjustment in 1 revolution.  Retrieve can be easily changed from left to right hand using the supplied wrench.

Sage offers a utilitarian design in terms of weight savings and frame strength, but it's visually compelling as well. In the new Stealth finish, the whole package is unbridled bad-assery.

Blog Size - Sage 6060 Stealth - Rear

I really have to hand it to Sage.  The 6060 is the first reel in the 6-weight class with which I can find no quirks. Over the past several years I've been fishing a variety of hardware from companies like Nautilus, Lamson, Galvan, and Sage.  All are very good.  Until now, however, I haven't used anything that manages to function so seamlessly and glitch-free in all the key areas.

If you are considering this reel, just pull the trigger.  It's a shot across everyone's bow.

Fly to Water Rating:

 - Drag: Fully sealed, numbered, with ideal tension.  Best spool release in the industry.
★ - Price: On par with the competition, less money than many flagship offerings.
★ - Weight: 6 2/5oz - not the lightest in the segment but balances nicely on 6/7wt rods
★ - Design: Looks wicked, functions seamlessly in all conditions and with gloves, nice finishes.

A five star sweep.