Archives for category: GEAR

The CARB-compliant gas cans we get here in California can be difficult to pour and are generally a pain in the butt. Here’s how to mod one to make it easy to pour and still remain leak free.

A guy in the auto mechanics class I’m taking recently told me about a smart phone-based scan tool app called Torque. Scan tools are the devices you plug into your car or truck’s OBD or OBD2 diagnostic port to display engine trouble codes, a handy thing to have if you’re working on your own truck. (Trouble codes are generated by the vehicle’s computer when the check engine light goes on.)

Besides reading trouble codes, the app can display all kinds of vehicle information on your phone or tablet in real time: mass air flow, boost (on turbocharged cars), coolant temp, fuel flow, the list goes on. And, because it’s running on a smart phone, it can also display things like pitch, roll, GPS position, and compass heading. The app even has a function that will record video of the road ahead, through the phone or tablet’s camera, while overlaying vehicle data into the frame. Pretty cool.

The video gives a good overview. Things start getting interesting around 4:06.

All you need to make it work is the app, which is $5, and a Bluetooth scan tool, which plugs into your OBD2 port. These can be found on Amazon for about $23. (The OBD2 port has been required on vehicles since 1996, though cars a year or two earlier may be equipped with it. Older cars have the OBD port, which unfortunately won’t work with this system.)

Self contained scan tools can cost hundreds of dollars and don’t have as much functionality, one of the many reasons that the Torque app and a Bluetooth scan tool make such a compelling package.

Check the links for a CNET review, the app, and the bluetooth scan tool.

CNET: Monitor your car’s performance with the Torque app for Android

Google Play: Torque Pro Scan Tool app

Amazon: BAFX Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool
(this one is compatible with Android only)

Ultra Fire Flashlight Review • WCXC

I got this UltraFire XML-T6 LED flashlight as a Christmas gift last year. At first I wasn’t sure where to place it in the product pantheon. The branding looked Chinese and a bit knock-offy. The aluminum body, while not top quality, felt rugged and substantial. The flashlight’s lens could be pulled in and out to focus from a wide beam to a tight, bright square pattern.

A little more research revealed that they are basically knock-offs of the SureFire brand of flashlights that run in the $100 to $400 range. The branding is a bit fluid. There’s UltraFire, SuperFire, and others. That said, it doesn’t seem like a cheap knock off. It performs well. It has a high-quality Cree bulb and throws a REALLY bright beam. And here’s the kicker. It comes with two batteries and a charger, and it’s only $14.

When I first got it, I only charged one battery because that’s all that slid out of the tube. The light stayed lit for maybe an hour before it started to blink and signal that it was dying. Once I figure out that it runs on two batteries, and charged both, it’s been running fine.

The button on the back will cycle through the following modes with each half-press of the button: high beam, medium beam, low beam, strobe, SOS.

I haven’t don’t any waterproof testing. The rear cap is fitted with an o-ring but the front lens housing unscrews to reveal no o-ring. At that price I don’t care though. I don’t expect it to perform as well as a $400 flashlight. And I don’t know that I believe the 1600 lumen rating. That said, the beam is very bright and the flashlight certainly performs many times better than it’s $14 dollar price tag suggests it should.

So, yes, a Chinese knock-off, but one that so far delivers quite a bit of light-up-the-night bang for your buck.

Update 4/7/2014:
The specs for the Cree XM-L T6 LED is 280–300 lumens at 700mA, according to

Amazon: UltraFire XML-T6 Flashlight

Ultra Fire, company site

Flashlight Wiki: UltraFire

Flashlight Wiki: Cree XM-L LED Bulb Specs


I saw Christophe Noel’s review of the Helinox Chair One camp chair last month on Expo. At $100, it’s twice as expensive as the Front Runner Expander Chairs we use, but it looks quite nice and Christophe gives it high praise.

Expedition Portal: Helinox Chair One

WCXC: Front Runner Expander Chair


If you’re looking for a well-made, accurate rifle for target shooting or small game hunting, I recommend the Benjamin Marauder .22 caliber air rifle. The Marauder is a PCP air gun, meaning it gets its power from an on-board tank of air compressed to between 2,000 and 3,000 psi. It features a 10-shot clip, a reversible bolt for left-handed shooters, and 2-stage, adjustable trigger. It will shoot a .22-caliber pellet at 1,000 feet per second. You can get through about 20 shots before the internal tank needs to be refilled, which can be done via an external tank or a pump.

Shooting a quality air rifle is satisfying experience. It’s quiet and it’s inexpensive, as ammo is only about $0.02/round. If you want to go green and shoot lead-free pellets, you’re looking at $0.10/round.

To mine, I added an illuminated UTG 4-16×44 rifle scope, which makes it quite accurate to about 50 yards.

The rifle retails for a little over $500; a Hill MK3 pump runs about $290; the scope is about $140.

Crossman Airguns: Benjamin Maurader

Benjamin Marauder for sale at Pyramyd Air

UTG 4-16×44 rifle scope

Hill MK3 pump




If you’re interested in learning more about off-road suspensions, check out Jonathan Hanson’s excellent, in-depth article on Overland Tech & Travel (link below), check out the video above, or read the quick tutorial in this post. I’ve also included Jonathan’s recommendation on a 12-way adjustable shock that sounds like a great value. Read the rest of this entry »


I came across a great post the other day detailing how to put a basic bushcraft kit together for about £100 (~US$166). That’s not bad at all for a rucksack, sleeping system, and various ancillary gear. Of course army surplus stores are key to the deals.

As a nice touch the author, Ben Gray, puts the whole kit together and then tests it out in the woods to see how it performs. Well done.

Frontier Bushcraft blog: Bushcraft on a Budget: All the Kit You Need for Less Than £100

UST 60-Day Lantern • WCXC

Last summer, while sailing, we looked for a long-lasting, rainproof lantern that we could use as an anchor light, as the anchor light on our boat, with its incandescent bulb, drained our battery in a matter of days. We found this UST 60-Day LED Lantern and then… totally spaced on buying it.

Well, I ordered it recently on the grounds that it’d be great for camping too. We like that it’s splashproof from any direction. Six D-cells will run its four LEDs for 60 days (albeit at low power). The globe can be removed to create a point-source light. It can be clipped from below with a small hook or carabiner to hang upside down. And you can pick one up for less than $60 on Amazon.

Here’s how the three power modes break down:

High power: 508 lumens (which is nice and bright), lasts 3 days
Medium power: 200 lumens (reasonably bright), lasts 7 days
Low power: 18 lumens (pretty dim), lasts 60 days

I’m also impressed with the build quality. It feels solid and robust.

The downside? It doesn’t have the charm of our old Coleman 200A gas lantern. Then again, there are no broken mantles, leaky valves, or clogged generator tubes to deal with. Just touch the button and turn on the light.

UST 60-Day Lantern, official site
Amazon: UST 60-Day Lantern


In case you’re in the market for something other than a compact camera, here’s a round-up of reviews from Expedition Portal and DPReview. We also met avid photographer and fellow adventurer, David Fowers, at our recent WCXC Meet & Greet—(David blogs at Get Out Explore). His opinion was this: if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, get an inexpensive camera body and invest in quality lenses, as that’s where you’re going to see the difference in the image. An inexpensive body would be something like Canon EOS Rebel. If you’re going to be out in extreme dust or moisture, go for the expensive camera body, as they have better seals and are made of metal, not plastic.

The Canon 70D, above, falls into the higher-end camp. It’s a sturdy, high-feature, DSLR camera that seems to be everyone’s favorite. It has an auto-focus sensor specially tuned for shooting video. It retails for about $1200 (body only).

Expedition Portal: Canon 70D
DPReview: Canon 70D


The Nikon D7100 is a higher-end DSLR rivaling the Canon 70D. It offers excellent build and image quality but is said to suffer a bit in the video department, both in terms of auto-focus and in the quality of the video. It retails for about $1,150.

DPReview: Nikon D7100


This is the recently announced, entry-level, Canon EOS 1200D (Rebel T5). It accepts Canon’s full-sized lenses. This one retails for the easy-on-the-wallet price of $549, including a 18–55mm lens.

DPReview: Canon EOS 1200D (EOS Rebel T5)


The Olympus OM-D EM-1, above, is considered a high-end, Micro Four Thirds camera. Micro Four Thirds cameras are slightly smaller than DSLRs because they lack a mirror and have smaller image sensors. They have their own lens system, though lenses from older cameras can be used with an adapter (at a slight loss of image quality). This camera retails for about $1250 (body only).

Expedition Portal: Olympus OM-D EM-1
DPReview: Olympus OM-D EM-1


This is the Sony Alpha 7R. People are excited about it because it has a full-frame image sensor like a professional DSLR yet it’s the size of a Micro Four Thirds camera, meaning it’s the smallest full-frame camera you can buy. (Not even the Canon 70D or the Nikon D7100 have full frame sensors—full-frame meaning the image sensor is the size of a 35-mm frame.) Like a Micro Four Thirds it’s smaller because it lacks a mirror. It can also accept nearly any lens ever made when used with the appropriate adapter. It retails for about $2,300 (body only).

DPReview: Sony Alpha 7R


The Nikon AW1 is a mirrorless camera that’s waterproof down to 49 feet. It uses Nikon’s compact Nikkor 1 lenses and retails for about $800, including a 11–27.5mm lens. ExPo calls this a “DSLR” but technically it’s not since it doesn’t have a mirror.

Expedition Portal: Nikon AW1
DPReview: Nikon AW1

Still didn’t find what you’re looking for? Here are some more resources.

Additional Links:
DPReview 2013 round-up
DPReview SLR Buying Guide

Pocket-lint: Best DSLR Cameras 2014


I found this on Expo the other day. It’s a bracket that fits on the the tongue of the Hi-Lift jack and enables the jack to grip bumpers and round or square tube without slipping. When I’ve jacked my truck up by the rock sliders on a flat surface, I’ve had to be careful to ensure that the jack doesn’t slip. In a rocky situation it would seem too dicey to attempt. With this though, I think it’d be a safe maneuver.

JakJaw, company site
Expedition Portal, Gear Scout: JakJaw