Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Home Front: shipping containers

I've briefly covered the use of shipping containers as houses, but I wanted to go into them in a little bit more depth. About 80% of the world's containers are either 6.1m, twenty foot or 12.2m, forty foot standard length boxes of the dry freight design. These typical containers are rectangular, closed box models, with doors fitted at one end, and made of corrugated weathering steel (commonly known as CorTen).
Weathering steel refers to the chemical composition of these steels, allowing the steel to rust in order to form the protective coating.

The containers are typically lined with a plywood floor, but bare walled and ceilinged. Corrugating the sheet metal used for the sides and roof contributes significantly to the container's rigidity and stacking strength, just like in corrugated iron or in cardboard boxes.

Standard containers are 2.44 m (8') wide by 2.59 m 8'6" high, although the taller "High Cube" or "hi-cube" units measuring 2.90 m (9'6") have become very common in recent years.
By the end of 2013, high-cube 40 ft containers represented almost 50% of the world's maritime container fleet, according to Drewry's Container Census report.

ISO containers have castings with openings for twistlock fasteners at each of the eight corners, to allow gripping the box from above, below, or the side, and they can be stacked up to ten units high. Regional intermodal containers, such as European and U.S. domestic units however, are mainly transported by road and rail, and can frequently only be stacked up to three laden units high. Although the two ends are quite rigid, containers flex somewhat during transport.
Their standardised design, high strength and durability materials, makes the use of shipping containers for domestic repurposing quite appealing. They can be stacked, staggered and arranged. The corrugated steel can be welded, cut and shaped, and the heavy beams at each corner and the solid base give you the ability to completely cut away the sides to give a open-plan effect.

The rest of the stats of the containers give you an idea of their workability, as far as architectural use goes: A 40' container weighs 3,800 kg and has a capacity of 67.5 m³, and are typically rated to have a net load of 26,200 kg. That's a lot of capacity. The internal dimensions are 12.03m x 2.35m x 2.38m, and externally 12.2m x 2.44m x 2.59m.

Converting them into homes isn't anything new, and there are loads of resources to review plans and different configurations are widely available.
There is also some good advice about what NOT to do with your shipping container, namely burying them, because they are not designed to take loads on the sides or middles of the panels, rather than on their stacking corner posts.
There are also the issues with the containers "floating" if buried, let alone at sea, if they fall off the back of a ship, which apparently happens more often than anyone wants, but other than that, they are very versatile, and readily available, rapidly pre-fabricated units.

They are, however, not designed to be bulletproof, and the folks from Civil Advantage put them to the test in the following video.
However, if you really need that kind of thing going on, there are of course, options. However, all told, it looks like they are robust, resilient and readily available home construction alternative. I think I would really like to do this at some stage, at least a two storied construction, and in my minds eye, a horse-shoe style two-story building, which can be buttoned up securely at the ground level.
What do you think?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: BladeTech TEK-LOK Belt Clamping Unit

When it comes to keeping extra gear on my person, and I am not wearing one of my PALS equipped belts, like the subtle SICC belt or the more hooah Condor GEN1 battle belt there are times when you still want to have a well mounted piece of gear, with a more regular belt, even if its the dual-purpose PM Leather hobble Belt ...

When you want to mount carry something with any really weight on a belt, there are really two things that you need to take into account, the strength and stiffness of the belt, and the weight, and method of use  of the item to be carried.

A stable platform, such as that produced by Bladetech in the TEK-LOK belt clamping unit. This is a high density polymer belt clip that allows the user to fasten virtually any kind of load to a regular belt.

The principle is simple. A clam shell hinged design allows the user to quickly and easily slip the mounting over a belt in place, and closes at the bottom, with first a pair of pinch-to-open horns and then a latch that folds up and around, locking the horns from pinching open, both of which are held against the body when worn, keeping them protected from any conceivable accidental release. Inside the clip there are a run of holes cut into the back face, into which two rubberised spacers which can be placed at a variety of spots in order to give the best hold on the belt, as well as eliminating slippage or wobble.

The business side of the clip however is the the flat faced plate which is dotted with a 3 x 3 grid of holes, through which rivets, screws and bolts can be threaded and fitted to the eyelets fitted to many of the  holsters, magazine carriers, phone holsters, knife sheaths and many other types of accessories that you will want to fit to belts and carry around with you. The inside face is recessed so your boltheads don't interfere with the belt, and ensure a safe and secure connection.

With bolts, and rubber spacers you can affix in many different combinations to allow you to set up whatever you are carrying to suit your needs, space and usage you had in mind.

The inner face of the TEK-LOK is slightly curved to marry with the body contours, the width of the top edge of the clip means it offers a stable platform, which as the load increases, becomes more and more important. I set mine up with my HHA ASOT-01 knife as an example and it ran really nicely.

One thing you'll find though is that you are at the mercy of the holster, sheath and carrier manufacturers, as the holes in the item to be mounted will determine how and where you can use the TEK-LOK, so bear that in mind, and if possible, try before you buy to ensure you get a good fit!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: Grey Ghost Gear - 6x8 Utility Pouch

I took a bunch of Grey Ghost Gear pouches out for a hike up the easy daytrip, but possibly haunted Hanging Rock State Park, with my family, I wore pouches which I fitted out with a variety of hiking goods, in order to carry whatever needfulls I might have needed on the trip.

The pouches were filled with a variety of hiking goods, whatever I might have needed on the trip. One pouch I used was the 6×8 Utility Pouch .

The 6x8 Utility Pouch is designed to hold a variety of items, from medical supplies, a 1 quart GI canteen, Nalgene bottle, or other miscellaneous items. I put a 1L Nalgene in mine, as I wanted to stay hydrated on my hike up and down, as well as any clambering I'd be doing.  Up and down rockfaces, into ravines and meandering through the alpine bush.

Read the rest of the review here on Breach Bang & Clear: 

The pouch held up pretty well on my trip, and since, although I found that the 1L Nalgene bottle was a snug fit, and made for a tight zippering, which meant that a couple of times if I didn't zip it up tight it came loose, but I caught it before I lost my bottle. A 1 quart canteen fit easily enough, but I wanted more capacity than that.

Thanks to Anthony for the photography! You'll be seeing more of his work in this series...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Pace lid

Here's an item that I had covered as a wish-lust item back in January when I backed the Kickstarter for the PACE lid.

PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. It is a cache that replaces the lid of a wide-mouthed bottle such as a Nalgene. I've got several, both Nalgene and Kathmandu and the idea of them doing double duty was just too good. 

When planning for events in life you have to expect that unforeseen things may happen and knowing this and being able to prepare is empowering. Also, keeping your gear handy and secure is a good thing.

The PACE lid container has a capacity of 300mL (10oz), it's deep enough for an ID or credit card as well as a variety of other gear, with a recessed lip to fit a bent ID or credit card. 

The container is 7.6cm (3") in diameter and 5.7cm (2.25") inches deep. There's a small recessed lip around the perimeter that can secure items vertically and in place if they are bent, like cards, matches, other gear items.

I found that I could load at least 8m of paracord, along with my favorite gear tie, the Fishbone Piranha.

I found that I could stash a variety of items, from a roll of tape, keys, pocket-tools and a watch, as well as my ID. The idea I had was that I would have a waterproof and unobtrusive cache that I could leave on the beach, or toss into a daypack. 

The one downside is, that it is a pretty bulky addition to a Nalgene. 

You can see that it adds a fair length to the bottle, and that won't go un-noticed. Something to bear in mind.

The seal on the Nalgene bottle was solid, and the threading was well machined, so I didn't have any problems with leaks. 

One thing that occurred to me that I could store in it was a powdered sports drink, so I could keep my electrolytes up on the trot, my thought was that I could fill it up the 10oz capacity, enough to make several liters.
To give you another idea of how much capacity the PACE lid offers, I filled it with 70 Mentos. You could of course fill it with your own snacks or confection of choice, enough fishing line, lures and hooks to have a fishing trip set and ready to go. 

Survival Kit:The folks behind the PACE lids also offer a fully kitted out survival option, developed to fit specifically into a PACE lid.

Their kit includes:
(1) Adventurer Button Compass (NATO/U.S. Military Issue)
(10) All Weather Survival Matches (NATO/U.S. Military Issue)
(1) Derma Safe Razor Knife (U.S. Military Approved)
(1) Sewing Kit w/6 Safety Pins (Assembled in USA)
(6) MP1 Water Purification Tablets (U.S. Military Issue)
(1) Adventurer Survival Whistle (SOLAS/NATO Approved)
(1) Mini Survival Fishing Kit (Assembled in USA)
(1) Type 1A Utility Cord (U.S. Military Approved)
(1) Brass Snare Wire (Trapping and Equipment Repair)
(1) Emergency Signal Mirror (Daytime Emergency Signaling)
(1) Compact Flint Fire Starter w/Striker
(6) Adventurer Tinder Quik Fire Tabs
(1) Adventurer Fresnel Lens Fire Starter
(1) Water Bag 
(1) Compact First Aid Kit
--Sting Relief (2 packets)
--Butterfly Bandages (2)
--Band Aids (6)
--Moleskin (3" x 4")
--Triple Antibiotic Ointment (2)
--Zip Lock Bag
(2 packets) Hand Sanitizer
(2) Deet Bug Repellent Wipes 
(1) Silica Gel Desiccant (Moisture Absorbent)

The PACElid adds storage capacity to a wide mouth water bottles, compatible with Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Kathmandu and Hydroflask bottles. I'm going to keep trying out new loads to carry around with me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

ReBlog: SBTactical – iCombat

Here’s a piece I thought might be of interest to some, that I wrote for Breach Bang & Clear. Training is a key element both for honing existing skills, but also good training requires you to try out new situations and learn new skills sets. You really want to practice as realistically as you can, but no one wants to damage their training partners. When that happens you get a lot less volunteers, and since we don’t have a Running Man style “volunteer” program and want reproducible scenarios, we turn to simulation. But we wish we could use prisoners like in the movies.

AirSoft type equipment, paintball and MILES gear have all brought different tools to the table, as have the minds behind the iCOMBAT technology and training systems. My contacts recently put me in touch with SBTactical, a veteran owned and operated business out of Santa Barbara, California. As the National Law Enforcement and Professional distributors of iCOMBAT equipment, they are 100% committed to serving those who serve.

“With over 40+ combined years of planning, resourcing, and conducting training, we are confident that we are the right team to meet your needs,” SBTactical says. SBT’s experience plus iCOMBAT’s technology leave no training question unanswered. “With SBTactical you will replicate, not simulate, the situations your officers will encounter. Every day we strive to advance your organizations training to the next level. SBTactical’s mission is to Replicate real world scenarios, reduce training costs, and maximize training time,” SBT says.

So how do they deliver?

The iCOMBAT technology is a weapon, sensor and control system. It currently offers an M4 style weapon and a Glock style weapon, to better replicate weapons common among police and military units.

Red the full article on Breach Bang & Clear, here...

and have a laugh at me getting zapped by the pain-belt here:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Outdoor Expedition - Universal Solar Multi-Bottle

Passing by a closing-down sale at a local camping goods outlet store I wandered in and snapped up a couple of deep-discount bargains, which included a pair of the Universal Solar Multi-Bottle which I thought would make excellent camp-lanterns, specifically for Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl.

What drew me to them was that the "bottle" component was a squishy, pliant silicone material, making it drop-bounce, trip and generally woops-prone kid proof.

We don't all get out camping together very often, but even around the Bunker, we often go on night-time expeditions. There is a Tawny Frogmouth Owl nesting in a big tree down the block, and the stroll out to listen to it's call is made much jollier (and safer for little people on the pavement) by their very own light.

The area Triceratops Girl lives in is prone to tree-fall power-outages, and the Bunker has some wiring problems, so we both experience blackouts, and having personal lights for the girls makes a possibly frightening inconvenience into a fun excuse for lanterns.

The Multi-bottle is constructed of a soft, collapsible TPE body  which can be squashed down for easy storage and transport, and has a hard plastic "cap" which houses the LED lights, the battery and the solar panel.

The solar panel is fitted to the centre of the lid, and is somewhat covered by the removable handle strap, which can be removed not only to expose the panel to sunshine for charging but also hook over any number of hanging points.

The on-off button is set into the top of the lid as well, and has a built in changing status light, saving space. When the lid is unscrewed you have access to the micro-USB changing slip, which is protected by a silicone plug.

I suspect you -could- store liquid in the bottle in a pinch, but I would worry about it getting into the charging port and shorting out. The unit is described as having a IPX7 waterproof rating, which is 30 minutes at 1m depth, but again, I suspect that is only from the outside, when sealed up. Good enough for any amount of weather or looking for your keys dropped into a pond, not for diving ...

The LED light has3 modes, controlled by the indicator-light button on the lid.: low/high/pulse. It is listed as having:
4 hour runtime at HIGH setting
10 hour runtime at LOW setting
and I infer it has ~days runtime on PULSE setting, it wasn't listed.

The outputs of the two settings weren't offered, but I didn't really notice a significant difference. If it was 75 lumen vs 100 lumen, there wasn't much in it.

Shining through the TPE bottle gave the lights a nice diffuse glow, as well as the bottle itself being a glowing ball, good for both seeing your immediate surrounds but also letting people see you, good news when the primary goal was putting it into small hands to carry around.
The handle clipped on and off at either end, and was not at all difficult for 5yo Tactical Baby to manipulate, or carry.

We don't typically genderise the kit for the kids, but as it happened, only the pink bottles were available at the sale. Green or blue are also available.

These bottles have a carry capacity of 725mL (44cu in) so you could also fit a bunch of small items in it to make a bug-out-jar type effect, although that would block out a bunch of the light the emitted, and you would want to watch out for pointy items. At the very least you can store its USB cord inside, so it's all ready to charge when you have a power-source handy.

These are neat little lights, perfect for little hands in the wilderness of the woods or suburbs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reblogging: Improvised Tanks for Tank Week

Here's a piece I wrote for Breach Bang & Clear

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” ― H.L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series

... and at times you want more than just a mean look and the occasional sandbag to be between you and harms way. Sometimes you want to call on the thunder of armour. However, you might not have the power of the military-industrial complex behind you. You might only have the local scrapyard, oxy-torches, sheet metal, and an innovative spirit.

Currently the world's undersupplied warfighters are inventing all kinds of home-brew armour options, and we've been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them over the last few years. And I must say, we're lucky to have only been catching glimpses and not rolling into battle in them. Let's check a few out.

This is the SHAM II, a proudly "100 percent made in Syria" improvised armored vehicle. Put together by Syrian rebels of the Al-Ansar brigade, in Bishqatin, four kms west of Aleppo, it came to the world's attention on December 8, 2012.

Built on an old car chassis and covered in 25mm thick steel walls, it was reportedly able to resist up to 23mm cannon fire. At only 2m wide and 4m long, this is no Abrams. It is, however, fitted with a remote-operated (by a hotwired Playstation remote of all things) 7.62mm machine gun on top. It also has five cameras that give the humans inside a view from all angles.

In one of the original interviews, its primary operator said ‘This is my brother, a trained engineer, who got the idea, we got a car, left its diesel motor on the chassis and built the engine. Not including from the gun, the vehicle costs about £6,200($10,000)." This gives you an understanding of what these folks are doing with their spare time.

Read the rest here at Breach Bang & Clear:
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