Archive for January, 2011

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Review

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

For those looking for a great emergency heating source this winter, check out the Big Buddy Heater by Mr. Heater.

To give you some background, my house is currently heated by a pellet stove. Even though it’s very efficient and heats the house nicely, the obvious issue is that it doesn’t work if there’s a power outage. As a backup I do have a wood-burning stove that I could install if there were an extended grid-down situation, but I wanted to have something that could be set up quickly and easily for short-term emergencies as well as a temporary solution until I would need to install the wood stove.

There were four things I was looking for: 1. It had to be propane fueled. 2. It needed to be portable. 3. It had to put out at least 10,000 BTU and 4. It had to be safe enough to use indoors. What I found that met all these requirements was the Mr. Heater Big Buddy heater. Here’s my review:

Setting up the Big Buddy Heater

Out of the box, the Big Buddy sets up very easily. It’s a simple matter of hooking up two disposable 1lb propane bottles (the ones that are typically used for camping applications) on either side of the heater, turning on the pilot light and firing up the heater.

Fitting a 20lb propane tank

Along with the Big Buddy, I also purchased a propane-tank adapter and hose. It actually accommodates two hoses to be fitted to the heater, allowing you to hook up two 20lb (or larger) propane tanks. The obvious benefit is extended run time. For example, two 1lb bottles will give you around 3 to 12 hours of heat (depending on what setting it’s on), whereas the two 20lb propane tanks last for 50 to 220 hours (again depending on the setting).
If you’re considering purchasing one of these hoses be sure to read my recommendations below.

Testing the Heat Output

Since I haven’t had this heater for that long I haven’t been able do any extensive testing but my initial impression is that this heater seems to put out a good amount of heat. There are 3 heat settings — low, medium, and high — which give off 4000/9000/18000 BTUs respectively.

With last night being in the early 20s (Fahrenheit) I thought I’d test it out for a few hours; so I ran this in a medium sized room (around 200 square feet) and it kept the room at a comfortable 73 degrees.

Features

  • Battery or A/C powered blower fan for versatility
  • Low, medium, and high heat level control knob for steady temperatures
  • Key-shaped rear mounting holes for wall mounting
  • Built-in Piezo starter for easy starts
  • Automatic shut off for accidental tip-over and fume safety

Likes and Dislikes

Here’s a list of the good and bad:

Positives

  • Propane Fueled: Propane is one of the most stable fuels around. The great benefit of that is that it will store for many years without degradation.
  • Portable: Since this heater is lightweight and can be carried quite easily, it makes for a great bug-out heater. Also, it simplifies moving it around in different areas of the house in an emergency situation.
  • High Heat Output: With a maximum output of 18000 BTUs, the Big Buddy puts out a lot of heat for such a small unit. It easily fits my requirements for an emergency heater.
  • Can Be Used Indoors: For the most part, this heater is safe to use indoors. Even though the heater comes with a low-oxygen sensor that will shut the unit off if the sensor is activated, I would still recommend using a Carbon Monoxide alarm in the area where you are running this heater.

Negatives

  • No AC Adapter: I don’t understand why they don’t provide the power cord for the blower fan. Instead it’s another “accessory” that you have to shell out money for. What a waste.
  • Can Clog if Not Careful: See my comments under the advice section

Some Words of Advice

The most common issue I’ve read about that people have found with this heater is that the regulators and control valves get clogged when running a 20lb tank. As one reviewer mentioned, this can be avoided when you ensure that you always shut the tank off first, then let the heater run until it burns off all the fuel in the lines.

If this procedure is not followed, the high PSI coming from the propane tank will get trapped in the accessory hose causing it to chemically react with the rubber and leech out an oily residue. This oil will clog both the regulator and control valve essentially ruining your heater.

In case you happen to forget to follow the above procedure, I highly recommend you purchase either the gas line filter that will catch the oily substance or a hose that comes with a regulator which lowers the PSI and prevents the chemical leeching (this is what I did).

Food Storage Experiment: German Pancakes

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

This morning I decided to try out one of my favorite breakfast dishes, but instead of using the standard ingredients, I wanted to try using only items that I have in my bulk/long-term food storage. What I experimented with was German Pancakes and here’s a picture of how they turned out:

I thought they looked and tasted great. The only difference between these and the standard German Pancakes (using fresh ingredients) was that the standard ones tend to be a bit more fluffier and lighter. Despite that, I thought these were pretty good considering they are made from food storage. Here’s the recipe I used:

How to Make German Pancakes from Food Storage

Ingredients

3/4 cup of powdered eggs
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of milk (made from powdered milk)
1 cup of flour
(optional) 4 tablespoons butter powder mixed w/ 2 tablespoons of water 

Directions

Place an all metal pan that is around 9″ (can be square or circular) in an oven and preheat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl mix the powdered eggs, water, milk, and flour until it reaches a smooth consistency. If you use the butter, pour mixed butter into preheated pan and immediately pour batter mixture on top. Cook for around 20 minutes or until the pancake is puffy and the edges are a nice golden brown.

Enjoy with syrups, fruit jellies, or powdered sugar.

Light em Up! The Flashlight as a Self-Defense Tool

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

When it comes to choosing a weapon for self defense, a flashlight is typically not the first thing that comes to mind. However, when used correctly, it is an amazing tool for personal protection.

In this post I want to share some of the advantages of carrying a flashlight for personal protection as well as what to look out for when purchasing one. Given the many advantages, this should be a part of everyone’s EDC (every-day carry) gear.

Advantages of a Flashlight for Personal Protection

  • There are No Restrictions: The great thing about flashlights is that, as of now, they are legal to carry in every state here in the U.S. as well as abroad (as far as I know). This is particularly advantageous for those living in nanny states where they’d arrest you if you were found carrying a chopstick.
    There is also no restriction on carrying a flashlight on airplanes or in other areas where handguns are commonly prohibited (such as the post office). Given the way things are going here in the U.S. however, I wouldn’t be surprised if flashlights get added to the list of restricted weapons.
  • Flashlights are Discreet: Flashlights in and of themselves are very discreet. If a flashlight were to drop out of your pocket or bag in a public area, it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Contrast that with the reaction you’d get if your knife, or worse, handgun were to drop on the floor as your sitting in a subway car – yeah, not good. Unless you have one of those 12-inch flashlights with razor-sharp beveled tips that more resembles a medieval mace than a flashlight, then you should be good.
  • Disorientation Factor: Especially at night, there is something about getting a wallop of lumens hitting you square in the eyes that can mess with your orientation. Have you ever been pulled over by a cop and have him shine his Maglite in your face? It’s disconcerting; and meant to be so. Many confrontations and potential attacks can be thwarted by simply shining a bright flashlight in your would-be-attackers eyes.
  • Effective Against Animals: Animals, even more so than humans, become disoriented and confused when a bright light is shined in their eyes. When using really bright lights (100+ lumens) animals often react by running away.
  • Illuminates Threat Areas: No other personal protection tool has the ability (except perhaps Night Optical Devices) to illuminate a low-light area. Since human predators like to use the advantage of the cover of darkness when lying in wait, a flashlight can remove that advantage and disrupt their attacks.
  • Provides a Tactical Advantage: When coupled with other self-defense weapons, a flashlight provides a great tactical advantage. Not only does it illuminate threat areas as mentioned above, but it can blind an attacker which can disrupt aim and focus. From the attackers standpoint all they see is a wall of light and a dark silhouette behind it (that would be you). This not only masks your position but will mask any weapons you may be holding such as a knife, baton, or pistol, providing you with that tactical edge you need to come out alive.

What to Look for In a “Tactical” Flashlight

Here are my recommendations when choosing a flashlight for personal defense:

  • Palm Sized: You want a light that is convenient to carry with you at all times. Your 500 lumen “mace” will do you no good if it’s under the seat of your car when you’re caught alone on a dark street.
  • At Least 100 Lumens of Light Output: 100 lumens causes significant pupil constriction and a “blinding” aftershock due to momentary retina burn. It will even cause momentary blindness in daylight. This allows sufficient time for a surprise attack that will cause your attacker to think twice about continuing.
  • LED Bulb Type: LED bulbs last significantly longer than incandescent and cause less battery drain.
  • Rugged Housing: You want a light that is sturdy enough to stay lit even if dropped, kicked around, manhandled, or used to deliver a blow. Typically look for those made from mil-spec hard anodized (Type III) aluminum which will be very strong and very light.
  • Waterproof: You want to buy a flashlight that is sealed on both ends with rubber o-ring gaskets. This will keep out water even when submerged.
  • Established Brand: Flashlights, like any other tool, can break down with time. Be sure to buy one that is from an established brand and stay away from the cheap knock-offs. That way when you need replacement parts, they’re only a call away. In fact why not buy some replacement bulbs, o-rings, and batteries ahead of time. This way, you’ll have them when you need them.

Recommended Tactical Flashlights

Here are a few tactical flashlights that I highly recommend:

A Demonstration

For those not familiar with the newer LED “mini” flashlights, here’s a few pictures demonstrating the size and light-output difference between a standard 4 D-Cell MagLite and a SureFire E2D LED Defender (both with batteries at full capacity):

Size Comparison




Brightness Comparison

This was around 11pm from about 50 feet from my barn. Even though the MagLite is a bright flashlight, it doesn’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the SureFire:


4 D-Cell MagLite SureFire E2D LED Defender

Additional Resources

  • CandlePower Forums: For those interested in learning more than they ever wanted to know about flashlights, check out this forum. It’s filled with a slew of highly-knowledgeable torch junkies.
  • SureFire True Stories: Here are some true first-person accounts of military personnel, LEOs and civilians who had to use their flashlights to defend themselves against attackers of both the two-legged and four-legged variety.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Happy New Year to you all!

Man, I can’t believe 2010 is over already. It’s kind of weird though, because in many ways it puttered along. Probably because it was a rough year.  In a nutshell we had to deal with a bunch of health issues that my wife had from the birth of our second baby, financial problems that came as a result of mounting medical expenses, and on top of all that, unexpected deaths in the family. 

Since many of these issues had taken up much of my time (being Mr. Mom and working full time), this blog was put on the back burner so to speak. 

Yup, 2010 pretty much sucked. I’m hoping this year treats us a bit better.

So far, things are looking up.  The craziness seems to be calming down a bit at the home front, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more in 2011 with you guys. For this new year I have many things planned for this blog so be sure to keep coming back and checking it out. And if you haven’t already be sure to subscribe!