Archive for June, 2013

LifeStraw Winners Announced!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Hey guys, thanks for all the participation and great comments (there was a total of 216 comments) about the various water-purification methods you use. Using the random number generator, it chose the following commenters (I’ve personally emailed each winner):

  • Wiley (comment #201): “I am new at this and have not yet taken any steps to do any water treatment.”
  • Misty (comment #6): “My favorite water filtration system is one that uses blue light to purify the water. However, this system is large and not practical for my b.o.b. so I am eager to try something like the lifestraw for that purpose.”
  • NeoToxo (comment #13): “Interesting article – sounds like a good item to include in not only a bug-out bag but also my hunting gear…for the price maybe two. Aside from the bug filtering I prefer something with activated charcoal to help with the taste and absorbing assorted minerals. However something like that is bulky.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter Review

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Hey guys. I’ve got another product review for you, plus the chance for three of you to win one of these (more on that at the end of the review)!

Recently, I got my hands on one of the LifeStraw personal water filter “straws”. If you haven’t yet heard of a water filter straw, they are basically an oversized “straw” with a water filtration element inside. These straws allow you to simply place one end into a contaminated water source and suck through the other end — drawing up filtered, clean drinking water.

There are a few other filters on the market like this LifeStraw; most notably, the Seychelle Advanced Water Straw and the Aquamira Frontier Filter Straw. In this article I’ll be reviewing the LifeStraw, and since I own both the Seychelle Advanced and the Aquamira Frontier I’ll also be comparing it with these other ones as I go along:

LifeStraw Water Filter Form and Function

Size

Since I own both the Seychelle and the Aquamira “straw style” water filters, what I noticed immediately is that the LifeStraw is a bit bulkier than the other straws. You can check out the comparison between the three here:

The size may or may not be an issue for you depending on how you intend to use it. For a larger bug-out bag or if on an extended hike, this would obviously not be an issue since it will easily fit in your backpack. If you’re looking to pack some type of water filter for a small Get-Home Bag or to fit in your pocket for every-day carry, the Aquamira (the smallest of the above three) would be a better choice.

Other Components

As for other components, the filter has a built-in lanyard for easy carry around the neck as well as two caps to cover both the nipple end and the base (which is inserted in your water source):

I do think the covers are an important feature for these types of filters. This is something that the Seychelle does have but the Aquamira lacks. I think not having some type of protectent cover could potentially lead to cross contamination with the water-source end (depending on how you store it).

Filter Use

The filter is easy to use. Like the other water filter straws, there is no need for electricity, special pumps, or even a separate container. You simply insert one end of the straw into your water source and from the other end, you draw (or suck) the water through the filter element — giving you get instant, clean drinking water.

I really like the design of the LifeStraw in this aspect since the drawing/sucking end is clearly distinguishable from the water-source end. The Aquamira (when assembled correctly) is also pretty clear. However, the Seychelle can be confusing as to which end is up or down — potentially causing cross contamination if you stick the wrong end in your water source.

Another pretty nifty feature (or requirement) of the LifeStraw is that you should regularly blow through the LifeStraw to prevent clogging and to clean the element. As a side note, this feature may account for the huge difference in filter capacity (read below) compared with the Seychelle or Aquamira (although I’m sure the size is also a reason).

You can see a video review of its use by me here:


LifeStraw Filter Performance

From a filter performance standpoint, the LifeStraw is markedly better than the other two. Let’s compare…

Filter Capacity

The LifeStraw is rated to be able to effectively filter around 1000 liters (~264 gallons) of water. I think this number is actually conservative since tests run by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science of the University of Arizona have shown effective treatment up to 1500 liters (~396 gallons)!

Compare this with 75 liters (~20 gallons) of the Aquamira and 95 liters (~25 gallons) of the Seychelle. Yes, I think the size difference has something to do with it, however, it does not account for everything (It’s not 10x the size of the others). Again, it is probably due to the ability to flush the filter by blowing air out through the water-source end.

Filter Effectiveness

I’ve effectively used all three water-filter straws with various outdoor water sources and have not had an issue with any as far as water-borne sickness. However if I were to choose which one I’d PREFER to have with me, it would have to be the LifeStraw. Here’s why:

The LifeStraw has been tested by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science of University of Arizona to meet (and in some cases EXCEED) the filtration standards set by the U.S. EPA in the following categories:

  • BACTERIA (i.e. Escherichia coli): Removes 99.9999% of bacteria. It was measured at > LOG 6 reduction (this is higher than the required EPA standard of LOG 6)
  • PROTOZOA (tested against *Cryptosporidium oocysts): > LOG 3 reduction (99.9%) of protozoan parasites. This is higher than the U.S. EPA requirement of LOG 3.

*Note: Keep in mind that Cryptosporidium oocysts are much smaller than Giardia cysts (8-12 µm vs 3 – 5µm) so if it’s able to remove Crypto it will have no issues with Giardia. (many testers by the way will test against Giardia and not Cryptosporidium).

From the above studies, we can see that the LifeStraw meets or exceeds filtration expectations from the EPA.

As a comparison, how do the others stack up? Let’s see here:

Aquamira Frontier Filter Straw

This comes directly from the Aquamira website:

“Although the Frontier Filter does reduce bacteria and virus, it is not certified to remove >99.9999% of bacteria and >99.99% of virus required by the US EPA water purifier standard. For maximum protection, use in conjunction with Aquamira Water Treatment Drops or Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets.”

Seychelle Water Filter Straw

The Seychelle website says that their straw is “proven effective against bacteria and virus to six logs reduction (99.9999%)”. My antennae always go up whenever I hear something like “effective to” or “up to”. I think that this is a slick marketing way of hiding that only the smallest hole in their filtration element will filter out the “six logs reduction” of bacteria and virus — implying that the larger holes in their element won’t. Since it really doesn’t matter how small the smallest holes in a filter is; a filter can only be as effective as the weakest link (or largest holes in this case).

Not sure if this is the case with Seychelle, but I couldn’t find any worthwhile studies to prove me otherwise. In addition, they make no mention of their filter being effective against protozoan parasites like Giardia or Crypto — not a good sign.

Price

The LifeStraw can currently be bought from many distributors (including Amazon) for around $20. Here’s a link to Amazon.

In comparison to the other filter straws, the LifeStraw is more than double in price. The Seychelle goes for around $12 and the Aquamira is the cheapest, running about $8 at Amazon.

Final Thoughts

Although more expensive, the price is justified since I believe LifeStraw is a superior filter compared with the Seychelle Advanced and the Aquamira Frontier; It can filter out more biological nasties, making your water safer to drink and its longevity (in terms of how much water it can filter over its lifetime) is more than 10x the amount of the others!

A clear winner in those terms.

However, I do still feel the others have their place — especially the Aquamira. I’m not a huge fan of the Seychelle for reasons that I can’t find their filtration studies; and the fact that they indicate “up to” in their marketing messages is not comforting in my mind.

The Aquamira is my go-to filter for my Get-Home Bag since the LifeStraw is a bit too big for that application. However, for other applications like my Bug-Out Bag and for filters that I take camping or on a hike, the LifeStraw is my top choice.

Final Note: In response to the video above: after two weeks of drinking water from a few water sources near my property using the LifeStraw, I did not feel any ill effects. Given the transparent studies and my personal experience, I highly recommend the LifeStraw.

A Chance to Win Your Own!

If you liked this review and specifically the LifeStraw, I have three LifeStraw filters that I would love to give away to three lucky winners this month.

To get in the running here are the requirements:

  1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite water filtration/purification method and why.
  2. In the email field (it’s not displayed to anyone but me), leave your best email so that I can contact you if you win.

Using a random number generator, I’ll choose three commentors to win a LifeStraw filter (more than one comment will not improve your chances). I’ll then contact the three winners through that email from #2 above to get the address you’d like me to send it to.

That’s it!

Dorcy Flashlight and Lantern Review

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Recently I got my hands on a flashlight and lantern sent to me from Dorcy to review. To be honest, I only knew of the Dorcy brand from the inexpensive lights you find at Walmart and Target. However, the two lights they sent me here are quite different than these standard store lights (more on that in a bit).

First, about Dorcy. Dorcy is a privately held U.S. company that is based out of Columbus, OH. They’ve been around for over 55 years and is the only Flashlight manufacturer to have true factory ownership (in Hong Kong). Like I said before, you’ve probably seen them in big warehouse-type stores like Home Depot, Target, and Walmart.

Alright, enough about the company, let’s take a look at the lamps…

There are two lights that I’ll be reviewing in this post. The first one is the Dorcy Metal Gear XLM (Extreme Lumens) flashlight and the second is the Dorcy Twin Globe LED lantern.

First, the Metal Gear XLM:

Dorcy Metal Gear XLM Flashlight Review

Build and Form Factor

Housing


Upon first inspection, the XLM seems to be built fairly well. Although it doesn’t have the built-like-a-tank feel of a Surefire, it still has great heft and a solid feel to it due to the housing being made of aerospace grade anodized aluminum.

Although for a flashlight of this size I’d prefer to have a rubber grip, the serrations and etchings of the housing would allow you to have a decent grip even if your hands or gloves were wet.

Lens


The polycarbonate lens is also a great choice from Dorcy. With the combination of the metal housing and poly lens, it makes it extremely durable to impact (I was sure to drop and throw it a few times while on without any negative effect).

Weather Protection

The flashlight is also o-ring sealed to protect against dust and moisture. However, given that it’s only IPX4 rated, I wouldn’t trust this light being immersed in water but would have no qualms about running it in the rain.

Battery Housing


What was surprising to me was that at first glimpse, it appears that this light would take 3 C-cell batteries. Instead, it takes 6 AA batteries that, according to manufacturer warnings, MUST be inserted parallel (two groups of three, side by side). I’m assuming this means that there is no polarity protection on this light so BE CAREFUL, or you might have an expensive club on your hands.

Since the batteries are situated parallel to each other, the cool thing about this setup is that it can still run on only one half (i.e., three) of the AA batteries. The benefit of this is, if you’re in an emergency situation and didn’t have the full six AA batteries but instead had a pack of four still around, you could run this light (albeit at half the run time).

Light Output and Battery Life

Giving off 600+ lumens on high and 173 lumens on low, this light clearly lives up to its “extreme lumens” name. It’s really hard to appreciate just how much light this thing throws until you experience it in person. I was very impressed.

On the flip side, as you can see in the following chart, this light intensity isn’t sustainable; because the power isn’t regulated it quickly loses its light intensity — dropping over 100 lumens within minutes:

That being said, even after an hour you’re well above 300 lumens which is still a significant amount of light, AND that’s running off of alkaline batteries. The performance would be much better if you used rechargeables (especially Sanyo’s Eneloops).

Although I didn’t get the chance to fully test this, the light is rated to run 5 hrs 45 min on high and 25+ hours on low (both have been ANSI tested so it’s a fair bet this is pretty accurate).

Just to give you an idea of how bright 600 lumens is, here’s a comparison of my Surefire E2D (which runs at 200 lumens on high) and the XLM in both low and high:


Surefire E2D (low and high)
Dorcy Metal Gear XLM (low and high)

Since the E2D is no slouch when it comes to throwing light, you can get an idea of what 600 lumens is.

Final Thoughts

Despite it being a mass-market light, all in all I think this is a great lamp and am very happy to add it to my collection. Obviously, given its size, it’s not an EDC light, so if you’re looking for an EDC or a tactical light, this isn’t for you…

…unless you’re this guy:

All jokes aside though, this is a perfect lamp for hiking the trail or taking the dog for a walk at night and I highly recommend it as an all-around great flashlight.

Price?

The XLM currently goes for about $80 on the Dorcy.com website. However, as a quick note, if you’re interested in buying one of these, this month Dorcy will take 20% off by using the coupon code “SPRING” at checkout. Not a bad light for $64.

Dorcy 160 Lumens 4D LED Twin Globe Lantern Review

The next light I wanted to review by Dorcy is not actually flashlight at all, but an LED camping lantern. Let’s get to it…

Build and Form Factor


From first appearances, this lantern looks like a smaller version of my Coleman gas lantern. Beyond appearances, the two however are very different lamps.

Instead of metal, the Dorcy LED lantern is constructed of a hard plastic that doesn’t have that cheap feel of similar LED lanterns.

It consists of three LEDs: two globes that provide the bulk of the light and a small amber “nightlight”. Rotary switch positions are: night light, off, half power (one globe), and full power (both globes).

It also has a nice ratcheting handle with a collapsible hook — allowing you to hang it from a rope.

Weather Protection


In the category of weather protection, this lantern shines. The entire construction is sealed off (along with the O-Ring sealed battery housing) which allows it to float in water; it’s waterproof and submersible up to 1 meter (IPX7 ANSI tested).

Having a lantern that is not only waterproof but submersible is a great benefit when camping, boating or in any activity where moisture might be an issue. I would have no problems leaving this light out in a squall — something my Coleman couldn’t handle.

Battery Housing


The battery housing is in the bottom of the lamp. It takes 4 D-cell batteries that are easy to install: unscrew base plate ring; remove baseplate; insert batteries; replace baseplate, lining up the tabs; screw on ring.

Light Output and Battery Life

Dorcy claims that this is the “first battery operated lantern to approximate the illumination characteristics of traditional gas/mantel lanterns”. Depending on how you interpret “approximate” you’ll either be elated or disappointed. As far as how much light is put out (160 lumens on high), it really doesn’t come close to your normal gas lanterns. However, the “characteristics”, in terms of brightness/quality and color of the light, are similar.

Having said that, this LED far surpasses my other LED lanterns by far. While it won’t light up your entire campsite or house for that matter, it still does a great job at lighting up a room (far better than your standard emergency oil lamps or candles).

Here’s an example of it’s light output on low and high:

Also, the quality and brightness of the light make for pleasurable reading (as long as you are sitting near where the lamp is). I usually get eyestrain with candles and oil lamps. I don’t get that with this one.

As mentioned before, it also has a nice “nightlight” option:

Another great benefit of this light is its battery life. With one globe activated (low setting), it will run for 350 hours. Two globes activated (high setting) it will run for 175 hours. If you figure an average of 5-hours of daily nighttime use, that’s 70 days on low and 35 days on high! For me, this makes it a perfect emergency lantern.

The small amber nightlight is rated to run for 700 hours.

Final Thoughts

Again, this lantern doesn’t hold a candle (pun intended) to a gas camping lantern like the Coleman, so if you’re hoping for that kind of light output you won’t find that here. However, if you’re in the market for an excellent battery-powered LED lantern, that you can use both in and outside in all sorts of weather, I would highly recommend this.

In addition, as far as an emergency lamp for home goes, I think this light is superior to any gas lantern out there. The Coleman lanterns can’t be run indoors without sufficient ventilation and especially if you have little ones running around like I do, I wouldn’t even want to if I could.

Up to this point, with local power outages I’ve been relying upon my oil lamps and candles. Since trying out this one I’ve decided to purchase a few more and use them as my primary emergency lighting. With its really long battery life, excellent light output (compared to candles, oil lamps etc.) and safety, the Dorcy 4D Twin Globe LED lantern is a clear winner for me.

Price?

Dorcy sells it directly through its site for around $50. However, I’ve seen this go for less than half that price on Amazon.com, here: Dorcy LED Lantern.

The Most Unusual Precious Metals Forgotten by Preppers

Friday, June 7th, 2013

This guest post was provided by Garfield Refining, a precious metal refinery offering service to both individuals and businesses across the nation. This 120 year old refinery located in Philadelphia, PA buys, sells & refines precious metals including gold, silver, platinum and palladium. For more on Garfield and updates on precious metal prices visit Garfield Refining on Facebook.

People who worry about what’s happening in the world—the threat of environmental disaster, economic collapse, political catastrophe, a reign of global terror—tend to put stock in precious metals, often with a focus on gold. But gold, for all its glitter, might not be the best—certainly not the only—precious metal for a prepper to stockpile. When looking to precious metal refining for an opportunity, palladium should be among a survivalist’s first stops.

Palladium is lighter than platinum and just about as dense as silver—and thus makes for beautiful jewelry. But jewelry might not be your primary concern in a post-catastrophic U.S. Instead, you might be interested in the merits of palladium for its chemical and electronic applications, its usefulness in dentistry and autocatalysts (critical in the working of internal combustion engines) and its potential value in fuel cell technology, oil refining, and water treatment.

Already a key component of contemporary society, palladium will prove invaluable to any attempt to rebuild, and palladium refining—and the palladium refiner—should be of critical interest to anyone bent on survival of whatever disaster awaits us.

Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is another metal best known for its decorative properties—which, again, might well be the least of its merits. Decorative, yes, but brass is also a substantial metal used extensively in applications requiring low friction—gears, locks, doorknobs, bearings, ammunition casings, plumbing, electrical fittings or zippers.

Because of its acoustic properties, brass is also, of course, used in musical instruments. In situations where sparks are a concern, as in tools and fittings around explosive gases, brass is also of great practical value.

Then there’s mercury, perhaps poisonous when let loose, but ubiquitous for good reason. The only metal that is liquid at standard temperature and pressure, mercury is without equal for use in thermometers, barometers, manometers, float valves, switches, fluorescents, and sphygmomanometers. Though various substitutes have come into fashion in clinical and scientific settings, in a post-catastrophic future, mercury is certain to be the go-to precious metal for everything from lighting to medical and dental applications.

Even now, in the form of one of its most common ores, cinnabar, mercury is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, ointments, eye drops, nasal sprays, antiseptics, laxatives, and diuretics. Those who hope to survive into a new millennium will do well to look to this precious metal, along with brass and palladium.

As any prepper knows, taking the time to plan now will only pay off in the future. While your neighbors might be scrambling for food and shelter, you can be secure in knowing you have taken the necessary steps to ensure you have set aside all the essentials including the more unusual precious metals.