Friday, January 16, 2015

Kilimanjaro Gear Trail Hike

Dayhiking with KILIMANJARO GEAR 3-Way Modular Deployment Bag #910103 and BALLAST Multi-Tool #910053. Gathered some Hummingbird sage and made a woodsman's tea along the way. Check out my review of this great trail gear at and visit their website at 
Also, for an excellent Bug-Out Bag gear checklist, visit S.L.O. CAMP N' PACK

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dayhiking with the KILIMANJARO GEAR "BALLAST" multi-tool

So today after work, I went out to the park where I volunteer [ADOPT-A-PARK] to check the trails and collect litter. I decided to see if I could find a few tasks I could test the KILIMANJARO GEAR "BALLAST" (tm) multi-tool on. I spotted a fallen Oak branch and tried out the little saw blade on it. Worked pretty well. The saw blade is less than 2" in length, so you are pretty much relegated to branches no more than an inch or so:

Saw blade function worked well
After that I tried out the blade on whittling a point and no surprise there because it was sharp as delivered: 
Whittling with straight blade
It was a beautiful day outdoors. We'd just had some rain the night before and everything was fresh and green, like this Hummingbird Sage [love the tea from this]:
Hummingbird Sage makes a nice tea with
Decongestant medicinal properties 
I saw a lot of Dusky Footed WoodsRat dens scattered off the trails in the woods:
WoodsRat den
I wore the knife and sheath to work last night at my second job [stock clerk] pulling pallets and stocking shelves...lot of movement. I checked the sheath and just as I'd expected the flimsy web loop was already stretching. The stitching was starting to stretch as well:
Stiffer belt loop fabric needed
The sheath needs a thicker/stiffer piece of nylon, sewn flat against the backing...such that you can barely slide belt through. It'll stretch a little with time, but this is not going to last. You'd have to carry it in a pack to avoid losing it.
I found a downed green Willow branch so I used the straight blade and the serrated blade to craft a tent peg and a spindle for bow drill [when it's dried] and they worked just fine:

Camp craft whittling
I attempted to sharpen my pruners with the file blade, but the file is too soft and couldn't scratch the pruner's blade. In fact, the double-cut checkering started wearing away. I tried it as a wood rasp and it worked okay, so that's the most you can expect from the file function. That was a disappointment:
File will function as a wood rasp

I also tried the Phillips Head screwdriver out. I tried screwing a wood screw into some Douglas Fir 1 X 3. This is one of those "Half Phillips" in which the cross tips are ground short so it doesn't require as much space in the handle [and thus a slimmer handle profile]. These are stinkers because they slip out of the Phillips slot, but worse, the Phillips blade kept collapsing under pressure because it does not lock. So, I gotta say, there's room for improvement here. But KILIMANJARO GEAR does offer a Lifetime Warranty [original purchaser/no abuse] and that's not bad! 

Anyways, it was a good outing. Oh, and I managed to gather up about a pound of litter from the park and trails. Last time I added it up a couple of months ago I figured I'd gathered over 50# of litter:

Take some litter out with you. Leave the
Trail better than you found it! 
I've got some more testing to do on this multi-tool, so we shall see. It's an attractive design and I really like it, but there's a few things as mentioned that I'd fine-tune to make it an even better product.
Have a great week!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kilimanjaro Gear...A new trail gear company!

One of the people whom I enjoy following on FACEBOOK is Joel Lambert, former U.S. Navy SEAL team member and host of the DISCOVERY channel's "LONE TARGET" program . In LONE TARGET, Lambert travels around the world and challenges elite military, police, and border security units to pursue and apprehend him as he travels cross-country. He uses his skills and training to evade them, and, with a little luck, will successfully reach an extraction point. Traveling light, he uses only a minimal amount of carefully selected gear to accomplish his task. 

 Joel Lambert
I greatly enjoy the show and Joel's cagey humor. My favorite episode thus far was one in which he caught a stray dog and tied his sweaty bandanna to it's collar, and then loosed it to run wild and draw off the pursuing tracking team's dog, which were hot on his trail. The search dog took the bait and boy, were those guys PISSED when they caught onto the ruse! BTW Joel has his own official web page with lots of useful personal safety tips. You can visit it at Joel

About a month ago, Joel shared a gear drawing from a new outdoor equipment company named  KILIMANJARO GEAR [or "KILIGEAR" for short].

Kilimanjaro Gear logo

I visited their FACEBOOK page and saw that they were seeking outdoors men to field test their gear. I then went to their website and was pretty impressed by what I saw, and so I posted an offer to test their gear on their FB page. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Andy Somerville, KILIGEAR's Director of Marketing, contacted me and advised me they had selected me to help test their gear. Mr. Somerville very kindly invited me to select a couple of items from their product line for evaluation.

I studied the KILIGEAR web site's product line with a mind to what kind of test would I want to conduct. A few months ago I went on a minimal gear outing in which a gentleman named Jesse came along and carried all of his kit for the event in a deployment bag, which is visible in the photograph below:

Jesse's Deployment Bag kit
I'd been very impressed that Jesse had carried a stove, cook set, food, tarp and blanket, cordage and more in just a single shoulder bag. Ever since that outing I'd been thinking of acquiring a deployment bag and had been looking at various models online and at my favorite go-to trail & military gear store  S.L.O. Camp n' Pack Army Navy Outdoor Store [S.L.O. Camp n' Pack is 100% Veteran owned and operated, offers quality brands, and they operate an online sales business as well which you can visit at CNP]. After some consideration, I selected the KILIGEAR  3-way Modular Deployment Bag #910103 and their  BALLAST (tm) Multi-Tool .

I'll be describing the features of both products in this blog, and then in the coming weeks I'll actually take them afield and use them on an outing involving at least 1 night outdoors [I'd prefer to do 2 nights, but my current job's work schedule doesn't allow me 2 days off at the present time].  

I received both KILIGEAR items in the mail a few days ago, and I'll begin with the Deployment Bag:

KILIGEAR 3-way Modular Deployment Bag

I requested their tan colored Deployment bag. The bag is nicely compact, has heavy-duty zipper closures, and measures about 17" in Length x 8" Height x 7" Depth. It is constructed from tough, 600 denier polyester fabric. The bag can be configured for shoulder carry using the included removable padded shoulder strap, or mounted on a belt, such as a USGI pistol belt for use as a fanny pack.

Front of Deployment Bag
Back of Deployment bag

The bag has PALS webbing and straps on the back so it can be attached with MOLLE compatible gear [or you can use old school ALICE gear "meat hooks"]. It also has a heavy duty handle sewn onto the top of the bag and could be carried in that fashion. The deployment bag has three drain holes into the bottom should it become immersed. I like that there is not just one hole and they are spaced evenly to quickly drain the bag. All of the stitching on this bag is solid bar stitching.

Interior of main compartment

There are 4 compartments to this bag. Inside the main compartment is a lightweight mesh divider. It's pretty roomy for larger items. A smaller compartment is located on the front of the bag and it has a solid divider sewn in the center with 2 pockets sewn onto the divider. Finally there are two small compartments at either end. The front and side pockets have PALS webbing so you can lash gear on or add additional MOLLE pouches to fit your needs.

Front compartment interior
The side pockets [open in above photo] are *almost* large enough to hold a USGI quart canteen, but wouldn't zip closed when I placed a canteen inside. I would've liked these compartments just a bit larger to hold a canteen and canteen cup for light treks, but it's no big deal because I can just attach one to the PALS webbing with ALICE clips and still have those compartments for other gear [or just choose a smaller water bottle for those outings]. Overall I think it is a solid bag and should stand up very well to rugged use.   

So maybe you're an urbanite and never go out on the trails to hike and camp and thinking, "I don't need this." Well, the urban landscape is just a different kind of wilderness to navigate and survive in every day. Deployment bags are, to my mind, a modern evolution of the old "Possibles' Bag" of the Mountain Man of yesteryear. The Possibles bag was used to carry small items that might possibly be needed throughout the course of a day. Ever been to a Barbecue and found no one remembered matches [more common as less people smoke these days]? Been without parking meter coins? Been on a tight schedule and wished for a snack bar? Have you ever needed a little flashlight to see the lock on your front door when coming home late at night? Needed to clean up a scratch and had no band aids or alcohol wipes? No, quite obviously there's a need for a modern "Possibles Bag" in the course of our busy daily lives, and a deployment bag can answer those tasks admirably.

EDC gear can be uncomfortable in pockets,
Making a tactical bag very practical
Shoulder bags not manly? eh, maybe it used to be that there was a stigma against men carrying a shoulder bag, but I think we've grown beyond such nonsense and everywhere you go these days, you see folks carrying computer bags or bike messenger sling bags around town. Actually when I see someone with one it piques my interest and I wonder if it's a Bug Out Bag or just a savvy commuter. In fact one avid outdoors man I know, Tactical Bushcrafter, carries his gear bag on his daily commutes to and from work, just in case his vehicle becomes disabled and he has to hike home. 

Interesting to me is that these bags are "NTOA member tested and recommended 2014". NTOA is the NATIONAL TACTICAL OFFICERS ASSOCIATION, a professional organization for SWAT trained peace officers. I retired in 2012 after a 34 year career as a police officer, the last 12 of which I served as a Patrol Sergeant/shift supervisor. I was also a firearms instructor, & training manager, and had received training from NTOA, including Active Shooter Response Training. NTOA is a serious and eminently professional organization, so I am quite certain the NTOA would not hang their name nor reputation on just anyone's gear. It says a LOT that their members approve and recommend KILIMANJARO GEAR.

I also know many peace officers and lawfully armed citizens that use tactical shoulder bags to carry their gear on their daily commutes. Believe me, this makes a lot of sense. While your firearm should be worn concealed on your person, it is extremely uncomfortable and noisy to carry spare magazines or speed loaders, handcuffs, O.C. spray, and the other tools of the job in your pockets. A small tactical bag makes excellent sense.

Next up is the BALLAST (tm) multi-tool. This came nicely packaged in an attractive clam pack: 

BALLAST(tm) multi-tool

Reverse side showing sheath
This multi-tool really caught my eye when I perused KILIGEAR's catalog. It is a very heavy-duty, stainless steel multi-tool, made in China, and weighing in at about 9.5 ounces. It feels very solid in the hand, unlike some *cheap* multi-tools that are sold on the market. Open length is about 6" and closed roughly 4".  It has 13 tools:

- Pliers.
- Long Nose Pliers.
- Wire Cutters.
- Knife blade [Sheepsfoot or Scramasax style blade about 2", very sharp].
- Serrated knife blade [about 1-3/4" ].
- Wood Saw [1-3/4"].
- Double Cut File.
- Single Cut File.
- Phillips Screwdriver.
- Large Slotted Screwdriver.
- Medium Slotted Screwdriver.
- Can Opener.
- Bottle Cap Lifter.
"BALLAST" 13-in-1, Multi-Tools deployed

I opted for the black "tactical" finish. The finish is very nice and even. I can't say for sure whether it's anodized or a baked-on epoxy. The plier head appears to be a casting and has some tool marks visible, but nothing severe; it's just the price of doing business that in order to deliver an affordable product to the consumer a lot of time cannot be spent on polishing out tool marks. Heavy duty steel springs are provided for each tool, and are held together by three rivets on each side, as well as the hex nuts securing the Plier head to the handle assembly; basically it's built like the proverbial "Russian tank". 

BALLAST is a solidly built multi-tool

As delivered the multi-tool was very tight, but my experience is that with time and use they loosen, sometimes too much and thus become difficult to use because they want to close on you. At <2" the saw blade is probably relegated to small chores like notching a hearth board or making tent pegs, but that's okay. I like the sax shaped knife blade; for carving and drilling it should be just fine. Surprisingly the can opener blade has an edge I could feel on my finger. I'm not sure about the single cut file, but I will try it at sharpening my pruning tools at work, which is what I use the file on my other multi-tool to do.
One thing I disliked about this tool was the lack of a lanyard loop hole or stud. I believe in attaching a retention tether with about 3' of paracord to your multi-tool. I usually make a loop and attach the other end to my belt via a carabiner. In this way if you drop it, it cannot become lost or disappear down a ravine; you just reel it back in. I now work for a County Parks Department and often do trail maintenance and other projects and it's common to drop my tool wrestling branches and vines [For the same reason, when I was in law enforcement I used a tactical retention lanyard on my issue P229-R, because there's a high incidence of primary gun hand wounds in fights and I wanted to make sure if I dropped it it would follow me as I retreated to cover or started reeling it in with my support hand].  

The sheath is a snap closure belt pouch made of a Cordura like nylon. The pouch is formed with a plastic or nylon rigid liner. When you pop the flap it stays open, which is nice for re-holstering ease. One thing I did not like is the belt loop which is made using a flimsy piece of nylon webbing. It seems sloppy and should be made using a stiffer/heavier webbing. I suspect that this loop will probably stretch and wear pretty fast. Otherwise I like this sheath's construction a lot [A Tip: Using a carabiner through a knife sheath loop allows it to function as a dangler and you can remove the sheath without having to unfasten your pants belt. It also drops the sheath a couple inches below your T-shirt, so you don't have to lift it to access the knife or multi-tool].

Some folks might deride the BALLAST's "MADE IN CHINA" construction, but heck, every manufacturer has products from China in their line these days. Listen; my day-to-day Multi-Tool is a LEATHERMAN "SUPER TOOL 200", USA made and I've used it hard for several years and it has loosened up very badly and I have to keep a rubber band around it to keep it from clicking and clacking. The saw blade is bent and the wire cutters are mangled. Higher quality? Yeah, but you buy what you can afford and remember that nothing lasts forever. The suggested retail on this BALLAST Multi-Tool is about the same as Gerber Gear's "SUSPENSION" Multi-Tool which I believe is also made in China, and in my opinion, the KILIGEAR offering might just be a little better quality. 

In conclusion, my initial impression of these products is that they are appropriate quality for their suggested retail price point. Of the 2, I rank the bag a better quality product than the knife. I am looking forward to the field test and assessing them in actual conditions, especially the multi-tool. I won't abuse it, but it's going to get worked, so stay tuned.

Stay Safe & Happy Hiking!