Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kilimanjaro Gear "Ballast" Multi-tool....2 year review!

In 2015 I received this BALLAST multi-tool from Kilimanjaro Gear. Kiligear manufactures and markets a line of innovative outdoors gear including knives, multi-tools, flashlights, and packs, as well as Tactical Gear. In fact, some of their gear is approved by the National Tactical Officer's Association and one of their folding knives, the UTAC, was developed with input from U.S. Navy SEAL Joel Lambert. That's some pretty impressive credentials folks!

Kilimanjaro Gear BALLAST multi-tool

After receiving the BALLAST for evaluation, I took it out on the trail and used it on a couple of outings, which can be found on my YOUTUBE channel, BushcraftWoodsDevil.

Well, it's been 2 years and this knife has been in more or less continuous use throughout that period, so I felt it was time for a review. I can't name my employer as I am not permitted to endorse commercial products, but I can say that I do work as a Park Ranger and this sheath and knife have rode on my belt and been used & abused regularly. It has pruned trees, cut wire, loosened nuts, cut rope, sharpened pruners [file], tightened screws, and yes, has even opened the occasional can of pork `n beans, which anyone who follows my channel knows is an outdoors dietary staple for me, lol.

Lets review the technical specifics of the BALLAST.  There are 2 models, 910053 with a black coated finish, and 910052, which has a satin metal finish. Mine is the black coated model. Both have an overall length of 6.2", a closed length of 4.2", and weigh in at about 9.5 oz.  As to tools, they are outfitted as follows:

  • Pliers
  • Wire Cutter
  • Long Nose Pliers
  • Knife
  • Serrated Knife
  • Can Opener
  • Bottle Opener
  • Saw Blade
  • Double Cut File
  • Single Cut File
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Medium Flat Head Screwdriver 
  • Large Flat Head Screwdriver

  • The multi-tool comes equipped with it's own nylon belt pouch:

    BALLAST and belt carry pouch

    After 2 years riding on my belt and sliding in and out of the truck, the sheath continues to serve. I had fully expected the belt loop to fail and am very impressed it has not. the loop has stretched a bit as nylon is want to do, but has not separated from the body of the sheath. A bit of rust has formed on the snap due to weather exposure, and the sheath body has worn and frayed a bit from seat abrasion, but it still works fine. Not a problem even if it did fail because Kilimanjaro Gear offers a LIMITED LIFETIME WARRANTY to the original retail purchaser and are guaranteed be free from defects in materials and workmanship for as long as owned by the original purchaser and is used for the purpose intended, under normal conditions. Not bad!

    Getting back to the knife and it's featured tools. The "Heart" of any multi-tool is it's pliers unction. Indeed, this is what most multi-tools are built around...the "chassis" so to speak. BALLAST pliers are kind of a long-nosed pliers...not needle nosed and not the typical blunt-nosed pliers either. This seems to try to bridge both tasks and does a fair job. Especially impressive to me is the wire cutter beneath the pliers jaws, which for me has cut soft and hard wire and shows no deformation to the teeth to date. When deployed, the handles remain stiff and don't fold or flop in anyway, allowing good use of the pliers.

    BALLAST pliers and wire cutters up close

    The primary blade is a Sheep's Foot style blade, straight edged and measuring at about 1-7/8". This blade accepted a nice sharpening and became razor sharp with just a little work on my stones. It's a bit small but adequate for many cutting and carving tasks. But of course, it would be wise to carry a fixed blade sheath knife on the trail for tasks demanding a larger blade. The beauty here is it is compact and "socially acceptable" and thus can be used on the job, in town, or in many other "non permissible" environments. Nestled next to the knife blade is a can opener, a small slotted tip screwdriver, and a two-sided file having both smooth and cross-cut functions, about 1-1/4" working surfaces. IMHO, the file could be better, and have a bit more distinctive teeth, but for the money are adequate for average tasks a file this size would be tasked to perform, say wood and soft metals.

    BALLAST's Sheep's Foot knife blade

    On the opposite handle is found a small wood saw and a serrated blade, both measuring in again at 1-7/8".  The saw is a decent cross-cut saw and I have used it effectively pruning small branches, for camp projects such as crafting tent stakes, and for making notches in a bow drill hearth-board. I tuned up the Serrated blade with my SMITH'S diamond serration sharpener and it has been useful cutting rope and preserving my straight blade. Between these two blades rest a bottle cap lifter and a Phillips head screwdriver. My only complaint here is that the Phillip's head is one of those funky half-width blades, narrowed to fit into the narrow space remaining. I find it tends to slip out of the screw head. frankly, I'd rather have had a good punch blade.

    Really useful features!

    Overall, I think this knife is a very good bargain. Just scanning the Internet I found them, quite incredibly, ranging in price from $16.20 to $28.12 on a random SHOPPING search inquiry. I believe this knife to be a mid-range price & quality multi-tool...not a high end product which might fetch 50-100 bucks+  and not a sub-20 dollar Chinese knock off either. It fits a niche for the person that wants a higher quality multi-tool but whose budget can't go over the 50 dollar mark. I just don't think you can go wrong on a BALLAST, especially seeing some of the online price opportunities. I made this video which recaps what has been said here, so check it out!

    Finally, if you own a BALLAST I would be very interested to hear what your thoughts and experiences are, so feel free to post up in COMMENTS below.

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    Prayers & Smoke for Our World

    I have been a bushcrafter for about 5 years or so now. As I grew in experience, I evolved. I think when I started it was all about the gear. I would tear down trails just to see how fast I could cover a distance. But as I learned more skills and knowledge from folks, especially here on the forums, I gradually pared away the gear and became a minimalist. I also had my eyes opened and my awareness of the beauty of the natural world increased. Nowadays, I never hurry, and sometimes take a couple of hours to cover a mile, studying plants, taking a knee and watching the wonder or wildlife listening to calls and such. I usually come back with a bag of trash too, as I now can't bear to see litter and not remove it.

    Through bushcraft, I have come to feel a deep spirituality when I am outdoors [I'm not sure you can be a true bushcrafter without an appreciation and reverence for the gift of nature?]. I know many of the indigenous peoples here in the USA had a different view than westerners. They didn't see a creator in the person of a deity, but they saw that there was a life force that birthed and regenerated the natural world, and they felt connected to it and to each other. The Lakota, for instance, called that force Wakan tanka, or "The Great Mystery", and while they didn't understand who or how it worked, they strongly felt it was due respect and prayers of thanks.

    I think that we've lost that reverence for nature and the miracle of life. Everyday people have become disconnected from it. They rush about to work and their hurried lives and fail to see what bushcrafter's know....that there is a beautiful natural world that heals and regenerates our soul I know bushcraft has helped me to find it in myself.

    Anyways, the point is lately I have been worried about the state of affairs here in the world and in my own country. So many angry hateful people. World leaders threatening war and nuclear weapons. People here at home arguing and insulting each other over politics. It is horrible to ponder, but we could lose our home, this Earth, in 30 minutes with just the push of a button.

    This past Thursday was the National Day of Prayer here in the U.S.A., and while I am not a religious person, I felt obliged to go to the woods and offer Prayers & Smoke, and ask for wisdom for our world leaders and healing for our people. To turn people's hearts away from anger and hate. To ask for our world leaders to guide us to better care for our Earth so that we can leave a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren to live in. I made two videos of my prayer outing, which are below. The first is intentions, the second making White Sage smoke.

    I hope you will join me in sending good thoughts and intentions, however you believe. Blessings on you all!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]