“How anyone can camp without a headlamp escapes me…”, a simple Gear Whore truth. Flashlights are a necessity while camping, in your everyday carry kit or in the garage, but when you actually have to work on something, and you need light, a headlamp is a must. In the last few years there has been a rush of LED lights on the market sporting the popular, well made, and inexpensive CREE LED modules. The headlamp market has caught onto this trend and a large selection of inexpensive headlamps have hit retailers. Our friends at Fox Outfitters are doing some super secret squirrel DARPA type stuff, because how they knew we needed a new multimode CREE LED headlamp is pretty perfect. Also with a name like Firefly, and being rabid Browncoats, we had to pick up The Fox Outfitters Firefly Headlamp.
–Quality and Assembly–
The Fox Outfitters Firefly Headlamp, like most headlamps offers the simple convenience of having light where you need it while offering hands free operation. The white CREE LED assembly has a bright and shiny reflector, as opposed to an orange peel texture on some of their other assemblies. The overall enclosure is a high impact plastic case that had the strap loops split to allow it to be removed easily and placed on a new headband or other strap. This split strap loop setup is similar to ITW Nexus replacement buckles. Out of curiosity we tried to fit the Fox Outfitters Firefly headlamp on to some standard molle webbing, but the web loops are too small to fit over the molle. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
The joint between the headlamp and the web loops has the ability to also tilt down in position via a multi-position ratcheting action. This feature allow you to more easily adjust the light to where you are looking, as long as it’s down. Certainly a good feature for enjoying an bedtime novel. The Fox Outfitters Firefly Headlamp also claims a IPX6 “waterproof” rating. Though we did not test this feature, when you open the battery compartment a hearty orange gasket can easily be observed surrounding the edge of the enclosure.
Having both a white and red light mode is especially useful when either navigating a late night run to the latrine or enjoy the low red glow of the illuminated pages of a favorite novel. There are three modes in each light type and you have to click through the entire sequence to turn the headlamp off as the button hold feature is to change from white to red and back. This is a slight inconvenience, but once you get used to the overall operation it is easy enough to manage. The enclosure holds two AAA batteries, and when opened is very dimly illuminated for ease of battery replacement in the dark, which is a neat feature. While AA would be prefered it is near impossible to find a headlamp that runs on AA. Luckily Eneloop also makes AAA batteries, and the Eneloop Pros we used fit and worked just fine.
As with most CREE LED lights the max output, listed at 115 lumens for The Fox Outfitters Firefly Headlamp does not last nearly as long as other modes. Also it is nice to see that when we opened the light the manual included a performance chart of the available modes, being very honest that the 115 max is good for about 15 minutes, followed up the 75 on high for about 2 hours. The red light mod really only has one brightness setting, and it is more than enough for map reading or whatever random tactical red light thing you need to do. The two other blinky modes, one being “strobe”, which is actually just a quick blink, and SOS, which we’ve never had to use, work pretty much as advertised.
The Fox Outfitters Firefly Headlamp, easily compares to other headlamps in this price range, and offers good usability for the value. We operate with the philosophy that it can be expensive to be cheap, but unless you’re a professional spelunking type, the Firefly Headlamp is a great choice for almost any situation a headlamp would improve.
Hammocks are one of those simple things that make any camping experience just that little bit more comfortable. Finding that perfect spot, with the perfect view and lounging about certainly makes the day. Having the right hanging equipment certainly makes the experience easier to enjoy. Such equipment needs to be very adjustable, have good grip, and easy to use. To compliment their line of hammocks the folks at Fox Outfitters have introduced their new Vine Hammock Straps to make your hangout in the trees that much more enjoyable.
–Quality and Construction–
The Fox Outfitters Vine Hammock straps are designed as a classic daisy chain strap. This means that a doubled over section of square webbing has been sewn and standard intervals to create a series of dedicated loops in the strap. These loops then become the mounting points for your hammock and the method for adjustment while hanging your hammock. Each of the 20 loops are all heavily double stitched to ensure that they will provide support for you while you hangout. The Vine straps are 11 feet a piece, offering you a much larger range of hanging options when it comes to the distance and diameter of your trees. The heavy tight weave nylon strapping rolls up easily to fit in the included stuff sack, but is a bit too large to include directly in the bag of your favorite hammock, such as a Fox Outfitters Neolite Trek or Nelolite Single Hammock, which is what we tested.
Right out of the bag we were already happy that these straps now allowed us to hang our hammock over a greater distance. The 11 foot length certainly extends the overall capability and options for your hammock. Once we found an appropriate pair of trees it was very easily to loop the Vine Hammock Strap around said trees and back through the end loop to secure them. The webbing offers greater grip to the tree than the standard ropes that come with the Fox Outfitters Neolite Single hammock, meaning less slip and damage to the tree. Clipping your carabiner into any of the double sewn daisy chain loops gets you hanging quit rapidly, and makes for very easy adjustment with approximately 2 inches of adjustment per loop. The Fox Outfitters Vine Hammock Straps easily held up our hammock and made for a comfortable hanging experience.
Daisy chain straps are not a complicated item. Wrap, tuck, pull, clip, hang, relax. The Fox Outfitters Vine Hammock Straps accomplish this goal easily, and make for an excellent upgrade to simple ropes on your hammock. The overall added bulk does require that the straps have to be stored separately from your hammock, which is not as convenient as a single bag, but also not a deal breaker. If you are still using the standard ropes that came with your hammock you should certainly grab a set of these straps.
The human body needs water, and in a survival situation water is a higher priority than even food. The problem is that usually when you find water, you will need to in some way purify it to prevent cryptosporidium, giardia, or other nasty bad guys from giving you an infection. To help make the purification process easier the folks at Tortoise Gear have taken the principal of UV water purification and built a lightweight roll up water balder called the Sol Water bladder. With three models to choose from, the survivalist, the day tripper, and the backpacker, the Sol Water bladder offer various sizes and closure options on their Kickstarter page, all while incorporating the sun capturing, microbe killing design at its core. We have a set of these in bound and will report whether we get the trots or not, after a thorough test.
Knock, knock! Who’s there? Orange! Orange who? Orange Screw! Anyone who has spent time outside has erected a structure of some design, or needed to tie down and secure kit in place. In these circumstances you have most likely used a simple tent stake, or perhaps in the case of snow or sand a long spike or wire spiral anchor. If you have ever wanted a light weight, high strength, polymer ground anchor The Orange Screw promises to answer the call. The Kickstarter page claims, “The Orange Screw is an innovative and easy to use ground anchor made of 100% recycled materials and manufactured in Washington state.” At 1.8oz for the small and 3.6oz for the large version these anchors look to provide a lot of strength per ounce. Once ours have landed a through review will be available.
The gift of Prometheus is an immortal piece of edc gear. A gear whore without fire is no gear whore at all. This is probably why we all own many various tools that employ many different methods to start fire. Many of us employ the modern miracle of the Bic Classic lighter. This nearly universal and inexpensive item has been a go-to for outdoorsmen for years. Though the Bic is effective for many things, it could be made better for the great out of doors. Luckily the good people of Exotac have been hard at work trying to add to this lighters usefulness and in the process have created the fireSLEEVE. The Exotac fireSLEEVE takes the traditional Bic lighter and wraps it in a waterproof floating sleeve, adds lanyard mounting points and provides a gas lock feature to enjoy a thumb saving continuous flame.
This isn’t Exotac’s first rodeo when it comes to putting out a well designed, made in the USA, product. The nanoStriker and MatchCap XL have certainly set a high bar for this outdoor design house, and not so surprisingly the fireSLEEVE live up to this legacy. The idea is quite simply, a soft silicone bottom section tightly conforms to the contours of the lighter, while a hard glass reinforced top cap seals the unit up tight against the elements, and accidental discharge.
Right out of the gate the packaging is even simple and makes it easy to understand how to utilize all of the features of the fireSLEEVE and the included lighter. Having a lighter already in the package was a great touch, making the 5 pack of Bic lighters we bought spares, which we were ok with. Our curiosity got the best of us immediately and we had to remove the included lighter from the fireSLEEVE to test the fit. Let just say it was tight. Pressing up on the bottom rim of the case, we slowly edged the lighter up and out to find that whoever packaged it wisely applied a bit of lube to the lighter to assist entry. We also noticed that directly in the bottom of the fireSLEEVE was a hole. This obviously is to prevent heavy suction, or pressure, while inserting or removing the lighter. Even with this hole, just feeling how tight the lighter fit, we were not in any way worried about this being a compromise to the watertight seal.
With the lighter back in place we were able observe the fit in regards to both the cap and the fuel lock feature. First the cap, when pressed onto the body is sealed with a series of three ridges that are molded into the soft body, creating a tight gasket. Pressing the cap on and pulling the cap off creates satisfying “pop” sound confirming this airtight seal. Again with the cap off you can see the area near the fuel activation button is cut to create a strap feature to allow you top roll this section over the fuel button for a continuous flame.
The very first test for any lighter is simply lighting. Granted we know how a disposable lighter works, but how does it feel and operate now that it’s in a new exoskeleton. Popping off the cap we found that, as advertised, it comfortably nests on the bottom of the Exotac fireSLEEVE body with very little effort. After only a few tries of this maneuver we were able to nest the cap one handed.
We can not say the same for the usage of the gas lock strap. The gas lock strap is a great feature, but certainly requires the usage of both hands. Once you simply push up on the strap until you have rolled it up over the lighters gas button, you will need to hold it in place with your dominant thumb, while rolling the flint striker with the other. If you do not hold the strap in place, you will more than likely knock it off of the button making this feature useless, and then repeating the entire process. When using the gas lock successfully it is a very useful feature. It certainly came in handy in our testing when lighting a Solo Stove Campfire and then starting up a Toraño Noventa cigar, as we were able to have a continuous flame without a tired or burnt thumb.
The fireSLEEVE itself is quite rugged, and easily protected the encased lighter from simple drops and accidental gas discharge while in the pocket. The extra size did make the lighter more noticeable when carried, and the extra grip of the silicone body also gripped the inside of our pocket a touch more when it was trying to be removed, but none of this was too serious of a concern. Adding a lanyard and bead to the cap helped to make the Exotac fireSLEEVE easier to grab or find when dropped.
If you happen to drop your lighter in water, Exotac claims that the fireSLEEVE will both float and stay waterproof in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Being impatient we did
not wait 30 minutes, but we did toss the assembly into a mug of water. As advertised, the fireSLEEVE did float. Removing our bobbing fire starter from it’s bath we popped off the top and also, as expected the lighter itself was dry and easily fired right up.
Our fireSLEEVE has the extra feature of being glow-in-the-dark, which was offered as a limited edition option from the product’s Kickstarter campaign. After being either left in direct sun, or exposed to a 120 lumen flashlight the moonglow material used in this glow version of the fireSLEEVE became quite luminescent for a fair amount of time. Even after a night’s sleep there was a very dim glow that could still be observed.
We’ve always carried a lighter of some design, and tend to leave disposable lighters tucked away in all of our kit. The Exotac fireSLEEVE certainly takes the venerable old Bic lighter to the next level by adding some serious functionality upgrades, making your lighter a floating, waterproof, rugged, easier to use everyday and outdoor fire machine. The cost of the Exotac fireSLEEVE is comparable to many other lighters, such as a Zippo, but offers a better fire source in a butane lighter. If you are looking for a simple, well designed, made in the USA, outdoor lighter, the Exotac fireSLEEVE is certainly the one to buy.