GSAR GEAR Review: Inova X5

Posted November 11, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Illumination

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X5

GSAR Gear Review: Inova X5 Flashlight

The Inova X5 is a nearly indestructible LED flashlight. The body of the flashlight is machined into a six-sided cylinder from solid aerospace grade aluminum. It is available in either silver or black. The hard anodizing is extremely durable and has no real scratches or blemishes, even after being put through rigorous use and abuse.  The X5 is also water resistant to IPX4 standards and pretty well crushproof, so there are no worries about it getting wet, dropped, or otherwise beaten-up in the field.
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The bezel has five separately drilled holes, providing excellent protection to the Nichia CS LEDs recessed inside.
The run time more than makes up for the cost of the batteries themselves. The light has a decent output and throw(56 lumens and 118 feet, respectively).  It’s pretty bright, but it’s not going to replace a searchlight. But what it lacks in power it makes up for in solidness and sheer unbreakability. It makes a great general purpose light. I would say that the lights advertised 1.75 mile signal visibility is true, and even understated. Simulated missing persons were reportedly able to see it blinking on top of a small mountain from 2+ miles away.

Power:

The X5 runs on two CR123A batteries. They’re widely available camera batteries which are fairly expensive($1-$2 apiece), but are much longer lasting and provide more power than AAs.

Inova X5
Use:

The X5 has an interesting interface.  It has three modes:
1. A momentary-on, which is used by pushing the tailcap in.

2. A constant-on, which is reached by twisting the tailcap.

3. Lock-out mode, which is reached by twisting  the tailcap 360° this disables the momentary-on, so you can throw the X5 in a pack or a pouch and not worry about it turning on by itself.

Cons:

One of the things I would’ve liked to see was a removable pocket clip. And although you can use a pouch or a lanyard,  a clip would have really been a nice addition.

 

Overall, after several months of hard use, I can say that this is really a great rugged general purpose SAR flashlight.

 

 

 

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GSAR Gear Review: M-16 Zytel

Posted September 23, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Tools of the Trade

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My CRKT M16 after two years of constant use

GSAR GEAR Review:CRKT M16-12Z

The CRKT M16 is really an impressive knife.
I have carried and used mine for 2 years now and it is still working like new.

Form:

It comes in two colors(black and safety orange), and two blade variations: A straight razor-edge, and a combo edge(M-16-12Z).
The combo edged M-16 comes with a 3 inch, AUS 4, tanto point blade with an inch of serrations near the handle. The handles are made of durable Zytel® over a stainless steel frame.

Function:

Although it is not spring assisted, it is fast and easy to open one handed, utilizing a flipper nub on the back.
It also has an automatic double locking mechanism, which takes a little getting used to at first but once you get the hang of it, it turns out to be quite safe and pleasant to work with.
The serrations on the combo blade are excellent for cutting through cord, webbing, seatbelts, and pretty much anything else you come across. The frame and handle are very well fitted, and the knife feels quite solid and comfortable in your hand.

Cons:

The Teflon® coated steel pocket clip only lasted me about a year before too much use made it loosen and widen the screw holes, but CRKT has a great warranty and is willing to replace the parts for free. Also be aware that the steel frame tends to accumulate surface rust if not oiled periodically and kept in a pocket for extended periods of time in hot, humid, sweaty weather. This is easily fixed with very fine steel wool and some oil.

My CRKT M-16 after two years of constant hard use.

When you pick this knife up you can feel the solid heft to it, but it is not too heavy to carry, even in gym shorts.

Overview:

This is not the shiniest, prettiest or coolest-looking knife around. It is a robust, sharp, hard-use knife that performs well in SAR use or just day-to-day work.

Highly recommended.

GSAR Gear Review: Windstorm Whistle

Posted August 5, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Tools of the Trade

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GSAR Gear Review: WindStorm Whistle

A whistle is a critical piece of equipment to have on a search. It is invaluable for sound sweeps, controlling large search lines, contact between teams, signaling in emergencies, and any number of other uses. In my opinion, the WindStorm is the best whistle on the market for use in SAR. In comparison to the standard wood/aluminum ball whistles, it is noticably louder,(103 dB vs the standard ~90)

The company’s website makes several claims, such as the Windstorm works when wet and even underwater. I can vouch for that, as I tested it in a lake and was surprised at how loud it actually was underwater. This is not only a good thing for rescue divers and swift-water rescue specialists, but also for ground search personnel as it has no loose ball in it to swell up and not work if it gets wet in the field.

The manufacturers also claim that their whistles are the loudest in the world. While many companies claim this, the loudness of the WindStorm whistle was derived in a sound proof chamber by a research team at the Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri.  The decibel reading varied between 103 and 106 dB, well above any other commercial whistle to date.

The Windstorm is made out of high-impact, non-corroding thermoplastic and is really pretty solid. The seams are well-fit, and show no sign of cracking even after a years worth of heavy use.

Pros:
Extremely loud.
Works underwater and when wet.
Comes in high visibility colors.
Relatively cheap

Cons:
A little larger than your standard, but very much worth the bulk.

Over all I believe this is a great whistle, and I would highly recommend it to anyone going on a GSAR mission, training exercises, or just out hiking in the woods. This whistle is fairly cheap, under $7, and can be picked up almost anywhere outdoor supplies are sold, so there’s really no excuse to not upgrade.

-GSAR GEAR 2014

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GSAR Gear Review:  Recon M-II

Posted July 31, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Illumination

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This is the Gerber Recon M-II.

At 5.41″ and weighing in at 4.60 ounces w/ battery, the Gerber Recon M-II is not large or heavy at all. But pick it up, and it just feels SOLID in your hands. No rattling noises if you shake it, no loose parts anywhere. The on/off locking tailcap turns smoothly, but still feels tight. The Recon M-IIs design and construction is incredibly solid. The U.S. Army Program Executive Office (PEO) has tested this flashlight extensively and it meets and exceeds their standards, and is authorized for US Army use.

It has one bright white LED(40Lumens), and 3 integrated secondary LEDs: Red, Green, and InfraRed(IR). Switching between the four is done by twisting the front head ring around the lens. It twists smoothly, but not so easily that it could be turned by accident.

Gerber Recon M-II
The tailcap has an integrated button at the back, which just gives light as long as you hold it down. For longer periods of light, you just grasp the aforementioned tailcap by the knurling around the edge and twist. All the switches can be easily used with either hand, barehanded, with gloves. It has both a lanyard hole(wide enough for 550/paracord), and a really nice belt clip, for attaching to vests and belts and the like.

It runs off of two CR123A batteries, and last FOREVER. The Gerber product page claims 60 minutes of constant run-time, but in my field testing, it lasted significantly longer than that, closer to the 100-minute mark. As the battery runs down it starts to dim slowly, to prolong battery life as long as possible.

This extremely solid and well-built tactical flashlight is made in the U.S.A, and works extremely well in SAR. I tested it out at two NGSAR schools, several Field Training Exercises, and one aircraft emergency search, and it performed really well through all sorts of wet, rocky, sandy, hot and cold environments. This is a great flashlight, and I would recommend it to anyone.

GERBER

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GSAR Gear Review: Lumabiner

Posted December 9, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Illumination, Tools of the Trade

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Lumabiner: a Ground Search and Rescue Gear Review. This is the CRKT Lumabiner. Combination knife, carabiner, and LED flashlight, this little tool (approximately 5″ long open, 3.4″ closed”) is really just a handy thing to have for SAR.
It clips directly onto your gear or belt(loops) which means you don’t have to go looking through pouches and pockets for it, it’s right there on top.

The flashlight is actually brighter than I thought it would be. Not a replacement for a larger flashlight, but a quick source of light for finding things in the dark.
Very nice design, detaches easily and quickly from wherever you have it clipped on, and can be operated with one hand, and there are two thumb studs, one on each side, so you can open it with either hand. It also has a nifty little switch which locks the carabiner latch into place, making sure it doesn’t fall off your gear by accident.

The knife blade itself is relatively small, but it’s quite sharp, cutting through paracord and duct tape and just about everything else you can throw at it. It doesn’t have a screwdriver, or pliers, or tweezers, or a saw, or anything like what you’d find on a multitool or swiss army knife. But then the Lumabiner isn’t supposed to replace them, just allow you to tuck them out of your way when you don’t need them but keep access to the most important tool, the knife blade.

The whole Lumabiner is really lightweight, but it just feels solid and well-balanced.
I would highly recommend this to anyone in SAR, as a quick-access knife/light.

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Moist Towelettes

Posted December 8, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Medical

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Moist Towelettes*

Moist towelettes. The multi-tool of sanitation.

They pack tight, and make great space-fillers anywhere in your pack or pouches, and can be used for just about everything, from washing hands or faces to cleaning watches, glasses,electronics, flashlight lenses, and any other gear needing a wash. They’re quite cheap, but they are a great help in the field. They even come in bug-repellent variety for even more uses.

I always pack several extras in extra nooks and crannies in my gear, they’re just useful little things to have. Be sure to pack some on your next misson/training exercise.

*Image © Johnson Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.

GSAR Gear Review: Modular Shear Sheath

Posted November 18, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Gear Rig, Medical

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Ground Search and Rescue Gear Review:

Jones Tactical Modular Shear Sheath.

Scissors/Medical Shears are really useful on GSAR missions, but most medical pouches have the shears holder inside the pockets, and getting them out in a hurry is always difficult, and a lot of times you end up spilling the contents all over the place. This sheath is specially designed to mount on PALS webbing or a belt, which means you can mount it on the outside of your gear, which in turn makes it easier to get to than digging through the rest of your equipment. The sheath has a simple hook-and-loop flap which runs through the shears handle, so the shears stay locked in and don’t slide out, but you can draw the shears one-handed without any trouble. It performs really well, stays well out of the way until you need it, and just generally does what it was designed to do. It’s about 4.5″ long by 2″ wide, and it can hold smaller shears in place or bigger ones by attaching the flap higher up.
I highly recommend this piece of gear to anyone, it’s really sturdy and just works.

  Photo By Ranier Gear.

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GSAR Gear Review: Kinston Utility Pouch

Posted October 9, 2014 by GSARGear
Categories: Gear Rig

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I recently received this Kinston Folding Utility Pouch, and took it to a Field Training Exercise, and was extremely pleased with its performance. It is about 6″x8″, and stows perfectly in a BDU cargo pocket, so you could use it as a pocket organizer. I had it mounted on the side of my Load Bearing Vest, and it’s extremely easy to get things in and out of. It has a pretty low profile, and can expand out for extra carrying capacity. It has one zipper pocket on the front, the front flap then opens to reveal two more zipper pockets, with an ID/Small items pocket in the larger one. It also has two d-rings and two straps on the back for attaching it to your gear.

It’s quite roomy inside, as you can see here. I was using it as an admin pouch, for maps, notepads, a flashlight, the gps and things like that. It’s completely waterproof, I soaked it in a bucket of water and the contents were completely dry.

All in all, a very nice, durable Utility Pouch

Cons: Can’t really think of any, it’s a high quality, simple piece of equipment, no real flaws.

Pros:

  • Nice size, holds just about everything I need.
  • Waterproof
  • MOLLE Compatible
  • Good design, doesn’t hang loosely and flop around like some ones I’ve tried.

See more photos on Flickr

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