Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: MSR XGK EX Multi-Fuel Backpacking Stove- Must Have Preparedness Item


Photo credits: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2012/2022 All Rights Reserved

Long popular as a high altitude backpacking and mountaineering stove, MSR's XGK EX Universal Stove is also a great choice for preparedness kits or as a cold weather bushcrafting stove.

The ability to run on almost any liquid fuel, including Diesel, Unleaded Gas, White Gas (Coleman Fuel), Jet Fuel, Kerosene, or Aviation fuel, makes the XGK infinitely flexible and economical to boot. The high heat it produces, needed to melt snow for drinking water quickly in freezing, high altitude environments, also makes it highly efficient for boiling large amounts of water for cooking in less extreme environments. This is an important feature if you're relying on Ramen Noodles for the majority of your camp or preparedness food arsenal!

Using the XGK to boil Ramen noodles at my base camp:

The XGK's ability to use many different fuels would be a huge asset in a disaster situation. Literally any vehicle, lawn mower, tractor, train, or aircraft could be pilfered for a source of fuel to power the XGK in an emergency.

This same fuel flexibility also makes it a great companion to take along on backpacking trips to Third World countries, where diesel and unleaded gas are common, but high quality white gas can be difficult to locate.

Amazing Efficiency 

Another outstanding feature of the XGK is its efficiency. If you have to camp out to survive during times of economic hardship or SHTF, the XGK is much more efficient and cheaper to run than stoves that use pressurized propane/butane or alcohol. I was able to boil a large pot of water three times a day for two weeks straight, on just 0.43 cents of diesel. How's that for efficiency?!!

Fill'er up! Filling an MSR bottle with cheap unleaded gas to fuel the XGK:

The first thought that comes to mind when mentioning the word "diesel" is "dirty!," but in actuality, the XGK runs so efficient that the flame leaves virtually no soot on the bottom of your pot. The only time the flame is "dirty" is during the priming and shutdown operation. Since the pot is not on the burner during these operations, it doesn't effect it.

Diesel fuel burning hot, clean, and efficient in the XGK EX Stove:

The SPECS:

Proven: No. 1 choice on expeditions worldwide.
Multi-Fuel: Reliably burns more liquid fuels than any other stove.
Dependable: Easy to field maintain; Shaker Jet™ cleans fuel jet with a simple shake.
Compact: Flexible fuel line allows stove to fit in a 1.5-liter MSR pot.
Superfast: Boils 1 liter of water in just 2.8 minutes (using kerosene fuel).
Extra-Stable: Retractable legs and pot supports provide a secure platform.
Includes: Fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack. (Fuel bottle not included.)
Minimum Weight- 13.2 oz / 374 g
Packed Weight- 1 lbs 1.2 oz / 489 g
Can use these fuels- White Gas, Unleaded Gas, Diesel, Kerosene, Aviation Fuel, Jet Fuel
Burn time (white gas) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel- 109 minutes
Burn time (kerosene) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel- 98 minutes
Burn time (diesel) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel- 170 minutes
Boil time (white gas), 1 liter- 3.5 minutes
Boil time (kerosene), 1 liter- 2.8 minutes
Boil time (diesel), 1 liter- 4.5 minutes
Country of Origin- Made in Seattle, USA
Street Price- $189.95

ACCESSORIES

The XGK EX comes with a carrying bag, instruction manual, fuel pump, aluminum wind screen and ground protector, and a basic maintenence kit:


FIELD TESTING

Since my testing began many years ago, the XGK EX has been used heavily on backpacking trips and at my old extended base camp for boiling large amounts of snow for drinking water, boiling pasta, Ramen, heating water for washing dishes, etc. Over the course of this testing, the XGK EX has been dead reliable using many different kinds of fuels. The only problem I had was when I rushed the priming sequence once and fouled up the jet. Letting the stove cool and shaking out the jet easily fixed the issue, and the stove was immediately back up and running within minutes.


Bears Beware-- the XGK "747" is ready for take off!

Once the XGK EX is warmed up and running, it is loud compared to other backpacking stoves, sounding almost like a miniature 747 jet plane readying for takeoff. It especially gives this effect when running on Kerosene. Kerosene and Jet Fuel are pretty similar, so the XGK will burn noticeably hotter and louder when using it. Between the roar and the "jet-engine" like smell, it really gives the whole airport tarmac experience when this thing is going full blast!

A positive thing about this jet-type noise is that it seems to keep bears away when I am cooking with it. My guess is that if they happened to come by when the XGK is running, they might think they accidentally ended up at Denver International Airport!

Now that I've scared you into thinking this stove is going to blast your ear drums out, it's actually not that bad. In fact, after I used it a couple of times, I didn't even notice the sound. It actually became a bit of a companion on dark, moonless nights at my base camp, when I could hear bears roaming in the area and I'd need to boil water for tea. The bears never came near when the XGK was running. Once you're used to it, you hardly notice.


Criticisms?

Yes -- just one. The XGK EX is not adjustable to simmer. It's an all or nothing affair with this stove. But that is why it is so dead reliable -- minimal parts to break. 

I compensated for this by using empty (steel) cans of Bruce's Yams and Great Value Roast Beef from Walmart and cutting both ends open (the Roast Beef has a pull tab on one side so you only have to cut open the bottom). 

The cans sits perfectly flat on the inner ring of XGK's pot support legs. They raise the pot high enough over the flame to perform slower cooking and simmering. The Roast Beef can is a bit lower and Yam can is higher, allowing for different styles of cooking and heat intensity. 

Steel Roast Beef can from Walmart turned into a riser for my XGK EX:


A can opener on a Leatherman or Victorinox works well for this task but be careful not to cut yourself -- wear leather gloves!

CONCLUSION

Whether you're prepping for a natural disaster, globe-trotting to less developed countries, or just want a backpacking stove that's flexible, reliable, and cheap to run, the XGK is an excellent choice. Plus, MSR still makes this wonderful stove right here in the good' ole USA.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a Service-Connected Army Veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for Backpacker Magazine and The New Pioneer 
Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Review: Elite Survival Systems Liberty Gunpack- A Discreet Way to Carry Your Pistol on and off the Trail

Photo credit: Mikhail Merkurieff/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

Elite Survival Systems sent me their cool Liberty Gunpack a while back to test and review. 

I've been using this pack on and off since then for my Glock 29 10mm Mountain Pistol, and it has been a great piece of gear. 

What I like most is that the pack has an inconspicuous appearance:

Photo credit: Mikhail Merkurieff/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

It has extra pockets for a cell phone, pens, spare mags, keys, flashlight, ID cards, etc:

Photo credit: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

 
Photo credits: Mikhail Merkurieff/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

The pack has a four-way belt loop on the back so that it can be worn vertical or horizontal, as well as Molle attachment points for mounting on your pack:

Photo credit: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2022 All Rights Reserved

Photo courtesy of Elite Survival Systems

The belt loop is large enough that it easily attached to the waist belt on my Kelty Redwing 50 backpack:

Photo credit: Mikhail Merkurieff/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

The Gunpack has a pull tab on each corner to facilitate rapid opening of the gun compartment. This makes it quick and easy to open and then draw your pistol for self defense against dangerous predators.

Photo credits: Mikhail Merkurieff/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2016 All Rights Reserved

The pack also has the ability to carry a spare mag inside the main gun compartment:

Photo courtesy of Elite Survival Systems

Since I use the Liberty to carry a bulkier Glock 29 10mm, I've found that it's a bit too cramped to carry a spare mag like this and instead, use the front outer compartment to hold the spare mag. But for those with typical 9mm CCW pistols such as Glock 43's, Sig P365's, Smith & Wesson Shield's, etc, the spare mag carry in the main compartment works well. 

Final Thoughts

I've found the Liberty Gunpack to be a great CCW companion when walking or hiking in populated areas and around town, where the ability to be discreet is important. I've never gotten a second look from passerbyers while wearing it. The quality of the pack is high and the zippers have held up well to steady use. I think it is a great "Wilderness to Street" gunpack.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would like to thank my friend Mikhail Merkurieff of Emberlit Stoves and Camp Ware for his assistance in taking the photos used in this review. Mikhail's titanium stoves, flint strikers and survival fishing gear are top notch. Please stop by and check out his website at https://emberlit.com/ 

Thanks! Jason


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a Service-Connected Army Veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for Backpacker Magazine and The New Pioneer 
Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Doug Ritter RSK® Mk5 Altoids Can Survival Knife is back for 2021

Photo courtesy of DougRitter.com

Hey friends, cool knife buy alert!

A couple of years ago, CRKT stopped production of the Doug Ritter RSK Mk5, a cool little "Fits into an Altoids Can" survival knife. 

For 2021, Smoky Mountain Knife Works has managed to bring them back into production. According to Doug Ritter, the knives are still made in the same factory as the original CRKT versions using the same exact steel, so the quality is identical. 

However, these knives now retail for HALF the price of the original CRKT versions, with a street price of just $11.99 at Smoky Mountain Knife Works as of this writing. 

You are not going to find another purpose built, Altoids Can sized fixed blade knife like this for even close to price. 

Ritter and his associates put a lot of work into developing this little knife for real world survival use back in the day, which can read about at this link- http://www.dougritter.com/rsk_mk5.htm  

I've owned the CRKT version for many years and love it.  

Aside from the fact that this knife is such a great accessory to your micro-survival kit, buying one also helps fund Doug's KnifeRights.org, which is on the front lines battling for your right to own and legally carry knives around the country. 

Cheers,

Jason

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is an Army veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for The New Pioneer and Backpacker Magazine Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Friday, October 29, 2021

REVIEW: Winchester AA 12 Gauge International Target #7.5 Birdshot Shells- Ultralight Shotgun Shells for Survival Guns


Back in March of 2017, I reviewed Aguila's Ultralight 12 Gauge #7.5 Mini Shells shotgun shells as an option for survival use.

Aguila's Mini Shell is basically a shrunken down 12 Gauge shotshell (only 1 3/4" long) that is extremely light (as light as a 410 shell), yet still throws excellent patterns. 

As great as the little Mini Shell was, it suffered from one major drawback -- price. At roughly $20 for a box of 20 shells, Aguila Mini Shells are more expensive than most 12 Gauge High Brass loads. 

For the budget-minded backcountry trekker, this could be a real deal breaker, especially if you want do a lot of target practice with them.

So I set out in search of an alternative that would give similar performance to the Mini Shells without breaking the bank.

After a bit of searching online, I came across Winchester's 12 Gauge AA 2 3/4" #7.5 International Target Load, which is essentially a 7/8 ounce version of Winchester's popular AA Super Sporting Clays 1 1/8 ounce load. The Winchester AA International Target loads are generally $11-$13 for a box of 25 when you can find them online, so they are roughly half the price of the Aguila MiniShells. 


The SPECS

Winchester's AA International loads are used mainly for international skeet and trap competitions. Moving at a blazing 1,325fps, they feature hardened shot, a high strength hull, AA wads for improved pattern performance, reloadable brass shells, and what Winchester claims is the best in class primer and powder for reliability in the field.  


Winchester AA International 2 3/4" 12 Gauge Target Shells vs Winchester AA 20 Gauge Super Sport 7/8oz Shells

At only 26.1 ounces per 20 shells, the 12 Gauge AA International Loads are nearly as light as 20 shells of Winchester AA #7.5 20 Gauge Super Sport Shells - impressive.

20 shells of Winchester's AA International weighs only 26.1 ounces:

That is only once ounce more than Winchester's 20 Gauge AA 7/8th Ounce Shells:


The real question is, how well do they perform? Light loads often mean thin patterns, so I was curious to see what the patterns looked like on some rabbit, squirrel and turkey targets.

FIELD TEST

25 Yards from an H&R/NEF Pardner Single Shot Shotgun with a Modified Choke on a rabbit target:


25 Yards from an Stoeger Double Barrel Coach Gun Shotgun with an Improved Choke on a rabbit target:


35 Yards from an H&R/NEF Pardner Single Shot Shotgun with a Modified Choke on a Birchwood Casey splattering squirrel target:


35 Yards from an Stoeger Double Barrel Coach Gun Shotgun with an Improved Choke on a Birchwood Casey splattering squirrel target:


Even at 50 yards, the AA International load still produced enough of a pattern out of the H&R/NEF Single Shot to have multiple hits on this squirrel target:


35 Yards from an H&R/NEF Pardner Single Shot Shotgun with a Modified Choke on a Birchwood Casey splattering turkey target:


FINAL THOUGHTS

As shown in the field tests above, the Winchester AA International 12 Gauge Shells performed excellent. They give up very little in pattern density to heavier 1oz and 1 1/8oz shells. 

Although not as super ultralight as the tiny Aguila MiniShells, whatever they lose in weight advantage to the MiniShells, they make up for with superior velocity and harder, deeper penetrating shot. 


This makes Winchester's AA 12 Gauge International Target Shells an excellent ammo choice for bush pilots, snowmobiler's, ATV'ers, canoeists and other backcountry adventurers who like to pack a shotgun and keep their pack weight to a minimum. 

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is an Army veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for The New Pioneer and Backpacker Magazine Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Wilderness Survival: Eat Crow Readers!


Have you ever eaten a crow? I have! Back in 2014, I decided to put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I wanted to know -- if Crow were the only meat available in a survival situation, would it be barf-o-rama, or would it be tolerable? So....in the spirit of educating myself in order to share the experience with you, I ate crow.....


Into the pot it goes - yuck!


Crow are carrion feeders, so I had to boil it for 30 mins straight to ensure that no bad microbes remained. Shown here is the Crow after it had been fully cooked:
 

Unfortunately, a huge thunderstorm rolled up and a dropped a ton of rain right after I took this photo, so I had to huddle up in a tent and eat the Crow and was not able to take any more photos. Suffice it to say, I was quite surprised by the way it tasted!


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is an Army veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for The New Pioneer and Backpacker Magazine Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Monday, May 3, 2021

Buck Knives releases S35VN version of the Classic 119 Special

 
Photo credit: Buck Knives ©2021

Buck Knives has just released a super groovy version of their classic 119 Special in S35VN Supersteel. Called the 119 Special Pro, the knife includes an eye-pleasing green canvas micarta handle, black leather sheath, and a polished nickel silver guard and pommel. 

Photo credits: Buck Knives ©2021

For more information visit: https://www.buckknives.com/product/119-special-pro-knife/0119GRS1-B/

Cold Steel Discontinues the Outdoorsman Lite Knife

 

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

Right as Cold Steel perfects the Outdoorsman Lite, they discontinue it....


Sad news for fans of Cold Steel's Outdoorsman Lite. Cold Steel has discontinued the knife and removed it from their website. I was able to confirm this directly from Cold Steel's customer service department recently.

This is a shame, because in its most recent iteration (the 2021 model), Cold Steel finally perfected the Outdoorsman Lite, turning it into one of the best wilderness survival blades on the market for the money.

Photo credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

With an average street price of just $28.00, the Outdoorsman Lite is packed with cool features that make it wilderness-friendly. 

It sports a 6" long, 4mm thick blade, full tang construction, an exposed tang at the butt end of the grip, a robust tip capable of handling bushcraft and wilderness survival tasks, a 90 degree spine capable of striking a firesteel, a comfortable and secure rubberized grip, and a sub-zero cryo quenched German 4116 Stainless blade (a fine-grained stainless that is similar to Mora's 12c27 Stainless in performance). All in a package that weighs just 8.3 ounces total with the sheath. 

(Photo courtesy of Cold Steel)

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

The evolution of the Outdoorsman Lite -- 2011 to 2015

When Cold Steel first released the Outdoorsman Lite back in 2011, it came with a thinner 3mm thick blade and weighed only 5.2 ounces without the sheath. The original sheath consisted of cordura nylon. Although it was capable of being used for survival purposes, this lack of blade thickness made some Cold Steel fans shy away from buying it for serious wilderness use.

Vintage photo courtesy of eBay

2016 - New Polymer Sheath

Starting in 2016, Cold Steel replaced the original cordura nylon sheath with a Mora-esque polymer sheath:

Photo credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

Unfortunately, this sheath, which has been used on the Outdoorsman Lite until this year, was too secure and lacked a thumb ramp, making the knife difficult to draw from the sheath. Thankfully, this issue was fixed in the 2021 model (see below).

2019 -- Blade Thickness Increased from 3mm to 4mm

In 2019, Cold Steel increased the thickness of the Outdoorsman Lite's blade from a thinner 3mm wide to a very respectable 4mm, roughly the same thickness as a Marine Kabar Knife. The tip was also widened during this change. 

Photo credits: Juraj Čikkel from the Cold Steel Nation Facebook Forum. All Rights Reserved. © Juraj Čikkel 2021

This is also resulted in a tip that is more robust than Cold Steel's SRK model (SRK on the right, Outdoors Lite on left):

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

This change also increased the weight of the blade itself from 5.2 ounces to 6.5 ounces.

Here is a comparison of the 2021 4116 Stainless Outdoorsman Lite and 2020 4034SS Stainless Outdoorsman Lite next to a Kabar Marine Fighting Knife and a vintage Cold Steel SRK in AUS8:

From Left to Right: Marine Kabar, 2021 Outdoorsman Lite in 4116, Cold Steel SRK, 2020 Outdoorsman Lite in 4034SS. 

Note that the tip is thicker on the 2020 model 4034SS Outdoorsman Lite than on the 2021 4116 Stainless version. 

 2020 -- Blade Steel changed from German 4116 Stainless to Japanese 4034SS Stainless

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

In 2020, Cold Steel changed the steel from German 4116 to 4034SS Stainless, a steel that Cold Steel describes as "A Japanese made medium grade stainless steel that admirably resists corrosion due to its higher Chromium content. It is also relatively easy to sharpen and features a moderate degree of wear resistance. Often it is used for kitchen cutlery or for smaller knives that are of a generally good quality but are economically price."

One of the curious differences between the 2020 4034SS Outdoorsman Lite and the 2021 4116 version is the level on polish between the two. The 4116 Outdoorsman Lite is (bottom) clearly more polished and with darker lettering than the 4034SS Outdoorsman Lite (top):

Photo credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

The 4034SS version has more of a polished matte finish whereas the 4116 has a bright, mirror polish that is even more noticeable in person. 

Because Cold Steel only changed to 4034SS for one year and then went back to 4116, most online knife stores have had difficulty in correctly labeling their listings for this knife. From my recent experience, anything that is labeled as either steel will actually be the 2021 4116 German Stainless version, not the 4034SS. 

The only place to my knowledge that is still selling the 4034SS version is Midway USA, which is selling the factory second version of it. These were probably sold in low numbers, so if you can still find one, they may become collectible at some point. 

Changes to the 2021 Outdoorsman Lite - Perfection at last

For 2021, Cold Steel corrected the sheath problem by making it easier to draw. I would compare the draw of the 2021 sheath to be similar to my Mora knife sheaths. In other words -- very good overall. 

The other major change for 2021 was switching back to German 4116 Stainless and giving the blade a mirror polish. 

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2021 All Rights Reserved

The edge geometry is also excellent on the 2021 Outdoorsman Lite. I did a direct comparison of its wood carving capabilities next to a 2021 Cold Steel SRK in SK-5 Steel recently. I found the Outdoorsman Lite to be notably superior to the SRK. Whereas the SRK was only adequate for wood carving, the Outdoorsman Lite excelled. So good that I would compare it as being close in performance to some of the Swedish Mora knives in my collection.

Final Thoughts

I don't think the cat is out of the bag yet that the Outdoorsman Lite has been discontinued. If I were you, I would grab up one of these cool and unique knives while you can. With its features and light weight, and a tip that's thicker than Cold Steel's SRK, this knife would make an excellent mountain survival, bushcrafting and hunting knife. 

4.5 out of 5 Stars -- Highly recommended

So what do you think? Was it the right time for Cold Steel to discontinue the Outdoorsman Lite? Will other classic Cold Steel knives end up on the chopping block soon? Leave a comment below!


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is an Army veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Guides. Jason has also written articles on bushcraft and survival for The New Pioneer and Backpacker Magazine Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)