Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: S.O.C. E&E Tac Ruc

S.O.C. E&E Tac Ruc
When it comes to day packs most people are not picky. Usually something small that holds a water bottle and a Cliff bar do the job and anything more is a bonus. Some people like more and some people like less and each have their pros and cons. With a small pack that carries a hydration system, food, and a few other small knick-knacks you can move fast and cover land without fatiguing yourself. If you’re like me, you have a larger pack that has all that the smaller pack has and more room for extra gear such as rain gear, a three liter hydration system (less I have to stop to pump water), general preparedness kit, headlamp, and more. I have a tendency to take a bit more then I’ll need but at least I know that if I get into a jam I have what I need. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. So with this ideology in mind, I bought a pack that I knew would suit the need. This pack is the S.O.C. E&E Tac Ruc.

Now when I bought this pack I was new on the outdoor scene and fell victim to an occurrence that many newbies do. I bought military gear. Now by no means do I label Mil-Surp as garbage, in fact, I still use some Mil-Surp gear. You just have to be careful that you get the USGI gear and not copies from overseas. I was fortunate enough to have my lack of knowledge work for me; the S.O.C. E&E Tac Ruc makes a more then capable day pack. Its dimensions are 20” x 12” x 6” making it rather large for a day pack. When rock scrambling and squeezing through tight opening in rocks I sometimes have problems maneuvering, but it is by no means impossible. My biggest complaint is how far the pack comes out. Even with the “slimming straps” tightened all the way it still seems to protrude.

As you can see it protrudes quite a bit
Note the slimming straps being used to carry poles
The Tac Ruc’s size does not create to any discomfort issues because of its awesome suspension system and padded straps and belt. The back panel has three padded mesh sections that fit the natural contours of your back which do a pretty good job of keeping back strain to a minimum when used with the waist belt (recommended). The load fits closely to your back and does not shift, making it feel more like an extension of yourself rather than a backpack that may bounce around or distribute weight unevenly. The waist belt feels to be a little high but I’ve been told by a friend that it is fine and it doesn’t seem to affect the fit negatively so I’m not complaining.

When it comes to features the Tac Ruc really shines. There is literally MOLLEE webbing everywhere. The only side that does not have MOLLEE webbing is the side going against your back, leaving you with five sides to attach any MOLLEE compatible gear you may have.

I used the MOLLEE webbing to attach a external pouch
As stated earlier, the pack itself is large. This gives a very spacious main compartment typical to any rucksack design while also providing two smaller slip pockets on the sides of the main compartment and two pockets running the depth of the pack in the front and rear of the main compartment. These pockets allow for organization of gear making it easy to know where your desired piece of kit is in the main compartment. 

Main compartment
Since all the space gives the pack a potential to be loaded with heavy equipment, the Tac Ruc has two aluminum stays that provide support while remaining very flexible. The internal pocket closest to the users back is big enough to hold a three liter hydration system that runs out through the pack’s drawstring waterproof storm flap and out of the lid of pack where you can route it through the D-rings.

Closed storm flap

Hydration hose coming through the storm flap exit and going through the lid
Hydration hose coming through lid and routed by D-rings
 The lid of this pack is even special. On top it has a Velcro closure which when opened has its own waterproof map viewing window. This “viewing compartment” is accessed through a zipper pocket on the lid, inside the map compartment is another zipper that gives you the ability to access the main compartment without unbuckling the lid.

Map viewing compartment
Large and in charge, the S.O.C. E&E Tac Ruc sports many features that provide the user with more options than he or she could want. Although it is a little pricey, averaging at around $84.99, it is wroth the money if you have it.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weird in the Woods: The Home in the Woods

An appropriate place to reference total chaos 

The year is 1971. Two 14 year old boys venture into their local woods to do what we all do when were young. As they plodded along something seemed to appear from behind a curtain of vegetation. A small two story house stood in front of them. There were no roads or trails leading to this house. Its white paint was pristine and showed no marks of damage or abuse from the elements. The beautiful green trim gave the doors and windows a unique charm that was finalized by its stone chimney. It was truly a quaint little home.

What happened next is an event that we all would question the motive of. The two boys climbed the black steel stairs to the entrance of home. They stood with their hands cupped around their eyes against the French glass door. It was dark inside and the sunlight that they stood in only created shadows inside the home obscuring their already limited view. The mysterious allure began to eat at them and agreed to search for more options. While standing at the top of the stair case they looked at the door knob. “It’d be too easy.” they thought as if trying to convince themselves to leave. One boy reached out and gripped the door knob. He gave it a sudden jerk as if expecting it to resist. His wrist rotated with the door knob until reached the end of the rotation. The shock of it left him slightly stunned for a moment. After quickly glancing up, he slowly pushed the door open.

It was dark but as they opened the door the sunlight seemed to illuminate the room. There they found a sofa with a small table set in front of it. As they crept deeper into the home they found it fully furnished and neat but the feeling of life seemed to be missing. It was as if everything had been there for all of time undisturbed. The pair slowly and quietly eased another door open. On the other side was a fully furnished bedroom. The light from outside came into this room through the windows casting large shadows. A dresser was against the wall; on this dresser was an array of organized perfume bottles. They had crossed the line; the house at that very moment took up a personality. They knew that someone was, or did, occupy that home but the fact that they were nowhere to be found while having no obvious intention to leave was puzzling. The boys stood in silence before one uttered “Jack…. We don’t belong here.” That was clear. The two left the home as was and departed.

These two boys were my father and his brother Jack. As they grew up the house was nothing too special. Every time they had seen it after while off-roading on their Honda SL-90’s there seemed to be no change. Years later, in the 1980’s, my mother woke my father up from a sound sleep. “There’s a fire across the street!” she cried in amazement. While recapping the only thought my dad could recall was “Sucks for them.” Whether “them” being the possible occupant of the house or the local fire department having to fight through the woods to put out the fire is unclear.

The remains of the house today.

To this day there are no records of the fire, no local stories of the occupant, and no idea how the fire was started. It remains a rarely visited local mystery even though it is in plain sight. As I type this I can just barely make out the chimney through the bare trees and snow. The remains of this home seem to now be part of the environment. Quietly they sit slowly deteriorating, showing no signs of the once ideal dwelling it used to be.

A close up on the steel stairs my father and his brothers stood on before they entered.

Looking through what would be a French door
Note collapsed roof and floor

View from inside the house where a fallen tree has smashed through the wall

My dad does not remember there being a deck which one could argue that it means someone still lived there when they entered and later had it built. However, the fact that the collapsed deck here shows no signs of burns suggest it may be a collapsed over-hang made by kids after the fire

The entrance used now

My father is also unsure of this swing set being there when he found the house. When they were inside the house they found no evidence of children 

A door way crushed by fallen debris

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coming to a theater near you.

I soon will be launching the blog story series "Weird in the Woods." In each installment (not going to be annual, just sporadic) I will post pictures of strange things found in the outdoors, if available the history of the thing, and write about the experience there. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cabin Fever.

You can get out there in the winter, and I'm lucky I have been, but when your not out there winter is awful. I've been "anti-winter"  for along time now. I've just realized now that winter is not the end of the outdoor season and since then I've gotten out three times. Nowhere near the amount of times I do in better weather or as much as I would like to get out even though its winter but still OK. When I'm hiking in the snow I enjoy winter. It really is a whole different world. It really keys the phrase "new season, new hike." I need to get out more though because winter at home is..... suckish.... at best. But we'll get through. I'm not going to invest in winter backpacking gear this season, maybe next year. I'll stick to hiking for now and come spring break out the framed packs, shelter systems, and everything else. I just hope the warm weather comes soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Becker BK11

BK&T Ka-Bar BK11 “Becker Necker”

DISCLAIMER: The knife being reviewed was manufactured by Becker Tool and Ka-Bar, unlike the earlier models that were produced by Becker Tool and Camillus.

Knives are a hot debate between backpackers, hikers, or anyone else who has to carry all their gear on their back. Weight, reliability, size, versatility, and packability are a few things that one must take into account. Where many on the “ultralite” scene may prefer smaller folding knives, I felt that I wanted something a little more…. solid. Then I found exactly what I was looking for, the BK11, also known as the “Becker Necker.”

Perhaps one of the best things about this knife is the price paid for such high quality. It is made out of high-carbon 1095 Cro-Van steel which as is strong as an ox and as sharp as anything as well. It does not have the anti-corrosion abilities of stainless steel but it does have a black coating protecting it from the elements so this is hardly a problem. Online you can find the BK11 at most websites for $40.00 plus shipping and handling. My first impression of the knife was that it was light, weighing just over 3 ounces with the handle wrapped in 550 cord. My second impression is that it was SHARP, of course that’s expected by both Becker and Ka-Bar.

Upon using it, I came to the conclusion that it is the perfect size for me. It measures in at 6.75 inches giving it the ability to be put on the outside of a pack in the sheath without it getting in the way and without you looking like a “trail commando.” The sheath is also well made and constructed out of plastic injection molded glass-filled nylon. It provides many different attachment possibilities with four large grommet-like holes on the bottom and two on top, totaling in six. Above the four holes and below the two holes is a pair of smaller “grommet-holes,” totaling in four of those. The sheath measures 4.75 inches alone and is a total of 7.75 inches with the knife securely locked in.

For a knife of its size, the BK11 has many abilities. As I stated earlier the handle of mine is wrapped with the 550 cord provided with the knife. Not only does this increase the grip and comfort of it in my hand, but now if I need cord I have it. So now it’s a cord-carrying knife. At the bottom of the handle you’ll notice a strange cut out. This is a bottle opener. Why would I need a bottle opener in the outdoors? I wouldn’t, but you might. I personally use it to pry smaller things rather than damage the blade. So now it’s a cord-carrying, bottle opening, prying knife. But wait there’s more! The end of handle also sports what Ka-Bar claims is a wire breaker! So now you have a cord-carrying, bottle opening, prying, wire breaking knife! As stated earlier, the sheath also allows many configurations from carrying on your belt (if you buy the belt clip or use the 550 cord to cross-tie it on), on a pack strap or attachment point (my preference), or around your neck if you use the 550 cord as a necklace that passes through the sheath (hence “Necker”).

                                             BK11 attached to my ALICE pack by zip ties

                                        BK11 attached to my left Pack strap handle facing down

                                                         Bottle opener/wire breaker

“How does the knife perform?” you ask? It performs superbly. It is easily the best knife I have ever owned and has yet to let me down. The durability of this knife allows me to use it with confidence. Users of the BK11 claim to use it to field dress game; I for one tested this knife in a way that many do not. I tested this knife by cutting down a tree. Yes, a tree. I did this by cutting a 360 degree wedge in the tree and then pushing it over when it was thin enough. If the stuff it the fan, I’m confident I could construct a shelter with this knife if needed.

                                                      Tree with 360 degree wedge cut in

Tree after it was pushed over

This knife surpasses what I require in a knife. It has done me well and I’m sure it will well into the future.  It is truly a small knife that handles some big jobs. For the price and what it provides you cannot go wrong.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The First.

Welcome to RROOA! I will be using this blog exactly as the name suggest. I will write reviews about gear I used, ramble on about things that press my buttons, and just discuss the outdoors in general. Feel free to leave comments and I hope this blog helps, entertains, and occupies you. Thanks for reading.