Champ Bodyguard Battery: Power Bank, Flashlight, Siren

It seems that small portable power banks are all the rage these days and to an extent they should be. After all, they can be used to recharge one of your most useful assets during an emergency: the cell phone.

Now, I know there are people who say you shouldn’t rely on a cell phone and that’s true, assuming it’s the ONLY tool you have to perform the functions it can do. IMO, a cell phone should be one of many tools in your arsenal. Anyway, the point is that in order to keep the cell phone going when you need it the most, you’re going to want a power bank that you can take with you.

If you’re unaware, a power bank is simply a small device that can be used to charge USB electronics–most typically a cell phone–but in some cases it might be powerful enough to charge a tablet.

The Champ Bodyguard Battery

As for this Champ Bodyguard Battery, here’s the description from Amazon: “The Champ E-prep Bodyguard Battery with Rechargeable Power Bank is perfect emergency power supply. This power bank charges devices through a USB port and is perfect for giving juice back to a dead phone or tablet. It has High-efficiency output for fast charging with the capacity to completely charge a phone, giving 8 hours of phone calls. This power bank also comes with a built in flashlight to illuminate any dark place. It also has a siren to help alert nearby people for assistance…”

As you can read from the above, it’s more than a power bank and includes a handy light and siren too. Here’s my take…

Let me start with the siren: I wish they didn’t even bother. It’s virtually useless. I know they were trying to make this more of an emergency tool but the siren is simply not loud enough to draw real concern (in my opinion) from others. It was so obnoxious that I actually glued the switch in place with krazy glue. It’s much better now. 😉

The light, however, is a nice feature and is actually bright enough to see relatively well in a small dark room, such as a bathroom or closet. Outside it provides enough light to not trip over any rocks while walking around in the pitch dark but it’s no substitute for a quality flashlight.

Now, the actual point in the Champ Bodyguard Battery is the recharge capability. The battery has a capacity of 2200 mAh which is plenty to recharge a typical iPhone battery completely (an iPhone 4 battery is about 1400 mAh) assuming the Bodyguard battery is fully charged, of course. I should note that as power banks go this battery capacity is on the low end of the spectrum. You can get power banks that are significantly larger and for less money.

Ultimately, I wanted to like the Champ Bodyguard Battery because it does two important jobs for you in one relatively small package: recharge a cell phone and provide some lighting. The problem is that there are much less expensive options that perform both functions better. In fact, I can purchase an Anker Astro battery pack, a Cree flashlight, and a package of AA batteries for the flashlight and still have a bit left over. The choice, ultimately, is yours to make.

Champ Bodyguard Battery
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The Practical Preppers Book: Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness

If you know who Practical Preppers are then you’ll want to pay attention. If you don’t know who they are, Practical Preppers are two well-known YouTube personalities, Scott Hunt (aka. Engineer775) and David Kobler (aka., SouthernPrepper1), who are two wonderful people you should be paying attention to in the preparedness community.

Practical Preppers Books

Recently, I was contacted to review Scott Hunt’s new book, The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness (there’s also a Kindle edition if interested), and I can say I was delighted to do so. Even more important, I was glad I read it since I learned quite a bit… more than I thought I would, in fact.

To be clear, this isn’t a “how to” book that details how to go about setting up a water catchment system or solar power setup. Not at all. Instead, it’s more about explaining the many possibilities and solutions that he, Scott Hunt, has learned about and employed not only for his clients (they run a prepping consulting company) but also for his own family as well.

I like this approach a lot because he was obviously quite honest in his experiences and opinions with the various prepping solutions outlined in the book. He often shared his own thoughts, recommendations, concerns, and pros/cons about the topics discussed. Coming from such a knowledgeable person that means a lot!

As for the content the book discusses eight main topics, including: water, food, shelter, power, medical, bug out, security, and community. You might think he’s missing some critical aspects (such as sanitation, lighting, comms, etc) but he does cover these “lesser” topics in specific chapters. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a bit more about some of these “lesser” topics from his point of view but overall I was very pleased with the book outline and major topics discussed.

Overall, each chapter of the Practical Preppers book is a wealth of information and, to be honest, I’d have purchased the book for the chapters on water and power alone. These two areas, in my opinion, are what Scott seems to know best and it shows in his writing.

If you’re looking for a book that covers the aforementioned major areas in-depth enough so that you can make quality decisions about furthering your prepping strategy to be truly more self-sufficient then this book is a must-have!

Scott does a marvelous job with the topics he covers and I wouldn’t hesitation to recommend you add The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness to your library.

Practical Preppers Book: Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness
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Emergency Weather Radio: Champ Survival Skybox

Once upon a time I had purchased an Eton Emergency Weather Radio and I wasn’t very impressed for the $50 I spent. Sure it had all the bells and whistles but there was something about it that I didn’t like… perhaps the hand crank, I don’t know. Seems I got rid of it –probably gave it to somebody–and so I haven’t had a true emergency radio in my possession until now.

Let’s talk about the Champ Survival Skybox Emergency Weather Radio today. Last week I reviewed the Champ Survival Sidekick and, to be honest, I wasn’t very pleased. This Skybox, however, is a different story…

According the Amazon description: “…With the Champ Survival Bluetooth Weather Radio with Flashlight, you’re a little more prep’d and ready for the unexpected. Whether you’re camping or caught in a power outage, the Survival Skybox has everything you need to you safe. Includes, AM / FM / NOAA weather radio, flashlight, bluetooth wireless technology, USB charging for mobile devices, distress light, NOAA alerts, digital clock, calendar function, temperature function, hand crank and solar panel charging, headphone jack, hideaway antenna, convenient carry handle, radio, AC power adapter, user guide, and 1-year limited warranty.”

The Emergency Weather Radio: Function (AM/FM/Weather)

As you can see, this is more than just a radio. Of course, that’s a great place to start. It’s does AM/FM but, more importantly, NOAA weather bands too. This, in my humble opinion, is very useful to emergency preparedness and something I feel every home should have.

Note that the display is all digital and allows you to change the stations using button OR a dial, though, I’m not sure why they integrated both options. One thing I liked, in particular, is the ability to turn the weather alter functioning on/off which means that if there is an alert issued (via NOAA weather services) then the radio will automatically turn on and start playing. That can be useful.

As for the sound, it’s plenty loud enough and just turning the volume up to about halfway was plenty to listen to weather alerts as well as music. Note: there is a hideaway antenna, which is nice, but I would have preferred it to be a bit longer so as to improve reception. Where we are we don’t get the best of reception but I was able to get the channels I generally expected to get.

The Emergency Weather Radio: Lights

There’s a light on one end of the Skybox. The light isn’t super bright by any means but it is a bit brighter than the Champ Sidekick I reviewed previously. I’d say it’s enough to keep from tripping over things around the house. The light also tilts up and down (let’s say 25 degrees or so) which could prove useful in some situations.

There’s also a red distress lighting included that, sadly, blinks as well. For the life of me I have no idea why manufacturers think this is a good idea. If I were truly stranded in a ditch somewhere then perhaps the idea makes sense but it’s hardly bright enough to be of any actual use. I would have much rather they skipped that idea and either made the red light NOT blink (so as to preserve night vision) OR made a low setting for the actual light.

Emergency Phone Charging

One very good addition is the ability to charge a cell phone. Like the Sidekick, this isn’t going to fully recharge a typical cell phone but should provide plenty of juice to get a phone call or two out. Moreover, the battery in the Skybox is about three times the size of the Sidekick so you will be able to charge a cell phone battery.

Solar Powered, Hand Crank, etc

I like things that are solar powered. According to the manual, however, it would take about 45 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery. That may sound bad but anything that has a built-in solar panel like this isn’t going to charge very fast. If you’re going to rely on solar to charge the unit during an emergency then you should limit radio play and lighting as much as possible.

As for the hand crank, it’s very similar (if not exactly the same) as the Sidekick. IMO, it’s a last-ditch effort. Granted, it’s nice to have the option. According to the manual it should take roughly four hours to fully charge the battery of continuous hand-cranking. Sounds like a great job for the kids. 😉

I should note that it does NOT take batteries which would have been a nice option in an emergency radio. There is an included AC adapter which would be great if you have an alternative power setup but otherwise useless in an emergency. Beyond that, I would have at least preferred there be a compartment to place the adapter inside for storage but there isn’t.

Other Mentionables

Like I mentioned above the display is all digital. That’s nice but it gets a bit crowded. Anyway, no big deal. I did notice that the Skybox includes a built-in temperature monitor on the display which is nice. Now you can gripe about the precise temperature you’re either sweating at or freezing from! All kidding aside, it is a good feature and one I hadn’t thought about.

If you’re so inclined, the Skybox has bluetooth capability, meaning you can sync something like a iPhone or iPad to it and play your favorite music. I can’t say this is an especially useful feature during an emergency but, hey, at least you won’t have to wait for the radio station to play your favorite songs. 🙂

The Skybox also has an alarm and sleep timer feature.

Overall, there’s a lot packed into the Champ Survival Skybox emergency weather radio. The price is a bit steep at nearly $100 but you’re not buying a cheapo emergency radio here. I feel like it’s a quality radio that will suit your needs during an emergency. And with the added features of a light, solar powered, hand-crank, USB phone charger, and more… it works as advertised.

Emergency Weather Radio
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Champ Survival Sidekick 8-in-1 Multitool: Flashlight, Glass Breaker, Seatbelt Cutter, Device Charging

This Champ Survival Sidekick is marketed as a survival multi-tool, in particular, for your vehicle because of the tools included. According to the Amazon description:

  • “Includes flashlight, glass breaker, seatbelt cutter, distress light, magnetic base, USB connection, hand crank charging and compass included.
  • USB to micro cable.
  • Comes with convenient user guide.
  • Can charge most mobile devices. Phone and charging cables not included.
  • Compatible with iPhone iPod and works with Android Phones.”

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Flashlight and Distress Light

First and foremost this is a flashlight. It features 3 LED bulbs and for a flashlight that doesn’t run on alkaline batteries (there’s an internal battery that you recharge) it’s decent. Granted, it’s not going to outshine a Maglite but it does the job nonetheless. That said, the Satechi LightMate I reviewed the other week does shine quite a bit brighter.

There’s also a red distress light that you can choose to use instead. It blinks on and off rather rapidly on the butt-end of the flashlight. I assume the purpose it to attach the flashlight to your vehicle using the included magnetic mounts so that passing motorists will notice. Honestly, I don’t see how this is going to be any better than your vehicle’s hazards and really is just an annoyance to me. I’d have preferred a bigger battery, smaller flashlight, ability to use alkaline batteries… anything really.

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Glass Breaker and Seat Belt Cutter

Like the Satechi from the other week, this Survival Sidekick also includes a glass breaker. Rather than being included at the butt-end of the flashlight like the Satechi, the glass breaker is on the side of the Sidekick so you swing it like a hammer. I don’t see anything wrong with that design but the glass breaker on the Satechi is larger and heftier maybe making it easier to use… I don’t honestly know. As for the seat belt cutter, I didn’t attempt to test that but I do like it being included.

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Emergency Phone Charger

It seems that more and more survival tools are incorporating the ability to charge phones and I feel that’s a good thing. This particular tool says it can charge your phone from between 5-15% depending on phone model and this tool’s state of charge. While better than nothing there are better options for portable emergency phone charging. Of course, when desperate you can use the hand crank to first charge the internal battery and then charge your phone. In this case, don’t be that desperate. 😉 Speaking of which…

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Hand Crank Charging

Normally I don’t like hand-crank anything and I can say the same for flashlights. After using the crank for a few minutes and then later reading the directions it seems I would have to crank the flashlight for about a minute (at a good rate) to use the flashlight for three minutes. I can only imagine how much cranking I would have to do to charge my phone to any useful amount. That said, the hand crank is a last ditch option that’s nice to have if I ran out of every other option.

Everything Else

There’s also a button compass included on the butt-end of the Sidekick. I guess that’s useful if you’re thinking of hoofing it but probably not really necessary on a flashlight like this. Also, as I mentioned previously, there are magnetic mounts that allow the flashlight to stand up when attached to your vehicle’s hood or rooftop thereby allowing the red distress beacon to be seen. The magnets are strong enough to hold to the side of my car too.

I should also mention that the size of the flashlight is about the size of a 2 D-cell Maglite but significantly lighter. For the size I feel they could have done more.

Overall, the Champ Survival Sidekick isn’t a bad deal, it’s just not something I would recommend when there are better options. If you want a quality flashlight for your vehicle that incorporates a glass breaker and can charge your phone then buy the Satechi LightMate. For about the same price you’ll have a better flashlight for sure.

Champ Survival Sidekick
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The WeatherFlow Wind Meter: The Nifty Device You Didn’t Know You Needed!

Weatherflow Wind Meter Upclose[Editor’s Note: This is a review done by one of reThinkSurvival.com’s fans, Douglas. I do appreciate his review of this product greatly and hope it helps you.]

What they say:

WeatherFlow is proud to announce the WeatherFlow Wind Meter – it’s an anemometer that fits in your pocket. It’s the first hardware product we have created for the general wind & weather addicted community. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod, and all major Android devices.

Download one of our free apps for iOS or Android and plug in your wind meter – it’s really that easy. Hold it up high facing into the wind. Your phone does the rest by recording the wind speed (average and gust), wind direction and location. Easily share onsite reports with WeatherFlow, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, SMS, Email, Facebook. And view all of this crowd-sourced weather in one of our consumer applications.

The Wind Meter, although not a scientific instrument, is designed to be better than any other handheld anemometer on the market. It’s operating range extends from the smallest puff (2 mph) to well over hurricane force winds (125 mph). Calibrated at the University of Florida’s Aerospace Engineering Department, our Wind Meter is accurate to the larger of +/- 0.5% of the reading or 0.2 mph at up to 15° off-axis. That means even if you don’t hold it directly into the wind, you’ll still get very accurate wind speed information.

Not only do we have one of the most accurate and coolest handheld wind meters on the market, at $34.95 it’s also one the most affordable.  So what are you waiting for? Get one now!

What I say:

A Strong Case

When I received the WeatherFlow Wind Meter (anemometer), the first thing I noticed was the well designed, sturdy plastic container in which it arrived. Not having to find a storage case, or carve out a niche in a sturdy container is definitely a plus, especially when you are going “minimalist”. The WeatherFlow Wind Meter will do well in a backpack, glove box, or even a jacket pocket the case dimensions are a mere 3 ¾” tall, 2 7/8” wide by 1” deep (roughly 9.5mm x 73mm x 25.4mm).

The Anemometer

The instrument itself which is made of durable plastic appears as an inverted teardrop (see images), with what appears to be a standard stereo headset plug molded into the bottom. The blades are well recessed inside the housing which will help prevent damage. The instrument transfers wind speed data to the phone when plugged in to the headset fitting on your phone and the appropriate application installed and turned on.  Note: It may require one additional restart of the software during the installation; at least it did on my tablet. From then on it immediately recognized the meter.

The software interface is fairly intuitive. The menu offers, Take a reading, Settings, History, Order online. In settings, it offers, Activity (listing) a custom Activity (you can name), Speed units (Miles per hour, Knots, Kilometers per hour, Meters per second, Beaufort), Direction display (degrees or text) Magnetic Declination (True North or Magnetic North), Maximum sample period (from 3s – 60s) they may be working on a constant option.

My Devices

The WeatherFlow is compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPods and most Android devices. Check their website for a reasonably complete list. In my tests I used both a Samsung Galaxy Ace II phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 tablet. Both are Android systems. The software needed is available for free on Google Play and/or the App Store.

One of the nice features of the WeatherFlow Wind Meter’s software is the ability to fairly quickly share the wind data to other nearby devices, or via social media, e-mail, etc. You should take a quick visit to www.weatherflow.com and review their weather networks, data applications, weather modeling and slew of consumer products as well.

WeatherFlow Wind Meter vs. Speedometer

You guessed it, in the still the morning air on my first day of testing, I (as a passenger) rolled down the window of the car and compared the meter’s output to that of the speedometer of the car. Knowing the meter is rated up to 125 mph, I felt comfortable exposing the meter and the phone to a “road test”. I am happy to report that once we agreed on Kilometers per Hour as opposed to Miles per Hour (the app can give those readings plus Knots, Meters per Second, and Beaufort), the speedometer and the anemometer were in complete agreement that we drive safely and slightly under the speed limit.

WeatherFlow Wind Meter vs. Kestrel(s)

We have a friendly group of folks at the range most are quite willing to help out, lend a hand, offer advice and even politely listen. I quickly found a few long range target shooters who were quite interested to see this anemometer in person. Most had seen the advertisements, and a few videos online regarding this product.

A few of these gents broke out their quite fancy Kestrel Meters Handheld weather stations/wind meters. These meters and are quite popular in the shooting community and I should point out that their instruments start at 3-4 times the price of the WeatherFlow Wind Meter and with all the “bells and whistles” can top out at as much as 16 times the price. The focus of our test would be using only the anemometer functions of their devices for comparison.

All the meters were positioned to face the prevailing wind each having “clear air” to compare the sensitivity. While the afternoon was mostly only light breezes punctuated 2 -4 mph, with the occasional gust to 7mph this meter faired quite well, generally giving the same or quite similar readings as the more expensive units.

One thing that became immediately obvious was that this instrument would be an excellent training device for estimating wind speeds in the field, and not just for shooters.

WeatherFlow Wind Meter vs. Home Weather Station

A neighbor down by the beach has a lovely personal weather station at his home with all the bells and whistles including an anemometer. We dropped by for tea and a quick comparison. Again wind speeds were in agreement with only slight variances which he noted was most likely due to the height of his anemometer (well above the roofline), as opposed to my WeatherFlow being safely held on the porch approximately two stories below.

WeatherFlow Wind Meter vs. Marine Weather

Marine weather reports are critical to safe boating. Things can get “tricky” on even the seemingly nicest of days. This is especially true for kayakers and canoers; we are human powered so it’s especially nice to know what you are working with, or in the case of a headwind, against! Once our confidence in WeatherFlow was established, we enjoyed a few short trips approximately 5 – 8 miles offshore to take some readings and compare them with the government weather predictions. Their data are fairly accurate in a broad sense, with all the equipment they have out there these days our coasts are dotted with excellent weather stations and weather buoys but it was nice to have even more localized readings when paddling anywhere on the Pacific Coast. Being able to take local readings, helps give us a better estimation as to if we want to put in, or which direction will give us a downwind run “home”.

The WeatherFlow performed well, but I was a little nervous as to the durability of the instrument regarding exposure to salt spray, not to mention my phone as I don’t have a safety strap on it. Most likely from here on out my readings will be taken while still ashore.

What is out there regarding portable anemometers?

There are a few manufacturers of anemometers that plug into your cellphone or tablet. They are similarly priced. I have not used them, so you’ll most likely want to check out reviews and videos to be found out there.

There are standalone anemometers, some (more like mini weather stations) with temperature, barometric pressure, etc. Often the more features, the more you will pay. The Kestrel models I used to compare the anemometer functions cost 4-16 times more than this and some even have Bluetooth features that send updated data constantly to ballistic software (like the app I use on my phone and tablet). One such app I like, Sniper Calc Pro (for Android) does just that. I spoke with their development team and they are aware of the WeatherFlow and have requested the SDK from them, but as of this writing, I have no news.

Pros

  • For the price, this is an accurate anemometer that is competitive with devices costing several hundreds of dollars.
  • I can imagine several sports and even occupations that this would be a handy device for.
  • It’s compact, portable, seems durable.
  • Several additional apps (see their website) use this data and data can be stored and shared.
  • The WeatherFlow Wind Meter makes a great little “trainer” for those developing their Kentucky windage skills.
  • It makes a great gift for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

Cons

  • This device trusts that you have the ability to at least judge wind direction to at least 15° accuracy. If not a small portable wind vane might be handy.
  • This anemometer is not “stand alone” you must have a working (charged) cell phone or tablet to use it. If your battery goes dead or your phone/tablet bricks… you’ll have a lovely gift for a friend. 🙂
  • Currently does not interact with my (or any that I know of) ballistics software in “real time”. If it did, as a shooter, I’d be thrilled.

Editor’s Note: Overall, I’d suggest that a compact wind meter such as this Weatherflow Wind Meter can prove useful to your preps be it at the shooting range or just for fun while out boating.]

Weatherflow Wind Meter Attached to Tablet

Satechi LightMate Emergency LED Flash Light: 220 Lumens, Integrated Glass Breaker, Charge USB Devices

Let me start off by saying that I’m really beginning to like multi-purpose flashlights like the Satechi LightMate Emergency LED Flash Light. At a cost of $30 shipped it’s almost a steal!

Satechi Lightmate Specs from Amazon:

  • High-brightness, portable LED light – safe, long lasting, and highly visible
  • Safe and efficient mobile power – USB charging port with cable included
  • Long-distance flash light – 5 different lighting modes: bright, medium, dim, SOS, and strobe
  • High-strength alloy steel emergency glassbreaker
  • Waterproof and durable – can withstand inclement weather, accidental submersion, or spills

My thoughts on theSatechi Lightmate:

To be sure, the most important aspect of any flashlight is that the light be useful enough to see what you’re doing when you need it the most and I can say that this Satechi LightMate certainly does that for its size. The best part is that you can use it as you would a traditional flashlight ( via a beam of light) or you can screw on the provided lamp diffuser and use it for more of an area lighting effect; this is particularly nice if you intend to add it to your vehicle or perhaps use it in a tent, small room, etc. FYI: the lamp diffuser squeaked to high heaven each time I added or removed it and so adding a dab of 3-in-1 oil to the threads solved that problem.

There are five total light settings: high, low, dim, strobe, and SOS. I like the high, low, and dim settings but could do without the strobe and SOS… never have liked either of those options on ANY flashlight especially given the fact that you have to click the flashlight on and off to cycle through each mode. No doubt my thumb will be wore out getting back to the high setting!

On the plus side, I’ve never seen a flashlight with an integrated glass breaker on the butt end. I’m not quite sure whether I’m sold on the idea or not because this would obviously have to be a flashlight that you keep in your vehicle and have easily accessible at your side in a panic. Regardless, the flashlight is just heavy enough and glass breaking tip just pointy enough to be potentially useful as a last-ditch defensive option… I know I wouldn’t want to get hit with it. 😉 And to prevent such troubles there’s a rubber cap you can place over the glass breaker to keep accidents from happening.

When the glass breaker is removed you expose the charging port as well as the USB port for charging devices like your cell phone. Since the flashlight uses a lithium battery (I would have preferred a non-proprietary battery) it can be used to charge devices which is a HUGE benefit and one that I didn’t have built into a flashlight until now. Granted, the battery (it’s 2200 mAh) isn’t huge but you should be able to fully recharge a typical iPhone battery fully one time and then some.

Apparently, the flashlight is waterproof but I never did try to dump it in water to find out; I’ll take their word for it.

Two preferences to point out:

  • I would have preferred the finger grooves (where you grasp) the glass breaker tip in order to screw it on or off to be a bit more prominent than they are now. While I can get the tip on and off I see no reason not to make it even easier to grasp.
  • I would have preferred the battery to be something standard, particularly AA batteries so that they can be replaced and recharged in the future.

Despite the few preferences noted above, this Satechi LightMate Emergency LED Flash Light is a solid light. You can tell as soon as you grasp it. The body is build rugged, the light shines bright, the integrated glass breaker is interesting, and the ability to charge USB devices (like a cell phone) is a huge selling point.

Overall, I’m glad I have this flashlight. I think it’ll be a nice addition to our car. You can learn more about Satechi gear here, including lights a lot more gear too.

Satechi Lightmate
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Blackfire Clamplight Emergency 100-Lumen LED Flashlight

Last week I reviewed the Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof flashlight which I liked an awful lot. If you’re looking for a quality clamping light, that’s the one to get. This week I got to review the Blackfire Clamplight Emergency 100-Lumen LED Flashlight which you might call the “little brother” flashlight.

Because I had such a good time with the other clamp light I was looking forward to reviewing this one too. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite measure up to it’s “big brother.”

Specs from Amazon:

  • 100 Lumen Flashlight
  • Hand held, clamps & stands
  • 100 lumen flashlight & emergency strobe\
  • Snap on emergency beacon
  • Emergency Flashlight & Strobe – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox

More about the light from Amazon:

Emergency Flashlight & Strobe – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox. CLAMPLIGHT clamps virtually anywhere and stays out of the way. Shaped like a traditional flashlight for easy portability or to fit in a belt or pocket. It converts from a clamp light to a stand-up light by simply pressing the clamp and sliding the lock feature. Non-skid feet swivel down for stability. The GOOD DESIGN™ Award is a further acknowledgement of the company position as “the innovation leader in the flashlight category”.

My thoughts

Yes, it’s definitely a smaller version: lighter weight, easier to hold, smaller diameter, and so on. That’s a plus. Just like it’s “big brother” this one uses AAA batteries (four total), another plus… but that’s where the similarities and benefits end.

Since it’s a clamping light, the most important aspect of it *should* be the ability to clamp to things. Sadly, it’s not able to clamp to nearly as many items, especially wider objects like doors or a 2×4. Keep this limitation in mind.

The swivel and pivot leave a lot to be desired. If I had started out with this flashlight then I might not have noticed (or cared) that it doesn’t swivel 360 degrees (it does about 180 total) nor does the head pivot much more than about 90 degrees and definitely not as far back on itself as it’s bigger brother. Ultimately, you can find a way to position the light to get it to shine where you want but not nearly as easily as the waterproof version.

Light output is significantly less than the “big brother.” This is to be expected since this model is 100 lumens whereas the other is 170-190 lumens depending on which source you cite. That’s not really a big deal but what I did not like was the fact that this clamplight either had a high setting or strobe. There is no low setting. In my opinion, this clamplight would have been better off with a low setting over a strobe but I understand the desire to include the strobe since it’s marketed as an emergency light. If that’s the sole purpose (such as in a car) then the strobe may be a good thing.

Moreover, this clamplight isn’t waterproof like the other one. Again, not really a problem, just a feature that would have been nice given that the price for this clamplight is only a few dollars less than the waterproof version.

Since it’s an emergency flashlight there is a red-tinted emergency “beacon” that snaps onto the head. At first I didn’t realize what it was for as I didn’t realize this was an “emergency” light. Regardless, I actually had a bit of difficulty getting it to snap in place. Even worse, I broke one of the three retaining tabs getting it off the first time I tried! That was disappointing to be sure. In fact, what I would have preferred was that (1) the beacon screws on/off and (2) that the entire emergency beacon be a solid piece so that I could use it to preserve night vision if I so desired.

This clamplight can also stand and does so more easily than the waterproof version but I wouldn’t suggest that it’s very stable since the way it stands is by simply adjusting the clamping feet to be flat together and then balancing the flashlight on those. This isn’t very stable whatsoever and I wouldn’t expect it to stand upright on anything other than a flat surface. At least the waterproof “big brother” had a good chance to stay upright once you got it there.

Ultimately, I was disappointed in this particular emergency flashlight. If I hadn’t reviewed the  Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof flashlight first (and subsequently enjoyed it) this Blackfire Clamplight Emergency flashlight may have had fewer letdowns. For the money, go with the other clamping light… that one I liked a lot and still do.

Regardless, you can learn more about Blackfire products here as well as other clamping lights.

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Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof LED Light: 170 Lumens, 360 Degree Swivel

A few weeks back I received this Blacklight Clamplight to review. As I’ve never owned a quality clamping light before (I have owned poorly made ones) I said “sure” and have begun to really like it!

Though I still prefer a quality headlamp for survival situations such as a bug out, these clamp lights are nice for around the house work. Moreover, as a result of technology you get a LOT more for your money these days. 🙂

The clamplight specs:

  • IPX7 water resistance rated – protected against water immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter
  • Hand held, clamps, stands & floats
  • 190 lumen hi/lo & strobe
  • Rubberized coating
  • Head pivots 360 degrees

I do want to mention that although the Amazon description says it’s 190 lumens the box says 170 lumens. That’s not a big deal to me just a clarification to point out.

Here’s a bit more about the light from Amazon:

Waterproof flashlight – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox. CLAMPLIGHT clamps virtually anywhere and stays out of the way. Shaped like a traditional flashlight for easy portability or to fit in a belt or pocket. It converts from a clamp light to a stand-up light by simply pressing the clamp and sliding the lock feature. Non-skid feet swivel down for stability. The GOOD DESIGN™ Award is a further acknowledgement of the company position as “the innovation leader in the flashlight category”.

My thoughts:

I can say I like this clamplight a lot. It’s about the same size as the Coast flashlight I reviewed a while back, though, a bit wider and lighter weight. Because it floats (yes, I did try it for about 30 minutes in my kitchen sink) the light is ever so slightly top-heavy (towards the head) but it’s not a big deal when holding as a normal flashlight and you won’t even notice after about three seconds.

Anyway, in my opinion, the true test of a clamplight is what it can clamp to and I’m happy to report that it clamped to about everything I tried, from a ladder to my coffee table, doors and even a 2×4 in the workshop. That’s nice.

The one gripe I had is that the light can be made to hold the clamps open so that it can stand upright which turned out to be significantly difficult to do the first few times I tried. Personally, I don’t really care if a clamp light can stand upright… it’s supposed to clamp. FYI, after a few more tries it got easier.

What I really liked about the light is the fact that the head swivels 360 degrees around and also pivots back on itself well past 90 degrees. With this combination you can get the light to shine almost anywhere you need it from a single clamped position.

It does seem to me that the swivel/pivot is easy enough to move without serious effort yet strong enough to stay in place. Granted, I didn’t try clamping it to a jackhammer to test that it stays put but for around the house, it’s perfectly fine.

The unit does use 3 AAA batteries which is nice for recharging capabilities.

As for light output, it’s plenty good for seeing what you’re doing even in complete darkness and actually shines quite a distance. The light comes with three brightness settings: high, low, and strobe. Personally, I have no need for a strobe setting, especially on a clamplight. The high and low settings were distinguishable enough so as to be obviously different… a pet peeve of mine when they’re not noticeably different. 😉

Overall, this Blacklight Clamplight is a good light for the money at less than $24 shipped. It functions as expected, clamps to darn near anything, swivels and pivots great, has a bright LED light, and is even waterproof.

If you’re looking for a quality clamp light, this is a good one to get. You can learn more about Blackfire as a company here and more of their lights.

blackfire-clamplight-waterproof

D.Light LED Solar Rechargeable S20 Area Lantern Review: Great Buy for <$20!

During out last camping trip I finally had a good change to use this d.light S20 lantern I’d purchased a while back. I was excited about it since the lantern was less than $20 shipped and promised good things. 🙂 Here’s my take on the lantern…

Battery Life

The website’s info states that the S20 can be run for 8 hours on a full battery which, in my tests, is way off. I was able to run the S20 on low for well over 9 hours (I did so overnight at home before camping and without charging it first) and was surprised to see it still going strong. In fact, I then choose to turn the lantern on high for a few hours just to get it to drain completely but it was still going! That was nice to see. How long does it really last? I don’t know as I never tried to drain it fully.

Brightness (and low vs. high setting)

On it’s own the S20 seems rather bright. In fact, I choose to gather five of the cheapo patio solar lights and attempted to subjectively compare their collective light versus the S20 and, in my opinion, the S20 outshone them no problem. Compared to any other lantern, be it the battery-operated Rayovac Sportsman LED lantern that I’m fan of or a typical propane lantern, there is NO comparison as the S20 is nowhere near as bright. Using it while camping made this clearly obvious. That doesn’t mean the S20 isn’t useful for a variety of off-grid tasks or for around the house, just don’t expect it to light up the night like a traditional lantern would.

The only actual gripe I have is that there is very little perceived difference in the low and high settings. Yes, there is a difference but it’s not super obvious; sometimes I wasn’t sure whether I had the lantern on low or high and found myself turning off the lantern just to be sure I had it right. In my opinion, I would rather have had the high setting be brighter. Yes, this would use more battery and maybe require a brighter (or additional) LED but I think the trade-off would be worth it.

Lightweight

They’re right that the S20 is very lightweight (it’s only 7 ounces). Compared to any alternative lantern that uses batteries or fuel there is no comparison! A toddler could carry the S20 around for hours on end without a problem. The lack of weight also makes it super easy to hang or mount nearly anywhere, from a tree branch to being tacked up to a wall. In fact, I recently hanged it from a thumb tack in a bulletin board and the lantern didn’t fall. Granted, that wouldn’t be a permanent solution but it worked.

Shape

They say the shape is supposed to be akin to a traditional lantern and I guess you could say that. The thing is that the S20 is shaped so that it’s narrower at the base and wider at the top (where the solar panel is). Initially, I was worried that this top-heavy design would make it unstable but the lantern had no problem staying upright, even on a wooden park bench at our campsite. That said, I would still have preferred the shape be the opposite of what it is now, that is, wider at the bottom. Maybe there’s a reason why it’s shaped the way it is, such as to diffuse the light better or to make it hang… I don’t know. In my tests the shape isn’t a problem, just a preference.

Renewable Solar Power

The S20 is renewable since it uses a small solar panel to recharge the light. I would say the panel is about three times the size of the cheapo patio solar lights you can purchase at Walmart for about $1. I’m not sure how this relates to it’s ability to recharge, though, they say it’s a “highly efficient” solar panel. I have no way to verify that statement. I can say that I repeated the overnight test after having let the lantern sit out all day to charge in the sunlight and the test was successfully repeated. Oh, it can also be charged via a USB cable but I wasn’t interested in that capability.

Final Thoughts

For less than $20 shipped it’s hard to go wrong with the d.Light S20 Solar Lantern. It lights up a dark room (or picnic table) well enough to see what you’re doing and lasts surprisingly longer on a single charge than I anticipated. Since it’s lightweight it’s easy to carry or hang. The ability to charge via solar is the main selling point here. Yes, you can purchase a dozen or more patio solar lights at similar cost but those things never seem to last very long. And, though I’ve only had this lantern for a month or two, I feel like it’s rugged enough to take some abuse. I expect to take the S20 Lantern with us camping for years to come.

Stats About the S20

According to the dLightDesign.com website:

  • The d.light S20 provides 8 hours of light on a full battery and uses proprietary, highly efficient LEDs. It provides 360-degree space lighting for any environment or focused light for studying, working, or cooking.
  • The d.light S20 is designed to be extremely user-friendly and flexible. It has a detachable handle and includes an integrated solar panel that makes recharging simple and easy. The S20 can be carried, hung or placed on any surface to effectively illuminate the surrounding area.
  • A highly efficient solar panel is conveniently integrated into the d.light S20 to make solar charging simple and easy. The S20 can also be charged from a USB source using the USB cable or a standard Nokia AC charger.
  • The d.light S20 is designed as a replacement for the kerosene lantern for a rural off-grid household. Its familiar lantern-like shape makes it easy for our customers to use and eliminates the need to purchase kerosene for light.
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Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse – FUN Book Review!

If you’re looking for a fun to read book that’ll pass a few hours this weekend, consider reading Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse (Kindle ed.) by William H. Weber. At only $3.99 you’d be hard pressed to go wrong here. If, however, you’d prefer a paperback copy, it’s less than $10.

Personally, I had a good time reading it this past weekend and, though, I don’t get to read for pleasure much anymore I wound up reading the entire book in one night! I hadn’t planned on doing so but it was entertaining enough to keep me page turning. 🙂

Here’s the Amazon description so you get an idea of the story:

“John Mack, a prepper and former soldier, struggles to save his family and community after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) takes out the country’s electrical grid. With most electronics, communications and transportation destroyed in a matter of seconds, the nation quickly collapses into anarchy.

For John and the other residents of Willow Creek Drive, the breakdown of social order throws them back to the 1800s. As the community tries to come together, a powerful outside force appears that threatens their survival. Will John’s years of military and prepping experience be enough to keep them safe?

Mixing tons of useful prepping tips into an action-packed story, Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse, is a must-read for any fans of survival fiction.”

Like the description says, am EMP changes life as they know it and you get to experience firsthand how a block of neighbors pull together to survive and content with troublesome “outside forces.” Honestly, I can see things going very similar to this in a post-SHTF EMP scenario and so it was interesting to read another’s take on the topic.

With that in mind, I did notice quite a few prepping tips spaced throughout the book. They were presented in such a way as to not be a “how to” manual so don’t expect any of that. Assuming you’ve been prepping for any length of time then I’m sure much of what you read will make you smile.

I can say that I did like the initial twist that’s really the premise behind the whole book. Without giving it obviously away the main character, John, and his family had to make a decision that they didn’t expect to make early on. I think it just goes to show that no matter how well you plan for things or what you expect to do during a true SHTF emergency, plans can and do change and you’ve got to be able to roll with it.

Ultimately,  Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse (Kindle ed.) was fun to read but also exposes the sad reality of what life could well be like after an EMP event. It’s sobering to think about. Regardless, the book is still a fun read and if you’re looking for a new survival novel to get your hands on, try this one.