Knock down, drag out.

A hunting, hiking and backpacking gear blog.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 vs Instapark M10 solar chargers.

Helpful review I found on Amazon. My only complaint is finding a 4 AA USB battery charger to hook up to the Instapark M10. (I know the Goal Zero battery pack will work. But at $37 it’s no bargain.) Does anyone know if the ones that charge cellphones from AA batteries will work in reverse? Meaning the chargers are originally built to charge a cellphone off of the 4 AA’s. If you hooked that up to the solar charger would it charge the batteries in the unit in reverse? Make sense?

Just noticed this from the review “Both panels can increase their output by working in tandem with a battery pack. The idea here is that the solar panel keeps the battery pack charged, and the battery pack charges your devices.” Perhaps it’s worth getting the Goal Zero Battery pack. As it probably not only charges the batteries from the solar panel. But the battery pack can also charge your devices at a higher speed(?). I think the Goal Zero battery pack has both an in usb port and an out usb port(?). Will have to look closer at the unit.

(This unit has also been reviewed on Gearlabs: )

Here’s the review from Amazon:

“I just spent a good long time deciding between the Instapark Mercury 10 and the Goal Zero Nomad 7 (usually sold as the Goal Zero 19010 Guide 10 Plus Small Adventure Kit). Hopefully you can benefit from my observations.

I spent about a week with my brother-in-law’s Nomad 7, and ultimately bought the Mercury 10 (actually, the Instapark 10 Watts Solar Panel Portable Solar Charger with Dual USB Ports for iPhone, iPad & all other USB Compatible Devices, 5,200 mAh Battery Pack Included). Here’s how the two compared:


These two units are almost identical in size. Folded, they’re both 6″ x 9″ (or about the same height as an iPad and about 1.5″ narrower). Unfolded, the Mercury 10 is a couple of inches longer because of the closure flap (which can be folded back behind the unit).

The Mercury 10 weighs more. On my scale, it comes in at 17.7 oz., about 5 oz heavier than the Nomad 7. This is because it provides three solar panels instead of two.

There’s a difference in the thickness when they’re folded. Both units have a tri-fold design. In the Nomad 7, two sections have solar panels in them and the third has the power connector and a storage pocket. With the Mercury 10, all three sections have solar panels in them. The storage pocket is on the outside and has the power connectors in it.

If you were to put the folded units side-by-side, the thickness would be about the same. But there’s a subjective difference in feel. Closing the Nomad feels like closing a folder with a deck of cards inside, since it has its power connectors and battery chargers on the inside flap. It feels lumpy and awkward. The Mercury 10, on the other hand, folds completely flat, with accessory pouch and the bulky connectors on the outside. Again, it’s purely subjective.

I will say this, though. I think Instapark came up with something brilliant when they decided to put the USB connectors on the back of the unit, inside the Mercury 10’s storage pocket. This makes it so you can put smaller devices, like cell phones, in the pocket while they charge. This keeps them off dirty surfaces and uses the shade of the solar panels to protect them from heat.

It’s also worth noting that both are housed in sturdy, black fabric with a Velcro closure, both have loops for hanging the panel, and both cover the solar panels with a thin plastic sheet for protection. Virtually identical.


Which one you go with will probably come down to your power requirements.

The real measure of a solar panel’s potency is how much current it pumps out. More current = faster recharge times. The Mercury 10 puts out twice the juice: 2 amps vs. 1 amp from the Nomad 7. Both panels can increase their output by working in tandem with a battery pack. The idea here is that the solar panel keeps the battery pack charged, and the battery pack charges your devices.

The Mercury 10 aims squarely at the USB market, since most devices charge off of USB these days. It offers two USB ports and can supply up to two amps of charging current. That’s some significant juice for such a small unit. You’ll be able to charge even large devices like iPads straight off the panel.

The Nomad 7 goes for a broader range of power options. If you want USB, it provides one port, but at only 0.5 amps. That’s fine for phones and small devices, but isn’t enough for a tablet. To charge a tablet, you’ll have to use Goal Zero’s optional battery pack in tandem with the panels.

The upside of the Nomad 7 is that it also lets you charge AA batteries (if you get the optional AA/AAA battery pack/recharger – the Guide 10 Plus). That’s a bonus for adventurers who need to charge batteries for their flashlights, GPS units, etc.

To charge AA/AAA batteries off of the Mercury 10, you’ll have to get a separate USB battery charger. Instapark doesn’t make one (why?), but Sanyo has a fantastic one – the Eneloop USB battery charger. The Mercury 10 produces enough power to run four of these (eight batteries at a time).

The Nomad 7 also has a 12-volt option with a standard cigarette-lighter-sized plug. But at that voltage, it only produces 0.2 amps of juice, only enough for very small applications.


With the Nomad 7, you get lower weight and more power options, but at a lower output. If you get the add-on battery pack to improve the power output, you lose the weight advantage.

With the Mercury 10, you get a slightly heavier package because of the additional solar panel, but you gain twice* the output. However, you’re limited to charging USB devices.

For me, power output and charging time matter. So the Mercury 10 was a no-brainer, especially paired up with a couple of AA/AAA USB battery chargers, which I could more than afford at the Mercury 10’s lower price point.

[*How do you get twice the output from only 50% more panel area? Because the Mercury 10 keeps its operating voltage down to 5 volts. Lowering the voltage gives it a current boost. You see the same principle in reverse with the Nomad 7: it normally produces 1 amp at 6 volts. But when they double the voltage to 12 volts, the current gets cut in half.]”





USMC Polartec 300 GEN II ECWCS Fleece Jacket/Liner Review.

USMC Polartec 300 GEN II ECWCS Fleece Jacket/Liner Review.

(EDIT/UPDATE – Here’s most sizes available on ebay for cheap prices. Peckham only has 3XL on their site. But many of the ebay offerings are new and just as good of deals. This jacket was meant to go over alot of other cold weather gear. So it is sized very large. I would get a size smaller than you normally take. The 3XL I purchased is totally a size 4XL if not bigger.)

As best I can tell this jacket is the first issue Marine Corps GEN I ECWCS fleece that performed as a jacket by itself and as a zip in liner for the GEN I Goretex jacket. Although I have not had a chance to try to zip it into my Goretex GEN I ECWCS yet. (It’s actually Gen II) (We just moved and are still unpacking.) The NSN reverts to a “Shirt, Cold Weather”. This may have been worn by other branches of the service. I am simply not aware of which ones those are.

Reports from another member here and one on the manufacturers website describe the jacket as – and I paraphrase here – “The best fleece we were ever issued. However once GEN II came along we were no longer allowed to use them. And it was far and away a better fleece jacket than following issues.” I would have to agree with this. Having seen following versions (not all of them) they are much lighter weight. And not nearly as functional. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I might be able to explain the exact differences. My review will focus on the jacket itself.



I purchased the jacket from here for $28 (Mind you it’s a discontinued item and only comes in 3XL here.) Peckham is a government contractor that is selling off their discontinued stock. They refer to the jacket as the “DSCP jacket fleece black”. It is made of 300 weight Polar Fleece. It’s key features are:



It’s lined on the outside with a nylon shell that covers both the shoulders and the back of the lower two thirds of the arm.


Starting at the top the jacket has a nice inner batting that covers the zipper. Blocking cold and some wind from creeping in via the zipper.


The medium weight YKK zipper is doubled. So that you can unzip from the top or the bottom. I’m sure there are other uses. I just don’t know what those are. lol!



The cuffs have a slim nylon covered trim around them at the ends. And a velcro flap for securing the cuffs to the wrists.


The jacket has two outside pockets at the bottom. With nice quality zipper strings.


This is the killer part of this jacket IMHO. It has pit zips to match the GEN I parka it is meant to zip into. I have a couple of these. And although they are to thick and heavy for backpacking. They are bombproof for everything else.


This is the only place where they skimped on this jacket. Everything else is top notch. The inside pockets and lining. The pockets do not close. The top is open with a little bit of weak elastic to keep things in them. Then below the pocket the lining continues down behind the stomach area of the jacket. For lack of a better term. I suppose you could get a pair of light weight gloves to hang in those pockets. But I would be nervous about anything heavier or not as bulky as that. The pocket appears to be an afterthought. That really isn’t safe to use IMHO.


The thickness of this jacket is phenomenal. The 300 weight fleece is certainly not made for ultralight hiking. But I could see using this jacket hunting or hiking on cold days. It’s the perfect insulator for a hard shell jacket. If a little bulky to pack. But if you needed this type of warmth in the winter it would be totally worth it to pack along. I’ve been wearing it in low to mid 50F and it’s worked out quite well. Not to hot. Not to cold. But again has alot of options for cooling off.

I find more and more turning to fleece jackets, As the heat vs ventilation factor is hard to beat. I rarely get to hot. And I always stay warm. And the many modular ways of opening this jacket up offers further usefulness to this garment. The pit zips, the main zipper and the ties at the bottom of the jacket (I forgot to photograph that. It does have an elastic cord waist band at the bottom of the jacket. That keeps it tight against your waist. Or hangs loose to allow for more ventilation.) all help to regulate this jackets heat.

For $28 it’s the best fleece jacket I’ve ever purchased. To find something like this on the commercial market would undoubtedly cost you much more. If you could find it at all. The two Columbia fleece jackets I own are very nice. But not nearly as well outfitted as this one is. I’m sure this will be my go to backpacking fleece from now on. And with it’s ability to zip into my GEN I Goretex jackets it’s well suited for a myriad number of things. If you can find it in your size. I say buy one. You won’t be disappointed. And they are available on ebay and various surplus sites in other sizes.

EDIT – I found them here with the fleece pants included for $45. In size Large and Extra Large only. But I did see smaller sizes on ebay. Search using “ecwcs gen i fleece jacket”. Or different variations of that. Also check out Peckham for other discontinued items at dirt cheap prices.

Here’s most sizes available on ebay for cheap prices.

70 days in Alaska. No food! INCH scenario sort of…

You’ve gotta read this guys blog. He spent 70 days in Alaska on his own with no food. All he brought along (besides equipment) was salt and pepper. At the top of his blog is a link to his gear list. Of note he took a rocket stove and a pressure cooker with canning jars with him. And an inflatable wide kayak sort of boat. The canning system was a genius move IMHO. Although I wish they made better jars that weren’t prone to breaking like glass is. Maybe they exist? I don’t know.

Here he is explaining his adventure. But the blog is a must read if your into long term living in the woods. VERY interesting blog!:

“I always wanted to try something like this, so this summer I had a bush plane drop me off in late June in the Kootznoowoo Wilderness of southeast Alaska, with a scheduled pickup for early September. I brought survival gear, but NO FOOD at all, only salt and pepper.

It was a challenging experience but extremely satisfying. I fished, hunted and foraged for wild plants and berries.”

Here’s his gear list if you missed it:

Lightweight USGI Goretex at TAG. $29.88 jackets.

Price dropped to $29.88!

I’d like to point out the fact that these NOT the traditional heavy weight ECWCS that is hard to pack and heavy. They were developed for special forces according to comments below. Because they wanted a lighter weight version. This is a great entry level Goretex for $35!

If you’ve ever wanted a USGI “lighter weight” Goretex jacket. And not the heavy weight ECWCS stuff that is heavy and does not stuff well. Or just need a great hard shell at a killer price. Here’s a pretty great deal. TAG is a good place. I have no connection to them. (See below for a better endorsement. These were apparently made for special forces who wanted a lighter weight version of the overly heavy ECWCS jacket.)

$35 for a USGI jacket reversible woodland/desert. Shipping is like $7. These are lighter weight goretex jackets. Perfect for hiking and backpacking. Stuff fairly small. (They have the heavier weight but only in limited sizes.) These are a great hard shell at an unbeatable price. I bought one for my son. It’s not like the typical ECWCS jacket – big and bulky. These are thinner and lighter weight but rugged. And sizes up to 2xl long.


Traditional ECWCS heavy weight pants’ are $40:


Some comments from a more knowledgeable person than I on another forum:

“These are a phenomenal deal. It’s rare that they can be found retail. Damn near impossible to find in previous years. TAG must have lucked into a shipment of New Old Stock.

I used the Adventure Tech plain woodland version (non-reversible; pants & jacket set) for years. They were issue in my unit. Significantly lighter, more comfortable to wear, quieter, less stiff, and way more packable than standard ECWS Goretex. Each jacket & pant stashes into its own pocket. I still use a woodland/desert jacket I’ve had for years. If you are on the cusp between sizes, order the next size up.”

“As long as you get them large enough in size to allow for layering. They are not as good at blocking hard wind as the heavier ECWS Goretex, but they are so much more comfortable to wear, less bulky, and lighter to carry. I’ve worn them skiing.

They were originally designed to meet SOF requirements, because we bitched about regular issue ECWS Goretex being too heavy (and bulky to pack away). This stuff you can fit inside of a butt pack, a thigh cargo pocket, or an assault pack.

Think of them as light windbreaker breathable rain wear. Like a soft shell in terms of comfort, but much better for actual hard rain. ECWS Goretex fabric is stiff and hangs off of you. This stuff is more like a lightweight nylon runners jacket. It drapes across your torso & limbs. I never used my Army issue Goretex in the field while I was issued the Adventure Tech stuff. Nobody else on my teams used the heavier stuff either. Kept us just as dry for half the weight and half the stowed pack volume.”

Bug Out Wedding Ring.

I find these to be really cool. I break out on my finger whenever I wear my wedding ring. (I know. I know. Tons of jokes….) These are cool. They are made out of silicone. And only $19.99. They come in all colors too. But camo seems like the appropriate shade. 🙂

Danner Breakroom deals this morning.

Some great Danner Breakroom deals this morning. Military and hiking/hunting boots. This link takes you to a log in where you have to enter your email and a password. It’s worth it. Danner boots go on sale in this site for cheap. Or this link gives me $20 credit.

These USAF boots go for $120. Normally $280. This is just one example.

Picked up some toys today…

Got a $100 Amazon gift card from my family for Fathers Day. Picked up a 21″ Sven Saw, GMRS Two Way Radios – MIDLAND GXT1050VP4,  and an Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition 3.9oz.

The 21″ Sven Saw is hopefully going to be my go to backpacking/hunting saw. It collapses down into a very small footprint. And is a very sturdy, time tested design. We’ll see. 😉

The GMRS Two Way Radios – MIDLAND GXT1050VP4 are the highest rated radio in that class. And there camo. Can’t beat that.

Lastly, the Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition 3.9oz. is a really long name for a rip off of the (what I believe to be) Pocket Rocket IIRC. Heard good things about this stove over on BCUSA.

How I pack my bags.

In my main pack I keep once a day things at the bottom. Like my sleep system, tent/shelter, clothing etc. Then above that things I might use more often – cook set, outerlayers, food etc. And then in the pack lid things I need ready access to – first aid, binos, maps etc.

But I also carry other EDC (every day carry) bags for when I lose my main pack or am away from it. I carry an HPG chest kit bag with my side arm, ammo, maps, gloves, flashlight, fire kit, etc. As a sort of BOB EDC if you will. Although mine is an INCH (i’m never coming home) bag. So the chest pack serves as my EDC for my INCH bag. Then I have a large USGI fannypack that I keep a COMPLETE but smaller set of items in just like the main pack. At least the 5C’s or whatever you want to call them.

I carry a poncho, first aid, smaller fishing kit, emergency blanket, collapsible water bottle, Fire kit, gloves, leatherman, cordiage, food etc. in my fannypack. It’s basically a smaller version of my main pack. So that in the event I am separated from my main pack. I can still survive on what’s in the fannypack and the chest pack. I keep these two things (fanny pack and chest pack) on me at all times. Like going to scout for water or collect wood.

If I had outside pouches on my main pack. I’d do the same thing. Place things I don’t use often in the bottom of the main pack, things I use more often above that, and then things I use often in the outside pouches for ease of access. But you should really try to have one extra layer of pack or bag that is your EDC if you will. It could save your life if you were ever separated from your main pack.

Choosing a pack.

I started out with the ACU Molle Large Rucksack. It’s bombproof. Carries a HUGE load. And can be found for only $50-$80. But is 10lbs and is a hideous camo color not suited for my intended AO (although you can find it now in multicam for about $80). I then decided to cut weight and move to a better camo pattern. So I switched to a 5lb. Gregory Z65 (in a tan color) with a multicam pack cover. That worked well. But when it came to getting all of my winter/cold weather gear in there it fell short a bit. I’m also a big guy at 6’3″. So all of my gear is larger in one aspect or another.

Camo is very important to me. Partly due to my intended AO – woods of the PNW. And being an ex-Marine in a sniper and surveillance platoon. I know the importance of camo. For me (and I know many will differ on this) it’s either one camo pattern or none at all. If you wear multiple camo patterns your always going to be wearing something that doesn’t fit in with your environment. And thus why wear camo at all if your always going to be standing out in your environment. I chose multicam. As it fit my AO. And you can find just about anything you need in that pattern. Which can’t be said for to many other good camo patterns. Even civilian ones. You might find clothes in that pattern but you won’t find the pack and all your pouches and web gear etc. etc. in that one pattern. But with multicam you can do that. You can do that with older Woodland gear – but it’s older gear. And you can do that with ACU gear but the pattern sucks. Multicam is the best of both worlds for me.

So then I purchased both the Eberlestock Dragonfly and the Arteryx Khyber 80. Both in multicam. I picked up the dragonfly because it expands into a massive meat hauler for hunting. But in the end it was another 10lb pack. And I could cut 5lbs with an equally comfortable Khyber 80 from Arcteryx. With enough room to fit all my winter gear. Here’s a long review of that pack that I did a few weeks back:

In the end it’s really a choice of how much room you need, how much weight your willing carry pack wise, and what color is acceptable for your AO. And most important is it fitted to your size torso. To many people don’t realize you need to get fitted for a pack. I suspect many of those carrying the Alice don’t realize it doesn’t really fit them that well. Because it’s not adjustable and comes in a medium size only. Meaning alot of folks that are larger than a medium are carrying all their weight needlessly on their shoulders. Instead of comfortably on their hips. Same goes for any other pack too. You’ve got to get fitted and adhere to that size in order to insure pack comfort. Which in the long haul really matters. Or your going to bash yourself physically for no reason.

Lastly, is cost. Many of us can’t afford packs like this. I would suggest getting fitted and looking at the ILBE. I don’t know it’s size ratings. But it appears to be the best or at least parts of the best of both worlds. It’s a decent camo pattern, it’s heavy but doable, and it has all the bells and whistles of a modern pack – and it’s CHEAP. If I was on a limited budget I would look into the Molle large rucksack in multicam or the ILBE. Both seem to be bombproof packs that will get the job done. Just be ready to carry an extra 5lbs. That might be better suited for ammo, water or food.

There is an old adage that applies here though. “Buy once, cry once”. I’ve learned this the hard way. You get in a hurry to get out there with your latest gear. And so you start buying “what you can afford at the moment”. When you’ll be far better served by waiting, saving up, and getting the gear that you know your going to be happy with. Unless your a real deal hound. And can turn around and sell your old stuff at a profit or equal to what you paid for it. Your going to be disappointed and out more money than if you just bought what was the best gear in the first place.

I hope this helps even one person shopping for a pack. Or any other gear for that matter.

Homemade firesteel handle…

Made my own this weekend. $5 for a .5×5 firesteel. .78 cents for gas line tubing. About 5 cents in paracord. And part of a leftover hacksaw blade.

Here’s a link to the firesteel. Probably the best deal I have seen. Not quite .5×5 but close enough.