Tools of the TradeThe ever-changing list of my go-to gear Most of the work I do is performed out of my (hand crafted) creative studio, behind the wheel of a heavily modified Land Rover, or through the viewfinder of a Canon. Many of the tools I use are custom fabricated by yours truly, sometimes because what I need doesn’t exist, or more often because I simply enjoy building things with my own hands. I originally posted this on the about-me page at The Layne Studio after being asked “What __________ do you use?” once too often, but since the studio involves more than just me now it’s time this list moved to the blog proper. This post is just an overview, I might write up an in-depth with the how’s and why’s of each category if anyone would find it helpful. Read along for the details or just click here to skip down to the bullet list of links so your inner-consumer can run wild and free. Camera Gear The Big Guns: I shoot with a variety of Canon gear, but my go-to and favorite is the 80D. It’s durable, light weight, and inexpensive enough to take risks when getting the shot. I use three main lenses: a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art (my personal favorite) for most portraits and some travel/vehicle/landscape work, a Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 macro-capable travel zoom, and a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle for grabbing wide vistas or interior shots. The Canon 10-22mm wide is due to be replaced…likely with Sigma’s superior constant-aperture variant. Yes, I’m a Sigma fanboy…because, science. Rolling Light: I’m also very fond of Canon’s S line of cameras: they’re small enough to go unnoticed, reasonably sturdy, and produce RAW files that come surprisingly close to the quality of a DSLR. My old S95 sits in the studio for quick snapshots, and I usually have an S100 handy (there’s a reason the long-retired S100 still costs ~$200 used). When I don’t have a “real” camera, the HTC One M9 is always with me, which creates passable RAW files. Computing Gear Hardware: In the studio my workstation is a personally built Intel-powered, liquid cooled, quad-core PC tower. It’s currently clocked at a conservative 4.4GHz, drives multiple color-calibrated monitors (lead photo), and houses a RAID array large enough to eliminate the need for a separate file server. Communication and general office needs are handled by Google for Work, with weekly on-site and monthly off-site backups of all data. In the field I use a custom modified ASUS X202E with enough…
Ironclad Ranchworx®A look at Ironclad’s flagship leather work glove Let’s face it, the six-dollar “railroad engineer” gloves so many of us have been carrying around are quite dated. They’re clumsy, uncomfortable, and lack the durability to survive the abuse our hands routinely face in the field. Their unnecessary bulkiness makes a good grip all but impossible, leading to dropped tools and damaged gear, or worse: injured hands when we throw off the gloves in frustration so we can actually get the job done. It’s time for something better. Enter Ranchworx®, a durable, extremely comfortable, well fitted glove from Ironclad. The glove is loaded up with old-school ingenuity and modern technology alike: Bullwhip™ leather, Kevlar® and Duraclad® reinforcement, Exo-Guard™ impact protection for the fingers, terrycloth sweat wipe, and a clever design for the stitching arrangement—dubbed Rolltop® Fingertips—which maximizes dexterity. All this adds up to a grippy and comfortable glove that’s tough enough to handle winching and trail work, yet provides enough control and tactile feedback for wrenching or driving. Bonus: the gloves are also machine washable and clean up well after a hard day’s work. So how well do the Ranchworx® hold up to prolonged torture? The team at Expedition Portal has been beating on these gloves for the last six months with everything from engine repair to chopping firewood, moving boulders to vehicle recovery. In spite of our continued abuse the leather and fabric are still in great shape, and the gloves continue to fit like a glove should fit. We like them so much they’ve become standard equipment in all of our vehicles. Consider the Ranchworx® gloves an investment in personal safety and convenience. Though a bit more expensive than those old engineer gloves, you can expect them to last for years instead of months. Pick up a pair directly from Ironclad, or for a limited time free with a one-year subscription to Overland Journal—your hands will thank you. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on October 29th, 2014.…
1816 Safari Jacket For the better part of a week I’d been sifting through piles of search results, weeding out cheap knockoffs and overpriced fashion statements trying to find a quality, mid-weight field jacket for less than $400. We were going through a warmer-than-usual winter, and with only a parka on hand I was ill prepared for it. I was hovering over the confirm order button on Filson’s Tin Cloth Field Jacket when our editor walked into my office carrying the 1816 Safari Jacket for review, it was precisely the jacket I had envisioned. I’ve worn the Safari Jacket frequently over the last several months around town and in the field, and the fit and finish are spot on for tasks in both environments. I find the pockets plentiful, but not overdone, and they’re sized just right for a phone, small notebook, pen, passport, wallet, or just about any other gear you’re likely to need (the hidden zippered “security” pocket is a nice touch). I questioned the choice of a double-layer waistband over a traditional belt-and-buckle at first, but in practice it’s just as comfortable and far more convenient. The jacket’s 8.5-ounce cotton twill is just right for a crisp spring morning or a cool fall evening. The fabric is very soft to the touch, yet surprisingly durable and stain resistant. In spite of traveling with me across desert and forest on everything from day hikes to canoe trips, it still shows no sign of wear. I have no doubt the Safari Jacket will provide many years of reliable service. For detailed specifications, more information, or to pick one up for yourself view the Safari Jacket at Remington 1816’s site. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on June 19th, 2014.…
Camp-spressoThe Moka Pot It’s Overland Journal’s fault. I’ve long appreciated the pleasures of the morning coffee ritual, an easy vice to maintain in the city, but one that is typically tolerable at best in camp. Working in an office with a well-stocked espresso bar has sharpened the addiction to such a point the instant solutions often served tent-side simply won’t do. As Scott Brady reflected while showing me how to work the espresso machine “Life’s too short for bad coffee.” Espresso is without a doubt the ultimate form of coffee, imbued with three key features we strive to find in our gear: versatility, durability, and performance. It’s concentrated nature makes for the maximum quantity on a minimum of water, with the right tools it’s nearly impossible to ruin espresso, and from espresso you can make practically any coffee drink (including the good ole hot cup of joe—just add water). Thanks to Luigi de Ponti, espresso can be a hassle- and mess-free pleasure in camp. Most commonly used on the stovetop at home, the Moka pot is equally capable of brewing on the trail with a backpacking stove, larger camp stove, or even over charcoal with care. Unlike the variety of portable espresso makers out there, the Moka doesn’t require special fuels, tools, or filters. In fact, you only need three things to run a Moka: water, fire, and coffee grounds. The Moka pot isn’t picky about the type of grounds you feed it either. A fine grind (slightly more coarse than espresso) works best, but even “percolator ground” beans will yield an excellent (though weaker) result. Espresso purists may point out that a Moka pot is incapable of reaching the precise 9 bar of pressure required for “true” espresso, but the end result is indistinguishable. Use is simple, just fill the base to the fill line with water (about an inch from the top), drop in the basket and fill it with grounds, then twist on the pot and place it over heat. In about five minutes you’ll have a pot of flavorful espresso. Clean up is just as easy—the brewing process tends to draw out most of the moisture, leaving a solid clump of grounds easily tapped out into the trash. Rinse out the few remaining grounds, dry the pot, and pack it away. The Moka is available as small as a 1-shot, but I find the 6-shot variety well worth the…
Practical HAM: A Beginners Guide"I don't want to talk to China." ere’s always someone in the crowd that makes this statement whenever there is a discussion about communications in the field. It usually happens right after someone brings up amateur radio (HAM). Ignorant as this statement may be, the fact remains: most of us really don’t want to talk to China. Let’s Face It: CB is Terrible The good ole Citizen’s Band radio has poor range, limited power, and terrible clarity even after considerable time, effort, and money have been poured into “tuning” a CB setup. More often than not they are big and ugly, and the few decent-looking models are expensive. If the setup is kept 100% legal, you’ll be lucky to talk over 5 miles—if there are no trees in the way. The common consumer FRS/GMRS two-way radios don’t perform much better, and almost none of them allow for a vehicle mounted antenna (essentially trapping the signal inside a metal box). It’s time for something better. Though I sit alone in a concrete-walled building, I can already hear the grumblings of my fellow HAMs. I’m going to say it anyhow: For the average, non-technical, backcountry traveler wanting for communications that just work, HAM really is “just like CB, only better.” This article is intended for the CB’er and FRS’er that simply wants performance and reliability in the backcountry, and is merely an overview on achieving that goal. I’m going to skip over the few rules, regulations, and etiquette that should be followed as these will be covered in your learning when you study for your license. Fear not, for the most part it’s simple common sense. The best place to learn and practice is with a group of fellow amateurs—check out our Communications forum or search the ARRL Club Directory to find one near you. What You’ll Need Amateur Radio License Fortunately, the FCC agrees with the need we have for better radios regardless of technical experience or interest. They have dropped the “difficult” portions from the Technician exam (the most basic level of amateur radio license), and a license can be picked up today for $15 and a few hours of effort (including study time). With the license, you will gain access to the two most important frequency bands: 2-meter and 70-cm (often referred to as 440). Study guides and practice exams can be found here: HamExam.org. When you’re ready to pass the test you can find an exam session here: ARRL Exam Search. Amateur Radio Equipment…