Saturday, December 17, 2011

Updated Cold Steel Voyager XL

The new edition of the Cold Steel Voyager XL, one of my favorite large folding knives:

In this post about Three Knives for Everyday Carry, I mentioned the Cold Steel Voyager XL (5-inch blade model), as I have owned and carried one of these since first running across one in a local sporting goods store back in 1996.  I was immediately drawn to the design the first time I handled it, as the size and balance seemed perfect and I could tell it would easily become an extension of my hand when applied with the Kenpo knife fighting techniques I had learned when I was heavily involved in that art.  But beyond its potential as an excellent close-quarters weapon that was large enough to be effective yet easy to conceal, I felt it could also serve well as a general purpose field knife and over the years this has proven true.  I've used it for skinning and dressing large and small game as well as for camp chores and rigging work while aboard my boat. Because of its light weight, smooth contours when closed, and convenient clip for securing inside a pocket or waistline of anything from sweat pants to swimming trunks, I rarely went anywhere without mine - that is until the clips broke off. 

The one pictured in the post referenced above was my second one, as the first version came with an inferior plastic belt clip that once broken, could not be replaced.  This second edition was somewhat improved, with a heavier-duty replaceable metal clip, but the clip was still the weakest point of the knife and eventually I snagged it on something while carrying the knife clipped in a side cargo pocket and broke that one too.  The second version of the Voyager also had an improved gripping surface, but the shape and size was virtually identical, as you can see here in this photo of both knives with broken belt clips: 

Both of my older Voyagers have the plain edge rather than the half-plain, half-serrated option that was available, as I prefer a blade I can easily keep sharpened to my needs when required.  Like the older model, the new Voyager XL can be had with either a plain or 50/50 serrated blade for the same MSRP of $87.99. Changes in the design include a more secure grip, a new Tri-Ad locking mechanism, a flat ground blade rather than the hollow-ground of previous models, and ambidextrous pocket clips that are more discreet than the old design. 

With both of my old voyagers somewhat more difficult to carry and put into action without the pocket clips, I figure it's time to try the new model.  I'll report on it here after I've had time to compare the changes against my old favorites.  You can get one on Amazon for $69.95, and compared to a lot of the competition, that's a bargain for such a versatile folder. If anyone has used the updated model and has some feedback, I'd love to hear from you.

Here's the manufacturer's description of the new Voyagers from the Cold Steel website:

Voyager® Series

Our Voyagers® are, ounce for ounce, far stronger than 99.9% of our competitor's folders. And this is a fact, not an idle boast. Each knife features precision made parts with a stiff spring and our incomparable Tri-Ad® lock mechanism which is arguably the strongest, most reliable, low maintenance lock in the world! 

The thick, extra wide blades are made from Japanese AUS 8A steel and meticulously ground to a thin edge for maximum shearing potential. This thin edge also allows us to hone each blade to astounding sharpness. And, because of the high carbon content of the steel, and their near perfect heat treatment, you'll find this sharpness last a surprisingly long time. 

If you like serrations, you'll really appreciate our exclusive pattern. It features groups of very small, sharply pointed teeth separated by wide, shallow arcs so it will rip smoothly yet very aggressively through a wide variety of tough fibrous materials without snagging or hanging up. 

The Voyager® Series also offers all the other latest refinements in lock-back construction including lightning quick, one-handed opening, state of the art mechanical fasteners, massively oversized pivot pins that are fully adjustable and properly hardened, and dual stainless steel pocket clips for ambidextrous carry and deployment. 

The Grivory handles feature 6061 heat treated aluminum liners for the utmost in strength and stiffness and are ergonomically designed to afford a wide array of grip options including the palm reinforced forward grip for which they are particularly well suited. 

Grivory is unparalleled as a handle material as it is considerably stronger than Zy-Ex and, when deeply textured, offers a terrific non-slip grip. As an added bonus, it's impervious to moisture and won't crack, warp or shrink and remains remarkably resistant to abrasion or discoloration.
As tools these lightweight, super sharp knives are appropriate in almost any environment from hunting and camping to hiking and general utility chores. They can also readily fill specialty functions such as a boat or river knife, chute knife or police/military and survival/rescue applications.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What if You Had to Bug Out in Winter?

I happen to live in a part of the Deep South where winter is rarely a serious consideration when it comes to outdoor activities and even survival scenarios.  Sure, we have some cold snaps around here and especially at night the lows can be uncomfortable if you don't have the right gear, but outright freezing to death is not likely.  Some of my best hiking and paddling trips here in Mississippi have been in the dead of winter, especially just after deer season closes and hardly anyone is in the woods.

But just last month I spent a few days in Tennessee and North Carolina, and while there had a chance to do some hiking in one of my favorite wild places in the East - the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area.  The leaves were mostly in full fall colors in the lower elevations and were already gone above 4,000 feet.  That first week of November, conditions were perfect for exploring and camping and the mountain forests seemed benign and beckoning:

 But I've also hiked this area in December and January in years past, picking my times between winter storms, and as I walked familiar paths on this recent trip, I thought about what it would be like here in a bug-out context.  What would you do if circumstances forced you into prolonged stay in late fall with winter approaching, or perhaps even worse, if you had to suddenly leave the comfort of your home in winter?  The same area could very well look like this:

How would you prepare to operate in such conditions?  Do you have the clothing and shelter you would need to stay warm and dry, and have you tested it on actual trips?  Have you experimented with shelter-building and fire-making in winter conditions?  How much will cold temperatures and snow and ice slow down your rate of travel?  Will you still be able to navigate?  And if you are focused on keeping warm, especially at night, will you still be able to keep a low profile and stay out of sight of any potential threats?  What about staying hydrated and carrying enough food or finding sources to supplement your supplies along the way?  All of these things will become much more difficult in winter, and the consequences of failure could be much swifter.

If you live in a colder region than I do and there's a chance you may need such skills in a real-life survival scenario, now is the time to practice them.  As with any kind of survival training, familiarity gained by experience is the best way to build the confidence you need to know you can prevail if really put to the test.  You might even find, as many people do, that you prefer winter hiking and camping, especially if you love solitude and the challenges of staying comfortable in conditions that keep most people indoors.

For further reading on clothing, gear and logistics of operating in winter, there's an excellent post from earlier this week on the Warrior Talk News site called The Winter Warrior.  Much of what Suarez International Staff Instructor, Eric W. Pfleger discusses could be applicable to anyone considering bug-out strategies, and includes: clothing and footwear selection, hygiene, hydration and first aid considerations, and weapons care, transportation and counter-tracking measures.  It's an article well worth your time to check out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What to Do When Help is NOT On the Way

What would you do in a post-SHTF scenario if your partner or a member of your group suffered a severe, deep cut to a leg or arm with a tool such as a machete or axe?  What if the blow was so hard the blade penetrated not only flesh but nearly severed the bone in the limb as well?  It's not far-fetched at all that a person could suffer such a cut by accident or in an intentional attack.

When I was traveling through the Caribbean on my solo sea kayak journey of 1988-90, I met a young man in the town of Samana, in the Dominican Republic, who had suffered just such a horrible wound at the hands of a jealous husband wielding a machete.  He was lucky to have survived, as the attacker meant to split his skull with it.  Using his forearm to block the vicious strike, he almost lost the arm, but absorbed most of the force before it hit his face.  Far more stitches than I could count encircled the forearm that was slashed to the bone and another row extended from the top of his scalp all the way across his forehead, eyebrow, bridge of his nose and cheekbone.  All this just from one strike.  While it is certain he would have been killed instantly if he had not sacrificed his arm to block the blow, if he had been in a situation where he could not get quick medical attention, he probably would have bled out from the cut artery in his arm anyway. 

So what would you do in a case like that if you couldn't get outside help?  I was thinking about this a lot over the last two days as I worked on a scene in my current book project (the post-apocalyptic novel I'm now writing) in which one of the characters is cut almost the same way.  Getting to a hospital or calling for an ambulance is out of the question, so what choices does the person attending the victim have?  Stopping the flow of blood is obviously the first priority, and depending on the severity and location of the wound, you may have only minutes to do so.  Applying a tourniquet used to be the accepted wisdom, but it is now known that doing so almost guarantees the loss of the limb.  Applying direct pressure is much safer, and can be just as effective.  As it happens, just as I was sorting through various references on the correct way to do this, a message came through on my Twitter account informing me of a new follow by James Hubberd@thesurvivalMD, and the timing could not have been better. 

I followed the link back to his website: The Survival Doctor, and found an excellent resource on just the kind of trauma first aid information I was looking for.  Dr. Hubberd's blog posts only go back to September, but all of them are informative, with illustrations and videos that show and explain in simple terms how to deal with some pretty severe medical emergencies in the field.  Dr. Hubberd is a family M.D. with 30 years of experience in the field. What's interesting about his approach, is that as his site title suggests, he's writing this for those interested in medical preparedness in the event of a disaster, social upheaval or other situation where you're isolated and "help is not on the way."  I think this site is going to be a useful resource for all of us and I've added The Survival Doctor to my blogroll so we can all look forward to learning something new from Dr. Hubberd's updates.  And thanks to the quick-thinking actions of his brother who knew just the right thing to do because of this new site, my badly-slashed character will not only live, but may even regain full use of his right arm again.


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