Sipik SK68 – awesome budget flashlight

I love torches/flashlights. I’m a camper, a shooter, and a cyclist- so I get to seriously test out all the torches I buy. My current favourite *value for money* torch is the Sipik SK68. It has a Cree XR-E Q5 emitter, has a zooming (collimating) lens, tailstands, and can use a AA battery, or if you want to turbo charge it, you can drop in a 14500 Lithium Ion battery. The fact that it can take two different battery voltages is a huge bonus. I use a 14500 battery around the house or for short walks when I want the brightest light possible, but when camping, I run a 2500 mAh AA battery, which gives me much longer run times at the expense of a slightly dimmer light.
The Sipik SK68 has a pocket clip, zooming lens, and tailstands, and is built like a tank. There’s not much more I want out of a torch.

If the SK68 was $30, it would be good value. But it’s not.
It’s under $10.

Vango Banshee vs Vango Blade

The Vango Banshee 200 and the Vango Blade 200 are very similar tents. They’re both 2 man (in reality 1 man + some gear), both have 5000mm hydroscopic head flysheets and 6000mm rated waterproof groundsheets, and both have roughly the same amount of room inside – which isn’t much. They’re usually around the same price too.

Pack weight
The Banshee and Blade both weigh 2.1kg, which isn’t too bad for what you get. This obviously isn’t ultra light territory, but it’s manageable.
One main difference between the two tents is the pack size. The Banshee packs down to 44cm x 12cm, while the Blade comes in at the slightly larger 48cm x 14cm. Not a big deal, but depending on how you plan to carry your tent, it could be a decision maker.

Internal size
The Banshee is 230x120x90cm, vs the Blade at 220x160x95cm. The Blade made appear larger on paper, but once you factor in the space lost by the Blade’s sloped roof, they’re both quite similar.

Which one to buy?
The only real way you can know which Vango to buy is to sit in them both and find out which one is right for you. This isn’t going to be easy as many stores don’t stock Vango, and even less have them setup. They both have similar amounts of usable space, but the Blade might have a slight advantage as its vestibule/porch is larger – which gives you a little more room for cooking and to store you pack and boots.

Leatherman Squirt – tiny multi tool with lots of features

Leatherman Squirt

The Leatherman Squirt is one of the smallest yet most feature packed mini multi tools. It’s made by Leatherman, so the quality is WAY up there – and comes with the Leatherman 25 year guarantee (which they actually honor!). It’s small enough to carry on a key chain, but will also sit comfortably in a purse or just loose in your pocket. The best thing about it is the weight. It only weighs about 55 grams, which is ridiculously light considering how many tools it has.
I have the Squirt PS4, which is the model with the scissors – and it’s easily one of my most used tools. I have it with me (or within reach) at all times, and usually use the scissors and the knife on a daily basis. For around $50, it’s a bargain.

Esbit stove – solid fuel vs alcohol

Esbit stove

As much as I love my alcohol burning stove (I use a Trangia), there are times when I much prefer to use my Esbit solid fuel stove instead. There’s something very reassuring about having solid fuel that can’t spill – especially when travelling in places where my backpack is likely to get banged around by gravity, or by hopeless bus/train/plane baggage handlers. Esbit fuel tablets STINK, but if you wrap them individually in cling wrap, then place them into a large zip lock bag – then they only stink between unwrapping them and lighting them. I LOVE my anodised Esbit solid fuel stove simply because I can load it up with separately wrapped fuel cubes, and never have to worry about opening my pack to find everything soaked in alcohol. The unpleasant smell of an Esbit cube for 10 seconds is much much nicer than having all my clothes soaked in methylated spirits – plus they make handy fire lighters if you want to light a camp fire.

CREE torch

CREE torch

If you’re looking for a huge amount of light out of a very compact torch, then forget standard LEDs and start looking at the new range of Cree LEDs. Cree Inc are headquartered in North Carolina and design absolutely killer LED emitters that made regular LEDs look dull by comparison. The best thing about Cree torches is that they’re incredibly efficient and versatile. Many Cree torches can run on both regular AA or AAA batteries, but will also run on the newer lithium based batteries that have a much higher voltage and can therefore put out a lot more light. If you’re looking for a compact yet incredibly bright torch for camping, walking, general use, or even as part of your EDC or bug out bag – then go for something with a Cree emitter. If you’re not a techy, you can even find great deals on Cree torches sold as a bundle including rechargeable lithium batteries and a charger, so you don’t have to worry about find the right batteries etc.