Saturday, August 28, 2010

Garmin nuvi GPS Recall

From Garmin:

Garmin is voluntarily recalling certain nüvi devices that contain a specific battery that was manufactured by the battery supplier within a limited date code range. Garmin has identified potential overheating issues when certain batteries manufactured by the third-party battery supplier within a limited date code range are used in certain Garmin nüvi models with a specific printed circuit board (PCB) design. It appears that the interaction of these factors can, in rare circumstances, increase the possibility of overheating, which may lead to a fire hazard. Although there have been no injuries or significant property damage caused by this issue, Garmin is taking this action out of an abundance of caution.
The recalled devices include a small subset of the following nüvi model numbers:

  • nüvi 200W, 250W, & 260W
  • nüvi 7xx (where xx is a two-digit number)
You can determine your nüvi model number by looking at the label on the back or bottom of your nüvi.

Go to Garmin's site and enter in your device's serial number.  It'll tell you if your unit needs to be sent in for service.

Thank you

Thank you to those readers who have purchased stuff after clicking on a link to from this site. Every so often I get a gift certificate from them which helps on my own Amazon orders.

By no means am I making any significant amount of money from my Amazon affiliate links, but their gift certificates are a nice surprise when I do get them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Standalone vs. Cell Phone Based GPS

A family trip this weekend reiterated for me why I do not think that cell phone based GPSes are viable 100% replacements for dedicated GPSes in your car.  At least, not yet.

We went up to Sullivan County, NY visit with some of my family.  The route we take to get there passes through NE PA, including the Delaware Water Gap.  My cousin, who's house we went to, lives in a rural area in which cell phone signal is spotty and often depends on how you orient your phone.

For navigation we had directions but also brought my Garmin Nuvi 200W, and both my wife and I have Android-based smartphones (a Droid and a Droid 2) with GPS integrated with Google Maps.  The Droids use the Verizon 3G data link to download maps on the fly.  In contrast, the Garmin stores maps locally.

We had no or poor cell phone signal, or no 3G for a good part of the drive.  Notably, the times when we had no signal were the times when the GPS was most needed.  I.e., rural back roads with poor signage and no street lighting.  If we had needed to depend on a phone-based GPS we'd have been out of luck.

There are a few applications designed to allow you to download and store maps offline in case you lose your cell phone signal, e.g., Maps (-).   However, this may not help you if you need to significantly deviate from your route, or if you need the GPS in an emergency and the cell network is down.

If your cell phone GPS usage is limited to areas with good cell coverage and don't consider your GPS unit as part of your emergency preps, then you don't need a standalone unit.  As for me, I'll be updating the maps in my Garmin soon.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New SAS Smock

In the past I've posted about a couple of cotton jackets which I own, my replica Second Pattern Denison Smock and my EOTac Field Jacket.  Both are nice pieces of kit but I've had a hankering for one of the more modern British combat smocks.  However, I wanted one in olive green, not DPM camo, since OG doesn't stand out as much when wearing it in an urban or suburban environment.

Unfortunately, non-DPM British combat smocks are not easily found on this side of the pond.  Sportsman's Guide currently lists desert DPM camo surplus smocks, along with Mil-Tec branc British-style smocks in CCE camo (which is French, AIUI).  Also, I've seen well-used woodland DPM smocks at I. Goldberg's in Philly, but not in my size.

That left me with one option: ordering a smock from the UK.  I've been eyeballing the smocks from S.A.S.S. for awhile and by all accounts, they are extremely nice.  However, they are really spendy.  Like over $200 after shipping is taken into account.  I really didn't want to spend that amount of money right now.

After some more searching I found the eBay store of "CFI-Military."  He listed a "British Military Army SAS Green Windproof Combat Smock" L42.99 + L25 shipping.  When I ordered one on August 1st, the exchange rate worked out to a total cost of $110 and change.

I was rather pleasantly surprised when the smock arrived a mere five days after I ordered it.  Here is a picture of the smock:

And the garment tag:

The smock is made from olive green 65/35 poly/cotton gabardine fabric.  It has four bellows pockets on the front, two on the chest and two at the bottom of the smock.  There's a map pocket on the top left inside, and two poacher's pockets at the bottom of the smock on the inside.  Each of the poacher's pockets are big enough to hold a field stripped MRE.  There's a pocket on the right sleeve big enough to hold a space blanket or bandage.  On the left sleeve there's a pocket for a pen and a small notepad.

Map and poacher's pockets:

The hood and the shoulders are lined with a second layer of fabric.  The hood had a drawstring in the front and a second one in the back.  I cut the front drawstring to prevent getting choked and put cord locks from REI on each half.  There are drawstrings at the bottom and midriff, which I also added cord locks to.  The two-way, full-length zipper is covered by a stormflap which can be closed with Velcro.  There are rank tab slides (basically vertical epaulets) on both the front and back.  I may remove one or both of these.  The cuffs are adjustable with Velcro tabs.

Cuff detail:

Rather than being sewn directly to the fabric, the buttons are sewn to cotton tapes which in turn are sewn to the fabric.  This makes them easier to work with gloves on.

Detail of pocket flap and button:

Back of the smock showing hood adjustment tape and rank slide:

Upon first inspection, the smock appeared to be generally well made but with a number of excess threads which needed trimming.  However, a closer inspection revealed one defect which would have caused me to return it for an exchange had I purchased it from a domestic supplier.  Specifically, the stitching around the buttonhole of the lower left pocket was very bad and had unraveled.  Since I didn't want to mail it back to England I just got out my sewing kit and redid it myself, which took about a half hour.

I ordered an XL, although it's marked with the metric size 180/108 (height/chest in cm).  Wearing it over a t-shirt there's plenty of room without feeling like I'm wearing a tent, but it also fits comfortably over my Polartec 300 SPEAR jacket.

The sleeves are a little long on me but not uncomfortably so.  The body is long enough so that it covers me down to mid-thigh.  CCW with this smock will be easy.

A couple nights ago I wore the smock on a walk around the block.  It was drizzling and there was a 10 MPH wind, with temps in the 70s F.  Not much of a test but I felt no wind through the tightly woven gabardine.  I'll be able to test it out better once the temp drops about 20 degrees.

Yesterday I washed it in warm water then dried it on the delicate cycle.  I didn't notice any shrinkage.  This morning I sprayed it down with a can of Scotchguard to make it more water repellent and stain resistant.

One may wonder why I'd want a cotton outer garment when I already have modern technical outerwear.  As I've written about previously, cotton or blends have a a few advantages over modern hard and softshells.  First, they are more breathable.  Second, they aren't as vulnerable to sparks flying off a campfire.  Additionally, they are quieter in the woods and may be less reflective of IR.  That said, because cotton is not waterproof like a modern hardshell, when there's the possibility of encountering wet weather it would be prudent to carry either a poncho or a light weight modern waterproof jacket, like my Marmot Precip.  The latter can be worn between the smock and your insulating layer.  Doing so protects the waterproof jacket from wear and tear, is quieter, and allows you to access gear in the smock's pockets.

I'm in the process of equipping the smock so that in effect, it's a wearable survival kit.  So far I've added a first aid kit carried in one of the poacher's pockets, a Silva pocket compass/thermometer in the top left pocket, and a Fisher Space Pen in the left sleeve pocket.  I'll be adding things like a bandanna, a cigar tin based kit with fire starting stuff, a length of paracord, and a few other things.

These smocks are practical wear for when you're out in the woods if you keep the limitations of cotton or poly/cotton garments in mind. The Brits still issue similar smocks as part of their combat kit. Overall, I think the SAS smock from CFI Military is a pretty good deal for us Yanks looking for this type of garment.