It is said that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. In this second installment of the Blind Squirrel series, I would like to pass along some nutty discoveries for your amusement and edification.
The area where I live is quite swampy. At certain times of the year, being outside without some sort of protection is almost unbearable.
Whenever possible, I like to avoid the use of insect repellent. It feels sticky, smells stinky, and I don’t like the idea of absorbing chemicals through my skin. Fortunately, there are some other tools available that provide excellent protection from mosquito attacks.
If it is not too warm, a head net used with a broad brim hat and a jacket can provide excellent protection. Just put on the hat, pull the net over the hat and down to the collar of your shirt, put on the jacket and zip it all the way up, and you are ready to brave the wilds of mosquito land. Head nets are light, can be packed into the tiniest of spaces, and can save you a lot of misery when blood-sucking creatures are swarming. (Well, with mosquitoes at least. Politicians are more difficult to deal with.) Head nets are widely available at reasonable prices wherever camping gear is sold. The best deal that I could find on eBay at the time of this writing was a four-pack for $11.99.
Some days, it is just too hot to put on a regular jacket. A bug jacket is a good alternative. It is made entirely of mesh, and includes an integrated head net. Just put on a broad brim hat, pull the bug jacket over your head, put your arms through the sleeves, and tighten the drawstrings at the wrists and waist. Bug jackets in various sizes are also widely available at reasonable prices wherever camping gear is sold. The best deal that I could find on eBay at the time of this writing in my size (large) was $17.45. Bug jackets can also be packed in an extremely small space. This is not always an advantage. I had to buy a new bug jacket this year, because my old bug jacket is packed away so well that presently I cannot find it. I was not too terribly upset, because I suspect it will turn up sooner or later, and… “two is one, but one is none.”
Permethrin is an insect repellant/insecticide that can be used to treat clothing. If you treat your entire wardrobe (hat, shirt, pants, and socks), then for a period of six months or six washings (whichever comes first), your clothing will repel most mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other unwelcome pests. Other gear like tents, packs, boots and sleeping bags can also be treated. The more treated items you are wearing and carrying, the more likely it is that the mosquitoes will leave you alone.
Sawyer, Repel, Ranger Ready, and other vendors sell 0.5% permethrin solutions in spray bottles or spray cans designed for use on clothing and gear. A more economical way to purchase permethrin is as 36.8% permethrin concentrate. Mix two ounces of the concentrate with a gallon of water. Put it in a spray bottle, hang up the items to be treated, spray them thoroughly, and allow them to dry overnight.
The same diluted solution can be used for area treatment. If you are planning to have guests over for a range day or a barbecue, you can simply spray the solution around the perimeter of your range or patio several hours before the event. This treatment is usually sufficient to keep the majority of the mosquitoes away.
I usually wear a respirator, safety glasses, and rubber gloves when I am treating items with permethrin. I want the permethrin on the outside of my clothing and gear and not on the inside of my body.
It is also important to note that permethrin is extremely toxic to cats.
The Olight Array Headlamp
For Valentine’s Day this year, my wife gave me a headlamp. I am a lucky man. Nothing says, “I love you” quite like receiving a headlamp.
The headlamp my wife gave me is an Olight Array. The Array is an aluminum alloy headlamp designed for runners. It has two LEDs capable of a total of 400 lumens of output powered by a 2000 mAh rechargeable lithium battery. Unfortunately, it is made in China.
Opening the Box
The Array comes in a very nice box, which contains an even nicer padded case. The case contains the headlamp, directions, and a proprietary charging cable that connects to the battery pack magnetically. The rudimentary, polyglot directions come in English, Chinese, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Polish, German, Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Thai, French, Bulgarian, Italian, and Slovakian. It reads like a ticket to the Tower of Babel.
When fully charged, the headlamp is rated to operate at 13 hours on the minimum setting, and 2.5 hours on the maximum setting. It is rated as “waterproof” in the IPX4 sense of the word (you can splash it but not dunk it), and impact resistant for a drop of one meter. With the battery pack, it weighs 4.37 ounces.
Holding down the power button toggles between high beam and low beam. Double-clicking the power button toggles between one LED and two. This gives the option of four different power settings (two LEDs high, two LEDs low, one LED high, one LED low). A single click turns off the power or turns it back on to whatever setting was in use at the time when it was turned off.
The Cell Phone Search
On Valentine’s Day, it was very snowy in our area. After a morning of worship and some lunch, much of the afternoon was dedicated to clearing snow. Sometime during that process, my cell phone fell off my belt and disappeared into a snow drift. I did not realize it was missing until after the snow was cleared, the roof was raked, and the boiler was stoked. At that point, the sun was getting low on the horizon. A quick search in the fading daylight was fruitless.
As the day turned into night, I pressed the freshly charged Olight into service. I found it to be much brighter than any of my other headlamps, and it operated reliably under frigid conditions. Unfortunately, it does not have an X-ray setting, since the phone was concealed under a layer of snow. Fortunately, a brief thaw several days later uncovered the phone, which was thoroughly frosted but otherwise undamaged.
Another early task for the Olight was providing visibility while I was moving 2.5 cord of firewood from a wood stack to the woodshed. Our shed is not large enough to hold a supply of wood sufficient for an entire winter. Instead, the shed needs to be restocked part way through the year. Since I work during the day, I typically end up working on this project after the sun has set. Even on the lowest setting, the Olight provided plenty of light to easily see what I was doing.
The Olight also received the “Tucker the Beagle Seal of Approval.” Even on the lowest setting, it provided excellent illumination for his daily pre-sunrise and post-sunset walks.
I typically clear my driveway using a snowblower attached to the front of a venerable 1974 John Deere 110 lawn and garden tractor. One snowfall late in the season was extremely wet. The wet snow kept clogging the chute of the single-stage blower on the tractor. Ultimately I was forced to fire up a two-stage, walk-behind blower instead. The highest setting of the Olight provided outstanding illumination for clearing the driveway with the walk-behind blower that early morning.
After we shut down the wood boiler for the season, the firebox needed to be cleaned. Even on the lowest setting, the Olight provided excellent illumination for this multi-hour task.
This project was quite involved, so I spread it out over a number of days. During one session, after many hours of use, the Olight suddenly shut off without warning. The battery was dead. I was forced to switch to another headlamp, a Coast FL19. Although the FL19 is a fine headlamp for many applications, the light it provided was woefully and pitifully inadequate for boiler cleaning. The dark interior of the boiler seemed to suck up all the light. Being forced to use the FL19 made me appreciate the Olight much more.
The Olight recharged well over the course of several hours, and was ready for more boiler cleaning the next time I continued this task.
One of the primary weaknesses of the Olight was aforementioned: it is made in China. A second weakness is the very rudimentary set of directions. A third weakness is that the cord between the battery pack and the lamp is too short. It is intended that the lamp be at the front of the head, and the battery pack at the back. Instead, when the lamp is pointing forward, the battery pack is located just behind the left ear. This is not particularly uncomfortable, but it somehow lacks aesthetic appeal.
Other than that, the Olight functioned quite well. I am very glad to have it.
I did not receive any financial or other inducements to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.