Medical Care books – first aid with content

After completing a first aid course recently, I was frankly quite disappointed at the almost complete lack of content present. Granted it was only a two day plus one evening introductory course, however the entire course could have basically been done in about ten minutes by repeating this continuously:

  • Check for danger
  • Check for a response
  • Cover your arse by asking for consent
  • Airway/breathing/CPR/stabilise
  • Call for an ambulance
  • Cover your arse by not leaving till help arrives and documenting the patient condition

Sure, these things are important, but hardly worth the sacrificing a weekend and weeknight (thankfully someone else footed the several hundred dollars the course would have cost)

This got me thinking – I remember first aid courses used to actually give you some skills around treating minor ailments, and deciding when to go to a doctor. What I really want is the ability to treat minor illnesses/injuries, and know what is minor and treatable, and really does need further medical care. Like, if I’m out hiking/camping and I’m either too far away from civilization, or simply don’t want to have to go to a doctor if I can treat it myself.

After doing some searching and discussing this with some friends, I came across the following resources which seem to meet my need:

I haven’t studied these in great detail, however they seem to be what I’ve been looking for – basic medical care when there isn’t a doctor around. I’ve made sure I’ve got a copy on my various computers and memory sticks in case I need them.

Gas cartridge converters – review

I recently bought some adapters off ebay to convert the screw mount adapter of lightweight hiking stoves which run off the squat butane mix cannisters to the butane cartridge gas canisters used by cheap portable stoves. Turns out it is workable, but probably not the most practical.

gas cartridge adapters

The idea is that butane cartridges cost around AU$6 for a pack of 4 250g cartridges, while the squat butane mix cannisters cost around AU$10 for a single 220g cannister.

The two applications I had in mind were a lightweight kovea stove, and a small gas mantle lantern. The lantern is more intended for car-camping use, but the stove is a for hiking. Whenever I’m car camping I’ll bring the big cartridge stove along as it’s easier to cook on.

Before getting into the adapters themselves, it is worth noting the differences between the cheap gas cartridges and the more expensive hiking cannisters. The cheap cartridges usually contain 100% butane, while the cannisters usually contain something like 80% butane, 20% propane. The key difference here is the 20% propane in the more expensive squat cannisters. Butane, it seems, boils at -0.5 degrees Celsius. Fine if you live in Queensland (which I do), however if you’re in in a cooler climate (or up a mountain or somewhere it gets to close to zero degrees Celsius) you’ll run into problems. This is the same reason cheap butane cigarette lighters won’t work if it’s too cold. The more expensive squat cannisters address this by containing 20% propane, which happens to have a boiling point of around -42.09 degrees Celsius. Why not just use 100% propane? Well, seems as it has a lower boiling point, the vapour pressures in a container of 100% propane can get much higher than that of butane. This is why butane cartridges are essentially aerosol cans, whereas BBQ gas cylinder are heavy steel. I guess the manufacturers worked out that 20% propane, 80% butane was a sweet spot in terms of boiling point and container weight/cost.

So, the moral of this is that at low temperatures, the cheaper cartridges won’t perform as well/at all compared with the more expensive butane/propane mix cannisters.

I bought two different adapters to trial. The first is a small cylindrical adapter that sits directly on top of a cartridge and couples to the screw mount.

I’ve found this one works really well for the lantern. As the lantern isn’t top heavy there’s no worry of tipping, and the lantern can even be hung from its chain quite nicely. It works well for the stove, but is a little unstable since you’ve got your cooking pot/cup up so high on a cylinder with such a narrow base. The cartridge coupling is a plastic job, with an expanding collar to secure it to the cartridge.

The second adapter has the screw coupling on a wide tripod base, and a hose running off to the cartridge coupling This coupling is a simple pressed steel job, which is functional, but it can be a bit difficult to get on and off. I much prefer the expanding collar design of the smaller adapter. I noticed that using the stove on this (which is the logical option, since it provides a nice stable base) give a bit of an uneven flame. It kind of pulsates in size. In addition, it does not pack down very small unless you unscrew the steel adapter plate – kind of irritating.

So for me, the compact inline converter is a winner for use with the gas lantern, which i’ll use when car camping. As for stoves, if I’m car camping then I’m going to be using a bigger stove which uses the cartridges directly anyway. If i’m hiking, then i don’t want the extra weight and space of a converter, and the gas issue clinches it.

Some background reading on gas mixtures and stoves:

Survival kit tools on the cheap

So I’ve been putting together survival kits of late, and come across a number of cheap options which I thought I might share. I’ve been thinking that it would be better having 5 slightly lower quality items that I’m not afraid to lose, than 1 fantastic ultra reliable item that will make me cry (or worse, in a survival situation) if i lose or break it.

This sort of survival kit on the cheap is, I must say, all made possible by the wonderous cheap stuff coming out of china. Since most high quality, genuine name brand stuff now also comes out of the same factories in china, the knock-off stuff is now pretty good, if a bit hit and miss sometimes with the quality control. While it may not be as good as the real deal, for the price I think its worth it.

One great example is the pocket knife below – the gerber knock off shown below is less than a tenth of the price of my CRKT M16-13LE. Now, there’s no dispute that the CRKT is a far better knife, but the cheapie is still very solid. Steel is a bit softer, but it still holds an edge decently and is easy to sharpen. The CRKT is my EDC, but the cheapies go into the various kits I have.

Folding knife – Tanto blade, probably 440a or 440c not properly hardened or similar steel – holds an edge fairly well, but is quite easy to sharpen. Quality control is a potential issue – 1 of 3 had a poorly made liner lock which required repair before it locked properly. At around AU$7.50 each delivered (3 to 5, cheaper for higher quantities), i bought a bunch for my various kits.

LED torch (“Flashlight”)
This one runs from AA, AAA and CR123. Runtime on a rechargable CR123 is about 60 minutes. It has a constant current constant voltage regulated driver, as it gives consistant light intensity right up until the battery protection circuit kicks in. With AA and AAAs you get a dimmer light. Different brightness modes would be nice, but the battery flexibility I think is a bigger bonus. At around AU$11 each delivered, one goes in each kit.

Fixed blade survival knife. A number of chinese sellers on ebay sell these for around AU$25. Full tang, very solid construction, nice handle scales. Blade geometry is nice for slicing (eg skinning), and a nice size for survival work – not too large. The only downside is the sheath, which is functional, but not particularly good.

Fire starters
Again, dealextreme to the rescue! They have ferrocium rods ranging from small to large, from AU$2 up to AU$5 each delivered.

Another handy one is a small cylindrical zippo style lighter. This one features a screw on lid with an o-ring, meaning that the zippo fluid (aka coleman fuel, naptha, shellite) doesn’t evaporate like normal zippos.

Review – Black Diamond Contour Eliptic walking poles

black diamond contour eliptic walking poles

I bought myself a set of Black Diamond Contour Eliptic walking poles recently. The initial use for these will be when I do the Kokoda Challenge in a few weeks time. I bought them from K2 Base Camp in Fortitude Valley.

When chosing the poles, I opted for these ones as they have an eliptical (or oval) section tubing. From my highly scientific bendy tests in the shops, the oval section added a lot of rigidity compared with round section. The click lock system that black diamond uses felt a lot more secure and easier to use (think wet and slippery conditions) than twist lock mechanisms employed by other poles. My impression is that they are simple, heavy duty walking poles.

After my first use, some features which I do miss are a shock absorber, and extended grips. My first use was only a 3 hour hike, but I could feel jolting in my arms, and I think this could lead to issues for long walks if I’m not careful with technique. The extended hardgrips I think would be a bit of a bonus for uphills. The idea is that instead of adjusting pole length, you simply hold the pole lower down on the extended grips. Especially up steep hills I found that “normal” length expended more energy compared with a shorter length. If I was to buy another pair I’d definitely get ones with shock absorbers, but I wouldn’t pay extra for extended handles.

Having not previously used walking poles, here’s a few of my impression on using them:

  • They help out a lot for walking on flat ground and gentle ups and downs, letting your upper body do some work
  • For steep downhills I felt a lot more stability and I think they took some load off my knees
  • For steep uphills they allowed me to transfer load to my arms to give my legs a bit of a rest
  • I would never use just a single one – always two, otherwise it would just feel unbalanced and wrong
  • The wrist straps are not just there so you can dangle them when not in use – they are used to support your weight through the palms/side of your hands. Same technique as using ski poles. Look it up
  • Getting the rhythm right (left foot, right pole etc) actually takes more concentration at first than I would have thought!
  • The Tungsten Carbide tips are surprisingly grippy on rocky surfaces. I would not get poles that don’t have Tungsten Carbide tips (if these even exist…)
  • With two poles, it makes it a lot harder to get stuff out of your pack when on the move, since you don’t have free hands. As I don’t use camelback style water bladders, instead water bottles this actually has a big impact. I think i’ll need to either switch to bladders, or get a pack that has external pockets for water bottles.