gear reviews

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Charge Your Devices With the Cheotech Portable Solar Panel | Backdoor Survival

By Gaye Levy – Backdoor Survival

As more of our lives become digital, having a simple way to keep our devices charged poses a dilemma when out in the field, hiking, or during a power outage.  Luckily, there are many solar options available and with each passing year, they get lighter in weight and lower in cost.  Plus, as technology advances, the panels are producing more sun-juice then the portable systems that were available a mere three years ago.

Why should preppers care about charging our digital gizmos?  After all, if the grid is down, cell service will be INOP as well.  The simple answer for me, at least, is that my devices are a virtual library of knowledge, crammed with eBooks, PDFs, photos, and a bit of entertainment to keep me occupied during dire times.

Continue reading at Backdoor Survival: Charge Your Devices With the Choetech Portable Solar Panel

About the author:

Gaye Levy started Backdoor Survival so that she could share her angst and concern about our deteriorating economy and its impact on ordinary, middle-class folks. She also wanted to become a prepper of the highest order and to share her knowledge as she learned it along the way. On Backdoor Survival you will find survival and preparedness tools and tips for creating a self-reliant lifestyle through thoughtful prepping and optimism.

To read more from Gaye, visit her website, Backdoor Survival. You can also follow Gaye on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest or purchase her eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage on


The Paratus 3 Day Operator's Pack

By Pat Henry – The Prepper Journal

In Prepper circles there are a myriad of opinions on gear selection. From the best survival knife to the best caliber of handgun to purchase all the way down to paracord differences. The good thing for preppers is that there are so many suppliers of quality gear out there and we get the benefit of competition.

We also get the job of making decisions and in some cases; with the large number of choices you have, finding that one “perfect” thing can be elusive. I myself have purchased more than one of several items in my prepping supplies trying out new options or searching for a better solution. Bug Out Bags are another item in which preppers have options. Some might say too many options to make a good determination, right or wrong about the bag they are going to count on when you need to go mobile and survive.

I was fortunate enough to be contacted by the good folks at 3V Gear. 3V Gear came into being based on the owner, Daniel Beck, trying to find a bug out bag. In Daniels experience, most of the packs out there were very expensive or ill-equipped for the general 72-hour time frame. As with most entrepreneurs he decided to create his own bag. What came from that inspiration was the Paratus (based on Semper Paratus) meaning Always Ready. 3V Gear asked me if I wanted to review one of their Paratus bags for the readers of the Prepper Journal.

Continue reading at The Prepper Journal: Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack Review



I was given the opportunity to review the Cold Steel Trail Hawk from the good people at Knife Hog back in May. I am only now getting to this review which is long overdue. I was interested in reviewing this particular tomahawk for two reasons. First, I think a Tomahawk is a great addition to field gear for the utility it provides, which I will discuss later and secondly because of the Cold Steel brand. Cold Steel has been making tough products for over three decades so I was excited to get my hands on a piece of gear from them that fit nicely with my ideas about survival tools.

Before the tomahawk arrived from Knife Hog, I researched the Trail Hawk a little. I discovered that the Trail Hawk was actually made by the American Tomahawk Company which is a division of Cold Steel. As far as I was able to glean from looking around the web, the American Tomahawk brand is used by Cold Steel for their imported products. I may be completely wrong about this, but the tomahawk I received is clearly stamped “Taiwan” on the blade. Does that mean it isn’t the same quality as Cold Steel? Not necessarily but I was intrigued by this a little more.

Trail Hawk with Taiwan stamp.

I’ll start off with the specs of this tomahawk and my first impressions upon receiving it from Knife Hog. Before I get into that, I will say Knife Hog delivered this tomahawk very quickly and it was exactly as described on their website. The retail for this tomahawk is $29.52 on Knife Hog right now.

Trail Hawk Specifications:

Overall Length: 22″
Hawk Length: 6 1/2″
Primary Edge: 2 1/4″
Steel: Drop Forged 1055 Carbon
Weight: 23.6 oz (Approx.)
Handle: American Hickory

The Trail Hawk was a little longer than I had anticipated but the almost 2 foot long hickory handle allows me to swing this chopper comfortably. The length would seem to make this a little harder to configure for carrying but with the right Tomahawk holster that should be fine. The handle isn’t too wide or too thin and fits really nicely in my hands.

As I inspected the blade, The first thing I noticed was the set screw in the blade that presumably could be tightened to keep the blade attached to the handle. My blade was already a little loose. Nothing major, maybe a wiggle of a couple millimeters but I think I would need to tighten this after a good bit of use and this fact right here had me a little concerned with the strength of the overall tomahawk. After chopping with the tomahawk for a little while, the axe blade was noticeably looser and was already due for a tightening. The head is a simple hex which I have here, but what if I was in the field?


The Trail Hawk has two ends on the blade. The first is the chopping edge and it is 2 and 1/4 inches long. When I received the tomahawk, the blade was decently sharp, but nothing like a knife. I do know these are different tools, but it still seems to me if you want to chop something more easily you would have a sharper edge. I tried this out on several pieces of wood with the factory edge and the harder woods were much harder to bite into. Was this because of the sharpness of the blade or the weight of the head?

Older wood (softer) was much easier to chop although this tomahawk isn’t great at chopping. The long handle makes for a nice feel when you swing, but I think the size and weight of the blade make it tougher to really work with this tomahawk. If you are looking for a superb tomahawk for chopping small trees, I might look somewhere else. This is also not a tomahawk I would try to use to nail things either. The square surface on the opposite end was used to pound in tent stakes, but again the weight of the tomahawk made it largely ineffective for me.

I will say that I am not an expert so your mileage may vary.

Is this tomahawk a good deal? It could be. The edge is nice enough to stick into wood even though it doesn’t remove it quickly. If you are looking for a nice throwing tomahawk, this might be good. The weight and balance feels nice to me, but I was looking for something to really chop wood and this tomahawk isn’t what I would consider excellent at that. It was perfectly fine at busting up small pieces of wood for kindling, but I think it would be really hard to chop a 4″ diameter log in two. I also tried splitting some of the firewood, but the head just wasn’t cooperating with me.

The price point is nothing to sneeze at though. At under $30, If you are looking for something to occasionally take camping with you or to throw around in the back yard, the Trail Hawk is a fairly cheap tomahawk that if nothing else could be what you start with. I really appreciate the folks at Knife Hog for letting me get my hands on this and if you are looking for something to cut or chop with, you should check out their site.

Trail Hawk seems suited to small tasks.

What’s your favorite tomahawk?

This information has been made available by The Prepper Journal: Cold Steel Trail Hawk Tomahawk – Review




I have been meaning to write this review for weeks after the good people Powerful Products sent me this really nice Goal Zero Bolt Solar flashlight but one thing or another keeps getting in the way. Now, with our contest to win one of these excellent flashlights approaching an end, I wanted to show you a little more about this great device.  The Goal Zero Bolt is a great addition to your family’s emergency preps because it is both practical (who doesn’t need a flashlight) and needs only the sun to run for hours. You never need to worry about running out of batteries as the sun provides all the juice you need with the included solar panels.

The Goal Zero bolt is first a great LED flashlight that will put out 160 lumens from the 3 Watt, white CREE LED for 2 hours on high and 10 hours on low according to the manufacturer’s site. I fully charged mine and left it running over night and when I came out in the morning, it was still putting off light. Not much mind you but the battery did hold out for a very long time. Charging is simple and the Goal Zero bolt has two options to power up the internal Li-Ion 18650. One difference about this rechargeable flashlight is that you can actual swap out the battery if you ever have problems. While it isn’t one of the more standard sizes, you can find replacements all over the place. I was able to find this Li-Ion 18650 on Amazon for less than $10

The Li-Ion 18650 in the Bolt can be replaced if needed.


Charging the bolt only takes about 5-6 hours in direct sun so its perfect if you have a nice sunny day and a good place to set the included solar panels. The entire kit comes with the charging panels, usb-mini USB cable and a wall adapter. If you have other devices that use a Mini-USB, the included solar panels will charge that as well.



The Bolt has its own Mini-USB port on the side, so you only have to connect the panels to the flashlight and let it sit in the sun.

Mini-USB connector on the Goal Zero Bolt

The charging port is accessed by spinning a cover that exposes the port. When you are ready to charge the flashlight, just rotate the knob to expose the port and plug in the cable. When you are done, just rotate the knob again to cover the port. This flashlight isn’t waterproof so the feature is nice, but covering the port isn’t really protecting it from too much more than casual dirt.

Two charging panels will recharge the Goal Zero bolt in about 5 hours.

The solar panels can lay on the ground or you could hang them from a tree or any other surface to get ideal sun exposure. The case for the panels seems very solidly built with Velcro closures for when you aren’t using the solar panels. You also have plenty of tie-off options if you wanted to lash this to your pack or hang the panels somewhere.


The Goal Zero Bolt is 6.5 inches long and weighs 6 ounces. I wanted to show you this comparison to some other flashlights I have so you could see the size. This is not an EDC flashlight in my opinion but I think it is great for around the home or car. I actually used mine last night to get a chicken out of the tree, but that is a story for another day…

The Final Verdict

There are so many flashlights out there and each can have a particular use. I seldom find any single piece of equipment that is perfect at everything. The Goal Zero Bolt isn’t waterproof and its size factor preclude its use in some situations, but I don’t think that is what it was designed for. If you are looking for a great, bright flashlight to use around the house that you will probably never need batteries for, the Goal Zero is great. If you want something to strap to your gun, this isn’t your flashlight.

The Goal Zero does a great job at shining light. The advantage of the included solar panels should be obvious if you were ever in a situation where you couldn’t get to the store and your lights were out or you need to charge anything else with a Mini-USB port. Set the Bolt with the charger out in the sun during the day and you will have a good flashlight to help you see at night.

If you would like one of these, you can still enter our contest and try to win one. The best price to pay for these is nothing and if you are the lucky winner, we’ll ship you one of these for your very own home. If not, this flashlight will still make a great addition to any disaster home kit and you can pick them up at Powerful Product’s site too. I think you will agree that this is a great light. I also included  video from Goal Zero to show you some additional uses of this flashlight.

This information has been made available by The Prepper Journal: Goal Zero Bolt Solar Flashlight – Review



Planning for power outages is one of the most common things you can do in the realm of prepping. To that end we talk about storing fuel, purchasing generators or inverters for back-up power or installing solar panels to augment your electric grid-tied system. These are the problems of anyone in the West normally who has reliable access to power. There is a whole other world out there where the reliability of constant power is spotty. In some remote locations, it is non-existent.

You don’t have to get your passport stamped to imagine life without power though. Winter storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat all cause power outages here in the US too as I mentioned above. And, some people even willingly go far out into the woods for fun with, you guessed it. No power.

I was given an opportunity to review a product called WakaWaka Power which is essentially three devices in one. It is a solar charger, a battery and a very bright LED light. WakaWaka, Swahili for “shine bright”, is a creation of Off-Grid Solutions. Immediately apparent are the applications for this little device which gives you a long lasting LED light (up to 80 hours on a full charge at 25% power) and it can also charge your smart phone via USB. Something like this could really be a bonus even if you are stranded at an airport and don’t want to try and find the coveted spot on the floor next to the outlet for the lonely privilege of being able to stare at everyone’s feet for two hours while you answer email and wait for your phone to recharge.

The Waka Waka Power unit is pretty light at about 7 OZ so this could easily fit in your Get Home Bag or your Bug Out Bag if you don’t have other charging options. It probably weighs as much as a couple of packs of batteries and would last a lot longer provided you have a lot of access to sun. Assuming you could use a charger in place of batteries.

Waka Waka Power is light enough to throw in your Bug Out Bag

Waka Waka charging my iPhone 5c in about 2 hours.
WakaWaka3The Waka Waka Power takes 10 hours of full sunlight to charge according to the website. You could strap this to the back of your pack if you are hiking as long as you are always facing away from the sun. I was able to charge my iPhone pretty quickly with the Waka Waka even though it didn’t have a full charge and this could come in handy for business trips even as a backup battery. I know there are plenty of those already on the market, but not all have solar capacity and these super bright LED bulbs. The Waka Waka Power also uses a mini-USB that you have to supply to charge directly from the wall. This is faster than the sun, but would you believe that with all of the electric devices, I don’t have one single mini-USB plug?

The light bulbs have 4 different power settings. I assume these are 100%, 75%, 50% and so on so you can choose the amount of light you need. At 100%, these lights will easily brighten up an entire room so if you had to cook or you wanted to read, the Waka Waka would put off plenty of light. You could reduce the light down to 25% if you just needed to navigate to the bathroom or wanted to be romantic for instance and save power.

One nifty little feature was the hole on the base that fits over a plastic water bottle. You can use this as a stand or there is a small eyelet that you can run some paracord through to suspend the waka waka power from up higher. These are simple additions, but it does make the unit much better suited to be used for lighting.

Waka Waka has two very bright LEDs

The idea behind WakaWaka Power isn’t necessarily new or revolutionary, but the goal of the organization is vast. The Waka Waka Foundation aims to eradicate energy poverty for over 1.5 billion people worldwide and that is no small feat. To that end, for every WakaWaka Power charger sold, WakaWaka makes a donation to the WakaWaka Foundation to finance entrepreneurial education, micro-loans to women energy entrepreneurs, and subsidies for the very poor in countries like in Nigeria, Haiti, Nepal, India and Latin America to replace polluting, dangerous kerosene lamps. These initiatives increase safety for girls and women at night, help students complete their homework after dark, and much more.From a practical standpoint, I really like the Waka Waka power device and this follows a trend of bringing cleaner technology advances (rocket stoves, solar power) to remote regions to increase safety and improve health. I have other solar chargers, but they charge batteries separately and do not have a light. This could conceivably eliminate two things I needed to pack. I could take this on business trips for example instead of a headlamp, my charger and the spare batteries. I could make arguments on both sides, but this does give me options. The Waka Waka is pretty solid, but it isn’t waterproof so you don’t want to take this camping without a good dry sack to keep it in. If you don’t have any solar power charging capacity right now, you might want to try out the Waka Waka.

This information has been made available by The Prepper Journal: Waka Waka Power: Review