Category Archives: Miscellaneous Gear, Toys, Swag, and Accessories…

Arc’teryx and Danner Boots…why hast thou forsaken us?!?!?

So…I’m a gear whore.  That definitely rears it’s ugly head as it relates to both my cigar accoutrements, as well as my workplace gear.  I’m an EDC (everyday carry) geek somewhat – due to workplace training, I damn-near ALWAYS have a pocket knife (primarily as a tool, NOT a weapon) and little LED flashlight in my pocket.  I also generally try to have a seatbelt cutter and window punch tool (Res-Q-Me tool) on my keychains and duty gear.  I like to have a small “go-bag” of basic 24- to 48-hr essentials on me, usually in my vehicle if I’m out and about – I’m VERY impartial to this kick-ass 5.11 “RUSH / MOAB” single-strap pack, and have travelled with it both domestically and overseas, and it’s an extremely modular and well-executed piece of kit.

That’s just kind of my mindset, to have EDC stuff and gear on hand, even before getting into the Military Police, from my years of doing civvie Search-And-Rescue before – “plan for the worst, hope for the best”, “expect the unexpected”, etc.  So, over the years, I’ve bought, used, sold, and stockpiled some very unique and task-specific gear.  I’m glad my wife doesn’t back-check the credit cards too much!!!!

Anywho, so I’ve recently got back from some more deployment travelling stuff, and getting prepped and ready the last few weeks and months for a decent-length full-on deployment, and I’ve been getting some new gear and such.

Danner Boots.  Always worn them on patrol.  Have had a number of pairs over the years (mostly all different variants / colours of the Kinetic boots).  Looking to get some more pairs, including some hiking shoes.

Arc’teryx LEAF.  The “dead bird”.  Used a fair bit of their gear in years past, loaned from buddies and whatnot.  But trying to get set-up finally with my own LEAF account, and order some of my own gear.

And whaddya know, but both decide to fail horribly when it comes to the customer service aspect.

With Danner, I tried a few various types of boots, mostly tan or coyote colour.  Ended up focusing on the Desert TFX GTX / Gore-Tex.  HORRIBLE fitting boots.  Very drastic pinch points and whatnot at the ankles, really over-engineered and not-realistic lacing system, etc.  So, I go through the return aspects, and while it only took 2 days to order and have shipped out, it was “expected to take” upwards of 6-8 weeks to process my returned boots, and actually give me my refund back.  They had the shipment, but didn’t have enough people to process the return (wish they ran it like Amazon does with returns – very slick).

But in the interim there, I wrote some reviews.  Frankly, I posted one for the Desert TFX GTX on three different occasions.  After the 2nd time of it being up there, but then removed / deleted, I e-mailed them.  I was told, simply, that due to foul language it was removed.  There was only one insertion of a “WTF” in there (and literally, just those letters).  But, after a revision and resubmission, still removed and gone.

Honestly, I was VERY unflattering in my review.  And as a long-time Danner fan, I was definitely feeling let down by some of their products.  I’m actually waiting on more to try, and keeping fingers crossed.  But this experience had me look at their pages, and the reviews.  They actually don’t list them in order in any way.  It looks like they bury unflattering reviews on following pages.  Stuff is not on there in any reasonable chronological form.  And plainly, they have no issue deleting / not-publishing very harsh and critical reviews.  Very much a “controlling the message” aspect.  Hey – then LISTEN to people’s complaints (I noticed the issues I brought up have been brought up by lots of other people online outside of Danner’s reviews/webpages), and make a better product.  Quit ruining a great product, over-engineering and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and then disappointing long-time customers.

So then we come to Arc’teryx LEAF…

I finally decided to get myself an account set up back on March 9th.  Weeks and weeks of getting ad e-mail sometimes every day (after I SPECIFICALLY unchecked boxes and ensure I would NOT be requesting to be put on spam mail lists).  But no follow-up about my submitted documents for an Arc’teryx LEAF account.  So I e-mail and e-mail, and finally get the following response just a few days ago:

Hi Keith,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response. Unfortunately we regret to inform you that this program is no longer operational.

We are committed to maintaining the highest level of customer service across all of our programs, however we learned that the LEAF Purchase Program has limited uptake yet requires significant program maintenance. For this reason, we made the decision to discontinue the program in order to refocus our efforts on other customer initiatives.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and ask that you please contact your local Arc’teryx tactical retailers for direct purchasing needs.

Kind regards, Oliver

WTF???!?!  Arc’teryx, that dirty ol’ dead bird, is discontinuing the LEAF program?!?!!?!?

What I’m understanding is that the products will be available, but no more discounted purchasing options now for military / LE members.

A quick Google search, and nothing to be found.  Nothing in any news releases, and nothing either to any of the various newsletters or a blog by Arc’teryx, as far as I can see.

I worry – who knows about this?  Figured I’d share it here.  Any military / LE members, those who have been enjoying the LEAF program for years…any word on this?

Frankly, I find this all very disappointing.

There’s lots of these companies out there that have BUILT their brands’ reputations on the backs of the military members, first responders, outdoors professionals, etc., who have purchased, used, and SWEAR BY the legendary quality and performance of these items.  Lives are trusted to this gear sometimes.

Due to all of this, these companies and brands have received MILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ WORTH of FREE ADVERTISING by those professionals using and spreading positive word-of-mouth on this gear.

So now they just bail?  They don’t respond to issues adequately, they hide bad reviews, they drop reasonable-discount programs in support of those who helped build their businesses?

Reminds me a bit of when I was posted to the base in Halifax, and I went to the Roots Canada store at one of the big local malls, and I found out that Roots had just recently cancelled their discount program for Canadian Forces members.  It was a 10 or 20% program (I want to say it was only 10 or 15% off).  But, the staff clerk ironically explained to me, the same corporate-internal release that notified stores of that discount ceasing for military members, also stated that a new discount program was being offered for all NHLPA members, to the tune of 40% or so.

Nice.  Very nice.  Thanks for nothing, I guess.

But spread the word about Arc’teryx – who knows; hopefully they’ll reconsider dropping the LEAF program.  Fingers crossed.  But my further e-mails have gone unanswered.

Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Nov 2015: Of Chavetas And Men…

So, as per usual in Havana, I look for other goodies besides cigars.  Classic Cuban licence plates are a favourite of mine – yes, you may see me list them on eBay from time to time after a trip occasionally if I get my hands on them.  Same for the giant, heavy-as-shit Hotel Nacional marble ashtrays.

This last trip, I was able to find more of those licence plates, and even lucked out in finding one of the even-earlier 1980’s-series ones (the older style is from the 1978 to 2002 window apparently, per Wiki and WLP.Com).  However, it was no-go on the Hotel Nacional ashtrays – they’ve been sold out since about March of last year (2015), and have had a standing order in with their manufacturer since then.  Apparently, on the far end of the island where the marble quarry is, the quarry workers were on strike (yeah right! – on strike in Cuba! LOL), but they’ve recently just got back to production, so the hotel was expecting more of those ashtrays sometime early in the new year.

But, to make up for that, I found this beaut…

This item, a “chaveta” (meaning “blade” in Spanish), I picked up in the Plaza de Armas from one of the antiques vendors.  He said he believed it was from the 1910’s to 1940’s timeline, from either the La Corona or Partagas factories.  Legit story or not, I got it for a steal at $40 CUCs.

Now, luck had it that I was actually able to meet up with Hamlet a week ago (that post will be coming shortly – a cigar event he did over in Michigan for his “Tabaquero” line with Rocky Patel), and after a phone call from him confirming some details, I brought this item over with me and he was able to clarify it with me.

Yes, they refer to this tool as a chaveta too, although that’s primarily what they call the larger hand-held blade that the rollers use to cut the wrapper leaf as they’re rolling cigars.  But this chaveta is for chopping the foot of the cigar, nice and clean, once it’s fully done being rolled and has the wrapper applied – the last stage, the last tool used on a cigar before it’s ready for being packaged and/or smoked.

Hamlet also told me he thought the timeline was wrong – he figured right in the early- to mid-1960’s, right after the revolution.  He confirmed it looked like one from La Corona, with it’s smooth curved blade; he said the earlier pre-revolution ones (1920’s to 1950’s) had more of a jagged-edged blade, “they used to look like a scary star” he said (I did find one online here, about a third of the way down the page).  And he figured the timeline from the material (kind of a dirty / unpure aluminum and tin-laden white-metal version), and the small numbers and other features.

Either way, a very cool part of the post-revolution cigar world that’s gonna take pride of placement on my display humidor cabinet.


Cheers all.

Wicked “Iroda Micro-Jet” Butane Torch Travel Lighter…

I can’t remember if I’ve covered it specifically, but I didn’t find a specific post about it, so I’ll do so here.

Some have asked about the lighter that occasionally pops up in the background of some of my review pics.  It’s actually a small soldering torch by Iroda called the Micro-Jet.  It’s awesome, and something that a great BOTL turned a bunch of us onto during a November 2012 trip to Havana.  They can be found on sale occasionally through the Canadian Tire chain of department stores in Canada, and through some various online vendors as well, one of which is through good buddy Lou’s shop at Canada Humidor.  I’ll include a pic here for those that need / want an item number on it:


These Iroda torches are awesome.  As those of us out of Canada and other countries know, the travel restrictions in recent years for items that can be carried on airplanes is getting tighter and tighter.  As butane cigar torches are generally not allowed, this unique little item makes it awesome to travel as a cigar smoker with a decent quality torch.

Take the separate pieces apart, and the fuel reservoir is simply a “standard” soft-flame, Bic-style lighter, and allowed to be carried within your shorts / pants pocket.  But, inserted within the outer casing once you get to your travel destination, and special valves and jets turn that simple soft-flame lighter into a kick ass butane torch.  And, at a very reasonable cost, compared to the not-to-be-travelled-with-lest-they-be-lost-or-confiscated S.T. Duponts, Colibris, KGM / Vectors, etc., etc.  The fuel cells on these Iroda torches also have a refill valve at the bottom of them, so you can refill with your choice of quality butane at home.  And, you can even use the outer torch shell with a standard lighter if you wish, just by simply getting rid of the flint wheel installed on them.  Also, being able to pick up spare fuel cells, and pack them in your additional luggage (where / if allowed) makes it very nice, and more feasible for most people travelling (especially into Cuba), as you don’t have to worry about finding good quality butane to refill your torch.

So there we go.  Thanks again Marc!

Cheers all.

S.T. Dupont Xtend lighter – Maori turtle tribal tattoo finish…

A while back, I did a review on a La China custom dalia that I received at the Encuentros Partagas festival from Nov 2014.  In that review, I got to sort-of do an unboxing for a particular S.T. Dupont lighter that I had been looking for for quite a while.

It’s one of the earlier Xtend lighters, which were the original “Made in France” versions, and has been replaced by the made-in-China MaxiJet version in recent years.  I don’t debate the quality or fit-and-finish of one versus the other – it’s my understanding anyways that the Xtend’s were made of Chinese-made parts, and simply assembled in France, and that the MaxiJet’s are simply the same parts basically (except for some branding differences), from the same factories in China, and now just made in China at the source.  However, some people do really look for the Made in France Xtend’s, differentiated by the “Made in France” logo on the bottom of the lighter, the small fuel window on the base, the “Xtend” logo painted on the edge opposite of the trigger button, and a plain shiny chrome trigger (as opposed to the newer MaxiJet having the “S.T. Dupont” logo stamped on it).

Anywho, I love this little lighter.  I snagged it from an online auction listing from a retailer in Spain that was closing out some discontinued new-old-stock stuff – I think I got it for around $120 USD shipped, as well as the leather case/cover from another seller for about another $30.

The matte brown finish, layered with a matte black Maori tribal-tattoo pattern in the style of a sea turtle has some great beauty and meaning behind it for me.  I’ve always been fascinated with the history, art and architecture of ancient peoples and indigenous tribes.

The Maori people are a Polynesian indigenous people in New Zealand and the Cook Islands with quite a wonderful history behind them, not unlike the Taino indians of Cuba, or the Aztec peoples of ancient Mexico.  The influence of their histories and ties to nature definitely impacts on their folk art, noticable in the art of modern Pacific-rim countries and around the Caribbean and South America.  While some may call it tourist-kitsch, my wife and I have always enjoyed the brightness and boldness of most of these art forms.

As such, the sea turtle in Maori / Polynesian culture is one of great esteem.  The turtle represents one of the most important and popular elements, as it’s representative of harmony, family, wellness, and long life – but also in it’s symbolism as “the navigator” (yup – got right to me with my work in civvie SAR and in policing).  The turtle is also highly regarded as a representative of that which will bring these peoples to their final resting place after death, as the turtle moves freely between land and sea, between this world and the next.

Even, at it’s heart, even without this connotation to me in my work and personal life, it’s still a wonderfully functional piece with amazing quality construction and finishing.  It’s been flawless in it’s performance to me over about the past few months – though I have about a dozen various lighters (yes, I’m definitely a “gear whore”, LOL), this one is in my top three rotation between my Vector/KGM Tri-Pump table lighter and an Iroda red-and-black travel torch.  If you can find one – let me know and I’ll buy it too!  LOL.  But, definitely worth a snag if you can find one, or any of the other unique art-piece editions that S.T. Dupont did of these earlier Xtend single-torch lighters.

Cheers all.