Archive for Gear

Asthma bag to the rescue

For years I’ve been carrying asthma-related things everywhere I go.  At first it was an inhaler or two in a pocket which eventually upgraded into a backpack, and now is my Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack.  I need many more things than a pocket or two on my pants can carry and putting everything into an easy bag with both a handle and shoulder strap makes it all the more easier.  I went to my main doctor today to follow up from the hospital trips last week and the nurse wasn’t sure where their pulse oximeter was.  Lo and behold I keep one with me at all times so she used it instead.

My man-bag, asthma-purse, asthma-bag, satchel, what-have-you regularly contains:

Maxepedition Jumbo Versipack Khaki/Foliage

Maxepedition Jumbo Versipack Khaki/Foliage

  • Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack
    • Pari Trek S nebulizer with AC adapter, car adapter and battery pack
    • Pari LC Sprint Nebulizer with wing-tip tubing
    • Albuterol .083% nebulizer solution
    • Peakflow meter
    • Nonin 9590 pulse oximeter
    • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    • Patanase
    • Current and last year’s asthma journals
    • Bandana
    • Pocket knife
    • CRKT large spork
    • Sunglasses in hard clamshell case
    • Black and blue ballpoint pens
    • iPad VGA and HDMI connectors
Contents of my asthma bag

Contents of my asthma bag

So this is what I’m lugging around all the time and my bag is by no means stuffed.  There’s always room to stash some business papers, grab a couple notebooks or even slide an iPad3 into one of the pockets.  Obviously I’d need to take a couple things out to go through TSA, but overall it’s something easy to always have ready and take with me.

Maxpedition Larkspur Messenger Bag Part 1

All through junior high and high school I carried an army surplus backpack which promptly fell apart end of senior year.  A Jansport backpack took its place and lasted me through college up until last year when one of the straps ripped off.  Since then I’ve been using various messenger bags/backpacks lying around the house to carry my stuff, but nothing was really working well.  When traveling I carry a nebulzier, cpap, pulse oximeter, peak flow meter and other medical items along with anything else I might need.  This does not make it easy to get through TSA.  For every day needs I carry pretty much everything minus the cpap.  This winter I started looking into tactical every day carry (EDC) bags and landed at Maxpedition’s website.

Maxpedition has many items all made out of heavy duty cordura, 1050-800 denier, and high strength nylon thread.  Seams are double or quadruple stitched, stress points are box stitched and every seam is finished.  YKK zippers allow for easy, durable opening of pockets and compartments with 550 paracord pull strings.  Unless you’re purposefully trying to destroy their merchandise, Maxpedition gear is made to last for years and still look like you haven’t given it a beating.

I decided to go with a messenger bag and went with the Larkspur, the smaller of two options.  The basic dimensions of the bag are:

  • Approx. 15.5″(L) x 12.5″(H) x 4.5″(W)
  • Main compartment approx. 14.5″(L) x 13.5″(H) x 4″(W)
  • Two (2) 7.5″(L) x 9.5″(H) x 1.5″(W) pockets with Hook-&-Loop enclosure
  • Two (2) 1.5″(L) x 6.5″(H) x 1″(W) sheath pockets with Hook-&-Loop enclosure flap

The beauty of this bag is all the velcro available for customization.  The entire inside of the main compartment is velcro along with the flaps for the two front pockets and hidden pockets behind them.  There are many options for pouches, dividers and organizers.  Here’s a list of the accessories I’m currently using with it.


Maxpedition #9839 6″x9″ Utility Pouch Insert

This pouch hooks onto velcro either in the main compartment or on the flap velcro for one of the two exterior pockets.  The velcro on this utility pouch is pretty strong.  There’s not way it’s going to accidentally open on you.  If you’re looking for easy and quick or possibly quiet access, you might want to go with a zippered pouch.


Maxpedition #9841 Hook and Loop Admin Insert

Like the utility pouch, this can fit in multiple places where velcro is present on the Larkspur.  I’ve folded the flaps for one of the exterior pockets in and am using the exterior velcro to slap the admin insert.  I can easily grab pens without having to dig into my bag.  The large pocket on this organizer just happens to be perfectly sized for an inhaler.


Maxpedition #9408 2″ Shoulder Pad

If there’s one accessory you buy for the Larkspur, it has to be the shoulder pad.  Even the Jumbo Versipack comes with one.  The velcro attachments allow you to attach it anywhere on the shoulder strap, and the strap may move independently of the pad preventing chafing.  I don’t really see this as an add-on, and think Maxpedition should include it with the messenger bag.


Maxpedition #0243 Horizontal GP Pouch 5″x7″x4″

This pouch has PALS webbing on one side and velcro on the other with a drain grommet for the main compartment.  Inside is one large spot to organize your things with two flaps on the interior of the large sides.  If you’re wanting to carry this solo, it is possible to attach a shoulder strap or use the bag as a MOLLE attachment.  My use for this is to carry my Pari Trek S nebulizer.  I can fit the compressor, battery pack, AC adapter, car adapter, tubing, medicine and neb cup inside this pouch with room to spare.  I can easily drop this inside the Larkspur or my Jumbo Versipack as well as carry it by itself.  It’s been a great help transporting the neb in an efficient manner.

Well I think that’s enough review for now.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Larkspur as well as an upcoming review of the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack.

My Bike

At one point in my life I used to say I was an athlete.  I started lifting when I began playing football and for 15 or 16 glorious years I spent a lot of time lifting heavy things and doing cardio.  At my peak I was able to bench press 175% of my body weight and had serious trouble finding dress shirts our suit coats that fit.  Eventually my asthma started becoming a real issue again, I had a bad case of pneumonia, and an even worse moldy apartment experience followed by a toxic work environment.  Things never really got better for me and over the past eight years I’ve slowly been able to less and less physically.  It’s really, really frustrating.

Last year my special lady friend bought me a bike for my birthday.  It sits in my office and I watch TV episodes or movies while riding it.  This tiny bit of exercise that would have seemed miniscule to my 25 year old self is probably one of several things keeping me out of the hospital these days.  I can ride it whenever I want and as much as I want.  It’s the perfect solution to my outdoor allergies and asthma flare-ups.

Sunny SF-B901

The bike isn’t fancy – there’s a seat, peddles and a heavy fly wheel.  I never know how fast or far I’ve ridden, but I really don’t care.  All I’m wanting to do is ride for X minutes.  The heavy fly wheel ensures some momentum and the toe clips allow you to power the bike constantly.  The seat may be adjusted both horizontally and vertically, and the handlebar height may be adjusted.  It is important to properly adjust your bike for comfort and proper riding technique.  At first the saddle, proper term for the seat, seemed quite uncomfortable and I was considering purchasing a more cushioned replacement.  All I needed to do was break it in and occasionally use some chamois cream to prevent chafing.

This bike is better than anything I’ve ever ridden in a gym.  I have averaged 30min or more, three times a week, for the past nine months and there are no signs of wear and tear.  Spending more than $100 on an exercise bike might seem silly, but I can guarantee something cheap wouldn’t last long.

Exercise is important for everyone, but essential for those of us suffering from lung disease.  I love Billy the Kid‘s dialog in Young Guns (1988) where he’s talking about have to challenge himself every day.  You never really stay the same, you’re either getting better or worse.  This can be directly applied to your lung function.  Whether you walk, ride a bike, swim or find some other form of staying active – just do something.  Your lung doctor and your health will thank you for it.

NeilMed Sinus Rinse

Spring is finally here, kind of, and so the trees are gracing us with their pollen.  For me this can mean horrendous sinus congestion, swollen eyes and a scratchy throat.  Rinsing out my sinuses does wonders for all of these symptoms and I prefer to use the NeilMed sinus rinse bottles.  Friends of mine have used the neti pots which look like miniature tea pots and basically do the same thing.  I like the ability to control the water pressure with the bottle.

For several years now I’ve always purchased my supplies at various pharmacies and drug stores.  I used to be able to buy either one squeeze bottle with 50 pre-mixed saline packets or purchase a box of 100 pre-mixed packets.  Lately all I seem able to find are boxes with one bottle full of saline with a few mixed packets included.  This would be great if I were on a business trip or vacation, but it’s not what I want to buy when at home and the added cost seems ridiculous.  I try to support local business as much as possible, but I finally turned to Amazon.  I recently discovered I could get two bottles and 250 pre-mixed packets for the low price of $24.

To purchase the bottles and pre-mixed packets separately I’d probably end up spending around $40.  I’m always up for finding a deal and saving money when it comes to medicine and medical supplies.  One other problem I’ve always had is finding a good place to clean and store the bottles in between use.  I noticed the Neilmed Nasadock Plus Stand for about $6 and added that to my order.

This provides a great solution to the problem of cleaning and storing the bottle.  In the past I’ve left it next to the bathroom or kitchen sink on a towel or paper towel.  The bottle has never dried well lying on its side or right side up.  I’m often a fan of buying online because I tend to think of things I need when stores aren’t open.  I’m quite pleased with my purchases and will most likely try Amazon first next time I need more supplies.

CRKT M16-04Z

Columbia River Knife and Tool or CRKT, also referred to as “cricket” by some of my friends, produces various knives, multi-tools and accessories.  I’m a big fan of their every day carry (EDC) line and tactical fold outs.  They’re built fairly solidly, are available with different configuration options, have great locking mechanisms and cost much, much less than some of the other big-name manufacturers.

CRKT chooses to highlight their designers and I really dig Kit Carson’s designs.  Today I am reviewing the M16-04Z from the M16 line.

M16-04Z

The first thing I want to try and explain is the model number.  The left half, “M16” designates the model.  The next two numbers reference the length/type of the blade and the letter(s) on the end signify the type of handle, left-hand/right-hand and other options or features.

CRKT M16 configurations:

  • Blade length/type – 01, 02, 03, 04, 10, 12, 13, 14
  • Handle types and options – A, D, KE, KS, KSF, KZ, LE, LEK, M, S, SF, SFG, SFGL, T, Z, ZE, ZER, ZLEK, ZM, ZSF

Here are the specs on the M16-04Z:

Dimensions
Open Overall Length 9.25 inches
Closed Length 5.375 inches
Weight 5.9 ounces
Blade
Length 3.875 inches
Thickness 0.14 inches
Material AUS 8
Blade-HRC 55-57
Finish Bead-Blast
Grind Hollow
Style Tanto
Edge Plain
Handle
Material Glass Filled Nylon
Liner 420J2
Lock
Type Locking Liner
Safety System AutoLAWKS
Carry
Carry System 1 Position Clip
Features
Flipper Yes
Patent U.S. Patents 5,596,808 7,437,822

Thoughts:

  • Clip – Not too stiff when new and doesn’t eat your pants pockets.  It can also be repositioned to all four corners of the handle.
  • Blade – the tanto style is great for utility purposes and stabbing things, as awkwardly morbid as that sounds.  The knife is just under 10″ and the blade is just under 4″.  This isn’t always the best tool for opening tiny packages and doing precision cutting.
  • Handle – lightweight and non-abrasive.  It’s not the easiest thing to hold if your hands are wet though, but I will say the size fits perfectly in the palm of my hand.
  • Liner lock – I absolutely love the AutoLAWKS system.  I’ve seen more people praising this design than complaining about it.  If this is a knife you’re actually going to use, you’ll figure it out in no time.  If this is just a pretty thing to make people think your tough, then it’s not really a tool nor is it an EDC knife and you might have issues with it.

For me, this is a great working knife.  I use it outside, cutting open boxes and the top of the blade can double as a flat-head screwdriver in a pinch.  This isn’t really something to carry at work if you’re in an office environment.  People will freak out.  Did I mention it snaps open with a sound not so different from working the action on a Remington 870?

Some of the blade finish has started to come off.  I think it’s because I didn’t clean something off the blade which then etched the finish.  It might have been from cutting an orange or some sort of adhesive stuff.  I can’t really feel any difference on the blade itself, it just looks a little weird.  Sharpening the blade is a little interesting if you’ve never dealt with a tanto before.  Just be careful with that obtuse angle on the end of the blade.

While CRKT offers all of their knives for sale on their website, the MSRP is more than you can purchase it elsewhere…like Amazon.  There was one issue when the M16-04Z was purchased – I received a very old version of the knife that had opening/closing issues.  When I contacted CRKT, they had me send in the knife and replaced it without any hassle or questions asked.  There are a lot of fakes being sold on the market so if you’re concerned about getting the real thing, you can always buy direct.

Pari Trek S Portable Aerosol System

In 2010 I was finally fed up with trying to lug my giant nebulizer compressor from home to work and anywhere else I needed it.  After a lot of research and internet searching, I came across the Trek S offered by Pari Respiratory Equipment.

 

 

 

Some of the first things that stuck out to me:

  • I could power this with a standard electrical outlet (AC), car adapter (DC) or a battery pack (DC)
  • Weighs 0.8lbs by itself or 1.2lbs with the battery
  • Comes with a carrying case
  • Comes with two Pari LC Sprint Reusable nebulizers and two sets of tubing
  • Produces decent air flow (14.5psi standard and 35psi max)
  • Has great reviews on Amazon

I ended up purchasing it for an upcoming trip and LOVED it.  Since then I’ve pretty much carried it with me everywhere I go.  The small size and compact carrying case allows me to carry it or drop it into any backpack, messenger back, etc that I’m also traveling with at the moment.  The compressor comes with a three year warranty and the battery pack has a six month warranty.  I’m going on three years of use and haven’t had any hiccups with either the battery or the compressor.

This unit ships with two Pari LC Sprint nebuilzers that are good for six months.  Pari also provides a sticker indicator that will let you know when six months is up.  To make it easy on myself I replace mine in January and July every year.  I have two in use at a time so I always have one at home and one wherever else I happen to be.

If you or a family member has serious asthma like myself and you’re getting tired (pun intended) of dragging that giant compressor around I highly recommend getting something more portable.  General complaints I’ve heard and read about other hand-held models are noise levels and lack of air pressure creating a longer wait to complete a treatment.  I’ve had neither issues with the Trek S.  I’ve used this many times on airplanes where variations in the cabin pressure make it difficult for me to breathe, in cars, outdoors, indoors and anywhere else I happen to find myself.

Amazon used to have several vendors selling this, but they happen to only have one for sale at the moment.  If you’re interested in getting the deluxe package with the car adapter and the battery pack, I’d suggest trying JustNebulizers.com.  This is where I purchase all of my Pari LC Sprint nebulizers, filters, tubing, etc.  There was one time I had a slight glitch in my order and they fixed it for me immediately.  They also email coupons and sales periodically so you can get a good deal on whatever you’re buying.

CMS50L Pulse Oximeter – Review

Back in May I decided I wanted a pulse oximeter handy just to check my oxygen saturation. Often times I would feel absolutely awful and this is one way I could track symptoms. This was before I had been diagnosed with severe obstructive apnea, and was something that could help me tell my doctors my oxygen levels drop when lying down a certain way.

So where to start….I decided to go to Amazon and look to see what they had. If you’ve ever had your oxygen tested in the hospital or at a doctor’s office, there’s a good chance a handheld device was used. These cost about $400-$500 and aren’t something most people buy to use at home. You can get the smaller devices that just clip onto your fingertip for much less. They start around $20 and range up to $200 or more.

I looked around, found one between $20-$30 and saw that it had decent reviews on Amazon. By decent I mean it had a 4 out of 5 stars. Usually this isn’t too bad. I read some of the bad/poor reviews and saw some were pissed off with the device. I’m used to purchasing computer parts and other electronics and you always see these reviews. I didn’t think much of it and purchased the CMS50L Pulse Oximeter. Even though it wasn’t the best thing out there, I thought for $20 I couldn’t go wrong.

The device arrived in the mail and seemed to work great.  It takes two AAA batteries, and would be easy to replace.  Whenever Liz tried the device out, it showed her at 98 or 99%.  When I tried it out I would be anywhere from 90 to 97%.  This made complete sense because of how I was doing at the time.  I did notice it always started out at 97%, and often eventually got there, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Fast forward a month or so and that is when the oximeter fell off my nightstand onto the ground.  Shouldn’t be a big deal since there was carpet and the fall was all of 36″, but that’s when the thing started acting weird all the time.  It started “freaking out,” not taking readings, would reset randomly, and occasionally gave really odd readings. I often had to hold the device shut on my finger just for it to work.  The device always start at 97% and if I wore it long enough, would often get back up to 97%.  As time has passed, the pulse oximeter has become more and more sketchy and I figured it was time to get something different.  I went back to Amazon and took a closer look at those reviews.

For starters the company who fulfilled my order was Clinical Guard.  They had a customer satisfaction rate between 95% which I thought this was pretty good at the time.  It’s currently down at 91% which actually isn’t very good at all.  This made me start wondering why people aren’t happy with their purchases.

I then looked back at some of the user reviews for the device, especially the bad ones.  I started noticing all my complaints were listed in those bad reviews.  It seemed as if  some of those good reviews were written too soon or maybe the users never compared the readings to a calibrated device with a medical professional.  Another common thread was all problems starting about a month after use.  Since my oxygen levels have been documented by medical professionals in the 70s, I’d like to have a device that gives me accurate results.  Sometimes this is how I determine whether to go to the hospital or stay home.

Apparently the Nonin models are the cadillacs of oximeters.  The low end model is around $100 and the mid-range recommended model is about $200.  I’d really like to avoid spending $100 right now, so I found another one made by Concord for $40.  Even though this is another relatively cheap product, there are some big differences between it and what I currently have.  The reviews are almost all positive and it is sold by it’s manufacturer Concord Health Supply.  I check their customer satisfaction rating and they’re at 100%.  The only negative reviews of the item are by medical professionals saying it’s not as perfect as their high-end, expensive devices at work.  I can live with that.  So I ordered one last night.  I have high hopes it’ll work out better and will let you know how it compares.