The Athlete Sandbag
Brute Force Training Gear


“Civilize the mind, and make savage the body.” 


This is a powerful saying that I have learned to take seriously in recent years, and even more so in recent months. It is important for us to strengthen our bodies, regardless of our motives. Brute Force Training makes the best products to help you do just that. Whether you are looking for some sandbag products or some new inspiration to get after each day with vigor, they have exactly what you need.


The Company


I recently had the incredible opportunity to test and review a BlastMASK, and I discovered that they sometimes work in close partnership with Brute Force Training to promote firefighter fitness, although Brute Force Training does not necessarily have as small of a target audience. Through the realization of their closeness, I contacted Brute Force Training in hopes to acquire a sandbag in order to reinvigorate and jumpstart my training to make it over a recent plateau. I was surprised by their willingness to help and answer any questions I had about their products, their company, and what they had to offer. Brute Force Training has experienced some amazing growth and success since they opened their doors in Colorado. They are sponsoring countless athletes, including some in the Olympic arena, and have found much success in getting their products into the hands of military personnel and first responders of every kind – and not a single one of them has had anything bad to say about the products. That is when I knew it was time I get my hands on one to see what all the hype was truly about.


The Sandbag


Brute Force Training offers a huge product line, from various sandbags in different sizes and weight classes, to kettle bell sandbags, sandbag combo set-ups, weight belts, and jump ropes, all in a plethora of colors to choose from. I settled on the Athlete sandbag kit in blue, which includes the exterior bag, and two internal bags for the sand itself. One internal bag has a 50-pound sand capacity and the other has a 30-pound capacity, allowing you to load up the bag with up to 80 pounds of weight. Of course you can fill the bags to whatever amount you would like below that to suit your needs, strength, or particular workout. The first thing I noticed when I opened up the package was how sturdy the exterior material was. It looks as though you could stab it with a knife and nothing would happen (although I have not tried this myself). The 1000D nylon is incredibly strong. Next I grasped a handle and saw how solid they all felt in the hands. The stitching is undoubtedly strong, and I had no worry of the stitching coming undone or the handles tearing off of the bag. The two interior bags are extremely strong, and their closing mechanism is able to keep all the sand inside them, no matter how fine, thanks to liberal amounts of velcro. I could not wait to get it filled up and put it to use, so I tracked down a dry sandbag or two at a local department store and went to work.


My Experiences


Filling the two internal bags themselves only took a few minutes, and they are sturdy enough to hold their shape and sit upright and open while filling them to make it a much easier process overall. The Velcro closure system was incredibly easy to get shut and sealed the sand inside without question. I used a house scale to determine the weight of the internal bags, and to be sure they were the weights I wanted them to be. Both have a fill line to mark where the bag is full and optimal for closing without issue. If you overfill the bags, the Velcro might be inhibited by the sand and not close properly. These lines were right on the money in terms of their correlation to the weight inside the bags. I filled them right up to the lines and they weighed in at 49.8 pounds for the big one and 29.8 pounds for the small one. Depending on the sand you use, you might of course find some small variation in these results. The finer the sand you can find, I found the results to be more accurate. Once I had the two internal bags filled up, it was time to get to work! I put the large one in the external bag and closed it up. The first thing I noticed was how the weight can shift around inside the external bag, benefiting fast twitch and stabilizer muscle health and growth to continuously compensate for the changes in weight distribution. With both bags inside, it is an extremely snug fit, however they both nestle inside without any trouble at all.


I got a sandbag to improve and enhance my workouts in a few different areas. First, I wanted something to help break up the monotony of cardio training. I also wanted something that I could use to strengthen various muscle groups while being an effective replacement to my traditional workouts when I wanted. The Brute Force Training Athlete Sandbag has delivered on all of these fronts. After using one for months now, I am a believer that using one takes HIIT to a whole new level, all while allowing you to switch up your normal routine to shock your system and overcome plateaus. Through using my Athlete Sandbag, I have found noticeable improvements in my big three lifts (bench press, back squat, and dead lift). I believe this to be due to the increased focus on flexor muscles the sandbag has. Since the weight is always slightly shifting in the bag, you must always be quick to recover the bag to maintain stability throughout the workouts. In addition to my lifting strength increase, I have also found my timed mile times to be on the downward trend. I am not a long distance runner, nor have I ever been or ever plan to be, but I do use running as a gauge to my cardiovascular strength, and the sandbag appears to be serving me well here too. Some days I even combine the Athlete Sandbag and BlastMASK to really stress my body and up the intensity even more. I plan to continue to incorporate the Athlete Sandbag into my workout routine in the future, since you cannot ignore its benefits.


Benefits of Sandbags Over Traditional Exercise


As I have said, the sandbag offers the unique need to constantly balance the weight inside of the bag itself. This increases strength and growth in fast twitch muscle fibers and supporting muscle flexors. Furthermore, core strength is vastly increased when using a sandbag due to the same effects. Sandbags are also much more compact than gym machine equipment or traditional Olympic barbell style equipment, not to mention their prices too. The Brute Force Products will outlast any other sandbags on the market, and are worth every cent spent on them. Having a sandbag to use at home, with three different weight options to use (the small bag only, the large bag only, or both the large and small bags) allows me to fit in an extra workout into my days without hassle and without taking up half of your home office space with a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. In addition to these benefits, the sandbag also offers a traditional weight training aspect so you are still able to develop growth as you would with normal weight training. At-home workouts are phenomenal with the Athlete Sandbag thanks to the Brute Force Training App that they have developed too!

 




The Brute Force Training App



Brute Force has developed an app to go along with your sandbags. Each day they have a new workout posted to the app for you to complete. These Workouts of the Day, or WOD’s, include short video clips of each exercise too, just in case you aren’t familiar with them. You can then post your time taken to complete the WOD as well as the weight of the sandbag used to the app to see where you stand among other users! The app is also free, and is extremely intuitive and user friendly. What more could you ask for?

Conclusion


Brute Force Training makes some absolutely phenomenal products right here in the USA. Their prices are fantastic and the gear you get will last you for years to come, no matter how tough you are on it. From the interior bags holding the sand, to the exterior bag, handles, and stitching taking the abuse, they will hold up to any workout you can throw at it. Their customer service is top notch and they are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about their products. Their line of gear covers the full spectrum of what you may need, from heavy bags for Strongman training, the Athlete bag for daily conditioning, or even the Kettlebell bag for the Crossfitters out there. You can even purchase gift cards for the fitness fanatic in your family. I cannot recommend their products enough, and I will certainly be purchasing more of their line in the future.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bruteforcesandbags/?fref=ts
Website: http://bruteforcetraining.com/

Phone: 1-800-475-8038

 

BlastMASK
Fit For the Fire

So, who is BlastMASK, and what are they all about?


             The number one cause of Line of Duty Deaths for fire personnel is that of physical exhaustion and related injuries while in training or on a fire scene. The company and their product aims to decrease that number as much as possible through providing an apparatus to train with to simulate the sensation and restrictions of being on air on the fire ground. BlastMASK stands for Breathing Limited Air Situational Training Mask. The guys at BlastMASK created it with the intent of allowing firefighters to have more opportunities to train with their SCBA’s at their stations without the need to empty air bottles and refill tanks. This creates countless training applications and uses for big and small departments alike, who may not have considered them previously due to the logistics of using up their on hand air supply. The goal of the BlastMASK as a whole is to positively impact the entire fire service, and thus far it has succeeded in doing so through improving fitness of firefighters using it, allowing for more in-depth trainings to take place with it, and better preparing fire personnel for what physical demands they may face while on the fire ground. From the BlastMASK web site, more than 50% of line-of-duty deaths and 30% of firefighter injuries can be attributed to stress, overexertion and a general lack of fitness. BlastMask enables you to conduct multiple training and fitness exercises (with and without SCBA packs) that can dramatically improve your tactical preparedness. As your familiarity with equipment increases, so does confidence and performance. BlastMask is an effective and ideal tool for firefighter recruitment, physical ability testing, and orientation.

           Two outstanding gentlemen run BlastMASK. Collin Blasingame is a second-generation firefighter with 18 years of experience, and is a Captain and Paramedic. Justin Dickstein is a 10 year veteran of fire services and is a Lieutenant and Paramedic. Both of them currently hold career positions with a department in Garland, Texas. As you can imagine, they respond to a plethora of calls, including an F4 tornado, floods, and a terrorist attack just this year in addition to more typical calls. Collin and Justin are extremely active individuals and find them being immersed in numerous fire department athletics including powerlifting, different sports, and the firefighter Olympics. They also co-authored the book “The Station Ready Rookie” in conjunction with John Gomez, which is used by different states and departments as he curriculum for Firefighter 1. Be sure to stop by their booth at the Fire Department Instructor Conference and Exhibition (FDIC International) in Indianapolis between April 18 and April 23!

         That is a tough resume to follow to say the least. My experience is not quite as impressive as the two guys over at BlastMASK, but it is worth informing you so that you can understand my perspective. I obtained my EMT-Basic certification (both NREMT and state license) in July of 2015, and have been actively seeking career opportunities in the first responder medical field. I have been on a small volunteer fire department since obtaining my EMT certification. It has been an amazing experience thus far and I look forward to seeing what the future in the fire service and emergency services may hold. Our department is a rural one, and we do not run our own medical calls, but rather have an ambulance company transport patients for us. Furthermore, volunteer departments serve many other areas in the valley, and mutual aid calls among them are not uncommon at all. The inter-department relationships that exist here are incredible. We run medical calls, wildland fire calls, service calls, alarm calls, structure fire calls, and anything else under the sun. We assist Search and Rescue as well when needed, and during the winter months, motor vehicle collisions are our most common reason for rolling some rigs. I will be attending the state fire academy Firefighter 1 course this spring, in addition to some other training events.

           I have been avidly improving my physical fitness for the last two years, but the past year of that time have been the most productive. My training regimen consists predominately of weight training, and I have been adding more and more cardiovascular training into my program every month. I have lost around 25 pounds through weight training, and I hope to lose another 15 this spring. I acquired a BlastMASK in hopes that it would increase the resistance I felt during my training, to improve my efficiency while on calls with my SCBA, as well as to better prepare me for my upcoming Firefighter 1 training. Every one of these aspects have seen vast improvement through the use of the BlastMASK.

          Customer service and how a company treats it's prospective buyers and partners is of the utmost importance to me. I initially contacted BlastMASK to inquire about their product and find out if it was a good fit for what I hoped to gain from it. I quickly determined that this was the case through some reading of their website, so I sent them a message and was pleasantly surprised to have gotten a friendly response within a few minutes. I spoke with Collin who was extremely friendly and prompt to answer any and every question I had, regardless of the complexity or stupidity. BlastMASK will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about their company or their product. Their mission is admirable, and through discussing it with them, it is easy to discover how invested in it they truly are.




Unpacking and First Impressions


          The BlastMASK arrived in short order thanks to some lightning fast shipping, and in the shipping box were a brochure, my invoice, and the BlastMASK. What struck me first was the weight, or lack there of, of the BlastMASK. It was incredibly lightweight, and I enjoyed the notion of reducing the weight of the apparatus that was soon to be hanging from my head. Over the end of the device that attaches to your SCBA mask was a sticker that reminded you that the mask has no air filtration qualities, and that it should of course not be used to replace an SCBA on the fire ground. This was a great touch, not because I felt the need to be reminded, but it further reinforced the BlastMASK company mission of improving fitness and safety of firefighters. Who would want to be injured in the process of training to be a more effective firefighter?

          The BlastMASK is made of a high quality plastic that appears to be injection molded. The whole unit is bright red in color, and has a very appealing finish. I am a fan of the color choice, but it would be awesome if they became offered in more options in the future. On the outer end of the BlastMASK is a nice accentual sticker with the company logo, and another with the name ”BlastMASK” is located around the outside of it. The flanges to secure the BlastMASK to an SCBA mask are extremely thick and should hold up for a great amount of use and abuse. The locking tab has been made thin enough to allow for ease in unlocking the BlastMASK from your SCBA mask without sacrificing too much strength. This is what I view as the weakest point in the mask and the design, however if it was made thicker to increase strength, it would prohibit any realistic removal of the unit from your SCBA mask. Regardless, I firmly believe that the BlastMASK will hold up to about any abuse you can think of, short of dropping from a few stories up onto concrete, or shooting it out of a cannon at a brick wall. The plastic construction might worry some, however in the time I have used it thus far, it hasn’t even developed a single scratch, let alone any cracks or chips.

          





          The BlastMASK design also has four inlet slots to allow for air to travel through it during inhalation and exhalation. Inside these four vents, there is a visible black rubber gasket that has been designed to close off the airflow path a certain amount. This decrease in air volume is what creates the strain on your system and reduces the amount of oxygen you have to utilize during exercise.

Specifications and How It Works


          The BlastMASK allows for firefighters to realistically train at any time without the need to refill their air bottles. Many departments turn away from training realistically as often as they should due to the supply or availability of air bottles. Some departments, like mine, only have an in-house cascading system. This forces us to take a lot of time to refill air bottles, and the supply bottles must be refilled in town rather than at the station. In short, air is a valuable commodity for departments such as mine. The only thing you need to begin training is your SCBA mask, and a BlastMASK!

           A person’s level of fitness can be effectively measured through their VO2 max, or the maximal oxygen uptake of their body. This is a way to quantify a person’s capacity to perform sustained exercise and is closely related to their aerobic endurance. VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen an individual’s body is able to metabolize and utilize during exercise. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is widely accepted as the best measure of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power. The factors affecting VO2 are divided into supply and demand. Supply is the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the mitochondria while demand is the rate at which the mitochondria can reduce oxygen in the process of oxidative phosphorylation. Of these, the supply factor is often considered to be the limiting one, and the BlastMASK reduces that even more, just as an SCBA will on a fire scene.

           Many people have qualified the sensation of being ‘on air’ as that of sucking air through a straw, and doing this in conjunction with a high level of physical exertion, exhaustion can occur. Far too often, exhaustion can be compounded by, or influence, any number of other potential injuries – some of which could be deadly. Training with the BlastMASK enables your body to physically and mentally prepared for the sensation of not having enough air supply while doing exercise, and can condition you so that your perform while under the stresses on the fire ground. There are now four configurations to train with an SCBA thanks to the BlastMASK.

While on air, an SCBA will reduce a person’s VO2 max by 14.9% while also reducing their peak power and SPO2 levels.

While wearing an SCBA pack, but instead utilizing a BlastMASK rather than depleting precious air bottles, a person’s VO2 max is also reduced by 14.9% while also reducing their peak power and SPO2 levels.

If only a BlastMASK is worn, and no SCBA pack is donned, the VO2 max levels will still decrease by 13.1% while reducing SPO2 levels and peak power.

Only wearing an SCBA pack while not restricting air flow, either with a SCBA regulator or a BlastMASK, will only reduce VO2 max by 4.8% and will not decrease SPO2 or peak power.

          The most common way that firefighters train is the fourth way – the use of an SCBA pack, but without any form of air restriction. While this still does help in conditioning, it hardly reduces VO2 max, rendering it the most ineffective way to train for being on air in an SCBA, and offering a high likelihood that exhaustion could occur. This is the most common method of training because it eliminated the need to refill air bottles. Prior to the BlastMASK, the only other way to train was to be on air with the SCBA, just as you would be on the fire ground. While this is of course the most realistic method to train, it depletes a departments air bottle supply in short order.

          Enter the BlastMASK. Now it is possible to train in an identical manner to that as being on air with an SCBA pack, but also offers a benefit of being able to train with restricted air-flow without the need for an SCBA pack. This offers an incredible amount of portability. By taking an SCBA mask and the BlastMASK with you, you can utilize the set up anywhere while still reducing your VO2 max by over 13%. This is an amazing asset to have access to and to be able to utilize. I have been bringing my Scott AV-2000 mask and the BlastMASK with me to the gym every single day. Performing aerobic exercises with the BlastMASK, both at high and low intensity, have become habitual.
          The BlastMASK attaches to your SCBA mask in the same manner as your regulator would. BlastMASK is currently patent pending, and is offered for four different common SCBA mask designs; the MSA Ultra Elite, the MSA G1, the Scott AV-3000, and the Scott AV-2000. These are the most common SCBA mask configurations used, however it is important that you ensure your order reflects which mask you use. It is also important to note that the BlastMASK contains no filter of any kind, and is not intended to be used while encountering any type of inhalants or to replace any filtration systems or clean air supply devices.

My Experiences and the Enhancement of Workouts


          I have been using the BlastMASK for the past couple of months primarily in conjunction with only my Scott AV-2000 SCBA mask, as I carry both around in my truck and pack all the time. I have also had the opportunity to train with the BlastMASK in conjunction with my full SCBA pack however, and found it be quite an awesome experience. The only differences I can possibly note between the BlastMASK and the normal use of air is the sensation of air going across your face. The labor involved to inhale and exhale feels identical between the two, as does the sensation of how much air you can “push” and “pull” through the apparatus.

          I work out around 6-11 times each week, split up between at least 5 sessions of heavy weight training and the rest being devoted to cardiovascular training. My cardio sessions usually consist of rows, a stair climber, a treadmill, or any combination therein. Sometimes I will also do weighted lunges or deadlifts to mix into the monotony of cardio training. Cardio training is where I have found the BlastMASK to shine.

          During my first days with the BlastMASK I felt strange donning the mask in the middle of my gym and going to town, only to tear it off at the end in a fit of gasping and sweat. This sensation however made me realize one thing – it was working. As the days went by of me using it, I began to notice my endurance with the mask on approach and then surpass my previous capacity without any mask at all. At that point I chose to do a workout without the mask to see how my endurance improved, and I was astonished. Before the BlastMASK, I had trouble completing 1000m of rows without stopping to catch my breath, and now without the mask I am approaching the 2500m mark without even experiencing an urge to rest. With the BlastMASK on, 1500m is now becoming easy too. The same improvements have transferred to the other arenas and machines that comprise my cardio workouts. It is important to note, however, that the lack of forced air flow as experienced with a complete SCBA set-up causes the SCBA mask to fog up a bit during use with the BlastMASK. Some anti-fog products work great to alleviate this though!

 

          Thanks to the BlastMASK, I now actually enjoy walking into the gym knowing I am going to be doing cardio. I also have the satisfaction and motivation in knowing that it is better preparing me for the fire ground. I completely understand the implications and responsibility that one day I may need to affect self rescue or rescue another individual or brother, and I can only hope that I will be physically ready when that moment comes. I can confidently say that the BlastMASK is the most effective tool I have ever seen in getting me closer to that point with each time I use it.

          As far as the wear I have caused to develop during my use of the BlastMASK, it can be best described as minimal. I have dropped the unit a few times onto hard and soft surfaces, and have yet to cause any cracking or ships in the housing. In fact, I have not even scratched the surface (see what I did there?). The locking tab that I was initially concerned about has held up incredibly well, and shows zero signs of wear of any kind. The only area of wear is on the face of the BlastMASK that mates against the SCBA mask and rotates along it. This is to be expected as there is some friction between these two mating faces. If I were to guess though, the depth of these wear marks would be on the scale of microns – absolutely nothing to ever be worried about for this application.

          In the future, I plan to continue to use the BlastMASK in all of my cardio workouts, and I hope to even wear it on a 5K or 10K run if the opportunity presents itself. I also plan to incorporate the use of the BlastMASK more into my weight training where I see fit, and I will be writing a follow-up article in the future describing my continuing findings. Last, I hope to be utilizing the BlastMASK as much as possible in more specific fire related exercised including dummy drags, sand bag exercises, lunges, squats, bear crawls, and more. I can’t wait!

Application and Benefits for Fire Industry Personnel


          The uses for this product can be spread across a broad spectrum of applications and expected outcomes. Primarily, this product should be utilized during training for any fire personnel. This training can include primary search tactics and general physical training. Using the BlastMASK in training scenarios when a firefighter would typically be on air provides multiple benefits. First, it allows for prolonged and more in depth trainings to take place since the BlastMASK eliminates the need of using air during training, which for many departments is the limiting factor for their training. Fire departments do not want to use their entire air supply during trainings due to the time taken to refill air bottles, as well as the risk involved of being called to a scene where air is needed, but none is available. Second, the BlastMASK offers the very real sensation of being on air for firefighters, both physically and mentally. This allows firefighters to train at the levels at which they will be asked to perform, and to do so in nearly identical conditions. The conditioning of the body through consistent and continuous use of the BlastMASK allows firefighters to mentally prepare and be comfortable with “sucking wind,” while also conditioning their muscles to be able to perform at the levels required with an inhibited air source. These benefits only serve to improve the physical and mental toughness for firefighters so that when faced with a fire scene requiring them to go on air, they will be able to perform at higher levels than ever, and be conditioned to do so for longer periods of time. The BlastMASK is capable of making firefighters more effective at their job.

          Furthermore, the uses and benefits of the BlastMASK can be extended to the civilian (only for a lack of a better term) market in a similar manner as athletic oxygen training masks. Of course, the use of a BlastMASK requires an SCBA mask as well, however they can still be bought separately. Anyone can use the BlastMASK and benefit from its ability to restrict the available oxygen levels to the human body to train with. Elite athletes, hobbyists, and the person who goes on an occasional trip to the local gym should all consider using the BlastMASK. Whether training for a specific sport and position, weight training, or gearing up for a long distance run, the BlastMASK would only serve to help.




Conclusion


          The BlastMASK serves its purpose and does so by surpassing all expectations. When I got it, I truly had no idea how much it could impact my cardio workouts and improve my overall fitness, especially in direct relation to my confidence on the fire ground while on air. The unit is extremely compact and lightweight, and interfaces with your chosen SCBA mask flawlessly. Furthermore, the positive impacts that the BlastMASK has on fire personnel while in training are twofold; both in the realm of allowing trainings to be more strenuous and realistic through simulating being on air, as well as by providing departments with a means to train effectively without the worry of depleting often precious air bottle supplies. These factors of course only serve to reinforce how beneficial the BlastMASK is. The company is run by two absolutely outstanding individuals, Collin and Justin, who also just successfully completed the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb at the Columbia Center in Seattle to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research. They truly stand behind their product, and have an admirable reason for bringing it to the market. As previously mentioned, the number one cause of Line of Duty Deaths for fire personnel is that of physical exhaustion and related injuries while in training or on a fire scene. Don’t become a statistic, and invest in a BlastMASK. Be ready for anything, and condition yourself to become the person you would hope to have pulling you from a burning building. You owe it to your brothers and sisters.

For those of you who enjoy quantitative results in a review over qualitative ones, below are eight categories that I have broken down the BlastMASK into, and rated them accordingly.

Category
 Score
Justification 
BlastMASK Construction
 9.5 / 10

The only reason I did not give the BlastMASK a full score in this category is because of the locking tab. Now, I have yet to see any significant wear on this part, however I do still view it as the weakest point in the design. It is holding up extremely well thus far though.

 Aesthetics
 8 / 10

I would love to see the BlastMASK offered in more color options in the future, however the red is still nice. The inlet vents offer a cool factor to it as well. Furthermore, I would love to see some sort of carrying case to be made, and included with the BlastMASK, even it is a simple plastic container if only to offer more protection. I found a smaller Crown Royal bag to work well for the time being (don’t judge).

 Functionality and SCBA Simulation Effectiveness
 10 / 10
This is where the BlastMASK really shines. From the data and numbers provided above, you can see how closely the BlastMASK simulates and duplicates the decreased VO2 max that an SCBA creates. The BlastMASK also feels just like being on air, which is an important quality to allow firefighters to grow more comfortable to the sensation of being on air. It also offers multiple configurations to be used depending on the training you are trying to do (with a pack, or without a pack).
 Price
 8 / 10

The price of the BlastMASK may scare some people off, however when exploring its purpose, many can agree that it may be hard to put a price on the benefits it creates. Furthermore, BlastMASK has set up an avenue to acquire FEMA grants to get BlastMASKs for your department that can be found on their website!

 Availability
 8.5 / 10

Currently, BlastMASK lists only six vendors to purchase them through. This is a rapidly growing area though, so this rating will increase soon I am sure. There were only three vendors listed just months ago when I began my BlastMASK experience. Although there are only a few places to buy them currently, they can all be easily accessed through the BlastMASK website, and ordering is a breeze.

 Impact on Fire Training and Preparedness
 10 / 10

This is, in my eyes, the most important category, and it excels here. The BlastMASK impacts the fire industry in so many ways as mentioned in this review, and all of them are positive ones. The BlastMASK is effectively conditioning firefighters to reduce the Line of Duty Deaths caused by exhaustion and related injuries.

 Cardio and Fitness Impact
10 / 10 

Through my own experience, I could not have found a better tool to implement to drastically increase the intensity in my cardio training. I can feel how much stronger I have become through using the BlastMASK in every single cardio session since I got it. I also plan to have my VO2 max reevaluated soon and see how much it improved.

Portability and Usability 
 9 / 10

The BlastMASK itself is incredibly portable, measuring only a few inches in diameter, a couple inches in depth, and being extremely lightweight. The only reason keeping it from a full score is that you of course need to use an SCBA mask in conjunction with it. I didn’t find this pair of gear pieces to be too large to fit in any gym bag or backpack though. In fact, I carry both in my backpack daily in tandem with my gym clothes, laptop, supplements, and school supplies. It also lost a couple minor marks due to the fogging up, however this is an easy fix, and quite frankly unavoidable.

 Overall
 9.2 / 10

Go get one. Whether you’re trying to improve your effectiveness on the fire ground, or just trying to get yourself into better shape. You won’t regret it.

 

Useful Links


BlastMASK Website: http://www.blastmask.com/

BlastMASK Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FitForTheFire/?fref=ts

 

KeyBar - Stop the Noise!

I have always struggled with keeping my key ring tidy. It has been a heavy mess of metal that I have to either shove into my pocket and be jabbed in the leg all day or let dangle from a belt loop and listen to it sing me the song of its’ people. I constantly found myself needing a streamlined solution, and one that preferably would be durable, affordable, and look badass.

Enter the KeyBar. There are options available for any budget and style ranging from aluminum and titanium models, to brass and copper, and even carbon fiber! Additionally, there are numerous patterns, colors, and treatments to choose from. The company is comprised of wonderful people who truly believe in their product and go the extra mile to ensure that you have had all of your questions answered and problems solved. Every email I sent to them was met with a friendly and prompt response. I could not be happier as a customer, and I hope you find the same to be true.


So, what is a KeyBar? A KeyBar is a key organizer that works like a multitool. KeyBar is a solution to wild and disorganized keys that are difficult to manage and make a lot of noise. A KeyBar will stop the noise, kill the clutter and consolidate your keys. Just load your keys and organize them just as you want them. Add a pocket clip or a key fob link. You can even add accessories. KeyBars are available in aluminum, titanium, even carbon fiber and in a variety of cool designs. Thanks to KeyBar, key rings are a thing of the past. (From KeyBar.us)
I chose a treated titanium Keybar with the Starbar pattern, a plain pocket clip, and a few of their accessories including a quick key tab, a titanium comb, a toothpick and tweezers set, a bottle opener, and an 8GB flash drive. The KeyBar itself is amazingly lightweight and feels like I could run it over. In fact, I am almost certain I could, although I’ll elect not to because I like how it looks. If it ever happens on accident, I will report back with the results. The finish and fit is second to none, and the treatment on mine looks wonderful. I believe it to be anodized; however I am not certain. Regardless, I have scraped it along all sorts of things since having it, and it does not show a single mark. The same cannot be said for my EDC knife and flashlight pocket clips.

The quick key tab is my favorite accessory that I have attached to my house key. It enables very quick access to the key it is attached to, which in my case is my house key. The comb is made of titanium, like nearly everything else, so it is extremely lightweight and strong while being able to sacrifice size in the process. The toothpick and tweezers set, and the bottle opener further provide the means to build a small multi-tool within your KeyBar. Last but certainly not least, KeyBar offers flash drives made in the shape of a key and in a variety of storage sizes. As a student, I saw this as a highly valuable asset to have on me at all times. The flash drives are in a metal housing and since they can fit inside the KeyBar, they remain much better protected than one dangling from your key ring.






Included with the KeyBar itself are three sets of screws in varying length, a pair of O-rings to lock the screws in place after assembly, the front and rear plates, fifteen washers, a titanium pocket clip, and a key fob link. All of these pieces and the installation instructions come packaged in a very appealing tin, which also allows you to store any spare parts you may need as your keys change. I also received a nice vinyl sticker and a beautifully made PVC patch to add to my collection.

Assembly

To begin, I removed all of the keys from my old key ring and laid them out with the KeyBar and its accessories. The included instructions are easy to follow, and all you need to do is decide where you’d like everything situated. Initially I thought it would be great to have all of the ‘tabbed’ items (the quick key tab, the bottle opener, and the comb) alongside one another, but that proved to be difficult to access a single one of these items. I then spread them out and that solved the issue. The last item is to place the other faceplate on and screw it together. It took me a few cycles of trial and error simply because I kept wanting to move keys and accessories to different configurations until I got it just right for my specific needs, however the assembly process never took me more than a few minutes. I elected to not include my truck key inside the KeyBar simply due to always needing to hand them off to ‘the boss’ when sharing vehicles, although it did fit, even with the rubberized coating. Instead, I have them attached to a metal micro-carabiner that I clip onto the key fob link and it works wonderfully. I was also able to cut down a plastic keychain access card for my gym and make a hole in an end of it. I placed that inside my KeyBar like any other key! The KeyBar can fit up to 28 keys with the longest screws available according to KeyBar’s website, and everything is made right here in the U.S.A.

I have been using the KeyBar daily for a few weeks now and I absolutely love it. It sits silently in my pocket and I know it is secure due to the titanium pocket clip. The slim profile and lack of weight also contributes to my love for it. I have plenty of washers and some longer screws left over so I can also expand my keys in the future if I ever need to. I could not recommend this product more. The company the product, and the people behind it have all exceeded my expectations. Go get your KeyBar today and Stop the Noise!


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Chris Baldwin

CEO - Founder
Valkyrie War Cord