Juul vs. Vuse Alto: Which one is better?

The popularity of e-cigarettes have exploded over the last few years with a huge surge in sales of small pod based devices that mimic the feel of an actual cigarette. This is of course due to the millions of people looking to quit a life-long habit of smoking and looking for a healthier alternative. Devices like the Juul and the Vuse Alto accomplish that without any of the traditional cigarette additives and with comparable nicotine so the user doesn't feel like they are going "cold turkey".

It serves as a good first step and then gives the user the freedom to seek other devices that would allow them to use a lower nicotine juice and eventually step down gradually to a point where they can be entirely nicotine free. Breaking old habits isn't easy but these new pod devices give people an easy way to quit cigarettes with a less harmful alternative that feels familiar to them. For many people the massively popular Juul has been the saving grace in terms of kicking their old cigarette addiction. But what about the Vuse Alto? Vuse has been a player in the electronic cigarette game for a few years now and their new Alto is their answer to Juul.

So how do these two devices stack up? They are both smaller, rechargeable, pod based systems but they do have their differences.

Let's start with the Juul device. 

For all intents and purposes, the Juul has started a revolution of sorts. Its a small, light, rectangular device that has a slew of flavored pods and a single indicator light. Out of both devices the Juul seemingly feels more like a cigarette in your hand. The shape is unique but its so small and light you barely notice it. The USB charger has a strong magnet on it, so charging it is quite easy. The LED light indicates when you take a drag and with a slight tap of the Juul it can display 3 colors depending on how charged your battery is. The Juul also has the infamous "party mode", which when the white light is on if you shake the device is turns a rainbow of colors while you are shaking it. The drawback with such a small, light device is that it equates to a smaller battery (200 mAh). Unfortunately with heavier use, that means more frequent charging. Also, with a smaller form factor the size of the pods aren't going to be huge either; each pod is about 0.7 ml when full.

When taking a drag the Juul occasionally made some crackling sounds during the vaping process. Also a bit of a "air rushing" type sound, nothing major but it wasn't as quiet as the Alto. The cloud and overall "throat hit" were moderate with the Juul. Occasional smokers may not notice it but it doesn't really pack that same punch if you more of heavier smoker before. Nonetheless, the draw is still satisfying and overall I found it to be a simple and convenient device.

The Juul's "party mode".

Very small, very stealthy and easy to use. I haven't even tried all the flavors yet, but Juul clearly has an advantage here: there are tons of flavors to choose from. Classic menthol tasted like a familiar Newport type smoke, while Cool Mint had more of an icy peppermint flavor, like that of a Marlboro Smooth or Nat Sherman menthol cigarette. Both were excellent in terms of menthol flavor. As well as the menthol flavors you have the traditional flavor pods of Virginia Tobacco and some fruity options like Mango. Overall there are plenty to try and see what suits you best.

 With the Juul, I understood the hype. It was a simple device that just works. Using it is easy and it provides a satisfying hit, has tons of flavors and tons of third party products - skins, battery packs, knock-off pods, refillable pods etc. It's a popular device with tons of support and extras you can buy to enhance your experience.

So, what about the Alto?

The Vuse Alto is a similar device. Like the Juul it is draw-activated to take a drag, it has a single LED indicator light, internal battery and the same type of pod system. Right off the bat when you hold it, you notice this device has a bit more heft and a bit larger overall. The Alto weighs in at 22 grams with a full pod, whereas the Juul is about 14 grams with a pod. So it does feel a bit more substantial in your hand compared to the Juul but neither of them feel too big for your pocket. A larger device does mean larger battery (350 mAh) and larger pods (1.8 ml). So in this case the larger size does have a purpose. It also has a decidedly more rounded feel to it. Not so much it will be rolling around on the table, but definitely more curvey compared to Juul. I do like the more ergonomically shaped mouth piece on the pods as well.

 Also like the Juul, the Vuse has a single LED that lights up as you take a drag and turns on while charging and off when the charge is complete. It is a green light only and doesn't give you any sort of feedback as to how full the battery is, only when it is low it will flash 10 times. Charging is a different affair with this, but not in a bad way. The Alto comes with a proprietary cable that plugs into any USB wall block and inserts and holds the bottom of the device with a magnet, like the Juul but not quite as strong. However it charges fine, regardless. The Vuse also makes use of magnets with its pod system; unlike the Juul where the pod simply "clicks" in, the Alto device holds the pod in place with a magnet as well. This will hold the pod in place securely but still allows for easy swapping of the pods.

Taking a puff from the device is noticeably more quiet than the Juul. Much more silent overall with no noticeable cracking or popping sounds at all. The Alto produces a nice hit as well; a bit more of a cloud with this one and less of a loose hit and more of that "cigarette feel" in your throat. With longer drags it has more of a punch than the Juul, for sure.

As far as flavors the Alto only currently has four: Original, Menthol, Mixed Berry and Rich Tobacco. So a much more limited selection than Juul. The pods come with two 1.8 ml pods per pack where as Juul has 4 0.7 ml pods. So despite fewer pods, you are getting more juice overall with the Alto. Both companies use 5% nicotine salts, so both are equal in that respect.

Final Thoughts and Comparisons

As a disclaimer, I don't work for either of these companies. I wasn't paid in any way to do this. I bought and tested both devices and pods without any incentive. However, I did do this a bit backwards. Despite the popularity of the Juul, I tried the Vuse Alto first and overall have spent more time with that device. I bought the Juul after and have spent about a week using that device and then going back to the Alto for comparison between both of them.

Overall, they are both great devices and each one worked perfectly. However, the both have their pros and cons. The Juul is very small and convenient device that just works. It's doesn't make for a massive cloud, or a heavy hit with each puff but it works well and is sleek. You get a large selection of flavors and other companies making products for it, but you do pay for it. It is a more costly device in the long run than the Alto. While the Vuse is cheaper, I did have some minor gripes with it. Occasionally some of the Alto pods expirienced spit back, leaving a bit of juice on my lip. Also, many of the Alto pods developed a burnt flavor at the end of the pod. The pod was about empty, but the Juul doesn't have that same gross flavor at the end, it just sort of becomes more mild at the end of its pod.

 Despite a few missteps, I do prefer the Vuse Alto overall. Larger battery, larger pods, and cheaper overall to use. Nice quiet draw and more vapor as well. The flavors are limited and not as good as Juul, but out of their 4 flavors I did enjoy both Original and Mixed Berry. If Vuse could improve their pods a bit (eliminate spit back, fix burnt taste at the end, offer more flavors) then it would be better than Juul for sure.

In the end, they are both good devices and I will use both, but for me the Alto wins and it's the one that I will use more frequently.


Brianna Maitland: 13 Years Gone

The day is Friday, March 19, 2004. 17 year old Brianna Maitland clocked out of her job in Montgomery, Vermont at around 11:20 pm. She walked to her 1986 Oldsmobile sedan and drove away, never to be seen alive again. Her car was found the next day backed directly up to an abandoned house roughly a mile away.

At the time of this writing, Brianna has been missing for over 13 years.

Prior to her disappearance, Brianna Maitland was an average teenage girl living in Vermont. At age 17, in hopes of seeking more independence, she moved out of her parents home with a friend 15 miles away. This allowed her to attend a new high school closer to a group of her friends. Unfortunately, this arrangement proved to be unsuitable and ultimately Brianna dropped out of school in February of 2004. She moved in with a different friend but didn't entirely give up on her education; Brianna enrolled in an program to obtain her GED shortly after.

Her parents, Kellie and Bruce Maitland, insisted there were no problems at home. They strongly opposed Brianna moving away from home but nonetheless allowed her to do so. Neither parent observed any unusual events prior that would shed light on her disappearance. However, on the day Brianna vanished her mother took her shopping before she went to work. As they were checking out of the store, Brianna abruptly left and went outside, telling her mother she'd be right back. Kellie Maitland completed the purchase and walked outside meeting back up with Brianna and driving her back to the house she shared with her friend. During the drive her mother noted she seemed upset, shaken and agitated. Not wanting to intrude, she didn't further talk to Brianna about what was bothering her. Kellie Maitland dropped her daughter off and never saw her again.

Less than a month before Brianna vanished, she was physically assaulted at a party, resulting in a concussion and facial abrasions. She was treated a local hospital for her injuries and later filed a formal complaint with police over the matter. The charges were pending against the assailant when Brianna went missing, though they were later dropped despite objection by the Maitland family. The motive for the attack remains unclear but the young lady has never been formally named a person of interest or suspect in Brianna's disappearance, but does have a criminal record.

The car was found the following day, March 20, 2004, by police and also observed by several passing motorists. Brianna's Oldsmobile was backed directly into the abandoned house, causing damage. Police found a trove of items in the area, but nothing explicitly pointed to a struggle. Aside from some personal items in the car, her paychecks were also still in the car, not yet cashed. In March of 2016, Vermont police revealed they have recovered DNA from inside of the car.

Over the years rumors of drug use, associations with shady people and possible debts have been brought up in her disappearance, making for even more of a tangled web of what may have happened to 17 year old Brianna Maitland. As of 2017, police have made no arrests in her case but feel strongly she fell victim to foul play.

The Charley Project: Brianna Maitland

Disappeared TV episode info "Vanished in Vermont"

Brianna's NamUs page


Atactical A1 - King of Budget Flashlights

A quality flashlight is priceless - it's a bright, rugged tool to help guide you through the night. A good light will survive a drop, exposure to water and the elements and cuts through the darkness like hot knife through butter. It will serve you for years of general utility use, camping, exploring and numerous other activities. While it is a valuable tool for conquering the night, good lights aren't always cheap. If you want something well built, reliable and bright, there are many great choices out there. Unfortunately most will set you back $60-$100 and even more sometimes.

So when I first heard of the Atactical A1 flashlight being sold for $20, I was intrigued.

The light is apparently designed by Thrunite and even includes a rechargeable battery, so it is ready to go right out of the box. There are plenty of budget lights out there, however none that I have seen come with a battery. Previously you would have to order a charger and a battery or two (if you didn't have one already) which would cost you an additional $10-$20+, making it less of a budget option when you factor in that aspect of the purchase.

Atactical solves this by including an innovative battery with the A1. It is an 18650 battery but it has an integrated USB port so you can simply remove the battery from the light and charge it via USB. No additional charger is necessary.

In terms of value the A1 is impressive for $20 as it features:

  • Max 550 lumens
  • 4 regular brightness modes and SOS and strobe modes. 
  • USB rechargeable 18650 cell
  • Spare O rings
  • Dual tail/side switch
  • Pocket clip
  • Momentary on feature
  • Lanyard hole
  • Low battery warning

Of course, I didn't need another light but for the price I broke down and ordered one anyway.

After spending several nights with it I am very impressed with the A1. Lots of things to like about it and maybe a couple minor things I didn't like about it. Let's get started.

The light weighs in at 4.5 oz according to my digital scale, which includes the battery. It has a bit more heft than your average smaller sized pocket light but not by much. Length is about 5.3 inches, an being that it is an 18650 cell it's width will reflect that. I didn't expect it to be slim and small, but be aware this will be a tad bigger than your average single AA pocket light. I wouldn't consider it to be large, but as far as my personal preference goes, this is approaching the maximum size for a light that I would carry in my pocket for an extended time.

The finish is an all black, type II hard anodized and features a waterproof rating of IPX 7 (up to 1 meter submerged in water) and a drop rating of 1.5 meters. Both of these have been demonstrated on YouTube and it's seriously one tough light. The included pocket clip can be removed, if you so wish and the tail end features a hole in you want to add a lanyard.

The modes are as follows:

Strobe(550 lumens/4 hrs)
Turbo(550 lumens/3.3 hrs)
High(200 lumens/5.5 hrs)
Medium(63 lumens/19 hrs)
Low(10 lumens/5.5 days)

Operating the light is very straightforward: lightly press and hold tail switch for momentary on. Releasing it will turn the light off. Full press and release tail switch for constant on use. While the light is on the side switch will allow you to cycle modes - Low, medium, high, turbo and SOS. Strobe is a "hidden" mode and it accessed by pressing and holding the side switch for about a second while the light is on. Press the button again and it reverts back to the previous mode. It features mode memory as well so it will return to whatever mode you left it on when you turn it on.

My impressions are all very positive. The A1 feels great in your hand, the tail switch seems very firm and positive and works as it should. The side switch feels a lot softer but still works accordingly. The light puts out a very symmetrical and useful beam. It's fairly wide with a decently sized hot spot for both close range use and lighting up areas from afar. Atactical rates the throw at 672 feet and its definitely suited for both up close and far away illumination.

Lots of overwhelming positive points but a few gripes, too. First and most importantly, I have no idea why SOS is included as a standard mode. To me, strobe seems like it would be a more used mode so I don't know why strobe is hidden while SOS is a mode you have to cycle through each time. Preferably, I would have liked both modes hidden and having it simply cycle through low, medium, high and turbo. At 10 lumens, I would have liked to see the low mode a bit lower, or even an additional 1 lumen mode. Having an option for a less cool white tint would have been nice as well.

Overall, the positives vastly outweigh any minor complaints I have and considering all you get for the price, it's an amazing deal and a really well made light. The Atactical A1 is available on Amazon and really worth every penny. Without a doubt it is the current king of budget flashlights.


Fenix HL10 headlamp (2016 model) - Review and thoughts.

The 2016 Fenix HL10: Small but mighty.

Without a doubt, no collection of lights is complete without a good headlamp. I've been meaning to pick one up for quite some time, but the choices are pretty overwhelming. As much as I'd like to say I'd be using it to climb Mt. Everest, explore jungles or navigate dangerous caverns - my uses are much less exciting and more along the lines of dog walking, light jogging, working around the house, emergency use and things of that nature. Alas, I'm just an average user but I can still dream at least.

Small enough for EDC.
With that said, as soon as I unboxed the HL10 I knew it was right up my alley. It's a simple, no nonsense light for the average user with basic features I want and nothing I don't want. It has a single clicky switch to control it, 3 lighting modes powered by 1 common AAA, full control to tilt the beam and of course a rugged, waterproof design.

With 70 max lumens it might not be the best choice for treacherous wilderness adventures, but it's still quite bright. This makes the 2016 HL10 a great choice for basic outdoor tasks. The wide angle beam profile spreads light out well and effectively, so for close up and medium range use this is a really excellent, lightweight headlamp weighting only 1.2 oz without a battery.

The light has 3 settings, controlled by a single clicky switch, with the typical long press on/off and short press to cycle through the modes. As always you'll want to use an Eneloop or Eneloop Pro for best performance with this as Fenix rates the run times higher with NiMH rechargeables versus disposable alkaline batteries. Low mode is 4 lumens with a 26 hour run time. Medium is 30 lumens with 3 hours and 10 minutes of run time. High is good for 70 lumens and a 1 hour run time.

You can remove the HL10 from the casing for a tiny pocket or keychain light.
 The headband is a simple but effective design. The band is a soft microfiber type material with an adjustable clip on the back, which is very secure on your head thanks to a more grippy material on the inner band. The light itself snaps onto a hard plastic case, which allows for rotating the light to your desired angle. It's incredibly lightweight and comfortable - so much you'll quickly forget it's there. Being able to remove the light helps with versatility as well: you can use it as a traditional hand held flashlight or use the included ring to add it to your keychain.

One interesting feature on the HL10 is the flood and spot setting. By design the lamp is quite floody but Fenix made this with 2 beam modes for added flexibility. Removed from the plastic case, the light is essentially styled like a lantern. The clear plastic rotating lens has two parts: the spot setting is smooth and the flood setting is rough plastic - effectively making the beam more uniform and even. It's a subtle difference, nothing dramatic, but I've found the spot setting best for outdoor use whereas the flood is more diffused, eliminating the hot spot and making a more even beam - best suited for close up jobs where softer, less intense light is needed.
Simple clicky switch to change modes and a rotating lens for 2 beam styles.
Overall after using this headlamp for past month, it's easy to see it's strengths and weaknesses.

On high the battery is only good for an hour. That is the trade off with such a small, compact 1x AAA light. With any extended use you will want spare batteries and changing them isn't fast or easy in something this small. But again, it's a sacrifice you make with the size. Medium offers more efficiency with a bit over 3 hours while still being able to navigate in the dark, which helps with battery conservation.

The HL10's beam is useful but it's not a thrower by any means. It's not going to be lighting up objects 100 yards away - this is strictly for seeing a wide area right in front of you.

However it does succeed in ease of use, portability, battery efficiency, and comfort. It does have it's limitations where bigger, brighter lamps might be a better choice. But being under $30 it's still a wonderful light that runs on a common cell and throws a very wide beam in front of you.

For the price it's definitely a rugged, reliable option for someone who needs a no frills, hands free light source but doesn't need the long range power of more expensive lamps. Another winner from Fenix!

Need a place to buy it with super fast shipping? Check here!

Lastly, a big thank you to Fenix for providing this light free of charge!


A look at some of the best 4x AA powered flashlights

AA batteries - they're abundant, widely available and chances are most of us have them at home. Sure, more advanced and better performing cells exist, but you can't find them at virtually every store like you can with AAs. With the availability of alkalines, rechargeable, and lithium AA cells you have many ways to power a flashlight during an emergency.     

In this guide we'll take a look at some of the best, most versatile and most powerful lights that run on 4 common AAs. Whether its a light for power outages, walking the dogs or exploring the wilderness...you can't go wrong with any of these flashlights!

Fenix LD41

In 2015 Fenix bumped the lumens to 960, making this one bright light. With a throw of 300 meters, this tactical minded light will handle the darkness with ease.

Sunwayman D40a

The D40a is modern light that won't let you down. With a plethora of options, it is both a functional and high tech tool.

Fenix E41

The E41 might be compact, but it makes a wide searchlight style beam with a 275 meter throw to back it up. The 1000 lumen burst mode turns night into day.

Thrunite TN4A

This offering from Thrunite boasts an amazing blend of brightness and efficiency. With very low, and very high output this is one useful light.


The Last Nirvana Song

Every now and then I get a bit of Nirvana nostalgia and fall in love again with one of my all time favorite bands. But, as we all know their career was short, explosive, bittersweet and tumultuous. It's hard to listen to them without the painful reminder that their time with us was woefully short and ended in tragedy.

There's no secret collection of completed studio quality songs. Unfortunately, there's really not much left in the Nirvana vault. Hardcore fans are still elated to occasionally find that a new live recording has surfaced, or a home demo has been found or an obscure 1980s track has been unearthed. However, as far as completed studio work, we've basically reached the end of the road.

Back when I was younger, one of my good friends was also a massive fan of the band. Wise beyond his years, he basically hit the nail on the head just a few years after Cobain died - "Once they run of out Nirvana recordings, they'll probably resort to releasing whatever recordings they can find. We'll probably get to hear Kurt brushing his teeth." he said. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but he's right. We've seen Kurt's journals, old demos of him messing around - lots of things that were likely never meant to see the light of day, essentially because the high quality songs have already been released. One could argue that there is value in those kind of recordings, insight into the creative process but regardless they came to fruition because that's virtually all there is left.

When we got word that there was basically one last studio recorded, full band Nirvana song, recorded January 30, 1994 just mere months before Kurt's death, it became a holy grail of sorts.

Though, it was never officially titled it came to be known as You Know You're Right.

I just happened to hear the song, for the first time in a few years and all the memories and emotions hit me like a freight train, again.

The song does have a pretty interesting back story, though. It is assumed to have been written in the latter half of 1993, as the band played a slightly different version of it live in October of 1993. On January 30, 1994 the band recorded it in Seattle during their final studio session. Cobain himself even demoed an acoustic solo version of it at some point around that time.

The 1994 studio version of the song remained locked away for years until talk of a release of the song began, and in turn a fierce legal battle ensued. Courtney Love felt the track would be best suited for a single disc "best of" album, whereas Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl wanted to release it on an "anthology" type boxed set.

The lawsuit was eventually settled in 2002, with the studio recorded You Know You're Right appearing on the 2002 best of release Nirvana. The boxed set went on as planned, despite being delayed a few years and was released in 2004 with the acoustic solo demo of the song.

Now here's where the real fun starts.

At the beginning of October 2002, the song was officially released as a single, with the full compilation due out at the end of that month. However, prior to this a rough mix of the track leaked on the internet.

Yes, the last proper Nirvana song, one that was the subject to years of legal wrangling, perhaps the most sought after track for the band at the time....just somehow ended up online in its entirety, outside of any official release. Fan sites began blowing up and even some radio stations picked it up and started playing the mp3 file on the air. Cease and desist orders began flying around, and as a legal battle ended, a new legal battle started.

Whoever leaked the song, it was a clear fuck you to Courtney Love. She may have won the battle, but she lost the war. Essentially every Nirvana fan on the planet with a computer heard the track well before it's official release. In 2002 I was following this pretty closely, if I recall correctly, a fan from Spain claimed to acquire an advance copy of Dave Grohl's Probot CD, which had the Nirvana song secretly at the end of it and subsequently the track was leaked and spread like wildfire.

In the end, it was almost like something Cobain himself would have done.

While lyrically it invokes a definite sense of despair and sadness, the song ended up being a poignant track to be remembered as their final work. You Know You're Right is pure Nirvana: loud guitars, pummeling drums and a powerful vocal delivery. None of them at the time knew they'd be recording their final song together, but what came of it was among their best.


A Tale of Two Zombies

May 26, 2012. Miami, Florida.

For reasons unknown, 31 year old Rudy Eugene removes his clothes while walking and begins viciously attacking a homeless man. Eugene begins eating the victim's face, destroying nearly 80% of it. A lone police officer arrives on the scene and begins to order Eugene to cease the attack. The officer was reportedly growled at in response. After not complying with orders, Rudy Eugene was shot dead. The homeless victim lived, despite having to undergo massive facial surgeries. Marijuana was the only drug found in the perpetrators system.

August 15, 2016. Tequesta, Florida.

19 year old FSU student Austin Harrouff inexplicably storms out of the restaurant he and his family were dining at, allegedly agitated at the slow service. He begins the several mile walk, likely towards his father's house, when he began to remove some of his clothes. Along the way, he encounters a husband and wife sitting outside their garage that night. Harrouff begins his bloody rampage: killing the wife, injuring a neighbor who tried to intervene, and killing the husband, who he crawled on top of an began eating his face and abdomen. Officers arrived and took the subject into custody where he was transferred to a local hospital. Harrouff allegedly tells police they won't find drugs in his system. Initial toxicology results show negative for cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines. 

We have two bizarre, yet similar attacks here. Both assailants inexplicably attack their victim(s) savagely, but we have two very different outcomes here. Rudy Eugene, a black man, refused to stop his attack. He was shot multiple times and died at the scene of the attack. Austin Harrouff, on the other hand was a young white male. He too refused to stop gnawing on his victim, yet lethal force was not used. Officers utilized a taser, a dog and then eventually it took several people to remove him from the victim.

At first glance, this contrast seems ripe for racial commentary. Black cannibal gets killed; white cannibal alleged perpetrator gets humanely treated and promptly taken to the nearest hospital.

Of course, media outlets like the NY Daily News and Washington post absolutely blasted Martin County police for apparently acting with such restraint or conversely for not immediately shooting him dead, exactly how Rudy Eugene was handled. Many pundits went on to say that Harrouff was essentially spared because he was white.

Yet again, our country shows no sign of stopping the great racial divide.

However, as similar as these cases seem, they couldn't be more different. Rudy Eugene was initially approached by a single officer. In fact, it was that lone office who handled the whole situation. He saw a helpless man being viciously attacked by an assailant who was not responding to his commands to stop. This policeman evaluated the situation, felt he could stop the attacker without harming himself or the victim...and that's what he did. Every single shot fired was on target, not a single stray bullet hit the victim, who went on to survive the ordeal.

When police arrived to the scene of Austin Harrouff's attack, the officers admit they first considered shooting him. However, the deciding factor was not because he was white, rather because he was literally face-to-face with his victim chewing him apart while laying on top of him. Officers had no idea if the male victim was still alive and did not want to risk hitting him with a stray bullet, or even striking Harrouff and having the bullet go through him and then hitting the victim.

Both instances are a tragedy, no matter how you look at it. But skin color had nothing to do with it.

However, the biggest tragedy here is the media infatuation of questioning why a black man had to be shot for brutally attacking someone, while ignoring the fact that his victim miraculously survived against all odds, despite extensive injuries. And then so much outrage is directed at the white kid for not getting shot, we basically forget to mourn the 2 senseless deaths and 1 injury that resulted.

In the end, maybe these senseless killers aren't the real zombies. Maybe we are.