An Ode to Locksmiths – an Interview with Noble and Blue
… I’m still in bewilderment how the internet has the strange ability to connect and unite kindred souls.
Sure, that sounds a little ‘overly romanticized’ and perhaps a little like the tag line from the movie – You’ve Got Mail’ anyone – anyhow, bad fatherly humor aside, I’m an unashamed fan of the two Finnish gentlemen and so should you be too.
Whilst I’ve put thousands of pounds of gear and kit both good and bad to use in the ‘trenches’ whilst waging much Plastic Deth – these guys have, far more productively put thousands of pounds (or rather Euro’s) through thousands of miles of abuse through the beautiful Finnish countryside, mountains lake side walks, and treks through stunning forestry to boot – give a warm welcome to Noble & Blue .
S23: Welcome aboard guys, great to finally catch up with you both – despite becoming firm friends. I’ve been an avid follower of your exploits and adventures. To see gear and kit put through its paces, through the stunning Finnish landscape no less makes the reviews articles, and spotlights all the more compelling and in my mind relevant.
Anyhow – just to briefly set the scene, as mutual fans of testing kit and finding new ways to punish and put it through its paces, something you’ve always be upfront, honest and candid about is your former background coming from an Airsoft/MilSim community – how did you get started with that ?
Noble: Thanks for having us, we have been big fans of your blog too for very long time! And that is partly because of our background in the Airsoft world; we just love seeing all those amazing areas and venues you are playing and all the dapper loadouts you and your interviewees are carrying. And we have been amazed too that how quickly we have acquired friends through our blog, yourself being one of the first! Say what you will about social media, one of it’s best qualities is that it brings like-minded people together.
To me it all started back after my service in the Finnish Defence Forces actually. I stayed in the military for a bit after my service and worked as an instructor for conscripts. I come from a somewhat poor family and we never had too much to spend on stuff like airsoft guns, even though I always had a big interest in the hobby as a kid. So when my first big paycheck came in from the FDF after one of those week long boot camps we had, I went on a spending spree and bought my very first own AEG, a chinese MP40 (I forget the manufacturer). I was also big on history and WWII back then, and I guess I still am, but I have moved on from that, and thanks for that goes to Blue!
Blue: Indeed thanks for having us, it’s quite funny to be here actually given that we’re not known for airsoft, but it’s our pleasure to be here. Even though our interest in gear has come from the airsoft world, our friendship actually started on the local airsoft skirmish fields as well. Neither of us really know how it came to that, but somehow two very like-minded
people ended up becoming best friends during the years.
I started Airsoft when i was like 11 or 12 years old, with some local school buddies with springer pistols, and it started growing from there towards AEG’s and larger locally organized weekend skirmishes as we got more age and budget. So I had been playing for years before Noble entered the fields and the scene.
S23: Naturally, the reason I ask – is whilst I want to talk about your exploits and adventures today, you recently sent over a stunning photo of you testing gear for a rare return to an upcoming Airsoft/MilSim event. Now, I mention this as we started to have a conversation regarding your current exploration of gear, kit and equipment which has with good authority made you a discerning voice on the subject, one which I listen to very closely. The lessons you’ve learned whilst out trekking and exploring how have they been applied here, as opposed to say the traditional ‘conformist’ load outs as seen by more traditional re-enactors ?
Noble: Well we always go by the motto: poor man cannot afford to buy cheap products. Of course we too try to find affordable solutions and count our pennies with every purchase. But the fact is that when you are outdoors with poor gear most of the time you end up wishing you bought the one tier up model because of a breakage or inconvenience. And in the worst case scenario you might end up putting yourself, and others too, in danger for operating poorly made and designed equipment.
So we like to put emphasis on quality, tested gear for outdoor activities, and this has overlapped to the Airsoft/Tactical side of things too. Before I used to buy webbing from cheap airsoft suppliers, and there is nothing wrong with that, but at some point Blue nudged me to re-enactment things and the lure of ‘issue’ gear was too strong to deny.
Then after a while the other learning point from outdoors life set in with me: use what works for you and your needs. I have since put aside my strive for UKSF kit and approach all of my tactical equipment from the point of view described above. But I am still looking for realism and real world solutions, rather than what works on airsoft fields. I am trying to be an active Army reservist these days and so my equipment aims to fill those needs. So my kit cannot leave me hanging, because it aims for “real steel” applications as well as plastic deth games.
Blue: As Noble said, we really delved into Real Steel kit through our joint UKSF re-enactment/impression builds, which no longer exist as projects other than getting rid/selling of said kit. I have spent years lurking on the Finnish geardo forums and admiring the kit people put together and I have great respect for them for going the distance and putting the effort in. Nowadays we’re personally more inclined to get pieces of kit that strictly serve our needs.
S23: I read with much enthusiasm, the adventures as you both trail across mountainside, march over marshland – frozen tundra and up and through undulating forestry of your home country. This question is threefold.
What lessons and learnings did you bring from your ‘former’ past time when approaching this endeavor ?
What preparation and planning goes into one of forays exploring the great outdoors ?
And, what key lessons and experiences have you perhaps feel are of value and can be re-applied to enduring ‘Plastic Deth’ or at the very least – have they had an impact on how would now approach gears, kits and load outs ?
Blue: In all the years of playing Airsoft or doing other outdoors activities, I’ve found that there’s certain pieces of kit you shouldn’t hold your money back from. And I think the most important one is good footwear. It makes all the difference in comfort and protecting your feet in whichever activity you do. And especially outdoors, the weather and terrain will bring challenges to your physical and mental state, but good footwear can make all the difference and keep you going longer.
First of all I would recommend getting familiar with some maps of the target area, planning routes, figuring distances, terrain, weather conditions. Especially desired hiking distance, weather and terrain factor into how much food and water one should consume daily and what to wear.
Overpacking is easier than underpacking. This is just a quick list, nothing too comprehensive and could almost do with a whole article of it’s own really!
Noble: For example, for the forthcoming MilSim game I am going to pack as I would for a two-day hiking trip, making sure I have enough water and food, but also all that I need to be an asset to my team, so there is that added side to the packing of course. But the principle is the same: check the weather and terrain specific requirements for your kit, plan for possible scenarios accordingly and consider this when packing. Basic stuff, but many a time it is just there where you can screw up the whole thing.
S23: Now, digressing somewhat – I’ve already seen you put GSI’s ‘Java Mill’ and Aerobie’s Aero Press to good use – but recently saw you’d also picked up another S23 favorite HPG’s Tarahumara day sack, thoughts on these ?
Noble: Well firstly, I cannot thank you enough for writing your own review on the Java Mill and Aero Press! I immediately did a Google search to see if I could get those from Finland, and I think it was not even a hour later when I already had the Aero Press and had plans to get the Java Mill from another store.
Since then I have used these almost weekly, sometimes even at home, and I think I could not do another outdoors trip without them!
Blue: Now sometimes pictures don’t tell the whole story, but actually neither of us has picked up the HPG Tarahumara, yet. Not too long ago we got acquainted with another finnish blogger and entrepreneur, the man behind IMTT Finland and he’s the one who had the Tarahumara in our instagram. We met for a dayhike and discussed some possible collaborations between us and got a pretty extensive showcase of many HPG products from him, such as the Tarahumara, Umlindi, Ute and a couple different kit bags. I personally haven’t been much of a fan of HPG stuff, but there was one piece of kit in those products that got to the back of my head and made me really consider!
Blue: Like Noble said earlier, the poor man can’t afford s**t quality. Paying once for a cheaper product will more than likely end you up in a situation where you eventually spend more money on finding a solid piece of kit than what you would have spent on a quality piece in the first place.
Although finding the ‘holy grail’ of gear is always through trial and error and paying the prices for it, but oftentimes reading reviews and doing your research will save you money in the long run. And that is one of the reasons we wanted to start the blog, to bring our views and experiences accessible to everyone and help people make somewhat educated decisions if they’re planning on purchasing a certain product
And like we often do, buying gear and even clothing second hand is an option, as some higher-end brands cost fortunes brand new, but you can find good deals on lightly used ones that will still serve well for many years, if not forever. This is something that really helps getting reasonably priced kit when you are a poor student like I am haha.
Noble: Personally the two things that I have come to appreciate through the search for quality equipment are longevity and lightness. When you are rucking for long distances and you have to haul all the equipment you need to sleep, eat and operate properly, you want to have your kit comprised of lightweight stuff so that the overall weight of it all is not unbearable.
For example, the tent that I got with my wife, the Fjällraven Abisko View 2, is incredibly lightweight! Weighing just under 3 kilograms it is a total bliss to carry, but that kind of quality and design comes with a hefty price though.
And when you are paying big money for equipment, you kind of want to see it last for a long time too. That is why we both moved away from Salomon boots. As comfy as they are, we both had issues with their durability. Granted we both used the boots almost daily, but even still, with that kind of price tag you should expect the boots to last a good few years of use, not just 12 months. When you have limited sources, like we do, you cannot have yourself buying the cheap option multiple times (or God forbid the fragile expensive option!) but rather you want to save up, try to get it right once and stick with the durable quality choice.
S23: Now, in the early days – of your blog that is, there was some unintentionally humorous moments, when either the wrong gear or gear and Equipment had failed, boots in particular. Has such lessons and experiences fine tuned your selection of gear and equipment ?
Blue: I mean, it’s not an adventure if Noble don’t soak his shoes! It’s almost become a running joke in the sitcom series that is our sometimes ill-prepared day hikes or other adventures! Though I think our adventuring footwear is now past the Salomon XA pro line and we’re equipped with more heavy duty boots, so hopefully this might mean the end of an era for wet feet.
Noble: Well I guess the search for quality kit is constant and sometimes even if you do your research properly and follow the current standards of the kit loving community you might still end up swinging a complete miss with your choice. The affair with the boots is definitely a benchmark for myself now for finding new boots. I now look for certain parts of the shoe to see if it is reinforced and made to stand repeated use. And if the new boot does not seem to fill the standard in my head, I leave it on shelf. I mean, I walked with the broken pair of Salomons that I had for almost six months because any of the Finnish outdoors stores did not have boots that satisfied my ideal for the next pair I would get! So yeah, we try hard to learn from such lessons, haha!
I actually ended up getting a pair of AKU Pilgrims from the UK and I have been extremely happy with those so far, and thanks goes to you again for speaking out for those boots! (I too use AKU Pilgrim GTX – S23) AND I got them with GTX, so that Blue does not get the pleasure of seeing my feet getting wet anymore.
S23: So, in the short while you’ve been going you’ve quite rightfully attracted an expanding and growing audience – many of whom, not only come from the outdoors community but ‘Plastic Deth’ aficionados too, do you think there’s a real opportunity to cross over more between both lifestyles – a lot of what you’ve put out has a credible place within MilSim and RealSim ?
Blue: It’s funny how things have slowly kept escalating as we keep working on the blog, and we keep gaining new acquaintances and connections all over the world in the gear loving community. All that brings us more and more possibilities for collaborations and new content to hopefully interest even more people with different backgrounds and introduce new skillsets or hobbies applicable to their daily lives.
The Outdoors/Adventure lifestyle and Airsoft/MilSim are absolutely complementary worlds, which we love seeing collide more and more. Knowing your combat kit, tactics etc. is one thing, but so is knowing how to treat the nature and how to embrace the elements and terrain surrounding you. There’s so many things for a MilSim player to learn from basic hiking and “adventuring”, many times a lifelong hobby even!
S23: So, the blog has been syndicated by ‘Spotter Up‘ which I was very proud and pleased to see happen – I’m sure you’re rightly proud of such a collaboration, how did that come about ?
Noble: Thank you and yes, we are extremely proud of this collaboration and opportunity that Spotter Up offered us. It was wild how 2017 kicked off for us! I think it was the start of January when we got not one, but we got two reach outs suggesting collaboration, and one was from Spotter Up.
This was something we both thought would have been long off into the future of the blog, if ever to come for us at all! And I think they too found us through Instagram, and thought at first we were Australian, for some odd reason. I think it was our pictures and overall visual feeling we have that caught their eye, but that our texts reeled them in for the collaboration in the end.
The feedback we got from Spotter Up has been overwhelmingly positive and the extent to which they have embraced us and have syndicated our reviews and articles has blown us away. Through Spotter Up we have had several of our writings featured in the Loadout Room too, which is one of the largest tactical blogs in the States apparently, and frankly that is a huge deal for us. Spotter Up also has a huge readership in the US and since then we have seen an explosive growth in US readers for our blog too, so needless to say we are very pleased with this collaboration, and all of the other collaborations we have going on as well!
S23: So, what next for N&B – new adventures, gear reviews – what can we expect from you both putting kit through its paces in the N&B Finnish ‘Outdoors’ laboratory?
Blue: It has been a bit quieter on the blog side for a while now, though we have a lot of pieces in the works and new projects underway! Summer always means vacation time for the both of us, and we try to maximise our adventuring during that, but we also like to lay back on occasion and enjoy a cold one or two on a cottage porch by the lake with friends.
Noble: During this summer we both have acquired some very interesting pieces of kit, so in a few months after proper testing and evaluation you can expect to see new reviews to come up from such things as OV Innovations X HPG Under Pack Belt, AKU Pilgrims, Hanwag Tatras and Arc’teryx Drac pants, and more! And of course some new adventure accounts and stories of our endeavours both on and off field.
And we have some new exciting collaborations coming up too! Maybe the biggest and most exciting one at the moment is the partnership we are starting with IMTT Finland.
We both have an interest to transgress more on to the Real Steel training and IMTT Finland has promised to give us a basic pistol shooting course, PD1A in the IMTT standards. We might also have an upcoming collaboration, that we cannot discuss yet in detail, but you will find out soon, if it all pans out.
But we will not forget the ‘Plastic Deth’ either! The MilSim scenario is close at hand now, and I think we will try to be more active with the smaller games too in the future. We have a small group of friends, whom we assembled into a team earlier this year in anticipation for the larger scenario, and I think we will continue training and taking part in future events too with the team.
And you never really know what the future has in store for you. Last year we thought that this is going to be a minor past time for us, and now we have fans and readers from all over the world, with new friends and collaborations coming up all the time. We truly are humbled and blessed to have had such a great welcome for our blog and we only hope to continue to put out quality reviews and articles for everyone who are interested.
S23: … Really appreciate you taking the time out to talk, whilst you’ve somewhat retired from ‘Plastic Deth’ (Airsoft) I’ll put to you our obligatory last question I always like to ask (kind of a trademark), I’m a fan of 30 Rounds per mag, what’s your thoughts on this – could you see this perhaps bringing something new and fresh to game play if embraced by the masses ?
Noble: I actually played with nothing but 30 round plastic mags when I gave up the MP40 and got my first M4 platform! I always thought that even though I was underhanded against some who played with hi-caps, I still managed to hold my own and I loved the added realism it brought. I now have mid-caps in use, but I still think that if there would be more viable quality options for 30 round mags on the market, that is the way I would go. Changing the mag under stress, in the combat situation is definitely part of the charm of the game.
Blue: I personally see it as a possibility to elevate and challenge the players and their playstyle as well as the whole gameplay experience. You would need to pick your shots and angles of attack more carefully.
I think the concept would fit MilSim better than regular skirmish games, because those who want to play MilSim should be willing to subscribe to the added realism factor, where it would mean more combat tactics, reloads, refilling mags and having to resort to teamwork when doing so in ‘combat situations’.
A huge thank you to Noble & Blue for truly stunning interview- I’m sure you’ll want to keep up to date with their blog, adventures and reviews and you can do a the links below – S23
Noble & Blue Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nobleandblue/
Noble & Blue Instagram: http://instagram.com/noble_and_blue
Noble & Blue YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5jgePE3_FTPFbRwnmimMIg
S23 is proudly sponsored by ToySoldier: http://www.toysoldier.com.hk/
S23 is proud to collaborate with Project Delta Whiskey: http://projectdeltawhiskey.co.uk/
S23 proudly supports Legion Airsoft Events – find out more here: http://legionairsoftevents.com/