Book Review – Paddling North…


What would it take for you to drop everything and disappear into the wilderness for two months…alone?

Paddling North from Patagonia PressFor Audrey Sutherland, all it took was a good hard look in the mirror before deciding that she needed to cross a few things off her bucket list while she still could.  That introspective moment led to a 3 month adventure paddling over 800 miles of southern Alaskan coastline in a 9 foot inflatable canoe solo.

Sutherland, then 60 years old and living in Hawaii, quit her job as an Education Coordinator and Vocational Councilor to pursue her dream of solo-paddling the rugged coastline of Alaska.  After months of planning, researching and coordinating food drops she found herself alone in a grand wilderness unlike any other.  Paddling North is her story of that journey pulled directly from her trip journal with, in some cases, very little editing.

The book reads at times like a blow-by-blow account of every headwind, paddle-stroke and rainstorm.  At other times it swirls and splashes in the philosophical, introspective pools of thought that are an inherent part of long solo adventures.  In a way, this makes for some tedious reading at first but as you are pulled in to her story it is this very stream-of-consciousness story-telling that brings you ever closer to her adventure.  By the time I had reached the second half of the book I had fallen in to her rhythm and the daily pattern of her travels.

Take down camp, load the boat, launch, paddle…

Then it’s sun or rain, headwind or tailwind, encounters with sea life or other people.  It’s the map and compass and scouting the terrain for a pullout.  She details her very specific requirements when evaluating a location for camp.  Very high on the list are cabins and hot springs, as well as a place to set up a proper kitchen.

Paddle in, unload boat, tie-off boat above high-tide, make camp, make dinner…sleep.

Food is a major theme of the book.  I think anyone who has traveled the backcountry knows that food factors in heavily and paddlers, more than anyone else I know, focus on fine food.  Sutherland has put so much thought and effort into her meal planning that the book is as much a culinary guide as it is a paddling journal.  She often supplements her condensed, reconstituted, pre-packed delicacies with wild ingredients collected along the way.  Nearly every meal is accompanied with specially selected wines and cheeses which she takes great care in rationing so as to not run out before a resupply point.  Many of her more successful recipes, which she speaks very highly of, are included in the book at the end of each chapter.

Wake up, make breakfast, take down camp, load the boat, launch, paddle…

Paddling North interior pagesThe book took some effort to get in to, but Sutherland’s attitude about adventure and her fortitude at taking on an arduous solo paddling trip in such unforgiving country endears her to the reader.  She talks about wanting to feel as though she is as much a part of the natural environment as the wild animals she encounters.  I think she finds that balance as she settles in to the cyclical rhythm of survival.  She seems to emerge from the other side of this journey feeling closer to the wilderness than to civilization.  She is asked, “aren’t you afraid alone?”

“Of what?” She responds, “…I was safer here than in a city or on a highway.”

Toward the end of the book as she reflects back on the trip, she writes:

‘Are you safe alone?’ People ask. I’m certain that I am safer.

With elaborate maps of her route, nice illustrations and littered with original recipes from her trip, I did really enjoy this book.  If you are a paddler, or a solo-adventurer I think you will find this book very relatable.  If you are considering an extended solo-trip you just might find this book educational.  I certainly found it to be both.

I would like to thank Patagonia Books for providing me with this book.  If you would like to check out more titles from Patagonia Books like Paddling North or the next book on my list The Voyage of the Cormorant, visit their website.

About the Author:

Audrey Sutherland author of Paddling North

Audrey Sutherland was raised in California and has lived in Hawaii since 1952. She raised her four children as a single mother, supporting her family as a school counselor. In 1962 she decided to tour the coast of Molokai by swimming it – and towing along an inflatable raft with supplies. She has ever since been an inveterate water traveler, during the past several decades in inflatable kayak because it’s transportable, light enough for her to handle comfortably and relatively inexpensive.

For more about Audrey Sutherland, read this interview by Dale Hope from Patagonia Books.

A Good Run…

I didn’t want to run today.

I haven’t really been out on a real run since the wedding in October.  My failure to complete 30 Days of Running coupled with all of the travel from the wedding/honeymoon, then the stress and fatigue of moving in November.  I just haven’t felt good enough to run.

My wife and I have developed a tradition of running on Christmas and Thanksgiving.  I didn’t run on Thanksgiving, but I did bike.  This Christmas I knew we’d be running and we did a decent cold and windy 5 mile run.  That’s not a lot of miles for most of you “runners” but it’s a fair amount for me after 2 months of no running and dealing with pain.  So it took a toll.

Then we did another short run two days later.  Still sore but we did it.  And then there was today…

Getting ready to run at Memorial Park

I really didn’t want to run.  My feet were sore, my quads very sore and I just didn’t feel like it.  I lobbied heavily for No-Run, she almost bought in but ultimately didn’t and we left for a run.

The Memorial Park Loop was busy, people everywhere.  As we started our run my feet settled in pretty quick and the pain went away.  It was a nippy 34 degrees but the sun was out so it was nice, just the way I like it.  As we passed more and more people I started feeling better and could feel my body settle into a solid stride.  For once, I was setting the pace on this run (Merelyn usually sets the pace as I struggle to keep up).

The more people I passed the more people I wanted to pass.  I started getting the race mentality and looking for stronger runners along the trail that I could chase down and pass.  Soon, we were passing nearly everyone and my stride felt easy and natural and I pushed it on.

I didn’t make any new PRs or break any records but it was a good run and, more importantly, it felt good.

I’m glad I ran today.

Amazing Sedona – Part II: Sunrise, Photography and Snow…

Only a couple of days after my Sedona trip with Tim I left for Houston to spend some time traveling East Texas with my new wife.  I flew out and the next morning we headed north in her little Honda Civic for Nacogdoches, a small town a couple of hours north of Houston.  The claim to fame of this little Texas tourist destination is that it is the oldest town in Texas.  Originally a settlement of Caddo Indians, the official town of Nacogdoches was founded in 1779 by Gil Y’Barbo with permission from the Spanish Government.

My wife and I spent a day hiking trails and exploring the small downtown shops and restaurants after spending the night in a really nice, rustic B&B cottage outside of town.  The history in Nacogdoches is rich and there are still some original buildings from the early 1800’s.  Outside of town are the Caddo Mounds, archaeological sites from around 800 A.D.

While in Nacogdoches the weather turned incredibly cold (for the southwest), reaching down to the low 20’s overnight.  I checked the weather back in Arizona and saw there was supposed to be a storm system moving in.  This put me on the lookout for snow.  Soon, the weather forecasts were calling for snow over the weekend in Flagstaff and Sedona, a few days earlier than the historic forecasts had estimated.  I immediately put a message out to my occasional hiking partner and photographer, Jabon Eagar exclaiming, “Snow in Sedona this weekend!  Time to play hookie!”

Jabon and I had been talking about heading to Sedona to catch images of fresh snow for months.  Jabon had been discussing this prospect with another friend for close to two years.  So when snow came to Sedona, we both were ready to drop everything and go.  It was starting to snow in the upper elevations around Sedona by Friday night, I didn’t get back in to Phoenix until Saturday evening and had plans for Saturday night.  Jabon and I laid plans to drive up Sunday morning, early, and be in Sedona before sunrise…and this time I meant it!

Once again, I found myself forced to leave a party early so I could get a few hours’ sleep before driving north for an adventure.  Jabon arrived at my place right at 5AM, I was already packed and had the truck running to warm it up.  Jabon’s buddy Mike was due to join us, but no one had heard from him and Jabon’s attempts to reach him went unanswered.  We soon left, figuring if he was running late he’d call and we could turn around and toss him in the truck.  We never did hear from him.

There was little traffic on the cold, dark drive to Sedona.  Aside from hitting a patch of black-ice at about 80 MPH (and totally maintaining control of the truck without spilling a drop of the coffee in my hand) and missing my exit onto 179, the drive was uneventful.  Even with lost time we hit Bell Rock just as the first light of the morning sun was beginning to endow the frosty morning mists with a supernatural glow.

misty fog clinging to the rock

We stopped the truck and quickly got out to chase the first photo-ops of the morning.  I ran across the road and scrambled to higher ground across frost covered red rock ledges looking to capture the mood of the view that was unfolding.  The thick, wispy clouds clung to the desert floor and gathered around the base of the red rock towers to the east.  As the sun climbed higher it gave life to the misty fog, like stormy seas crashing around these crimson battleships in the desert.

Bell Rock in the morning mist at sunrise

We were there for the photography that day, and Mother Nature was giving the performance of her life.  Jabon and I hiked on and off-trail looking for angles, framing compositions in the viewfinder, excitedly shouting back and forth, “The light is amazing from this spot!” “Look, the fog is clearing over there!” “This is incredible, I’ve never seen it like this!” “This is perfect!”

framing the light at Bell Rock

When we came off the trail, after exhausting every photographic consideration, the parking lot had filled with early morning photographers looking to snap their own versions of this amazing sunrise.  I was glad our ambition had carried us there first, before it got crowded.  There was thick frost on the ground, but we still weren’t high enough to be in the snow…and that’s why we were there.  So we loaded up and continued through Sedona and on in to Oak Creek Canyon where the snow had collected over the weekend.

I had to stop the truck several times before we made it to West Fork because the view along the road was too good to pass up.  We would stop, pile out of the truck and scurry along the narrow shoulder snapping shots as the light and shadow played with the mountain tops.  Then quickly back to the truck to move on so we wouldn’t miss the best light further up.

View of Oak Creek in the Snow

Jabon taking a shot at the first creek crossing at West Fork Trail Oak CreekWe finally made it to the West Fork parking lot, which was closed, and found a spot further up along the road where we could legally park.  We hiked back toward the trailhead along the roadside careful of the growing traffic on the narrow, winding roads.  We were not the first ones to the West Fork trailhead and we followed the footprints through the snow back in to the canyon collecting shots along the way.  Once we reached the first creek crossing, the foot traffic grew thinner…not many wanted to cross the frozen water.

bright light behind the cliff at West Fork Oak CreekWe took our time and watched for subtle changes in the light inside the canyon trying desperately to choose our shots wisely.  The snow was 6 to 8 inches thick and clung fresh and soft to the rocks and trees.  This was one of those perfect places where you could easily snap off thousands of photographs if you weren’t more discerning.  The combination of the brilliant red rock in the intense morning light against the stark, clean whiteness of the snow was a dramatic scene.  Then layer in the deep emerald of the tall evergreens, the electric blue of the sky all of it wrapped in the ever-changing misty morning clouds.

Living in southern Arizona and growing up in California, I haven’t had opportunity for much hiking in the snow.  I really enjoyed this hike!  Snow along a trail, even an easy one like West Fork Trail, completely changes the hiking experience.  Finding the route is challenging unless there are footprints to follow, the deeper snow forces you to pay closer attention to each step.  Snow covered trails also means fewer people in most cases, which is how I like it.  My wife loved snowshoeing in Tahoe for the same reasons.  I’ve collected better Winter gear and will be looking forward to more snow hiking.

white snow and bright sky at West Fork Oak Creek

Soon there was only one other set of footprints in the snow, only one person ahead of us.  We finally came across her as she was headed back, another photographer out to capture this pristine wilderness.  Soon after that we stopped near a large boulder along the creek and where I heated up water for hot cider.  We sat there for a while, watching the light change in the canyon and snapping off the occasional picture.  Jabon took some shots of the frozen creek and we both worked to find angles for shooting the icicles hanging from the huge boulder next to us.

Snowy trees at West Fork Oak Creek

Heading back out of the canyon, being scolded for hiking in a “closed” area.  Some of the other early morning opportunists had received violations for parking in front of the closed gate.  We drove higher up the mountain after helping an older couple get their car out of the snow bank long the road.  There was little more to see and the casual visitors were starting to get thick as the morning grew late.  Jabon suggested we head in to more remote country and offered to show me a set of ruins he’d photographed a while back.  He was anxious to get another opportunity to shoot them, especially with snow around.

Hidden Canyon Ruins in the snowWe had time so we headed down a muddy 4-wheel-drive road to a remote canyon where Jabon led the way into a small obscure canyon.  After climbing up the drainage, we reached the head of the canyon.  A rounded bowl lined with 100 ft sheer red rock cliffs opened before us.  Tucked unobtrusively under a recessed ledge at the base of one side of the vertical canyon walls is a small, semi-circular stone structure.  The lower portion of the walls are original, still held together with ancient mortar.  The top has been obviously reconstructed including the lintel above the entrance.  The interior shows recent use, and even relatively recent remnants of a camp fire.  The site was simple, but the setting was magical.  I was really glad we could squeeze this last little excursion in to the day.

View from Hidden Canyon RuinsIt was getting late after that and we’d had an incredible morning.  Both of us were anxious to get back and start going through our images.  I am really happy with what we captured in Sedona that day.  It was one of those trips that we’d talked about taking for a long time and it turned out to be even better than we could have imagined.  Luckily the first snow of the season was a good one and it laid down thick and clean all over the upper elevations around Sedona.  I don’t know how I’m going to be able to top this trip…but that won’t stop me from trying!

Trip Gallery:

Jabon is another one of those great friends I’ve met through Social Media.  I found him a couple of years ago when I did a quick search and discovered that he and I were planning to take groups on the same hike on the same weekend.  I reached out to him about the possibility of combining our groups and we hiked to the Pueblo Canyon Ruins together a few months later.  Since then we’ve talked about many possible adventures and collaborations.  We also have done Cold Spring Canyon, a quick photo-hike to Tom’s Thumb and this Sedona trip.  You can check out more of Jabon’s photography on his website or visit his Facebook Page.

Amazing Sedona – Part I: Gear testing, Sunset and New Friends…

I haphazardly packed the back of the truck in the cold, dark pre-dawn hours Saturday morning as the dogs looked on through the glass front door.  I’m sure they were just as curious as I was about what possessed me to be up this early on a Saturday after only a few short hours’ sleep.  Friday night I had been out with friends enjoying our annual Christmas Party and had stayed longer than I had planned.  I had double-booked my weekend and needed to be in Sedona by sunrise to meet a new friend for a weekend of camping, hiking and gear testing.

Tim had arrived in Sedona early Friday afternoon ahead of me and claimed our campsite at the tiny Manzanita Campground along Oak Creek.  We had planned this trip on the spur of the moment realizing that we both were planning outings to field test new gear and figured it was the perfect opportunity to meet.  After a few phone calls and a handful of emails back and forth, we had reservations for a campsite and a loose itinerary.

I was in charge of figuring out our hike for Saturday since I am more familiar with the area.  I noticed that there was a nice, strenuous hike very close to our camp that would take us to one of only a few natural rock arches around Sedona.  Vultee Arch is a small natural rock bridge named after the owner of a small aircraft manufacturing company.  Jerry Vultee and his wife got caught flying in a severe blizzard over Wilson Mountain in 1938 and crashed on the north end of the plateau.  Between the crash and the resulting fire, neither survived.

Tim and I had both discussed our increasing focus on photography in our outdoor pursuits so the arch was a great fit, but I wanted to make it even more interesting so I proposed we plan our hike so that we’d hit the arch at sunset.  This would mean an afternoon hike, a nice pause while we waited for the light and grabbed some shots, then a night hike over the pass on our return.  Tim responded with, “Sounds good to me.  Night hikes are awesome.”

Between last minute packing, a longer than expected stop for coffee and fuel as well as not accounting for the extra distance from the my new house, I was running late.  I realized I wasn’t going to make it to camp before day break, but hoped I would at least make it to the lower end of Sedona’s Red Rocks by Sunrise.  I barely made it to the turn-off as the sun was getting ready to crack the horizon.  I stopped for a few pictures of first light and found a great old tree to use as foreground.

my sunrise shot near the turn-off to Sedona

I continued toward Sedona and made it as far as Bell Rock before I decided I needed to stop and capture more images of the sunrise.  I managed to take some really nice shots at Bell Rock as the sun climbed higher.  I decided to skip a stop in Sedona and head straight to camp, knowing I was running late.  There was really no reason why I needed to be to camp so early except that I had specifically told Tim that I would be.  That was enough reason for me to worry about being late.

Sunrise at Bell Rock, Sedona

When I got to camp, Tim was up and had been down by the creek.  After a handshake and an apology I unloaded my gear and set up camp as we visited like old friends.  We spent the better part of the day talking about gear, the outdoors, family, food and life in general.

Tim is one of a small handful of people I’ve now met in person after getting to know them through Social Media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.  It’s the modern version of finally meeting a pen-pal you’ve written to for years.  There is an instant familiarity, comfort and friendship that is merely extended by the shaking of a hand and the sharing of a meal…even more so when done around a camp fire.

more Oak Creek at sunrise at Manzanita Campground

It eventually came time to head out for our hike, we needed to make it over Sterling Pass and down to the arch by 4:30 if we were going to have a chance at being in position by sunset at 5:15.  I had studied the times and angles of the sun against the topography around the arch to insure that we wouldn’t lose the sun early due to some distant peak.  It looked as through we’d have light at the arch until at least 5pm.  We headed out at 2:30 to give us plenty of time to hike the pass and make it down in to canyon below the arch.  I did not have an exact idea of how difficult the hike up to the arch itself would be so we needed a little padding in the schedule.

Dead trees along Sterling Pass Trail

The marked trailhead for Sterling Pass was almost directly across the street from camp where we began the steep climb up and over the rocky pass.  Much of the area was still recovering from the Arch Fire that devastated this canyon in 1996.  The blackened skeletal remains of the formerly thick forest jabbed skyward through the lush new growth optimistically trying to regain it’s footing.

The rock and vegetation changed at the pass before we plunged back down the steep switchbacks on the other side.  The forest was much thicker on this side of the pass where it had clearly been protected from the fire.  My knee was reminding me throughout the descent that it is still not 100% and I was relieved a bit when the trail leveled out finally along the bottom of the canyon.

Sterling Pass on the way to Vultee Arch

We were on the lookout for the side canyon containing Vultee Arch and, with the sun chasing toward the horizon, we were getting short on time.  Finally we reached a point where we could see the arch, still drenched in the glow of the setting sun.  As we approached the rock ledge that house the plaque describing the arch’s namesake, I noticed we were not going to have light on the arch for as long as I had estimated.  This was going to significantly shorten the window for getting the photographs I was after.

I was feeling the pinch of time and when we found what appeared to be the small trail leading to the actual arch, I took off leaving Tim to find his own pace.  I aggressively scrambled through brush and cacti along the overgrown trail before finding the right spot to venture off-trail in an effort to find a unique angle for shooting Vultee Arch.  I waded through thick Manzanita and danced around prickly pear cactus and agaves as I climbed under and around the arch.

Sunset light on Vultee Arch, Sedona

The sunset light was well worth the effort and I was glad that we’d made the decision to visit the arch when we did.  The sunset that evening gave us an amazingly warm orange glow that accentuated the red rock of the arch.  Even the vegetation took on a supernatural glow as the sun cast the last of it’s fading light across our little canyon.  Tim caught up and found a perch atop the arch to watch the sunset and nibble on some trail mix as I scrambled precariously along all points collecting my shots.

Long view from below Vultee Arch, Sedona

View of the late sunset from the base of Sterling Canyon

When light had faded from the arch we hiked back down to the rock vista, made hot coffee and watched the remainder of the sunset.  Once darkness had pushed the last traces of light from the horizon we packed up and headed out.  The cold was kept at bay with the exertion of climbing the switchbacks back up to Sterling Pass.  As we crested the pass we were greeted with a rich, black, moonless desert sky deeply punctuated with brilliant stars.  We sat here for a while, with headlamps off, taking in the night sky.  Both of us live in larger cities where the night is never truly dark and stars never laid out so thick.

Some time later we strolled back in to camp and started dinner.  We ate well and talked late in to the night around the camp fire.  This is the perfect example of what I love about being outdoors.  We encountered very few people on the trail and all of them had bailed before light ran out.  We had the arch entirely to ourselves and experienced it in a way that very few ever would.  The desert was our playground and I reveled in it with a giddy, childlike joy.

When it came time to head home the next day, we said our good-byes and vowed to do this again soon. With any luck, the next excursion will include our wives and another amazing location.  I left Sedona that afternoon tired, happy and hoping for another adventure very soon.  Little did I know at the time, that I would be back to this very same area in only one week…

…but that’s another story.

Trip Gallery:

For more pictures from the hike check out Tim’s gallery here.

Too Simple not to Post…

Today’s post is nothing special.  There is no amazing adventure to detail and no gear to review in this one.

I woke up this morning, said good morning to my wife, played with the dogs, started coffee and sat down to browse Facebook while I waited for the coffee to brew.  As I quickly scanned through the endless lists of typical status updates I found myself pausing to read one in particular.  It came third generation to me (a friend of a friend of a friend) and was a post of a poem this man had heard at his Yoga practice the night before.

It is a simple poem and he posted it because it had resonated with him when he heard it.  As I read it I understood.

I’ve never heard this poem before.  I think this speaks to why so many of us seek time outdoors and work hard on self-improvement.

What If?

A Poem by Ganga White

What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the Temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water—the rivers, lakes and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being

Sedona Morning at Bell Rock


Dear Santa…

‘Tis the season for one and all to come out with all manner of gift suggestions for the holidays.  We all browse through the lists and suggestions, looking for ideas and clues for special things for our family and friends.  But there’s so many choices, so many lists…

There are lists for men and lists for boys…
lists for climbers with lots of toys…
lists for paddlers and lists for bikers…
then there’s always lots of lists for hikers…
or a down bag for two and plenty of whiskey
for when you and yours are feeling frisky!
There are watches and phones with GPS gadgets,
knives and axes and short-handled hatchets…
That list there has lots of clothing
for when the snow really gets going.
But none of these lists are all that complete,
and for what I need they can not compete.
My list is different, my needs are unique…
so I’ve created my own, please have a peek…

So here it is, since I won’t presume to tell you what gifts are best this season for you…this is MY Wish List this Christmas.  And maybe you’ll find a few gems in here that might work for someone you know as well.

Dear Santa, what I want for Christmas…

  1. The Shag Master Hoodie from looks like an awesomely soft and comfy winter jacket.  I’m sucker for soft, fluffy sweaters and jackets…and it usually means lots of hugs from pretty girls my beautiful wife when I’m wearing one. ($200)
  2. Goal Zero Guide 10 solar charger – I’ve been looking at these for a long time and keep talking myself out of buying one…maybe Santa will bring me one so I don’t have to agonize over the decision anymore. ($120)
  3. Kurgo Dog Pack – I have been wanting to get Wiley her own pack for a while now.  This pack from Kurgo is the one I’ve been checking out, it seems to be a pretty universal fit and is a reasonable price. ($30)
  4. Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern – Snow Peak has been coming out with some cool lantern designs.  The Mini Hozuki would be a nice little addition to my hammock setup. ($40)
  5. Snow Peak Titanium Cook Set – This comes highly recommended and everyone loves Snow Peak.  I also have a couple of stoves that will nest nicely inside. ($45)
  6. Jetboil Sol Ti – I love my Jetboil enough that I would really like the smaller solo titanium version for lighter trips. ($150)
  7. Snow Peak Chopping Board and knife – This super cool travel cutting board/knife combo will make camp cooking prep easy!  Not really a backpacking setup, but I am working on putting together a nice camp-kitchen. ($40)
  8. MountainSmith Modular Hauling System (4 piece) – This is good little package for organizing camping/travel gear.  I’ve seen this on a few other “gift suggestion” lists as well. ($100)
  9. GoPro Hero 3 – this is THE HD camera to have it seems…I have to admit that I love the images it produces and it would allow me to start doing more video.  ($400)

I left off the unreasonable items that Santa would have trouble fitting into his sleigh.  What is on YOUR wish list this year?  I want to know what fun little gadgets and goodies you guys are looking for this year…who knows, I might find some inspiration to add to my own wish list!

Merry Chrismahanukwanzakah to all!

Sharing my Love of Hydroflask…

To my dear Hydroflask,

I am truly blessed to have you in my life.  Since the day we met, you’ve been by my side…through thick and thin, through simmering heat and aching cold.  You’ve always provided comfort, even when comfort was impossible to find.

I am lost without you.

I have forsaken all others for you alone.

Forever yours,


The one that started it all, my 18 ounce Hydroflask in Arctic WhiteI was first introduced to Hydroflask in May 2012, at the Overland Expo near Mormon Lake outside Flagstaff.  The guys from Overland Gourmet had a pile of Hydroflasks for sale at their table and on the last day I decided I would try one out.  So I picked out my favorite: a small 18oz wide-mouth in Arctic White.  The size was perfect for sliding in to the side-pocket of my pack and easily fit in to any cup holder.  Without ice at camp, it wasn’t until I got back to Phoenix that the love-affair began.

May in Phoenix is pretty warm, but really just the beginning of the slow, miserable death-march of an Arizona Summer.  As the average highs quickly soared above 100 degrees, then above 110 degrees, my little 18oz miracle began showing off.

“Ridiculously awesome insulating properties. Large enough for a days worth of fluid.” – from

Winderness Dave using the 18 ounce wide mouth HydroflaskI’ve been in the desert now for nearly 20 years.  I don’t go anywhere without water.  If I go to the grocery store, I take water…a quick drive to a meeting, I take water…heading across town for dinner, I take water.  For those who have never visited a desert in Summer, you have to understand what happens inside a vehicle in heat like this.  When it’s 120 degrees outside, the inside of your car (with the windows up) can easily blast past 160 degrees.  I know people who have had CDs melt on their dash, and others who have literally burned their hands by touching the steering wheel.  The inside of your vehicle is an inhospitable place during the Summers out here.  Especially for bottles of water…

For many years now, I’ve used reusable bottles.  I try not to use plastic water bottles if I can help it.  I’ve tried most, if not all, the bottles on the market and quickly realized that I needed an insulated bottle if I wanted my water to remain drinkable during the summer out here.  I had tried a few, but they were miserable.  Enter Hydroflask

Assorted Hydroflask bottles

I think the moment I was sold on these little technological wonders was after an especially long afternoon meeting.  I had packed up and headed out, Hydroflask in tow as usual.  The bottle had a half-dozen or so ice-cubes and the rest was filled with room temperature water.  My expectation was simply to have cold water on the way to the meeting and I would get more after.  I drove out to the job site, offering no shade to park under, and left my truck sitting in 115 degree heat.  The meeting ended up lasting over 3 hours (way longer than I like my meetings to last).  When I got back to my truck I could barely stand to be inside of it as I fired it up and cranked the AC to high.

“Unlike other bottles we’ve tested, this thing actually works!” – from

my 40 ounce Hydroflask bottle in blueNot expecting it to be drinkable, but needing something after the marathon meeting, I picked up the Hydroflask and heard the tell-tail sounds of ice clinking against the metal interior!  No way!  I unscrewed the lid and there it was, waiting for me…icy refreshment.  After more than 4 hours in a vehicle that surely reached temps well above 140 degrees I still had ice.

Since then, I’ve learned to rely on it.  I’ve left it in the truck for up to 6 hours of brutal Summer punishment and still found icy goodness.  I’ve left it full for 24 hours in 100 degree (daytime) heat and still had ice.  I’ve read some reviews where testers have left the Hydroflask bottles for 3 days in near 90 degree weather and still found slivers of ice in the bottle.  This thing performs above and beyond expectations every time.  The only problem I have had with it is mainly a result of the amount of use and abuse I put mine through.  After about 4 months of daily use, the strap that connects the lid to the bottle broke.  I’ll eventually order another one (or maybe Hydroflask will send me one) and that problem will be solved.  Otherwise, Hydroflask is a Rock Star product.

The Hydroflask collection...


“I filled the 18oz bottle with 190ºF water and 4 hrs later the temp was 174ºF at 8hrs it was 161ºF and a full 24hrs later it was 119ºF! Which is still pretty darn warm. As for the cold claims I put 6 regular ice cubes in with cold tap water and 3 days later I still have some small slivers of ice in the bottle. The average temps that the bottles were in hovered around 65ºF. But I will say that we took one of the bottles into a sauna for 45 minutes at 165ºF and the water was still ice cold! All of these number will of course change depending on how often you open the bottles etc… but it should let you know that they really do work very well.” – from Steve “Yeti” Hitchcock at

A Thank You from Wilderness Dave…

an assortment of Hydroflask insulated bottles has reached a few milestones recently and it’s all because of you guys, my loyal readers (which, thankfully,  has grown beyond my mom).  We all know it’s not about “fans and followers” but I do appreciate that you guys take the time to LIKE my FB page and follow my ramblings on Twitter.  I’ve done some giveaways here and there, mostly with products donated for reviews.  But this time it’s special.  Hydroflask really is my go-to, everyday, never-leaves-my-side gear and I want you guys to have a chance to own one.

So, I reached out to Hydroflask and asked if they would be willing to offer up something for you guys.  And they said yes!  So someone will be winning their choice of two (2) 21 ounce standard mouth bottles (you pick the color) courtesy of Hydroflask.

THEN…I will pick TWO MORE WINNERS and each of them will get a brand new 18 ounce wide mouth bottle (I have one in black with the hydro-flip lid and one in red with the standard wide-mouth lid).

Get your entries in below.  I’ll make it super easy, just be a FB fan or Twitter follower and/or comment on this post below.  Make sure you confirm your entries in the Rafflecopter widget so they get counted.  And if you follow my posts on G+, just leave a comment letting me know (and give it a +1 while you’re at it!).


a Rafflecopter giveaway