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 TADGear.com 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!

Lessons about knowing your outdoor gear…

Have you ever made a mistake?  A stupid mistake?  The kind of mistake that makes you kick yourself for doing something you KNEW you shouldn’t have done?  No?  Then stop reading, this isn’t for you.  Piss off.

We all make mistakes from time to time.  We get complacent, or hurried or distracted and we do things we otherwise wouldn’t do.  Sometimes these mistakes make us laugh at our own folly, but (particularly in the backcountry) mistakes can be very dangerous.

I’ve had my share of mistakes.  One night camping in the mountains around Mount Graham outside Safford I hurriedly tossed the rain fly on my tent in the dark as a storm was starting to move in.  It wasn’t long into a pretty solid downpour that I discovered I had put the fly on upside down.  Turns out those waterproof-breathable fabrics they use for protection only work one way.  I knew that, I just missed it.

Another time, on luckily just a short hike, I had performed a quick check of my small pack, checked the hydration hoses, filled the bladder, packed a snack and shortly thereafter shot out the door to make my hike.  It wasn’t until I arrived at the trailhead and picked up my unusually light pack that I realized I had left the full hydration bladder on the counter, right by the sink, right where I had set it after filling it up.  A stupid mistake because I wasn’t fully paying attention to the process.

There was also the time I loaded my tent for a quick backpacking trip and discovered, a day’s hike in to the middle of nowhere, that I had grabbed the rain fly, not the tent.  Luckily I was able to easily make a bivvy shelter with the fly and it wasn’t a total catastrophe.  I’ve also packed my tent with the wrong set of poles before…that was fun.

This most recent mistake learning experience was a result of simply not paying attention.  I even remember second guessing myself and some little voice telling me, “nah, it’ll be FINE…”

My Snow Peak 450 Insulated mug on the SoloStove cook system - outdoor gear

I had just built a nice little fire in my new SoloStove.  I had received one to test out and was anxious to put it to use.  I prepped my fuel, built a beautiful little top-down fire (as instructed) and had quite nice burn going.  Now I just needed to boil some water, time it, record it and round one of the testing would be in the books.

I’m in the process of moving so I don’t know where half of my stuff is currently.  I could not find a camp pot anywhere with which to boil a little water.  In haste, I grabbed my Snow Peak Titanium mug and filled it with water.  There was a piece of me that hesitated, but I couldn’t put my finger on why and dismissed it.  I set the mug on the stove and watched the flames lick at the titanium.

Now, this is for a review, so I’m taking pictures, recording a little video, talking about the technology of the burn system and why the fire was built top-down…so I’m distracted.  The nagging hesitation was set aside so I could focus on the review.  Then it hits me!

The Snow Peak Titanium 450 Double Wall mug is an insulated mug.  The outer shell of the cup is made up of two walls of titanium with air space in the middle to serve as an insulating layer.  This helps reduce heat transfer through the wall of the cup.  This means it will NOT heat efficiently, it is not a good cooking vessel.  More importantly, and the reason for my sudden anxiety, is that the super-heated air trapped between the two layers of titanium will expand when heated and can cause the weld seam to burst.  Depending on how well the seams hold, this could be a pretty dramatic rupture or simply a small hole to let the air escape.  Once I realized this error I pulled the cup off the heat.

Luckily, my seam held and the only real damage (aside from severe discoloration) is a slightly bulged and rounded bottom on the mug.  Not the end of the world.

In the privacy of my own home, I can simply kick myself for being stupid and potentially ruining an expensive piece of gear.  In the backcountry, we can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes.  This sort of thing is a reminder of how easily, and innocently, mistakes can be made.  It’s a reminder that we really do need to slow down, pay attention and think through our actions…especially in the field.  It’s also a reminder to know your gear.  Know it’s intended uses, it’s limitations, be familiar with the technology and why it works.  The proper gear can save your life, but only if you know how to use it properly and do so with thoughtfulness.

-

I’d love to hear about YOUR gear related mistakes.  Comment below if you’ve ever made a mistake with your outdoor gear…it’ll make me feel better about my own stupidity. ;)

Spring in to Adventure: SEA-TO-SUMMIT Week…

It’s time for another Spring in to Adventure Giveaway!  This week is SEA-TO-SUMMIT Week because almost the entire prize package is awesome gear from Sea to Summit!  You can’t go wrong!  Check out the awesome list of what’s included in the prize package below.

Spring in to Adventure Giveaway Logo - Cold Week

As you know, for the last couple months Wilderness Dave along with: My Life OutdoorsThe Outdoor AdventureA Little CampyHiking the Trail and Trail Sherpa have been working together with a whole bunch of popular outdoor companies to bring you guys more than a month of giveaways.

Just like last week we are offering you tons of ways to earn extra entries and if you entered last week you know how easy it is!

As a reminder, here’s what’s up for grabs:

Grand Prize:

Sea To Summit Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sack
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil View Dry Sack
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Sink
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Bucket
Beyond Coastal Travel Kit
Buff USA Merino Wool Buff
Alpine Aire Food Kit

Second Place Prize:

Sea To Summit Ultra Nano Dry Sack

[Read more...]

GEAR: Spring in to Adventure Giveaway…

Hiking and backpacking season is pretty much year-round down here in Arizona.  For the rest of the world, however, Spring kicks-off hiking season.  The groggy outdoor-enthusiasts wake from their Winter hibernation, put the skis and snowboards away, shed the layers and head out into the sun!  We are here to help get you outside in style!  Wilderness Dave wants to see you guys enjoying the outdoors with some awesome new gear, so we’ve teamed up with five other outdoor blogs to bring you one epic giveaway!

Spring in to Adventure logo

MyLifeOutdoors.com, HikingtheTrail.com, TrailSherpa.com, WildernessDave.com, TheOutdoorAdventure.net, and ALittleCampy.com have teamed up to give you the Spring into Adventure Gear Giveaway!

Starting March 15th we will begin five weeks of giveaways with 10 individual winners, and over 35 pieces gear from companies like Yaktrax, Beyond Coastal, Alpine Aire, Sole Spikes, Gerber and many more!  During the week we will introduce you to the gear being given away through a series of gear reviews and brand highlights featuring our event sponsors.  At the end of each week we will draw a First Place winner, as well as a Second Place winner.

Each week, you will have a full seven days to enter in multiple ways for your chance to win some of this epic gear.

The giveaways…

March 15: COLD Week

First Place Prize Pack: (Winner posted)

  • Polarmax Baselayers
  • Minus 33 Balaclava
  • Yaktraks
  • Beyond Coastal Travel Kit
  • Alpine Aire Food Kit

Second Place Prize: (Winner Posted)

  • Sole Spikes

 

March 22: SURVIVAL Week

First Place Prize Pack:

  • Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight Watertight 0.7 oz Med Kit
  • Adventure Medical Kit Origin Survival Kit
  • Adventure Medical Kit Escape Bivy
  • Gerber BG Survival Parang
  • Beyond Coastal Travel Kit
  • Buff USA Merino Wool Buff
  • Innate Storage Sack

Second Place Prize:

  • Survival Strap

March 29: Sea To Summit Week:

First Place Prize Pack:

  • Sea To Summit Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sack
  • Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil View Dry Sack
  • Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Sink
  • Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Bucket
  • Beyond Coastal Travel Kit
  • Buff USA Merino Wool Buff
  • Alpine Aire Food Kit

Second Place Prize:

  • Sea To Summit Ultra Nano Dry Sack

April 5th: DIGITAL Week

First Place Prize Pack:

  • Sherpa Site
  • Yodel App
  • Stick Pic
  • Buff USA Merino Wool Buff

Second Place Prize:

  • Survival Strap

April 11th: BACKCOUNTRY Week

First Place Prize Pack:

Second Place Prize:

  • Alpine Aire Food Kit

 

This Epic Giveaway starts in SEVEN DAYS!!  So get ready to win some gear!

Gear Review: Pocket Stove and Ketalist…

On my most recent trip to Texas, my fiancé and I decided we’d like to go beach camping near Galveston.  I packed a few camping supplies I thought we’d need including an old tent I never use (another story) and one of my extra JetBoil cooking systems.  Once in Texas, we discovered that I only brought the cup portion of the JetBoil…not the stove.  Unfortunately, you can’t buy “just the stove” at retail stores and so we were stuck looking at alternatives for being able to cook.

So at the Houston REI, while I nervously debated buying a brand new JetBoil for the trip, Merelyn found the Original Pocket Stove from Esbit.  At only $10.50 (versus at least $100 for a new JetBoil) it sounded like a halfway decent idea.  For this trip, we really just needed a little something to boil water since we were going to cook our dinner over a campfire (see mini-review at the end of this post).  I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to try out a new piece of gear…especially inexpensive gear!  We bought the Pocket Stove for $10.50 and even though it comes with 6 fuel tabs, we bought an extra pack of solid fuel tabs for $6.25.  Total investment was well under $20 for a stove and 18 fuel tabs (supposedly enough to cook for 3 hours).

The Pocket Stove is basically a small, folding metal stand that will support a cooking receptacle about 1.5″ above the fuel tab.  There are two cooking positions depending on conditions and how focused you want the flame.  It weighs in at about 3.25 ounces without the fuel and, when closed, the stove stores up to 6 fuel tabs inside.  According to the box, the solid fuel works well at any elevation and boasts a boil time of 8 minutes in most conditions.  The REI website specs actually list average boil time at 14 minutes which is probably closer to the truth.

We also purchased the Halulite Ketalist nested kettle and cooking system for boiling our water over the Pocket Stove.  The Ketalist was $34.95 at the Houston REI and comes with a hard-anodized aluminum kettle, two small plastic bowls (one with an insulated sleeve and drinking lid) and a spork.  The total weight is about 11 ounces and is made for backpacking.  I would consider more of a car-camping product because of it’s size.

We set up camp on the beach outside of Galveston and, as it was incredibly windy, I dug out a firepit and built up a wall around it to try to block out some of the wind.  It worked well enough for me to be able to set up the Pocket Stove and light one of the fuel tabs.  I filled the kettle with about two cups of water and set it on the stove.  After 8 minutes, we still didn’t have boiling water.  After about 12 minutes the fuel tab had burned out and we still didn’t have boiling water.  I tested the water and it was plenty hot enough for cocoa, coffee or oatmeal but not boiling.  I wanted it to boil!  I lit another fuel tab and let it run it’s course.  We never did get the water to boil using the Pocket Stove.  I reasoned, after the fact, that if I were to burn two fuel tabs at once I could probably generate the heat I needed to get the water boiling but never had the chance to try it.

I was able to put the kettle on the campfire later that night and got the boiling water I wanted pretty quick.  The kettle worked well and was kind of nice to have.  The wind had really picked up and it had become pretty cold so I made some nice hot tea to take to bed with me.  All in all, I like the concept of the Pocket Stove…it’s a very simple design and it works, somewhat.  If I had limited space and time to wait for hot water, I’d use it again.  The Kettle will probably become a regular addition to our car camping trips, I just don’t see it going backpacking with me anytime soon.

BONUS REVIEW:

Camp Chef Cooking Iron

picture from REI website...

Car camping affords you many luxury items that would normally be too heavy, too big or too awkward to take backpacking.  Large comfortable tents (not something we had), blow up air mattress with powered pump, huge jugs of clean water, etc.  While we were at REI preparing for the trip we came across one such luxury item that we couldn’t pass up.  The Camp Chef Cooking Iron is a cast iron sandwich grilling contraption for making grilled cheese sandwiches (or any number of other things).  It folds open allowing you to put buttered bread on either side of the irons and then fill it with cheese, meat, veggies, etc.  Then carefully fold it back together, lock the arms in place and lay it over the campfire.  You will want to flip it a couple of times so it doesn’t burn one side of the sandwich, but the result is fantastic!!  We had some amazing grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner that night along with some vegetables we pre-marinated and wrapped in foil to toss into the fire.  The sandwiches were nice and crispy on the outside, but the bread was still soft inside and the cheese melted beautifully.  At $17, I would totally recommend grabbing a couple of these to toss into the car for your next outing….or just keep them for cooking in the back yard!

Gear Review: Injinji Synthetic Socks – #SockOff2011

 SockOff2011 continues after a long, reluctant hiatus!  Due to the fact that I am still recovering from my injury, the hike was not exactly the same as my last Sock-Off test.  This time I ventured out to the Overton/Go John loop in Cave Creek to log in 6.5 miles with my Injinji Lightweight Ultra-thin Toesocks.  The terrain and hiking conditions were pretty much the same as the last hike with loose rock, gravel, sand and other aggressive terrain conditions.  The shoes were still my handy Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners. The socks revealed some surprises for me and I am happy to release my findings…

Price and availability

Injinji synthetic toesocks pricing ranges depending on the style you choose.  They range from very light no-show running socks to the heavier, crew-socks to full calf compression socks.  The pricing of the socks mentioned in this review range from $10 to $16 which is very competitive for a specialty sock.  This review centers around the Performance Series Lightweight Ultra-Thin Mini-Crew and the Original Weight Moderate Mini-Crew.  Injinji has also come out with an Outdoor Series Original Weight Mini-Crew which I look forward to trying out.  Injinji socks are available almost anywhere.  Unfortunately, their full line is usually not in stores.  I have found that even though I can buy these socks at almost any apparel store, they typically only carry one or two styles and only one or two colors.  For the full spectrum of what Injinji offers, you really need to hit up their website.

Here’s a little about the product from the Injinji website:

Injinji has embraced the changing world, specifically identifying the need for a biomechanically and medically advanced product that would allow the foot to perform at its best. Makers of “The Original Performance Toesock”, Injinji modified the basic structure, shape, and fiber of the traditional sock. “Optimal foot health is a key part of our overall wellness”, says Jason Battenfield, CEO. “Our toesocks provide each wearer with proper toe alignment which improves posture, gripping and balance, strengthens the muscles in the foot and leg, encourages healthy circulation, manages moisture, and prevents skin on skin friction.”

Comfort and Fit

So, it took me a while to try these on.  I have to admit, they sat for a while as I pondered the strange idea of a sock that wrapped around my toes.  Once I began my recovery I found myself excited to get outside AND excited to test out these socks.  So I took them with me over my Thanksgiving trip and tried them out on some basic, flat running trails.  Initially putting them on is awkward.  That first time slipping them on and trying to get your toes in each little pocket is taxing, but once they are on (properly!) the fit is pretty pleasant.  I actually wore them around the house for a while before taking them out for a spin and I found them so comfortable I almost forgot they were on.  This was not the case with the original-weight socks, you always feel those.  But with the ultra-thin socks, it’s like not wearing socks at all.  The synthetic material does have a lot of stretch to it, so the fit is very nice.  They cling to your feet and conform to the shape of your foot instead of the other way around.  I give them full marks for comfort and fit.

Padding and Support

Here’s where Injinji is weakest in my opinion.  The socks are uniform in padding so they’re either thin all over, or thicker all over and don’t offer any technical support for specific parts of the foot.  It’s a very minimalist concept for a sock.  The ultra-thin would make a great running sock, in the right shoe and with on a paved route.  For me, my trail runners are a little big to allow for padded socks when I hike, so there was a lot of extra room in the shoe with the ultra-lights on.  They seem to fit much better in my road-runners which are a half-size smaller.  They offer nothing for padding making them a very poor trail sock.  The Original Weight socks are much more appropriate for the trail, but still lack the padding and support I like to have on rugged trails.

Durability

These socks were put through the paces much more than the Point6 socks I reviewed before.  I took them out for two 6-mile runs and a 6.5-mile hike.  One of the runs was in a rain storm, so I got to see how they handle being wet.  The Light-Weight Ultra Thin’s were already showing signs of wear after the two runs.  They seem to be wearing at the heel and at the top of the toes.  I imagine the Original Weight socks will not wear out as fast, but the thinner socks don’t really seem to be holding up.  They became saturated in the rain very quickly I did notice a little slipping on the foot when they were wet which worried me a little.  When the run complete, I did not have any blisters or hot spots on my feet so I guess they did their job.

Overall Performance on the trail

Overall impressions are mixed.  On the one hand, these are very comfortable socks to have on.  The material between the toes is not as invasive or bothersome as I expected it to be.  In fact, if anything, this is what makes the socks comfortable in the first place.  The material is a mix of synthetics (70% CoolMax 25% Nylon 5% Lycra) that makes for a very comfortable sock against the skin.  They are soft, pliable and breathable.  However, they just don’t offer the padding or support that is ultimately desirable in an outdoor trail sock.  This is why I am excited to try their Outdoor Series.  If they can offer the kind of padding needed, these could be a great trail sock.  I don’t even mind the fact that they are 100% synthetic because they do feel nice.  I just don’t expect them to have the lifespan of a well-made 100% wool sock.

I had an extra pair of the lightweight socks when I did the hike so I offered them to my buddy who did the trail with me.  I wanted to see if he would have a different perspective on the socks.  He communicated a lot of the same things I mentioned above: shoe felt looser due to thin sock material, padding was not sufficient for rugged trail hiking, comfort and fit was very nice and the sensation of the sock around each toe was very comfortable once you got used to it.  He speculated as well, that the socks would probably perform much better on pavement in a tighter shoe.

Don’t forget to visit Hiking the Trail and Diary of a Day hiker for their own comprehensive reviews of the Injinji hiking socks for SockOff2011!

Stay tuned for my next SockOff2011 review featuring the  Thorlo-CoolMax Synthetic trail running sock.