Camping gear reviews and commentary on today's latest and greatest camping gear!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Kuhl Radikl Hiking Pants

I'll admit it, when I put my mind to getting something, it's typically all I can think about. Lately, it's finding the perfect hiking/camping pants. My prerequisites? They had to dry quickly, be tough, look good and hold a lot of stuff.

There are a ton of outdoor clothing manufacturers making these outdoor pants now, and I've tried on what seems like a zillion of them. Each had something that initially drew my interest, but none had put it all together until I tried on Kuhl's Radikl pants.


When I put them on, they fit so well that I feel like the folks at Kuhl might have snuck into my bedroom and measured me while I was asleep. They wouldn't have done that, would they? Seriously, every part of these pants--from the waist to the crotch to the knees--fits perfectly. When I crawl into my tent after a long day of hiking, normally all I can think of is getting my heavy (sometimes wet) jeans off. But with these, I often sleep right in them. They are THAT comfortable. I suppose that's because they are 88% Nylon and 12% Spandex, so they stretch wonderfully. They also have a gusseted knit crotch, which adds to the flexibility.

I also like the fact that they have not one, but two cell phone pockets. I only have one cell phone, but I have a front pocket wallet that fits perfectly into one of these, so I don't feel weighted down by having too much stuff in the traditional front pockets.

The other thing I like is that Kuhl understands colors: what works and what doesn't. All their options would be colors I'm comfortable wearing around the campsite or out to dinner.

It's been nice to see the Kuhl brand get more of a foothold in the extraordinarily tough outdoor clothing industry. I hope they keep innovating.



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CrossKix

Typically I've always been one to follow the trends. Docksiders and Polo shirts in the 80s, acid-washed jeans in the 90s, and cargo shorts in the 2000s. But I am proud of the fact that I never fell for the Crocs fad. I've have never owned a single pair of Crocs and I'm a better person for it.

I know what you're saying, "that can't be true because everyone in the world has owned them." I just couldn't bring myself to buy any. I think they look clownish, uncomfortable and sweaty. And after seeing so many people wear them in places they shouldn't be, i.e., church, weddings, upscale restaurants, I resolved that I would not be one of these people.

Then I saw the CrossKix. While these are made of a similar EVA-type (Ethylene vinyl acetate) substance as Crocs, that is where the similarities end. These shoes are light, soft, and extremely comfortable. They have a velcro strap that allows you to adjust the fit until they're snug. They are anti-microbial and have strategically placed air vents to help your feet stay cool.

They come in 12 different color combinations and are sized for both men and women.

CrossKix is a relatively new company, having been initially funded through a KickStarter campaign in 2013. But they are growing and have recently launched a Spring 2015 line.

Check out this video from the company's founder, Eric Saligumba: 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bottlekeeper

I love simple solutions to seemingly complex problems. One of my favorites is the story of the American astronaut talking with a Russian astronaut. He was explaining how they were a having a problem writing with a pen while in zero gravity. He went to say that traditional pens work on the concept of pressure and gravity. We press down on the ball of the pen and gravity forces the ink downward onto the ball and onto our paper. Finally a contractor came up with a solution that involved adding a battery to the pen to create pressure and push the ink to the end of the pen. The American astronaut then asked the Russian astronaut how they solved this particular problem. The Russian said, "We used a pencil."

The BottleKeeper does just this. It keeps your bottled beer cold and protected. And it's design is one that when you see it, you say to yourself, "Well, Duh!" But did you think of it? No. Neither did I, and now I have something else to castigate myself with.

The BottleKeeper is made of a stainless steel shell, lined with 4mm of neoprene. The padded bottom of the shell is threaded and screws off to allow you to fit this over any standard long neck bottle. The cap (similar to your standard water bottle cap) simply screws on to keep the bottle secure.

The benefits of this product are endless (well, not really endless, but there are a lot of them.)

  • Around the pool - no worries about breaking that bottle on the concrete
  • Hiking - if it falls off a cliff, it might still be intact
  • Driving - Looks like a water bottle, doesn't it? (Not condoning this behavior.)
  • At the 5k - Wow it looks like you're really a dedicated runner, but really you just like to drink
  • Any place that you want to people to think you're drinking water but you're not.

The BottleKeeper comes in the three colors, stainless, pink, or blue. You can also customize this with your favorite NFL team or college team. As of this writing it doesn't appear that Wisconsin is one of the school logos you can get on the bottle. Shame on you, BottleKeeper!

My hope is that they come out with ones that fits both the shorter bottles (lots of IPAs), and taller bottles (Corona.) But I'm sure they'll figure that out.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Polar Outdoor Stuff Two Man Tent


I recently watched the Discovery Channel's "Valley Uprising" documenting the battle over climbing supremacy between Royal Robbins and Warren Harding, and it got me to thinking. Both of these climbers excelled at their sport, but they took two different paths to get there. Royal Robbins was a purist climber, believing there should be a code of ethics for the correct way to climb a mountain. Warren Harding was the hard partying, avant garde climber that thought the only goal was to get to top of the mountain and anything you did along the way was perfectly acceptable. He'd bring booze and Thanksgiving turkeys up there to have a good time. And he conquered El Capitan first.

When I saw the Polar Outdoor Stuff Two Man Tent and its video, I was reminded that camping first and foremost is about having fun in nature. And oh, by the way, if you can be comfortable doing it, that would be preferable.

Watch the video below to see what I'm talking about.


This video just makes me laugh. And yet, it shows that the two man tent has been constructed with some serious thought as to the needs of camping purists.

Among the things I like about the tent are that it comes with two doors and two vestibules--extremely important for storing things outside and leaving more room inside. It's a little heavier than other tents at 7.5 lbs and when packed is 7" x 18". When set up the dimensions are 60" x 85" x 40". I like that the rain tarp has an eye shaped window that faces up so you can see the stars at night.

Polar also makes a ground cloth for this tent called the Mystic Tarpent. The Mystic doubles as an ultralight tent in its own right, so if you're doing some ultralight camping, this won't add much weight.

I've since been checking out their other product videos and they are hilarious! I highly recommend them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DrinkTanks® Juggernaut

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are constantly reminded of the great Oregon Trail, and how all those pioneers trudged thousands of miles up rivers and over mountains, all the while having to fight off grizzly bears and other ferocious beasts.

DrinkTanks® Juggernaut
The only thing that kept them going was their good sense to bring along plenty of beer. The problem was, those wagon trails weren't too good back then, and before long those beer bottles were broken. I can hear the conversation now. "Clem, all dem bottles-a-ber done broke and yer ale done gone!" "Well, Wife, we ain't moving 'nother inch 'til we gets s'more!" I realize that this paints a rather poor picture of the English skills of our ancestors, but you get the gist.

Fast forward one-hundred eighty years. You and your buddies are on a week-long camping trip way off the beaten path. You were in charge of bringing the beer. In your haste, you've gone and done a dumb thing just like Clem. You went and bought bottles. And just like back then, the trail to that special camping site was full of ruts and roots and rocks. And dag-nabbit if the truck didn't hit one of them real hard and you watched as the cooler strapped to the roof rack went flying, launching a week's worth of beer bottles through the air only to be smashed on the road.

What do you and your relative Clem have in common? You could have both used the DrinkTanks® Juggernaut!  The Juggernaut is the solution to keeping your beer safe, cold and carbonated!  It holds 128 oz. of frothy goodness, has double wall vacuum insulation and is cast from awesome 18/8 stainless steel. The poly cap is kept securely fastened by a leakproof double bail locking system. Contents can be kept cold for 24+ hours and hot for 12+ hours. With the optional Keg Cap™ System, you can turn your DrinkTanks Growler into a personal keg. This will keep your beer fresh for up to 3 to 5 days after you open it. This set comes with a cap, regulator and two threaded 16 gram CO2 cartridges. The Juggernaut comes in 11 stylish finishes or classic stainless steel.


If you don't need to haul that much beer, you can go with the DrinkTanks® Growler, which holds 64 oz.

Yes, you can put liquids other than beer in these. You'll still be the hero of any camp or trail when break out the refreshments!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad Review


When I was younger, I didn't have a big bank account, so I was always on the hunt for those elusive products that were cheap but worked just as well as their brand name counterparts. What I typically ended up with was junk. As I've gotten older, I still hunt for those bargains, but thanks to the internet, I get the advantage of seeing what other people think too.

So when I was on the hunt to replace my aging, bulky Therm-a-Rest, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Klymit Static V2. Finally, a product that's highly functional and comes at a great price.

Lightweight
I'm not one of those ultralighters that are so concerned with every ounce. But weight is weight. The Static V2 weighs in at 16.33 oz. While the weight is slightly more than the 15 oz. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, it's not appreciably different.  And at 72" x 23" x 2.5", it's 3 inches wider than its counterpart.

R-Value (insulation)
The R-Value is only 1.3 as compared to the XTherm's 5.7, so you'll have to decide if that's important to you. I've got a nice sleeping bag with good under-body insulation, so the R-Value isn't as important to me.

Packed Size
The Static V2 comes in at a tiny 3" x 8", which fits into my pack so much better than my old Therm-a-Rest. Again, comparing it to the XTherm, it actually beats it by an inch on both dimensions.



Durability
The Static V2 has a top made of 30-Denier Ripstop polyester and a 75D coated bottom. While I have only had this sleeping pad one season, it has held up nicely.

Design
The pad features a v-chamber design, which limits air movement and heat loss. This also provides an ergonomic body map, optimized for performance and comfort. And it only takes 10-15 breaths to inflate. If you've ever forgotten to blow up your mattress until you retire from the campfire at the end of a long day, you can really appreciate this quickness. It took me considerably longer to inflate my old Therm-a-Rest.

Value
Now the best for last: the Static V2 comes in at a price of only $69.95 as compared to the XTherm's price of $199.95. I don't know about you, but I'll be bragging to my overspending camping buddies about my $130 savings for many years.



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Marmot Limelight 3P Tent


Marmot Limelight 3P Tent
A tent purchase is not something you'll do very often. Not every year. Hopefully not every ten years. But when you do need to get one, it's usually because you've been pushed into it. My story starts a year earlier. My friend, Troy, invited me on a week-long fishing trip on the upper Snake river.

I then had to do a quick mental inventory of my gear. Luckily, Troy was providing all the food and cooking provisions, so that left me with just basic needs such as sleeping bag and tent. I'll review my sleeping bag issues in another post, but the tent I figured I had covered. I owned a Eureka Sunrise 4 person tent that was probably 15 years old. It had served me well, but it hadn't been through any serious tests (read: weather) in many years. 

The first night of the trip was uneventful. Clear skies and warm weather for October. However, the second and third nights were another story. Heavy rains and some moderately high winds came careening up the Snake, hitting our unprotected campsite. Initially, I didn't think anything about it. I'd been in rains before and felt comfortably in knowing that my tent would hold up. I fell asleep despite the goings-on outside. My sleep only lasted a couple of hours however.  I woke up to my elbow sitting in a puddle of water in the corner of my tent. The fly was doing its job, but the floor was not. And I didn't have a good ground tarp either. I vowed then and there to get a new tent.

Fast forward a year and prior to the next Snake River trip I needed to get a tent that would keep me dry. And since I was in the market, I wanted to meet some other needs. The Eureka didn't have a vestibule, and as anyone with a similar tent knows, that means you're storing all your gear inside the tent, which makes for a very cramped space, even with just one person, nevermind two or three. I also wanted to get a tent that was light enough to do some backpacking. 

As I began my search, I started asking fellow camping enthusiasts what they recommended. A friend suggested I look into the Marmot Limelight. I immediately liked it. It had not one, but two vestibules and it came with a footprint fitted perfectly to its dimensions. My friend had done plenty of backpacking and said that while I may be drawn to the 2 person, the 3 person would provide a lot more room, and could still be managed on a pack.

The tent comes with a gear loft, and has two D Shaped Doors. It's got DAC Press-Fit Poles and color-coded "Easy Pitch" clips that make lining up the fly a snap. There are nice details such as jingle-free zipper pulls and light reflective guy line points and a welded, UV-resistant teardrop window on the fly. The floor has a catenary cut to keep the seam off the ground (no water in your tent!) The size is 46" x 66" x 93" and weighs in at 6 lb 11 oz, or 5 lb 15 oz with just poles, body, and fly. You can get the Marmot Limelight 3P in either Hatch/Dark Cedar, or Alpenglow (orange/yellow--the one I got.)

Needless to say, the Snake river trip was dry and comfortable thanks to my new tent.