Camping Equipment Reviews

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Nike GPS watch

Nike GPS watch
I hate running. There. I said it. A trip to my distant past will show my disdain and utter lack of ability in this area. Running the 600 hundred-yard dash in grade school. Last place. Running lines in junior and high school basketball. Last.

So it has come as a complete surprise that I've fathered two children that are actually decent at the sport. My daughter is on the varsity in both track and cross country, and my son is in his first year of cross country as a 6th grader in middle school.  They are so much faster than me that I'm questioning their birth certificates.

One thing I have on them is age and wisdom (some at least.) The sport of cross country running is such that pace is key component. Knowing what your pace per mile is becomes very important.

To that end, I started researching watches that could provide this data. Originally I was thinking that a watch with a good stopwatch/chronograph would work. But as I researched the subject some more, I found that GPS watches had come a long way. They are now accurate, small and affordable.

A search of ebay listed a number of them including watches by Garmin, Tom Tom, Timex, Suunto, Polar, and others. The watch I ended up going with was the Nike GPS watch made by Tom Tom. I got it for a very reasonable $40 used. It's not the smallest watch and it doesn't have a feature that the Garmin Forerunners have, which is virtual partner, allowing you to keep pace with your previous runs. But it tracks your time, distance, pace, heart rate (with optional sensor), and calories burned. You can then see your mapped route with pace data & changes in elevation on the site.
The watch comes with rechargeable lithium polymer battery, which charges via USB, giving the watch eight hours of run time with the GPS and sensor both turned on. Without those turn on, it provides up to 50 days of standby power.

I bought it as a reward for my daughter in making the varsity xc squad. I thought she'd be thrilled. Instead she declined to wear it because, "No one else on the team wears one." Isn't that exactly what you'd expect out of a 15 year-old's mouth? Nevermind that it could help her training immensely. Some day (when she's over 30) she'll appreciate what her old dad was trying to do for her. On the plus side, I've got a nifty toy that shows me how incredibly slow I am at a moment's notice.

Monday, October 19, 2015

JR Talker Duck Call

I have a friend, Troy Buzalsky, who is a fireman by day, but an outdoor writer in his heart. He's written articles in a number of outdoor magazines including Fish Alaska and Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine.

JR Talker duck callA couple of weeks ago, we got together and I mentioned that I'd had my 50th birthday recently. He apologized for missing it and we didn't discuss it further. I did notice the JR Talker duck call he had sitting on his dash though. He said he'd just gotten it from his friend JR (Wally) Anderson. JR makes each of these calls by hand and is incredibly detailed about it. These things are works of art. I've often thought of getting into the duck call-making business, but after seeing the exacting nature of creating these calls, I've decided I don't have it in my makeup.

So out the blue, Troy stopped by yesterday to deliver a surprise. My very own JR Talker, with the words, "Happy 50th" printed on the ring. And it was in Wisconsin Badger color to boot!

If you're looking for a call that sounds great and is an heirloom piece that you can hand down to your kids or grandkids, visit JR's website at

Friday, September 4, 2015

Elowah Falls, Oregon

In this day and age when anyone can snap a pretty good photo, there is still a difference between those photos and a photo taken by a professional. I've always wanted to take pictures like this. My mind sees it, but I can't make the camera do what I want! Richard Bitonti has figured it out. He's a photographer in the Pacific Northwest, and takes fantastic photos of places like Elowah Falls, which is in Oregon along the Columbia Gorge east of Portland.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Zondo Self-Heating Gloves

As a man that loves the outdoors, I have to admit I'm somewhat of a wimp. I get cold really easily, especially at my extremities, the fingers and toes.

Zondo Self Heating Gloves
Of course I would never admit this to anyone. Instead I would make excuses to come off the mountain. "Hey, let's go grab a beer!" Or, "did you see Donald Trump just going into the lodge? Let's go see if his hair is real!"

I've tried a million different types of gloves and boots, none of which helped. Remember Thinsulate?

And thanks to our obsession with naming previously common conditions for which there needed no name, I now know I have "Raynaud's Disease," which is a syndrome that causes some areas of the body to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. It was first described in 1862 by Maurice Raynaud (1834 - 1881), a French physician.

I can picture it now. Maurice was at the top of the Eiffel Tower in January, wearing paper thin, silk gloves, and he thought to himself, Mon Dieu, Je suis froid! (My God, I'm cold.) He clearly thought he was the first person to have ever experienced this condition. And, being the attention hound that he was, decided to name it after himself.

Now instead of screaming, "I'm freezing!" I can scream, "I've got Raynaud's Disease!"

Finally, someone has used a bit of science to solve this problem. Zondo has teamed with Astec to produce a Self-Heating Gloves and Insoles.  These products contain a unique fleece fabric which draws energy and reflects body heat in order to raise and maintain your natural body temperature. The polymer metal coated fibers create an excellent circulation of warmth. There are no batteries and the fabric lasts for the life of the product, so no replacing heating elements.

The gloves are touchscreen sensitive too, and come with a nice zippered pocket to hold valuables.

This is another gem I found on kickstarter, and they are reasonably priced at $55 USD with a projected delivery date of November 2015. Just in time for ski/snowboarding season!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Clear Lake Oregon - Global Warming Has Hit

My son and I took a trip up to Mt. Hood yesterday to explore. We love getting into the car and heading to a trail or lake that we've never seen.

Clear Lake - Mt. Hood, OregonWhen we got to the lake it was a huge disappointment. What once once an obviously beautiful lake is now a shallow pond surrounded by fetid, decaying ground with flies buzzing all around. The graveyard of tree stumps and long lost bottles litter the lake shore.
Clear Lake - Mt. Hood, Oregon
I felt like we were at Chernobyl or someplace where a nuclear accident had happened.

The lack of snowfall this past winter and over the last 10 years, led to this lake drying up to almost non-existence. Of course I have no way to prove it's because of global warming, but the evidence does point in that direction.

Maybe Obama can bring about some action when he speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas today.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sprongs Camp Utensils

Did you know there are 13 types of forks? Dinner, Fish, Lunch, Lobster, Fruit, Salad, Dessert, Ice Cream, Pastry, Seafood, Strawberry, Snail, and Oyster. My favorite has to be the Ice Cream Fork. How does that work?

There are also 14 types of spoons: Iced-Beverage, Oval Soup, Dessert, Place, Cream Soup, Teaspoon, Five-O'Clock, Ice Cream, Citrus, Bouillon, After Dinner Coffee, Chocolate, Demitasse, and Salt. The most interesting would be the Five-O'Clock. It was made for an era when afternoon tea was taken at five o'clock.

Sprongs camp utensils
Sprongs Camp Utensils
There have been Sporks and Foons, but finally someone invented Sprongs. A brilliant, yet simple design that turns the fork and spoon into a third, desperately needed camping utensil--tongs.

The Sprongs are made from durable, light-weight nylon 66. They are food safe and will not melt. The spoon and fork lock together for easy storage. They have a lanyard hole so you can hang them from your pack or around your neck. They are approximately 8.5 inches long which allows you to reach the bottom of dehydrated meal pouches easily. The spoon is actually exactly 1 tablespoon in volume so it doubles as a measuring tool. The fork has a bail hook for lifting hot lid handles without burning yourself.

As with much of my finds, this one comes from kickstarter. You can pre-order a set for only $10. I "Sprongly" suggest you get a set. You see what I did there? Pretty good, huh?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cacoon Hammock - Alien Spacecraft or Pleasure Craft?


Cannon Beach, OR - At approximately 2:30 AM PST, an alien craft was spotted over the Oregon coast near the town of Cannon Beach. Witnesses were able to take a photo of this strange orb as it approached the coastline.

Eyewitness Clem Mayhill happened to have his Kodak pocket camera handy and snapped the grainy photo seen here.

"Me and the Mrs. were out for an evening stroll along the shoreline, when we dang near got hit by a freakin UFO! I was too flabbergasted to do anything, but the wife slapped me and shouted, "Take a picture, Clem" and I whipped out the camera and took a shot. I didn't know if I had gotten anything until we developed the photos this morning."

Mrs. Mayhill commented that the object hung in the air for what seemed to be 5 or 10 seconds then shot away from them at light speed.

"I could swear I saw two beings inside the craft," said Mrs. Mayhill. "They seemed very comfortable and relaxed, almost like they were on vacation and looking for a place on the beach."

She went on to say that she imagined herself inside the cozy-looking nest and said that it wouldn't take her more than a few minutes to fall asleep inside the cacoon-shaped vessel.

Other witnesses mentioned it's uncanny resemblance to a new product called just that - the Cacoon Hammock. The Cacoon Hammock is a hammock-type enclosure that can be hung from any strong branch or other suitable support. It's safe and strong, small enough to carry yet big enough to share. Its weather-proof fabric is resistant to all the elements. It’s been tested and hung in all types of environments – in the garden, on a hike, in the woods, by the coast, in the office, in sports and leisure centers, in bedrooms and dens, in hotels and adventure playgrounds – inside and out, just hanging out and giving people a lot of fun.

The Cacoon comes in three sizes, Single, Double, and Bonsai (for one child.) You can get your Cacoon Hammock by visiting