Brian's Backpacking Blog http://briangreen.net Twitter: @bfgreen | #bbpack Wed, 20 May 2015 14:25:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.5 Compass Caddy Review http://briangreen.net/2015/05/compass-caddy-review.html http://briangreen.net/2015/05/compass-caddy-review.html#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 19:37:14 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=2119 Here’s a clever little Kickstarter project called the Compass Caddy. It let’s you carry your baseplate compass right on your trekking pole so that it’s easily accessible and ready for navigation while you’re hiking. The Compass Caddy is the brain child of Peter Knight an avid backpacker and hiker from Hadleigh, England. Fits all sizes Peter […]

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Compass Caddy Review

Here’s a clever little Kickstarter project called the Compass Caddy. It let’s you carry your baseplate compass right on your trekking pole so that it’s easily accessible and ready for navigation while you’re hiking. The Compass Caddy is the brain child of Peter Knight an avid backpacker and hiker from Hadleigh, England.

Fits all sizes

Compass Caddy Review

Peter designed the Compass Caddy to accommodate different makes and models of baseplate compasses that have varying widths as well as attaching to different diameter trekking poles. This means that you can get the perfect fit for your particular compass and trekking pole combination. The image above shows a dummy compass being used in the same Compass Caddy that my Silva Polaris fits into.

Peter very kindly made a 3D printed version of the Compass Caddy to work with my Gossamer Gear LT4 trekking poles. Despite my Silva Polaris compass not being the perfect width for this prototype it still holds very securely in place and the attachment to my pole is solid with no movement.

The Compass Caddy in use

Compass Caddy Review

Having your compass handy at all times is the obvious advantage that this clever device provides. An unexpected advantage for me was the benefit of my trekking pole in aiding navigation. Once I have a bearing set on my compass I would usually sight a point off in the distance (snap a line) and hike toward it. Doing this with my compass attached to my trekking pole is like having a sniper scope for compass navigation.

The pole adds an additional level of precision to compass sighting that helps me more quickly acquire my next navigation way point. It’s so simple I wish I had thought of it!

Compass retention

Compass Caddy Review

I consider my compass to be an extremely important piece of gear, as such I usually have a length of cord attached to it so that I can’t accidentally lose it. I was initially concerned that I might lose my compass off of my trekking pole if the Compass Caddy was not a snug fit. I tend to be heavy with my trekking poles and thought the continual impacts might dislodge my compass from the caddy – amazingly that never happened. As an added precaution I used my existing lanyard to attach it to my trekking pole.

Kickstarter campaign

I wish Peter every success with his Kickstarter campaign and hope that some of you help him fund his project. I’ve had several conversations with Peter and exchanged ideas and suggestions for future enhancements. This is just phase one of the Compass Caddy and I am confident that it will continue to get better with each iteration. There’s a bright future for this clever little device and I think users will love it once they use it.

What are you thoughts on the Compass Caddy? What would you change or do differently?

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog was provided with complimentary samples of this product for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and feedback. He was under no obligation to publish a review. His thoughts are his own.

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Win a rugged WeBBem Watch of your choice http://briangreen.net/2015/04/webbem-watch-giveaway.html http://briangreen.net/2015/04/webbem-watch-giveaway.html#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 20:13:11 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=2102 I recently reviewed the weBBem Watch Traveler and found it to be perfect for outdoor activities and extremely affordable for the features it provides. Now I am giving you the chance to win one of two styles of weBBem watches for yourself. Choose your model I have a weBBem watch Traveler model (black PVD case) and Overlander […]

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weBBem Watch Giveaway

I recently reviewed the weBBem Watch Traveler and found it to be perfect for outdoor activities and extremely affordable for the features it provides. Now I am giving you the chance to win one of two styles of weBBem watches for yourself.

Choose your model

weBBem Watch Giveaway

I have a weBBem watch Traveler model (black PVD case) and Overlander model (white dial) to give away thanks to the generosity of my friends at weBBem. Both watches come in a rugged waterproof pelican-style container and the option of a NATO style strap or paracord bracelet. They are both powered by Japanese Miyota quartz movements (as developed and used by Citizen watches), made from 316L marine-grade stainless steel, and have genuine sapphire crystal glass.

weBBem Watch Giveaway

How to enter

To enter this giveaway simple pick any or all of the entry options in the Rafflecopter widget below. You must also leave a comment indicating which model of weBBem watch you would like to receive if you are selected as a winner. I will pick two random winners on Monday May 4th. One from those that would like the Traveler model and one from those that would like the Overlander model. Good luck to all, these are great watches!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog was provided with complimentary samples for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and a reader giveaway. He was under no obligation to publish a review. His thoughts are his own.

Winners announced

Thank you to everyone that entered the weBBem watch giveaway. Unfortunately there can only be two lucky winners. The winners are:

  • Overlander – Jordan Hipple
  • Traveler – Rob Henderson

Congratulations! Please contact me via email so that I can get your watches shipped off to you both.

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My Favorite Hiking Apparel http://briangreen.net/2015/03/favorite-hiking-apparel.html http://briangreen.net/2015/03/favorite-hiking-apparel.html#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2015 01:30:56 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=2065 I never imagined so many of you would be interested in my backpacking clothing choices. You asked, I listened. I’ve received lots of questions lately about apparel selection and articles of clothing that you’ve seen me wearing in photos throughout my blog. It’s great to hear you’re digging around through my older articles. So for those of you that […]

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I never imagined so many of you would be interested in my backpacking clothing choices. You asked, I listened. I’ve received lots of questions lately about apparel selection and articles of clothing that you’ve seen me wearing in photos throughout my blog. It’s great to hear you’re digging around through my older articles. So for those of you that asked, below is a collection of the items that I most commonly wear. These are my “go-to” pieces.

Find what works for you

The clothes that I wear are probably outdated compared to many of today’s more technical fabrics, but each and every item was selected through personal trial and error over the years and I’ve grown to trust them. Each piece has served me well through all manner of situations and weather conditions. I’m confident that any one of the items below will serve you well too, but I encourage you to follow your own path, test different types of apparel under varying conditions until you find what works for you. Don’t just take my word for it. Your mileage may vary as they say.

My basic clothing system

This is my starting point. I would only loosely call it a layering system. It’s really just a collection that I love and feel comfortable in. I can add or subtract from this configuration depending on the needs of my trip or weather. I can swap out my down jacket for my soft shell, or take both. I can add gloves, rain protection, or anything else – but I always start with these trusted favorites.

My Favorite Hiking Apparel - Backpacking Layering System

Items shown above

  1. North Face knitted beanie – I’ve worn this incredibly soft, fleece lined beanie for years. If I ever lose it I’d buy the same one again.
  2. Montbell ultralight down jacket – Ultralight 8oz down jacket. Packs smaller than a 32oz bottle, blocks a fair amount of wind, and is relatively water-repellant.
  3. GoLite Dakota wind shirt – This incredibly lightweight () shirt/smock
  4. EMS techwick 1/4 zip base layer – Midweight base layer with amazing sweat wicking ability to keep you dry and warm. The stretch spandex greatly enhances mobility.
  5. 5.11 Tactical Burner polarized sunglasses – I’m on my third pair of these sun glasses. I lost a pair, crushed a pair (ran over them with my car) and just bought another pair. Best sunglasses I’ve ever had for fit and function.
  6. Suunto Vector – Rugged, reliable, feature rich, and trail tested. More watch than you probably ever need. I wear one constantly. It could only be improved if it were solar powered like G-Shocks.
  7. EMS wool boxer briefs – Whether you hike, run, ruck, or climb — these boxers wick moisture to keep you dry and comfortable on the move.
  8. 5.11 Tactical TDU belt – Belts may not be sexy, but this one does what it needs to do with ease and reliability.
  9. Mountain Khakis Granite Creek convertible pants – Quick-dry, UV 50+ lightweight convertible pants. Perfect for PCT to AT or any hike. Relaxed fit and extremely comfortable.
  10. Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX trail running shoe – Everyone’s wearing them because they rock! Comfortable, high quality, reliable footwear ready for just about anything.
  11. EMS merino wool hiking socks – Happy feet = happy hiking. Get yourself some Merino hiking socks. Warmth, cushioning comfort, and moisture-wicking.

Items not shown

  • Montane Minimus Rain Jacket – Love this jacket. Packs extremely small which means I can always have it with me in my pack.
  • Mechanix Wear Fast-Fit gloves – Lightweight gloves for trail work. May not keep your hands warm in winter, but will protect them during camp tasks.
  • Fitbit Flex activity tracker – I’ve been tracking my daily activity for two years now with my Fitbit Flex. Waterproof when all others aren’t.

Shelter and Sleep System

I’ve had a lot of inquiries about the components of my sleep system and shelter configuration so I’ll start work on pulling that together soon.

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Good To-Go Food Sample Pack Giveaway http://briangreen.net/2015/03/good-to-go-food-giveaway.html http://briangreen.net/2015/03/good-to-go-food-giveaway.html#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 20:47:52 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=2054 The start of the year, for me and many others, consists of lots of food testing. I have some old faithful recipes and meals to fall back on, but I enjoy the process of trying new recipes, packaged meals, and just generally tinkering with food before the hiking year gets crazy. Better to test early and find […]

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Good To-Go Foods Sample Pack Giveaway

The start of the year, for me and many others, consists of lots of food testing. I have some old faithful recipes and meals to fall back on, but I enjoy the process of trying new recipes, packaged meals, and just generally tinkering with food before the hiking year gets crazy. Better to test early and find out what my likes and dislikes are rather than discover on the trail that my food options for the next several days suck.

Good To-Go Foods Sample Pack Giveaway

Amazing Thai Curry

One of the new hiking meals that I tried recently was by Good To-Go Food, thankfully there is absolutely nothing sucky about their meals. In fact, (spoiler alert) they’re amazing – ‘gourmet’ as they like to say. And I have to say that for once I completely agree. The Thai Curry meal is better than versions I’ve had at restaurants – it really was that good. Don’t just take my word for it, try all of them for yourself.

Win a Good To-Go Food sample pack

Good To-Go Foods Sample Pack Giveaway

The kind folks at Good To-Go Food have given me a complete sample pack to give away to one lucky reader of Brian’s Backpacking Blog. All you have to do is enter the giveaway widget below. That’s the easiest way I know to score some amazing meals for your next trip – you lucky devils!

How to enter

To enter simply select any of the options in the Rafflecopter widget below. To gain additional entries you can submit multiple options – it’s that easy. The giveaway will end on Sunday March 22nd and a winner will be selected at random. Good luck to everyone.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review of Paleo Meals To Go http://briangreen.net/2015/02/review-paleo-meals-go.html http://briangreen.net/2015/02/review-paleo-meals-go.html#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 01:33:17 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=2041 At last, quality ingredients and freeze dried convenience combine to create delicious, healthy, and paleo-friendly backpacking meals. For quite some time now I’ve wondered how long it would be before paleo diet eating options would hit the outdoor industry. Well now they’re here and thanks to Paleo Meals To Go I couldn’t be happier. Eating […]

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Paleo Meals To Go Review

At last, quality ingredients and freeze dried convenience combine to create delicious, healthy, and paleo-friendly backpacking meals. For quite some time now I’ve wondered how long it would be before paleo diet eating options would hit the outdoor industry. Well now they’re here and thanks to Paleo Meals To Go I couldn’t be happier.

Eating Paleo for three years and counting

I’ve been eating a paleo diet (and doing Crossfit) for close to three years now and it works for me. If you don’t know what the paleo diet is all about and the benefits it provides I’m not about to explain it here. In a nutshell the paleo diet is “a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.” Check out Robb Wolf’s site if you want to read more about the paleo diet.

Paleo Meals To Go Review

The key thing to understand here is that it’s clean eating. Real food, real ingredients, and as unprocessed as possible. Like I said, it works for me and I’m happy with it – YMMV as they say.

Paleo on the trail

Eating clean (paleo diet) on the trail has always been a bit of a challenge though. I wouldn’t consider any of the off-the-shelf freeze dried packaged foods options to be clean eating, at least not until very recently. Heck some of them list ingredients I can barely pronounce or they have insanely high amounts of sodium. So why put that junk in my body when I’m hiking if I wouldn’t eat that at home? Oh and don’t tell me it’s okay because it’s all about calories. I’m not eating handfuls of Fritos just because they’re calorically high for their weight.

Paleo Meals To Go

To address the lack of clean eating options I’ve taken to dehydrating all my own ingredients and packaging my own meals, I know that’s nothing new to many of you. The real challenge has been finding recipe ideas that dehydrate well and rehydrate in a reasonable time and still taste good. Common meal fillers like pasta and rice aren’t an option when you’re eating paleo. For the most part I’ve been pretty successful with chicken and vegetables, but I’ve resorted to a non-cook diet for many trips just so that I didn’t have to deal with this.

Developed by a Crossfit athlete

A relatively new company based out of Denver, Colorado called Paleo Meals to Go has launched a line of dehydrated dinners, lunches, and breakfast options that are completely paleo. They were developed by a Crossfit athlete that struggled with clean eating when outdoors and so decided to create their own. Gott love that.

The prices may seem a little high to some of you, $13 a packet, but you get what you pay for when it comes to food. Pay now or pay the doctor later as they say. Or just skip a Starbucks coffee one day a week.

Quick preparation times

Paleo Meals To Go

I recently took a packet of the Paleo Meals to Go Savory Chicken & Vegetables with me on a routine practice hike with my kids. Side note: they don’t eat paleo despite my attempts to encourage them to do so. The Savory Chicken is categorized as a “lunch” meal and that’s exactly what we used it for.

I fired up my Jetboil Sol Ti stove and brought 2 cups of water to rolling boil. The packet only requires 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups of water to be rehydrated, but I always make a little extra just in case I need it. Better to have some. I opened the packet, removed the small oxygen absorber pack and followed the directions.

One of the benefits of not having any pasta or rice as part of the meal is that the rehydration time is significantly faster. The Savory Chicken only requires 4-6 minutes to be ready. Got to love that. As it turned out I must not have been very accurate when I poured the boiling water into the pouch because I had quite a lot of water left after the time was up. Not a problem, I just partly closed the ziploc style top and used it to drain out the unwanted liquid. My dog loved that!

The taste test

Paleo Meals To Go

Once the ingredients were rehydrated and ready to eat I looked inside to see chunks of chicken and vegetables, all easily recognizable. The directions suggest that your stir thoroughly (again) and then eat, which I did. However I noticed that the end result was a little less presentable than before I stirred it. Much of the chicken had broken up (think of canned tuna) and mixed into the vegetables.

Paleo Meals To Go Review

That didn’t stop it from tasting delicious though. My kids both tried some of the Savory Chicken & Vegetables and gave it a thumbs up. That’s pretty amazing for many reasons and I attribute it to the smell and look of the food. Nom nom nom…

Conclusion

Despite the extra cost I’m excited to have some quality, clean eating options for my hiking trips. I love making my own, but these taste far superior to anything I’ve made yet and are super convenient. I’m going to snap up a bunch of these for my Crossfit hiking buddies and see what they think. Do you eat a paleo diet or have you tried it?

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog was provided with complimentary samples of this product for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and feedback. He was under no obligation to publish a review. His thoughts are his own.

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CertHero – An Easier Outdoor Certification Search http://briangreen.net/2014/12/certhero-outdoor-certification-search.html http://briangreen.net/2014/12/certhero-outdoor-certification-search.html#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 02:26:33 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=1994 Meet Logan Randolph – professional mountaineering guide, ski patroller and outdoor certification guru. The last part may seem a little out of place. After years of working outdoors, Logan (and his partner Sam Aarons) founded CertHero.org the first centralized site for finding outdoor courses and certifications. It’s pretty awesome. Find the Perfect Course for You […]

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logan_denali

Meet Logan Randolph – professional mountaineering guide, ski patroller and outdoor certification guru. The last part may seem a little out of place. After years of working outdoors, Logan (and his partner Sam Aarons) founded CertHero.org the first centralized site for finding outdoor courses and certifications. It’s pretty awesome.

Find the Perfect Course for You

CertHero solves a problem that I’ve faced and many of you probably have as well – signing up for wilderness first aid and other outdoor certifications can be frustrating and unnecessarily complicated. First of all, whether you are a serious or purely recreational outdoorsmen I recommend looking into getting certified and taking courses. Courses in wilderness medicine are a great way to meet new people and prepare yourself for unexpected emergencies. They’re also a lot of fun – most involve outdoor disaster scenarios complete with fake injuries and fake blood and bones.

CertHero

Signing up for classes can often entail searching dozens of separate websites trying to find the appropriate dates, locations and certifications. CertHero aggregates courses from NOLS, SOLO, Wild Med, and most other outdoor educators. You can easily browse courses (from all providers) in one place. You can even sort by location or type of certification and book the course right from the CertHero website. Beyond that, CertHero offers detailed information on these courses.

We’re All Better Off

“Tons of people are interested in outdoor medicine,” Logan told me, “but they’re not sure how to get started. Our goal is to provide information on courses and make scheduling easier. Hopefully more people will get certified.” Logan also added “The more outdoor people have certifications, the better off we all are. In the front country and the wilderness.”

Check out the website CertHero.org and Logan’s latest blog post on course selection.

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weBBem Traveler – Analog Watch http://briangreen.net/2014/11/webbem-traveler-analog-outdoor-watch.html http://briangreen.net/2014/11/webbem-traveler-analog-outdoor-watch.html#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 02:35:38 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=1972 I own quite a few watches, as many of you probably know. Some of my watches could be considered “high-end” and others are better described as every day beaters. Not too long ago I designed my own set of retro compressor case Swiss dive watches that went into a limited product run of 500 pieces […]

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weBBem Traveler Watch

I own quite a few watches, as many of you probably know. Some of my watches could be considered “high-end” and others are better described as every day beaters. Not too long ago I designed my own set of retro compressor case Swiss dive watches that went into a limited product run of 500 pieces each – called the Prometheus Ocean Diver. I mention this to explain that I know a thing or two about watches, their production, their specifications and movements, and some of the tricks of the trade – both good and bad. When I was asked to test an inexpensive watch designed for outdoor adventure activity and every day wear, with features that would typically be well beyond its advertised price point, well I was naturally skeptical.

Form and Function

Selecting a watch is a very personal decision. Some people like shiny, polished dress watches, some like a flat brushed finish or even PVD. Some people like a light colored dial and others prefer dark. I’m not here to tell you what type or style of watch to choose, but that like any piece of gear you should pick the one that’s right for you. And a watch is just another tool – one that tells time (hopefully accurately).

I’m personally drawn to pilot watches and dive watches. I especially like vintage or retro watches styled after some of the amazing designs seen in the 60s. That’s probably why I designed the Ocean Diver watches using a compressor style case and internal rotating bezel – mine were a homage to some of the 60s classics. With all my gear, watches included, I look for simplicity, functionality, and clean design. I have little to no tolerance for clutter of features that offer no use.

weBBem Traveler

weBBem Traveler - Analog Outdoor Watch

I was recently contacted by the owner of weBBem watches to ask if I would be willing to test one of his new watches and provide direct feedback. I’ll freely admit that when I read that the watches came with a woven paracord bracelet I was somewhat reluctant. Paracord bracelets are not really my thing. My initial expectations of the watch were low.

However, when I looked at the Traveler watch online I liked what I saw. The body, case, and dial of the watch were all in line with the style I am fond of. Clean lines, high contrast and high visibility, black dial with great lume, and a rugged look. Part tactical and part old-school dive watch. Based on the body of the watch, and ignoring the paracord strap, I agreed to test the black version of the Traveler model. And boy am I glad I did!

Amazing Specifications

I find it pretty amazing that for a watch with a price point of $130 the weBBem Traveler comes with features and specifications that would be hard to find on similar watches that sell for well over $300. For example: the weBBem Traveler comes with a genuine sapphire crystal, very few watches under $300 and even some more expensive watches like Luminox, use a mineral glass. The weBBem Traveler has a case made from 316L stainless steel, that’s marine grade, a lot of inexpensive watches now use 304 stainless steel to save money and that’s not even corrosion resistant. The Marathon General Purpose watch has a resin case, plastic lens, is WR to only 30M and sells for $200.

WeBBem Traveler Specs

  • Sapphire crystal glass
  • 316L marine grade stainless steel body
  • Japanese quartz movement (Miyota – Citizen)
  • 3 year battery life
  • Water resistant to 100 meters
  • Screw down signature crown
  • Secure screw in lug bars
  • Super luminous dial markers and hands
  • Screw down case back
  • Seconds hand “hacking” feature
  • Lug width – 24mm
  • Width (without crown) – 43mm
  • Thickness (without strap) – 11mm
  • Price $129 (Nato), $139 (paracord)

Paracord Bracelet

weBBem Traveler - Analog Outdoor Watch

The concept of having a paracord bracelet that can be unraveled to provide 80 feet of cord that can be used in an emergency is pretty clever and valid. This is certainly not the first paracord watch strap that I’ve seen, but it is the first commercial version that I know of. However, the bracelet itself was too bulky and stiff for my small (7.5 inch) wrists. Over time and with wear the paracord bracelet did soften up and after soaking it in water a few times (suggested by the owner of weBBem) it got a lot better. Even still it was just too chunky for me.

weBBem Traveler - Analog Outdoor Watch

The Strap Maketh the Watch

I used two small Husky screwdrivers to unscrew the solid lug bars and removed the paracord bracelet. After removing it I discovered that I liked the look of the classic cushion case even more. I was also able to appreciate the simplicity of the watch face or dial design even more. Here’s what the Traveler looks like without a strap.

weBBem Traveler Watch

weBBem Traveler Watch

I used one of my old spare Nato nylon watch straps, which are very comfortable to wear, and put it on the Traveler. To my surprise the result was a very different looking watch. With a Nato strap the watch took on a much more low profile feel and sat better on my wrist. I shared this feedback with the owner of weBBem watches. I was concerned that he would be disappointed that the paracord bracelet didn’t work for me, but instead he decided to begin offering the weBBem watches with the option of a Nato strap.

Webbem Traveler Watch

weBBem traveler watch

Conclusion and 20% Off Offer

I’ve been wearing my weBBem Traveler for the past few months and sharing sneak peeks on social media. A lot of you who follow my Instagram account or Facebook page will have seen a photo here and there. I know that many of you expressed an interest in getting one of these watches. If that’s you then you may want to snag one quickly. weBBem has a Thanksgiving sale on now through the weekend offering 20% off their already incredibly low prices.

weBBem traveler watch

 

Hard to Beat

For the price and specs I think the weBBem Traveler is hard to beat. It’s a well built, solid watch with good looks and a very clear face. Heck the sapphire crystal alone sets it apart from is competitors. Check out the weBBem watch website and stay tuned for a giveaway in the next few days :)

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog was provided with complimentary samples of this product for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and direct feedback. He was under no obligation to publish a review. His thoughts are his own.

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Ka-Bar Dozier Knife Giveaway http://briangreen.net/2014/11/ka-bar-dozier-knife-giveaway.html http://briangreen.net/2014/11/ka-bar-dozier-knife-giveaway.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:12:49 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=1959 I don’t know of any other knives for $20 that can beat the Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter. It’s a ridiculously good value and worth considerably more. I running a quick knife giveaway for the blaze orange handle version that I reviewed earlier this year. It comes unboxed and very slightly used, so it would not be a […]

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Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter Knife Giveaway

I don’t know of any other knives for $20 that can beat the Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter. It’s a ridiculously good value and worth considerably more. I running a quick knife giveaway for the blaze orange handle version that I reviewed earlier this year. It comes unboxed and very slightly used, so it would not be a good candidate for re-gifting.

The Dozier is one tough son of a gun and up to just about any task that a hiker/backpacker would need. I’ve already snapped up several more of these puppies while I still can and save them as random gifts for friends or Christmas stocking stuffers!

Ka-Bar Dozier Hunter Knife Giveaway

Knife Giveaway – How to Enter

Select any or all of the entry options below in the Rafflecopter widget to be eligible. Raffle ends Monday Nov 24th. And remember, the more you like, follow, tweet, and share, the more chances you have to win. Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And the Winner is…

dozier_winner

Congratulations to Branden Tolle. Please contact me via the email address at the top-right of this blog so that I can ship the knife off to you. Thanks to everyone for participating. Stay tuned for more gear giveaways. @bfgreen!

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Affordable and Useful Holiday Gift Ideas http://briangreen.net/2014/11/affordable-useful-holiday-gift-ideas.html http://briangreen.net/2014/11/affordable-useful-holiday-gift-ideas.html#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:00:29 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=1941 The holidays are right around the corner and I’m getting lots of inquiries about holiday gift ideas for outdoorsy loved ones. Here are a couple of small backpacking, hiking, and camping related gear picks based on things that I own, use, and would highly recommend to anyone. Unlike many of the holiday gear gift lists that you’ll see popping […]

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The holidays are right around the corner and I’m getting lots of inquiries about holiday gift ideas for outdoorsy loved ones. Here are a couple of small backpacking, hiking, and camping related gear picks based on things that I own, use, and would highly recommend to anyone. Unlike many of the holiday gear gift lists that you’ll see popping up, this one consists of things that every hiker or backpacker should own. Buy them something they’ll actually use.

Solar Charger

Bushnell SolarWrap Mini

Lets be honest, nearly all of us carry some form of electronic device when we’re out hiking. Whether it’s for emergency use or personal entertainment there’s nothing more useless than a device with a dead battery. Carrying a solar charger will let you stay juiced up for the duration of your hike. There are plenty of great options out there but Goal Zero has maintained a lead in this area, pushed the technology envelope, and proven their reliability over the years. Even if you’re not out on the trails, a good solar charger can be used for business travel or in the car. Bushnell has another very cool solar charger called the SolarWrap mini ($60). It uses a flexible solar panel that can be rolled up and stowed away. Check out my review of the Bushnell SolarWrap mini.

Fixed Blade Knife

Mora blade showing "Scandi" grind

Unless you’re John Rambo or a super ultralight (SUL) hiker who is counting every gram, you’ll want a knife that is functional and easy to carry. In my honest opinion there is no other knife on the market that can beat a Swedish Mora for both functionally and price. At only $30 this is a knife that will last a lifetime and get the job done. If you’re picking a standard Mora go with a carbon steel blade for wickedly sharp edge retention. Also look at the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife (made by Mora) that combines a razor sharp Sandvik 12C27 stainless-steel blade with a Swedish FireSteel in the handle.

Quality Compass

suunto_compassmc2g

It’s fun to play around and show off your cool Foretrex wrist-top GPS unit, but you must still practice your navigational skills with a simple map and compass. Invest in a quality compass that will last a lifetime without breaking the bank. Protip: Look for a compass with a global needle and that can be adjusted for declination to account for the difference between magnetic and true North. My favorite is the Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass

Lightweight Jacket

Montane Minimus - Ultralight Rain Shell

I reviewed the Montane Minimus Jacket not too long ago and quickly fell in love with it – in fact I gave one away if I recall. I’ve carried the Minimus jacket on every trip (work and pleasure) ever since and would recommend it in a heartbeat. It packs up small and can be thrown into any pack to have available when needed. Another old favorite of mine is the Marmot Micro G rain jacket. Waterproof, windproof and highly breathable it will keep you dry without making you sweat.

Lightweight Inflatable Pillow

exped_pillow

Once you’re done trying to make ziploc baggies and old grocery bags work as ultralight pillows you may come to the realization that it’s actually worth the few extra grams that a good inflatable pillow adds in order to have a little more comfort and quality sleep on the trail. An quality ultralight inflatable pillow weighs an ounce or two at most and costs $30-$50. Ensure many future nights of restful sleep and pamper your noggin with a pillow that will stay inflated throughout the night!

Flashlight / Headlamp

E89B-C-Tactikka-RGB-face-avant_LowRes

I’ve always been impressed with the Petzl Tikka range of headlamps. I’ve had several of them over the years, replaced due to loss and not failure. My current model is the Petzl Tactikka Plus RGB headlamp (all black) that features multiple power output levels and the option of white, red, green, blue LEDs that let you remain discreet and helps to preserve your night vision. If you’re looking for a small every day carry (EDC) LED flashlight, check out the Fenix brand. I’ve carried a Fenix LD12 for over a year and love it. Reliable, small, powerful, rugged, and best of all it takes a single AA battery that I can find anywhere.

Minimal Wallet

P1010807

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I have a bit of an obsession for minimal wallets. I’ve provided hours and hours of discreet product feedback to manufacturers in an effort to influence the market. I’m one step short of going all out and looking at the options of producing my own wallet – but that’s another story for another time. I’ve been carrying an ultralight Butterfly Wallet for over two years now and I’m extremely pleased with it. It’s exactly what I need with no frills or waste. There are hundreds of minimal wallets out there (just look at Kickstarter), but so far none of them have pulled me away from my Butterfly Wallet. By a couple to use as stocking stuffers.

Quick & Easy-to-Use Stove

P1020850

I’ve tried just about every type of stove there is. Heck, I’ve even designed and created my own in order to go ultralight. Now I’m at a stage in my hiking career where it’s less about going ultralight for the sake of it, and more about lightweight with efficiency and ease of use. That doesn’t necessarily mean that ultralight equals hard to use or inefficient – not all the time – but in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to stoves, ultralight can equate to finicky or fussy. When I want a no-fuss cooking experience I carry my Jetboil SolTi stove with me. It’s extremely easy to use and will boil up a few cups of icy cold water in less time than it takes to open up your bag of freeze dried trail food. And yes, it can be used to simmer, I do it all the time.

Reliable Water Filter

sawyer_mini

It’s time to throw away that bulky pump and grab yourself a filter that weighs next to nothing, can remove more pathogens, and has about the same throughput as that pump. I’m not going to dance around here – buy a Sawyer mini water filter and check this one off your list. If you prefer chemicals then I recommend Aquamira two-stage purification drops combined with a set of smaller bottles to carry only what you need and have a pre-mix ready in your pocket.

Foot Care Products

Hydropel vs. BodyGlide

Your feet are your wheels. Eventually you’ll realize that your feet matter more than almost anything else, so take care of them. As Ben Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Invest in some quality wool or synthetic hiking socks (I rotate between two pairs when hiking). No more cotton! Kickstart a good foot care routine with some silicone based skin lubricants like HikerGoo, Hydropel, and BodyGlide. Carry some Leukotape to cover those hotspots before they turn into blisters. If you want to get serious about foot care, buy the book: Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof – now in its 4th edition.

A Bombproof Backpack

Planning for unplanned hikes

How about a virtually indestructible backpack (ruck) to carry all that cool new gear in? Check out the GORUCK line of rucks, built to withstand anything you can throw at them and backed by a lifetime guarantee and repair service.

Feeling adventurous, tired of all those Mud runs? Sign up for a GORUCK Challenge lead by special forces cadre for a small taste of good lovin. Earn the highly exclusive (and never for sale) GORUCK Tough Patch and become part of the GORUCK Tough (GRT) family. Just be careful, once you start it’s hard to stop!

Photo Credit: Suunto MC-2G Global compass image via TrekTech Blog.

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Bushnell SolarWrap Mini Solar Charger http://briangreen.net/2014/11/bushnell-solarwrap-mini-solar-charger.html http://briangreen.net/2014/11/bushnell-solarwrap-mini-solar-charger.html#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 21:33:18 +0000 http://briangreen.net/?p=1933 I’ve been waiting for a light weight, compact solar charger to hit the market for a very long time. So I was excited when I discovered the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini a few months ago. Until now the only solar charging solutions on the market all largely consisted of the same standard configuration – one or […]

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Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

I’ve been waiting for a light weight, compact solar charger to hit the market for a very long time. So I was excited when I discovered the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini a few months ago.

Until now the only solar charging solutions on the market all largely consisted of the same standard configuration – one or more photovoltaic panels, protected by glass and hinged together using layers of heavy-duty cordura fabric. They were all heavy, bulky, and fragile. In short, not something I wanted anything to be a part of.

Over time companies such as Goal Zero refined the genre and made significant improvements in the technology behind solar charging. However, these improvements were mostly around charging efficiency and power longevity. For the most part though the design concept of connected heavy solar panels was the same. The Bushnell SolarWrap with its lightweight, flexible solar panel was a game changer and exactly what I had been waiting for.

Bushnell SolarWrap Mini 100

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

The immediate difference with the Bushnell SolarWrap is the thin, flexible solar panel that unrolls like a paper scroll. When you want to collect solar panel you simply unroll the solar panel and leave it exposed to the sun. When you’re done, roll it back up around the body of the unit and you’re done. Small, efficient, compact, and light weight.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 4.3” x 1.25” – 18.25” when panel extended
  • Ports: USB for output, micro USB for input (battery charging)
  • Storage: Onboard Lithium Ion battery
  • Output: 5-volt / 1-amp
  • Weight: 3.1 oz / 88 g
  • Cost: $60

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

Charging Options

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

There are only two ways to charge the onboard lithium ion battery contained in the cylindrical section of the device. It can be pre-charged via the micro USB port and connected to either a powered USB port on a computer using the cable provided or from micro USB port to a wall outlet, but you’ll need your own adapter for the wall outlet option. The second method for charging the lithium ion battery is by using the flexible solar panel and the sun’s rays. There is a small LED charge indicator light on one end of the SolarWrap that changes from red (charging) to green once the battery is fully charged.

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

Charge Times

The charge times that I experienced between the two methods mentioned above were significantly different to one another. However, they were in keeping with the user guide that came with the SolarWrap. Here’s a link to the online PDF version.

Pre-Charging: I found that it takes anywhere between 3.5 – 4 hours to fully charge the onboard lithium ion battery using the supplied micro USB cable and either my laptop or a wall outlet. This is the pre-charge option and is obviously the most efficient way to charge the battery. The fastest pre-charging time (3.5 hours) was using the USB port on my MacBook Pro, which kinda surprised me. The ~30 minute variances that I experienced may have been due to the slight differences between a partly depleted battery and a completely depleted battery.

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

Solar Panel Charging: This is the real reason why I bought the Bushnell SolarWrap in the first place so that I could charge my iPhone or digital camera while on extended hikes, outdoors. Over the last few months I’ve played with a couple of different ways of using the extending flexible solar panel to charge the lithium ion battery with varying degrees of success.

I tried laying the SolarWrap flat on the ground at camp for as long as it took to fully charge and I tried carrying the SolarWrap attached to the top of my pack and unravelled so that it was facing the sun while I hiked. Laying the SolarWrap down was definitely more efficient than carrying it on my pack and I can only assume that the periods where is was in the shade or out of direct sunlight while hiking must have impacted the effectiveness of the solar panels. In it’s most efficient solar configuration (laid flat with as much sun as possible) it took between 9 and 10 hours to fully charge the Bushnell SolarWrap. That’s charging the lithium ion battery from flat. Wearing the SolarWrap on my pack would take anywhere from a day and a half to two days to fully charge – again from flat. It was probably taking the same amount of hours (9-10) but spread out over the length of the hike and accounting for time in the shade.

It seems that the most optimal use for the SolarWrap is to pre-charge before a trip and keep it topped up while outdoors. On days where I did not need to drain the entire lithium ion battery to charge my phone I was able to keep the SolarWrap topped up by wearing it on my pack. It’s definitely a fine balance of use and charging.

Charging a Device Directly from Solar

Despite being a self confessed gear nerd, I’m not typically one to read a user guide inside out – you’re shocked right? So it may come as no surprise that I thought I was using the Bushnell SolarWrap to charge my iPhone directly, in real time, using the solar panels when it was hanging on my pack. In actuality I was depleting the lithium ion battery to charge my iPhone and using the solar panels to charge the onboard batter.

The net effect may well be the same and it seemed to work very well, but I wanted to mention here that the Bushnell SolarWrap mini does not have the ability to charge a device directly from the solar panels – according to the user guide.

Amount of Charge

When fully charged the SolarWrap Mini has enough power to charge a small point and shoot digital camera more than twice. I tested this with my old Nikon Coolpix via a micro USB cable. At full charge the SolarWrap Mini was only able to charge my iPhone, when I let it get down to about 5-10% battery, one time. There was definitely a little more juice left in the SolarWrap after one full iPhone charge, but not enough for a second full charge. This is another example of where keeping the SolarWrap topped up and not fully depleted is the perfect solution.

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

Moisture and Damp

I’ve read online reviews in which users claim that there Bushnell SolarWrap Minis have failed on them after getting damp overnight or after accidental exposure to moisture. I can’t verify their experience or know for sure that they didn’t have another issue going on with their unit, but I can tell you that I haven’t had any of those problems with mine.

Bushnell Solar Wrap Review

I’ve been carrying it for hiking, work travel, and pleasure for some time now and it’s seen its share of cold, heat, damp, soda, puddles, and dog drool and is still working like a champ. In fact on quite a few occasions I’ve taken a wet soapy cloth to it to clean off all the nastiness that the outdoors, kids, and an inquisitive dog can create – without much thinking about the consequences of the moisture. I have been careful not to drop it into water completely, it’s not waterproof for sure, but I definitely haven’t been overly fussy about it getting wet. Your mileage may vary as they say, but with a little common sense mine is working fine and is plenty rugged enough for my needs.

Conclusion

I’ve been looking for a lightweight, compact, and easy to use prattle solar charging solution for my iPhone for some time. There are plenty of very good hard cased, folding solar panels on the market, but the Bushnell SolarWrap is the first flexible panel that I know of. This is exactly what I was looking for and it gets the job done. There are larger versions of the SolarWrap that can hold more power and charge faster – you’ll have to take a look at the options and see if the SolarWrap Mini is enough for your power needs. I have no problem recommending this cool little gadget to others. If you’re in the market for a solar charger give the Bushnell SolarWrap a look and if you get one (or already have one) let me know what you think of it. Hopefully you’ll be as pleased as I am.

Disclosure: The author of Brian’s Backpacking Blog bought this product with his own funds. His thoughts are his own.

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