Thursday, December 18, 2014

Active Folks' Gift Guide 2014

Got active folks in your life? Here are four products I used and abused this year that I can wholeheartedly recommend. If I didn't already own them, I would be more than happy unwrapping them come present-opening time.

The North Face Quantum Full Zip Hoodie

As one of The North Face Wisconsin Dirty Dozen, I worked on sharing news about the Endurance Challenge - as a thank you, they sent me a gift card, which was very cool and a total surprise since I had already gotten some cool TNF swag. I knew exactly what I wanted - a full zip hoodie. And, guess what, TNF makes one that fir my needs exactly! The Quantum Full Zip Hoodie has a snug fit, thumbholes, a secret key pocket, enormous hood, and is made of a stretchy fleece that is the epitome of comfort. Even if you're not into getting outdoors, this is a might comfy hoodie to lounge around in.

GoalZero USB Rechargeable Lantern

GoalZero makes all kinds of great gear for use in lots of situations. They sent us a Lighthouse 250 Lantern, which has 250 lumens of bright, LED light, recharges quickly from USB, solar or the included hand crank, and has a built-in USB port to power small handheld devices to keep you connected. This is a well-thought-out, well-designed piece of gear that looks good, functions as it should, and provides safety and comfort both out camping (light enough to carry in a backpack) and on your back porch. Full review next week. (Received as a media sample.)

Olympia RG850 Flashlight

For the outdoors family, a must-have ultra performance flashlight would be the Olympia RG850, a rugged high intensity CREE LED flashlight built for the great outdoors. It is waterproof, impact resistant and has an anti-freeze non slip grip making it just as easy to use with gloves or without. These flashlights feature five unique light settings including high, middle, low and even a strobe and SOS setting for emergency situations. Little Worker especially loves the strobe setting, though it makes us think lightning is approaching if we're not ready for it. Something I appreciate is that you can recharge the battery while it's still in the flashlight, via an included micro-USB cable. I will caution that, at 850 lumens, this is MUCH brighter than a standard flashlight and care should be used - I accidentally shone it into my eyes and saw spots for a few minutes. The fact that it's been played with, dropped, and still works with no problem is testament to how tough this flashlight is. (Received as a media sample.)

LifeStraw® Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter filters at least 1,000 liters of water (about 264 gallons), weighs only 2 ounces, removes up to 99.99999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 99.9 percent of waterborne protozoan cysts, so why wouldn't you bring it with you on your next camping or backpacking trip? Since it uses no batteries or moving parts, no worries about keeping it charged or having it jam on you at an inopportune time. In fact, this is probably something that would be a good thing to have in your car's emergency kit (you do have an emergency kit, right?). (Received as a media sample.)

I guarantee that any of these 4 products would be more than welcome by anyone who is active in the outdoors. 

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Planning for Adventure

Planning for Adventure

While there's nothing actually as good as having an adventure (big or small), I think I enjoy planning for it almost as much sometimes. I'm a list guy (...making a list, checking it twice...), so it's a great feeling (and reassuring) to check off items as I pack.

This weekend, I'm headed for the Ice Age Trail for some segment hiking and winter camping. Since I'm car camping, I'm bringing along some gear to test out, along with the basics I need for solo hiking. While there may or not be snow on the ground, it's going to be cold, so I'll have a chance to test out our Mr Heater, which should keep me toasty all night long - it's really the only thing we were missing on our Thanksgiving trip down to the Garden of the Gods.

LL Bean Trail Model Hunting Pack
Blaze Orange Backpack for Safety from Trigger-Happy Hunters

Another thing I'm working on is putting together the 10 Essentials. A list originally created in the 1930’s by the Mountaineers, the list comprises the gear one might need to mitigate an emergency or spend a night or more in the wilderness. In 2003, the list was updated to feature a series of “systems” rather than individual components. I'll be writing more about the 10 Essentials in a future post, but for those who don't know it, here's the list:

  • Navigation (map and compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter

For this series of hikes, I won't be too far from a road or other form of civilization at any time, so I won't worry about bringing an emergency shelter this time (since I don't have one). I do have an emergency poncho that will do in a pinch, but I'm in the market for a bivy to bring along on future treks.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Camping and Hiking with Chums

One of the cool things about doing things I love, like hiking and camping, is that I occasionally get turned on to a company that had never crossed my radar before. This was the case recently with Chums, a company I knew about but always associated with eyeglass cords and such, but turns out they also sell sun protection, along with a plethora of outdoor accessories. Outside PR sent me a couple of their products to check out, which I happily did.

Camping and Hiking with Chums

The Gizmo Case (green case in photo) is a larger sized padded accessory case constructed with what feels like bulletproof nylon, and is actually a heavy duty ballistic nylon (sounds bulletproof). A water-resistant zipper opens up to a central compartment, big enough to hold a small camera, your smartphone, or similarly sized objects, and has a couple of slots sewn in for smaller things, like keys. This case has 3 ways to attach it, from a small carabiner to a belt loop, along with a hook and loop closure for going around things like backpack straps. Great design

The Smokey Fire Starter Paracord Bracelet serves several functions - its bright orange color is an added safety measure if worn during hunting season, the paracord itself can be used in emergency situations, and the flint and striker will give you fire should you forget the matches or run out. This one item belongs in everyone's pack, as it helps with two of the 10 Essentials: fire and gear repair.

The Vortex Bottle Keychain is not a necessity, but certainly handy to have along. Attach your keys to the ring, then use the carabiner to attach it inside or to your pack to keep them safe (nothing like hiking back to the car and having no idea where your keys are). The carbine gate doubles as a bottle opener, though a traditional bottle opener is also molded into the body of the keychain. Even if you don't need this for camping and hiking, it's a cool-looking keychain that can be slipped into your pocket or attached to a loop in your pants for extra security.

It is so cool to be surprised by a company that I had pigeonholed in one way, but is doing good things in a field I had no idea they were even in. I'll be on the lookout for other products from them to add to my gear closet.

These items were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Year of Running (or not) 2014

When Amanda announced her annual link-up for each person's Year of Running, I didn't plan on participating. This was a year that didn't start well, continued in the same negative vein, and ends only slightly better, in terms of running.

Year of Running 2014

184 miles. That's my total for 2014 in terms of running miles. On a purely physical level, that's downright pitiful. Injuries, apathy, and so many other factors conspired to keep me off the roads and trails this year. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. I started running in high school 30 years ago, and have continued on and off since then. I've run road races, trail races, participated in triathlons, and have generally been pretty active. A few years ago I ran an ultra marathon and I think that was the end of my motivation. Getting out and running wasn't something I've enjoyed since then, though I've made some efforts to force myself. Once I decided I wasn't to run again for a while, things started falling into place. I found some great training books that have me excited about fixing nagging issues and getting stronger. I'm planning on starting CrossFit again after the New Year, probably in February. I'm going to get fit for myself, and  not because I feel an obligation to others. Will I run more miles in 2015? Undoubtedly, but they're going to be happy and productive miles, quality rather than quantity. After many years away, I'm even thinking of signing up for some races in 2015. Not running much has made me appreciate it a lot more - I guess those 184 miles were good for something after all.

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