Hammock Underquilt Showdown;

Hammock camping is no longer reserved for just warm weather.

The Paddle Junkie's - Base Layer Buyer's Guide

Prepare for the cold! We run down our picks for the best base layers around.

Pentax K30 Rugged DSLR

The world's first DSLR that can take all Mother Nature has to offer

Shell Jacket Showdown

We test the most bomber shells on the market, here are our picks...

Gear of the Year 2012

Our picks for the best gear of last year.

Monday, March 27, 2017

AVI-8 Hawker Harrier II

We first ran into the AVI-8 brand and, as their name would suggest, their line of aeronautically inspired watches, back at Outdoor Retailer.  They have a rather large collection, from a simple 3 hand field watch for about $150 to a full chronograph automatic movement with date for under $500. We opted to test drive something sort of in the middle.

The Hawker Harrier II (Model: AV-4051-03) is a large but not huge watch, coming in at 45 mm.   It has all the bells and whistles you could want on an every-day watch with a split timing chronograph and date display. It doesn't have an automatic movement, but the Japanese Quartz that it comes with is a proven workhorse.  The dials have an unmistakable aviation feel, taken to a whole new level when the 1/10 second dial at top of the watch rotates.  Two separate discs spin in opposite directions creating the effect of a spinning turbine.

It's ruggedly built watch with its case milled from stainless steel, a 5 ATM water resistance and a thick leather band. Yet, this watch is at home in the boardroom as it is on the hiking trail.  With it's highly polished surfaces, subtle color schemes and bold sharp design, it looks like a watch far more pricey than it is.  Coming in at only $270, you are getting a lot of watch for your money.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Helly Hansen - Complete Gear Review

Helly Hansen continues to impress with the continuous improvement on all of their apparel. The proof is in the pudding when it comes to these guys. You can feel the quality as soon as you put anything on. From the zippers to the materials they use, it’s immediately apparent why they have been in business so long. This winter we were seriously loaded with Helly gear and took full advantage of it. From boots to base layers here are our thoughts on all that is Helly.

Built specifically for freestyle skiers in mind this jacket makes you feel like a legit skier the second you put it on. Look good feel good is a motto I like to live by and this jacket delivers. Loaded with technology to not only keep you dry and warm but help you survive an avalanche. Incorporated is the Recco advanced rescue system, built to allow rescue workers to pinpoint your location based upon the reflective piece sewn into the sleeve of the jacket. No real possibility of avalanches in Minnesota, but it’s a great feature for the proffesional and amatuer alike. Some other bits of technology include the H2Flow technology which allows for a layer of air between the layers to keep you from overheating when you have a backpack on. The pockets are extremely well placed and the built in powder skirt and cuffs keep the snow and cold out. This jacket is loaded with technology and I will continue to wear it long after the snow melts. It’s a great layering jacket, paired with a quality mid layer you are set for just about anything mother nature can throw at you. Pair it with just a thin base layer and you have a great shell that can last you well into the spring. Buy It Now

Framheim Boot -

Helly says it best, a stylish, comfortable and sturdy boot for winter. I can usually get by in the winter with some insulated hikers and it’s been years since I’ve purchased a new winter boot. This year has been especially wet for winter and these came in handy almost daily. Built with a vulcanized rubber midsole and a rubber base this boot can withstand almost anything. High enough to trudge through deep snow and with the rubber upper, almost no fear of water leaking in your boot. Seam sealing technology and waterproofing on the leather is just a backup to the unbridled protection offered by the rubber. With insulation to keep you warm and waterproofing to keep you dry this hybrid boot is a must have for winter exploration. Walking to my car in the morning is enough of an adventure to slip these on. Nothing worse then heading into work with wet socks. Buy It Now

Ullr Midlayer Jacket -

Here in Minnesota, as in many other places in the US, our weather is insanely variable.  In the last 7 days here we have had high temps ranging from 20 to 65.  It’s been a pleasant reprieve from the frigid temps, but we all know it’s just a tease.  With temps all over the board like this, I’ve gotten to see the Ullr midlayer work in an array of conditions.  Pair it with a shell and you have an unbeatable sub-freezing combo.  As temps climbed north of 32, I was able to ditch the shell and sport the Ullr as a stand alone jacket.  Here in MN, when we see 65 in February we have to fight the urge dig out our sandals.  Those days, having this Helly Hansen in the car was a lifesaver, once the sun went down.  Sporting Helly’s new Lifa Flow knit fleece, which is designed to better regulate temperature and moisture, a job it does exceptionally well.  This is a mid layer made to be active in. Go, get after it, just have the Ullr along for the ride.  MSRP: $175  Buy it Now

JR Stuben Jacket -

Once again, Helly Hansen proves that just because you’re a kid that doesn’t mean you gear should be a toy.  Based on the Ullr line of Freeride Ski wear for adults, this jacket is ready to get off grid.  Utilizing some of Helly Tech Performance material and PrimaLoft® Black insulation puts this jacket ahead of the pack when it comes to legit outerwear for the littles. Additional features like Hi-Vis accents, detachable hood, pit zips and a powder skirt, ensure that even if they get lost in the deep, they’ll stay warm and you can find them. MSRP: $220  Buy it Now

Womens Odin Flow Jacket -

Midwest winters can change at the tip of a hat. Last week it was below freezing and today it is 48 and sunny. If you live in a climate like this with dramatic weather changes the Helly Hansen’s Odin Flow Jacket is a necessity. The HH patented H2Flow insulation inside this coat allows you to control your own body temperature, the insulation allows your body heat to be trapped and surround your body with comfort and warmth. In contrast this coat has ventilation to cool you down when you are producing too much body heat. Not to mention the Polartec fleece fabric was so light making this coat perfect for traveling.

Now to see if this jacket can live up to all the hype...  We took this lightweight, stellar looking jacket to Arizona to really test its abilities… And it exceeded all expectations. We started hiking when it was a brisk 50 degrees and ended our hike basking in the sunshine at a balmy 70 degrees. This ventilation helped regulate my body temperature and was the perfect hiking companion. Like every other product we’ve tried from HH at TPJ, this coat totally lived up to it’s expecations. But It Now

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Annual Ultimate Outdoor Lovers Holiday Gift Guide - 2016

We're down to under a month to get all your shopping done. We at the Paddle Junkie have hand picked a few of our favorite items that everyone should have at their disposal. Ranging from $400 dollar boots to $20 cups we have a wide arrange of gifts selected for any budget. And if for some reason you can't figure out who to give these two, I'm willing to bet you have plenty of room under your own tree. 

Wolverine - Evans - MSRP: $400.00 - Buy it Now

Wolverine has been creating timeless boots for over 130 years and not much has changed. Obviously the production methods and materials have been updated since then but they have always been gorgeous. Anything in the 1000 mile collection is a must have for the boot connoisseur.  The Evans boots are no exception, excellent craftsmanship paired with modern technologies allows for an extremely comfortable boot built to last a lifetime. Beautiful and rugged, the Horween leather develops a unique complexion over time. Vibram heel and forepart on the outsole allow for traction and durability, built to allow resoling, these boots will last forever. Exquisite leather and epic durability make Wolverine 1000 Mile collection a must have.

SOG - Powerplay - Nylon Sheath w/ Hex Bit Kit - MSRP: $89.00 - Buy it Now

Every man needs a good multitool. Whether it stays in the garage or is constantly on his belt, these are a must have. Everything SOG touches, turns to gold. If the men and women who defend our freedom use it, you know it’s good. Powered by compund leverage that doubles your gripping power, it also features a hex tool kit to round out the 18+ tools it makes up for. SOG makes quality gear at an affordable price and this is no different. Obviously multi-tools take a beating and this has no signs of premature failure. Only time will tell, but I have no doubt this will last a very very long time. I would recommend upgrading the pouch it comes with, I have had the hex kit slip through it’s pocket and onto the ground. Haven’t lost it yet but it’s only a matter of time. Overall, this is an exceptional piece and should be put on your wishlist immediately.

Ahnu - Sugar Peak Insulated Hikers - MSRP: $149.95 - Buy it Now

Looking for a practical gift for a special women in your life? Let me introduce you to the Ahnu Sugar Peak Winter Boot. These are not your grandma's winter boots. Weighing in at  25 oz, these boots are perfect for any outdoor adventure, with or without snow. I have never been one to wear winter boots because they were often to clunky and heavy for everyday use. However, Ahnu did not miss a beat when designing this boot.

With our delayed winter, I took these out for a brisk, fall morning hike to test the comfort and warmth of these boots, they did not disappoint. The breathable membrane & 200 grams of Thinsulate kept my feet warm while preventing overheating. The waterproof leather and water- resistant wool collar were much appreciated after our adventure took us across the stream using wet rocks as our guide.The removable insole provides heel and arch support as well as a design technology to keep you in a neutral position and provide stability to help support you on any terrain. Not only does it provide the functionality of a winter boot, but it also brings the comfort of your favorite tennis shoes.

Yeti - Rambler - MSRP : $19.99 - $69.99 - Buy it Now

Do you like luke warm coffee? Do you enjoy a slightly warmed up beer? Most likely the answer is no. Well Yeti has the perfect solution to the problem. The rambler series, a double wall vacuum insulated stainless steel, sweat proof series of cups and bottles. Ranging from a 10 oz cup, perfect for coffee or 3 fingers of bourbon, to the 64 oz growler. Yeti has been the leader in this category since the beginning and they show no signs of slowing down. The perfect stocking stuffer anyone?

Wolverine - Bucksaw Shirt Jacket - MSRP: $60.00 - Buy it Now

This is the first year we got our hands on some Wolverine apparel and we weren’t disappointed. 100% Cotton flannel paired with 100% microfleece liner is built to keep the warmth in. This is seriously toasty and extremely comfortable. No need for fancy technology here, back to the basics. It worked for hundreds of years and it’s likely to work for the next 100 years. Simple button up snaps in the front with a chest pocket make for a perfect jacket to layer under a shell. I’m thoroughly impressed with the jacket, plus it looks good in the office.

KeyBar -  MSRP $45.00 - $95.00 - Buy it Now

Tired of looking like a janitor with your giant key ring, jingling as you saunter down the sidewalk?  The KeyBar is a simple yet sophisticated solution to the problem.  Take all those rattly keys and align them encased between what looks like a swiss army knife of keys.  The scales of the faux knife are made from whatever your heart desires; aluminium in every fashion imaginable, G10, Titanium or Carbon Fiber.  Attach it to a carabiner or clip it to your pocket.  A variety of accessories are also available; everything from a USB drive to a titanium comb. Say goodbye to the obnoxious jingle for good.

Hogue Knives EX-01 Folding Knife  MSRP: $239.95  - Buy it Now

More than your average pocket knife, the EX-01 from Hogue Knives is a burly folding knife that will handle anything you throw at it.  The 4" drop point blade is sturdy and holds an edge even after massive abuse.  The G10 handle has been machined to provide grip in all the right places and looks good doing it.  A push button blade lock works smoothly and the safety ensures that you wont have it close on you while you're working.  Never wish you had "more knife" again.

Sunski - Headlands Sunglasses - MSRP: $48.00  -  Buy it Now

Classic wayfarrer design without the ridiculous price tag.  These killer shades from Sunski bring all the style you want and pack in the tech your eyes need.  Polarized and touting UV A/B/400 protection. The frames are light yet durable in a matte black finish while the lenses come in a variety of colors.  Stuff someone's stocking full of style.

Granite Gear Boundary Backpack - MSRP: $49.99 - Buy it Now

Have kids that love the outdoors too?  These killer packs from Granite Gear can play on the trails and in the classroom equally well.  Kill two birds with one stone.  Have your littles looking sharp carrying their books to school, then when the weekend rolls around, load their gear in and head to the woods.  At a little over 30 liters, these packs are big enough to handle any book load they need and can easily stow enough gear for an overnight or light weekend.  Granite Gear's suspension system makes it a comfortable pack to wear and the external storage options mean quick access to the gear the kiddos need now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Beauty Of The Trucker - Review Series

Here at The Paddle Junkie headquarters we can never have enough hats. From a simple errand to a night on the town, we rarely go anywhere without a hat. Picking the right hat is all about pairing it as an accesory with your outfit. And trust me, there are plenty to choose from. We have simply hand picked a few and ranked them 1 - 5 with 1 being the worst and five being the best. But don't take our word for it. Go out, get a few and try for your selfs.

Ranked categories


Sunday Afternoon-

Comfort - 5
Style - 4
Versatility - 4
Durability - 5
Fit - 5

As soon as I put this hat on my head, I knew we found something special. I was an avid baseball hat person for years but the second this went on my dome I was hooked. We purchased a OR special hat and I don’t think mine came off my head for weeks at a time. The one of kind look goes with almost anything, where it falls short is being “professional”. You shouldn’t be wearing hats in a professional setting in the first place, but we like to bend the rules a little. A more monochromatic look fits in the “professional” setting. Don’t worry you can match this hat to almost any outfit. Sunday afternoon does more then trucker hats, but we have found nothing beats a good trucker and these are at the top of my list.

Outdoor Research -

Comfort - 4
Style- 4
Versatility - 3
Durability - 4
Fit - 4

Outdoor Research has been producing top quality gear since 1981 and their hats are just as good. We received a multitude of styles, from the old school trucker to a flex fit. All styles are extremely comfortable while still looking good. These hats are purpose built and designed for the outdoors. They live up to the expectations while maintaining their fit and color. I have the flexfit deemed the big green monster and it’s pretty accurate. Gorgeous green color with an accent logo fits perfectly in the great outdoors. The old school trucker is built with what looks like a burlap front but extremely comfortable. Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with the amount of options Outdoor Research offers.

Patagonia - 

Comfort - 4
Style- 4
Versatility - 4
Durability - 4
Fit - 4

Patagonia makes killer gear across the board with exceptional looks to match. The hats are no different. We have received a few styles over the years, but the new Groovy Type Trucker is the bee's knees. With a organic cotton front and a killer embroidered logo designed by Jeff Canham this hat is sure to impress. The gold and navy color scheme is gorgeous. My biggest issue with hats are the depth, not sitting far enough down on my head. This isn’t an issue with this one. I can even pull this one off in the office.

Mountain Hardwear -

Comfort - 4
Style- 4
Versatility - 5
Durability - 4
Fit - 4

Going with the all black version, I added an option to my hat arsenal I didn’t even realize I was missing.  Comfortable, and well made this cap is easy to wear, but it’s the simplicity of this hat that brings me back to it over and over again.  If like me, you don’t want to be a walking billboard for the company whose gear you bought, this is a great choice.  Well built and easy to wear, it’s the definition of a trucker hat.  Not pretentious or flashy, just a hat, doing what you ask it to do and nothing more.

Headsweats - Performance Truckers

Comfort - 5
Style- 4
Versatility - 4
Durability - 4
Fit - 4

Far and away the most technically capable hat in our line-up, these hats were made to sweat in.  Looking for a lid to brave the most aggressive of days on the trail?  This is my go-to option for when I know I’m going to get a workout in.  Both comfort and performance are delivered by the Eventure sweatband wrapped in Eventure knit fabric.  It’s like wearing a John McEnroe style sweatband, but WAY cooler.  Cool prints, killer designs, local area pride, and an occasional Sasquatch theme all provide you with ample options to find your personal style.  From a couple feet away, these look like just another cool trucker hat.  Put it on, get sweaty and you immediately see the difference.

A hat is a hat you may say, and in reality that is true. It’s all about the style, feel and comfort of the hat that makes it right for you. By all means go out and start a collection, because in our opinion you can never have enough hats.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Made In Minny Headwear- Gear Review

Although I hate to wish away Summer, my favorite season has finally graced us with its presence.  The season of flannel, large sweaters, boots and beanies is finally here.  Fall.  Just because summer is over, our adventures at TPJ are not slowing down. With that being said, our gear has slightly shifted.   I love shopping local, especially when the company was created by someone I grew up with. Let me introduce you to Made in Minny.

Founded in Minnesota by entrepreneur, Naomi Goff, MIM takes it’s inspirations from the Midwestern great outdoors while allowing you to look good no matter where your day takes you. Whether it is their signature beanies or head bands, these can be worn at any occasion or for any adventure. The handmade beanies are great for any female or male paddle junkie. The multitude of colors allows you to coordinate for any adventure while keeping your noodle cozy and warm. Although I want everything produced on this website, my personal favorite piece is my “Explore the North” headband. This versatile headband, that can be worn three different ways, is the most comfy headband that I have ever placed upon my head. It’s built to last, mine has gone from a 5am workout to my day job and ended up on a hike around the Mississippi.