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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tenkara Teton Fly Rod - Gear Review

There is something to be said about the amount of fishing gear I have accrued over the last 20 years of my life, but I’ll leave that to my girlfriend, who seems to be very good at finding those words. I will say, I still have my original Snoopy Bobber I got when I was 7yrs old! I have seemingly endless drawers full of crank baits, gallon bags full of finesse worms, and dozens of spools of line. All this equipment makes fishing a chore at times. Deciding what lures to take or leave home, which rods to bring, and what test to use. The spur of the moment fishing trip with a buddy who calls while driving by is nearly impossible. If you’re anything like me you sit in traffic on the way home and see a river or small pond out the window and day dream about pulling panfish out while traffic dies down, but you don’t have any gear. I have found the solution!
I recently received a Tenkara Teton Rod package for review and fell in love with the simplicity of it all. This beautifully made, telescopic fly rod was my answer to fishing the little stretches of river that I pass on my way home from work. Even if I carried my gear with me everywhere, reaching these spots with a tackle bag and a 6 foot spinning rod down the steep grades was enough to dissuade me from even attempting it. The Teton Rod is a 12 foot telescopic fly rod that collapses to 20 inches via 9 segments and weighs in at just 3.2oz! At first I was a bit skeptical to be honest.  There is not reel, so it's a sort of hybrid between a fly rod and a cane pole.  With a 25 foot reach, there are few creeks and rivers I can't fish with it.

I keep a season-appropriate fly tied on. I also keep a couple more stuffed in the notches of the line spool. When moving to the next spot or calling it a day the line spool is easy to wrap the 13 feet of line around. The foam core of the spool dries out the line as well and it also floats. The Teton has a very precise 6:4 action and includes a swivel tip to prevent your line from twisting and tangling. This rod has changed my daily summer routine!

MSRP: $159 ready to fish.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mountain Hardwear's Stretch Capacitor Jacket - Gear Review

Mountain Hardwear has one of the most complete lines of outdoor minded jackets on the market.  Just sifting through their countless options can be daunting.  When hunting for a rain jacket for our BWCA paddling adventures, the list of features and qualities we look for are pretty broad.  Waterproof (obviously), good range of motion for paddling and portaging, light weight, and comfortable.  The Stretch Capacitor floated to the top of the long list of options.  

Our man Jordan (BirdMan) Jones gave it a test and here are this thoughts...

I have had some rain jackets in the past that made me feel as wet in it as I would if I wasn't wearing it at all! They just do not breath, I sweat profusely while wearing them, and they are cumbersome and sticky. 

I tried the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Capacitor Jacket and was blown away by the difference. I immediately noticed the soft feel of the inside of the jacket. It was not sticky but more of a fabric-feel which was a shock. This is due to the 2.5-layer Dry. Q EVAP fabric that wicks away moisture via a series of channels on the interior of the jacket. There is no need for pit-zippers because of the breathable design. 100% waterproof yet it wicks sweat away and leaves the inside of the jacket dry and cool?! Mind blown! 

This jacket is lightweight, absolutely waterproof, and is designed for mobility with innovative stretch panels on the back and sides. It is incredibly comfortable and a pleasure to wear. An added perk; the acid green color had me making a fashion statement with this handsome jacket.

A little FYI, the jacket has a fairly athletic (slim) fit, but still runs pretty true to size.  If you're on the bubble, go up one.  This jacket is currently on sale on the MH site for 50% off!!!  What was $280 you can now steal for only $139.98, and you seriously can't get this much jacket for 140 bucks anywhere...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 Tent - Gear Review

Big Agnes makes some of our favorite camping gear, for all kinds of reasons.  From their tents to their sleeping bags, they just don't miss the details.  Incredibly well thought-out and purposefully built, their gear will stand the test of time and perform as well as just about anything on the market.  They hit another home run with the Copper Spur UL3.  This 3-person 3-season tent is so versatile and feature laden, you really won't need another tent in your arsenal.  

Our man Bob put this tent through the ringer up in the BWCA a few weeks back.  Here are this thoughts...

I have used the Big Agnes Wall Tent on two Boundary Waters trips.  It comes with easy-to-decipher instructions that are included on the tagging of the tent, but I didn't need them.  The set-up is very intuitive.  The shock cords and poles are put together well, and the cords have not become overly stretched (a possible annoyance) after two years of use.  The tent has stood up well to fairly heavy rains, but I have not had it in a torrential downpour as of yet.  The tent does a very good job of letting moisture out and staying dry on the inside.  It is a three-man tent that packs up into a size that is very transportable in a Duluth pack.  

One unfortunate trait of this tent is that the zipper fly tends to get stuck in the zipper when operating it from the inside.  This can be prevented with some deft finger work, which can be frustrating at 3 am with a full bladder.  Perhaps Big Agnes has fixed this in the 2014 model. The flaps can be easily fastened away from the tent door netting for warmer days or nights, and there are some plastic hooks built onto the outside of the tent to help with that. 

Set up without the fly, you get a real "sleeping under the stars" feel, as well as exceptional airflow.  The entire top half of the tent is completely made from bug netting.  With multiple configuration options, you can even set up the Copper Spur as a sort of sun shelter without the tent using just the poles and fly.  Think a day at the beach, when you just need a place to escape the sun for a bit.  

Super light and packable, this is a great tent for a couple or small family when weight is a concern but you still want a legit shelter.  With a packed weight of 4 pounds, and packed size of 6.5" x 21.5", it's right in there with anything else in the Ultra Light category.  

Copper Spur UL3 Floor Diagram

Copper Spur UL3 Head Height Diagram

MSRP: $499

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Men's Adidas HYDROTERRA SHANDALS - Gear Review

I know what you're thinking, summer is almost over and after the winter we had last year, everyone is dreading the snow fall. Have no fear there is plenty of time left for fishing, swimming, floating, hiking, camping etc. With the Adidas Hydroterra Shandals you have the perfect shoe for everyone of these activities and more.

Constructed with a foam frame these shoes are extremely light at only 10.2 oz (size 9). The mesh top makes for an extremely breathable shoe as well as helps with drainage and before you know it your feet are dry. The TRAXION outsole makes for a firm grip on almost any terrain. The bungee cord shoe lace makes for easy slipping on and off, with a built in folding heel you can wear this shoe as a slip on or a regular shoe. The week in the boundary waters didn't stand a chance one I got these bad boys on. Through mud puddles over rocks and straight into the water, absolutely no fear of slipping or getting my shoes wet.

Adidas has always made quality products and this is no exception. From trail running to swim wear these shoes make for a great all around pair and fashionable enough to wear with some shorts for a night on the town.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Travel Chair's Joey Chair - Gear Review

Looking for a great camp chair to throw in you pack when headed out on your next paddling or camping adventure?  I have tried countless different options and the Joey Chair from Travel Chair is my new favorite. This chair is light-weight and very easily assembled.  A tightly-fitting zipper bag is provided so the chair and it takes up as little room as possible inside a canoe pack with other gear.  Made from aluminum and rip-stop nylon, you get both the low weight and durability you are looking for in a back-country lounger.

Set-up is incredibly easy.  The aluminum rod base is joined together by two molded plastic joints, and all the rods are kept in place by an elastic shock cord.  Once out of the bag, it practically sets it self up.  Now just slide the nylon seat back onto the four corners of the base, and you're lounging.  It is very comfortable sitting and far more stable than many of the other packable chairs we have tried.  Uneven ground still presents a problem, as it does for most chairs, but that may have been partly to blame on our beverages of choice as well.  Our group discussed the feasibility of telescoping legs on a camp chair to account for uneven ground, but eventually decided that wasn't all that practical either. 

Some basic stats that bring things into perspective:
-  Dimensions Stowed:  4x4x14
-  Dimensions Open: 21x21x28
-  Packed Weight: 1.8 pounds
-  Weight Capacity: 300 pounds

For the weight and space in your pack, this is the best chair we have tried.  Beats the heck out of sitting on a log, that's for sure...

MSRP: $69.99

Friday, August 1, 2014

Men's Summer Lifestyle Gear Guide

Summer may be in full swing and going by fast, but there may be a few items missing from your warm weather wardrobe.  We found a handful of items that if you don't already have, you really need to consider.  Going to the trail after work, or maybe a happy hour? Here are a few pieces that will work equally well in both cases.  Great additions to your anything-anytime arsenal.

Outdoor Research Enchainment Soft Shell Jacket:  This shell has the look of a refined urban outer layer, but is loaded down with top-tier materials that make it an ultra-performer.  Paired up with a pair of khakis or jeans and you look the part while holding a pint of your favorite IPA.  Pull off the pavement and this jacket stacks up against anything you have ever tried on.  Soft and flexible is what makes this jacket my go-to.  Full range of motion and ready for anything I can throw at it, there is nothing I wouldn't try in it.  Spring snowboarding, bouldering or paddling are all unimpeded and you simply forget you are wearing it. It isn't typhoon level water proof, but I've seen everything from spring showers to running from a thunderstorm and came out dry.  I'll sacrifice a little barrier protection in order to ditch the rubberized feeling any day.  MSRP: $225

KAVU Charlestown Long Sleeve Shirt:   Travel, work, play, it doesn't matter for this shirt.  The chunky thread gives it a linen or hemp look, while staying pretty wrinkle free.  Contrast stitching and buttons and a legit collar make it a more casual button up, but I can still rock it on a Monday with a pair of chinos.  Throw this in a suitcase and you can go anywhere without sweating the dress code. Light weight and breathable, it's my patio shirt whether it's street-side, lakeside or ocean-side.  MSRP: $65

Archimede Automatic Sport Watch:  A watch is not just a watch.  It is the only "jewelry" most men will wear, and says a lot about what kind of guy you are.  The Archimede watches are not flashy and overstated, definitely not a blingged out Rolex.  Forget bells and whistles; GPS, altimeters, or wi-fi connectivity.  They makes watches, and ones that you will proudly pass down to you kids some day.  The timeless style means it will look as fashionable 50 years from now as it does today.  A hardened steel case houses an automatic movement that never needs a battery change and keep incredibly accurate time.  Waterproof to 200 meters, you don't need to worry about a swim intentional or otherwise.  You can choose from a white or black face, steel, rubber or leather bracelet, so you can build it to your personal style.  For that extra bit of cool opt for the crystal case back so you can see the movement in action. MSRP:  $800 to $1000 depending on selections.

Mountain Khaki Alpine Utility Pants:  Mountain Khakis is a name you've probably heard before.  These pants have been a staple in my closet for quite a while, and for good reason.  They look good and are basically bullet proof.  Made from a cotton canvas, they can hold up to even the most violent abuse.  Every single inch of these pants were thoughtfully designed for the avid outdoors lover.  Triple stitched seams, reinforced knees and backside, cuffs you can walk on for years and a side utility pocket all make these pants the Swiss Army Knife of apparel.  Best part is they wash up amazingly well and will look like new for years to come.  MSRP: $95

Sperry Top-Sider SON-R Pong Sneakers:  These may not be the Sperry boat shoes everyone else owns, but that is exactly the point.  A skate sneaker styling with funky colors and a bit of camo gives them a funkier feel than your dad's tan slip-ons.  They are definitely Sperry's tho.  The SON-R tech in them provides great feedback from every step and amazing traction on wet slippery surfaces.  Go ahead, get them wet, water sheds quickly through the integrated drainage ports, and they dry out pretty quickly.  I promise no one else at the lake will be rocking the same shoes as you for a change.  MSRP: $80

Costa del Mar's Cut Sunglasses:  Costa makes some of the most amazing lenses on the market.  I rocked these shades for a week at the lake earlier this month and everyone that tried them on said "Holy Crap! These things are awesome".  They have a more everyday friendly frame shape while still packing all of the tech Costa has become famous for.  Born on the water, the polarization on these is simply astounding.  Colors pop, glare is reduced to zero and they are so light you forget they are on your face.  I had to wrestle them out of the hands of several of my friends after they tried them on.  A sure sign that Costa got it right with the Cut's.  MSRP: $219

Patagonia's All-Wear Cargo Shorts:  Looking for a more refined pair of cargo shorts?  Patagonia's All-Wear Cargos are a great choice.  These still have plenty of room to carry all the essentials you need when you want to leave the day-pack in the car, but you don't look like you have pillows taped to your thighs. Throw on a golf shirt and you are ready for an afternoon on the links.  The pockets are roomy and keep your cargo secured without fear of items escaping.  Made from 100% organic cotton, they are soft and smooth but will hold up to years of wear.  The 11" inseam helps keep the tops of your legs protected from the sun when sitting in a canoe, or at a patio table. MSRP: now $48