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, November 5, 2014

Keen Utility's Destin Low Top Work Shoes - Gear Review

There is a lot to be said about KEEN and how fantastic their footwear is. KEEN is well established in the outdoor market, trail running shoes, hiking boots and sandals all come to mind when someone speaks of them. But, did you know they have a large line of work boots and shoes for any industrial setting? Ranging from light construction work to metal fabrication, they have you and your feet covered. The only requirement at my place of employment is a safety toe, and given the opportunity to try out a pair of Keen's, I took it.

KEEN Utility's Destin Low Top is perfect for what I needed to get the job done comfortably while still being safe. The Destin creates the look of a low top sneaker,while maintaining the comfort and protection of a full fledged work-boot . Constructed with waterproof leather, built to last, a slip resistant out-sole and weighing in at a measly 22.1 oz. this continues to be a winning combination for me and my feet.

These work shoes have been on my feet everyday since I received them and they show very little sign of wear and tear. Don't get me wrong, they don't look the same as the day they came out of the box but that's to be expected in a manufacturing facility. Very little wear and tear on the laces or the leather. I did notice a small separation appearing by the sole at the spot where my shoe bends up as I walk.  Threw a little superglue on it, good as new. The steel toe is barely noticeable as I move around the shop floor. With plenty of wiggle room and absolutely no pinching of my toes. Thankfully I haven't had to test the shoe's waterproof capabilities but I can guarantee they will stand up to anything I come across at work.

KEEN Utility has conquered the industrial setting as well as they have the great outdoors. If all of their work boots are made with the quality material and excellent craftsmanship as the Destin, you will not be disappointed.  We at The Paddle Junkie have been a fan of Keen footwear for a long time. These shoes continue with the strong tradition of excellent footwear at an affordable price. 

MSRP: $110

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Granite Gear's Rongbuk 28 Technical Daypack - Gear Review

With the recent changes at Granite Gear we have seen a number of things happen, most notably the significant expansion of their product line.  Technical daypacks are not new for them, but the choices we now have are nothing short of impressive.  In an era of Uber-light and minimalist, the Rongbuk 28 is a breath of fresh air.  It is without a doubt one of the most well thought out packs we have tested in years.  Looking for a pack that can go from campus to trail and not let you down in either situation?  I firmly believe this pack can do just about anything you ask it to.
It isn't overrun with useless pockets, but rather has a great balance between organization and capacity.  Three main compartments make up the body of the pack.  An outside "stash" pocket expands to hold items you need quick access to, with a quick release buckle closure.  The ideal place to stow a rain shell or other frequent on and off gear.  The next compartment has a zippered enclosure and while not huge, stores and ample amount of gear and helps minimize load shifting.  The largest compartment also zips shut and has a dual purpose sleeve integrate for either a hydration bladder or up to a 15" laptop.

Small pockets on the hip belt as well as a fleece lined top pocket on the pack make for organizing your small essential a breeze and provides easy access any time you need them.  Stretchy water bottle pockets on both sides and haul loops in several locations for attaching bulky rugged items.

The load is incredibly easy to carry thanks to a version of Granite Gear's Vapor Current suspension system, which is arguable the most comfortable on the market.  Incredible adjustment allows for a customized fit far beyond that of your average daypack.

After a summer of testing this pack on and off trail, we are simply impressed.  From day hikes to commuting to class, everyone that has put this pack on their back has nothing but good things to say.  Unlike most packs in this category, you are hard pressed to think of something you'd do differently.  There are a few signs of wear, but nothing that would be alarming.  I do worry about the stretchy side water bottle pockets.  The material seems to be holding up thus far, but when loaded I can see abrasion becoming an issue.  That is pure speculation at this point.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Adidas Daroga Shoes - Gear Review

When wandering the halls of the Outdoor Retailer show last January, one of the most impressive stops was at the Adidas Outdoor booth.  They have obviously made a huge commitment to the outdoor market and the expansive line they have for 2014 is evidence of that.  We had the chance to test and review the HydroTerra Shandals a while back, which were a water friendly trail running shoe built for gnarly terrain.  

Throughout most of the summer my son and I have both been testing the Daroga sneakers. Both sport a soccer styling, with an everyday functionality.  Mine are a water friendly breed, with a durable mesh upper sporting the ClimaCool ventilation to keep your feet cool in the summer heat.  The traction focused outsole provides incredible grip on everything from trails to river bottoms, and when you pull your foot out of the water the dozen holes in the sole expel the puddle underfoot in a hurry.  A integrated sock liner makes these some of the most comfortable shoes I own.   I have worn these everywhere from the Boundary Waters to mud riddles music festivals, and every time I wear them I think to myself, "is there nothing these shoes can't do well?"

My boy has been rocking the suede version of these and they are literally the only shoes he'll wear.  They may not be water shoes like Dad's, but they provide protection from the everyday wet he may run into. The same off-road traction lets him keep up to me on any hike we attempt, but is still subtle enough that he can wear them on the playground without issue.  

Adidas builds shoes that last.  As the parent of any 10-year-old boy can attest, he can destroy a pair of shoes in a matter of weeks.  These are going on 3 months and aside from an occasional wipe down they look like new.  The suede leather has taken a beating and has no visible tears or signs of abrasion.  The spiky soles may not be as spiky as they were then they came out of the box, but kickball and skateboards on pavement were surely not what the designers initially had in mind.

In searching online, these are a bit hard to find, but trust me when I say the hunt will be worth it.  As of right now you can find the Men's versions HERE for about $75 and the Boy's version HERE for about $50.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beebe Knive's #4BK Bushcrafter Knife - Gear Review

Knives are a passion of ours, so when we heard from Paul Beebe of Beebe Knives our hearts skipped a beat or two.  We approached Paul way back in May about the possibility of reviewing one of his Bushcrafter model knives, and to our delight he agreed.  Not only did he offer to send us one, but he crafted one especially for Team Paddle Junkie.  We knew we were going to get to run one serious blade through the paces, but honestly we had no idea what was coming.

I got regular emails from Paul as the knife came together.  Filling me in as to where he was at in the process, and updating the ETA for me.  He was rushing to get it done in time for our big BWCA gear test trip, which we greatly appreciated as it is the ultimate proving ground for any equipment we test.  As a small knife shop, Beebe doesn't usually have much of an inventory of knives, so nearly every knife out the door is made to order.  Squeezing us up to the front of the line didn't go unnoticed.

Model #4bk Bushcrafter

Once the knife landed here, we literally spent the rest of the day at the office just playing with this thing. We were cutting up everything we could get our hands on. Nothing was safe.

The first thing you notice when you hold it is that the balance of the knife is impeccable. It simply feels weightless in your hand. The blade is made from CPM S35VN stainless and has a matte-grey sandblast finish, which seems indestructible.  The full tang handle is exposed on both sides of the slightly undersized micarta scales.  I haven't tried to remove them, but the scales look to be easily interchangeable via 3 stainless steel screws should you want to give it a different look, or if you beat up the originals.  A slight ramping of the spine of the knife provides great leverage for your thumb, and aggressive jibbing makes sure it doesn't slip during more aggressive cutting jobs.  It came with a black leather pouch style leather sheath, and the knife stays securely inside when strapped to your belt.

I hiked, paddled and portaged all over the BWCA with this knife on my hip this summer and never once did I worry about losing it.  It was always there when I reached for it and made short work of every task I threw at it.  The edge stayed razor sharp only needing one light touch-up sharpening yet.  From slicing through braided fishing line to grilled pork chops and shaving tinder for the fire, I felt like I had a pocket sized light-saber, literally nothing put up a fight.

We were about as impressed by Paul Beebe's knife as we have been with any piece of gear we have ever tested.  Utilitarian but with a modern style that any outdoorsy type can appreciate.  If you spend even a reasonable amount of time in the woods, do yourself a favor and call up Paul and have him make one of these for you.  It'll be a staple for every outing going forward and one your kids will inherit one day.

Retail price:  $320

Tuesday, September 2, 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.

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.