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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CRKT Cobia : Lerch Design - Gear Review

I am by no means a knife aficionado, but I do know when I get a great knife in my hands. The CRKT Cobia delivers on all aspects. From the way it feels in your hand to the ability to cut anything I've attempted yet so far. I don't always have a need for a pocket knife but when I did, no one to be found, that's when I decided enough is enough I'm going to get my hands on the best every day carry knife I can find. The Cobia doesn't disappoint.



The moment I put this 2.5oz knife in my hands, I knew I had something special. The knife is a little over 3.5 inches when folded and with a quality frame lock mechanism I never have to worry about it popping open in my pocket. Had this happen before, not very pleasant. The clasp for slapping it into your pocket without wrestling with your knife makes a nice addition. No fear of falling out, but every once in a while I reach down and give a little pat just to ensure its still safely snug in my back pocket. Maybe carrying it in my front pocket would alleviate that problem? I think the carabiner I hold my keys on would have a hard time forfeiting its place in front. The design allows for a very comfortable grip at almost every angle. 

I carry this knife every where with me, showing it off at every occasion possible. The easy opening mechanism allows for one hand operation. My friends faces, with a tinge of jealousy, when they feel how light it is reassures me that I have an excellent addition to my small but growing collection. CRKT has managed to make an excellent EDC knife with out breaking the bank. Matthew Lerch went above and beyond with the design of this knife. I would love to add more CRKT knives to my collection, you should to.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cotopaxi - Nepal 65L Backpack - Gear Review

Cotopaxi, founded in 2009, does things a bit different than most outdoor gear brands, they sell exclusively online. This direct-to-customer model allows them to cut costs, use better materials, and extend the savings to the customers without the brick-and-mortar markup. Another unique thing about this company is they're one of, if not, the only outdoor gear brand with a humanitarian mission. All their products are tied to specific humanitarian causes with at least 10% of the profits benefiting their partner organizations.


I recently embarked on a two month long solo backpacking trip throughout much of Europe, hitting 30 cities in 10 different countries along the way - but more about that later. My pack of choice for this trip was the Cotopaxi Nepal 65L, which is deemed by the makers themselves as a "load-toting backpacking pack for international journeys and rugged mountain trails." Let's check out some of the features listed on their website and then we'll get into my thoughts on the pack. The purchase of this pack helps their humanitarian mission by providing 3 weeks of schooling for a child at Shree Nepane Primary School.


Features: 
Describing the pack, Cotopaxi has outlined that "the pack's main body features a butterfly zippered opening for easy access to your gear, and two large front zippered pockets and a removable top lid stash smaller items. For quick side hikes, trips to the market, or dashes to the summit, the internal hydration sleeve doubles as a lightweight backpack." The pack has "configurable side compression straps, a top rope-compression strap and attachments for your ice axe and trekking poles."  Cotopaxi proudly notes that the pack is made at their factory in the Philippines.

Additional features listed on their website:
  • ·         Contoured, padded backpanel with adjustable torso length
  • ·         Adjustable, padded mesh waistbelt with zippered pockets
  • ·         Padded mesh shoulder straps with hydration clip and zippered phone pocket
  • ·         Removable top lid with internal organizer pockets
  • ·         Butterfly opening on main compartment for easy access
  • ·         Removable internal hydration sleeve doubles as an ultralight summit pack
  • ·         Two large front pockets, side water bottle pocket
  • ·         Top compression rope strap and configurable side compression straps
  • ·         Trekking pole and ice axe attachments
  • ·         Included rain cover


My Thoughts: 
Simplicity in design shines through with this pack. Coming in a plain cardboard box I wasn't entirely sure what this giant surprise at the front door was, however, upon its unpackaging I was blown away. Sleek and stylish with undeniably quality construction, I was excited for the trip to come. Something I thought cool of it's arrival was the "Official Cotopaxi All-Access VIP Pass" that, according to them, "grants you complete access to the Shree Primary School in Kumari, Nepal." If I ever make it to Nepal, I will surely be paying it a visit. With an MSRP of $229 through Cotopaxi's website, this pack is unquestionably reasonably priced for a bag of its size.

Some other things pros I found in this bag were the full side zipper, which made it ridiculously easy to access things stuffed into the bottom of your bag without having to take everything out. On the pack there are tons of different options for attaching items outside the pack, and overall it was very a solid side, with very little squeaky or slippery parts. With that, the design of back, being sturdy and sleek in nature, made it easy for navigating crowded streets, train stations,  and trains. Another bonus of the design is that it actually fit into the overhead storage areas on most of the trains I rode throughout my excursion. The pack's quality withstood the test of 2 months of straight abuse, being thrown from hostel locker to hostel locker and random places between. Everything I had wanted to bring and more could fit in this pack no problem, and for the amount of shit I had tucked in every nook and cranny, it withstood all the tests I had put it through.

On the other side of things, I didn't find much about this bag I didn't like. Namely, the external compartments were nice, but their size and the dependence upon the amount of things packed into the main compartment for available space made them less useful throughout my expedition. Additionally, the water bottle pocket on the side wasn't all too useful, as my relatively average size bottle didn't fit into the allocated spot. This forced me to hinge it to the outside of pack, which in the end led to its disappearance near the end of my trip. However, those are all negligible. My biggest gripe with the pack was the fact that it caused some chafing on the shoulders after prolonged usage. Every now and then you would have to wander about 45-60 minutes once arriving in the city with the pack on your back to the hostel I had booked. Eventually this started leading to some tenderness on the shoulders and overall discomfort while carrying it. Another minor issue was the ease at which the suspension of the pack could be adjusted. It took me about a week and a half of messing with the straps to find the setting that was right for me.


Conclusion:
Overall I was very content with my decision to bring the Nepal 65L on my two month expedition with me. The quality of the product was great because it alleviated any potential hardware issues throughout my excursion. I would definitely recommend this pack to friends as an affordable option for a long trip out into the wilderness or Europe. I cannot wait to test this bad boy out on a long hiking trip once the weather turns in my favor - living in these northern states can be grueling at times... A big thank you to the Cotopaxi team, namely Anders, for allowing me to test out this gear and become familiar with the outstanding quality of Cotopaxi products. I cannot wait to pick up the next installment in my Cotopaxi gear. Humanitarian missions and great products come together for a winning situation. - big things are in store for Cotopaxi in the near future.


NEPAL - Tough-As-Nails Pack, Innovative Features from Cotopaxi on Vimeo.

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