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.

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

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