Category Archives: Gear Reviews

From Roller to Backpack

In my original “Packing for World Travel” post, I listed the Pacsafe roller bag LS21, both for its airline carryon size, as well as its security features such as knife deflecting wire mesh cloth, lockable pull tabs, and solid zippers that resist being pried open.

I made a last minute decision on the roller vs backpack – the roller won, and for 4 months this has served me well. I didn’t do any camping in Chile, and not in my 3-4 months in Peru.

But the 5th month was the change.

In August, I did 2 treks: the Inca Jungle Trek, and the true trek: a self-supported trek of the Lares Trek – one of the major Inca trails to Machu Picchu, but this time we figured out our own transport logistics, trail finding, camping and food hauling/cooking.

And it was a revelation.

Unlike many of the popular 14ers in Colorado, we had the trek mostly to ourselves, only occasionally meeting trekkers going the opposite way, and camping alone in stone formations, and drinking water from streams.

And hauling a rented, oversized backpack I realized I would do better with something a tad more custom.

So, I mailed my roller bag back home for 150 Soles, and bought a 60 liter Osprey Aether pack in Neptune Blue.

Arguments for a Roller

A couple weeks prior to leaving for Chile, I met a dental Hygienist who had done a fair bit of world travel herself who convinced me of taking a roller bag. ‘There’s never been a place where I couldn’t roll my roller – even dirt roads.” And, after months of watching travellers struggling with bags nearly as big as themselves I smugly thought I had made the correct decision.

And mostly, that was true.

Rolling my way through sidewalks, asphalt, cement, and yes, dirt roads, this seemed infinitely easier than carrying something on my back. And the security features gave me piece of mind as I threw this into the holding storage of busses and hostels.

The roller also gave me a tad more anonymity and freedom from the touts as they looked for the big backpacks that signalled the extranjeros here with their perceived big bucks naivete, whereas I rolled past them – another possible local on his way home.

And, if I restricted myself to just the cities and streets this would suit me well.

But that didn’t last.

From the first time I saw the towering peaks of Lares, and breathed the thin air above 15,000 feet I was hooked.

In Colorado I rarely backpacked. It was simply too convenient to do car camping. But, travel breaks you out of routines, and sipping hot chocolate in a stone cabin sans roof with the mountains, sky and stars as my companions – made me go, “Hot damn, why didn’t I do this more when I was in Colorado!”

And so I bought some new hiking boots, and a brand spanking new backpack and set sail for my new passion. It pairs well with my other passion of rock climbing, and I could see myself doing more alpine style assaults, with a possible try at a 6,000 meter active volcano near Arequipa, treks in Huaraz and simply camping in El Potrero.

I’ve been in Cusco too long – time to get out. This weekend we go to Vilcabamba!

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How I use and Kindle Travel Guide books together could have made my life easier when I found myself lost in a bad part of Santiago. Ahh well, that experience is far behind me now, like 2 months ago, if you can believe it (I hardly can). And, I have also been using to help me get around parts unknown for awhile now., if you don’t already know, is a mapping app, much like Google maps, but unlike Google Maps, it has a great offline feature. Using some unexplainable magic, the app pings nearby cell towers to establish your position and provide you with maps of the area. You do have to download an area map prior to use, which requires a wifi connection, so if you are planning a future trip, then I suggest searching for the new location, such as a city, where you will be prompted to download an area map if you do not already have it.










Once downloaded, I use in conjunction with one of my online Travel Guides to make the map more interactive.










What I do is find a site I am interested in, a museum, or restaurant, or other local attraction, and once I find that location I bookmark that location by placing a colored star on it.










I then click “Edit this bookmark” and copy relevant details from the travel book for that location. This way I don’t have to flip back and forth from the travel guide to the location, the starred location already has the detail in one place.










On those long bus rides from city to city this is what I do to prepare and preplan what I want to visit once I arrive.

Typically, the first thing I do will be to locate the bus terminal, and the hostel I will need to travel to. This helps me figure out if I can either walk there, or if it is better to take a taxi.


From there, I add museums, restaurants and other local sites.

I use Kindle versions of travel guides such as Lonely Planet, and copy and paste their descriptions onto the starred locations.










Now, what I basically have is a localized map with detailed descriptions. It’s really helpful to have in this format, and I wish there was a service that already does this. Lonely Planet, if you are listening, can you team up with – okaygreatthxbye!

Overall Route planning

I also pre-plan my big destinations by starring the major cities I plan on traveling to by bus. If I do not have a map for that portion of the globe I get a prompt to download the location from










But once I land, the once empty map starts to take on colored stars as I add places I either want to visit, or have visited:










Giving certain colors to certain landmarks makes finding them so much easier. You can use Red for major landmarks, for example, green for restaurants, blue for museums – whatever makes sense to you. All of sudden, your map is customized to your travels. You can not only add travel guiedbook information – you can travel notes, memories of the place, what you’ve experienced – whatever comes to mind. All of a sudden the map becomes not just a tool for orientating – it becomes a way to memorialize your travels.

Buen viajes!

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Anker Ultra Portable Pocket Size Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – Review

Great little speaker! Under 2″ square and outputs great sound for the size. Mini USB rechargable, 3 oz, fits in the palm of my hand and comfortably in a front pocket. One of those grab and go items you don’t really need to think about since it is so small, yet powerful. Bring to the beach, play outside while you relax or are working – anywhere you need portable sound. I use it with my iPhone and it pairs well on bluetooth.

Philosophy of use – small, compact yet powerful bluetooth speaker. Useful for travel, the beach, anywhere you want portable rich sound in a tiny package.
Specifications: Size and weight, battery size, runtime: 12 hr run time, under 2” (1.8” to be exact. Uses a mini USB to recharge. 3 ounces.
Form and Function: tiny, yet outputs great sound for such a small package. While maybe not as hi def as a regular speaker – it has surprisingly good sound.
Additional features – Rechargeable, auto shut off
Compare with? Larger speakers – well, they are…larger
Likeability: Lots to like – it’s cute, you can stick it easily in a pack, or even your front pocket

Available on Amazon!

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La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe – Review

I bought these as my “world travel” shoes, as I will be doing a world tour soon. Since I was heading into Chile during their rainy season, I wanted to have shoes that were waterproof, as well as have decent traction. The blue La Sportiva frixion rubber I think is a good compromise between stickiness and durability. Since I will be dividing my time between off-road (hiking, crag approaches), and city tour walking this shoe seemed to fit all my criteria. I have been using this shoe for the past 2 months during a Colorado Spring, which included just about every weather and conditions imaginable: rainy, snowy, sunny and dry, etc. This shoe enabled me to be sure-footed from terrain as varied as rocky trails, to 4th class scrambling, muddy trails and wet sidewalks.

The structure of this shoe has a bit of stiffness, sort of if a running shoe and a hiking boot had a baby! I can see it suitable for trail running (not a trail runner myself), since it is not too stiff, but stiff enough to protect the foot from sharp rocks, and keeps one steady balancing on edges. For a low-cut hiker it’s just about perfect!

I almost shaved off 1 star for myself as the toe box slightly rubs on my left toe, but I realize that is just particular to how my foot is shaped versus a defect in the product itself. A full five stars for another excellent La Sportiva product!


La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe

GTX stands for Goretex, or waterproofing, but with breathability of Goretex

Best use: Travel, Trail running, offroad. Onto Specifications: Size & weight depend on shoe size, but it is listed as 2.3lbs shipping weight. Compare with Chuck Taylor high tops at 3 lbs.

Form and Function – sturdy base, kind of a hybrid between a regular running shoe and a hiking boot – some stiffness to bear the brunt of sharp rocks and is able to balance on edges, but not quite as stiff as a boot.

Additional features – La Sportiva uses a color code system to distinguish between the stickiness vs durability of their different shoe rubber, with more stickiness being a tradeoff for less durability, and vice versa. The blue frixion rubber is a good compromise between stickiness needed for trail running, but also durability needed for, well, trail running!

Goretex shell that sheds water and snow, yet breathes well.

Compare with? Compared to the La Sportiva Primer Low GTX Men’s Hiking Sneaker Shoe which had a much softer tread and support. I Also compared with rock climbing and approach shoes in my collection, and while these do not have the supreme stickiness of a true approach shoe, I was able to traverse 4th class terrain with confidence.

Likeability: It’s a compromise shoe – not as grippy as a typical approach shoe used for 3rd and 4th class scrambling, yet softer than a hard hiking boot. It’s meant for trail running, but anything offered it will do journeyman duty, while still having hard enough rubber to last on city streets that a typical traveler will encounter 90% of the time.

So, like all compromises, you probably won’t love it completely for a single thing, but you will grab for it as a default shoe able to deal well with several environments from both wet and rocky to flat and dry.

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Aerolatte To Go

The Aerolatte to go is an excellent milk frother, miniature mixer for coffee and workout drinks. Good for Travel, kitchen device. The size fits in your hand, and is only 3.5 ounces . It ships with 2 AA batteries – which I then switch out for rechargeables. It has a flat base for standing upright and has a plastic case that keeps it clean when tucked away.

it’s not as powerful as countertop mixers and espresso machine frothers, but also very much smaller than other countertop appliances.

As far as likability – can you like an inanimate object? Yes, because it fulfills its purpose very well. Powerful enough, simple to use, small enough, and useful enough to even bring traveling.

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Prepping the house for rental, world travel, and the death of my Subie

I wouldn’t have installed the flooring if I hadn’t heard how easy it is to install them.

Like a idiot person who likes challenges, I decided to install them myself. Laminate wood floors, boxed at Home Depot – what could go wrong?

I got the cheapest ones I could find: TrafficMaster Oak at .68 cents a square foot. I made sure I got the ones made in Germany, not the el cheapo ones made in China, as  reviewer on Amazon recommended.

After some frustration doing the first 2 rows, I watched some YouTube videos until a lightbulb lit over my head and I figured it out. After 3 days, the living room is nearly done. My dad said he was quoted $5,000 for a third of the size. I did it for a little over $400.

And, after reading more reviews, it looks like the Pecan TrafficMaster laminate is like 10x easier to install (and only .11 cents more per square foot), because of the way the overlapping joints are constructed. C’est la guerre.

In order to clean and prep my house, I have been living out of my Casita, which I think has been good for living out of a backpack. I get to travel test my clothing, and systems like my wifi extender, my Bose noise-cancelling headphones, Aero Latte mixer – basically everything I am planning on using for travel.

I changed out my shoes for a waterproof La Sportiva model: La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe.

La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe







It’s a waterproof (goretex) offroad trail running shoe. I decided I wanted something with a tad more support for hiking, with a sticky sole, but would also be appropriate for city sidewalks. An all-rounder. Since I was headed into the rainy season in Chile, I decided I needed something waterproof too, if I could find it. This version has Blue Frixion rubber, which has a good balance of stickiness vs durability, exactly what I was looking for! It fit the bill for a shoe I could use for approaches for climbing, but durable enough not to be immediately worn away on the sidewalks I would mostly use it for. 

Death of Subie

After an epic 3 day weekend with my brother Rod, climbing the crags in New Mexico, my faithful Subie (2002 Subaru Impreza WRX) died. I was a block away from home when I heard a strange “pop”. I stopped the car, and looked underneath to see if I had ran over something.

Hook me up, yo!

Seeing nothing, I got back in and tried to start it – the engine was turning, but wouldn’t start.
After towing it to a mechanic, whose name was “Islam” (there’s a metaphor in there somewhere), I got my verdict: A pulley snapped, and a valve got damaged. I was looking at a $3,500 repair bill. I felt a sort of relief, actually – no more car, no more insurance. I was reminded of what someone said back in El Potrero Chico:

‘Don’t worry brah, ’cause where we’re going we’re not going to land on land!’

Don’t worry brah, ’cause where I’m going, I won’t need a car! I will travel as the nomads do – by hook or by crook. By camel, and by train, by plane, by boat, and my two strong legs will I make way.

A quick call to the Denver Rescue Mission and thirty minutes later I meet the tow driver at the repair place. I signed the donation papers, paid Islam for his work, and the deed was done.

Subie, my loyal steed for the past 8 years, alas, was no more.

Everyday, I work hard from morning to night. Flung in my wake are once precious things – material things given, or thrown away. I press the details, getting vaccines for the exotic things that may try to kill me, get my meds for a year abroad, take a course in teaching English, all the while playing tapes in Espanol to learn a new tongue. I am tired, yet I cannot yet sleep.

My mom reminds me that my great-great-great grandfather was from Chile. By the name of Liberato – “freed” in Italian. I may try to look up the distant relatives while I’m there, declaring:

‘Here before you is your native son, returned to claim my Chilean ancestral roots. The vine has travelled to far away Guam, a small yet mighty island in the Pacific. I am what has flowered in coral soil.’






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Petzl Sitta Harness Review

Pretty soon I will be traveling in South America, most likely Chile, and I debated whether or not to bring a harness. I looked at my current quiver of harnesses, but they all seemed too large to take with me, where every ounce matters when it weighs down a pack.

I started looking casting around for suggestions on a good travel harness, and at first was directed tot he Petzl Hirundos. And while I found it a very capable harness, I found that the leg loops always were off-center, pulling to the left behind me. Not sure what the reason for that was – my waist size or something, but then someone told me that there was an even lighter harness called the Sitta, made by Petzl as well, and that it had recently came out.

I decided to give it a test drive, both outside in Clear Creek, as well as at my home gym of EarthTreks Golden. In all respects I found it to be an excellent product. This is what I would design for myself – something so light that you forget it’s on. Strong and sturdy despite how thin it was, yet comfortable on belay or descent or hangdogging.

I really feel this is going to be one of my favorite harnesses!

The Petzl Sitta Harness is available on Amazon.

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What to pack for World Travel

I’m planning on doing some long-term travel (3 months to a year), and after researching what to bring I’ve decided to share my list with anyone who might be interested. My emphasis is for items that are super small, super useful, and super lightweight. I place lightweight last, because with so few items weight is not really an issue, but size is. I have some concessions to adding climbing gear, but otherwise, this list can be used for anyone planning world travel.

My goal is to travel with as small of a kit as possible, to only bring the typical “fit under the seat” carry-on, and the “One personal item” that the airlines allow. No check-in bags that can get lost en route to Alma Ata – light and fast is my motto!

All clothing needs to be able to be washed in a sink and dried overnight on a line. Which means either synthetics, or Merino wool. Merino wool gets preference since it tends to stink less than synthetics, yet dries just as fast.

Gear such as phones, tablets and laptops need to be as small as possible, yet powerful and versatile. I am a web-guy who does photography and photo correcting so I need some compromise on size and power for my laptop. An iPhone triples as a Kindle reader, browser, and camera for both stills and video – and a phone!

What goes around

PacSafe Lifestyle 21 – Plenty of security measures built in: slash proof wire mesh embedded in the lining, locking mechanism for the zippers. I considered a 30L Osprey Porter, but because of the security features, and also because I realized I needed a slightly larger size for my climbing gear the PacSafe LS21 was the ticket! Packed, it measures 9″x14″x22 – the typical size for carryons on most of the major airlines. Because of the electronics and other stuff I carry for blogging/vlogging my smaller pack weighs about as much as the larger one. Because of this reason a roller bag makes more sense. I talked to a woman who travelled the world, and she told me she took a roller bag everywhere, even in rural parts of Africa. The short distances you might have to carry (up stairs, over mud…), it has carry handles for that reason.

Pacsafe RFID Slingsafe LX300 Anti-Theft Backpack – a smaller backpack (or front pack when moving from place to place. This holds my electronics, and what I term Essentials. The reason I call it Essentials is that the items in this bag – my Macbook Pro, my Kindle, Backup drive, et al – may not be easily replaced on the road. While it would suck to lose my big bag, clothes I can buy, climbing gear I can rent, etc. I’ve had a backpack checked at the gate, and having known a few folks who have had their luggage “misplaced,” I’ll have a little comfort knowing my essentials are still with me.

Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Day Pack 20L – Trust me, you need an additional lightweight backpack. When you do the tourist thing and are looking around at the local markets – you don’t need your hauler backpack, you just need something lightweight and collapsible. Compressed, it fits in the palm of my hand!

Climbing Gear

Petzl Sitta Harness – I decided to pack this harness. It is super light (9.5 ounces), packs super small, and because climbing is my life I’ll just feel better with my own harness.

La Sportiva Genius Rock Climbing Shoes – Awesome all-around high performance climbing shoes! Possibly the only type of climbing I’d avoid with these shoes are crack climbing, but otherwise I find myself reaching for these shoes. They are nearly comfortable, while simultaneously fitting like a glove. A foot glove! The edgeless technology takes a bit to get used to mentally versus a hard sharp edge, but once your mind wraps around that there is no edge, just a supremey sticky rounded corner – you start to love it!

I changed out my shoes for a waterproof La Sportiva model: La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe.

La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe








It’s a waterproof (goretex) offroad trail running shoe. I decided I wanted something with a tad more support for hiking, with a sticky sole, but would also be appropriate for city sidewalks. An all-rounder. Since I was headed into the rainy season in Chile, I decided I needed something waterproof too, if I could find it. This version has Blue Frixion rubber, which has a good balance of stickiness vs durability, exactly what I was looking for! It fit the bill for a shoe I could use for appraoches for climbing, but durable enough not to be immediately worn away on the sidewalks I would mostly use it for. 

Black Diamond ATC Guide – Smaller than a GriGri, in addition to belaying it can be used for multipitch and rappel.


Basically, anything that uses electricity, or is connected to something that uses electricity. So, laptop, iPhone, but also iPhone tripod, and protective cases. But not like…water bottles…get it?

Macbook Pro, 13″. I almost went with the MacBook Air, but decided on something a tad more powerful, additional weight as the compromise. I am a webguy, responsible for updating several websites, and I just need something that can do the job without fail.

iPhone 6 International version – Buy a sim card in the airport, pop it in, and you now have a phone using the local cell phone service. I decided to just keep my iPhone 6 rather than get the Plus size.

Kindle Paperwhite – Keeping for now, until I see how the iPhone 6s does as a stand-in. I do like the built in 3g. A more pleasant reading device than my iPhone.

MeritCase for the iPhone 6s – Protect your most useful tech. This is waterproof without having your iPhone in a baggy, and also has a lanyard attachment – for those times when you are taking a photo after climbing a crag. Cheaper than the Otterbox.

LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 1TB External Hard Drive – 1 TB of Memory to backup my MacBook Pro. Ruggedized – the Mac guy told me it has been driven over by a truck, and can withstand drops from 4 feet! Compatible with the Mac’s Time Machine for effortless backups. It’s one of the smallest ones I could find, and can take a beating – perfect for travel!


Silicon Power 4TB Armor A85M External Drive for Mac – While the LaCie drive will mirror what’s on my laptop, I will be offloading the picture and video files used for the videos I will be creating to this drive. While I could have just bought a 4 TB LaCie drive, I wanted something that looked different than the drive used for Mac’s Time Machine backup, something devoted to the large video files I plan on generating.

BENRO Handheld Tripod 3 in 1 Self-portrait Monopod Extendable Phone Selfie Stick with Built-in Bluetooth Remote Shutter  – This both a selfie stick, as well as a short tripod (from 7″ to about 33″). Heavy duty, and has an attachable remote that syncs with your iPhone.

GripTight Micro Stand for Phones – tiniest iPhone stand available. For tabletop reviews, or for use as a viewing stand.

Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Charger – Compact 13000mAh 2-Port Ultra Portable Phone Charger Power Bank with PowerIQ and VoltageBoost Technology for iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy – Well, whaddaya know, 2 USB ports ARE better than 1! After live testing the Powercore 5000, I realized the utility of having an extra USB port for powering up my now dead Bose headphones. No more sweet silence for me!

The form factor of being flat rather than a round tube (Anker PowerCore 5000, Ultra-Compact 5000mAh External Battery actually took up less useful space than the tube of the Powercube 5000, as it laid flat, more like a wallet, than a, well, tube. Bonus: charges my iPhone faster and holds more charges.

Energizer Compact Charger With 4 AA NiM – I have a few battery powered items (headlamp, flashlight, et al), and so I’ll use this to recharge the rechargeable batteries. Also charges AAA.

Black Diamond Ion Headlamp This is the smallest, lightest, yet full strength headlamp I could find. Runs on two AA Lithium alkaline batteries, and has dimming, strobing, even a red night light! I have more powerful headlamps, but at 100 lumens I find myself choosing this lightweight alternative.

Cree Keychain Flashlight At 360 lumens (360!), it’s nearly 4 times as bright as my headlamp. The blinding light can be used as protective cover at night as a flash in someone eyes to momentarily blind them. But frankly, I just use it to light up the night. Several modes such as strobe, 3 different beam strengths and a “Off” lock so you don’t accidentally turn it on in your pocket. Also uses a standard AAA battery. I’ll use a rechargeable battery once the included one dies off.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit Because of the size and weight of this I decided to just use rechargeable batteries with a compact charger (see above)

BrosTrend 1200Mbps Long Range USB Wireless Internet Adapter

De Feet

La Sportiva Helios 2.0 Trail Running Shoes – I originally was looking at the New Balance 630 v5 , but I nearly splatted when traversing a compacted snow area of my driveway. It was then I realized I needed something similar – lightweight, minimalistic “bare foot” running style, but something that had a better rubber/tread. After test many types of shoes I picked out the Helios 2.0 from La Sportiva. Basically, I needed an all-rounder – something that would be suitable for the city/asphalt walking, as well as a light hiker, and rockclimbing approach shoe. The tread is more of a ribbed design than the cleat design I see on some of the more aggressive trail running shoes, so it has a stable platform for the concrete jungles, but the sort of ribbed design gives it traction. The minimalistic design makes it super comfortable for the street, yet grppy enough for the trail. I think the ribbed tread will wear less than the cleat designs that are en vogue on hard surfaces, and it is super light and non-fatiguing. I highly recommend these shoes for the intrepid traveler!

Chaco Updraft Gen 2 Sandals – I remember seeing someone with a pair of these in the back of a San Francisco bus. I thought they looked cool then, and think they look cool now. Several people whose opinion I respect wear these, and swear by them. I got a pair, and I couldn’t agree more. I got the Gen 2 version of the updrafts, which are 15% lighter than the original lightweight Chaco Updraft sandal. I’m considering testing out the Xero sandals, though, as they are lighter, and more packable.


Outdoor Research Filament Jacket – The lightest down puffy made by one of the best outdoor clothing companies around: Outdoor Research. They believe in their products so much that their products are “…guaranteed forever.” Since I really don’t know where I’m going to go next, this, plus long johns and thermal longsleeved shirt will cover colder environs.

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket – The lightest waterproof jacket I could find. Sooo light, so light!


Icebreaker Anatomics V neck tshirt – 83% Merino Wool, with a mix of 12% Nylon and 5% Spandex. High performance tshirt that dries fast after a sink wash, and stays odor free longer than synthetics. These are cut a little tighter than the Wooly T’s. In black.

Wooly Clothing V-Neck T-shirt – A little cheaper than the Icebreaker T, with a looser fit, and a different color (grey).

ExOfficio Geo Trek’r longsleeved collared shirt (White) – I like the stealth zippered pocket on the front with the side entry. I’m convinced that real-life James Bond’s and Indiana Jones types would approve of the ExOfficio branded clothing. Most are light, vented and have sun protection built in.

Kuhn hooded shirt – ‘Cause you need to have a 2nd shirt. This is blue with a hood, for a slightly different, more casual longsleeved look than the ExOficio Longsleeved shirt above.

PrAna Stretch Zion Pant – I like these. I’m interested in trying the Brion version, but can’t seem to find those. This, though, is one of my go to walking/climbing/cocktail hour allrounders. The rule is to have 2 pants – one a light color, and one dark. This is the light colored one, in Ginger (burnt orange basically).

Kuhl Renegade Pants –  These are my one concession to zipoff pants. I do not like the look of the typical zipoff pants, I think they scream “tourist,” but it’s hard to argue against their utility to convert to shorts when the going gets hot. It also doubles the pants selection without increasing the weight. These are the only zipoffs I’d wear as they don’t scream “zipoff,” especially in the darker “carbon” color. Instead of the flap, it looks like a bead above the knee. Combined with the contrast stitching of Kuhl clothing the line lends itself to the overall styling – and so the zipoff goes unnoticed. I used these pants in both a yoga class as well as the local coffeeshop just after without a pause. In the heat of a packed yoga room I felt I could have zipped the ends off mid class with hardly any effort at all.

Manduka The Homme Redux Shorts – shorts that double as swim shorts.

1 swimming trunk and one black knee length short – So 3 shorts, and one of my pants is a zipoff.

Smartwool Merino 150 Pattern Boxer Brief – (5) I like the smartwool products, all the way to my skivvies.

Smartwool Socks (4) – Best travel socks. Period.

Keep it clean

Travelon Laundry Sheets – Tiny package, with 50 laundry strips.

Trek and Travel Shampoo & Conditioner

Dr Bronner’s lavender soap (4 oz) – Closest thing to a universal soap that I use for my showers, but can be used to wash clothes in a pinch.

Wilderness Wipes – When a shower is not nearby, these will do the trick.

Do it best, 5″ rubber stopper – portable washing machine (sink). Got this idea from the Digital Nomad.

REI Quick Dry Towel (Large)

Humangear GoTube – For the liquids, 3 oz is one ounce less than the 4 oz airline limit for liquids. Has suction cups built into the sides for sticking to the side of your shower stall, and leakproof screw tops. I use one for Shampoo/conditioner combo, and one for Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap.


Sawyer Mini water purifier – The Sawyer mini water purifier also includes a collapsible rollup bottle – and now your hydrating! Pure filtered water in a tiny package!

Aerolatte to go – I use this to whip up my bulletproof coffee (it’s the little things). It can also aerate eggs for making fluffy omelettes as well as mix the occasional protein drink. I chose the Aerolatte over the competition because of its good reviews, and plastic travel case.

Cocoon RipStop Silk TravelSheet – You never know really when the last time the sheets have been washed, or when the bed bugs are biting. This gives some peace of mind.

Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Dry sack  and Compression Bag  (4)  – I use 4 of these, 3 for my clothes, and the 4th for other compressible items, such as my towel, and my climbing harness. Clothes are the biggest space suckers. I use 4 XS instead of a larger compression bag because when you compress these, the bigger ones will have a circumference that will make the width of your bag exceed the 9″ width airline requirement. If you use 4, then they can individually only have (at most) 9″ width.

I organize my clothing with the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes first, then stuff those into the 4 compression bags. Keeps me under the carryon size limit!

One of the 4 compression bags is slightly larger Small bag, that can double as a clothing washer. Fill with water, toss some laundry soap, and start squishing!

Packsafe RFIDsafe V100 Anti-theft Blocking Bifold wallet – with a connecting lanyard that is slash proof.

Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter – Nifty device for when you need to power up using unfamiliar outlets. Smallest universal plug adapter I could find!

JOOMFEEN Worldwide All in One Universal Power Converters – After additional testing, I decided to replace the Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter  with something that also had USB charging ports. This one can not only convert power worldwide, it also has 2 USB ports in the same size as the Kikkerland Adapter. #winning

Steripen – Sterilize the waters!

Forge TSA Locks 2 Pack – Lock it up like Lohan!

All the above fit into both my PacSafe bags, with a little room to spare. I think, with the occasional fine-tuning and local additions that this kit can stand for a year’s travel, and possibly more in most environments a traveller may find themselves in. I’ll update this list as the travel miles rack up.

But what, pray tell, is the weight?
Answer: The large backpack is 20 lbs, the small pack is 15 lbs.

Many of the linked products are my affiliate links, but rest assured I only link to what I actually use and admire. I receive a small compensation when you click the links and purchase a product, but I would not recommend a product solely for that reason – only products that I enjoy and find useful.

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PrAna Ecliptic Pants – The Perfect Climbing Pants?

PrAna Ecliptic Climbing Pants are my new favorite climbing pants, and are just about the perfect pair of pants that can be used for rock climbing.

I say “just about” because no single climbing pants can have that honor since you might select a different type for different weather, or for a certain temperature, or if we are being honest – a type of “look”.

For example, I reviewed the Bulletprufe brand of jeans as the “Best Climbing Jeans” – and they are the best – if we are talking about climbing jeans! But, for a lightweight, breathable light cotton/polyester blend climbing pants in an array of jewel colors – this is just about perfect!

I ordered a pair of PrAna Ecliptics in Safari (Canary Yellow) direct from Amazon to take with me to El Potrero Chico in order to test how it would deal with the limestone mountains of Mexico.

The weather in December at the EPC was really nice, sunny with some humidity, making for warm days with cooling breezes. My and my climbing partners could decide whether to get a tan on the sunny side of the canyon walls, or go to the opposite dark sides for a cool shadow and grippier rock. The Ecliptic pants worked for both.

Since the fabric is thinner than say the Bulletprufe Jeans, it’s more of a fair weather pant, perfect for the shoulder seasons of warm Spring and Summer days in Colorado, yet light enough to consider for the Summer when you just don’t want to wear shorts.

I am a 32″ waist with a 30″ inseam, and I ordered the small size, which fit me perfectly. I’ve read that a person with a 32″ inseam the small came up short – just the opposite of what I typically encounter in pants. It’s actually hard for me to find pants in my shorter inseam, so it’s nice to find a pair “off-the-rack” that I can order directly online and know right off the bat that it will fit.

Wearing the Prana Ecliptic on the 8 pitch Solar Flare climb at Las Estrellas Wall

Wearing the Prana Ecliptic on the 8 pitch Solar Flare climb at Las Estrellas Wall

I didn’t baby these pants at all, and used knee rubbing action required to power through the 5.10d section. Later on, these pants still looked good enough at an impromptu dinner party later that evening at El Chalet.

PrAna Ecliptic Pant still looked good enough for a dinner party at El Chalet

PrAna Ecliptic Pant still looked good enough for a dinner party at El Chalet (with El Chalet host Ariel)

The pants do not have belt loops, but use a drawstring to tighten up. The small size for me required just a tad of tightening to reinforce the elastic waist band. Belt loops would interfere with a climbing harness anyway.

The pants also have a stash pocket, a loose yet not balloony fit. “Articulated knee darts” – not so sure what those are, but I assume for either reinforcement or stretch, are a feature.

PrAna Ecliptic Pant knee darts

PrAna Ecliptic Pant knee darts

The PrAna Ecliptic Pants come in 4 appealing colors: Coal (gray), Deep Jade (green), Safari (yellow), and Black (noir – heh).

I picked the “Safari” – I liked the canary yellow color, and knew it would go well with my yellow Grivel Salamander helmet.

About the only thing I would request is some sort of loop near the pocket – but I know that this is a particular request. I tether my cell phone to a belt loop so that it won’t inadvertently fall out of my pocket when I climb. Without a belt loop I figured out I could tether it to the drawstrings, but since they are cinched up with a simple shoelace knot, I just didn’t feel as secured as with a fully connected belt loop.

But that’s a pale complaint that may be particular to my cellphone picture taking usage – but could I really be alone in this want/need? Whenever a fellow climber sees my tethered cell phone they all invariably go – ‘Where did you get that? I need one of those!’ A simple pocket loop for attaching either keys, or an errant cell phone with tether seems like a useful upgrade for climbers or hikers so as not to lose their precious cell phone/camera/keys – what have you.

Are you listening PrAna?

Item Reviewed


  • Rock Climbing
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Adventure!

Compared to


  • Loose fit – great for climbing!
  • Beautiful color selection
  • Breathable
  • Stylish

Why not?

  • Not waterproof or water resistant
  • Not for cold weather (I prefer Bulletprufe jeans in colder weather)
  • Shorter inseam on Small pants (30″) favors those with smaller leg index
  • No pocket loop for keys, tethers for cameras/cell phones



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Osprey Mutant 28 – My New Favorite Crag Pack!

After a solid week of climbing in El Potrero Chico (EPC), I can now say with confidence that the Osprey Mutant 28 pack is now my new favorite crag pack!

My old favorite crag pack was the Mammut Neon Gear 45L, and I still have it as a larger backup. I do like that I am able to fit a 70 meter rope, harness, draws, hydration bladder, snacks and other random bits all inside the larger pack. It’s comfortable backplate and straps makes it a solid winner for a pack that swallows everything for a day of cragging.

But in my search for lighter-faster-stronger I find myself reaching increasingly for the Osprey Pack 28. I received this pack as part of the Steph Davis Crack Climbing Clinic, but I haven’t really put it through it’s paces – till my EPC trip.

Osprey Mutant 28 – logo

The pack has thoughtful details, such as a useful top compartment for things you need to reach easily, or easily stuff things into:

Quick to open top pocket – great for headlamps, sandwiches, need to have items.

My pet peeve is a bad zipper that gets stuck repeatedly, or break down. Osprey nails this with solid zipper action:

Sturdy Zippers

From what I understand, this pack was built mainly for ice climbing, with ice tool attachment straps, but those straps can also serve a dual purpose such as strapping a windbreaker to the side, or hanging ‘biners or other extra gear on the sides.

What I really like is the straps for hanging the rope off the top of the pack:


Rope straps for my Sterling Evolution Rope

The Osprey Mutant’s smaller profile (28 liters vs the Mammut’s 45 liters) makes it lighter, but also requires placing the rope on the outside of the pack. I kind of like this configuration – it leaves the rope available to quickly setup, and then leaves sufficient room inside the pack for the rest of your equipment, such as your harness, draws, belay device, climbing shoes, and jacket – with room to spare.

This size also makes it a reasonable multipitch pack – about as large as I personally would go for multiple pitches, but with compression straps it can have a slimmer profile. There’s even a stretchy gear mesh above the top compartment that can be used for your helmet!

I don’t think you’d have any regrets in purchasing the Osprey Mutant 28 pack as a day crag pack, and it’s size makes it also useful for taking with you up a multipitch as well.


Product Reviewed:

Compared to:

Best Uses:

  • Day Cragging
  • Multipitch

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