Tag Archives: Gear Reviews

Things I left behind

When I first set off to travel, I brought what I thought were essentials, and most were selected because they were what I thought the absolute best thing to bring to travel the world. This meant I had to have items that would help me be effective no matter what environment I found myself in, be that cold weather, tropical, high altitude or low. Items for jumping into the ocean, flying through the sky, or just to keep writing a blog. No cost was spared, if the absolute best backpack was a backpack that had wire mesh throughout it’s fabric to fend off slash thieves I bought it. If I thought I needed a universal power adaptor, then by golly, I would research and purchase what I thought would be the most lightweight and versatile universal power adaptor (with surge control) that I could find.

But some things, through the test of travel, were left behind, the jetsam and flotsam of a life lived at the extremes of forced minimalism.

I actually don’t really call myself a minimalist. Because any label confines you to certain rules and definitions. I have, in comparison to others, a minimal amount of stuff I bring. But what I have I maximize what the item itself can do for me. I can’t just have a backpack, I need a backpack with security features built in. I don’t just have a hat, I have a hat that can be worn 3 different ways in 3 different styles, is waterproof, lightweight, extra strong, and stylish.

But again, some things that I thought would be useful have really not been, and so were left behind – mostly left at the last hostel I found myself in.

Things I left behind:

Super Dry Travel Towel. Super light, super absorbent…but felt like rubbing a bed sheet over my body. Sometimes you want a tad more comfort, and for me a towel is one of them.

Collapsible plate. Thought I’d use it, never did. Ironically, I am in a place that doesn’t have a kitchen I can use, and this might have been used today. But I am moving out because of the lack of a kitchen, and will only stay in hostels that have one – so no plate needed.

Travel Chess. Small, lightweight – yet never used. I like chess, but not enough to harass fellow travelers to play. Cities often have dedicated tables to play – and while I used to do that, I find myself without the desire to match myself against others in a game. Out!

Windsock for the boom microphone for my iPhone. It’s a tad bulky for it’s size – and I just never used it. Never found myself in windy enough conditions to justify it’s use. Out!

I actually did use this a couple of times, but what I’ve found is that hostels typically have a place to hang clothes, and if they don’t I also have a security cable that can double as a clothesline in a pinch. I used it in this manner a few hostels ago to both secure my luggage to a bedpost, and also to lay wet socks and underwear to dry. Since I have an item that I use for the same purpose/multiple purposes, I let this one go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got rid of my BrosTrend 1200Mbps Long Range USB Wireless Internet Adapter – found out through additional testing that my Macbook Pro fared about as well as the BrosTrend. No additional extender necessary.

Some items, I just lost, like my beloved Outdoor Research Helium II jacket. Probably left somewhere in Arica, Chile. Still looking for a replacement. Also, my beloved Sea to Summit Ultra Sil daypack. I lost this in San Pedro de Atacama. I know exactly where I lost it, as I was sunning myself after dipping into a hot mineral spring fed river. I was actually using it as a pillow. Then, the tour van was leaving, I just got up – and left my bag. Luckily, there was nothing of value in it – except my toiletry bag. The only thing I miss is my compact sonic toothbrush.

New items

As a replacement to my old N-Rit Super Light Towel, I got the slightly larger N-Rit Super Dry Towel in Xtra large upgrade version. Made by the same company, this one is just more like a towel – has a softer, slightly thicker cloth, but still bundles up to nearly the same size. Since getting rid of my other towel (and other items) this made room for something a little more deluxe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel toothbrush that folds into itself. Not a sonic, but also doesn’t use batteries. Plusses and minuses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Here’s the thing: If I don’t use an item, (or use it infrequently) in a period of 2 months – then I discard it. Other items that get lost is kind of the price you pay for traveling. A fellow traveler after hearing my tale of a lost coat said: ‘I’ve lost 2 coats so far. That happens, don’t worry too much about it. You can always find something suitable.’

And, he’s right.

I’m still looking for a replacement for my Helium II jacket – but I am holding off for now. Arequipa is sunny and really dry. The store here that has Camping Gear has a North Face waterproof jacket, but it’s a tad heavy for my tastes – but may work if necessary. Right now, I have all that I need – and that’s enough.

As I’ve said before, expertise is not just expressed in knowing how and when to use things, it’s also knowing how to do without.

 

 

 

 

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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!

Transcript:

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.

Tech

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.

Jackets

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!

Clothing

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.

Miscellaneous

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

Purpose

  • Rock Climbing
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Adventure!

Compared to

Why?

  • 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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Best Climbing Jeans: Bulletprufe

I own about 6 pairs of these jeans. The first one was so good I stopped buying other brands.

The first time I saw someone climbing in jeans was my partner Mark:

Mark gazing at the Giant Dihedral

Mark in cut-off jeans

He always wore standard jeans, either full-length or cut off. I tried the same with a pair of Levi’s, but they didn’t have enough stretch, especially across the crotch, limiting my stemming action, yo! They were horribly constricting. But, I liked the look of his jeans – sorta old school, working class. Not the look of a B version Cirque du Soleil wannabe.

So, I decided to take a look around. I had some criteria:

  • Must be tough
  • Must have some stretch
  • Must have a a bomber zipper

Climbing is a full contact sport, and your clothing is the thin blue line separating whole cloth from a tattered rip. And a bad zipper is a pet peeve of mine – if the product’s zipper sucks, breaks down, is difficult to zip and unzip – then forget it!

Not a problem with these jeans! Bulletprufe lives up to it’s name with jeans made of ballistic nylon. Can it stop a bullet? Not sure I’m ready for that test, but I can attest to its rip-proofness against the sharp limestone of Shelf. And never had a problem with the zipper – always zipped!

Unlike the bright yellow, green, and electric blue of the Prana Ecliptic pants, these actually can pass for regular jeans, with more earthy colors like Olive Green, Serengeti Tan, and Tobacco Brown. You could wear these jeans as casual wear, and with a nice shirt won’t be turned away from nearly any venue!

Bulletprufe Tobacco Brown

Bulletprufe Tobacco Brown

And, after putting these pants through their paces from the granite of Clear Creek, the rough sandstone of Eldorado Canyon, and the sharp limestone of Shelf Road, I can attest to the toughness of the ballistic nylon these pants are made of. After my latest adventure I just throw these in the wash, and they come out looking brand new again!

I’m also impressed by the stain resistance of these jeans, from salsa to a full mug of coffee – the pants don’t stain. A standard wash in warm water seems to do the trick – every time!

And for something that can stop a speeding bullet, these are super soft and comfortable. Hard not to rave about them, they are so perfect for climbing!

And, oh yeah: did I happen to mention that the zipper is bomber?

From their website:

•10x Stronger
•Unsurpassed Abrasion Resistance
•High-Strength Triple Stitching
•Reinforced Yoke
•Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch
•Breathable
•Baby Soft

I can attest to the “Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch”. Not too much, hardly noticeable until you swing a high leg for some heel hook action, and the expected constriction just never appears. The jeans just seem to give when you need it to, without being overly stretchy. They are just really super-comfortable without seeming like anything other than regular jeans.

Like my partner says: Get a pair!

 

 

 

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7 Holiday Gift Ideas for Climbers

just in time for Christmahanakwanzika, is the GripandClip gift giving guide for the climber in your life! The items displayed here (except for the Panda Chalk Bag) are items I use when I rope up, and can attest to how great they are!

1. Bulletprufe Denim

Bulletprufe denim, $97.95 Amazon

When I want to wear something Jeans-like for climbing, but need some stretch, I reach for one of my trusty pairs of Bulletprufe denim. Did I happen to mention they are also constructed from ballistic nylon? Perfect for the scratchy crag!

From the Bulletprufe website:

•10x Stronger
•Unsurpassed Abrasion Resistance
•High-Strength Triple Stitching
•Reinforced Yoke
•Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch
•Breathable
•Baby Soft

After trying on both the “Slim” and “Adventure” fit, I prefer the Adventure fit for climbing. For how tough they are, they are amazingly soft. And every crag coffee stain comes off in the wash. They have a great hassle free return policy, and free shipping!

2. Funny Climbing T-Shirt

Addicted to Crack T-Shirt

$27-32.95 Depending on Design. Addicted to Crack T-Shirt

Funny climbing t-shirts make for a great gift!

Shop the GripandClip Spreadshirt T-Shirt store, with t-shirts with sayings like “Free Belay Jobs!”, “Crack Addict”, and “My other Car is a Rope!” among other quips to declare your love of climbing! And if you’d like something a bit different, Spreadshirt even let’s you change the text!

3.  Panda Bear Chalk Bag

Panda Chalk Bag, $12.99, Amazon

Everyone else has a boring ol’ REI-Arcteryx-Mammut fill-in-the-blank generic chalk bag. Why not show some individuality and style with a Panda chalk bag?

4. The Rock Warrior’s Way (Book)

The Rock Warrior’s Way, $17.99 Amazon

I have to say, during a period of time where I was wrestling with some inner lead climbing demons, this book helped me sort some of those out. I recommend this book to anyone who rock climbs to set their head back on straight!

5. Sterling Evolution BiColor Dry Rope 70M

Sterling Evolution BiColor Dry Rope, $338.20 Amazon

I am not shy about saying that this is my favorite rope. 70M is a must to link together multipitch pitches, and to not get hung up on long routes like the 125′ Made in the Shade at the Canal Zone in Golden.

The sheath, not just the core, is dry-treated to keep both moisture, as well as dirt and grime, from destroying your rope.

And, after missing the halfway markings on partner’s ropes one too many times, one can see the benefit of having a nice visual change that a bicolor rope gives.

6. Metolius Ropemaster Rope Bag

Metolius Rope Bag, with integrated tarp, $140.25 Amazon

This is the bag I use. I’ve tried my partner’s bag, as well as experimented with tarps and the one integrated with backpacks, but I like to have a separate bag just for my rope. It has an integrated tarp, as well as straps for tightening the bag down into a size that can fit in your crag pag, or hang off the top straps of your pack. It also has a comfortable shoulder strap for carrying on it’s own.

7. Armaid Arm Roller

Armaid, $110 Amazon

This device totally cured my recurring elbow pain. A lot of the issue was the tightness of my forearm muscles pulling on the tendons of my elbows. With a short session with the Armaid rollers I stopped having the debilitating pain, and could climb the next day on a climbing trip in Rifle.

Conclusion:

There you go! 7 Holiday gift ideas ranging from a $12.99 Panda Chalk Bag to a $338 Sterling Evolution 70m Dry Rope.

Happy Christmahanakwanzika!

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