Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five Ten Maltese Falcons

I only knew Five Ten through their climbing shoes so I was excited to give the Maltese Falcons a try since cycling is probably my favorite outdoor activity. My first pair of clip less mountain bike shoes made me feel like I was taking the simple act of riding a bike to a new level for myself. Since then I have had several pairs for both mountain and road bikes and none of them have held up to the pair of Maltese Falcons.
First thing I did before I put the cleats on was wear the shoes for about a week back and forth to work and for riding. I never thought I could stand around for 8 hours in a pair of clip less bike shoes but these were really comfortable. Riding in them was great also, the Stealth rubber combined with the stiffness of the shoe meant that even if your foot wasn't square on the pedal you could get a decent pedal stroke until you could readjust. From there I put the cleats on and they performed even better. They felt very secure while riding, I have had some shoes that when clipped in you felt like your foot was going to slip out but NOT in the Maltese Falcons.
There was only one thing that I didn't like was that with the cleats on they do stick out past the bottom of the shoe a little bit making it tough to go right from the bike to work or to the store but at the same time you aren't walking as funny as you would be in most clip less shoes I have had.
From the Five Ten website "The new lightweight clip-in Maltese Falcon has a stiff-but-sensitive shank for balancing cranking power with comfort while hiking, and we've added a Velcro® drand ankle strap for extra support. An external heel counter boosts stability for technical maneuvers and long rides, and Stealth® ™ rubber."
Bottom line you can't go wrong with a pair of Maltese Falcons and I would recommend them to anyone.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bushnell Solar Panel

The Bushnell Solar Wrap Mini is a fun gadget that I was really excited to get a chance to use. It is 3 ounces and only 4.3" when rolled up but it can hold enough juice to recharge your cell phone or MP3 player. You can pre-charge it at home so it is ready to go when you need it that first time, then you can deploy the solar panel and recharge it. (the dollar bill is for scale)

Fully unrolled the Solar Wrap Mini is 18.25" long and needs 80% sun to be able to work on charging.

The stats on the website say that it can wall charge in 4 hours and 10 hours via solar which from what I have seen is really close what I was getting. 

There is a USB port on one end...

and a micro USB port on the other end right next to the charge indicator light, red is charging green is ready. The handy thing is the cord that came with this had ends to fit both ports and many of my devices require the micro USB cable for charging.
I used this on a couple backpacking trips where I never did get enough sun to break out the solar panel but I was able to un my Ipod charged for three days strait 12 hours at a time on the charge I brought with me from home. One tester had better luck with sunlight on a hunting trip where he was able to recharge two Iphones each day and then while out hunting he would leave the panel out all day and have a full charge when he got back to camp.
 The only con I have on this product is that you don't want to use it on anything bigger than a cell phone, at least not for very long. I have used it to top off a Kindle but when I let the Kindle get down to 15% and leave it to charge overnight in the morning both devices were drained. If you are looking to charge larger devices check out the other, larger solar panels that Bushnell makes.
But if you need something to keep your cell phone or music player the Solar Wrap Mini is a great choice. It retails for $89.99 and it's worth every penny.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Butterfly Wallet

Now a wallet might seem like an odd thing to review on an adventure website but when it is ultralight and made out of the same ripstop nylon as a lot of packs why not? The Butterfly wallet, when empty weighs less than a US quarter, I thought that was pretty impressive for a tri-fold wallet.

Compared to the leather one I switched from you can see that it's a lot smaller.

And with cash and cards it is thinner than the leather wallet empty making it much easier to carry in your front pocket, which experts say is much better for your back.

I would highly recommend this wallet and you can get yours at

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ribz Front Pack

When I first saw the Ribz Front Pack advertised in another outdoor magazine my first thought was that this looks like a way to add more stuff to your load and by doing so you add more weight, so I didn't give it much thought after that. But then I stopped by the Ribz Wear booth at the OR show where it was explained that the main purpose of the front pack system isn't to allow you to carry more stuff but to move the stuff you would need through out the day out of your backpack and into a much more accessible front pack. Once that was pointed out it made a whole lore more sense.
From the Ribz Wear website about the pack "The RIBZ front pack is made of 210d water resistant ripstop nylon. The ribs pack weighs approx. 11 oz. All components are water resistant and have proven durability in the most extreme of conditions. With an average storage capacity between 500 and 700 cubic inches, you can comfortably relocate your desired weight in the front packs. The use of a front pack repositions a portion of your weight forward which reduces your overall shoulder stress and increases comfort, mobility, and balance. A front pack also creates the illusion of carrying a lighter load. Though the RIBZ front pack was designed with ultralight backpacking intentions, any outdoor activity where easy access of equipment is critical is where it proves beneficial. RIBZ front pack can be used alone as a vest but is primarily designed to work with your existing backpack as increased functionality."
First time I tried it out was on a recent, ill conceived backpacking trip on a very humid Labor Day weekend. It was so hot and humid that I had to stop every twenty minutes to reapply bug spray to try and keep the large Minnesota mosquitos at bay. Right off the bat though I noticed how my posture had changed, I was standing more upright and not so hunched over.

It was great having my camera close at hand without needing to stop and take off my backpack every time I wanted to take a photo or have a snack. There was even enough room to hold a cycling style water bottle. Each side of the pack has two compartments, one large one that has two interior mesh pockets to help keep the smaller stuff organized and a smaller zippered compartment. 

The pack is made out of Cordura which helps keep it light but still very durable. The suspender style harness keeps the pack from riding too low. There are two straps in the front to adjust how high it rides (orange tabs in above photo)  and two straps that run across the lower back to pull the pack in closer to your body. One tester did have a hard time keeping the straps strait but I haven't had an issue with that.
One of the best things I can say about this pack after taking it on a canoe trip and a couple of backpacking trips is that you almost forget that you are wearing it until the time comes where you need something out of it. With the canoe trip I was able to keep a couple of small tackle boxes, camera w/extra batteries, first aid kit, multi tool, fire starting materials and a couple granola bars. With the shoulder straps it kept the pack high enough that while I was sitting in the canoe that it wasn't resting on my legs.
The only drawback I have seen is that the extra pack causes you to sweat more. On some of the hotter days I used it all I had to do was unzip the two sides and get some air flowing. The extra warmth will be great in the fall and spring seasons and even this winter I plan on using it while deer hunting. It would also be a great addition to a bouldering kit for all the little things that you don't want to stuff loose into a crash pad.
All in all I would highly recommend this pack to any backpacker or outdoor enthusiast. It retails for $64.95.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sigg Wide Mouth Siggnature Water Bottle

Today I'll be talking about the Sigg Wide Mouth Siggnature water bottle. With more and more people carrying their own water bottles where ever they go instead of buying bottled water the market for personal water bottles has gotten much bigger. I picked up this bottle at the Outdoor Retailer Show in August and being a fan of Sigg bottles for fuel and water (not the same bottle for both) I was interested to see how well a hard sided bottle with more of a sport, water bottle style top would do.

The standard style water bottles that you would use for cycling require you to squeeze the bottle to get a good flow of liquid to come out which you can't really do with a metal bottle. The key to the Sigg bottle are the vents (which you can see in the above photo) that allow for air to get into the bottle while to drink so you can get a steady stream of liquid. The sport top as seen here is great for drinking from while walking or in a car, I am sure everyone reading this has been riding in a car while drinking from a wide mouth bottle of some sort, hit a bump and ended up getting wet.

Another good option is to unscrew the sport bottle top to reveal a smaller hole to drink from. I tend to use this more than the sport top when I use this bottle for everyday use. I also found that if you have a Sigg bottle that uses the smaller lids with the carabiner loop you can swap out the sport top for the other lid.

The wide mouth is great for getting in and cleaning the bottle but its not quite big enough to accept the stopper from my Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter. That is a small detail that I didn't realize till I was up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and went to filter water for the first time.
Other than that this is a great bottle and well worth the price ($18.29-20.99 on If you want a bottle that can handle years of use Sigg is the way to go, I have one fuel bottle that is 30 years old and a flask that comes with me on all my trips that I have had 7 or 8 years and other than a few dents and scratches I expect to get another 30+ years out of both.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Zippo Fire Starter

I picked up this Zippo emergency fire starter when I was at the Outdoor Retailer show a few weeks back and since I am doing a fire starting workshop this week I thought this would be a good place to start the gear reviews.

Right out of the package this worked just as pictured on the package. I can see keeping this in a tackle box on canoe trips or just in a general emergency kit. Zippo makes metal and plastic versions of this and I had the plastic one for testing. It's lightweight and the plastic one even floats. Since it is a striker only there is no lighter fluid involved so you don't need to be worried about keeping it refiled for when you need it. It can sit in your emergency kit for years and when the time comes when you actually have to start a fire it will just work.