Pros: lightweight; compact; nice features at the pricepoint
Cons: warm-weather uses only
This is a good summer bag or for warm climates. I would not want to use it below 50 degrees, since I tend to sleep cold. Living in south Florida, there's not much opportunity anyways.
I can attest to the fact that in a hammock, I slept pretty cold in this bag and I don't think it got below 55 that night. But on a similarly cool night, I was toasty in a tent. Synthetic is a better choice for wet and humid environments, i.e. the Everglades.
Other features: the zipper is excellent... engineered well for less snags, the fleece lining is nice, pull cords are quality, it has a pillow-pocket in the hood, and there's a surprise fleece pocket/insulation in the toe box...you can stuff this with clothing to warm your feet.
Also, it came with a quality 20L compression sack, not just a simple stuff sack. The sack is way too big for just the bag, so it leaves ample room to throw some clothes in too. With the sack it comes to around 2.5 lbs, closer to 2 without the sack. The tag says 1050 g. It seems somewhat large for a woman's bag...I'm 5'9" and 130 lbs...plenty of room, which is not always a bad thing.
Finally, the light blue material of this bag is bound to show dirt more easily.
Pros: Design; Comfort; Long in the torso
Cons: Tight fit (if that's not what you want)
I own many tank-top-with-shelf-bra tops, and this is one of my favorites for workouts. Living in a year-round warm climate, this type top is the ultimate in comfort and simplicity (read laziness on my part). Throw one top on for the day, done! Saves time and money on bras.
I really do like the design of this top...and it is very supportive. I say that it feels small perhaps because it is a lot more supportive than my other tanks, which is not a bad thing exactly. I have a 34" chest and ordered a small. It is great for running and is stretchy enough that I am getting used to wearing it all day. It is long in the torso, which I appreciate.
Simple & Reliable
I bought this back when Light My Fire used wood for the handle instead of plastic... doesn't make a difference in the performance, it just looks less industrial, like it's something from your old scout days.
If you use a canister stove, then this is all you need to light it. I don't even bother with a lighter anymore. Piezos can be hit or miss, especially in the humidity I've found. The FireSteel always does the trick with one spark... sometimes two or three on an of night.
Once you have a canister stove going, you can light anything else. I still carry some matches in my first aid kit, cause you never know.
I learned a new trick this week...you can use a tampon (unused of course!) as kindling to get a fire started! The dense cotton burns VERY well. And the video showed a guy using one of these flint strikers to get the tampon burning. Pretty awesome, especially for us women adventurers.
Easy to use
Some corrosion issues on the metal mount, back cover; screen can shatter; display may be hard to read in direct sunlight
I waited until this unit went on sale at West Marine and it turned out to be a timely, good purchase. They discontinued the 400c shortly after and as far as I know, this was/is one of the few Garmin handhelds that came/comes with the bluecharts installed.
Little did I know how useful this feature would be, and it is not so much the chart displays, but rather the tide stations and calculations that I find invaluable for kayaking. With this feature, you can select the nearest tide station on the map and get the highs/lows for any day you wish...(the current day comes up by default).
As far as other displays, I downloaded free topos and road maps, so I have been able to use this GPS for trails and for driving directions. It really can do it all (it's just not as good as a dedicated vehicle GPS), so I feel it has been a great value. I know that most people now just use their phones, but believe me, you do not want to use your phone for navigation while kayaking, unless you have a waterproof case. Also, phone GPS features may not work if you don't have a signal. In the middle of the Everglades, there is no phone service. This GPS always works, as long as you have batteries.
The Oregon series is waterproof to a few feet but it does not float. I always keep mine on a retractable lanyard when kayaking. Also, I have had some corrosion issues with the metal parts on the back cover. Fellow paddlers have had the same issue. I contacted Garmin while the unit was still under warranty and they sent me a replacement cover for free. I am still using the original cover until such a time that it definitely needs to be replaced. I make sure to rinse the saltwater off after each day of use but it still takes its toll.
Battery life is pretty good..I turn the GPS on and off throughout the day, so I don't burn through the batteries. I still rely on traditional navigation methods for the most part (compass and charts), but I have to give the GPS some credit for getting me out of a bad situation once or twice.
The most useful skill/trick I find is being able to touch any location on the display and get a range and bearing...with that info, you can just follow your compass to end up exactly where you want to be. That coupled with the tide features make this a very useful tool for me.
In the spring of 2013, I somehow managed to shatter the display screen. I had the unit in a bag with some other stuff and apparently it took a good hit. I paid around $110 to replace the unit with a refurbished one, which is working well.
For my intended uses, it is still important to have a waterproof unit as well as one that does not rely on cell phone service. Still, with smartphones advancing they way they are, many users will simply find it better to go that route. The antiquated touch-screen features of this unit leave much to be desired when compared to modern touchscreens. However, the touchscreen will still work when there is water on the screen.
I would highly recommend this product for those looking specifically for an all-natural, vegetarian, gluten-free option.
All real, natural ingredients
No chemical preservatives
Made in Maine/America by a small family start-up
Comes in 1 or 2 serving size packages
Reseal-able package can be used directly to hydrate contents (no need to dirty dishes)
Slim, durable packaging
Not as long of a shelf life as others (due to the lack of chemical preservatives)
Only 4 meal options (for now)
I have progressed somewhat in my backcountry cuisine habits but will never achieve true greatness. You won't likely ever catch me porting fresh, raw ingredients into the wilderness to ingeniously craft baked goods in a dutch oven. I'm just not much of a cook at home and so my choices in backcountry foods are even more basic. I also like to travel light, fast, and for long distances, which just doesn’t equate to grand culinary efforts.
For years, my budget for three square meals on a backpacking trip consisted of 1-2 Clif bars for breakfast and lunch, then a pasta side mixed with tuna for dinner. I've added in the usual suspects such as dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, etc., but my strategy has always been very minimalistic. Where many are willing to carry more weight in order to have fresh food, I always saw this as an opportunity to cut weight.
Fortunately I've also been able to get by doing more for less in terms of caloric burn/ intake, at least for periods up to a week. But I realize this won’t work for everyone nor would it probably work for me if I were to ever take on an extended thru-hike.
The area where I stand to realize great improvement is in the quality of the dehydrated foods that I carry in my pack. A few years ago I started upgrading from the ramen and pasta packets to the trendier purpose-made meals, the likes of Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry.
While it's true that most of these options provide very lightweight, quick, easy, AND tasty/filling meals, they’re still not exactly what you'd call healthy. Mainly they're chocked full of sodium, some with as much as 45% DV per serving! These, like so many packaged foods, also tend to have a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives.
So I am glad to see a small, family owned start-up company like Good To Go filling the niche of healthier, more natural backpacking meals. They have taken all the benefits of the self-contained packaging and filled it with more nutritious, better-tasting, real food.
I've tried several iterations of backpacking chili and this is by far the freshest and most satisfying I've had. It's basically dehydrated beans and vegetables, paired with quality spices: simple but good. I would have preferred it to be a little more spicy but admittedly this is a trait that is not very well suited to multiple days in the backcountry.
I had the chili without any other food.
The 20 minute recommended re-hydration period is probably the biggest downside to the Good-To-Go product line. This isn't a big deal if you are settled down in camp for the night. The package can be sealed and set aside while various other chores are accomplished and the time will go by quickly. The package suggests that you ponder 'how big the universe is'…good advice I think.
But since I had to do the prep during a brief rest period on a day hike, I essential had to eat on the run. Even so, I simply put the sealed package in my pack while we hiked a little further. I didn't time it exactly, so when we stopped to look around maybe 15 minutes later, I took the opportunity to begin my meal. And it wasn't disappointing, though I found the texture of some of the ingredients (mainly the corn) was a bit crunchy, meaning it still needed more time.
I'm rather used to this aspect of dehydrated meals since my hunger (or impatience) often gets the best of me. In fact, I almost always burn my mouth from diving in too soon. But 20 minutes is maybe pushing the limits of the fine line between the food being fully hydrated and becoming too cold. In a chilly environment, it would be wise to insulate the package during this wait time.
The packaging is top notch. I didn't struggle to open it, it sealed easily, and the bottom expands sufficiently in order to stand upright unsupported. I was impressed by how slim and compact the package is compared to other similar products. My only suggestion would be to include a fill line on the packaging to know how much water to add. I tend to just pour water in until it 'looks good'…so perhaps it’s time I invest in marking lines on my pot.
Satiety & Energy:
I had the chili for lunch as part of a day hike. It was all I ate during the hike and I felt pretty darned good, but it was only a 6 mile hike. Since I'm used to eating very little during the day and then splurging on double-serving meals for dinner, I would probably opt for the same strategy with this product. That or bring other foods to pair it with. I'm not a vegetarian so I would probably consider pairing it with beef jerky or some sort of packet protein like tuna.
I did note that of all the various meal samples I have on stock, the Good To Go meals have by far the most calories per serving, from 340 to 410. If you're looking for better bang for your buck in terms of caloric density, these would be a good choice. However, at around 3.4 oz per serving, they are not quite as lightweight as some of the others (though still plenty light for backpacking).
This weight per serving would probably be reduced slightly if you opt for the double-serving package and plan to split the contents between meals or two persons (does anyone actually do this in the backcountry, I'm curious to know?)
I would recommend these products especially for outdoors people that are particularly conscious of food ingredients.
Aside from the good taste and nutritious nature of the products, I also like the idea of supporting small American businesses.
Hands-free orientation is a must when kayaking, so forget the hand-held compasses used for hiking. Also, I wouldn't bother with a lighted compass...it is one more thing that can break and is not needed if you just use a headlamp.
The Brunton 58 is the perfect size, is easy to read, accurate, functional, and simple. For my uses, I find it preferable over the mounted version. The portability results in many benefits. If kayaks are stored outside, the compass can be removed and stored inside to protect it from damage. It can also remain protected during transport of your kayak. Further, it can be transferred from one boat to another (if you have multiple boats), saving you money. Finally, I don't always need a compass (short, local, familiar trips) so this stays protected in a case, extending the lifespan for when I do need it.
I have used this compass on several week-long trips in the Everglades. In conjunction with charts, I barely needed my GPS. In a long crossing situation, I use the GPS to take a bearing, and then trust in the compass to maintain my course. This is a method that sailors have relied on for hundreds of years.
A good compass is just as important, if not more, as modern technologies. And the batteries will never die on you.
gap between tines is greater than the PocketRocket
a slightly longer set-up than the PocketRocket
Spent canisters create more waste
I used the MSR PocketRocket for 10 years until the Micro peaked my interest because of its more compact size. I gave my old rocket to a friend in need (which he's still using), and this justified my move to the MicroRocket. I have been mostly happy with this move, though I miss some features of the PocketRocket
The MicroRocket has excellent flame control, comparable to the previous model. It functions just about the same, as well.
Fuel efficiency is not as good as stoves in the modular category, like Jetboils.
The Micro scores high in being able to fit inside my GSI soloist pot, along with the fuel canister. I like to have everything together in one package.
The Micro is pretty easy set-up, though I find that in having to first rotate and then fold the chines out (a 2 step-process), the previous model was an even faster set-up, as the chines merely swung out. There is no integral piezo but I find ignition simple with a firesteel.
the PocketRocket always concerned me because the chines didn't fold out enough to allow full contact with the base of a pot. No matter the size of the pot, just the upper half or the chines were in contact. While the MicroRocket achieves a flatter base (the chines rotate so they are flat), the gap between the chines is now larger. I used to be able to use a very small aluminum cup as my minimalist pot. But this cup cannot be used with the Micro, as it will slide off. Larger pots do just fine but I dislike loosing the ability to cook small amounts of water in my small cup. For this reason, the Micro looses some points.
Fit & Comfort:
My biggest beef with this garment is the fit. Since this is always a subjective call, I'll start off with my dimensions: 5'9, 130 lbs, 26" waist. I'm also shaped more like a teenage boy in that I have no hips, so I constantly have to deal with the problem of downward slide-age. Almost all my pants require belts, especially when it comes to hiking apparel. So I can't fault the design of this skirt entirely, given my unique dimensions.
But I can, somewhat confidently, say that it appears to run large and short, because I have seen the same comments from a few others. I originally requested a size 4, which proved to be way too big, so I moved down to a 2, the very smallest size it comes in. The second sample fit decently but I found that if I put anything with some weight to it, like a camera or phone, in the side pocket, the skirt would start to slide. It doesn't help that it has no belt loops and thus no way to adjust the waist. The nylon material is also of the new 'stretchy' generation, and while I love the feel, it allows for even more flexibility in the waist. Perhaps since I had to go with the smallest size, I also found that the skirt was not nearly long enough. Mine looks and feels more like a tennis skirt. So while I felt very uninhibited by it, I also had to be quite careful while sitting and climbing so as not to expose myself. Given my stretched-out frame, this isn't the first time I've found a skirt to be too short. So perhaps a more petite woman won't have as much issue with the length.
The skirt has a 6" waistline zipper at the back and the nylon is also quite stretchy. As I’ve already noted, there are no belt loops or an internal belt. This makes the waistline very comfortable under a pack but doesn't allow for adjustability.
The skirt is very water-resistant. I spilled water on my lap on one occasion and noted that is just pooled there until I finally shook it off. Likewise, as the material doesn't really soak up water, it dries very quickly. I went swimming / wading in the skirt on quite a few trips, exercising my inner water buffalo, and it proved to be a great swimwear garment.
Ventilation is the key feature of a hiking skirt, so of course it excels in this regard. It's kind of a no-brainer as to why, so I'll leave it up to your imagination. Or just ask the Scotts why they're so fond of their kilts.
Warmth/Layering and Function:
The skirt itself does not provide much warmth but does allow for a high degree of layering options. While I didn't have need to exercise any of these options in sunny Florida, long underwear, leggings, and rain pants could all be used in conjunction with the skirt. Again, one of the selling points of a hiking skirt in that you can change into different under-garments while avoiding exposure. More discrete bathing and personal hygiene functions can also be accomplished with greater ease.
Ease of Use:
Initially I found the waistline zipper to snag at the seam between the waistline and main panel. With repeated use, this problem diminished. There is a bit of a bow in the zipper at this point. The pocket zippers functioned well. As noted above, I had to keep items in the pockets to a minimum so as not to drag the waistline down.
The skirt's primary claim is that the silicone treated back-panel protects your butt from getting wet. While I found the material to live up to its water-proof claim, the back panel does not provide enough coverage to be effective in this regard, at least not for me.
Construction & Durability:
Other than the issue I had with the zipper, the seams, stitching, and material are all of good quality. I subjected the fabric to a fair amount of wear with no apparent abrasions or snags.
tech specs from the manufacturer:
Inseam Length: 15.5 in.
Air Permeability: Main: 2 CFM; Seat: 0.1 CFM
Water Entry Pressure: Seat: 910 mm
Weight: 5.5 oz. / 0.16 kg
Fabric: Main: 90D x 300D, 94% Nylon / 6% Spandex woven, DWR
Seat: 90D x 300D, 94% Nylon / 6% Spandex woven, Silicone treatment
MVTR: Main: 21,500g (JIS); Seat: 1,500g (JIS)
Breathable, stretch woven fabric
Zippered lip balm pocket on right hip
Large, zippered pocket on left hip is designed to fit a folded map
All pockets are accessible with a pack on
Zippered hip opening for easy on/off
Semi-fitted and mid-rise
15" from waistband to hem, hits at mid thigh
Water Resistant Silicone Panel
A permanently treated seat for protection from damp ground
Accessible Pockets with a Purpose
Pockets are accessible while wearing a pack and are designed to fit the things you need on the trail
Extra wide waistband won't pinch, tug, or slide down
Quality compact poles
Similar features to dome tents (two doors, vestibules, high ceilings)
diagonal pole design allows for some sagging
After some time with this tent, I continue to be pretty satisfied by its performance, with one exception.
Most of all, I am impressed with the quality of the material, the weight, reliability, and the compact/lightweight pole design. Minus the poles, the tent and fly take up the same amount of room as my single person hammock & fly. The poles fold down to 14 inches in length, which makes them very easy to fit into or outside my backpack and to travel with. Given these factors, I have come to value it as a good travel shelter for solo backpacking trips.
WATERPROOFING AND WATER-SHEDDING
It is simple fact, given the flat ceiling design, that water pools on the top of this tent. Over time, as the fly's water repellant properties break down, such a design will ultimately be a problem. But after ample testing in wet conditions, the tent has mostly performed. The moment I got the tent, I of course had to set it up in my backyard. No sooner had I got the fly on that a heavy Miami thunderstorm (read: deluge) came through...no problems. Actually there were two spots that were dripping afterwards, on either side of the fly vestibules where some webbing is sewn into the seam. I promptly gooped some silcon on those spots and have not noticed any more dripping.
I used this tent for 3 nights in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. It rained over half the time but the tent did its job in keeping me dry and happy. Given the wet conditions, I had to put the tent away wet and muddy each morning. Even still, the fly continued to repel water and the ample mesh design of the tent allowed for the interior to dry quickly once pitched each night. At the end of the trip, the mud and dirt brushed off easily. The light blue fly color does show stains/dirt but that just proves it's getting used.
The one time that the tent did fail me was during an exceedingly cold night in Big Cypress. It wasn't rain but condensation that began to drip onto my head and sleeping bag sometime in the middle of the night. Since the place is a big swamp, when the air cools significantly, a lot of moisture precipitates out. And it wasn't so much that the moisture leaked through but rather collected on the interior walls of the fly. Unfortunately, the flat roof doesn't help deflect the condensation, when this happens.
DESIGN and SETUP:
The tent's off-set diagonal dimensions allow for some sagging on the non-poled corners if not staked well...it requires a taught and even pitch. Set-up works best when all four corners are staked out first, followed by the pole. If the ground is uneven at one corner, the sagging problem is more pronounced. All that being said, it is still a lot easier to set up than other non-freestanding tents that I have owned.
As I have only used this tent on solo trips so far, interior space is ample for myself. Because of the diagonal design, I often lay in a diagonal position so that I have more head/foot space. I think this tent will be a very tight fit for 2 people and gear but is feasible for such a use.
I bought this used on eBay on a hunch that I would like the design...and I really have taken to it. I never liked fiddling with zippers on a PFD and now I much prefer pulling this on over my head. Plus, there is no zipper to break or go bad.
The straps loosen and tighten very easily for a secure fit. Also, it is very short in the torso. It's made to fit a woman (who tend to have much shorter torsos, like myself) but anyone who paddles using a skirt will appreciate that this PFD doesn't push down on your skirt as much.
I like the simple, big pocket in the front. It also has a space for a water bladder in the back but I have not used this feature. Additionally, the front pocket has a fleece-lined space behind it that is advertised as a hand warmer. It hasn't come in useful in Florida yet but perhaps someday it will.
I was concerned that the fleece would get mildewy or not dry well, but so far this has not been a problem. It's possible to cut out the fleece lining if you don't like it.
It's too bad Astral seems to have stopped making this PFD since I think it's a really nice design. Perhaps you too can find one used...