d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Review

d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Review

This d.light S10 Solar LED lantern provides a lightweight, renewable source of light. The solar panel charges easily in the sunlight, making it a great item to take camping, or to have in case of a power outage. d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Solar powered lanterns are a great alternative to kerosene or propane. I have a propane powered lantern as well, but I prefer the renewable option of solar power, and this lantern is much more lightweight. It is not as bright as the propane lamp on high, so if you are looking for a lantern to light up a whole outdoor area this will not do it. However, it lights up a tent or a table area just fine and has two brightness settings. After a good charge it lasts a full night on the low setting (around 8 hours). I’m quite the fan of solar powered lanterns in general, due to the fact of not having to deal with changing batteries and carrying spare ones with. It’s quite light without the weight of batteries and can easily be hung in the center of a tent. The handle of the lantern makes it convenient to hang. It’s simple enough to charge – set it in some sunlight. It will also charge if cloudy. It has a small LED that lights up when it’s charging so you don’t feel like your efforts are in vain. If you do have access to electricity, this d.light S10 solar LED lantern can also be charged with AC...

Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock Review

Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock Review

The Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock is a great inexpensive option for a lightweight travel hammock, and is also useful if you are just looking for something that packs up small for convenient storage. Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock (Forrest Green) It’s important to note that this is an inexpensive hammock, so it is not the highest quality you will find out there. For the price though, and if you pay attention to the weight limits, it is a decent option. As with any fabric hammock, I would caution against leaving this out in the sun and rain for extended periods of time, as this will weaken the fabric. This hammock comes with ropes and hooks on the ends. I’m personally not a big fan of hooks, and would rather use good knots or carabiners. The ropes that it comes with are rather short, but I have purchased more expensive hammocks that didn’t have ropes on the ends at all. I have done backpacking trips where packing light was absolutely essential, so for those bringing a hammock and rainfly would be a better use of space than carrying along a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. The Grand Trunk Ultralight hammock does pack down to a weight of 12 ounces. The fabric is machine washable (as it should be), which is helpful when bringing home a hammock that smells strongly of campfire smoke (or sweat). It does dry quickly as well. I have left it up in the rain, and probably due to the lightweight fabric and the fact that it was still hanging up, it did not take terribly long to dry out. I have used this tent several times over the course of a year, and have not had any issues with it. This hammock does only support up to 250 pounds though, and I wouldn’t push it based on some of the other reviews I have read. Neither my husband or I come close to this weight limit, but I did read a review from one woman who had the fabric of her hammock rip right down the middle. On the other hand, I read reviews from people in the 250 pound range who had no issues at all. My conclusion from this is that the hammock will probably be fine if properly cared for and your weight is less than 250, but if you want to be safe I would purchase a hammock made of stronger fabric that is meant to support a heavier person. As with everything, you get what you pay...

REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent Review

REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent Review

Up until a couple of years ago, I had always slept in cheap tents. You know, the kind you can buy at Target for $30 (or $60 if you’re going for the really “nice” one). These had always done the trick for the basic weekend getaways, and even worked just fine for winter camping when we were able to drag it in on a sled. The last straw was when we hiked the Pow Wow Trail in 2010 with our cheap old tent. The weight had been fairly inconsequential when we threw it in the canoe in previous years, but hauling that massive thing on our backs while walking 30 miles made us see the light. That tent was just too heavy for the BWCA, and we couldn’t put off getting a more lightweight model any longer. For years we had been eyeing the Mutha Hubba tent from REI. We had looked at them in the store about a dozen times (yes, that’s excessive, but we were broke college kids and buying a nice tent on a whim was out of the question), and decided that a three-person backpacking tent would be ideal for the two of us. We, by the way, is my husband and I. This would give us enough space for the two of us to lie down, and also to keep some of our gear inside the tent with us. I’m also a bit claustrophobic, so super small tents with no room to move around just won’t work for me. A three-person tent also fits nicely on most tent pads in the Boundary Waters, as well as Minnesota state parks. Size of the Tent The photo above is our REI Quarter Dome T3 tent set up in the Boundary Waters. We ended up choosing this tent over the Mutha Hubba simply because it was on a great sale, and it was similar enough. This tent, much like standard backpacking three-person tents, could fit three people if everyone lays straight and side by side. There would not be a great deal of wiggle room, and extra gear certainly couldn’t fit in there with you. We keep most of our gear (other than our food and other smelly things, which we hang in a tree), in the vestibule. As long as you set the tent up in a high area where the water won’t be flowing down across the path of your tent, the stuff you keep out there should stay mostly dry from the rain. On stormy nights, or nights that are rainy and windy, things under there could get a little moist. This is the point where waterproof bags come in handy. Ease of Set-up This tent really is a breeze to set up. Especially compared to the cheap, heavy tents of the past. One of my favorite features is that the poles are interconnected and practically set themselves up. If you take the poles out of the bag and hold them up, they start clicking together in a very pleasing manner. Of course, a little bit of help is needed but this is negligible. One person can easily set the tent up alone. I have done so many times, and it takes me less than 10 minutes if I’m being leisurely about it. Waterproofness We have sat in the tent during many nights of rain and a few storms during the last couple of years, and it has not leaked on us yet. The fly can pull down tightly to the ground, which helps prevent splash-back from water hitting the ground and bouncing inside the tent. Durability The fabric of the tent is made of ripstop nylon. We have not tested it against excessive force, but it has not ripped on us yet. The design of the poles and tent make it stand up to wind very well. We have slept in it during some fairly strong storms, and the tent has not flattened on us or leaked (like we have experienced with the cheaper tents we had purchased from Target). I also appreciate that the poles are made of aluminum (actually, Aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL); in the past I have had poles sliver apart on my and painfully embed shards into my skin – these poles have never broken, bent, or splintered. Weight Especially when compared to the size and weight of the tent we used to carry around, the weight of this tent is practically negligible at 4 lbs, 11 oz. If even that is too heavy, you can purchase the footprint (below) and use it along with the poles and stakes for a more lightweight option....

South Kawishiwi River, BWCA Entry Point

South Kawishiwi River, BWCA Entry Point

Our 2012 summer Boundary Waters trip was spent entirely on the South Kawishiwi River. The initial planning began last fall.  After last summer’s Brule Lake trip, we were looking for an entry point that allowed only a couple of groups in per day that was near the Ely area. We ended up deciding on entry point 32, South Kawishiwi River (op) because they had a limit of two groups that could enter per day. The reservation was made January 26, and a good thing I made it that early too because the entry points were booking up very quickly! Visit this page of recreation.gov to make your reservation. South Kawishiwi River Map We left for the trip early in the morning on Saturday, July 21 from the cabin, and made it to the Kawishiwi Ranger Station in Ely before 9AM. If I could, I would live in this ranger station. It is stately, massive, and exudes glorious north woods vibes. All of Ely smelled of smoke, and the rangers informed us that this was because of fires in Canada. Apparently they were getting a lot of calls from people reporting that they smelled smoke. We got the classic talk from the ranger about the rules of the BWCAW, but one of the points mentioned really caught my attention, because I had not heard it described in this way before. Of course, leave all items and sites of historic and cultural value alone, such as the rock painting sites. However, the ranger informed us that any item over 50 years old is considered historic, whether it be a tree or a coke bottle. Interesting! From the ranger station it was a 21 mile drive to entry point 32. There were quite a few spaces for parking, both right next to the entry point and a bit farther away. The portage in is 147 rods, or a bit less than half a mile (there are 320 rods in a mile, and a rod is 16.5, about the length of a canoe). There were a couple steep(ish) spots along it, and some larger rocks that you have to step up onto. At the end there is a wooden path through a wetland area near the river, two boards wide and very stable. The portage was not at all difficult, but not a cake walk either simply because there were some inclines and obstacles. The paddling on South Kawishiwi was very easy. There were very few rocks to navigate around, and we enjoyed beautiful weather on the way in so were not hampered by waves. Although this is a river, it is as wide as many lakes we have been on and certainly had more of a lake feel to it than river. It took us about four hours to paddle up the length of the southern portion of South Kawishiwi. We weren’t paddling at breakneck speed, but kept moving at a steady pace. We have been canoeing together for years, so we have a pretty good rhythm down. Stay tuned for part...

Brule Lake and South Temperance Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Brule Lake and South Temperance Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

My husband and I just returned from our annual trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  This year we decided to take an easy trip to Brule Lake.  I’ve never seen an easier entry point; you can literally back up to the lake, drop off your canoe and gear, drive your truck 25 feet away and park, and your trip can begin!  I can see how the ease of entry would be a draw for many (particularly those with children), but it did not feel as though we were “roughing it” as much as our past trips.  We actually canoed back to the truck in the middle of the trip to drop off a baggie of garbage and some dirty clothes. If you’re looking for a low-key BWCA trip, entry point 41 is for you! The main thing we noticed about Brule was how crowded it was for being in the BWCA.  It’s a large lake with many campsites, and 7 entry permits are granted per day.  We knew it was going to be a busy lake, but I was still surprised to see so many trucks lined up in the parking lot.  Many of the groups we saw were larger; we saw several groups with the maximum 4 canoes alloted per entry permit. Brule is the 7th largest lake in the Boundary Waters, and the effects of its size became apparent in even the slightest wind.  It’s a rather oblong lake, oriented East/West, and it was quite common to see small whitecaps when the East or West winds started to blow.  Hugging the shoreline is recommended when possible.  We paddled west into the 15 mph west winds one day, which was not only tiring, but the occasional extra large wave would cause our canoe to jar downward and give me a good splash in the process. The campsites seemed to be either beautiful, scenic rocky points or smaller, mosquitoey sites tucked back into the woods.  Naturally, we gravitated toward the more picturesque ones.  With the traffic on the lake, it was necessary to get up early and move to a new site quickly.  It seemed like there were two waves of groups: those who got up early and traded good sites (10am or earlier) and those who got a move on later in the day and ended up with the less attractive sites. We canoed past a good majority of the sites on the lake, and we could generally tell which sites would be good by looking at the red dots indicating campsites on our McKenzie maps and customized National Geographic TOPO maps ahead of time. Nearly always, the good sites were the ones located on points jutting out like this: Part of our preparations for a Boundary Waters trip include putting the GPS coordinates of all the campsites into our GPS.  This helps us to travel swiftly between sites.  Here are some views of site C0967:   We had heard rumors that the fishing on Brule Bay (located on the east side of the lake) was good, but we did not find out firsthand.  After spending a relaxing two nights at our first campsite, we headed out to Brule Bay to search for a good site bright and early.  Another tip:  if you head out early in the morning, before 9am or so, the water is much less wavy.  Alas, after a quick tour of all the campsites (which were all available), we decided to head west again and try our luck elsewhere.  All of the sites were tucked back in the woods and lacked the expansive lakeshore views we were seeking. We traveled back toward the center of the lake and actually ended up at a campsite quite close to the one we had just left!  By this time it was about 10:30 AM, so we were lucky to get it.  Quite a few canoes passed us shortly after we arrived, also looking for good sites like the one we just snagged. We planned to stay at C0941 for two nights, since rain was in the forecast.  It proved true, and we were glad to have a tarp shelter to relax under during the morning rain. We left this site on our second morning there by 7:30 AM, and made a pit stop at our truck on our trip west.  We have never had the luxury of stopping at our vehicle before, so it was a very un-BWCA-like experience. It took us about 4.5 hours to leave our campsite, stop at the truck, canoe across the rest of Brule Lake, portage 10 rods (easiest portage ever) to South Temperance Lake,...

Gerber Folding Spade Review

Gerber Folding Spade Review

Handy Features: Heavy duty, good when being lightweight isn’t an issue Compact Sturdy case Easy to fold Very durable; we have used it to chop through tough, dry soil and rocks The handle can be folded half-way down, which makes it easier to chop and dig with in some situations Drawbacks: This shovel is somewhat heavy – we do not recommend lugging it along on long backpacking trips Tips: Fold the handle in half if you’re digging at something waist-high or above, such as a hill or a pile of snow Carry this in the back of your snowmobile, 4-wheeler, or vehicle This compact shovel does what it needs to do.  NOTICE: this shovel has been discontinued and replaced with the Gerber E-Tool, which has a serrated blade and weighs about 3 ounces...