Posts Tagged camping
Every time I review or buy a stainless steel water bottle, I start by ensuring it’s BPA-free. At one time, Sigg water bottles did not meet this criteria, though in hindsight, this may have been due to their lucky-yet-unlucky position at the front of the stainless steel water bottle pack. At any rate, public awareness about BPA–Bisphenol A–grew, Sigg re-designed, and now all is right with the world. Time to move on to what’s new:
Sigg’s Active Top:
Basically, Sigg has taken the ease-of-use of a hydration bite valve and placed it on top of a water bottle. I’m sold. I like that it’s on several models and sizes, including my favorite: the Dynamic Black Touch .75L bottle. Unlike the wider 1L bottle, the .75L is thinner, which means it slides into my backpack pocket better. It also grips in my hand more naturally, thanks both to the shape and to its textured outside. The active top includes the pressure-relief valve, as well as what Sigg calls the pre-ventilation system, wherein you can lock the valve closed with one turn, making it completely leak-proof. One tip: be sure to set it from open to closed while gaining or losing elevation while driving, or it will send water bubbling up like a volcano. Grab the Dynamic Touch .75L for $28 at Sigg or Amazon.
Sigg Wide Mouth:
Sigg’s wide mouth line is fatter than the Dynamic Touch (no surprise there) but also very lightweight, which is a surprise. I tried out the Wide Mouth Touch 1L. It has the same ‘Touch’ texture as the Dynamic Touch, and a wide-mouth cap you can unscrew to add liquid or ice cubes. When drinking, use the smaller top cap instead, so you don’t slosh all over yourself. (What, just me?) For my purposes, the wide mouth 1L is too wide for use in my car and in some backpacks, but it’s ideal for my sons when they need lots of hydration on the side of the sports’ field. Pick up the wide mouth Touch 1L for $28 at Sigg or just $21 at Amazon. Comes in red or black.
Sigg’s Cuipo line:
Sigg has long been an advocate for environmental awareness, and is now partnering with Cuipo.com, a retailer dedicated to protecting the Cuipo Rainforest Preserve of Panama. Cuipo has acquired 13,354,600 square meters of rainforest set aside for preservation. Each purchase of a Cuipo item saves one square meter through their One Meter at a Time project.
The Cuipo line includes many sizes of bottles, starting from 0.3L children’s models and on up. My pick: the Sigg Cuipo Be the Solution 1L bottle, which is large while still fitting in most cup holders and backpack bottle sleeves. The mouth is wide enough for ice cubes, and it has the active top. The bottle is bright green with an attractive ‘Be the solution, not the cause’ slogan, and comes with a rainforest-saving activation code you can redeem at Cuipo to do your part. Buy the Be the Solution bottle for $24-$28 at Sigg or Amazon. Also comes in red with a ‘Respect and Protect’ slogan.
Coming from a family of serious backpackers, I tend to get laughed at when I pack an entire cookware set into my backpack for a multi-night trek. But I ignore them, because here’s the thing: I like to eat well while backpacking. And I’ll devote a decent amount of time, effort, and yes, pack weight to our backcountry meals. No one seems to complain come dinner time. Just saying.
So what do I use for my backcountry kitchen? Most recently, Coghlan’s Hard Anodized Aluminum Cookset. Coghlan’s is known for their useful camping and backpacking products, and for their affordable prices. I suspected this set was going to useful before I even got it out of the box. Before receiving this set to review, I was using a non-matched set of hand-me-downs and cast offs. There wasn’t anything wrong with any one piece, but when pack space is precious (and it’s always precious) having a set that nests together is key. Coghlan’s does this nicely (including a nylon bag for storage, but every new cookset you come across these days is going to compact nicely. I’ll go over what does set Coghlan’s apart, but first, here’s what you get:
Three pots and one fry pan, each with their own lid. Sizes are: 7.8” fry pan, 2.7 L litre pot, 1.7 L pot, 975 mL pot. The largest pot is bigger than my old one, and works perfectly for boiling water for all those freeze-dried meals. The fry pan is roomy enough to flip a pancake in, and the two smaller pots work well for soup, individual meals, or oatmeal.
On two short camping and backpacking excursions, I found that the pot sizes worked very nicely for a larger group (family of five). If you’re a solo backpacker or a couple, you may not need such large pot sizes, but if you’re feeding kids, the whole set really is necessary. You can double up on individual meals in one pot, cutting your cooking time (and saving fuel) at every meal.
Here’s what sets Coghlan’s apart:
1. Butterfly-style handles. What are these? Basically, they’re pot handles, which you take for granted at home, but are rarely included on backcountry cooksets. In the past, I’ve used a separate pot grabber, which is all fine and dandy until you lose it. Then you have to use a sock to retrieve the boiling water, and that’s just an accident waiting to happen (or so I was told on multiple occasions). Most cooksets don’t include handles because of the packability-issue, but these fold against the side of the pans while not in use, and fan out when they are (hence the name).
2. Inclusion of measuring cup and bamboo dish cloth. This was a pleasant surprise. Again, could you pack these items separately? Of course. Will you? Maybe. But it’s nice to know that either way, these two items will easily nest right in the center of the Coghlan’s set, making them hard to forget and easy to repack.
3. Strainers on every lid. I love this! No one, not even me, is going to pack a strainer while backpacking. But you often need one. (Draining those mac and cheese noodles, perhaps?). And every pot has a small strainer on the lid, making it easy to close the pot, tip, and drain.
Here’s something I can say I’ve been using for years, items that perfectly fit the credo of “practical travel gear.” These dry tabs in a waterproof packet from Sea to Summit are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. You can use them on a weekend getaway or a round-the-world trip and they’re great for getting around the liquids issue with your carry-on.
Of course they’re great for camping too, especially if you need to schlep all your stuff in a backpack over miles of trails before you set up camp.
Sea to Summit is known for putting out a great variety of gear that’s well-made, but well-priced. These pocket soaps retail for just $4.99 and are often on sale for a dollar less. Each has 50 of the tabs inside: little pieces of what feel like thin paper. When they come in contact with water, however, they turn into what they’re labeled: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, or body wash. Like magic! See a demo of the soap in action below.
As shown in that video, the plastic packs themselves are watertight, so if your pack gets wet or you drop one (closed) in the sink, none of the tabs inside get wet. With 50 of them to work with, they’ll last quite a while, especially the shaving soap.
They’re biodegradable, so no worries in the backcountry, plus they’re phosphate and paraben free. How much would you pay for even trial sized liquids making that same claim?
All have a pleasant “light green tea” fragrance.
Taking double-duty travel gear in a new direction, this combination water bottle and vacuum mug from Stanley will pack down together when you’re not using them.
We’re always happy to see items that pack up easier. Besides all the crushable travel shoes we’ve reviewed regularly, we often get overly excited about packable wine kits, folding solar kits, collapsible camping bowls, or packable daypacks. And if you’ve got limited space in your apartment, you don’t want to fill your cabinets with more than you have to.
This Stanley nesting set is a classic vacuum bottle holding 16 ounces and a 40-ounce basic leak-proof, BPA-free water bottle. The water bottle is basically just a receptacle: no drinking spout or other way to get at the liquid without unscrewing it. So this functions better as something to take along camping or wilderness backpacking in dry areas than it does to travel with day to day.
The mug is a different story, rated to keep hot liquids hot for three hours or more and in my tests it did the trick from 7:30 am to lunchtime. There’s a turn mechanism on the top that allows you to drink from it or lock it down for transporting. This looks to be nearly the same as the one-hand vacuum bottle that sells for $30 on its own, so it’s almost like you’re getting the water bottle for free.
If your coffee doesn’t need to stay hot that long, say for a morning commute, there’s a cheaper version for $20.
I’d like to see the 2.0 version be a bit trimmer and more useful on the water bottle front, but for using on camping trips and then packing away afterwards, it’s a good product for a good price.
Unless you’re a ski bum from Jackson Hole, Wyoming or a major outdoorsman or woman with your ear to the ground for all things industry-related, you probably haven’t heard of Kate’s Real Food…yet. The company began (and continues to run) with one woman, Kate Schade, who started making organic energy bars out of her kitchen to eat during long tram line waits at her home mountain of Jackson Hole. Before long, her fellow ski and snowboard buddies wanted some, followed by everyone else in line, followed by serious skiers, bikers, and hikers everywhere.
What sets Kate’s bars apart in a world full of energy bar choices? Kate calls upon her background in organic farming to select organic, locally-sourced ingredients for her bars, and even today, continues to make each variety utilizing sustainable organic farming practices. (Read her whole story here.) Each type has between 260-360 calories, use organic honey as sweeteners, and are chock full of protein (averaging 9 grams).
There are currently five varieties of energy bars available:
The original Tram Bar: peanut butter and milk chocolate
The Grizzly Bar: peanut butter and dark chocolate
The Handle Bar: dark chocolate, cherries, and almonds
The Stash Bar: peanut butter, dark chocolate, and flax and hemp
The new Tiki Bar: coconut and mango
But are they any good? This is what my kids asked, always my biggest skeptics when it comes to ‘good for you’ snacks. They’ve been fed all types of energy bars and trail bars, and declare most to be ‘sawdust’. In fact, they’ve nicknamed a certain energy bar as just that, ‘Sawdust Bars’. I brought a selection of Kate’s Real Food bars along on our holiday ski trip to Whistler and Big White ski resorts in B.C., and stashed one in each kid’s jacket pocket before heading out on the mountain.
Their verdict? Kate’s Real Food bars passed with flying colors. Seriously. Tested by real kids, who are really picky. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Normally, my boys try to boycott any ‘granola bar’ type snack that’s not coated in chocolate (which I won’t buy) or sporting a color not found in nature (again, nope). When my 13-year-old, Nate, dug his Stash Bar out of his pocket on the lift that first day in Whistler and took a bite, I braced for rejection. I was actually anticipating eating the rest of it myself (and kind of counting on it). Instead, I was denied: he ate the whole thing and asked for more.
He didn’t need more though: the great thing about Kate’s Real Food is how long it will work as fuel in your body. (I did get to sample my own, the Tiki Bar, eventually.) You can pack these for a ski day, a day hike, or a mountain biking session, and they’ll carry you to lunch without a problem. And another nifty fact: Kate’s bars won’t freeze. We put this to the test on several freezing mornings on the slopes, and true to Kate’s word, our bars stayed soft and ready to eat. Now that I’ve found a truly healthy and natural energy bar my kids will eat, I’ll be packing them in my carry-on for flights, too, and for on the road.
You can buy bars right on the Kate’s Real Food web store for $2.75 per bar (steep but worth it), or save money buying them per dozen for $32.99-$39-99 a box. You can also get a 12-pack sampler for $35.99. If you’re rather pick them up locally, you can check Kate’s list of retailers to see if you’re lucky enough to have one near you.