Sunday, May 22, 2011

Free $50 Gift Card to Local Camping Outlet of Your Choosing!

You can win a fifty dollar gift certificate to any local camping outlet of your choosing through! All you have to do is leave a comment with this information:

  1. Find a related retailer on
  2. Tell us your Memorial Day Weekend outdoor plans
  3. Link to in your comment
  4. Be sure to include your personal email in your comment so that I can contact you if you win
  5. I will choose the winner based on the coolest outdoor plans!
"In order to be eligible to win, commenter must be at least 18 years old, reside in the U.S. and must not have won any Local Pages giveaways within the past 30 days. There is a one prize per household  limit per 30 day period."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Chose a Hydration Pack

Which hydration pack is right for me? That's the question I hear a lot. There are several factors to take into account and we will explore some basics of choosing a hydration pack. Our awesome sponsors Hydrapak will serve as our template for this discussion. We'll walk through a series of simple steps that will have you finding the right pack in not time at all.

1. What size hydration pack do I need?

    This is affected by a couple of variables. First is the intended purpose of the pack. For running shorter distances then you'll want to look at a light, small profile pack with a moderate water capacity. You're not going to be carrying much gear, and you don't want to carry extra water weight. If you're using it for day hikes then you will probably want a pack with a large capacity gear pocket and a large water reservoir. Choosing a pack for cycling will be dependent on how long you plan to spend in the saddle. For cycling, you probably won't need much or any gear space, so focus on a pure hydration pack the size of which is dependent on how much water you think you'll need to carry.

2. What features do I want?

The Reyes is a smaller pack
with straps to allow greater
flexibility for carrying gear.
    Hydration packs come in all ranges from a sling to hold the water reservoir to full featured backpacks. You might want to look for a pack with external straps if you want some flexibility for carrying gear. By having external straps you won't need to carry a rain shell in your pack (or an insulation layer as you strip down). This allows you to minimize the size of your pack but still carry a decent amount of layers for changing conditions.

3. Do I want a hip belt?

    My answer? Yes. This is up to you, though. Lighter smaller packs definitely don't need a hip belt. When you are carrying bigger hydration packs such as Hydrapak's Moro, which is a large day pack, you'll find that a hip belt to help support and stabilize is very necessary. Most come with sternum straps as well which is nice. Sternum straps keep the shoulder straps from slipping off and distribute the load more evenly on your shoulders.

4. Should I get an insulated tube?

Insulated Tube
    People often run into problems with water freezing in the drinking tube during cold conditions. I have been known to carry the hydration pack under my outer layer to prevent this freezing but obviously that only works with smaller, slimline, packs. At some point you will experience the issue of water actually freezing in the pack its self. When this happens then you're out of luck. However if you're having trouble with your tube freezing up then an insulated tube is a simple solution and a cheap investment. With Hydrapak it's easy to swap tubes with their Plug-N-Play adapter.

A few last notes:
    Remember your hydration pack will probably have lightly padded straps, you're not going to carry a lot of weight in it so don't worry. You can buy water reservoirs independently and put them in a pack that you already own, this might be a cheap flexible option for you. Look around for the cheapest pack that fits your needs, but I must recommend Hydrapak. I own both a Hydrapak (Moro) as well as a Camelbak and the Hydrapak is by far my favorite. It has become my primary day pack. Hydrapak's standard reservoir is also above and beyond easier to fill and use than Camelbak and their bite valves come with locking mechanisms so you don't accidentally leak water all over. It's a life saver.

Here's a review I did of the Hydrapak Moro.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

(Appalachian) Trails Days Damascus, Virginia

Today was my very first exposure to an exciting, chaotic hiking event known to the world as (supposedly) the largest hiking festival. Tails Days in Damascus Virginia is timed to fall each year right about when the majority of northward bound Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers migrate through Damascus. The majority of events take place on Saturday and include free showers (for stinky thru hikers), some free food (thanks to Jon from Ahnu Footwear), and a lot of backpacking vendors.

This is the event to attend if you want to sea all the best and newest in outdoor gear. Also most vendors are offering up to 50% off their gear. As you know I am frugal by nature with my purchasing of gear, but there were a lot of tempting offers. There were MSR Whisperlites for $40, Everyone has tents, sleeping bags, everything hiking on display and for use. I got to learn about a few new low-rep names in outdoor gear and I have to admit there were a lot of innovative and competitive designs by private companies. Big names like The North Face, Marmot, etc take a back seat here and instead you will see names like Hennessy Hammocks, Ahnu Footwear, Speer Hammock, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Jacks R Better , and a lot of other great small names along with some big corporate names.
Vendor Booths

Apparently, and to my great surprise, the list of events for the day includes a town-wide water fight in which every resident and some couple of thousand visitors and hikers chuck water balloons and fire squirt guns incessantly through the streets with the Trail Days Parade. Luckily I was in the outfitter store when it all started because I had my Nikon with me (which I really didn't want to get wet) so I filmed some of the action. It will be posted as soon as I can upload the video.

Among the booty scored for the day was an Outdoor Research Swift hat that, for the day I've worn it, has been classy and comfortable. Also, a Hennessy Hammock Hyperlite Zip which will have its own article soon. Price of the backpacking hammock? $230. Would I pay $230 for it? That remains to be seen. However, true to the nature of Trail Days, Hennessy was offering 50% off all their products. That meant the cost came down to $115 and they paid tax. That's not all though, I got a stylin' Hennessy Hammocks T-shirt (why not?) and a SnakeSkin all for the $115. I couldn't pass up that deal!
Parade / Water Fight

If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail but still have some questions, or if you want to see and test some of the coolest backpacking gear then Trail Days in Damascus Virginia is the place to be. It's a great day of relaxing exploration right on the AT. By the way, Trail Days was officially the first time I've ever set foot on the Appalachian Trail. It won't be the last. Get there early to avoid parking traffic jams and park in the Food World parking lot about 1/4 mile from the event. From there you can easily walk in or bike in along the Virginia Creeper Trail and avoid the crowds.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Dual Survival" on Discovery, Funny and Informative...

This is a guest post by Daniel Beach of

Ok, so what is the big deal with just another survival show in the Discovery Channel? Can you really get any better then Man vs. Wild and SurvivorMan? Well, if you haven't had a chance to catch the show "Dual Survival" on the Discovery Channel you really need to put that on your list. Just ask your wife if she will let you stay up late one night this week. Before you think "yeah right" if you have seen one survival show you have seen them all, just people trying to start a fire with sticks and sleep in hand made shelters. Any self respecting survival show would no doubt include these outdoors men essentials, but this show has a little bit more.
A little run down of Dual Survival. The show has two stars, Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury who tackle the great outdoors together as a team. These two guys are farther apart in their survival techniques and general lifestyle then you can imagine, but at the same time very good friends with plenty of humor. Cody Lundin is what you would call a minimalist and survival expert that uses primitive techniques. The best part of the show is that Cody actually attempts all situations without's very hilarious, especially when he walks on lava rock or on some cactus. It might sound mean, but trust me it's worth the watch. Dave Canterbury is more of your typical camo wearing American outdoors man. He's a tuff looking character with a big knife, what else do you want to know.

One thing I want to stress about this show is that it does seem to have a different tone then most other survival shows, and I watch them all. The two stars of this show have such a different view on survival with Cody wearing no shoes and Dave being so macho, that it is hard not to laugh at the situations and humor that comes through in every episodes. With all that said, this show is an awesome way to learn outdoor survival skills. Unlike other survival shows with just one person there is something about having two people working together and displaying techniques that seems to make the lessons come across clear, and make them easy to understand. I would recommend this show to any and every outdoors person, I think you will find it entertaining and informative. Have you seen this show? Do you like it, do you learn anything from it? How does it rate against all the rest of the survival shows out there?

Monday, May 2, 2011

RoadID Wrist ID Elite Review

If you're like me then you prefer the solitude of the wilderness to the life of the party. You would rather be planning your next backpacking trip and staying in shape on the off days running, cycling, and kayaking. Let's be honest, I know I'm not the most fanatical outdoors person out there. I'm sure a lot of you train harder and achieve more than I ever will. No matter your level of training or expertise in outdoor pursuits, we all acknowledge, at some level, the inherent risks.

RoadID Wrist ID Elite (orange)
People develop diabetes mellitus without ever having a history of it. Silent and unexpected myocardial infarctions are increasingly common occurrences. That's not even taking into account lost maps, freak thunderstorms, bear attacks, snake bites, broken ankles, and any of a million other wilderness mishaps.

According to Mike and Edward Wimmer, RoadID was born when Edward was run off the road by a pickup truck while training for a marathon. Without the proper identification, first responders cannot identify an unresponsive patient. As an EMT myself, I know how much of a set back it can be to not know anything at all about your patient. First responders rely heavily on a responsive patient's ability to relay pertinent medical history and specific details about how whatever current issues developed. A medic responding to the scene would have a completely different initial approach to an unresponsive patient with identification verifying a history of Type II Diabetes as compared to someone without identification whatsoever. Plus, ID allows the hospital staff to contact family. Useful in an emergency.
From RoadID's website

Now that we know why proper identification is a good idea, let's examine exactly how RoadID delivers ID to their consumers. You can either purchase identification that goes around your neck, wrist, ankle, or on your shoe.

I chose the Wrist ID Elite. It's an adjustable rubber wrist band that comes in eight colors. You are allowed six lines of space in which to customize what information your Wrist ID conveys. RoadID suggests several basic pieces of vital information to first responders, current medications and major medical history are two biggies! In order to adjust the size of the wrist band, you have to actually cut the band its self so don't cut too small or there's no going back.

The Wrist ID Sport is a fabric material.
I find that fabric wrist bands build up stink.
I have also lost velcro strapped watches
in the water, so I don't find velcro reliable.
I have worn my RoadID Wrist ID Elite for the last two months every day, all day. I've worn it in the shower, through the Red River Gorge, through Cumberland Mountain State Park, on miles of running, and during miles of cycling. The once shiny orange rubber wrist band now has developed what look like water spots but are barely noticeable. The stainless steel plate with engraved information looks like the day I bought it still, while the locking buckle on the underside has picked up a myriad of scratches (none of which impair its function). There has been no fading of lettering and I have no reason to believe that anything short of a belt sander would take off the laser etched words. The RoadID Wrist ID Elite is comfortable and classy, elegant yet subtle.

All in all, I like the RoadID Wrist ID Elite. It's a good failsafe to have and I like to wear bracelets anyway. It saves me from having to carry my wallet for identification purposes on long runs and day hikes. Probably a wise investment for anyone who often finds themselves in harms way intentionally or unintentionally. We all say "it won't happen to me" (I do!), but it's got to happen to somebody and the cold hard truth is that the world will still go on spinning even if that cold lifeless corpse goes unidentified. Don't let that be you.