Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Running Program is Right for Me?

Running Without a Plan

I've recently added the Couch to 5k Facebook page to The Adventure Lifestyle Blog's Facebook "likes". It really is a great program that works for a lot of people and it's really cool to drop in on their wall to read all the motivational and inspirational posts by Couch to 5k runners. I've left a few tips on some posts that I've seen there and read through a lot more and every time I visit their Facebook page I'm reminded of how great it is to see people getting off the couch and hitting the road/trail.

Every so often (at least once a day) there comes a post from someone who asks "What program do I move on to after the C25K?" Every time I see this question come up it really bothers me a little bit. The C25K program is great, like I said, but it amazes me at how dependent we, as a society, have become on following rules and orders. We're so socialized to following commands that we can't even go running without following some sort of predefined plan. It strikes me as sad that as humans we cannot free ourselves from authority and routine enough to even find freedom in running.

What running plan should you follow? I advocate following no running plan whatsoever. That's right, ditch the running plans and programs and just go run. Everyone has a different schedule, physical condition, and motivation to run. Set a goal or sign up for a 5k and simply work toward it. Test the waters by starting off running and keeping your pace slow enough to hold a conversation and simply run until you're bored, tired, or reach your goal.

I know that it's hard to fathom just going out and letting your body tell you when enough is enough. Truly, though, it's entirely feasible. To keep your motivation up, just increase your distance or pace every time you come in from a run and say "that was easy". Next time you go running, push it a little farther and repeat the process. If you're looking for the next running plan to follow now that you're done with the C25K, I dare you to try no plan at all.

The best thing about this running plan? It's uniquely personalized. It works for any experience level, any fitness level, any time constraints, any distance. This running plan works for everyone, every time, guaranteed. Because it's your own plan, developed and tailored by your body, for your body, to fit your goals. And guess what? It doesn't require that you follow anybody's rules but your own.

So if you're wondering what plan to follow now that you're done with the Couch to 5k running plan, follow no plan at all. Make it up as you go and have fun while you reach your new goals. Let's face it, you're not a professional athlete so why bother with rigid plans when you can make your own flexible, fun workout every day.

I dare you to run with no plan at all!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Koomer Ridge Campground, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Site #54
Let me start off by saying, Koomer Ridge Campground carries a lot of memories for me. I love this place and I know that staying at Koomer Ridge means good times in the Gorge are coming! Koomer Ridge Campground, for me, is synonymous with fun and adventure. Both times I've been to this campground have been in early spring, thus off-season. Keep in mind that what I have to say is from this perspective and things may be different during the summer when campground activities are in full swing.

Fire Pit
Slade, Kentucky, is a fun little town. There is a Shell station, a Marathon, a couple of tourist shops, rest area, and Subway from what I can recall off the top of my head. While you're in town, stop by the Marathon and pick up some Ale8, a locally brewed soda somewhere between ginger ale and sprite on the flavor spectrum yet significantly more delicious than either. Campton Road, 15, heading east out of Slade will take you to Koomer Ridge Campground. Be careful, though, as the twisties quickly turn into blind hairpin turns. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there, about a mile out. It's a truly beautiful area where rhododendrons droop lazily over the road from sandstone rock outcroppings that sheer vertically from the side of the road.

When you finally arrive at Koomer Ridge Campground (ten minutes, six miles) you'll find a self registration station which will set you back $7 per night. The parks service has (as of Mar 2011) posted a notice of rate increase so expect to see this price rise in the near future. There are, as far as I can tell, only two sites with electrical access and those are sites #5 and #16 marked as Volunteer and Host sites, respectively so don't expect electrical service.

Site #54 has a beautiful location, across a short wooden bridge and down a small hill you'll find the camp pad for this site is tucked away a little from the other campsites and includes a beautiful wild Chive patch for your camp cooking. The manual-pump well is located close by and if you're not daunted by a little walk and pumping your own water, I'd recommend site #54.

Site #54 in the morning
The bathrooms are open-pit style outhouses with just a toilet and paper. No sink or running water. There is running water at select locations so pick your site carefully. On the off season you can sneak into site #5 which is right next to running water, and the bathroom. Very good site, but don't expect to use the electrical service as the box is locked during the offseason. There are bear-proof trashcans located quite frequently around the park.

You'll find fire pits in each camp site. Each site also has a wood-lined gravel tent area and at least one post with pegs to hang your clothes or other odds-n-ends for drying. Each fire pit has a fold-in grate for holding cast iron cooking ware. You'll also find picnic tables at each site, burly lumber tables made from 4"x6" slabs that look like they were stolen from a train track. These tables are solid and well made.

From Koomer Ridge Campground you'll find the Koomer Ridge Trail, Hidden Arch Trail, and Silvermine Arch Trail. The Hidden Arch Trail leads to... Hidden Arch *GASP*. This is a short hike, but even so, is not worth your time. Instead I suggest you go visit Gray's Arch, or any of the other numerous beautiful sandstone attractions in the Red River Gorge. I can't vouch for the other two trails out of the campground.
Gray's Arch Time Lapse

In conclusion, the Koomer Ridge Campground receives a B review from The Adventure Lifestyle Blog. Not having enough sites with electrical access makes it difficult for me to keep my camera gear charged while I'm out there. Without cameras, I can't bring back great review to my readers. The restrooms aren't anything special, nor are they overly dirty by park standards. I think you'll find your time here enjoyable and ultimately worth your $7 for the night. You can see the Forest Service's information and site map of Koomer Ridge Campground here.

Google Map: From Slade, KY to Koomer Ridge Campground

How to be a Kid Again

Taking a step away from the technical gear-related end of the outdoor/adventure spectrum I'd like to talk about being a kid. I believe there's a huge and glaring disconnect between the creativity of childhood and the resourcefulness of adulthood.

Adventure comes in all sizes, shapes, and varieties. Be it Patagonia expeditions, backyard excursions, free soloing, or swinging in the hammock we can find adventure in just about anything. This is something I have often addressed here at The Adventure Lifestyle Blog. With adulthood comes a sense of self importance and awareness of competition with others. I see Facebook posts every day from REI, Les Stroud, and other big outdoor resources talking about Joe Schmoe and his ground breaking summit of Mt. Awesome. These news posts are overwhelming. How come everyone is doing something cooler than I am? I believe we've lost a sense of self. I find myself too often consumed by what others are doing that I forget the things I want to do.

As a kid I spent my time in class drawing sketches of forts I wanted to build with my buddies in the woods. I would design new "machines" and dream of inventing all sorts of cool things. I was captivated by medieval siege machines like trebuchets and catapults. Eventually I found myself captivated by pyrotechnics and dabbled in the dark arts of the Anarchist Cookbook. The possibilities were endless, create strongholds in the forest to defend from the invasions of imagined or future onslaughts. Learn survival skills to hold out when at apocalypse came. All of these things were on my list of things to do once that school bell rang at 3:30 every day.

The problem?

As a kid I never had enough money to buy the lumber, metal, or tools to build siege engines. I didn't have the safety equipment or know-how to safely experiment with homemade pyrotechnics (not that that stopped me...). There was no way for me to get access to transport of my own. The problems seemed insurmountable... if only I could overcome these adversities then I knew beyond a doubt that I could build anything I wanted, be anything I wanted.

Now as an adult I find that I have access to transportation, I have a garage full of tools, I have the carefully gathered know-how to build or fabricate just about anything from steel or wood. Certainly there's enough money in my bank account to fund just about any concoction of ideas I could have to entertain my interests and hobbies. But what do I do when I have some free time? Watch a TV program, play video games, check my Facebook.

This is a call to action against wasted time. Against wasted youth, and against the stagnant imagination.

I know I'm not the only one who has lost the connection between childhood imagination and adulthood action. We all have dreams that sit on the back burner. A trip to Europe, a new Ferrari, mastering a sport or conquering a mountain. Whatever your dreams are, or were, they need to take priority in your life. It's imperative to stop putting off your goals and dreams because tomorrow may never come.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Share Your Outdoor Experience and Stories With:

This is a guest post by Daniel Beach from Share This Adventure. As a web developer I have to commend him on the beautiful site design and layout. Go check it out, this site is full of untapped potential! I have no doubt that you all will enjoy this site. Daniel likes adventure and he wants to see what you've got!

a free website by an outdoor enthusiast for outdoor and adventure enthusiast. Please, take time to look around our website! The idea behind the site is to let anyone and everyone share any kind of  outdoor activity or adventure. We want everyone to be inspired, and inspire others with adventure stories from the mountains to the road trip on the weekend, and everything in between. The idea is to get inspired to get off the couch and do something adventurous, then tell everyone else about it! There are plenty of adventure stories to look around at and be inspired by, to do something you have never done before. We want to know how other people have fun, so it can be used by others looking for something to do!

The website is fairly new so we are looking for any and every kind of outdoor adventure story. There are already many adventure stories that can be read with plenty of pictures to go along. When creating and writing your adventure story it is all done directly on the website, in a page with a design similar to any word or document writer. You also have the ablility to upload, store, and insert images into the story to spice it up. Below is a screen shot of how it works......



We have a few main sections to classify adventures under....

           Climbing (rock and alpine adventures)
Camping (tent and other adventures)
Bike Stuff (open road adventures)
Hiking/Backpacking (open trail)
Water things (kayak,canoe and so on)
Fishing (fly fishing adventures)
Snow things (bbrrrrr adventures)


             Whatever things (misc sweet stuff) is committed to promoting all outdoors activities from climbing, kayaking, camping, hiking, fishing, bouldering, and anything else you can possibly think of. Want to share your adventure? It's free and simple to just create an account so you can start to inspire people to get out there.
We are also pleased to announce our first outdoor adventure contest. The idea is to get people excited about sharing outdoor adventures, no matter what they are. We want people to share any and all outdoor adventures between now and ending April 30th, and we will choose the best outdoor adventure to win a $25 dollar gift certificate to , to purchase whatever you want!
Creating an account to submit an adventure is free and very easy, it can be done here. Any adventure submitted between now and March 30th will be automatically entered. We are looking for any and every outdoor adventure, so lets see what you got!

Contest Rules and Regulations

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Running is Good Backpacking Conditioning

I've been very busy ever since returning from hiking in the Red River Gorge and haven't been able to post much other than video and written reviews of gear that I tested on that trip. The next few weeks won't be much better, unfortunately, so stay tuned for new articles when I can get the chance. For now, I'll be doing a quick post about backpacking and hiking training and how running can help you in the long run (no pun intended) on the trail.

Wolverine Terrain Mid Waterproof
Coming up in April I have planned a 12 hour attempt of the 38.5 mile Waterloo-Pinckeny Trail here in Michigan. I have, of course, been training for this extensively over the last month keeping myself on a very regular running schedule. You will see it argued, especially among those who are setting off on the Appalachian Trail, that the only good conditioning for backpacking is backpacking. Thus one school of thought is to simply hit the trail and do short days for the first few weeks while you gain the muscle and conditioning necessary to pump out long days on the trail. There are a few problems with this.

For those of us who are not planning to be doing months of continuous thru hiking, a weekend backpack for an unconditioned body will do nothing more than make one sore and miserable. Even on a long journey, the first few weeks will be slow and miserable. This is why I advocate running as a great training exercise for hiking and backpacking.

Running allows one to adhere to a rhythmic schedule, develop and maintain great cardio, get the legs ready for strenuous use, and keep ones self healthy when you're not on the trail. It allows you to get outdoors to train, running takes minimal time and produces good solid results. You don't need gym memberships or special equipment. It really is a universally achievable conditioning tool to keep hikers and backpackers motivated and fit for the trail.

A lot of people will argue that running doesn't use the same muscles as backpacking. Well here's the real truth: running keeps the legs strong and used to strenuous exercise. While it may take a few days on the trail to develop the trail specific muscles for carrying the pack, the legs and your cardiovascular system will thank you for already being conditioned to running.

Try trail running, it's the same as hiking except you put out a lot more effort and get faster training results.  If you're tight on time, running or trail running will deliver the results you need. You can trail run a few miles a week for a total time of less than two hours a week and get in shape. It would take days of hiking to do the same thing. It's really an economical and time saving solution to trail conditioning.

My Pearl Izumi isoSeek IV WRX Trail Runners
If you're looking for trail running (or any running) shoes, I can whole heartedly recommend our partner Pearl Izumi. I have their Peak XC shoe which is by far the most comfortable and breathable trail running shoe I've ever worn. It has been accompanying me on my recent training runs for the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. When the weather is wet (often this time of year in Michigan) I rely on Pearl Izumi's IsoSeek IV WRX trail runner. It's a water resistant (just don't stand in the puddles and you'll be fine) shoe that doesn't fit me quite as well as the Peak XC but is still a great shoe. Bear in mind that shoe size and fit will be different for everybody but head on over to Run Like an Animal and look at Pearl Izumi's running shoes for your training.

Pearl Izumi isn't your thing? Try some of Wolverine Footwear's new 2011 trail runners.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hydrapak Moro 2011 Review

What do we look for in a hydration pack:

 How much gear space do we need in it? How snugly will it hold to your body with the high-density weight of water filling it up? Is it comfortable enough to use for trail running? How much water can it hold for us? How easy is the reservoir to clean? Does it have a high-flow bite valve? These are all questions we need to keep in mind when looking at hydration packs for the trail.

The Hydrapak Moro has filled a lot of roles for me. The 800 cubic inch gear pocket is great for long day hikes with a lot of gear. I filled the Moro up with generous lunch portions and camera gear as well as an extra layer for a good day hike through the Red River Gorge and it carried like a champ. For the size, this pack is middle of the road for dry weight, coming in at 1.3 lbs. With its 3L water bladder full, you'll be hauling 7.9 lbs.

The number of compartments on this pack is astounding. There are four outer pouches, two "bottle" pouches, although I don't know why anyone would carry extra water with a 3L reservoir, one MP3 stash  pocket with headphone port (center zipper in above photo) and one trinkets pouch at the bottom of the pack for miscellaneous small gear. Inside the main pouch are two "hidden" zippered compartments for more small odds 'n ends storage, two pencil holders, and a calculator/cell phone/MP3 pouch. Really there are redundant pouches on this pack to carry multiples of things you probably didn't even need to take one of. On the back, right behind the back padding, is the dedicated water bladder compartment. This is where your water reservoir goes, and it's probably my only complaint with the pack.

The water tubing is designed to come out of the pack right where the shoulder straps are sewn to the pack. From there the tubing follows the shoulder strap down and is held in place by elastic bands. Pretty standard hydration pack design. It took me forever to figure out why Hydrapak had not done this with the Moro. Finally I realized that they intended to do just that, however, on the Moro pack that I recieved from Hydrapak, the seamstress had accidentally sewn shut the port on my right shoulder and partially sewn shut the left one as well. Now I can barely get the tubing through the left shoulder port and the right side? Forget about it. That's a thumbs down. Instead of having the tubing run smoothly along my shoulder, I have to leave the reservoir zipper open a bit and run the tubing clumsily out, through the carry handle, and along the strap that way. Very shabby, but functional. Not a mistake I would be happy with if I paid the fill $110 price tag on this pack, though.

The bite valve its self, however, is wonderful. I've used the old school CamelBak bite valves and let me tell you, they don't allow enough water flow. It's like trying to drink a thick milk-shake through a small straw. The Hydrpak Moro bite valve is great though. It comes standard with a twist-lock (I can't tell you how many times my CamelBak has leaked all over) which is a life saver. This valve lets out all the water you could want easily, so no extra effort to get enough water through the valve!

The water reservoir its self is awesome, too! It has a large opening for filling and cleaning and it closes with a simple slide-lock so it's super quick to take in and out of the pack. The water tubing connects with a quick-snap valve that won't leak and feels solid. According to Hydrapak one can turn the bladder inside out for cleaning and washing but that scares me a little since I feel like it will put undue stress on the plastic of the reservoir closure and lead to accelerated damage to your reservoir. I opt to clean it without turning the bag inside out, but it's up to you!

There are four cinch straps on the sides of the Hydrapak Moro to secure your load so that it doesn't move around and throw off your balance. I found these to work great while scrambling over rivers, balancing on logs, and climbing rough sandstone in the Gorge. These straps have velcro to take in the extra webbing when you're not using the straps fully extended. Keeps the pack looking neat and no dangling cords to mess you up.

The sternum strap is elastic, keeping the pack always tight but never uncomfortable. I chose to put the magnetic "Quantum" clip here for the bite valve. This is a neat addition Moro made to the Hydrapak to keep the bite valve from flopping around freely when not in use. The hip belt is very lightly padded but sufficient for this pack as it won't be supporting any weight, simply holding the pack tightly to your back so that it doesn't move around while you're trying those technical moves.

Scraping against sandstone, scrambling over logs, and crossing rivers this pack never let me down. It performed like a champ in the field. It's a big day pack, but Hydrapak offers smaller versions if you don't need as much gear space. The pack hugs you tight on every move and even with tripods strapped on, a full water bladder, and cameras in the pack I never had a scary moment. This pack is great for days when you need to haul a lot of gear comfortably through the bush. I would recommend the Hydrapak Moro to anyone and it instantly replaced my old CamelBak as my primary day pack and hydration pack for it's superior quality and great durability. Watch the video to see in detail all the aspects of this pack!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011 Ryders Eyewear Hex Photochromic Sunglasses Review

The 2011 Ryders Eyewear Hex Photochromic Sunglasses are one sweet pair of shades. I received these glasses to test from our partner, Ryders Eyewear, back in February and have loved them since the first time I put them on.

Ryders Eyewear Hex Photochromic Sunglasses (2011)

Let's talk about the specs:

Photochromic, these glasses are auto-darkening in UV light situations (outside). They lighten when you return indoors, but these shades are not reading glasses so I'm not sure why you would be wearing them indoors in the first place. The photochromism is nice, however, because it also lightens and darkens inversely as the change in UV intensity. On a rainy day, these glasses are a lighter lens, on a bright sunny day they're darker. Pretty sweet feature, if you ask me.

Slacklining in the Gorge
Polarized, The Ryders Eyewear Hex 2011 glasses are polarized. Most of you know what a polarized lens is, however few people understand why they're better. Polarization is the process by which light waves align themselves. Light waves either travel in Sin waves horizontally, or vertically. Polarized glasses only allow one of these orientations to pass through. This process doesn't exactly make things darker, what it does is reduce glare. When sunlight reflects off a surface (car hood for example), the light rays come off mostly in one orientation. Polarized sunglasses block this orientation of light, thus reducing glare off of surfaces. Polarized glasses are particularly useful for water surfaces and any other surface that reflects sunlight.

My experience:

These glasses make driving a pleasure. As I mentioned earlier, they reduce glare from cars and windows. This makes it easier to focus while driving and present a sharper image. During my driving to Red River Gorge, KY, I spent about eight hours driving through the rain. Even with overcast skies the glasses didn't make things too dark. They reduced glare and made it easier to focus with rain covered roads and tire-mist in the air. I have no objective way to confirm this, however, I think the Ryders Eyewear Hex glasses even increased my vision distance during the rainy days.

On the trails these shades protect from twigs and dirt by wrapping fully around your eyes and following the contour of your face. They even saved me a couple times from getting a branch in my eye. These shades stick to the side of your head with a soft rubber inner lining the temples. Even when running for extended periods these shades never moved at all nor do they squeeze my head uncomfortably. They feel secure and through hiking the Red River Gorge, cycling, and running I never once had the sense that they might fall off.

I would recommend the Ryders Eyewear Hex Sunglasses (2011) to anyone looking for a good pair of outdoor adventure sunglasses that can be used daily. They're ultra comfortable, solidly made, and they come with a nice case to prevent any accidental damage when they're not on your face. Very well done, Ryders!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS) Promo Code

One of the coolest things about blogging is the networking. I absolutely love getting email from people who find my blog interesting and outdoors people with similar interests and goals. The Boulder Outdoor Survival School is one of those people. I truly feel humbled to be approached by great companies and organizations and I feel honored to help out anyone in the outdoor education world. That being said, let me introduce to you the Boulder Outdoor Survival School.

BOSS, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, is the oldest and largest survival school in the world (website), based in southern Utah since 1968. Courses range from 3 to 28 days long and teach a wide range of wilderness skills. What sets BOSS apart from other programs, however, is their dedication to “primitive technologies” — teaching people how to enter the wilderness with a minimal amount of modern gear. Instead of backpacks, sleeping bags and tents, course participants sleep in wool blankets and ponchos. Fires are made by friction (rubbing sticks together) rather than with matches. The curriculum highlights the wisdom and skills of traditional cultures, inviting people to step back in time and re-connect with nature and themselves. It’s an incredible empowering program.
~Juliet, BOSS Community Manager
On the BOSS website, you'll find all the information you might need including a mission statement that even Thoreau would appreciate. "At BOSS, we believe there is power in the "Old Ways" of walking lightly through the wilderness, and we believe that power is accessible to everyone."

BOSS instructors have learning backgrounds from all around the world. Countries such as Malaysia and Thailand are places where BOSS instructors have learned aboriginal survival skills. This is starting to sound a little like Les Stroud's new "Beyond Survival" show. These instructors work to bring "back to basics" skills to their students and reinforce a natural appreciation for ecological impact and environmental preservation.

To kick off their new website, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School is offering a limited time 10% discount on this year's courses (excluding the Slidrock Gathering). Use this special Boulder Outdoor Survival School Promo Code to get your 10% discount.

Enter Promo Code: "BOSSadventure10"

You can also read more about BOSS on their main website (, on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Have questions about BOSS? Chances are, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School's FAQ's will answer those!

Amazing Appalachian Trail Video

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

What an awesome and inspiring video of the whole AT.

How to View Your GPS Tracks in Google Earth

Due to my upcoming 12 hour attempt of the 38.5 mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, I have decided to start using my Oregon 400t tracks to analyze my performance. Therefore as I start my training and scouting of the Waterloo-Pinckeny Trail, I will be utilizing GPS tracks in Google Earth. I can then view my trip digitally in "real time", with an elevation versus speed plot. This is all very useful information for me to know as I plan my trail run attempt.

Here is how you can do this for your own GPS logs. I will be writing this from the perspective of a Garmin Oregon 400t and a MacBook Pro. However, it is applicable to anyone.

Step 1. Clear your track before hitting the trail. Here's how on the Oregon 400t 
    Setup -> Tracks -> Reset -> Clear Current Track

Step 2. Set the record interval, the time between each point that your Garmin GPS records on the map. The more often it records a point, the faster your track log will fill up. If you want to record a very long track, set your record interval to "less often" or "least often" if you want a very detailed track, set your record interval to "more often" or "most often".

Step 3. Hike the trail.

Step 4. Save your track on the Garmin GPS unit. If you've followed the directions up till now, you should've started the trail with a clean slate on your track log. To save your track you just walked with a unique name to make it easier to find later, follow these directions:
    Track Manager -> Current Track -> Save Track -> (name your track)

Step 5. Turn on your Garmin GPS unit then plug unit into the computer.

Step 6. Download Google Earth.

Step 7. Open your Garmin GPS unit's drive in Explore (Windows) or Finder (Mac) in my case, the drive mounts as "Garmin".

Step 8. Navigate to Drive "Garmin" -> Folder "Garmin" -> Folder "GPX"

Drive "Garmin"
Folder "Garmin"
Folder "GPX"

Custom name GPX File Located in the "GPX" Folder
Step 9. Your track file will be located in the "GPX" folder where you're currently looking as (customname).gpx as long as you've followed all the directions. Copy this file to your desktop so it's easier to find. If you followed this procedure, go to Step 11.

Step 10. If you didn't clear your track log before hitting the trail it's still possible to recover just the trail segment.

Follow these instructions on your Garmin unit to save your trail hike as a unique track:
     Track Manager -> Current Track -> Save Portion -> Determine which portion was your trail hike      
    by analyzing the date, time, and distance fields -> (name your track)
Now go back to Step 8.

Step 11. Open Google Earth, then select:
    File -> Open -> Desktop -> Customname.gpx
It will ask you some preferences about how Google Earth should import your customname.gpx file, leave the options as they are and hit OK. Google Earth will import your GPX file and covert it to a Google Earth KML file for you.

Now you can view your GPX Garmin track as a Google Earth KML file overlaid on Google maps, it will even "play" it for you and show you exactly where you were hiking, and at what time. You can open the elevation plot by right clicking the track in the "My Places" bar on the left.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Joby Gorillapod Original Review

My interest was captured by this nifty little tripod camera mount. Joby manufactures the Gorillapod in a number of style and sizes, each aimed at working with a specific type (weight) of camera. The Joby Gorillapod Original targets the point and shoot type cameras, according to Joby's specs, anything under 11.5 ounces. The Gorillapod is made to fit all the scenarios and shooting situations that no other tripod can.

As far as the outdoor videography and photography is concerned, it's nearly the perfect solution. The Joby Gorillapod weighs in at only 1.6oz, literally pounds lighter than a full tripod. It also has the unique ability to form around your shooting environment. Wrap it around a tree for self shooting, bend it to balance on a sharp edged rock when you're climbing, wrap it around the end of your hiking pole to shoot your review of the newest trail, or stick it on your mountain bike for a cheap, easy, versatile mounting system. The Joby Gorillapod Original is also small, easily packed away for trail shots.
The Gorillapod here is attached to my Hydrapak Morro

The Joby Gorillapod Original retails for $20, I bought three of them when I found them on sale for only $5 each. They work great for me as a blogging and outdoor mount for my cameras. I often don't have the luxury of setting up high quality well controlled scenes and shots, with the Gorillapod that changes. It's small, light, and versatile enough to cover my needs in any situation and give me all sorts of advantages when I'm filming for my blog outdoors. The video is a MUST watch if you want a full idea of what the Joby Gorillapod can do in the outdoors.

Backpacker Magazine Reviews the SOL Origin Survival Kit

I'm here to point out, once again, that not every article you read has your best interests at heart. For example this week Backpacker Magazine (which I love and respect) did a photo gallery gear review of the Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) Origin Survival Kit, set to release March 18th 2011. Before we get started, it's very important that you review the concepts I laid out in my "Eight Rules to Follow for Your DIY Survival Kit". Important things to remember from that articles are:

  • Not everyone has the same survival skills, thus each survival kit should be unique
  • Survival kits should be uniquely tailored to complement the environment you expect to be using it in
  • Every item in the kit must be able to perform double duty in order to optimize weight/space/functionality ratios
  • It's a good idea to make the majority of your survival implements yourself, or thoroughly test them before you need to use them so that you will be exceedingly familiar with their uses
  • There should always be at least one trash bag in your survival kit, they fold up to almost nothing and can be used for almost anything
Okay, now that you're read the article again and brushed up on the major points here, we're ready to move on and talk about the SOL Origin Survival Kit. This kit comes in a hard plastic case which houses an internal waterproof compartment, and external "slots" into which fit various survival implements. So the case is serving dual roles, this is good. It comes with one of those cheap-o dollar store compasses (the kind you'd give out at your kid's birthday party). I would never trust my life to one of those things since, from my experience, they're less likely to point north than moss on a tree. Not to mention, even if you do get the little 1/2" compass to point in the right direction, you can't take a decent bearing off of it because it's too small to orient well. *Sigh*

From the review
Moving on, we'll take a look at the knife included with this kit. They talk about how this knife has a whistle (good) and a little LED light to illuminate what you're cutting. I guess it's good that this guy had a block of Velveeta cheese in his Origin Kit. It unless you're stabbing something to death, however, this LED won't do you much good since it's oriented straight down the knife blade which only illuminates thing in front of the knife. The plastic handle doesn't buy my trust, either... not something I would want to rely on for my life.

Now we move on (in their review) to the waterproof compartment which holds (oddly enough) eight different items that are already waterproof! Tin foil, nylon cord, safety pins, a needle, fishing line, fish hooks, steel wire, and tinder in a plastic bag. The only thing in this waterproof container that would be adversly affected by water is the tinder, which is already in a plastic bag! WHY would you make such an obviously redundant blunder? Because these companies are looking out for profits, not your survival. Their tinder, by the way, is advertised as being waterproof even without the doubly redundant waterproofing system they put in place.

They include a little "how-to" manual and survival tips booklet in the case. My dear readers, if you're lost in the woods and have to use your survival kit and you need a how-to manual you are, quite simply, a dead person. You had damn well better know how to keep yourself alive before you end up in the situation! Including a survival "how-to" booklet in the SOL Origins Kit just goes to show that they don't expect you to open the thing up before you need to use it. They expect their customers to buy it, throw it in the bottom of their packs until one day they need it and realize "holy shit, I don't know how to use any of the items in this kit I bought". 

If you only get one thing out of this article, let it be this: don't buy a pre-made survival kit. Do the research, learn the skills, and make one yourself. You'll quickly find out that including tinder in most survival kits is a waste of space since you can find it almost anywhere, any time. You'll learn that a trash bag is one of the most versatile items you can possibly take into the wilderness.

You might also learn that putting some water purification tablets in your survival kit adds (almost) no weight and saves you from having to boil all your water to purify it. Why didn't SOL include water purification? I have no idea! There are only a few things that will kill you more quickly in a survival situation than lack of water, and SOL did nothing to address this issue other than add some "sturdy" tin foil for boiling your water. Ounce for ounce, you can purify more water, more rapidly, with potable-aqua tablets than an army of men with tin foil could boil.

Dear readers,
I rest my case.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grays Arch check in

Hey there bloggers! We're at gray's arch in Red River Gorge, KY. The weather is looking up and I'm working on a lot of good video and gear reviews. See you soon!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vibram Five Fingers What's Your Story?

Barefoot running is an exploding new fad and people love Vibram Five Fingers shoes as a "transition" shoe. They are minimally padded, very minimally insulated, and very form fitting. In fact, I recently got my own pair of Vibram Five Finger KSO (Keep Stuff Out). So far, I love them! It's so nice to break the norm and have something new on your feet. It feels free.

The thin sole and minimal material present in the shoe make it very light and able to follow the curvature of the ground perfectly. I really like being able to feel the flow of what I'm standing on, that way there's no balance surprises. But this isn't a Vibram Five Fingers KSO review, that will come later, right now what I want to know is, why do you wear Vibram Five Fingers? Is it just because all the "cool" runners are doing it now, or do you have your own Vibram Five Fingers story? Here's my story, and I hope you'll post yours too if you have a pair. If not, leave a comment and tell us what you think about the Five Finger trend and the barefoot running revolution.

I bought the Vibram Five Fingers KSO because I like to break the norm. They look fun and new so naturally they caught my attention. With all of my outdoor work, I thought it would be worth my time to try them and see if they work for me. I'm most excited to try them on the slackline as soon as the weather warms up! The smooth sole and very grippy rubber on the KSO, along with its ability to form to the object one is standing on should make them great shoes for the line! I'll also be interested to try them for some spring and summer running to see if this hype is really worth it. Who knows, I bet they'll make good kayaking shoes, too! And you better believe I'll be taking them climbing at some point!

We want to hear your Vibram Five Fingers story!