Showing posts from 2015

Cornering Consciousness' Camp Gear Reviews

You've reached the camp gear review pages of Cornering Consciousness.  Click the posts below to find your gear of interest and to add your reviews.

Sea to Summit Tek Towels

Ford Prefect will be the first to tell you that the most imperative travel item on any adventure in the galaxy is a good towel.

This is a great towel. Made by Sea-to-Summit, our favorite dry bag manufacturer, these size small Tek Towels measure 32"x16", enough to dry off the average human and then some. They're made of the softest micro-fiber I've felt and have their own mesh and nylon zippered pouch. There's a snap strap riveted on a corner making it able to hang anywhere.
They dry quickly and fold up compact enough to stow anywhere, or just keep it handy around your neck like Ford.

Teton Comfortlite Pillows

The greatest improvement in our sleeping comfort is the addition of these Teton self-inflating pillows. They're filled with a material that compacts easily on deflation and expands to whatever firmness you'd like to rest your head on with the easily operable valve.

The orange side is finished in a comfortable micfrofiber while the base has a non-slip finish to keep the pillow in place. If you've ever wrestled with camp pillows in the wee hours, all these things become indispensable. At 18"x10"x4", the pillow rolls and compacts nicely to fit in its stuff sack, weighing in at 12 ounces.

Anker 14 Watt Solar Charger

As much as we'd like to leave the tech behind, both our jobs and research require us to be online more than we'd like to. The H3 is set up to charge all our gear, but I wanted to have an independent system that would keep the iLights on.

This Anker 14 Watt Solar Charger is described by reviewers as the gateway drug to solar power, and I can certainly understand why. My flat iPhone 5S was fully charged in about 90 minutes. From the sun. Free.
Anker has created their PowerIQ technology that detects the device's power needs and ramps up to two amps of charging under direct sunlight. The charger has two ports to charge devices simultaneously. I carry a two-panel version of the same in my bug-out bag.

Coleman Steel Belted Cooler

This Coleman Steel Belted cooler has kept its cool for five days without adding more ice. It's in its fifth year of service on our adventures and shows no sign of aging.

It helps to pack its 54-quart basin with cold and frozen items to begin with. We freeze all our meats before each trip and refrigerate everything else before packing.

The cooler has a couple of space upgrades, a CoolerWebs pouch that adheres to the lid and a Cooler Shelf that attaches via hook and loop that adheres to the cooler sides.
The CoolerWebs pouch has a Velcro enclosure that holds flat or thin packages such as bacon or sliced cheeses.
The Cooler Shelf suspends other items we'd like to keep dry for the long run. Both these additions make long-term travel with a cooler much more manageable. The shelf has been discontinued for sale, but the pouch is still available on Amazon.

Kodiak Spring Bar Canvas 10X10 Tent

While this may appear to be a duplicate post of our previous Kodiak tent where I posted the infamous words of "the last tent we'll ever buy," this is a new tent for us. While cleaning our Field&Stream tent after our trip to Kolob, I managed to destroy its rather delicate fly. It wasn't long for the days of our adventures, and for the price, I can't complain. So, with its plight, I replaced it with a Kodiak 10X10, six-person canvas spring-bar tent.

And I couldn't be happier. Watertight, breathable, durable 100% cotton duck canvas, craftsperson stitching and construction, six and-a-half foot ceiling, a reinforced coated floor pan, doors front and back, YKK zippers, and a quick and easy deployment make this, dare I say it again, the last tent I'll ever buy. I've learning my lesson.

It's downside, it weighs 74 pounds. I've done the math, though, and in calculating the full weight of our vehicle load against its capacity, we have another 300 p…

Camp Chef Mountain Series Stove

Our kitchen kit took the biggest hit in reduction in order for us to get it all to fit in the H3. Cargo capacity restrictions have been a very good thing in reducing and simplifying our gear, replacing the green Coleman double-burner classic with two Brunton stoves, along with a JetBoil. This very compact alternative has given us all the heat we need with which to cook.

Along comes the Helio pressurized water system, and I'm thinking we need something with a little more BTUmph to heat water for enjoyable showers. The size of the Bruntons just didn't seem like they'd heat large amounts of water quickly.

Enter the Camp Chef Mountain Series butane stove, a compact, but standard-size single burner that fits perfectly into the remaining space in our camp box. There are a number of knock-offs out there and from what I've determined, choice just boils down to brand and color. For under $25, you can't go wrong.

The Camp Chef comes with a black plastic case that fits only …

Coleman Queen Airbed Cot

As much as we love our Exped Synmat sleeping pads, we don't love sharing the floor with two perpetually shedding Golden Retrievers, so we've opted for something to get us up and out of the hair haze. We've used a double cot before, but were uncomfortable with the bar the protruded down the middle.
This was our set-up when we had our first spring bar tent.

All this previous kit was sold with the sale of our Montero, and we're re-gearing with lessons learned, the most important of which is the quality of camping is directly related to the quality of sleep.

To this end we picked up a Coleman Queen Airbed Cot. Its stout construction gets us up off the floor with a very stable footprint eliminating any wee-hour-of-the-morning struggle to get one's feet. It comes with an air pump that quickly inflates and deflates the air mattress. The mattress slips into an integrated cover and stays put. It maintains its pressure, though a little bump is needed when air temps change.

ALPS Desert Pine Bag

ALPS makes a quality 20-degree mummy bag with TechLoft+ insulation, two layer offset construction, insulated chest and zipper baffle with a 210T polyester outer fabric and 210T polyester liner. The bag comes with a compression stuff sack. Fully deployed zippers are covered with a hook-latch flap. 
I sleep hot while she sleeps cold, and yet these bags seem to be the Goldilocks choice with both of us reaching comfortable levels we've yet to find in any other bag.

GCI Compact Camp Tables

Camp tables seem to exist on only two of three legs - compact, sturdy, lightweight. For every table we've tested one of these was compromised until we discovered the GCI Compact Camp Table 20 and 25.

The 25 pictured above is a 25"x25" table with a height of 27.5 inches and folds down to a two inch thick 25"x24" stackable platform. It's constructed of aluminum and weighs under six pounds. It holds up to 60 pounds and deploys in seconds. It uses a handy spring-lock dowel that compresses when the legs are folded and gently squeezed making the retraction of the legs effortless. This patent-pending design is simple and brilliant. The 25 is large enough to seat two comfortably and four very close friends.
The 20 is identical in design, but smaller in size, 20"x18" with a height of 24 inches, perfect in the tent for a cot-side or utility table. It weighs four pounds. We picked up one of each for our last outing and will be going back for at least one mo…

Helio Pressure Shower

We've been using an improvised shower system created from a garden sprayer with with a food-grade tube and shower head from an old solar shower. It worked very well but turned out to be too bulky with the reduced cargo capacity of the H3.  I read about the Helio Pressure Shower in a review on Expedition Portal and thought I'd give it a go. 
Short-term, I love this product. It compacts, it's construction is stout and it provides good pressure. By mid-afternoon with full sunshine exposure it's ready to deliver a good, warm shower. At capacity, 11 liters, there's plenty of H2O for two showers and it's still portable.  The Helio uses air generated from an integrated foot pump to pressurize the water chamber, creating nice pressure through a seven-foot tube to a standard kitchen sink sprayer. The unit collapses neatly, but with a bit of persuasion, into a ventilated carry case the size of a medium mess kit (seen in lime green in the top image). Given the physics of…

Field & Stream Wilderness Lodge 6-Person Tent

The sale of our previous adventure vehicle, the Montero, included much of the kit we've acquired along the way, including the Kodiak canvas tent reviewed below. Hated to see it go, but for our needs it was a bit of overkill. As we build up our kit to fit in our current vehicle with substantially smaller storage, size and weight are old considerations from our moto-camping days that we're back to observing.

This time we've gone with something lighter, but still with room to enjoy inside in wet weather with two dogs, as well as tall enough to stand in. This kit has a spacious 8 by 12 foot floor pan with a huge screen window at the back with a full-coverage fly that creates a protected vestibule in the front.

Can't beat the value at under $250 at Dick's Sporting Goods. Best to waterproof the fly and all opaque surfaces on the tent.

Kodiak Spring Bar Canvas 10X14 Tent

We traded out the roof top tent with something more pragmatic and comfortable. Navigating the ladder out of the RTT for the 2:00a pee was perilous at best, challenging even the best bladder control, not to mention getting arthritic limbs to move in ways best left to primates.

We replaced the Oasis II with a spring bar Kodiak Canvas tent, a ten by fourteen palace giving us ample room for upgraded sleeping arrangements and the ability to stand and walk around as was intended for most the homo-erectus species.

Now that we're traveling and camping with two medium-sized canines, this space accommodates them well and gives us a place to go in when the weather turns wet.

The spring bar design deploys in a few moments and the canvas will make this the last tent we ever buy. (Famous last words.)

While the RTT was cozy and comfortable, this made you think you could also order room service.

Black Canyon Privacy Tent

The last shelter we bring along is the shower/lu. Made by Black Canyon, it's a 4.5X4.5 foot privacy tent with a vented shower floor, shelving and towel rack.

It ships with a sun shower but we replaced it with a heavy-duty garden sprayer I converted to a shower by replacing the hose and sprayer with a food-grade tube and shower head from an old solar shower. Pumped up it provided great water pressure for washing dishes and showering.

Oasis II Roof-top Tent

Mounted atop the Thules on the Montero was an Oasis II roof-top tent (RTT). Yes, we slept up there. A little bigger than a queen size mattress, this RTT has the room and accoutrements of a luxurious two-man tent without the fuss of worrying about scorpions, snakes, and fire ants, though it does make it easier for bears to access since they don't have to bend over to tell if you're sleeping.
The Oasis II was made in France by Trekking and had a limited distribution in the States, primarily through Rogue River Trading Company which appears to be no longer in business.

We chose the Oasis II over conventional RTT's for its weight, just under 40 pounds where other RTTs weigh more than one hundred pounds. That would limit the amount of kit we could pack on top. It was also considerably less money, under $1k. Other RTT's can run into $3k to $4k but are certainly more substantial and rugged. This suited us fine.

The image below shows the RTT mounted with the door to the rear…

ARB 1250 Awning

The Eezi-Awn taught us a lesson or two in what to look for in our next awning. The first being weather protection. We picked up an ARB 48" awning. It's enveloped in a heavy duty nylon reinforced pvc bag, completely weatherproof.
The second is in the hardware. The legs are height-adjustable and use a solid locking cam system that instills more confidence in the structure's integrity.
 The shade is made from a thick pvc lined polyester.
 All hardware on the awning is aluminum and nicely machined and finished.
The third lesson is in its engineering. The stanchion junctions include an oversized black disk that keep the legs and stanchions secured in their channels until they're deployed making one-person set-up quick and easy. The Eezi-Awn required two people and was awkward to deploy.
The shade secures to the frame with stout velcro strap and the corners are reinforced. The frame is channeled as well to accept mosquito netting and add-on rooms with floors, all ARB acces…

Eezi-Awn Awning

This was first awning we purchased and used extensively. It attached to the Thule racks on the Montero.

This awning is Australian made. The collapsible frame and casing is aluminum with a canvas textile. The struts and supports use an offset cam design that locks the three-piece legs into place regardless of height, We've found them tricky to deploy and a bit hard to trust.

The awning provides ample shade, a valuable resource in a land of few trees.

It stowed in a hard aluminum case that was a bit vulnerable to the elements with dust and moisture seeping in through the seams.

Westfield XL Roll Table

This is the Westfield XL Aluminum Roll Table, 43X27X27. It collapses into a tube sack and has an adjustable leg to even out the ground. Lightweight and packable alongside other long, narrow items, we found the hardware to mount the table's slats to be flimsy, and the plastic finishing items were pretty fragile.