Friday, September 30, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Saris Bike Rack


The Bike Rack:
The Saris Solo is a quick and easy way to transport a single bike.  Need to drop off your bike at the bike shop?  Brink your child's bike to a friend's house for a playdate?  This is a minimalist way to handle the transportation of single bikes and when you're done, just pop it into the trunk or closet.
  • Low cost, easy installation, convenient size
  • Ratcheting hold-down straps secure bike
  • Built with 100% recyclable, non-rusting materials.
  • Carries one bike up to 35 lbs.
The Giveaway:  
Head on over to Greenwala and leave a comment for a chance to win.

OXO Convertible Colander: Veggie Prep Must Have

I have several colanders, good stainless colanders.  And the problem I run into with all of them is that they leak water all over the counters.  You don't really want your colander touching the bottom of your sink because sinks are notorious for germs.  The typical feet on colanders are generally too small to keep a healthy distance from the bottom of the sink, in my opinion.  So normally, what I do is hold the colander over the sink while it drains, then shake it off and set the colander on the counter where it continues to drip a little bit.  Not disastrous, but certainly not ideal.

The OXO Convertible Colander solves this problem, keeping your food way off the bottom of the sink, and also in a closer more convenient position for food prep.  It's very large, holding a good deal of food and clean up is a cinch.  Since I use a colander pretty much every time I prepare food, I really appreciate these features.  I just throw my produce in the colander and rinse.  It's right there for me to slice, dice, juice, or toss into a salad while excess water drains right into the sink.   The legs fold down for use on the counter top and for storage.  This colander is also good looking enough to be used for a fruit bowl.  I love it for fruit and veggies, but you could also use it for pasta.

Unlike some of my meshy colanders which can get a bit tedious to clean, you just swipe this a couple of times with your soapy scrub brush, rinse and you're done.  You can also put it in the dishwasher, but I think it's easier just to clean it right after use so that it's ready for the next job and not taking up too much space in the dishwasher.

With the holidays coming, you need all the help you can get.  And speaking of the holidays, this would make a great gift for the veggie lover in your life.  Find it HERE. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Advanced Elements Solar Shower

Ever wish you could take a shower on a camping trip?  Well you can, and it's super easy.  Check out these Solar Showers from Advanced Elements.  They come in many sizes and also in a PVC free version.  It's a five gallon bag, so you'd probably need a tree.  If you are going to hang this in a privacy shelter, I wouldn't go past the three gallon, they're heavy!  Even with the 2.5 gallon bag, it's heavy too and holds more water than it appears to hold, you get a couple of good showers out of that.

These are well made solar showers.  The beefy handle at the top makes them easy to maneuver and you just pull down on the shower head to get it to work, simple as can be.  It has a large reservoir valve making it easy to fill--this is important, you might be at an awkward spigot and you don't want to be fumbling around spilling water all over yourself.  Some of them come with little mesh pockets and mirrors depending on the size you get.

All you do is place the shower in the sun, preferably on a warm rock to help absorb the heat, there are small solar panels on the bags to speed up the process.  You can pour hot water from your camp stove into the shower on days the sun didn't warm it up, or you didn't have time to leave it out long enough.  I ended up with a cold shower because I put the shower out too late in the day for it to work.   I could have put some hot water in there, but somehow the spectacular view mitigated any cold I felt.  The kids thought it was very cool and got excited over the tiny shower head, they couldn't believe they were showering outside.  We used the Grand Trunk Dunny Shelter with this and it was perfect.

I think these showers are awesome for camping, and also for emergency preparedness.  If your plumbing doesn't work, which can happen sometimes during a good hurricane or broken water lines, it's nice to know you can still bathe.  I won't go (car) camping again without one.  Find them HERE.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kelty Sleep Eazy Queen Mattress

For years I have avoided inflatable mattresses because of the PVC.  During the holidays last year, I purchased one for company and when I took it out of the box I almost fell over.  It was off-gassing so much I put it back in the box, took it back to the store, and that was the end of that.

When I heard of Kelty's new eco friendly Sleep Eazy Queen air mattress, I got very excited because it is PVC free and there is no smell.  You can sleep headache free on this one.  The chemicals off-gassed from PVC can ignite asthma attacks, migraines, nausea and all sorts of maladies, I'm so glad to see this option.  

Beyond that, the design is well thought out.  It's lightweight and comes in a small canvas tote bag with extra grab handles.  It includes a small rechargeable pump that works like a charm.   No batteries necessary--just plug it in at home or in your lighter outlet in the car and voila!  Instant bed.  You can have a queen size bed up in just a couple of minutes.

This turns your tent into an outdoor hotel room.  It would be great to throw in the trunk when visiting friends or pull out of your closet for your own company.  Find it HERE.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Detours Boogie Bag: Organization for Cycling Adventures and Beyond

Traveling to go for a ride?  Detours makes the perfect bag for your cycling gear, the Boogie Bag.  Organization makes your outings more enjoyable.  When everything is easy to get to, you spend your time playing, not scrambing around trying to find your stuff.

This bag holds a ton.  It will keep your helmets, bike tools, jackets, shoes, locks, extra clothes, meals, drinks--there's even a separate insulated bag that comes with it to keep your drinks or food cold.  They thought of every single thing with this bag, the design is flawless.

This bag is made for cycling, but is perfect for camping as well. And I mean perfect.  That rubber bottom makes it extra rugged in the elements, there are a ton of pockets for little lanterns, camp kitchen supplies, etc.

The Boogie is so sturdy you might be tempted to overload it--the bag can take it, but you still have to carry it, so watch out for weight.  It's sitting on my floor at the moment with heavy camp kitchen supplies and the Boogie doesn't skip a beat.  In addition to the padded adjustable shoulder strap and side straps, there are grab handles on either end, customizing it to the way you like to carry your bag and making it as comfortable and convenient as possible.  I love the see-through top compartment for easy access to the stuff you need to get to fast, like maps, flashlights, first aid kit.  The abundance of outer and inner pockets and enlarged zipper pulls are fantastic. 

I don't climb, but suspect it would be great for that too.  For kids that are in some sort of sport, this would be wonderful for parents to keep it all together.  At 20 x 15 x 11 inches, it will fit in an overhead bin on planes, so it would work well for air travel too. 

Aesthetically, the Boogie is great looking.  The burgundy is a rich, deep garnet that is pleasing to the eye and the detailed top stitching almost fools you into thinking it's all looks, but then the bag gets you with its brains.  Incredibly well thought out, wonderful bag, I want one in every color to color code my gear.

If you are involved in any activity that requires gear, you need this bag.  One of my favorites ever.  Find it HERE.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Black Diamond Mini Lanterns

Need a lantern for inside the tent?  Black Diamond has two brilliant small lantern options, the Apollo Lantern and the Orbit Lantern.  Both utilize energy efficient long lasting LEDs.  Both lanterns are perfect for backpacking, using inside your tent, hammock camping, picnic tables, camp stove, and anywhere you want light.  It's not that blinding LED light you might be familiar with, but a diffused, more pleasing light due to the frosted globe.  At the same time they are both bright enough to be used for task lighting.  They don't take the place of a larger lantern for lighting up the whole camp, but they do what they were designed to do wonderfully. 

The foldaway legs allow you to adjust the height and the loops are great for hanging in the tent or a tree branch.  The loops are split so you don't need a carabiner to hang them, but you could also turn it upside down and hang it by the legs with a carabiner.  I love that you can dim the lantern, adjusting the light output and saving battery power for when you need it most.   It's about the size of a soda can, and a little lighter. The legs are super handy, allowing you to place the lantern on uneven surfaces and to help disperse light the way you need it.

Black Diamond offers a rechargeable battery system for both lanterns which comes with international adapters.  They can even be rigged for use with solar power, I've read about people taking these on research trips to remote locations and using them daily for months on end this way. 
Not long ago, BD sponsored a project to use solar power to recharge lanterns in a small village in Nepal.  To reduce the cost and risk of kerosene lighting, Apollo lanterns were given out to locals who then able to power them with solar panels.  This was life changing for the people in this village who used their savings to improve their water source.

You can utilize solar power with your own lantern by charging reusable batteries with a portable solar charger.  Burn life is up to 60 hours, depending on whether you have the lantern set on low or high.

For backpacking, if you are super mindful of weight, the Apollo's little brother, the Orbit is ideal.  It's about half the size of the Apollo and has a 1 watt output as opposed to the Apollos 3 watts.  It doesn't have legs like the Apollo, so it's not as stable, but it does have the split loops for hanging.  It would work great for a one or two person tent, or for hammock camping.  The globe, like the Apollo's globe, slides over the on/off button so it won't switch on accidentally in your pack and eat up all your battery life.  They come in different colors, so you could give one to each child if you are camping with kids, it's great for reading in the tent.  My son went bananas for these small lanterns, confiscating the Orbit immediately. 
Both lanterns would be great for travel or to keep in your emergency kit for power outages and emergencies.  Black Diamond has excellent environmental and fair labor programs, they also reach out in support of many environmental organizations--it's a company you can feel good about purchasing your gear from.  Find both lanterns HERE on their website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Keen Silverton Boots for Fall

Need some fabulous boots for Fall?  KEEN's new Silverton Boot is versatile and will take you right into winter.  The beefy Trailhead sole is fortified with KEEN WARM technology which uses charcoal bamboo to insulate and create antimicrobial protection.  They're waterproof and will get you through a variety of weather, including the earlier, warmer part of Autumn without feeling too hot.

They're tall, but not too tall.  On me, they fall a couple of inches below the knee, providing extra warmth and looking great with skirts and dresses.  You can walk all day in these, they would be great for travel for that reason.   I'm thinking Germany in the late Fall, early Winter, where everyone keeps warm but looks oh so fashionable and you walk everywhere.  They're high performance with a blend of high fashion.  Wear them with skinny jeans by day, and a cute black dress at night.

Do size up with these.  Normally I take an 8.5 in shoes, 9's in Keens and with this boot, I needed a 9.5.  They come in black and a yummy java brown.  Why do I love KEEN so much?  Because I can't seem to wear out their shoes!  They last years and years.  Even my six year old who is a rough and tumble kid that's very active and hard on his shoes can't seem to wear them out before he grows out of them.  That's great value and less waste.  KEEN is also heavily involved in environmental initiatives.  Great company, great value and great style!  Find them HERE.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Planetary Designs Coffee Press: Ideal for Camping

I use a glass French press at home when I make coffee--not the best thing for camping.  So what do you do if you're not fond of that somewhat burnt flavor of cowboy coffee?  You get one of these fabulous stainless coffee presses from Planetary Designs, that's what.  This little coffee press is perfect for camping.  It's sturdy and well constructed with a beefy handle and well stabilized body that is wider at the bottom and won't spill at the picnic table. 

Here's what is so awesome about this--the fact that it's only 20 ounces, yet still shaped in the form of a coffee pot really makes it stand out amongst other stainless presses.  You can find those anywhere, in fact the same company makes a huge variety of them.

But, if you drink coffee like I do--with soy cream and raw sugar, those are not practical because the grinds stay in the bottom, how do you add your condiments?   It can get complicated with having to transfer liquids and it's just a hassle.  With this, you pour it right into your cup and proceed the same way you do at home.  Also, the size is ideal for one or two people.  There is a bigger version of this available, but the 20 oz is just perfect and by the time you drink your coffee everything is still warm, if you need more, you can easily brew another pot. 

This press would be wonderful at work, on a trip, anywhere you want to enjoy coffee or loose tea.  By making your own coffee, you can insure that it's organic and fair trade.  And to store it, Planetary Designs has a patented air tight container called the AirScape that will keep your coffee fresh.  Like the French press, the canister is made from high quality 18.8 grade stainless steel.  You put your coffee or--get this--brown sugar (or whatever you want to keep fresh) and put the compression lid in which seals out any air, then seal with the clear lid.

The two make a great pair for a camping trip or to keep at the office for that three o'clock fix.  The holidays will be here before we know it and finally there is something to store that notorious brown sugar in before it turns into a rock.  They come in different sizes and colors so that you can color code your stuff.  You can check out Planetary Designs complete line HERE.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grand Trunk Dunny Privacy Shelter

Have you ever found yourself on the beach wishing you had a place to change your clothes?  Or out on a camping trip wishing for your own private bathroom? Well here is the solution: the Grand Trunk Dunny Quick Set Privacy Shelter.   I haven't seen a privacy shelter out there that compares to this.  It's HUGE and very well made.  Two people could take a shower in there, no problem, they could almost dance the Tango.

This is perfect for camping trips to enable you to avoid public restrooms completely.  You can hang your solar shower inside and include a portable toilet as well.   You could also use it on the beach for changing clothes--I think it would be fabulous for a beach party or an all day outing with friends and family.  When you're ready to go, just pop it back in the bag.  It would be great at home for a pool party to keep a bunch of wet guests from traipsing in and out of your house and also provide convenience for them.

Inside the shelter are plenty of pockets for soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.  There's a place to hang your solar shower and it's sturdy, it's not going to come crashing down on you.  The floor is removable if you'd rather have the ground under you, it's your option.  Visually, it's perfect.  Low profile, good looking charcoal gray is sharp and kind of blends in with the environment.  It's also quite light weight, so it's not a burden to toss it in the car along with the rest of your gear.

It's so worth the extra effort to set it up, I thoroughly enjoyed a peaceful solar shower with a gorgeous lake front view through the window of the shelter.  The kids used the shelter for changing clothes and bathing suits before and after playing in the lake.  There are plenty of great places to hang your towels and the clean dry clothes.

Definitely stake it down as it's very tall and the wind could play havoc with it if it's not secured properly.  Included are plenty of stakes and the cords to guy it out, and set up and take down is so ultra fast, you won't mind taking the extra two minutes.  It goes right back into it's carry bag easily, which for me is super important as I don't want to be struggling at the end of an adventure.  Even though it's super tall, I can set it up and take it down by myself in just a couple of minutes, it couldn't be easier.  Highly recommended!  Find it HERE.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hurricane Preparedness with Sanyo Enloop

I'm a big fan of preparedness, having lived in hurricane territory for years in the past and being very grateful for my supplies when the storms hit.  Hurricane Irene is a great reminder to stock up on supplies for disaster preparedness, no matter where you live.

Batteries are a must have and Sanyo has a wonderful solution to traditional batteries, their eneloop rechargeable batteries.   I've always loved the idea of rechargeable batteries, but could never get them to really work.  These work.  They have a low discharge rate, making them last much longer than the ones you might have tried in the past. And they come pre-charged, so they are great for your disaster kit.  They're also great for travel and daily use for all the stuff you have at home requiring batteries.  When the energy runs out, you don't throw them away, you just recharge them, saving you money and helping out the environment.

In addition to the batteries, Sanyo's enloop Mobile Booster will charge your devices when they run out of juice, providing up to 240 minutes of power.  It's very straight forward, you just plug it in and pre-charge it using an outlet at home or the USB port of your computer, then slip it into your bag for later.  When your iPad (or a host of other compatible electronics devices goes dead, just plug in the Mobile Booster and you're up and running again. This means when you have a power outage, you've got back up for watching movies and whatnot, which can be invaluable when you have children and you can fire up your cell phone in an emergency.  And how great to have it when you're on the plane or even camping in the woods.  Find both must have options HERE.