Friday, August 31, 2012

Nemo Losi 2 Tent: Best of Both Worlds

Need a two person tent that feels like a three or four person tent?  Seriously, Nemo's Losi 2 person tent is BIG.  But it's not that big...I don't know how they did this.  When it comes to tents, I'm always of the bigger is better philosophy for car camping.  I like a lot of space and when I camp, it's sometimes in a six person tent totally tricked out with luxury.  Why not, if I have the space, I enjoy the extra comfort.  However, I have a huge appreciation for minimalism and if I'm being spontaneous or in a hurry, I don't want to fool around with extra stuff and I go into the less is more mode. 

The Losi 2 is a little bit of both.  Light weight and super easy to use, you get a lot of luxury for very little effort.  I can set this tent up in less than five minutes and tear down is just as easy.  There is no struggle at all to get this tent back into its storage bag.  The storage bag is very smart by the way--Nemo makes the nicest I've ever seen for tents, everything has a compartment and things stay nice and organized. For backpacking purposes, I would leave this behind and split the tent up. 

There are two doors, so you don't have to disturb your tent mate going in and out, and there are two large vestibules for gear.  There is a removable organization pouch for your stuff inside the tent including Nemo's headlamp diffuser pocket.  You just put your headlamp in the pocket and it creates a little light for the tent, pretty clever.  And look at the pole design.  Those brow poles create a lot of extra room in there.

Bright green makes you more visible and it just looks super cool, especially paired with the charcoal gray and black.  When you have a glowing lantern inside, it's even more beautiful.  Nemo tents look like functional modern art to me, I love them. 

If you need a tent that is good for both car camping and backpacking, this is it.  If you need a backpacking tent, same thing.   It's quality that will last and comfort you will be grateful for.  For those couple of ounces you might save with an inferior tent, you lose a lot of substance, with the Losi 2, you get a ton of bang for your buck.

A footprint is always a good idea when you buy a tent, it preserves the life of your gear, gives you another layer of barrier and warmth, and it's always easier when you take it down to have the bottom of your tent clean.  Things can get pretty muddy if it rains and this helps to keep it as clean as possible and this is the kind of gear you want to take excellent care of.

Autumn is a great time of year for camping, and for some added incentive, you can find fantastic deals at stores like REI as summer ends.  Learn more about the Losi 2P HERE

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Green Getaway: Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC is famous for being clean, easy to get around, friendly and beautiful.  On a recent visit, I found all of those things to be true with the added bonus of being a super eco friendly city.  Vancouver's ambition is to become the most eco conscious city in the world by 2020.  And they're serious about it, it's an initiative called Greenest City 2020 and it's a plan to create a sustainable future for Vancouver.  What better place to enjoy a green weekend getaway?
The Fairmont Waterfront is a wonderful choice for the eco minded with award winning environmental policies and programs.  Among their green initiatives, is free parking and charging for electric vehicles, strict recycling policies, and sustainable food options. 

It's one of those hotels that offers enough to do right there on site that even though you are in a fabulous city, you don't really have to leave the premises to feel like you're on vacation.  For business travelers, I would imagine it to be an oasis.  I loved it there so much I really had to force myself to venture out, I just wanted to hang out at the rooftop pool and soak up the amazing surroundings.
There are several factors that make this hotel a real charmer. The staff are incredibly accommodating and friendly and the amenities are excellent.   The most charming thing about this hotel as far as I'm concerned is the roof garden consisting of fruit trees, vegetables, salad greens, herbs, and a thriving bee colony. This takes the concept of the urban garden to an exciting level and is a brilliant green initiative.
Though they started the garden in the early 90's, it would be over a decade until the arrival of the bees.  For many years there was a by law restricting rooftop beehives.  Finally, in 2008, the hotel's then-chef convinced the city to allow the Fairmont to have bees, making the hotel the first in Vancouver to do so.  They save several thousand dollars per year by utilizing what they harvest from the gardens.  Today, chef Mark Wadsworth, who was raised in a bee keeping family and is a walking encyclopedia on the topic, gives tours around the roof gardens educating guests and people in the community about the bees.
Apparently, there are rooftop gardens all over Vancouver.  The bee colony needs a good four acres to forage, and they have no problem getting what they need to thrive up there.  They have about seven hundred pounds of honey on hand at the moment. 

The hotel has cute little jars of honey for guests to enjoy with their morning toast and tea, as well as yummy homemade chocolates with honey and lavender and rosemary grown on the roof.  They even make a signature cocktail, the Honey Basil Collins, a skinny drink that I found delicious and refreshing without the gin. 
Rooms are modern and spacious, views are spectacular and the decor is contemporary.  A 47 inch flat screen television (though not as interesting as looking out the window) is there for entertainment, and an extra large dark wood credenza, beautiful amber mercury glass lamps and totem inspired artwork make the place feel cozy.  I drink tea in the mornings and really appreciated the electric tea kettle in the room, I'm used to coffee pots, but rarely see a tea kettle. 

This hotel promotes and supports a healthy lifestyle.  Hotel manager, Ian Pullan gives guided three mile runs every morning--how great is this for folks who are unfamiliar with Vancouver?  There's a gym that is open 24 hours a day, and President Club members have fitness clothing available so you don't even have to worry about packing work out clothes.  The hotel's restaurant, Herons West Coast Kitchen + Bar, serves up healthy fare as well.  In the summer, 25-30% of the food on the menu is organic and you can get vegan, vegetarian, low fat, and gluten free meals. 
Do sign up for the President's Club, the Fairmont's loyalty program for many added perks like free internet, turn down service, and even discounts on helicopter commutes for business travelers.  After a cozy night's sleep in their cushy cloud-like beds, you can start your day with a bike ride around the seawall.  I strongly recommend this as it was the highlight of our weekend.
President's Club members can get complimentary bikes and helmets for the whole family, they even give you water bottles. Homemade granola bars flavored with honey from the rooftop bees are available as well.  Seriously, how cool is this?  You pick them up right at the hotel, and head off for a bike ride you will never forget, the views are magnificent.  It's away from traffic and feels very safe for young children and the whole loop is about six miles.  There are things to see all along the way such as the beautiful totem poles at Brockton Point, Lion's Gate Bridge, sea planes taking off and landing, and there are concession stands along the way for food and drink.  When you're done, you can head back to the Fairmont for a dip in the pool or a soothing soak in the hot tub. 
If you can tear yourself away from the hotel, there are many other fun things to do in Vancouver that can fit into your weekend easily.  I subscribe to the less-is-more philosophy and recommend picking just a couple of things and returning again for more another time.  That way, you're more relaxed and can take your time.  Even though I have a long list of things I want to do in Vancouver, we planned very little and I still felt as though time was getting away from me too fast, so keep it simple and you're apt to enjoy it more.

If you have children (or not), a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium might be in order.  Located in Stanley Park, it's easy to get to and close to other fun things to do when you're finished.  They have some great exhibits which are educational and fun, their rescued otters being my personal favorite.

I love that the emphasis at the aquarium is on education and they do it in a way that is accessible--very clear signs at each habitat and photos of the environment where you would find each creature.  This really helps to give you a clear picture of the life of the animal and its ecosystem.

The most impressive things about the Aquarium are their conservation programs.  Beach clean-ups, marine mammal rescue, community outreach, partnering with WWF to help preserve our oceans and marine life are all ways the Aquarium is trying to make a difference.  They created the Ocean Wise program to help make sure certain species of fish are not over harvested right into extinction.  By partnering with restaurants (like Herons West Coast Kitchen + Bar) and suppliers, the Aquarium helps to educate the market to serve up sustainable seafood.  That way the ocean can maintain a healthier eco system and doesn't become even more over-fished.  There is an Ocean Wise logo you will see at the market and on restaurant menus to let you know you're making a sustainable choice. 

Vancouver is a fabulous destination, and I can pretty much guarantee you will want to revisit.  I feel like I just got the smallest taste of the city and can't wait to go back. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eco Friendly Back to School Stuff

"Don't be a dunce," the folks at Eco Paper say, use their tree free papers and help to save the 644 trees worth of paper that gets tossed away in the trash every year at each school.  That's a ton of trees. 
Check out these banana paper notebooks, yep, made from banana fibers and recycled materials.  They're made in Costa Rica from agricultural waste that would have otherwise been thrown away.  How cool is this?  They're chlorine free, acid free, and tree free.
Itzy Ritzy Snack Bags are cute, come in lots of colors and patterns and are a great replacement for those endless plastic baggies.  Just wash and re-use over and over. 
Chacos makes some great eco friendly shoes for kids.   Check out these adorable Eco Tread slip on sandal shoe called Paradox.  It's non marking, easy to adjust, and made with recycled content. 
The Paradox is machine washable and tough enough to last through a couple of kids via hand- me-downs.  I love the cute little skull graphics and pretty shades of gray.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three New Sleep Pads for Your Camping Zzzz's

If you are backpacking or doing ultralight camping of any kind, you want to maximize your sleeping comfort while minimizing weight and bulk in your pack.  I was never a big fan of the self inflating flat pads, they just don't get cushy enough for me.  I want it all--comfort and light weight packability and I also want the pad to do most of the inflation work.  Well here it is, in the Exped Synmat 7 Air Pad with Pump. 

The pad is light weight (though Exped has an even lighter one without the pump) at 31 ounces and has a good R value of 4.9, so it's warm.  The sides are slightly raised, helping to keep you on the mat and more comfortable. There is a smaller and larger size, so if you're not a tall person, you can shave off some extra weight.

It packs down close to the size of a Nalgene bottle and is simple to inflate and deflate and get back into its stuff sack.  I think the packing down is as important as set up, even more important for me because that's the part I don't like.  Set up is fun, tearing down, not so much, so I want it to go smoothly.  The quality is excellent, there's no annoying crinkling sound that you can find in light weight pads, and it just feels substantial. 

I fell in love with Exped's Mega Mat last year and swear it is the most comfortable camping pad on earth.  It's ridiculously off the charts comfortable and if you are car camping, I'd go for that one over all others.  Having said that, the Synmat 7 would still work great for car camping if, say, you were limited on space.  But for backpacking, it's the best of both worlds.
If you don't care about the integrated pump, Big Agnes has a new mat out that packs down smaller than the size of a Nalgene bottle.  The Q-Core, is a light insulated pad weighing in at just 25 ounces for a petite.

This pad features an antimicrobial insulation called X-Static which helps to mitigate odors and beef up the comfort level and warmth. It's got an R-Value of 5 to keep you warm on cold nights and raised outer air pockets which cradle your body and keep you comfortable and cozy.  A generous 3.5 inch thickness is quite comfy and it feels sturdy to me. 

The Q-Core comes in four different sizes, so you can get the right fit. It packs up and right back down easily and I was surprised what came out of its small stuff sack.  You get a lot of bang for your buck here. 

Inflation is not a big deal, the valve has a plastic coated mouthpiece and it doesn't take too long to inflate.  I do prefer self inflation, but it's a trade off.  This mat is pretty great regardless.  I love that you can lay on your side very comfortably and it's quiet and stable. 

Kelty's new Recluse series offer integrated pumps, just like the Exped mat.  They have mummy shaped pads to conform to the shape of your sleeping bag, and they have a rectangular model, the Recluse 3.0.

This one is a full size pad and it works great.  It's a fairly warm pad, with an R-Value of 2.9 (fine for summer), and it's super comfortable.  Weighing in at 2lbs 12oz, it's a little heavier for backpacking and might work best for car campers.

I love the bright orange and the cool little hand graphics at the pump.  The sides, like the other two, are raised and help cradle your body for added comfort. It's easy to deflate and roll back up and fit into its bag with no hassle.

All three pads are PVC free and come in a stuff sack and include a repair kit. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Two Must Have Tees

Want an eco friendly, cute, comfy tee that will take you seamlessly from Summer to Fall?   Smartwool and Ibex have some wonderful options.  I love the feminine details on this Flight tee from Smartwool.   It has ruching at the shoulder and a graphic on the side depicting flight.  The super flattering fit is comfortable and generous and it feels great on.  This would work great with jeans, skirts, or yoga pants. 

The Merino Logo T is a fun versatile tee.  This tee also has a feminine cut and looks cute dressed up or down.  The fit is true to size.
I'm very fond of Ibex's cool logo and this tee features the goat logo in the center of the shirt.   It's small and unassuming but adds a little spice and keeps things interesting.   
Both tops are perfect for travel and outdoor adventures because they don't hold odor, pack great, and help regulate your body temperature. 
  I'm an 8/10 and took mediums in both tees.  They are comfy and seem to get softer after each wash.  Both tops come in several fun colors and are a must have for the low maintenance adventure wardrobe.

Friday, August 10, 2012

You've Been Trumped

Finally, someone is calling out Donald Trump for his scumbaggary.  In the new film by Scottish director Anthony Baxter, Trump gives new meaning to the words "Ugly American" by literally and figuratively bulldozing over people who have a true connection to their land and homes.  It's not offensive enough that he does it here in the US, now he is doing it in other countries.
I'm sure this is the very smidgeon of the iceberg tip of what this raging egomaniac has done.  Poor guy is offended by the idea of a wind farm in range of his "greatest golf course in the world."  Golf courses are notorious for being environmentally unfriendly and his has been called one of the worst environmental crimes in UK history.
Painful to look at and even more painful to listen to, Trump bullies and slanders some good people including an 86 year old woman.  I am not surprised by this one bit, he is the poster child for the one percent that destroys whatever is in their path so they can live lavishly while the rest of us live with the consequences.  A Must See, find it HERE. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CAMELBAK Groove Portable Filtration System

If you filter your tap water at home, you know that it's not something you think about until you are out and about and have a taste of restaurant tap water.  Then you realize how good the water tastes at home.  Check out the Camelbak GROOVE water bottle that filters your water on the go.

This is fantastic for air travel.  Since you can't take your water through security anymore, this bottle saves you from having to buy expensive bottled water (that's likely no cleaner or better than tap water anyway) on the other side.  It's more eco friendly, and you have the benefit of using the bottle throughout your trip. You just refill it anywhere there's a fountain or tap.  They don't filter out harmful microbes, it's just for taste, so you don't want to be using it in a stream or in a country where you would normally filter your water to avoid bacterias, viruses and microbes you're not accustomed to. For domestic travel, or even for taking to work where they may have yukky tap water, it's perfect.

The water gets filtered as you drink, with a plant based carbon filter integrated into the straw.  It's very straight forward, just fill it up bite down, and sip away.  The spout folds down to stay clean when not in use.

The insulated version is taller and a little bulkier, but I love having the option of keeping my drink colder longer.  The double wall also reduces condensation and the tritan copolyester is BPA free and durable.

Both bottles fit in backpack pockets and most bottle holders.  Replacement filters are less than five bucks each and last for up to 48 gallons, which is a good bit of water. Find both bottles HERE.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Osprey Ariel Backpack

Need a super comfortable, super light, women specific backpack?  You have to check out Osprey's newly updated Ariel series.  They come in three different sizes, a 55, 65, and 75 Liter.  I think the 65 liter is just the right size--not too big, not too small.  This pack is highly customizable, coming in several sizes and with a moldable hip belt that you can have heat molded to fit your body.  The pack compresses nicely, so if you need it for a smaller load, you can just cinch it down and still keep a good balance.

There is a good bit of ventilation on this pack, really great for keeping cool on hot days.  The integrated hydration system works great and I love how Osprey's water bladders have a handle which makes it easier to fill.  The side pockets fit Nalgene bottles for that extra water supply.

The lid comes off and turns into a lumbar pack for day trips.  I personally am not a fan of lumbar (fanny) packs, but you don't have to carry it that way, you can sling it as a cross body and wear it in the back.  It's nice to have this option if you are backpacking and want to stay put for a couple of days but still enjoy some hiking or exploring the area.  Trekking poles stow right on the outside of the pack as well as lots of loops and straps for extra gear.

Access is easy, you can get into the main body from the top or the front.  There's a sleeping bag compartment and overall good organization.  It's a great color and will help you remain visible through the woods, which I think is good for safety.  As a nitpick, I would have liked to have seen a pocket on the hip belt and a rain cover (though sometimes you get better coverage by lining your pack with a garbage compactor bag), but other than that I think this pack is well thought out, comfortable, and fits the bill. Osprey has an iron clad "All Mighty Guarantee" to back up their gear, adding even more value.  Find it HERE. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Outdoor Underwear Roundup

When you're traveling or backpacking, you know every little thing you pack is important.  You want the best functioning stuff you can find and you want to be comfortable and look good.  And you want to keep that weight down.   Everything should be fast drying and wicking, even your underwear.  That way you're more comfortable and can hand wash your stuff in a hotel sink or the back country to wear the next day.

Wool underwear has been around a while, but I was never that interested.  It just didn't sound very comfortable to me.  Well guess what--it's so comfortable it's luxurious.  Of course it is, wool keeps you cool when it's hot and warm when it's cold, I just never equated it to under garments.  Now I'm hooked.

Wool has the added benefit of being odor and moisture resistant, so it's perfect for when you can only have a few pieces.  Check out this Siren Cami and matching Hipkini by Icebreaker.  I love the feminine details--I don't care if I'm out in the middle of nowhere, I still like to wear pretty things under my clothes.  But this is subtle, it's not overly girlie, it's more elegant and fits in perfectly with a natural setting.  I also like Icebreaker's Siren Tank which can be worn alone or as another great layering piece. The straps are adjustable for a more custom fit.   The tank is gorgeous in black and can easily be worn alone as a top.

Sizing on the Icebreaker can be tricky for me.  I wear a size 8 pant and with the underwear, the medium is perfect.  On top, I'm a 10, and usually a medium in most things, however with Icebreaker I tend to take a large.  With the cami, I could have gone medium.  Icebreaker offers free shipping and returns so you don't have to worry about getting the right fit, you can easily exchange if you need something different. 

Ibex makes some wonderful undergarments as well.  Check out these cute Balance Briefs which fit and feel great.  I love their Ibex goat logo on the front--I am not a logo person.  Normally I really don't care for logos much at all and wish they weren't there.  Ibex's logo is more like art, I love it and was happy to see it on the underwear.
The Woolies Camisole is great for layering or wearing alone.  The Ibex is especially soft, and a little thicker than the Icebreaker undergarments.  I found the underwear to run small, so you might want to order up.  I needed a large for the underwear, but for the cami, a medium was fine.  I think you could wear this as a tank by itself with a pair of jeans or skirt, it's butter soft and very cute.
Next we have Smartwool.  Of course they make great underwear, their socks are fabulous and so are their clothes.  Smartwool also has a cute and unassuming logo by the way, not found on the  underwear.  I love their camis and the underwear also does not disappoint.  It comes in a hipster, thong, and bikini styles and my favorite is the bikini.

Size-wise, I take a medium in the Smartwool, usually both top and bottom.  They're a great weight, and super comfortable.  Now is the time to stock up on Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker, and I have found some amazing and irresistible deals on all three brands on Amazon and Departmentofgoods.  I found some things I couldn't believe I was getting such a great deal on--I found some hundred dollar tops for $30, so don't let the expense of wool put you off, there are great deals out there.  And even if you do pay full price, the wear is so worth the extra cost, this stuff lasts forever and it's so high performance I find it to be worth every penny.

And last but not least, Ex Officio underwear is legendary for being the perfect underwear for travel and adventure.  Have you heard about the person that took one pair of underwear around the world and they were in perfect shape when they finished their trip?  That was Ex Officio underwear.

I love the Give-N-Go Lacey Low Rise Bikini.  They are feminine, come in pretty colors and fit great.  I took mediums in the Ex Officio underwear and they were very comfortable.

The Give-N-Go string bikini is cute and fits great.  You would never know these two styles are performance underwear at all.  There is a texture to the fabric which makes them easier to clean, you can work up a lather with very little eco friendly soap.  I don't know how they did it, but this underwear is feminine and also hard core at the same time.  I'm new to Ex Officio, but so far I can really see why people love this brand.