Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Marmot Limestone 6 Tent: Best Tent Ever

Marmot's Limestone 6 is an ideal three season tent that's perfect for families and pure luxury for couples and singles.  First off, this tent is gorgeous.  The designers made something that not only functions like a dream, but looks like one too.  Though it comes in a dark green if you prefer to blend in with your surroundings, I think orange is the ideal color for a tent.  It glows from within at night and looks amazing at twilight against a natural backdrop.  The orange also serves to give you a cozy energized feeling, perfect for more overcast or rainy weather.

The Limestone is a piece of cake to set up and takes well under ten minutes.  Color coded webbing and poles help you assemble the tent quickly and efficiently.   The whole thing is made in such a way that is incredibly manageable despite its size, which is huge.  I'm 5'5 and though I can stand up in this tent, I can almost set it up by myself, I need some help with the fly and erecting the poles.   If you're car camping in warm weather, why not have a large tent you can stand up and maneuver well in in? 

For rainy and stormy weather, the full coverage fly and taped seams make the tent virtually bombproof.  A storm during the night isn't going to send everyone fleeing for the car.  Color coded tabs to help you see where the fly clips to the ground sheet help to make set up even easier. The guy attachments are beefy and substantial, but unless you are going to be in some strong winds, I wouldn't bother to guy it out.  Nevertheless, it's nice to know they're there when you need them.

There are multiple fly vents for ventilation on hot nights and moisture dissipation.  I love that they used reflective material for the guy points and logo to help you spot the tent easily at night.  The zipper pulls are not metal and won't jingle around in the wind which can be annoying while you're trying to sleep and the non-snag zippers are easy to operate and good for kids.

Extra large vestibules on either end are great for stowing gear.  The vestibules have little windows so you can peek out and see what's going on outside, and there's a door mat to help keep it clean inside.   You could fit a smaller camp chair in the vestibules.

This is a major luxury tent for two, but the fact that it has two separate doors makes it really nice for more people.  That way you aren't climbing over each other to get in and out.

The floor is heavy duty and can withstand camp furniture like cots and chairs.   A Marmot rep told me he wouldn't bother with a footprint with this particular tent because the floor is so ultra durable, however I got one anyway because a) the Limestone is magnificent and I want to take the best possible care of it, b) the footprint allows for easier setup when picking out a spot, you don't have to drag the tent around, you just maneuver the footprint until you find the ideal place, and c) if you are camping in rainy weather, when you go to take down the tent, the bottom will be clean and it will be easy to fold up the footprint and hose that off when you get home. 

Even if you are new to camping, a good tent can really make the experience, it's worth the investment to get something of quality, and once you have it you are good to go on many adventures.  The Limestone will last through years and years of camping trips.  It's good looks and attention to every last detail really make it stand out amongst other tents.   This is also a tent that, even if it rains the whole time (hello Pacific Northwesterners), you'll still have fun.  Can't recommend it highly enough, find it HERE

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School with Organic Snack Kits by Semilla

Need a fabulous lunch kit for school?  This Robot Snack Kit by Semilla is organic, reusable, and ridiculously cute.   You get a lot of bang for your buck with this--a lunch bag, sandwich wrap, snack bag, napkin, and stainless container. 

Great design is so important with stuff like this.  The organic wholesome world of real food is in direct competition with flashy corporate frankenfood on lunch tables across the country.  If you can make wholesome look cool and interesting, you're several steps ahead.   Not just that, but school lunches create a ton of waste.  This is a leave-no-trace lunch.  Nothing to throw away.

These are wonderful for trips to the park, family outings, any time you want healthy snacks handy (and when wouldn't you?).  This way, you can visit the bulk section and stock up and not only save money, but help the environment.  All those little plastic snack bags add up, this is a great solution.  

You can wash them in the machine, they come in several wonderful designs so you can have a few in rotation or get one for each kid.  That's not to say I wouldn't use this myself, I think this is perfect for taking your own healthy food to work or college, why should kids get all the cool stuff?  Find them HERE. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Broken Tail and Tiger Conservation

PBS has been running Broken Tail: A Tiger's Last Journeya heart breaking  documentary  which emphasizes tiger conservation.  Who isn't mesmerized by Tigers?  Two minutes in, you are hooked by the gorgeous cinematography and the story of an affectionate tiger family and one charismatic  young tiger in particular, called Broken Tail.  

Wildlife filmmaker Colin Stafford-Johnson spent almost two years in Ranthambore National Park, a tiger reserve in India, following the life of these tigers until the tragic end when Broken Tail disappeared.  He then retraces the steps made by Broken Tail to where he met his end on a train track over a hundred miles away. This fascinating journey is visually compelling and emotionally charged, you might be in tears by the end.  But most of all, you will be much more aware of the desperate need for conservation.

Stafford-Johnson's passion for the cause shines, "Tigers are absolutely on the edge," he says, "they have reached critical numbers...we know this and to allow it to happen on our watch, how could you possibly explain that to people in the future?  How could you possibly sit down in a classroom full of kids in fifty years time and explain to them, 'Oh yes, we knew that tigers were on the edge, but oh, we just let them go,' how could you explain that to anyone?  You just couldn't."

Tiger populations have decreased by 95% over the last hundred years.  India's tiger count has gone from 3,600 to 1,400 in the last eight years alone. Tiger reserves need to be widened and connected, they need more space.  

This would be an excellent film for classrooms to help inspire wildlife conservation. You can check your local PBS listings, view this documentary online, or purchase the DVD, but do watch, it's a beautiful film. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

vapur bottles

At first I wasn't sure about Vapur Bottles, because normally I use stainless or glass.   But I have been using them like crazy this Summer and here's why: you can freeze them.   Being able to freeze them means you keep them ready to go in the freezer, grab on on your way out, and hot Summer weather does not interfere with having a cold beverage in hand.

Not only that, but they are fabulous for packing in a lunch to keep the surrounding food cold and for packing in the cooler for picnics and camping.  when it thaws, you still have a cold beverage to drink unlike those frozen blue things you buy to keep your cooler cold.   I've even used them to soothe headaches (they fit just right at the base of your neck).

They are great for travel, as you just roll up the bottle and tuck it away to reuse later when you're finished.  They come with a removable  carabiner to attach to your backpack or to hold the bottle compact after it's rolled up.  They take up very little space and their weight is negligible.   They're BPA free and perfect for those times when a bulkier bottle won't work.  They come in several colors and are available HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leave No Trace with Cleanwaste

A lot of our state and national parks are now requiring people to bring in their own bathroom systems so that they will leave no trace.  Cleanwaste offers a great solution for this in a super easy brief case style portable environmental toilet called the Go Anywhere.  This is great for camping trips, even if you are staying somewhere where there are public restrooms, sometimes you just don't want to utilize them, if you know what I mean.

It's very easy to use, you just open the case, unfold the legs, insert a Wag Bag (basically a biodegradable plastic bag with a powder that treats waste), and you're done.  The  eco friendly powder used in the bag does not have a fragrance which for people like me is very important, and it does a great job of containing odor and whatnot, it's very discreet.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say they don't go camping because of the bathroom issue.   This is a great solution.  If you have a big enough tent, you can just do your business right there, or you can set up a secondary shelter dedicated to a toilet and maybe even add a solar shower.  Cleanwaste makes these as well and you can find the entire system on their site.

Cleanwaste also makes Pee-Wee bags which are even easier and faster to use.  This is great for inside the tent in the middle of the night when you don't want to venture out to the woods or a public facility.  Both the Wag Bags and Pee Wee bags come with toilet paper and a wipe.

These Cleanwaste systems are ideal for Leave No Trace practices.  Beyond camping, they are great for emergency situations when you might not have access to water or facilities.  I've personally experienced a hurricane which created those conditions and though we improvised fine at the time, this would have been nice to have.  Find them HERE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Multifunctional Coleman 4 in 1 Packaway Table

Stuff that serves multiple functions are both space saving and carbon footprint reducing.  That's a necessary win-win in my book.  Coleman's 4 in 1 Table is perfect for camping and home use--and it has four different configurations, taking the place of several pieces of furniture.  On top of that, it folds up for easy storage and takes very up little space.  This is perfect for the minimalist who needs their stuff to do several jobs while remaining low profile. 

While camping, it's great for food prep, night stands, picnic table, or even coffee tables around the camp fire which is nice for little kids who can't always hold stuff on their laps.  You can use it to set up a buffet indoors or out, you can use it as a make shift office, an extra table during the holidays, a craft table for kids, in the bedroom, the bathroom, anywhere you can think of.  Because you can adjust the leg height, you have so many options.  You can use it as one square table, two separate tables, or one long table, all of set to the height you need. 

I wish the table tops were also aluminum like the rest of the table.  That would keep them light weight and would probably make them last longer.  As it is, the tops are mdf, which some feel is an eco friendly material because it's made from wood that might otherwise go to waste.  I'm not a big fan of mdf due to the glues that are often used to hold it together.  I'm not sure what was used here, but if the table is outside, it's of less concern to me since it will be out in the open for any off-gassing, also there is absolutely no smell emitting from this table and I am a major stickler for this.

They did put a funky neo-retro looking design on the top of the table, which is fun and looks good, really modern and hip a la CB2. This was so smart, you don't have to cover them up to hide an ugly design or color. 

The whole thing is very smart.  It's easy to set up and tear down--literally seconds--and it's easy to clean.   I highly recommend this versatile table.  Find it HERE. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Mouth Bottles

Klean Kanteen just keeps pumping out one good idea after another.  I can't imagine why anyone would opt for paper or plastic cups when these are available.  The latest?  Cool new insulated wide mouth bottles in wonderful colors that will keep your coffee hot and your iced tea cold.

I love the spill proof lid design which lets me slip a finger through the loop while I have my hands full.  It's also stainless steel on the inside which keeps your beverage from ever touching any plastic.  And when you get to your destination, there is another optional cafe lid which converts your bottle to a to-go style mug with a sip lid.  These would be fabulous for travel, camping, hiking, and just heading off to work or school with a comforting hot drink.

The smaller sizes would work for a food container, keeping a soup warm for instance.  The stainless won't absorb flavors or odors so you can easily change it up without tasting what was in there before.  The wide mouth makes cleaning easy and did I mention how good looking these things are?  I've been a fan of Klean Kanteen since they came out and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.  Find them HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bell Fraction Critters Hemet for Your Radster

Bell is getting colorful and creative with their kids' helmets and I'm loving it.  Check out their new Critters Helmet in bright orange.  The graphics are edgy, a little post punk, and they combine traditional childhood imagery with sass and the added safety of bright colors.  This helmet is easy to spot, which to me is invaluable, I can see my son from pretty far away, and drivers can see him too.

When kids like their helmets, they'll wear them.  This helmet can be used for cycling and skating, is made from impact resistant ABS shell with a foam liner.  My son has been rough on this and it holds up great, I highly recommend it.  Find it HERE. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Radius Garden Tools for Your Organic Garden

Radius Garden Tools combine beautiful design with comfortable ergonomic function.  I can't believe the difference they made in my gardening.  Weeding is now almost enjoyable!  First of all, they're gorgeous. At the same time, they're heavy duty.   The weeding tool gets weeds out almost effortlessly, rendering my old tool obsolete. 

"Garden more, hurt less," is the message from Radius and they are not kidding.   You don't have to work as hard with these.  I don't know how they figured it out, but it works.  The hand tools take the pressure off my wrists and I can get better leverage.   The soft cushy handles combined with the shape really make it possible for me to work in the yard longer and more effectively (you can watch a demo video HERE explaining why the handle is truly ergonomic and how it works).  The curve also makes them convenient to prop on the fence and to hang on to when you have an armful of stuff. 

I love this Transplanter Shovel which makes the job easier.  I have very rocky, almost impossible soil in places and just planted a cherry tree where I thought I'd never be able to dig a hole by myself.  It wasn't easy, but between this and the weeding tool, I got the job done.  It's hefty and well balanced.  All the tools I tried had some weight to them, in  a good way. 

Just seeing them around the yard makes me smile.  The bright cheery green and the cool shapes are functional art.  It's true I'm a design geek, but I'm sure I am not alone in appreciating their great looks combined with burly strength.  The tools come in a variety of sizes, blades, and colors.  Find these awesome garden tools HERE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thule Modernized RACEWAY Bike Rack

Thule's new trunk mount bike rack, the RACEWAY, is a huge departure from traditional trunk racks.  This is a much more sophisticated version of the older mounts with features previously found only in hitch mounts.  Using only four retractable cables (other trunk mounted racks typically use six straps), the rack is very straightforward and its aerodynamic shape gives it a sleek modern look. 

Installing the rack is very easy, it comes out of the box ready to use.  The Thule exclusive FitDial allows you to customize the rack to your car with predetermined settings.  Just find the cooresponding number appropriate for your car, and strap it on, ratcheting the cables tight with the beefy knob on the side.

There are no loose straps to blow around, everything is nice and streamlined.  There is a locking cable to keep the bikes secure and there's also a secondary lock to keep the rack from being taken off the vehicle.  Thule's No Sway Cage keeps bikes from rubbing up against each other or from touching the car.  The arms fold down when not in use and the whole rack folds flat when you need to store it. 

The Raceway is a versatile rack designed to fit a wide variety of cars from hatchbacks, to sedans and minivans.  The narrow arms of the carrier will fit most frames including odd and child size frames.  Remember to get an adapter if you are transporting a women's bike that doesn't have that cross bar since it will need that for leverage.  I would not hesitate to use this rack on a very expensive car as the generous rubber padding on either end provide stability as well as protecting the surface from scratches.  The Raceway does not rattle around, it's a very sturdy premium rack.  It comes in two and three bike versions, and you can find it HERE.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meal Ideas for Camping

Need some ideas for what to take camping for meal time?  Here are some kid friendly ideas ranging from easy to a little more complicated, all are relatively healthy and vegan).  Always buy organic and local when possible.

Veggie dogs and veggie burgers--easy, easy, easy!

Oatmeal--perfect for breakfast when it's chilly, just add boiling water and you're done.

Pancakes (bring a mix and cast iron griddle, you can get vegan pancake mix right at the co-op in the bulk section)

Bars for kids--some handy organic bars are great for when you've ventured away from camp and you hear those words, "mama, I'm hungry," even though you ate just an hour ago.

Fruit--bananas are nature's power bars and they come in their own wrappers.  I also love watermelon during the summer, it's refreshing and hydrating and how could you go camping without it? 

Chia makes a great little raw porridge and is hydrating and energizing and easy to pack.  Ideal for backpackers, but super nutritious and wonderful for all.

Organic Corn Chips and Salsa are always nice for those moments when you need something to eat Right Now.  Throw in some avocado and you have a mini meal.  Add hot black beans and you have a hearty meal that will infuse the camp with that home-cooking fragrance.

Hummus and Tabouleh with Pita Chips.  Tabouleh is particularly refreshing in the Summer and when made with quinoa is a nutrition packed dish.  I load mine with tons of parsley, mint and cucumber.

Smores.  That's the classic camp dessert and I never really liked them.  That is until I tried them as an adult, with quality organic dark chocolate and graham crackers (I love the Health Valley organic Amaranth graham crackers) and vegan marshmallows.  Still not my favorite thing in the world, but the kids love them and there's something sweet about tradition.

Image Credit: Kirti Poddar

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Leatherman JUICE Multitool

A good multi-tool is a must have on outdoor adventures.  Camping and traveling bring out the resourcefulness in us and to have something with you that facilitates this is important.  I also love that one small tool can replace a whole drawer full of stuff.  If you'd like to scale down or reduce your carbon footprint utilitarian-wise, here you go. 

Leatherman is known for their reliable multi tools, but I only recently learned that they have a line that appeals to my design sense--the Juice Leathermans. Bright colors make them easy to find in your bag or in the dark, and they are as attractive as they are useful.  Check out this CS4, sort of the middle ground in the Juice series.

This is about the size of a Swiss army knife, but better looking and more versatile. The pliers set it apart from pocket knives and they are easy to use and double as wire cutters.  It comes with screwdrivers--both phillips and flat head, scissors, cork screw, awl, can opener, saw, and knife.

The photo doesn't do it justice, the glacier blue is almost metallic and stands out amongst gear.  It fits nicely in your hand and the tools are accessible and easy to get back in.  It's 5.5 ounces, and around 3 inches in length, so it's a breeze to take along.  Leatherman is based in Portland, OR, the tools are US made and the company is involved in community outreach.  Find it HERE

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

HANGFIRE HOODIE Perfect for Chillin by the Campfire

First Ascent's Hangfire Hoodie is designed for climbers, with mobility in mind.  It's light weight and I think it makes a great Summer hoodie for biking, hiking, evening walks, and cozying up to a campfire.  The cut is figure flattering, the zippers are placed in such a way that it creates slimming lines and there are seams which do the same.  The sleeves are cut close to your wrists (but not too close) so they wouldn't catch fire while working around a camp building fires or cooking with outdoor stoves.

They call it "textured fleece," but it is not that furry-fleece that we are used to.  This is not bulky at all, it's breathable while exerting energy, and it also repels light rain.  It would be great as an under-layer in colder temps taking you through fall and into winter.  Great all around hoodie, find it HERE. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Camp Kitchen Gear

Need supplies for your camp kitchen?  I just discovered Sea To Summit a few months ago and I'm so impressed with their innovative gear.  These X-SETS  are a great way to save space and stay organized in the camp kitchen and can be used over and over.  The bright colors are fun and enable you to color code, and the collapsible silicone rims on the X-Bowl, Mug, and Plate maximize your space.  The bottom of the plate and bowl also function as a cutting board which is a big bonus for backpackers. These would also be great for traveling, slip a bowl into your bag for morning oatmeal or cutting up and serving fruit in your hotel room.

At home I don't use teflon, so why would I use it camping?  GSI OUTDOORS makes a great stainless steel option for those of us who prefer to avoid the non-stick.  The GLACIER STAINLESS COOKSET is a set you'd buy once and pass down to your kids and grandchildren.  It's light weight but made of sturdy 18/8 grade stainless steel.  The gripper that comes with it works great and I like the substantial feel of these, I don't feel like they're going to topple over with hot food.  They come nested in a handy mesh bag and include two cutting boards.

GSI offers all sorts of supplies for the camp kitchen, whether you are car camping or "gourmet backpacking," as they say.  I love that they have an entire line devoted to the concept of gourmet backpacking.

Good food is a great way to treat yourself when backpacking, the food (ie--weight) gets consumed and you don't have to carry it back.  And after hard play, a nice culinary reward is always appreciated.  To the left is their Crossover Kitchen Kit that contains utensils for more complicated cooking.  Find more HERE.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eco Friendly REVO Thrive Sunglasses

Have you ever gone looking for your sunglasses only to find that you are wearing them?  Well that's what you'll do with these eco friendly REVO Thrive shades.  Why?  Because they are so comfortable and light weight you forget you're wearing them.  I am not kidding.

These are wonderful for activities that require a helmet.   I love wearing them while riding my bike because the temples are thin and light and the weight of my helmet doesn't smash them into my head the way  it does with some sunglasses.   Revo uses technology that creates a high contrast polarization to help with glare and clarity making them ideal for people who spend time on the water. 

Revo's Eco Collection utilizes recycled material for the frames and a non petroleum based nylons for construction.  They're innovative, comfortable and eco friendly and perfect for the Summer.  Find them HERE.