Gear Review: High Density Polyethylene Rain Cover Carry All

The rain cover carry all in action, protecting my backpack from road spray after a mildly wet rain. Base model comes with 3D integrated handles. Bluetooth optional.

Today I’m stoked off the charts to review what has become a key element in my gear arsenal, the high density polyethylene, multi-purpose, rain cover carry all.

It is lightweight, reversible, foldable, reusable, and hypoallergenic. Six gold stars and three thumbs way, way up for this revolutionary product.

Shown here in standard top-down mode, optimized for traditional, vertically descending precipitate. Note the reinforced seams and high-definition OmniShield™ finish.

Maximal Versatility

Designed with the on-the-go metro multi-tasker in mind, some verified uses include:

  • Rain protection – cover your books, bags, monocle, mustache hair, etc.
  • Carrying things – insert things and carry

And the list goes on. The things it can cover or carry are truly limitless. For the animal lover, be confident in picking up:

  • Dog poop
  • Cat poop
  • Any species of poop, really
  • The dead possum that the kids found down by the creek
Easily compresses into compact travel mode, making it perfect for people with tight pants.

The shod of feet will enjoy these added benefits:

  • Quarantine your muddy loafers when in transport
  • Wear between socks and shoes for emergency winter warmth

Dare I say that this staple resource rivals duct tape in versatility and potential for extremely satisfying feats of ingenuity.

Only 2 Cents

Single-use plastic grocery sacks cost stores around 2 cents each. For only 2 cents, they save us the immense trouble of having to either

  • carry our purchases in our hands like some kind of animal,
  • install an oil well in the backyard, refine the crude into molten plastic, and engineer a manufacturing system so as to create our own bags on demand, or
  • fashion another cargo device out of scrap wood, cardboard, mustache hair, or the bags we got last time we went shopping.

With stores willing to defray the upfront cost, and the environment willing to absorb the unseen impact of humans producing and then disposing of over 500 million bags per year, its no wonder that we as consumers prefer to take a new bag rather than inconvenience ourselves with the forethought of bringing our own.

Our Legacy of Plastic

An empty plastic bag bounces down the highway like an urban tumbleweed before snagging on a haggard oleander bush. It flaps there in the breeze for the remainder of its 180,000 days of life on earth, content in having successfully accomplished its single-use, but restless with a feeling deep inside that it is capable of so much more.

The ephemeral plastic bag will outlive us all, a lasting emblem of our obsession with convenience.

We can do better, people. Let’s consider the true cost of convenience. Let’s acknowledge that the single-use lifestyle, though efficient in the short-term, is unsustainable and irresponsible in the long-term. Plastic is not our legacy.

Let’s give our high density polyethylene a second chance at life. Let’s reuse the environmentally subsidized plastic we’ve already created. Then, let’s say no to both paper and plastic. If we forget to bring our own portable carrying technology, we take the shopping cart to the trunk of our motorized carrying technology and we transfer our mostly unneeded purchases by hand. In the time it takes to complete the task, we don’t see any plastic bags blowing across the parking lot. Our legacy will be actual tumbleweeds.

Gear Review: Camping Stuff From Grip

Zucchini in the Grip-On non-stick skillet, cooked over spruce and organic fescue.

Last year the kind folks at Grip-On sent us an assortment of camping stuff to try out and review, including the:

The ones with links are available via the Grip shop on Amazon. The others aren’t yet for sale online.

All of these items have held up well over numerous camping trips and cookouts, and they’re all a decent bargain. I’ve found the skillet most useful. We like to cook over a campfire in the backyard, and zucchini on a stick just doesn’t work. The pocket light and waterproof cards would be nice stocking stuffers or birthday presents for the outdoorsy. The jumbo fork and marshmallow tree are great for roasting en mass, but when we need skewers we usually default to the on-demand whittling of sticks.

Here’s some more info on the light, skillet, and cards.

Pocket Light

This light gets the job done. The bottom is magnetic, which is nice for sticking to a tree stand when hunting, or to other metal objects for hands-free doing of things. The torch itself is blinding, as LED tends to be.

Stock image of the pocket light, as ours has apparently gone the way of the earth.

This sturdy light withstood numerous falls over the past year, in the custody of our five year old son. It shined strong until the very end. We think it is now resting peacefully among the grass and sticks en route to our last campsite.

The LED Camo Pocket Light goes for about $7 as an add-on item at Amazon. This is comparable to other small LED work lights. Requires 3 AAA batteries, included.

Non-Stick Skillet

We’ve used the skillet to cook some tasty meals on the grill and over the campfire. It works well for anything too large or awkward to cook on a stick, like hamburger patties, or foods that would slip through the grates on the gas grill or BBQ, like cut meat or veggies.

The skillet, in fold mode.

The diameter is 12 inches, depth is about 2 inches, and weight is 24 oz. So, it’s reasonably sized for a short backpacking trip. The quality is fine, though the folding handle is getting a little loose.

The skillet will run you about $10, making it cheaper than most.

Playing Cards

We’ve used these cards on a few campouts and around the house. Mostly they stay in our camping box, so as to be ready for the impromptu overnighter.

The cards are slick, both literally and figuratively. The glossy plastic makes them slippery, which isn’t really an issue unless you’re trying to play solitaire in an RV as it curves up a mountain road. On a level, stationary surface, they’re fine. Figuratively, they’re slick because they don’t fold or crease like the standard issue card. They take a beating and bounce right back.

Blackjack with the translucent waterproof playing cards.

The only downside we’ve discovered is that they’re not entirely opaque. Beware that if there’s any more than an average amount of light coming in from behind, your hand will easily show through to your opponent.

The waterproof cards are $13 after shipping.

Gear Review: VacuVin Green Banana Guard

banana case

Has a bumpy ride has ever left you with a bruised banana? You’ve got a few options for protecting your elongated fruits when biking, hiking, horseback riding, or just parkouring around town.

Apologies upfront for the phallic innuendos. They’re surprisingly difficult to avoid.

First off, I paid the full price for this gear, around $8, and am reviewing it here out of the goodness of my heart. Second, I haven’t yet tried any of the competitors.

That said, this is a pretty simple review. I’ve been using a VacuVin banana guard for a few years now, and it works. Only minor bruising after eight to ten miles crammed in a backpack on my bike rack. Potholes, curbs, the occasional bunny hop, no problem. I’ve yet to try it on while playing tee-ball.

Vacu Vin Banana Guard – Anti-Bruising Green Carry Case

The guard folds together, forming a sturdy but flexible triangular defense against jostling. It holds any reasonably sized banana, but fits best on average to large ones. Smaller fruit will float around, and end up taking a beating, like this guy.

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I remember from geometry class, and Zelda, that triangles are pretty strong, as far as polygons go. The only downside to the triforce of banana packages is its size. This thing is voluminous, much larger than a banana, and awkward to pack. It’s probably twice as big as the alternatives. It does fold flat when not in use, but I’ve never bothered to try.

If size is a deal breaker, check out the clam shell cased Banana Saver and the tubular Banana Bunker, which wins for most phallic, and best white elephant gift.

Gear Review: Ohyo, The Collapsabottle

ohyo_collapsible_bottle

A few weeks ago, the lovely chaps at UK-based Ohyo sent me their 500ml and 1000ml collapsible water bottles to try out. The liter version hasn’t made it across the pond yet, but the 500ml is available on Amazon.

This is my first review of gear I didn’t pay for, so I want to clarify that I’m going to be as merciless as possible with this, and with future reviews.

That said, the Ohyo “collapsabottle” is pretty cool. The smaller and larger versions scrunch down to about 1 and 2 inches tall, and only weigh a few ounces when empty. In that way, they’re sort of like reusable disposable bottles. Here’s my take after two weeks of guzzling.

The Cons

A few limitations of the aquaccordions:

  1. The straw on 500ml is tiny, and there’s no pressure release. This is great if you’re rationing water, or if you’re a rabbit. Otherwise it can prolong thirstiness. The 1000ml version with the flip top is better suited for humans, but it’s not yet for sale in the US.
  2. The scrunchy parts are prone to staying wet, and they’ll probably start growing algae if you aren’t diligent when drying. Most water bottles acquire a funky flavor with time, but these may quickly turn into collapsible fish tanks. Which is a brilliant business idea. You’re welcome.
  3. It does not produce a folky sound when squeezed, so it’s useless at a Polka dance, except for drinking from.

The Pros

Here are some scenarios where I see the Ohyo being useful:

  1. Ultralight backpacking, though it doesn’t double as a stove or pocketknife, which serious ultralighters may scoff at.
  2. Freezing conditions, for example, to stock an ice-chest or when winter camping, which is not unheard of. Experience shows that solid bottles will crack when frozen.
  3. Flying, or when you’re otherwise pressed for space.

freezing ohyo collapsible water bottle

I’ve run three simple tests on these squeeze bottles. First, I filled and froze them both outside overnight. The low was -2°F. After thawing they bounced right back to life. Next, I dishwashed them on the bottom rack, and then tasted for plasticity and soapiness. Nothing but water. Finally, I sent them to school with my kids. Keep in mind, kids backpacks are hazardous environments, where only the strongest survive. Both bottles emerged unharmed.

Conclusions

The Ohyos are sturdy and functional, plus they look cool and they’re a little less expensive than the other crushable bottles on the market.

Currently, you’ll only find them on Amazon.

DIY Jean and Fleece Chalk Bag for Rock Climbing

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This year Lincoln got its first climbing gym at the University of Nebraska outdoor rec center. It’s a short approach from my office on campus, about a carabiner’s throw away, so I sneak over two or three times a week to crux it up.

I’m still a noob when it comes to the jargon, though I’ve been rock climbing off and on for about ten years. My DIY chalk bag gives me some much needed crag cred. I’m obviously not a flat-lander or a belay slave. No way. This DIY bag surrounds me in a dusty cloud of climbing potential and legitimacy. It says, “I rock climb so much that I can’t afford a store-bought bag. Also, I have a sewing machine.”

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This 30-minute project only took me 4 hours! It was grueling, like a pitch full of tiny crimpers. But I’m pretty stoked by the final product. I incorporated elements from sewing plans on this blog, this instructable, and this site.

My chalk bag is about 7″ tall and 6″ diameter across the bottom. I’m making smaller ones for the kids, since they’ve been stealing mine and bathing in it before every climb like its pixie dust. Theirs are roughly 5″ tall and 4″ diameter.

In parting, here are some climbing terms to master, from climbing.com:

Bucket or Jug
The most secure of handholds; a hold so deep, incut, and big it’s like grabbing a lithic bucket lip.
Usage: Gimme buckets and gimme jugs, cuz Daddy’s so pumped he needs a hug!
Crimp
A small edge upon which you crimp your fingers, i.e. bend your digits to exert pressure on the knuckles, bringing your thumb against your index finger to close the grip.
Variant: Any small edge is a crimper, while a crimp-intensive climb is crimpy.
Crux
A route or problem’s most difficult passage or sequence. To crux doesn’t always mean to reach a route’s crux, but instead to redline anywhere on a climb.
Usage: Rachel is cruxing hard on Los Dynos del Muerte, and she isn’t even at the crux. Stand by for a takefest.
Pump
That tight, weak, swollen feeling in the forearms that comes, while climbing, from the accumulation of lactic acid combined with restricted blood flow. It’s much easier to get pumped than to de-pump. Also, as a verb, to sag to a straight-armed position and then cock to initiate a dyno or deadpoint.
Usage: I have the perma-pump; no matter how long I rest, I’m totally flamed out 15 feet up.