Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cooking With The Sun, Solar Oven, Solar Cooker

Have you ever considered using the sun to bake your food while you are camping? Solar cookers can be made fairly easy and the baking process probably will not take as long as one might think.
I have been researching solar cookers for a while now and I plan on building a solar cooker over the holidays. I thought I would share this with you early because it would be a great experiment for you to do with your kids over the holidays. While my homemade version will not be as sophisticated as some, I still plan to be able to make cookies, brownies, boil a potato, etc, even during the middle of December.
I should start this with a few disclaimers. First, always where sunshades and never look directly at the light being reflected. Second, wear heave gloves because the oven can be extremely hot. While it is great to have kids around for the learning process, make sure they stay away from the oven and do not touch any hot objects.
The key to an effective solar cooker is making sure you can reflect as much of the sun's energy as possible to one area. This involves two things, first a good reflective material (Aluminum Foil works), and second, framing it in such a way to focus the energy to one general area. This can often be done using a cardboard box. To further convince you this is easier and cheaper than you think, I would like for you to visit this website created by solarcookers.org. If you click on the images more information is provided, including plans for the solar cooker oven.
In addition I wanted to share with you a few videos about solar cooking.
I will followup this blog in the future with the results of my test, but for now I would like to focus on the benefits of solar cooking. 1/3 of the world's population are dependant on wood for cooking and heating. The majority of these are in tropical areas that would be ideal for the use of a solar oven. The additional benefit of people being able to boil drinking water could significantly reduce the spread of water borne diseases. Currently, diseases spread through water cause 80% of the worlds illnesses (WHO). The cardboard and aluminum fool type ovens can be easily built for $10-$15.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Best Family Tents Including Discount Camping Tents

Your camping tent is likely to be the most important and most expensive piece of camping equipment you purchase. We have compiled a list of great family camping tents on the market. You should especially pay attention to the weight and size of the tent. If your car camping the weight won;t matter as much while if you have to hike a way, you may want to pay a little more for the lighter weight.

Columbia Cougar Flats II - This is a great quality discount 8 Person camping tent for car campers or those that have ATV access to their site.

  • 15-Foot by 10-Foot 8 Person 2 Room Family Cabin Dome Tent
  • 2-room cabin dome tent with space for up to 8 people
  • GoBe Dry® System will keep moisture out
  • Full seam-taped polyester fly with a 1,200mm waterproof-rated coating
  • Hybrid steel/fiberglass frame: 19mm steel upright poles and 12.5mm fiberglass roof poles.
  • Two pocket organizers, hanging cup holders, storage lockers and hanging gear loft
  • Reflective zipper pulls.
  • Measures 15 x 7.16 x 10 feet (W x H x D) and weighs 54 pounds

Eureka Tetragon Series #8 Another great quality discount camping tent - 4 Person Tent.


  • 2 pole rectangular dome tent
  • Durable shockcorded fiberglass frame, ring and pin attachments, and color coded webbing make set up fast
  • Brim over twin-track, side-opening door offers protected front entry; brimmed rear window allows ventilation during inclement weather
  • Bathtub floor protects against splashing rain
  • Hanging gear loft and 2 detachable interior storage pockets keep essential items handy; mesh panels allow for clip-in accessories
  • 2 vents and large areas of mesh in side walls enhance air circulation for added comfort
  • Measures 8'6" x 7'6" x 5 feet (W x H x D) and weighs 8 lbs 6 oz.

MSR Mutha Hubba Tent - High Quality and one of the lightest 3 person tents of this size.


  • Maximum interior space along with two stay-dry entrances
  • Use double-wall tent for full protection or as a freestanding tarp shelter with optional footprint to save weight.
  • Livable: Unique pole configuration provides maximum interior space
  • Two large vestibules for storing gear, preparing food, or simply enjoying the view
  • Lightweight: Minimum weight is just 6 lbs. 2 oz. (2.79 kg)
  • Quick and Easy Setup: Hub system is simple to use
  • Versatile: Can be used as a double-wall tent for full protection or as a freestanding tarp-shelter when used with optional footprint
  • Capacity: 3 people + gear
  • Measures Floor + Vestibule Area: 40 + 14 sq. ft./3.7 + 1.35 sq. m Packaged Weight: 6 lbs. 11 oz./3.05 kg

Eureka Copper Canyon 1610 - This is a great 6 person tent and screen room all in one.


  • 9 pole cabin style tent features 80 sq ft sleeping room plus 80 sq ft screen room with a skylight in each!
  • Vertical walls provide more usable interior volume; there’s room to maneuver even with cots set up inside
  • Combination steel and fiberglass frame couples with clip attachments and ring and pin assembly for fast and easy set up of the Eureka Copper Canyon.
  • 1 side-opening, twin-track, main door offers convenient front entry to the sleeping room and features a window to enhance ventilation; a second, side-opening, interior door offers easy passage between sleeping room and screen room
  • Sleeping room easily fits 6 camp pads on the floor, or 2 cots and gear.
  • Screen room features an inverted exterior T-style door with roll-back storm covers and overhead brim for protected and private side entry. A sod cloth along the perimeter keeps insects from getting inside.
  • The zippered access of the E! Power port enables a camper to bring an outdoor extension cord inside, while leaving pesky insects outside.
  • Sewn-in loops along the perimeter of the Eureka Copper Canyon screen room suspend our new rope light accessory!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jet Boil Stove Review

Jetboil Personal Camp Stove Review

The PCS utilizes 1 liter insulated aluminum cooking cup, extremely efficient burner base with a built-in igniter. The Jetboil packs well in that all components, including fuel, packed easily within the cooking cup, with the entire size being about the same as a nalgene bottle. At 15 ounces, it is a little heavier than some of the other stoves, but I will trade the few extra ounces for its efficiency and storeablity.

If you have followed my blob you know I prefer simple, lightweight, and efficient equipment which is exactly what the Jetboil stove delivers. I have been using my Jetboil for about three years now and and carry it along for most of my overnight hiking trips. I can have water boiling in about two minutes in most any condition. I have never had a malfunction, but I do know others that have had problems with the ignitor (you should have a lighter or matches with you anyway).

My routine is simple, coffee in the morning, nice prepared dehydrated meal in the evening, and green tea before dinner. The Jetboil fits my routine perfectly.

Tips - Some people place the lid on the cup so the water will boil faster. I find it dangerous to unseal the lid so I just place it loosely on top. I believe that is the intended use anyway, but I have seen others make this mistake.

Limitations - If you want to make pancakes, saute, etc then the Personal Cook System is probably not for you. Jetboil has released the group cooking system which I plan to purchase and try soon. I will add a review of the group cooking system at that time.

You can click here to visit the Jetboil Store if you are interest in shopping for any of these items.

If any of you have used the group cooking system please comment with your thoughts. Any suggestions or tips you would like to share would be appreciated.

Friday, November 21, 2008

10 Gift Ideas for Hikers, Campers, and Outdoorsman

Many innovations have been made in the hiking industry in the last five years leaving many shoppers wondering which product to buy. This can be a daunting task, especially if the person buying the gift is a non-gear savvy individual. By interviewing several outfitters and hikers and using our own input coming from years in the field, we have compiled a list of 10 items any hiker would love.

– This lightweight portable water purifier uses UV light to destroying bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. The Steripen is quick and light in that it can purify up to ½ a liter of water in as little as 48 seconds and weighs only 4 ounces (including batteries). This is a great gift for hikers and emergency personnel. Retail Price $99.

2. Subscription to Backpacker Magazine. This magazine is a great source of information from reviews on new gear to instructions helping hikers develop new skills. Backpacker Magazine includes articles keeping you up to date on issues related to conservation and the environment. Retail Price $15.95

3. Merino Wool Socks – Bygone are the days of itchy wool socks and sweaty feet with the introduction of Merino Wool socks. While SmartWool is known for popularizing this product and has the largest selection, there are alternatives for the savvy shopper. A great place to look is the Sock Shop in Sweetwater, TN which offers three pair of high quality Head brand Merino Wool trekking socks for $7.99.

4. Petzl Tikka Plus LED Headlamp – Known not only for its great illumination, but also for its comfort, efficiency, and weight, or lack of it that is. The Petzl Tikka has five settings, low, medium, high, bright, and strobe. This water resistant headlamp is 80% brighter than the original Petzl headlamp. Retail $35

5. Nalgene Everyday OTG Tritan Bottle – While there are several new products on the market, this product has been time tested and continues to receive high ratings. Unlike many of the new products, this product does not retain flavors or odors. The 22 ounce container is dishwasher safe and is suitable for both warm and cold beverages. Retail $10

6. Tool Logic SL Pro 2 Folding Knife – On the trail it is nice to have everything organized. This knife does just that by offering not only a knife, but also a magnesium alloy fire starter, a LED flashlight, and an emergency whistle. The magnesium alloy fire starter is designed to last for hundreds of strikes. You can click on the link to purchase this item from Amazon. Weight 4 ounces. Retail $59

7. Jetboil Personal Cooking System – Stoves are one of the items that you should discuss with the individual before buying as a gift. Some people want quick, easy, and lightweight, while others want to be able to prepare a gourmet meal. While the Jetboil is not as light as some of its competitors, it has an incredibly fast boil time, works great in inclement weather, and stores easily. The fuel canister and stove are designed to fit snugly into the mug. 15.25 ounces including fuel canister. Retail $99

8. Nite Ize Flashflight Disc – While this isn’t technically hiking gear, this flying disc is amazing and fun to have around camp. It is a welcomed addition to sitting around the campfire all night. While illuminated disc have been around for years, this product is the most realistic and feels the most like the non-illuminated disc we are all used to.

9. Olympus Stylus 1030 SW – This rugged 10.1 Megapixel point and shoot digital camera is designed to withstand drops up to six feet and shoot underwater down to 33 feet. The Stylus 1039 SW Features 3.6x optical wide-angle zoom; Face Detection and a 2.7-inch HyperCrystal II LCD. This is a fun camera to use around mountain streams and waterfalls and takes high quality pictures and descent videos for the price. It is rare that I head out on the hiking trail or go mountain biking without it. Retail $299

10. Hiker First Aid Kit – First Aid Kits unfortunately are a necessity, yet too many hikers omit buying them which is what makes it the perfect gift. There are several on the market most of which are very similar, just make sure you pick a kit with an instruction manual, antihistamines, hand wipes, gauze bandages, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers. Look for kits that are 1-2 lbs or less. These kits range from $25 to $50.

SteriPEN Water Purifier for Hikers

I have owned my SteriPEN UV light water purification system for about three months now and have to say that I fell in love with it immediately. Being a Civil Engineer and having worked on Low Pressure UV lights for AWT wastewater plants, I knew the capabilities of UV lights and had no concerns in using it. This lightweight and convenient SteriPEN is a great addition to any hiker wanting to reduce weight in their backpack and save time purifying water.

I understand it is difficult for many to accept the idea of using a light to purify water just as I still have a difficult time understanding how a microwave can warm food. Lets first start with a video showing how easy it is to use thisproduct. Click here to view the video.

I also wanted to include a link to test that have been done with the SteriPEN and their results This page has information about testing and allows you to download pdf files of the test. If you still have concerns and have an outfitter near you, discuss it with them. Hopefully they can

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hennessy Hammock Camping

Hammock Camping and Hennessy Hammocks have become very common on the trail due to the popularity of ultra-light camping. Hennessy Hammocks are known for their light weight, comfortable, and durable camping hammocks.

It is rare for someone not to approach us and ask how we like hammock camping. The reply is always the same, as long as their are trees around its great. No more worrying about level ground or removing rocks, sticks etc before pitching the tent. I purchased my Hammock after it won the Sea Kayakers award in 2005. The things I like most about the hammock are:

  • Comfort - Anyone who has ever been in a hammock can attest to the comfort. With the mesh top I can lay there and look at the stars if I choose not to use my rain tarp. I enjoy reading and journaling at night and with a headlamp its very easy to do with little movement.

  • Weight/Size - With size and weight of the hammock saves room in my pack and does not add unnecessary weight. My hammock, the Explorer Ultralight, weighs in at 2 lbs and 9 oz and the package size is roughly 5" by 12".

  • Quick Setup - The hammock can easily be setup in 3-5 minutes with little effort. Takedown and packaging happens just as quick. This is perfect for photographers who want to be out of camp and setup to shoot before daylight.

If you would like to purchase a Hennessy Hammock and would like more information on the Hennessy Safari or Hennessy Expedition Hammock you can visit their website by clicking here.

You can read reviews at backpackgeartest.com or at Sgt. Rocks website, a man who has been using Hennessy Hammocks for years.

Hubba Hubba 2 Person Tent

The Hubba Hubba 2 person tent is part of their Fast and Light series. The Hubba Hubba tent was the 2008 Backpacker Editors' Choice Award winner. Suggest Retail: $299 This is a great tent for hikers interested in tent camping.

The following specs were taken from their website.

  • Livable: Unique pole configuration provides maximum interior space, 2 stay-dry entrances, and 2 large vestibules for gear storage and food prep.

  • Lightweight: Minimum weight is now just 3 lbs. 14 oz. (1.7 kg)—less than 2 lbs. (.9 kg) per person.

  • Quick and Easy Setup: New all-in-one hub-and-swivel pole design is stronger than ever and still simple to use.

  • Versatile: Can be used as a double-wall tent for full protection or in 2 freestanding tarp-shelter modes when used with optional footprint (sold separately).

This is a high quality lightweight tent for three season camping. It continuously receives 5 star ratings and continues to be my tent of choice. The low weight and fast and easy setup is great especially after a long day on the trail. Retail cost is $299, but at this time the tent seems to be in short supply. I have included links to additional reviews below. You can purchase this tent by clicking on the following link.
Trailspace.com Review
Buzzilions.com Review