Category Archives: Gear Review

Gear Review: JetBoil Flash Cooking System

Mid October last year, I backpacked through the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Colorado and one of my buddies had the JetBoil Flash Cooking System. I loved it so much I decided to buy one of my own.

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The experience I had on my own did not match the same experience I had last year with my buddies. After the first use, the push button igniter that sparks the flame failed. I need to add that the temperature was in the mid 60’s so that was not the issue. The SOL Advanced Cooking System works best in temperatures down to 20F. You basically have 3 options if this happens: 1. There are tons of forums (just google it) with user tricks on getting the lighting mechanism to work properly. 2. Just use a Bic lighter. That’s what I ended up doing and I’ve all but accepted this will be the norm. 3. Take it back to REI and they’ll exchange it.

The smallest JetBoil fuel tank, JetPower Fuel 100, should suffice for a weekend backpacking trip for 1-2 people. I primarily used mine for coffee. I just buy the Starbucks powder packages and pour directly into my mug. You can buy JetBoil’s Java Kit but honestly, it’s just extra stuff to manage. The coffee packets and hot water work just fine.

There is a color change heat indicator on the side of the canister but I really didn’t pay attention to it. Plus, it gets pretty hot so I wouldn’t touch it initially after your water is boiled.

There’s other accessories like a pot/pan support that might come in handy. I don’t know if that feature also fits down into the JetBoil Flash Cooking System. For an extra $15, it might be worth it if you want to eat something other than packaged backcountry food.

Positives

  • Boils water super fast
  • Very packable
  • Decent weight
  • Price point
  • Optional accessories

Negatives

  • Push bottom igniter is not reliable
  • Color change heat indicator can get very hot
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Camping With Dogs: Kelty Gunnison 3.2 Tent

This past weekend I took the Kelty Gunnison 3.2 tent for a test drive at Cheoah Point Campground in North Carolina. I needed a larger 3 person tent to account for a girlfriend and 2 medium to large sized dogs. Of the 3 person tents I researched, the Kelty Gunnison 3.2 held the most value for me. I wanted a cost effective tent that was packable enough to backpack and would fit 2 adults (under 6 feet) and 2 dogs comfortably. IMG_9011

Here’s the specs of the Kelty Gunnison 3.2 Tent

  • Seasons: 3
  • Number of doors: 2
  • Number of vestibules: 2
  • Capacity: 3
  • Number of poles: 2 Hubbed

Dimensions:

  • Minimum weight: 6 lbs / 2.72 kg
  • Packaged weight: 7 lbs 4 oz / 3.29 kg
  • Floor area: 48.5 ft2 / 4.51 m2
  • Vestibule area: 12 ft2 + 12 ft2 / 1.2 m+ 1.2 m2
  • Length: 93 in / 236 cm
  • Width: 75 in / 191 cm
  • Height: 46 in / 117 cm
  • Packed diameter: 8 in / 20 cm
  • Packed Length: 22 in / 56 cmIMG_9199

We were able to sleep side by side, length wise on Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Pads with plenty of room for the dogs. Basically, we got half of the tent and the dogs got the other half of the tent. Any dog owner can attest to a dog’s “needs” coming first!

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The temperature at night dropped to the high 30’s to low 40’s with wind gusts coming off the lake at close to 40 mph. The rain fly added excellent protection from the high winds and the Kelty Cosmic 41 degree bags kept everyone toasty warm. My girlfriend, who gets cold easily, felt the same way. My favorite part of the tent was having two vestibules. Bringing dogs on a camping trip adds a different element to strategic tent management. Two vestibules allows humans to enter and exit on one side and dogs on the other side. The last thing you want is your precious pup to get excited just before going to bed and puncture a hole in your sleeping pad, leaving you to tossing and turning on rocks and acorns all night. My second favorite part was the overhang attachment to the center of the tent. It made placing important items like a head lamp and Garmin easy to reach.

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Camping with dogs can be a blast and really easy if you have the right gear. The Kelty Gunnison 3.2 tent was the perfect combination of price, size and space for either car camping or backpacking with our two dogs.

Get outside!

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TomTom GPS Sports Watch Review

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Full Disclosure: I’m sitting in bed at 9:30am, 2hrs behind schedule, because my TomTom watch that I have used for a month in training is useless.

A GPS sports watch should be able to do following without fail. 1. Allow the user to simply hit ‘Start’ and begin running. 2. Easily transfer data to a computer. 3. Allow the user to navigate watch controls without having to look at a user manual. The TomTom GPS Sports Watch fails miserably at each of those.

I purchased two of these watches. One for myself and one for my brother. Initially I liked the price point and the slim design as other GPS watches can be very bulky. After using the watch for a little over a month, those were the only two things that impressed me.

My first and understandably biggest complaint falls into the user interface (UI) category. I purchased this watch specifically for the North Face Endurance Challenge Series in Georgia. The 50k started before 7am and in the dense woods, it remains dark for the first hour of the race. I started my watch (with a full battery) in ‘Night Mode’ so I could see my pace. After about 2 hours of running I looked down at my watch and half the battery life was already gone. A 50k takes me about 6hrs to complete and I knew there was no way the battery would last. When I brought the watch to the ‘Pause’ screen, I had hoped to see an option to change ‘Night Mode’ from ON to OFF. I had to stop my watch completely, thus losing all of my race data, to turn it off. Complete fail. It’s not like I was running a 5k. This was a 50k. You live and die by knowing how far you are to the next aid station and how many hours you have left to go. I went half the race with a dead battery. To say I was majorly disappointed was an understatement. The battery life might get you 6hrs with the ‘Night Mode’ off. With it on, you’d be lucky to get 3hrs.

In addition to UI issues, I had no clue how to use the majority of the features. They all seemed pointless. Like the ‘Treadmill’ function. I still don’t know the point to that. A treadmill already has time and distance functions and probably a lot more accurate! One would think you could go to the user manual that comes with the watch for additional support. Nope! They just send you to a website which doesn’t offer anymore help on how to get the full benefit from the watch.

Clear Your History- You can’t do this from the watch. I found this out the hard way during a 2 hour run yesterday. The watch becomes functionless and constantly vibrates telling you that your storage is full. Imagine having that go on for an entire hour. I was willing to give TomTom one last shot if I could successfully download their software to my computer, follow whatever instructions listed, clear my run history and go about my day. Nope! To start, I had to Google how to do this because it was fairly difficult to find on the TomTom website. The download process on my computer was going smoothly until I had to register with Map My Fitness.

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I already have a Map My Fitness account. I entered my login information, clicked Authorize and nothing happened. I tried this process literally 15 time this morning. I even tried hitting Decline, thinking that I could go around that section and connect later. Same thing happened. To make matters worse, the entire system kept crashing! And crashing! AND CRASHING!

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At this point I’m beyond frustrated. I can’t clear my history which means I have a $169 useless watch. As an avid runner/triathlete, I’ve tried several GPS watches: Garmin, Timex/Ironman, and now TomTom. I will never recommend a TomTom Sports Watch product after this. Nor do I really want to use a product powered by TomTom- sorry Nike. I’ve used this product now for a month and I’ve given it so many chances to redeem it’s value and each time it leaves me disappointed.

Pros:

1. Price Point $169 w/o the HR monitor

2. Slim design- I actually wish the Garmin 310x fit this way

Cons:

1. Battery Life- 6hrs of normal GPS mode. 3hrs with Night Mode on. I would expect both to weaken with age of the watch.

2. User Interface controls- You can’t change in and out of ‘Night Mode’ without stopping your run progress. You can’t clear your history while using the watch. You can’t use the watch as a regular start/stop watch without using the GPS.

3. Downloading TomTom to computer- Just didn’t work.

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