2020 Gear Review Part 2

I am going to give my opinion on gear usage in the two outdoor settings I mainly participated in during 2020, the van and river trips. I might add some side notes on other uses. Being first an environmentalist then becoming a long distance hiker, I have found that I end up being a minimalist in many ways. The need to look for multi functional equipment before making a purchase is almost second nature now.

Below I will split the gear by the primary function I bought it for, but will also review its alternative function.

Primary River Use

Yeti Panga 50 Duffel

This was another gift from my brother, he gets the most useful gifts for my life style! I received this before a three week Grand Canyon river trip! Besides the Grand Canyon I have used it as a day bag which is over kill, and also on a week long river trip, which it was just right as Goldilocks would say. It’s the ideal size at 50 liters for holding gear for one person as a dedicated bag for all the sleeping needs. Which in my case consisted of a tent, sleeping bag, pad, lights and night clothes. You really want to keep this stuff dry and the Panga is made for it. It does fall short for two people, as a dedicated bag for all the sleeping needs, it just wasn’t quite big enough. Multiple latch points allowed for it to be secured to the raft and the removable backpack straps made it super easy to transport from raft to campsite. The straps also made for a quick way to secure the bag in the back of a pickup.

For the Van

I sometimes use it to keep my river gear in when it’s dry and not in use just so I can stay organized. It’s not great for that because I have to have the gear dry before I use it as storage, but works.

It’s a bomber piece of gear but a little pricey. I would purchase if I was doing a lot of multi-day river trips.

NRS Expedition Driduffel 35L

I bought this immediately after getting back from the Grand Canyon trip. I found the Yeti duffel mentioned above so useful I wanted a duffel for day trips. Prior to the duffel, I used float storage in my kayak and roll down dry bags in the raft. The duffel is just so much easier to use when accessing with the zippered top. It works as a lap bag in the kayak, although I feel it’s a little big for that. The lap bag allows effortless access to things unlike the float storage bags. It opens wide horizontally from the top zipper to locate things, as opposed to the top down access of the float bag, which makes finding things difficult since everything was stacked on top of each other. It’s the perfect size for a thwart bag, holding first aid, beer and snacks in a super accessible place for day trips. The material doesn’t seem as durable as the Yeti and it lacks the backpack straps.

For the Van

I basically keep my first aid supplies used on the river in it, so I know where they are in the van. I do store it open so it stays dry, sometimes there is condensation in it from the cold beer stored in it on the river.

Goal Zero Venture 30

I purchased this for use on the South Fork of the Salmon. As stated in my previous review of the Goal Zero Nomad 13 Solar Panel and Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Bank I had trouble charging it on the Grand Canyon River Trip. The Goal Zero Venture 30 has enough battery capacity to charge my IPhone 3 times. It has a light on it for use in emergencies or if you need an extra. It’s kind of hard to find in the dark, but after finding it once you can find it easily by feel. My Nomad 13 Solar Panel actually charges this battery! It had enough charge for the 3 day South Fork of the Salmon trip. However, I had to recharge it on the 7 day Main Salmon trip.

For the Van

It lives mostly by my bed where I use it to keep my phone or IPad charged in the evening while watching movies or reading. It comes with a cord that is USB to Mico USB cord that can be used to charge it or to charge other devices using those inputs. It has a function where it optimizes its charging capacity depending on how you charge it. I suggest you use this feature, it took forever to charge from the USB in the van until I used this function! You can charge 2 USB and one Mico USB device simultaneously. It started trying to charge itself when the cable that comes with it is stored plugged into it. This is kind of annoying since it will drain the battery if the cord is stored in it and I keep misplacing the cord when not attached.

I made this purchase mostly based on wanting to use it for future backpacking trips. It’s too heavy for a weekend trip, but I feel worth the weight for a longer trip if you want to keep a phone charged even though it’s a little heavy for that also. I have a spot device I like to keep powered along with a phone so I am okay with this weight to return ratio.

I will not purchase this again if the above mentioned malfunction causes the battery to fail. I had to replace the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Pack because it failed. It was warrantied, but I am against the waste involved. Once is a mishap twice is just a shitty product. As it stands the Venture 30 still functions for its purpose.

Hydro Flask Thermos

The outfitter gave everyone on the Main Salmon Trip a thermos before we pushed off for the week. It keeps coffee warm for a long time, too warm if you try to drink it immediately. I prefer my coffee with creamer so that cools it down, but if you drink yours black I suggest you drink some in a cup and save the Hydro Flask for latter that day.

The thermos is fairly durable. I swam out of my kayak one day on a home run and I found my thermos later that day with some dents and chips as well as hot coffee still in it!

For the Van

I use it for my second drink. It is just too warm to drink immediately so I pour the extra in it and enjoy a hot drink after I finish off my first mug.

Will purchase another when I lose this one, I think it will last until I misplace it.

2020 Gear Review Part 1

I am going to give my opinion on gear usage in the two outdoor settings I mainly participated in during 2020, the van and river trips. I might add some side notes on other uses. Being first an environmentalist then becoming a long distance hiker, I have found that I end up being a minimalist in many ways. The need to look for multi functional equipment before making a purchase is almost second nature now.

Below I will split the gear by the primary function I bought it for, but will also review its alternative function.

Primary Van Use

Yeti Tundra 35 Hard Cooler

I received a Tundra 35 as a gift from my brother, it’s great and I love it! I would probably have went with the 75 or 110 if I had purchased it, but I did not and I am super stoked about having it! The features of the different size coolers are basically the same except for the capacity. The first time I used my Tundra 35, my pasta actually started to freeze. It does a great job keeping things cold. My only complaint is it didn’t come with a bottle opener. I added a beer bottle opener to it, it was easy to do I just tied it onto the handle. The non slip base is great when the van is moving and I slam on my brakes, but when I try to slide it under the bed platform, the non slip really works making it difficult to move. Hence, it now lives out from under the platform making it the perfect dedicated beer storage cooler keeping those frosty beverages within easy reach. The Tundra 35 can hold enough food and beer for a long weekend for just me. It doesn’t quite fit the needs of two people for the weekend. When my partner comes for a few days she brings her cooler which is about the same size. This allows enough room for beer and food! If I worked out how long to freeze my beer so it thawed at different rates and didn’t explode, the cooler would work great for two people for an extended weekend, because this would limit the need for ice. Let me know if you have a formula for this?

For rafting

The integrated tie down points make it a breeze to attach to the raft with NRS straps. The reason I would have went with a bigger one if I purchased it myself is for mufti-day rafting and less need to stop to resupply in the van. I know, surprising the cooler holds the same amount of things for rafting trips as van trips.

Would definitely get again, probably would upgrade to a Tundra 110.

Goal Zero Nomad 13 Solar Panel

I have trouble getting this to charge my Iphone! I think I feel like it’s Apple proprietary bull shit. I have trouble getting multiple things to charge my stupid Iphone. I use it primarily to charge my Goal 0 Venture 30 battery through my van windshield when parked. I tried chaining multiple Goal 0 Nomad 13 Solar Panels to charge my Sherpa 50. I never got it to gain power, but it seemed to stall its draining. I don’t end up using it as much as I thought I would. I takes awhile to charge my batteries living in the rainy Mid Atlantic. If it would work with my phone I would definitely use it more, but as of now I charge my battery then use the battery on the phone. Since I drive the van a good bit I just cut out the solar and use the van battery to charge stuff.

For rafting

On both the Grand Canyon and the Salmon River the charger seemed to get too hot and not charge. It only seemed to charge my battery packs in the mornings before it got sunny and super hot. Does anyone else have this problem?

Going to try it backpacking to see if it works out any better. I don’t have high hopes.

Would not purchase again for my needs.

Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Bank

This can power my computer for a short amount of time. It keeps my phone and Ipad charged for about 5-6 days with moderately heavy use. It charges from the charger faster than overnight. I usually plug it in to charge the night before I leave. I have forgotten and plugged it in later when I woke up and was like shit I forgot… and it charged in at least 4 hours. It’s small enough to move around the van with you or carry around in your pack. It’s heavy for hiking weighing around 2.2 lbs.

For rafting

I have had the built in light click on in my bag and drain the battery a few times, but I use and carry this thing around a lot. When it happens it’s a bummer but it doesn’t happen that much and the light is useful. I don’t use it as a primary light, but when I am looking for something and the battery is beside me I really appreciate it being there. It’s been useful way more times then its drained my battery.

Would definitely purchase again.

I purchased rechargeable lights for the van instead of running wires and purchasing a large battery. I did this thinking it would be more environmentally friendly. I am not sure if that is going to work out. It is in the sense that I can use the lights in multiple settings as opposed to having different dedicated lights for each activity.

MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern + Charger

I chose this light because it was supposed to charge other devices from the solar solar and enclosed battery. This function only worked reliably for a few weeks. Now sometimes it charges sometimes it doesn’t. It’s fairly bright when inflated and hung overhead. It can also be set upsidedown/rightly and used as a lantern.
I love that I can charge it from the van USB port with the enclosed cord. This is needed if you don’t have access to the sun, i.e. don’t spend a lot of time above tree line.

For rafting

The light would not charge my phone at all on a three week rafting trip. The plastic got really hot and the strip which you hang it from came loose. I was able to tape it and it has stayed since. I did keep it charged via solar and provided plenty of light in the tent. Was not enough by itself for the group outside of the tent.

Would probably purchase again on sale.

MPOWERD Luci Lux Inflatable Solar Lantern

This light is not as bright and only charges by solar. It’s not as useful as the MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern + Charger. It works fine in conjunction with the other Luci’s to light the van. I primarily use this one before bed since the light is softer.

The plastic did crack in the cold, but it still holds air and functions as it should.

For rafting

Haven’t used yet. I feel it will function fine. The light isn’t quite bright enough for me to justify taking it.

Would probably purchase again on sale.

MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights + Charger

This light charges with solar and USB which makes it great for the van. Since its a string light, I can have it charging via USB and use it at the same time unlike the lantern types. Their charging cords are not long enough to have a useful placement while being charged. I bought two of these and they give off enough light to make reading in the van a breeze without straining my eyes.

For rafting

One of my friends brought this light on a couple rafting trips and it was amazing. It lit the kitchen area and he kept it charged with the solar portion only. I was so impressed I bought two for the van.

I feel these lights would be extremely useful on a bikepacking trip!

Would probably purchase again. One of the two quit working after only a little usage. Will see if the other one lasts longer. I will not purchase again if only getting a few months usage out of it for environmental reasons.

Avocado Mattress Topper

This was purchased by my partner. I had an old worn out mattress, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and she found it uncomfortable. After she mentioned it I noticed it was uncomfortable also. She went on a mission to find an ecofriendly mattress topper. So, now we have a Avocado brand topper (and a mirror in the van, not sure how that got there) which is really comfortable it helped a lot! She chose a latex topper so it would be less likely to be rock solid in sub zero weather. Not only did it make for better rest at night in a range of temperatures, the company uses organic materials and ethically sourced labor throughout their supply chain.

For rafting

I would’t be against packing it and taking it on the river, but it would take up so much space. Haven’t motivated to try it yet.

I wouldn’t buy it, but would definitely use it if she purchased one in the future.

Next post gear for the river

Yeti Panga 50, NRS Expedition Driduffel 35L, Goal Zero Venture 30, Hydro Flask Thermos