Gear Review 2021 Part 2

Gear Reviewed: IPad, Woruija Hard drive couldn’t afford a good one after iPad but fucked up with this, and a werner surge paddle.

I didn’t purchase that much gear this year and what I am reviewing in this post was used at the end of year and not for very long.

m1 iPad Pro 12.9 500GB

I got the new iPad Pro 12.9 500GB, I was really stoked because it came with the M1 chip. My not so old laptop started struggling processing photos and videos. So, far the only limitations I am running into with the iPad is when I am away from Wi-Fi for an extended period of time. The cloud keeps updating my photos and it eventually uses all my data. This hasn’t happened a lot and has nothing to do with the iPad, just my data plan.

Below is Amazon’s description.

Description 

iPad Pro features the powerful Apple M1 chip for next-level performance and all-day battery life. An immersive 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display for viewing and editing HDR photos and videos. 5G cellular models for blazing speeds away from Wi-Fi. And a front camera with Center Stage keeps you in frame automatically during video calls. iPad Pro has pro cameras and a LiDAR Scanner for stunning photos, videos, and immersive AR. Thunderbolt for connecting to high-performance accessories. And you can add Apple Pencil for note-taking, drawing, and marking up documents, and the Magic Keyboard for a responsive typing experience and trackpad.

Features & details 

  • Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
  • Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color
  • TrueDepth camera system featuring Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage
  • 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide camera, and LiDAR Scanner for immersive AR
  • Stay connected with ultrafast Wi-Fi
  • Go further with all-day battery life
  • Thunderbolt port for connecting to fast external storage, displays, and docks
  • Face ID for secure authentication and Apple Pay
  • Four speaker audio and five studio-quality microphones
  • Support for Apple Pencil (2nd generation), Magic Keyboard, and Smart Keyboard Folio

I am really stoked on this item; it ranks number 1 for the gear I have used this year. I would definitely purchase it again. I am not sure on the 500 GB yet. I haven’t had it long enough to know if that is the right amount. I feel like that is enough to work on multiple photos. I haven’t worked on any video project to verify that that’s enough. I feel like it is more than I need for my usage, but time will tell. Again, really stoked on it. I know it comes with a hefty price tag compared to my computer, but the amount of time I am saving processing media is totally worth it. I would 100% purchase this again! Best early Christmas present yet.

Woruijia 1 TB hard drive

I purchased a 1 TB external hard drive made by Woruijia for way less than a SanDisk because the iPad cost so much I couldn’t justify the SanDisk at the time. I mean it sounded like a winner: ultra slim, shock proof, and anti-drop external hard drive for $50. Well, it was too good to be true; the disk became corrupted within the first few minutes of trying to download stuff. I spent the next week trying to fix it at about 2.75 days to get to almost the end then nothing….. could not finish action. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong about not spending the money on a SanDisk.

Below is Amazon’s description.

Product information

Product Dimensions ‎11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches; 3.15 Pounds Item Weight ‎3.15 pounds Manufacturer ‎Apple Computer ASIN ‎B0932DZPW2 Country of Origin ‎China Item model number ‎MHNJ3LL/A Batteries ‎1 Lithium Polymer batteries required. (included) Date First Available ‎April 30, 2021

Digital Storage Capacity1000 GB
Compatible DevicesLaptop
BrandWORUIJIA
Connectivity TechnologyUSB
Hard Disk Size1 TB
Form FactorPortable
Cache Size1 TB
ColorBlack-C
Hard Disk DescriptionPortable

About this item

  • Ultra Slim & Large Capability. This external hard drive has the large capability of 1TB or 2TB and the energy-saving feature which is your perfect movable database.
  • Super Fast External Hard Drive. This external hard drive with super high transmission , 5 times as fast as usual hard drive when reading and more than 1 time faster when writing, sure to boost your work efficiency largely!
  • Quality Metal Shell & Excellent Performance. This portable hard drive external is shockproof and anti-drop, the quality aluminum alloy shell offers great heat dissipation for durability and safety. Add matte texture to bring you comfort touch while preventing fingerprint.
  • Smart Design & Super Strong Compatibility. This external hard drive is readily compatible with mac, WIN7/8/8.1/10, Android and more, nearly workable with 99% of PC systems. Smart enough for auto sleep with no operation for 10min, able to prevent body heat and increase data security.
  • Portable Pocket Design External Hard Drive. Ultra compact and slim to lie in your palm and travel the portable hard drive everywhere in your pocket.

It sounds good after reading the above description, right? Well don’t be fooled, I would not purchase this product again! It was useless within minutes of using it. Then I wasted so much time trying to format it. Luckly, I got refunded almost immediately.

Werner Surge Straight Shaft Paddle

Luckly, I had purchased this as a backup last year because there were none in stock when I needed it. I normally keep one on hand just in case I leave one lay at the takeout, lose it out of the truck bed or another way one loses their paddle. I was boating with my well used Powerhouse when I noticed it lying beside someone else’s and realized right away it was time for a new paddle. My power face was significantly smaller than the newer paddle.

According to NRS the Surge, maximizes the vertical phase through the water, giving you a smoother catch and release. This enhanced power phase gives you scope to get the most out of every paddle stroke, where it really matters.

Product information

Blade size: 112 sq. in. / 725 sq. cm
Blade measurements: 19 x 8 in. / 48.25 x 20 cm
Blade material: fiberglass

One piece straight shaft
Lengths: 194 cm / 197 cm / 200 cm / 203 cm / 206 cm
Weight: 35.25 oz. / 999 g
Feather angles: 30° right-handed / 45° right-handed

One piece bent shaft
Lengths: 194 cm / 197 cm / 200 cm / 203 cm
Weight: 37.75 oz. / 1070 g
Feather angles: 30° right-handed / 45° right-handed

I purchased the 30° feather and 200 cm length paddle. I would like to try the 203cm or 206 cm but they were not available where I purchased the paddle. I am 6’1″ and am an intermediate kayaker. I like the paddle; it is the first fiberglass paddle with a forward bend in the blade which is supposed to give you a smoother catch and release and generate more power. It definitely produced more power than my old paddle which was severely used. I can’t speak as to if it produced more than my Powerhouse when it was new. I immediately noted a difference with the number of strokes I need to get from point a to b and rolling was easier.

I would buy the Surge again, but I would also buy the Powerhouse again. I have had fiberglass straight shaft paddles for the last 3 paddles due to the reduced cost. My favorite paddle so far was the carbon fiber bent shaft Powerhouse. I think my next paddle will be the bent shaft version of the Surge because, to date, it is the only forward bend fiberglass Werner has available.

Gear Review 2021 Part 1

Gear reviewed: Big Agnes Tigerwall 2 Platinum, Slackers Slack Rack W/Slackline, Ride Lasso Snowboarding Boots.

I didn’t really use that much new gear this year, 2021. This was mostly due to the fact that it was the most time I spent in the van to date. I spent just shy of a month traveling to Jackson, WY. In that time, Ally and I stayed in the van almost the entire time with the exception of a few nights in  friends’ houses in Eagle, Buena Vista, and Breckenridge. I lived in the van full time from when she left in the beginning May until July excluding a few nights I stayed in a hotel while exploring Yellowstone and the Tetons with my parents. Then, in the beginning of July she came back and we stayed at The Virginian Lodge in Jackson for 2 weeks before I drove back to WV. Those 2 months of living in he van were horrible……

Anyway back to the gear: since I was in the van for a little over a quarter of the year I really did’t purchase that much gear this year; it was also hard to find somethings due to supply issues. I broke the gear out by function in previous reviews (2020 Gear Review Part 1 and 2020 Gear Review Part 2).  Since I bought random stuff this year mostly for different types of activities and I didn’t have any big expeditions planned, I will not break them out by use this year but list them randomly.

Big Agnes Tigerwall 2 Platinum

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I used the Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum on the PCT and loved it. The reason I got the Tiger wall was because it had two doors, which I like in a two person tent. Both tents are very similar with the exception of the dimensions and the two doors. They were both quick and easy to setup. The Tiger Wall has more storage pockets. The one above the head also has a slot to run headphones through when storing your phone above. The tent is about 2 pounds so that’s a pound a person. That’s amazing. There isn’t much storage space inside but vestibules on each side make for ample storage. Since the material is so light it needs to be taken care of. I opted for the ground cloth which puts it over 2 lbs but protects the bottom of the tent. Care should be taken in placement when setting it up so nothing pokes through the fabric. I haven’t had any damage to the Tigerwall yet. The Big Agnes Fly Creek accumulated some holes when I thru hiked the PCT, but they were easily patched with tape. Just to give you an idea, the stuff sack for the tent stakes wore through the most from the pressure of them on the sack. Not gonna lie it weighed more when I was done hiking from the tape, but most of the tape was on the stuff sack.

I would definitely buy any platinum tent from Big Agnes I had nothing but great experiences and they are really light weight! This was probably my favorite purchase in this review.

Slackers Slack Rack W/Slackline

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I got this to keep occupied with COVID still happening. I already have a Gibbon 1 inch line but wanted something for the kids to mess with also. The Pittsburgh house where I was spending most of my time doesn’t have trees so I though I would try this rack out. The rack doesn’t come with anything to keep the line taught. To accomplish this one needs to purchase a 4’x4′ beam. It accommodates a 6′- 12′ beam I chose a 8′ 4’x4′ because that’s what I had laying around. I am probably going to purchase a 12′ beam because would like to utilize as much of the 13′ line as possible. As I mentioned before I wanted something for kids so I thought the 2′ diameter line would be more stable underfoot for them. I think it is, but the rack it’s self seems to wobble in conjunction with the line movement. This just helps develop ones balance. The ratchet seems cheaply made. It now needs tools and two people to let the tension go. I am nervous during this process because I would like to keep my fingers.

I don’t think I would buy this particular system again. It’s nice and I’m glad I had it but in the future I think I would just build two small platforms dig some holes and run a slack line from an anchor point over the boxes to the opposite anchor point in the holes. (See diagram below)

Ride Lasso Snowboarding Boots

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I normally get a softer flex boot since I spend a majority of my days on snow teaching snowboarding lessons. The softer flex boot I like unfortunately was not available due to supply chain issues, so I chose this one randomly out of the the few available with my pro deal. The lasso ended up feeling really light oh my feet and I’d say it was a medium flex just slightly stiffer than what I have normally been using. I really noticed it at first but after three hours I got used to it. I think my favorite part about the boot is the side BOA that adjusts the inside of the boot. It really tightens up that heel and locks it in place. It’s the first boot I’ve had where my heel does not move up and down when I pressure the boot to turn the board.

I would definitely buy this boot again! Its mid range price is not a hindrance and well worth the extra cash for that perfect fit! I go through boots like crazy due to the consistency of my gear getting ran over by students while teaching. Even with that abuse I expect these boots to hold up for 2 years. I live in the Mid Atlantic and average three months on snow most of which is teaching plus another few weeks riding out west in the shoulder seasons. This brings me to a  yearly median of just over 550,000 vertical. The only downside is the extra stiffness makes them a little more difficult to drive in. Still safer than driving in ski boots though!

Next up for review

IPad Pro 12.9 500 GB

Woruijia External Hard Drive 1 TB

Werner Surge Paddle

 

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