Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

You are currently browsing the archives for June, 2011.


Post by:  Jake

Brunton has been manufacturing precision compasses and other outdoor products for over a century.  Their passion for the outdoors is evident in all the products they create to fuel adventures.  Over the years, their product line has included a variety of outdoor products including stoves; however, recently as part of the Brunton Outdoors Group, the company has re-tooled its product line up in cooperation with the brand Primus Camping gear.  Brunton’s product lineup now includes portable power solutions, navigation products, optics, lighting, and other outdoor instruments like altimeters.  Primus’s gear lineup focuses on camping products, stoves, lanterns, cookware, headlamps/flashlights, and tents.

While I’ve used a variety of Brunton products over the years, recently I got to try out one of the new Solaris 2 USB chargers, a 15TDCL compass, and the Ridge analog altimeter.  The Solaris 2 USB charger is incredibly handy.  At 4-oz. and foldable, it’s inconspicuous in your pack, but there when you need it.  This solar panel is capable of charging pretty much anything with a USB power port (cell phone, AA and AAA-batteries, mp3 player, some gps’s), and being flexible it can be easily attached to the top of your backpack to charge your devices while you hike.  Or attach it to the top of your tent at base camp.  The possibilities are endless. At $166 it’s well worth the peace of mind to know you’ll never run out of juice.  Ideal for extended or remote backcountry trips. 

The 15TDCL compass and the Ridge altimeter, I used during the adventure race.  Race rules dictated no electronic positioning devices that can track location or distance.  The 15TDCL compass is super user friendly and with adjustable declination and 2 degree graduations, the precision is perfectly suitable for adventure racing, or backpacking.  This isn’t just a summer compass though, as it also has a slope needle or clinometer to help you with avalanche safety.  The Ridge altimeter is a light (0.6-oz) analog altimeter.  Calibration is very quick and easy, and they claim it can even be done while leaving your bulky mittens on your hands.  My only complaint is the 100-foot graduations.  When you’re trying to pinpoint your elevation to the nearest 20-feet, it’s pretty difficult with any analog altimeter.  Digital is better for precision, but this altimeter certainly beats any digital altimeter on calibration time.

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Off to the Races

Post by:  Jake

Six-months ago if Veronica would have asked me what I thought of doing a triathlon or running a 10k I would have laughed (to myself) and then probably would have given her a look of “are you crazy?” Then I probably would have asked, “Why on earth would you want to watch me suffer in agony like an ant getting burned under a magnifying glass?”  Well, six months later I’ve not only completed my first sprint triathlon, but have also raced in the Black Bear Challenge adventure race, and have run a 3-mile and a 10k race!  I wasn’t in all that bad of shape last January, but since then I’ve lost nearly 25-pounds and now am in close to the best shape of my life.  It’s such an amazing feeling of accomplishment every time I get to cross the finish line at one of these races.  I genuinely feel strong, and I continue to surprise myself at how far (and fast) I can run.

We just finished the Governors’ Cup 10K on Saturday morning.  I posted a time of almost exactly 55-minutes, and Veronica was just a few seconds over 50-minutes.  I like to start the races near the front of the pack, while Veronica prefers starting a little further back.  My first mile is always my fastest as I try to separate myself from the crowd a bit.  I can’t stand not running at “my” pace simply because there are so many other people around me.  That makes for a fairly depressing rest-of-the-race though as I get continually passed for the remainder of the mileage.  Saturday’s race was no exception.  Between mile 3 and 4 I got passed by not one, but TWO old guys pushing strollers!  Talk about a blow to the ego. :-)   I just try to stay focused on running my race, and keep telling myself that “I’m not competing for first” and “I can’t imagine doing this 6-months ago with an extra 25-pounds”!

So what’s motivated me to keep going?  To lose the weight?  To get back into top shape?

1.)  Having a goal in mind certainly has helped keep me working hard.  First it was, “I need to keep working to get in shape for the adventure race” then, the triathlon race, and so on…

2.)  Having a group to workout with and a rigid workout schedule has been a huge help.  It has kept me on track by giving me structure instead of simply guessing at what I should be doing to workout.  And it’s been great to socialize and see each other progress throughout the weeks.  Each day I look forward to the social aspect of the workouts.

3.)  Rewards.  Knowing the rewards of getting into shape have certainly added to my motivation.  Backpacking trips are easier.  I can bike harder and go further.  Really, everything is easier, including yard work.

So, while I’m still far from an elite athlete, I’m certainly enjoying being in shape.  Knowing I lost the weight the right way (lifestyle change instead of a fad diet), I’m convinced that this will be lasting.  The rewards are too nice to give it up and go back to the shape I was in back in January.  It’s FUN being in shape! :-)


Julbo Sunglasses

Post by:  Jake

Julbo sunglasses are perhaps some of the best fitting and most functional glasses made.  I’ve long been a fan of Julbo’s super dark lensed glacier glasses, but recently I got to demo a pair of their new Pipeline glasses with photochromic lenses.  In just 28 seconds the lenses can turn from a light category 2 shading to a dark category 4 shading.  Very handy as 1 pair of sunglasses can be used in nearly any type of environment.  I used the pipeline glasses on several training days and for 2 races.  During the adventure race, the weather was super bright and sunny, and while on snow it was absolutely necessary to have the super dark Cat.4 shading.  Using the same glasses, during our recent triathlon, the weather was super overcast and dreary, but glasses were still necessary on at least the 12-mile bike portion of the race.  The light Cat. 2 shading was excellent and didn’t impair my vision at all.  Julbo’s engineering is excellent, and I’ve never tried a pair of their glasses on that didn’t fit very well.  I highly recommend a pair of Julbo glasses, and for something versatile that works in all conditions, go with a pair that has their photochromic “Zebra” lenses.

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NEMA Mountain Bike Clothing

Post by:  Jake

Since 1994 NEMA Cycling has been creating cutting-edge mountain biking apparel.  Engineered to enhance pedaling efficiency, breathability and comfort, NEMA apparel has risen to the top of the mountain bike clothing world.  Instead of simply slapping a MTB logo on gear better suited for other sports, NEMA engineers are mountain bikers, designing clothing specific to mountain biking.

 I recently had the opportunity to try out a couple NEMA layers, and they’ve quickly become my go-to pieces for mountain biking.  The Apeks Jersey is a simply looking jersey for folks like me that aren’t big into giant graphics.  While NEMA does make those types of jerseys, I like the simpler look.  Simple looking certainly does not mean low performance.  With a 3/4 length front zipper and a casual cut, it’s light fitting and easy to stay cool in.  A zippered back pocket is ideal to store items you don’t want bouncing out during a bumpy ride.  My only complaint so far is that the fabric seems to be constantly snagging on my glove velcro leaving little pulls of thread sticking out.

The Tolonix shorts are the newest shorts offered from NEMA.  A snap out liner was one of the first features I noticed, making these shorts more than just “biking only” shorts.  The molded 3-piece chamois in the liners is super thick, perfect protection for pounding descents.  Zippered thigh vents make regulating temperature easy, even while you’re riding. Definitely give these shorts a look if you’re in the market for a new pair of mountain bike shorts.

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I TRI with a little help from my friends

Post by:  Veronica

Twelve weeks and countless hours of workouts later, I can finally say that Jake and I proudly completed our first triathlon.  YAY!

Just a small sample of the first-timers. Waiting by the finish line to cheer on later heats of athletes.

For three months, we have been meeting regularly with approximately 20 other first-time (or relatively “beginner”) triathletes and our three coaches—sport veterans who wanted to share the “tri-bug” with the rookies.  Such AMAZING people—I’m going through withdrawals now that it’s all over.  Seriously, all I wanted to do on Tuesday was head to the pool right after work for social hour and swim practice! (Which is saying a lot given my lack of excitement for that leg of the sport!) Instead, Jake and I got a few chores checked off the to-do list and are planning to head to the pool for an anti-social pool workout later this week.  Not nearly as much fun.

Looking back, I wanted to reflect on how awesome this experience was.  In addition to the technical benefits of the clinic (I can confidently say that I swim MUCH better than I did before) the whole experience was enlightening for many reasons:

  • It confirmed my belief that the best way to get into something new is to join a group with similarly-experienced individuals that you can learn with. Now that the tri-clinic is over, I’m looking forward to attending a beginner-intermediate women’s group that meets Monday nights to bike (switching between road and mountain).  Groups provide a great outlet to meet people and provide the structure and support to keep you going.
  • I realized that although perhaps intimidating to begin with—experienced athletes, who are passionate about what they do, love to see new, excited people get involved.  And it’s a great community to be a part of.  The triathlon we did was geared toward beginners, but there were lots of veteran triathletes that volunteered or just came to cheer everyone on.
  • I learned that my body is much stronger than my mind sometimes believes.  And if you just keep kicking or putting one foot in front of the other, you can accomplish much more than you once thought.
  • It helped me to remember to celebrate what I do well (and yes, we all have our strengths) and remember that everyone has something they struggle with.  In our clinic, we had strong swimmers who weren’t so excited about the run and bikers and runners who felt like drowned fish at swim practice (Me!).  It’s really the beauty of multi-sport events like this.

As part of the triathlon clinic, we got a t-shirt that so profoundly states:  “I TRI with a little help from my friends.”  Great training buddies = a very rewarding experience. So shout-out to our clinic teammates and coaches—Congrats and thanks for such a great experience!





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PureBot from Hydropak

Post by:  Jake

Beyond “BPA Free” the PureBot water bottle from Hydrapak is the world’s first certified EA-free plastic water bottle.  What is EA? Estrogenic Activity.  Nearly all plastics manufactured release chemicals that have estrogenic activity.  While Estrogen is a natural hormone, chemicals that mimic or block the actions of the natural hormone have been shown to cause significant health problems.  EA occurs when chemicals leach from plastics into water and food that we then consume.  Young children are particularly sensitive to chemicals having EA.

Health related problems associated with ingesting chemicals exhibiting EA include:

  • Early puberty in females
  • Reduced sperm counts in males
  • Altered functions of reproductive organs
  • Obesity
  • Altered rates of growth
  • Altered behaviors
  • Increased rates of some breast, ovarian, testicular and prostate cancers

BPA Free is not EA-free.  People should not be confused with labels that claim to be BPA-free.  BPA is just one of several hundred chemicals exhibiting EA that are used in the manufacturing of plastics.  Only products labeled as certified EA-free are found to be free of all chemicals having EA.  Check out www.plastipure.com for more info about Estrogenic Activity.

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Outdoor Research Review

Post by:  Jake

OR began manufacturing gaiters over 30-years ago, and although they are still probably best known for their exceptional gaiters, OR also makes some of the nicest outdoor clothing on the market.

I know very few outdoors enthusiasts that don’t own a pair of the OR Crocodile Gaiters, as they are simply the undisputed best of the best when it comes to keeping snow and muck out of your boots.  I recently had the opportunity to test out a new pair of the Flex-Tex gaiters.  A low top, very stretchy, flexible ankle gaiter.  I’ve owned a couple older pairs of this style of gaiter, so I can see quickly the improvements they’ve made with their new generation.  The velcro closure tabs are a big improvement in this version, as my older version’s snap button closures separated from the fabric after a few years of repeated use (and abuse).  The under-foot fiber reinforced rubber belt is also a big improvement over the flimsy shoelace string in my old version.  Overall, the functionality of the new version is awesome.  They fit tight around your foot and do a great job keeping snow and trail debris out of your shoes.  

Several years ago I tried out some OR clothing and wasn’t impressed with the fit.  I couldn’t quite describe what I didn’t like at the time, it was just a bit “off”.  Recently I got to try an Echo Tee and a pair of Equinox Convert trail pants/shorts and was impressed at how well they fit.  From the Articulated knees in the pants to the seam placement in the shirt, the construction is top notch.  While I haven’t put many miles on them yet, they are sure to see a lot of use this summer (if it ever stops snowing)!

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Our Next Adventure

Post by:  Jake

Following the triathlon, we keep getting asked the question, “So what’s your next adventure going to be?”  Well here it is… drum roll please… Ultra Light and Fast hike deep into one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.  At about 1.5-million acres, “The Bob” has more miles of trail than most people hike in a lifetime.  The Bob is home to one of the most completely preserved mountain ecosystems in the world.  When people hear the word “wilderness” The Bob is the picture that comes into their minds, jagged peaks, crystal clear alpine lakes, plummeting waterfalls, meadows packed with wildflowers, deep glaciated river valleys, and towering old growth forests.

The trip–57 miles in 2-days, 1-night. 12 miles on mountain bikes to the wilderness boundary, then 45-miles on foot.  We’ll be biking in near Gibson Reservoir near Choteau, MT, then taking the Moose Creek drainage to the Chinese Wall.  We’ll hike about 3 miles along the wall and take the South Fork of the Sun River trail back to our bikes. 

For gear, we’ll be going Ultra-Light, so only the essentials.  We’ll try to keep our TOTAL (including water) pack weight below 15-pounds.  Because we’ll be packing so light, we can use Gore-Tex trail running shoes instead of bulky, heavy backpacking boots.  The trail is fairly gentle and well traveled by horses, so it’s nice and wide and not overgrown.  We should certainly be able to cover the 22.5 miles on foot each day.  How is it possible to carry everything we need in under 15 lbs?  Well, Here’s our packing list:

 *Nylon Tarp  5 oz. (that’s right, no tent.)

Sierra Designs Vapor 15 Sleeping bag;  31 oz x 2

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite pad; 14 oz x 2

* First aid kit: 8 oz

Go-Lite backpack 30 liter 15 oz x 2

Change of socks: 2 oz x 2

extra clothes (rain gear and fleece): 48 oz x 2

* AquaMira Water Purification: 1 oz.

* Garmin E-Trex Vista gps 8 oz.

map: 1 oz x 2

Brunton Compass 2 oz x 2

PureBot water bottles = 8 oz x 2

water .5 gal = 67 oz. x 2

Counter Assault Bear Spray: 10 oz x 2

* Cordage Rope: 4 oz

headlamp/batteries 4 oz x 2

*matches: 1 oz

*Primus Express Stove 2.9 oz

*Primus 1 liter titanium pot 4.4 oz

Food, energy bars and freeze dried. 16 oz x 2

Total weight for 2 people: 469 oz or 29.3 lbs.  split in 1/2 = 14.65 lbs. each.

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GSI Outdoors

Post by:  Jake

GSI makes some of the nicest backcountry hard goods available.  Perhaps best known for their extensive lineup of kitchen items (everything from compact sporks to pots and pans), their sister company, Outside Inside make some of the most creative outdoor themed gifts.  Including Christmas ornaments, pint glasses, even wedding cake toppers.

Recently I had the opportunity to test out the GSI Pinnacle Dualist cookset.  If your into 1-pot meals, this set is perfect for 2 people.  It comes with a surprisingly large 1.8-liter anodized aluminum cook pot, 2 20-oz insulated mugs, 2 20-oz bowls, 2-bowl lids, 2-telescoping lexan sporks, and the best part… a pot lid that has pasta strainer holes integrated into it.  Very common sense solution and they work amazingly well.  The night before my last adventure race, we “camped” in a very rustic cabin.  I broke out the cook set and a tiny Primus stove and cooked up almost a full pound of pasta in the 1.8-liter pot. After the pasta cooked, we used the strainer lid, and dumped the pasta into our bowls so I could heat up the meatballs and sauce. The whole meal took less than 1/2-hour, and cleanup was a breeze.  At $62.95 the value is very good for what you get.

Outside Inside products hold a special place in Veronica’s and my heart as we used one of their wedding toppers (they make several varieties) for our wedding cake about 4 years ago.  From carabineer shaped picture frames, to ornaments shaped like snowshoes, tents, and hiking boots covering our Christmas tree, Outside Inside products can literally be seen all over our house.  The frosty pint glasses in the freezer probably see the most use.  If you’re not familiar with their products, go check em out and I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

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Pearl Izumi Contest!

To celebrate the completion of our first Triathlon, we're giving away some awesome Pearl Izumi Tri-apparel. All you have to do to enter the contest is subscribe to our blog, and/or get your friends to sign up. It's that simple. On June 30th at 11:59 p.m. the contest will end and we'll make a list of all the subscribers. A winner will be chosen using random.org and we'll get your prize in the mail asap so you can start using it. You'll get 1 entry into the contest by signing up, and more entries if you can get your friends to sign up. Just tell us their names by clicking here, and if/when we see them sign up we'll add another entry for you and your friend will also be signed up.

Sign up, by entering your e-mail in the green box at the top of the page. After you click “Subscribe” an e-mail will be sent to you asking you to confirm. Only confirmed e-mails will be entered into the contest.

1.) First place will get a Pearl Izumi P.R.O. SERIES TRI SINGLET AND SHORTS. $200 (See photos to the right. Please note that both the top and bottom are the colors of the pictured shorts. It is a matching set.)

2.) Second place will get a pair of Pearl Izumi STREAK II road running shoes. $110

And here’s the fine print… We already have the brand new products in hand, and can’t exchange for different sizes. The PRO shorts are a “large” the Singlet is a “large”, and the Streak II shoes are a US men’s 9.5 I know, these won’t fit everyone, but if you win and they don’t fit then pass them on to someone that will fit them, sell them to a friend, be creative; they are yours to keep.