Posted on

UST ParaTinder Review

ParaTinder

We were at a local outdoors store and saw this ParaTinder. We were naturally intrigued since we like to carry as little gear as possible when back pack camping. Paracord and fire starting in one item? That’s what we’re talking about. We’re always up for testing new gear, so we picked up a pack. 

What’s inside:

Normally, this is where we tell you what’s inside the box when you purchase a product. Since this product is basically zip-tied to a cardboard card, we will talk about the make-up of the product. The cord itself is just a little thicker and more rigid than regular para cord (this is because of the tinder core). The nylon sheath of the ParaTinder is similar to regular para cord with the same 7 internal strands that para cord contains. These inner strands can be used for sewing, dental floss, fishing line, etc. The red inner tinder core is a waxy twisted type of flammable material. 

ParaTinder
The end of the ParaTinder

Testing the ParaTinder:

Our standard fire starting kit consists of flint & steel with some cotton balls in an Altoids tin. We decided to try lighting the ParaTinder with flint & steel as well as with a lighter. We typically use flint & steel because 1. you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel, & 2. it’s cooler! The UST website shows lighting the ParaTinder with a spark, so naturally, we had to try. The inner core is the flammable part so it needs to be separated from the rest of the cord to be used as tinder. We have read from other sources that you have to strip the waxy material from the strands to light. The UST website shows spark being applied to the core as if removed directly from the para cord. We tried both ways.

First way we tried was with the strands of the ParaTinder core separated and scraped of the waxy coating. We cut about 10″ from the core piece and separated all the strands and balled them up loosely. If a spark is going to work, our thoughts are that this method with more surface area will definitely help. We used the same UST StrikeForce they show on their website and recommend. We threw a whole bunch of really good sparks at the strands and they just didn’t light. There were a few embers, but the sparks just weren’t hot enough to light the strands.

ParaTinder
Waded up individual strands

ParaTinder

Next, we took the other 10″ of the ParaTinder core and, without separating the strands, balled it up loosely.  Again, we threw a bunch of sparks at the core and it didn’t light. This time, there weren’t even an embers as if it were thinking about lighting. Nothing. 

ParaTinder
Waded up core

Lastly, just to make sure it would light, we used our lighter on one of the ends and it lit just fine. The core burned pretty well. You could easily add some small kindling and have the start of a good fire. 

ParaTinder
It DOES burn well.

In Conclusion:

The UST ParaTinder burns well. It doesn’t light as well with a spark as it does with a lighter; but once it is burning, a decent fire could be made. Besides the tinder core, the 7 strands inside can always come in handy. We can see keeping this product in my pack for securing items in camp, a clothesline, or any other use for para cord you can think of. Knowing that if need be, we can separate the core and use it as tinder, is comforting as well. Keeping this in our pack out of the weather also ensures that we will have dry tinder at all times. 

If you wish to purchase your own ParaTinder, you can get it here.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

Here’s the video review we did for the ParaTinder:

Posted on

Qwick Wick Product Review

Qwick Wick

The good people at Qwick Wick sent us a box of fire starters to product test. They boast being able to start your campfire, wood stove, or fireplace without the need for kindling or newspaper. Reportedly, the starters will burn for 30 minutes with an 8-10″ flame. The Qwick Wick website features a video showing them boiling 8 cups of water in under 20 minutes with just one fire starter. Naturally, we wanted to test these claims. 

What’s in the box?

The box we so generously received contained 50 fire starters. They sell a 4-pack and 24-pack as well. These fire starters are little paper cups filled with wood chips that are soaked in soy wax with a red wick sticking out of it. Individually, the fire starters are about 2-1/2″ in diameter and 1-1/2″ tall. They weigh on average 2.5 ounces with a slight beeswax smell. If you are planning to carry these in your pack, we suggest putting them in a plastic bag to keep the rest of your gear from having a slight beeswax smell.   

Qwick Wick

Lighting the Wood stove:

Our main source of heat during the winter time is our wood stove here at Camp Gear Center world headquarters. Typically, we use either newspaper or old copier papers with kindling to get the fire started. Naturally, we wanted to test out how well the Qwick Wick would light the wood stove. We placed thew Qwick Wick in the middle of our wood stove and put some (not too small) split fuel above it and lit the wick with our fireplace lighter. We didn’t want to put the kindling too low since we were testing the flame height and it’s ability to light the fire (and we didn’t need kindling!). The fuel was about 8″ above the flame at an angle. Once we lit the wick, it didn’t take long for the rest of the unit to catch fire. Before we knew it, the flame was touching the side of the fuel igniting it. Next thing we noticed was that the wood was on fire and we were ready to add fuel. The Qwick Wick continued to burn adding extra help to the fuel that we added. Next thing we knew, we had a nice fire going & warm room!

Qwick Wick
Starting the wood stove
Qwick Wick
Lighting the fuel
Qwick Wick
Fuel is lit! Look at that flame!

Boiling Water:

On the Qwick Wick website, they have a pretty cool video of boiling 8 cups of water in under 20 minutes. Naturally, we wanted to test this claim as well. The Qwick Wick boil test used a pot sitting on 2 logs with the Qwick Wick in between. We believe that the logs catching fire contributed to the time to boil the water so we decided to try the Qwick Wick in between a couple bricks to let the fire starter do ALL the work. While we didn’t get a sub 20 minute boil, it took about 30 minutes to boil 8 cups of water. Not a bad heat output for this little fire starter, but if you really need to boil water, use one of these to start a fire and go for it. It is important to note that the Qwick Wick did deposit a fair amount of soot on the bottom of our pot that we used so a thin layer of dish soap will help with cleaning the pot. Apply the dish soap before putting on the fire.   

Qwick Wick
Boiling water

Lighting the Qwick Wick:

One would normally light the Qwick Wick much like you would a candle. Grab a lighter and light the wick just like you would a candle at home. Since we’ve never really been accused of “normal”, we wanted to try a couple different methods. We already know the lighter works (see wood stove above), so we tried to use a flint & steel and magnifying glass. The flint & steel will not directly light the Qwick Wick, however, if you surround the wick with a cotton ball and light that, ignition! The magnifying glass didn’t quite get the wick or wood shavings hot enough to light, but if you use the cotton ball trick, it will also light no problem. As a side note, if you pull a Qwick Wick out of the box and there happens to be no wick (it could happen), you can simply light the side of the paper cup with no issues. 

Qwick Wick
Lighting with a cotton ball & spark

Here’s a video of lighting the Qwick Wick fire starter with a spark:

Lighting the Qwick Wick with a magnifying glass test:

Conclusion:

These fire starters are awesome! They are lightweight, they start fires as promised, and they are easily transported. We certainly put them through the paces and were not disappointed. 

Qwick Wick
They also light campfires really well!

 Where can you get yours? Here

Posted on

Apeman A60 Action Camera – What You Need to Know

Action Camera

We are new into the action camera world and picked up the Apeman A60 Action Camera to get our feet wet so to speak. We are naturally into camping and all things outdoors as you know which includes canoeing.

It makes me nervous to pull out my phone to take pics and videos while canoeing so I did a little research and came across this little camera. Quick disclaimer: you will need your own Micro SD card (up to 32Mb) in order for this to work. 

What’s in the box?

Apeman A60 Action Camera

When we got the box, the first thing we noticed was how well it was packaged. This camera is packaged nice enough to be given as a gift. I say that because many lower cost action cameras are not packaged nearly as nice as this. Inside the box is a black zippered case that holds the camera, battery, and all the mounts that it comes with. The case is somewhat hard sided, but I doubt shock proof. It has foam padding and cut outs for the various attachments and mounts. 

There are a number of different mounts inside the box. There is the waterproof case, there are 2 flat mounts for helmets or whatever, tripod mounts, bike handlebar or pole mount, and extension pieces which make hinges for various angles, and a housing to use the camera on a mount outside of the waterproof housing, a clip to mount the camera to almost anything. Some of the miscellaneous items included are double stick pads for a couple of the mounts, 4 zip ties, a couple velcro straps, microfiber cloth, and the charging/data cable.  There is also an instruction booklet and extra door for the waterproof housing. 

Here’s the first video I ever shot with this camera to test it out:

What we liked about the camera:

This little camera takes great video and pictures! The battery seems to last most of the day while using it on & off. It takes really good video and pictures. The 170 degree field of view gives a really cool perspective. This camera is also really small. I think that was probably the biggest surprise; just how small it is. Outside any of the housings, this camera measures 2-1/4″ x 1-9/16″x 15/16″ and weighs just 2oz. The accessories aren’t terribly heavy either so You won’t really notice them if you’re hiking with it. The battery life really didn’t disappoint either. 

Action Camera
An example of the picture quality

This camera has a self timer so it shuts off when not in use after either 3, 5, or 10 minutes (you can select one or turn this feature off).

We didn’t get a chance to play with the motion detection recording, but plan to in the near future. Look for an update. There are other features we haven’t played with either (remember, we’re new to this). We plan to really dive into this camera and test out the various cool features soon. 

The camera was super easy to set up and you can both charge the battery and transfer files through the included micro-USB cable. No need to take the micro-SD card out to transfer files and risk dropping/losing the card. Those things are small!

Action Camera
An example of the easy to follow menu
What we would change:

The only thing we would change would be to have more instructions for the various mounts. We already established that we are new to this world and many of the mounts and accessories are not intuitive. Luckily, there are plenty of online videos that explain the different mounting techniques.  All you have to do is search YouTube for “action camera mounting” and be prepared to spend some time watching videos. We also discovered that storing your action camera in the waterproof case for extended periods tends to compress the pads on the door and the camera isn’t as responsive to turning on/off/changing modes. Removing the camera from the waterproof housing when not being used on/in/near the water seemed to fix this issue.  

Accessories we picked up extra:

Handle (floating) – This camera is small. Without a handle of some sorts, it could easily be dropped. Since we really like the waterproof housing feature, a floating handle makes sense. This particular handle has a textured grip and is a good size in out hands. Get yours here

Action Camera

Flexible tripod – Being able to set the camera down for shooting videos for us is essential. This add-on was a much needed one. We liked this particular tripod because it is lightweight, can wrap around things such as branches, and isn’t terribly expensive. Get yours here

Action Camera

There are a TON of accessories available for action cameras. Helmet mounts, handlebar mounts, chest mounts, car dash mounts, the list goes on & on. After we purchased the above accessories, we bought this assortment  which contains items similar to the above & more. 

Conclusion:

When shopping for a decent action camera that takes good videos & pictures while not breaking the bank; this is the perfect camera. We use this camera for filming various product reviews, out with the Scouts in or out of the water, or just filming things around Camp Gear Center headquarters. If you aren’t sure if an action camera is for you, consider whether or not you take pictures or videos around water or not. This was the #1 reason we picked one up and have not been disappointed by this one. 

If you want to get your own Apeman action camera, click here.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

 

 

Posted on

Foxelli 10w Solar Charger Review

Solar Charger

It’s no secret that we love the outdoors. It’s also no secret that we like to take pictures & videos in the out doors (hence our Instagram & Facebook pages). What we don’t love is our phones or cameras going dead while we camp. We typically use external batteries to charge our devices while we sleep. If we are going to be out for an extended period of time, we have to being a lot of batteries. This can get heavy. Enter the 10w Solar Charger by Foxelli.

Solar Charger
Folds down small!

We picked up this charger for the sole intention of charging our batteries during the day so we can charge our devices at night while we sleep.  We put this charger through the paces and here’s what our tester reports. 

First, some quick stats:

  • Converts up to 16% of solar energy into power for USB devices
  • Has 2 outputs to charge 2 devices at the same time
  • Puts out 1.85A in total charging power
  • Automatically detects input needed for connected devices
  • Has multiple loops (8) and 2 carabiners for hanging or attaching
  • It is weather resistant & durable
  • Weighs only 1.23lbs so it is hardly noticed in (or on) your pack
  • Open size: 24.6″ x 8.7″ x .6″
  • Folded size: 8.7″ x 6.1″ x 1.2″  

What we liked:

We were really surprised ho light this was. Since it doesn’t have it’s own battery, there isn’t much to weigh this charger down. We also like all the different areas for attaching. Attaching it to a number of backpacks and there were no issues. We found that it charged best when laid out on a log angle for the right sun exposure. Being able to charge 2 separate items is also a plus. That way, we didn’t have to prioritize which device to charge first. The outside of the unit is a canvas material that is fairly easy to clean.

Solar Charger
Charging our phone

How we tested the solar charger:

Like I mentioned earlier, we like to use external batteries to charge our devices while we sleep (aka not using them). We charged 2 different external batteries. On of the batteries has an output of 1000mA and the other, 10,000mA. Both batteries were completely dead when we hooked them to this solar charger. Obviously, how much of a charge there exists, will effect the recharge time, so we started with dead batteries. We hooked both backup batteries to the solar charger at approximately 8:00 AM. We left the charger on a log all day, not bothering to angle it for optimal sun exposure. Each of our batteries has an led indicator to show that is is charging and how full the battery is. The 1000ma battery was fully charged by 1:00 PM!

Solar Charger
2 USB outlets!

Since we were charging 2 separate devices and the solar charger had to split the 1.85A, it probably would have charged even quicker had we only hooked up the 1 device. We unplugged this batter and stored it away for use in the evening. The 10,000mA battery was about 1/2 full by lunch time. At the end of the day, and the sun had gone down, the 10,000ma battery was indicating 75% charged. Keep in mind, that this larger battery will charge a phone about 4 times.

Next we attached the solar charger to a back pack (vertically) and tested only the small battery. We didn’t hook it up until about 10:30 in the morning and since it wasn’t laying flat and getting full sun exposure to the whole unit, took the rest of the day to charge the battery. This smaller battery will charge a phone once per charge, so this was still pretty good.

Solar Charger
Charging the batteries

Finally, we hooked our phone to the solar charger since there is a really good charge indication. We used a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. We laid the charger on a log then plugged in the phone. It is important to note not to put the phone in the pocket of the charger. It will get hot in there & could damage the phone. We just tucked the phone underneath.  Here are the time stats:

 

 

Time Battery          Notes
11:05 5% Plugged phone in
11:45 38%
12:15 65%
12:45 89%
1:15 100% Charged in full!

 

What we would change:

There isn’t a whole lot we would change about this solar charger. It works and it works well!  I’m sure there are people that would want different colors, but we’re good with the basic black. Some may even want a USB cable to be included but with all the different variations, that isn’t really possible. So I guess, we really wouldn’t change a thing.

Conclusion:

This solar charger is a great unit! While we didn’t experience testing it in any weather, it did sustain a fall off the log from high winds. We found by simply connecting our batteries and letting them go all day, we had plenty of power! If you need more power, Foxelli makes a 21w model that puts out 3.5A (link). So far, we have been impressed with the quality of products from Foxelli. We have their hammock, this solar charger, and their trail camera (look for reviews of those items soon).

This is a must have for any camper, hiker, or outdoors person!

If you would like one of these awesome solar chargers, you can purchase one here.

Solar Charger
Instructions are printed right there!

 

Solar Charger

Posted on

Hiking Essentials

hiking essential

It is no secret, that we love the outdoors. We love camping, hiking, backpacking, pretty much anything to do with the outdoors. When we hike, there is a list of 10 hiking essentials then we always carry with us on every hike. Below is a list of the items we always carry with us and the reasons why.

hiking essentials

1. Water. Camp Gear Center’s world headquarters are tucked into the mountains of Northern Arizona. Even though we are in the mountains it is still pretty much a desert climate. Water is the most important thing we bring with us on every single hike. The amount of water you carry is dependent on how much you drink, and how much you sweat. We like to carry at least 32 oz of water sometimes 64oz depending on the time of year, the length of the hike, and who we are hiking with. There have been times where people hiking with us are not quite as prepared and run out of water and it is always nice to be able to help them out. We also recommend a shatterproof bottle such as a Nalgene or equivalent so if you happen to drop your water bottle it doesn’t break and you lose your water. It sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised just how uncommon common sense is.

Hiking essentials

2. First aid kit. As a scoutmaster, I like to live by the Boy Scout motto of be prepared. Although I haven’t had need to use my first aid kit, knowing that I have one and that if there was an emergency, I could either help or have somebody help me with my first aid kit. Besides being prepared, there was one incident that led me to always throw my first aid kit in my backpack. I was out hiking and there was a older couple that was coming towards me on the trail, and the gentleman had his hand in the air as if he were asking a question. I noticed he had blood running down his hand and his arm. He turned out to be okay, but had I had my first aid kit I could have helped bandage him up and help stop the bleeding. It turns out he was poked by one of the yucca plants which are quite common in Arizona that have “leaves” that are literally needle sharp. Ever since that incident, we always carry a first aid kit. This is the kit we carry. (click link)

hiking essentials

3. GPS. For Christmas last year, my wife got me the Garmin etrex 20x GPS unit. I absolutely love this little thing it has a decent size screen that can show you the trails and when you start your hike it actually keeps track of the trail you Heights. There have been many times where I got off the trail, and I pulled out the GPS to find out where the trail was and how I can navigate back to it. I will put a link to the video I made on why I love this little GPS unit here. That way you can check out the video and not have to read all about why I love my GPS.

hiking essentials

4. Survival blanket. We are a scouting family, and the Scout motto is being prepared. A survival blanket for us is a necessary item to carry for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is if you get stranded someplace and need to stay warm, a survival blanket which is usually a reflective material, will help reflect up to 90% of your body heat back to you and keep you warm. Another good use, is if you are in a warmer climate comma and you get stranded the survival blanket can be strung up to create much-needed shade. Survival blankets do not weigh very much and they compress down fairly small so they are not that cumbersome to keep in your pack. We have yet to need to use this, but it is reassuring knowing that it is there.

5. Signal mirror. Another small, lightweight useful item is a signal mirror. It is fairly obvious what this is used for. If you get stranded someplace and need to signal for help a signal mirror will do the task. A fun fact, a computer hard drive usually has up to 4 very reflective discs inside and can be used for a signal mirror. That is what we carry with us. They are super reflective and conveniently have a hole in the middle so you can aim where you want the signal to go. Again, this is another item that we have not used while hiking but it is good to know that it is there should we need it.

Hiking Essentials

6. Multi tool. A good multi-tool is essential to carry with you for numerous reasons. The one we carry, is the Leatherman skeletool. Which has a knife, pliers, bottle opener, and a number of screwdrivers. We have never had the need to turn a screw while out hiking comma but the knife, pliers, and of course the bottle opener have all been used. You will probably want to pick the right multi-tool for you based on the various things that they have. We just happen to have one of these skeletools and throw it in the pack.

7. Snacks. We always throw in a handful of our favorite cliff bars or trail mix packs when we are hiking. Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to carry more food than just some granola bars and trail mix, but for short hikes that’s usually what we carry. You never know when you need the extra boost of energy to help get up that mountain, or back to base camp. Also, if you do happen to get stranded and need to use your reflective blanket and or signal mirror, you are able to eat something to help sustain you while waiting for help to arrive.

Hiking Essentials

8. Fire starter. Again, something we have not had to use while we are hiking,  but always carry just in case we get stranded. While a signal mirror is a good signaling device to use, a small fire putting out a lot of smoke can work even better. If you happen to get stranded on a cloudy day a signal mirror won’t do much good, but a fire can be seen even on the cloudiest days. It is important to stress fire safety when building a signal fire, or even just a fire to keep yourself warm if you get stranded. Make sure that you clear the area around the fire as not to set things on fire that you don’t intend to burn. We typically carry a small metal tin that contains a flint and steel and cotton balls to start a fire as well as a lighter. Sometimes, the lighter either doesn’t have butane in it or decides it doesn’t want to work so we have the flint and steel with cotton balls as a backup which works really well.

hiking essentials

9. Rain poncho. Since we are based in northern Arizona comma the weather can change pretty quickly. Especially during the summer time. It could be sunny in the morning and raining buckets in the afternoon. We always carry a rain poncho with us in our pack. Like the emergency blanket, a inexpensive rain poncho is lightweight, folds up small, and is barely even noticeable in your pack. If the weather does happen to change quickly, we are prepared for it by having our Poncho with us. This is one of the items that we have used on occasion. And been very thankful that we had it. No need to spend a lot of money on a rain poncho you can pick them up in most stores for less than a dollar and trying to refold them while somewhat cumbersome, it can be done but these are usually a one-time use item.

Hiking Essentials

10. Backpack.  so we’ve got all these essential items that we carry with us on our hikes, but how do we carry it? We use a smallish tactical style backpack that has four separate Pockets or compartments to hold our gear. Any backpack will do, we happen to like this particular pack because of some of the additional features that it has. It has the Molle connectors so you can attach things to the outside of the pack, it has the room inside in the ability to put a hydration bladder in, the straps are fairly well padded and quite a adjustable. It does come with a waist strap which we don’t use as a waist wrap, but we do have it rolled up inside. They come in many colors and additional sizes, but this one seems to work the best for us to carry our essential gear. It also has a larger storage compartment for items that mean we may want to discard, such as a light jacket that we may be wearing, or extra storage for any other items we want to carry with us. This is the pack we carry.

You may decide to carry more or less, that is entirely up to you. This is the list of things we always carry. Usually, we carry more than just this, but this is the list of items always in our pack. What do you always carry on your hikes? Leave us a comment below.

Posted on

Garmin etrex 20x Video Review

Here is a quick video review of the Garmin etrex 20x GPS unit. We point out a few of the features we love and you probably will too!