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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:

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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

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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

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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!

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Moon Lence Backcpacking / Camping Chair Review

A video review of the ultralight Moon Lence backpacking / camping chair. We love this chair! it’s lightweight & easy to set up. Get yours here. 

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Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review

We were excited to pick up the Luxe Tempo 4 person tent. It arrived well packaged and in a stuff sack as you would expect. The first thing we noticed was that the stuff sack had compression straps and a handle so you could carry it like a duffel bag which is cool.

What’s in the bag:

  • Tent
  • Rain fly
  • 2 main poles
  • 1 pole for rain fly
  • 14 aluminum tent pegs
  • 6 neon guy lines
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review
Duffel bag style stuff sack
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
All laid out & ready to set up

We opened up the stuff sack (tent comes out through the top), and pulled out the tent, aluminum poles, pegs, & rain fly which were all bound by a strap. The first thing we noticed was how light the tent material itself was. Another cool thing we liked, was that the instructions were sewn into the top of the stuff sack.

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review
Instructions sewn into stuff sack

We laid out the tent and started setting it up. The aluminum poles went together as if they were magnetic (gotta love new elastic!). The poles slip easily int a grommet in each corner crossing at the top. Instead of feeding the poles through a flap, there are clips to hold the sides of the tent to the poles which makes for a much easier set-up. The tent went up very easily and without any issues. We unfolded the rain fly and draped it over the tent. The rain fly clips into each corner and has a strap for adjustments. The rain fly features two vestibules and 2 vents that pop up for increased circulation. After we installed the rain fly, we installed the pole for the fly. In hindsight, we should have done the fly pole first before setting up the rain fly, next time. We staked down the 2 vestibules, popped up the vents and  attached one of the guy lines.

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent Review
All set up

What we lined about the tent:

We really liked the size of this tent. At just under 8′ x 7′, this tent has plenty of room. Add the 2 vestibules into the mix for gear storage and you have more than enough room for everyone. This is sold as a 4-person tent, but 3 people can sleep comfortably. (see my article on tent sizes here) We also really liked the weight of this tent. At 7 pounds, and given it’s compact size when in the stuff sack; it will easily fit into a back pack without too much pain. You could even split up the components between hikers if you were back pack camping to distribute the weight even more. When the rain fly is foo, the whole top of the tent is a fine mesh. Small enough to keep the bugs out, and awesome for star gazing!  We also liked the fact that there are 2 doors! No more climbing over your tent mate and waking them up in the middle of the night. Not only are there 2 doors, but they are HUGE! Most of the wall on the door side is the door itself. In each corner of the tent there is a pocket for your “stuff” (flashlight, glasses, phone, etc) which is really a cool feature. The gear loft at the roof of the tent inside is also cool. We were able to put our headlamps up there and light up the whole tent without accidentally looking at the other person and blinding them.

What we would change:

The only thing we could think of that we would change is the rain fly opening. When you stake down the rain fly at the bottom of the zipper, you have to squeeze through the slit of an opening. We are fairly agile here at Camp Gear Center, so it wasn’t a big deal. We could see it being a point of potential damage to the tent at this area.

Conclusion:

This is a great tent! We didn’t get any rain so we cant attest to the “waterproofness” of it, but if the rest of the construction is any indication, we have no doubts that we would stay dry in this tent. With the amount of ventilation, we also doubt there would be much condensation in cold weather camping either! Below are some additional pics of the features:

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Pop up vents
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Rain fly clips
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Huge doors! (looking out towards the fly)
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
One of the corner “gear pockets”
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Spacious gear loft
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Inside of the pop up vent
Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent
Tent specs on the underside of the stuff sack

Luxe Tempo 4 Person Tent

You can purchase this tent here

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UST Folding Stove Review

Folding stove

We were recently given the opportunity to review Ultimate Survival Technologies’ folding stove. This stove burns the solid fuel hexamine type tablet. Hexamine tablets burn smokelessly, have a high energy density, do not liquefy while burning and leave no ashes. This stove doesn’t have to be used with the tablets, but that’s how we tested it.

First impression of the folding stove

folding stove

We opened the box to pull out the metal folding stove all folded with the hexamine cubes inside. (We sell each separately). The folded stove is about 4-1/2″ x 3-3/4″ x 1″ thick and weighs approximately 4 oz without the cubes. It’s a nice compact little stove. We decided to unfold it and see how long it would take to boil 12 oz of water.

The instructions say to use 1-2 tablets, so we used 2!. We figure if 1 is good, 2 is better!

Lighting the hexamine tablets proved to be a little tricky since the wind was blowing pretty well. A little research determined that these tablets don’t like the wind. We agree. We sheltered the wind and lit the tablets. After about 30 seconds, they were burning pretty well so we added our pot with 12 oz of water.

Folding stove

In hindsight, we should have angled the sides in to support the pot which it probably said to do in the instructions. Reading instructions was never a strong suit. To our surprise, the water started steaming within just a couple minutes; and by just over 5 minutes, we had boiling water. We probably could have used 1 hexamine tablet and achieved similar results. If we had though, we wouldn’t have melted the plastic coating on our handles! It is also advised to use this stove on a non-flammable surface. We accidentally set a few pine needles on fire that didn’t get moved.

folding stove

what we like:

This little stove has a couple things that we really like. 1. it is lightweight. Weighing in at about 4 oz, it is almost as if it’s not even in our pack. 2. The size. This stove is nice and compact and fits in the smallest of our pack pockets. 3. It cooled off quickly. We expected the metal to stay hot for much longer than it did once we removed the fuel tabs. It was cool enough to put back in our pack within 5 minutes (the air outside was cool, which may have helped that).

What we would change

When we lit the stove, there was a “chemically” smell. We’re not sure if it was the metal stove being used for the first time, our pot handles melting, or the hexamine tabs. Further use will clarify this question. We will post updates after further use to let you know if the smell continues.

Conclusion:

This is a cool little stove. The tablets burn for about 18 minutes which seems to be plenty of time (you can add another just after for longer cooking). The tablets also fit neatly inside the folded stove keeping everything contained. This is an inexpensive little stove that does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. You can purchase the stove here and the hexamine tablets here.

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Insulated Water Bottle by Liquid Hardware Gear Review

Insulated water bottle

We all know the importance of staying hydrated. When the Camp Gear Center crew is on a hike, out camping, or just on a road trip; we like our water cold. To us, it just seems more refreshing than room temperature water. We were excited to test out the Sidewindertm vacuum insulated water bottle.

Water Bottle Features:

  • Vacuum Insulated-  COLD 24 hours HOT 12 hours
  • Magnetic Quick Stick Lid tether allows you to quickly attach your lid to the bottle’s side
  • Food grade 18/8 stainless steel and BPA free 
  • Easy to hold in your hand and fits in car, golf cart, SUV etc. cup holders
  • Triple layer vacuum insulation technology – does not sweat!
  • Drink spout quick pops open for drinking and securely snaps shut to seal your bottle
  • Leak-proof lid design
  • Wide mouth opening is easy to clean, easy to fill and add coffee, tea, hot cocoa etc…
  • Fits most back country water filters that are Nalgene compatible
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • USA patented and international patents
  • Custom bottle Finishes Available on large Orders
  • Bottle sticks to just about any metal surface for storage, even when full! (refrigerator, gym equipment, playground equipment…)
  • Lid floats in water and becomes a survival compass!

First Impressions:

When I opened the box; inside was the bottle, the lid, the care instructions wrapped around the bottle, and a Liquid Hardware sticker. The first thing I noticed how solid the bottle felt. I tested the bottle in my vehicle and it fit every cup holder I have. The lid screws on snugly and try as I might, I couldn’t get it to leak when it was screwed on snugly.

Cold Water Test

I wanted to really test how well the bottle kept water cold, so I performed an unscientific test. I filled the bottle with ice and water at 3:30PM on a Thursday and the temperature was a nice cold 33.9 degrees.

Insulated Water Bottle starting temperature
Starting Temp

The next morning (6:40), I tested the water again and the temperature was 39.9 degrees. Pretty impressive only gained 6 degrees. I was busy and couldn’t test the water after 24 hours so I tested the water in the bottle at 4:15PM. The temperature was 48 degrees! Not exactly ice cold, but still cold and refreshing.

Insulated water bottle
End Temp

What We Like:

I like that this bottle kept my water cold while I was drinking it. I prefer colder water to room temperature any day. The wide mouth of the bottle is great! Easy to fill and even add ice. I really like the magnetic tether that keeps the lid in place. This is more useful when storing the bottle or drying it than while drinking since I would take the lid off, take a sip, and screw the lid back on. The fact that the lid seals so well is also high on the list of “likes”. My bottle spent a lot of time on it’s side and not a drop escaped! This bottle fits in my hand well and at 16oz is a pretty good size. Stainless steel! While a stainless bottle is a little heavier than a plastic bottle, you have zero issues to worry about with BPA. We love this! Another cool feature is that the lid can be used as a compass. With the magnet, the lid will naturally point north (magnet points south).  Speaking of the lid, I also liked that it has a loop for a carabiner to attach to a pack.

Insulated water bottle
Pointing North

What We Would Change:

The only thing I could think of changing would be color options (which I’m sure are coming) and maybe a larger bottle. 16oz of water is good, but if you’re doing some serious hiking, more water is better.

Conclusion:

This is a GREAT insulated water bottle! It does exactly what the manufacturer says. It keeps the water cold (& hot water hot) and just works. For all the reasons listed above you can’t go wrong with this bottle. Liquid Hardware is also concerned with the environment and offers a lifetime guarantee. How can you lose? You can purchase the insulated water bottle here.