We reviewed and tested the UCO Stormproof Matches. We tested for burn time, wind resistance, and waterproofedness. Check out the video below:
We reviewed and tested the UCO Stormproof Matches. We tested for burn time, wind resistance, and waterproofedness. Check out the video below:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Here’s a video of lighting the Qwick Wick fire starter with a spark:
Lighting the Qwick Wick with a magnifying glass test:
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.
Where can you get yours? Here
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
|11:05||5%||Plugged phone in|
|1:15||100%||Charged in full!|
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.
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.
We did a video review of the UST Wayfinder Butane Lighter. Check out the video below:
Buy yours here!
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!
A video review of the Ultimate Survival Technologies’ reusable hand warmer.
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.
The dictionary describes a hack as “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently”. As with everything in life, there is always a “hack” to make things easier. Below are some of our favorite camping hacks. Have you tried any of these? Have any hacks to add? Comment below and share!
Fill your Nalgene with warm water and put it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm
Strap your headlamp to your translucent water bottle with the light shining inward for a makeshift lantern. A translucent bottle works best!
Making pancakes? Make your mix ahead of time and store in an old ketchup squeeze bottle.
Freeze gallon jugs of water and put them in your cooler as an ice block. When it melts, you have water!
Keep tomorrows clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. The clothes will be warmer to put on in the morning and your feet will stay warmer too.
Use microfiber towels. They dry fast and are lightweight.
Backpack not waterproof? Use a trash bag as a liner to keep your gear dry.
An old coffee can, can make a great TP holder.
Wrap a layer of duct tape around your water bottle, just in case.
Keep a pair of dry, clean socks in your sleeping bag that are only for sleeping in. Your feet will thank you and you will be warmer too.
Keep the old silica gel packs that come in, well, everything and keep one in your mess kit. It will absorb any moisture and prevent rust.
Forget your pillow? Stuff some clean clothes into your sleeping bag stuff sack for a good replacement pillow.
Make toothpaste dots. If you are worried about weight, pus toothpaste in dots on a wax paper, let dry, sprinkle with baking soda and you have “single serving” toothpaste at the ready.
Put some dryer lint or cotton balls into an old Altoids tin with a metal match for a handy fire starting kit.
Stuff a shirt or newspaper in wet shoes with the insole removed for a quicker dry.
Forget your plate? Have you ever eaten out of a frisbee? It works as a great plate (& you can play with it too!)
Hand sanitizer can be a great fire starter!
Make tick deterrent.
Dryer lint and cotton balls make great fire starters. You can also dip cotton pads in wax for a great fire starter.
Cooking directly on coals in foil pouches? Wrap meat in cabbage to keep it from burning.
Old birthday candles can also be used as a fire starter.
A 5 gallon bucket with a toilet lid make a good alternative (don’t forget the bag to go inside).
Those plastic bread tags can be re-purposed as clothespins.
If you lose a grommet in your tarp, twist a rock or small stick into the corner for an anchor point.
Doritos actually make great kindling to start a fire.
An old candle rubbed on a zipper will help it work smoothly.
Seal spices into old drinking straws for a small spice rack on the trail. Tic Tac boxes work well too!
Add a bundle of sage to the campfire to keep mosquitoes away.
Pack a mini first aid kit into an old Altoids tin.
Use tennis balls in the dryer with your sleeping bag to maintain the loft.
Do you have any hacks to add? Please leave them in the comments section below.
For many campers, the most important piece of equipment is their tent. Tents can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The best way to make that money stretch is caring for your equipment. If you take care of your equipment and treat it right, there’s no reason your tent cant last a decade or even more!
When you pitch your tent, be sure to make sure any sharp objects aren’t going to be underneath you. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but those sharp objects can poke a hole in the floor. This is a great argument for a ground cloth. In the past, I have preached that you don’t really need a ground cloth; and while that may be true, a ground cloth can add an extra layer of protection to the floor of your tent.
When you put your poles together, don’t snap them into place, but put the poles together section by section. Snapping them can cause fiberglass poles to splinter and while not an end-all, creates more work to have to repair the pole.
If you tent is pitched out in the open with no shade, leave your rain fly on. The sun’s UV rays can break down the ten’s walls and the rain fly with it’s waterproofing, will offer more protection.
After each campout, clean out your tent. Be sure to get all the leaves, sticks, twigs, pine cones, etc out of there. Also if there are extra dirty spots, spot clean them with simple soap & water. Don’t use stain sticks dishwashing liguid, or bleach. These can break down the material of your tent. To minimize the amount of debris, I actually take off my shoes and leave them outside under the fly, or bring them in if it’s going to rain or snow.
Most tents nowadays are factory sealed at the seams. If your tents starts getting older, you may have to re-seal your seams to keep them waterproof. We like the Coleman seam sealer that can be purchased here. This seam sealer is pretty easy to use with it’s applicator tip. You may have to re waterproof your rain fly as well. If you do, spray some of this on your tent and it will be waterproof again. Be sure to let both of these products dry before packing your tent away!
It should go without saying, but never store your tent when it’s wet. Sure, you may have to break camp in a hurry due to a down pour, but as soon as you get home, set it back up and let it dry out completely. Packing a wet tent can cause mildew which is not only unsightly (black spots on the walls), but it can also break down the fabric.
All too often, tents get thrown out because the zipper fails. Be careful when zipping & unzipping the door or windows. If you catch the fabric, this can cause a tear in the wall. Since zippers take so much strain (all the tension when the tent is up), be sure to show the zippers some love. You can do this by rubbing an old candle on the teeth of the zipper. This will help keep it lubricated and less likely to snag.
When folding your tent to pack it away, try folding it differently. It’s easy to fold it along the same seams as before (heck, the lines are already there for you!). Folding along the same crease each time can make the crease brittle and cause unwanted tears. Try folding your tent different each time. As long as it fits in the bag, you’re good!
Your tent is an investment just like a vehicle. If you take care of your vehicle, it will last a long time. Same goes for your tent!
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