Category Archives: Cooking

Source Hydration Bladders

Source Tactical WXP 3-Liter Hydration Reservoir System with Storm Valve, Foliage

Overview

It’s difficult to visit any trail these days without seeing someone sipping through a tube from a hydration bladder in their pack. They’ve become so popular due to the sheer convenience they provide. The ability to carry so much water without taking up a huge amount of space and drink hands free from your pack is just hard to beat. There are now plenty of brands and variations to choose, but many will argue the lesser known Source Hydration System leads the pack. Originally created by the Isreali Military, Source products have now been adopted by armed forces and civilians worldwide… testament to the quality and durability of their design.

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Bladder

Source has released a variety of different products, but all of them have some of the same winning features. First and foremost, their patented FDA approved, EPA registered “glass-like” liner effectively blocks the growth of bacteria and prevents unwanted taste or odor. In fact, it’s the only bladder that won’t leech any nasty plastic flavors in to your clean drinking water. This allows one to skip cleaning after days, weeks, even months of use. When it comes time to wash it out however, Source bladders come with a full-length top closure that allows full access to the interior of the unit. The ability to stick your whole hand into the pack eliminates the frustration of trying to shove complicated utensils through the small opening over comparable products. Finally, Source hydration systems simply don’t leak. While other systems have been known to spill water all over the precious contents of one’s pack, Source’s products are able to stand up to the kind of abuse offered by military use.

Connections and Accessories

One of Source’s other innovative features are quick-disconnect fittings. This allows one to swap hoses or mouthpieces on the fly. Also, if you want to remove the bladder from your pack for filling without fishing that long hose through the loops and holes of your pack; you can simply quick disconnect the hose and remove the bladder. All fittings are also complete with an auto-shutoff feature that allows one to swap attachments while water is still in the bag without leaks. Sources hoses even come with a tightly woven cord wrap. This not only increases the life and durability of the hose, but insulates the hose from UV rays preventing water in the hose from becoming lukewarm by the time you drink it.

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Quick disconnect feature allows one to easily add or remove inline filters from your system

As for the bladder cap and valves, the cap itself has the same dimensions as a Nalgene Wide-Mouth Bottle. Therefore, the same accessories and water filters compatible with a Nalgene will also work on your Source bladder. Valves/Mouthpieces swivel 360 degrees, and are angled 90 degrees allowing the optimal mouth to hose angle for easy drinking. Both the bladder cap and valves are attached with lanyard so they’ll never be lost. The provided cap is especially important on the mouthpiece which may frequently come into contact with dirt and dust, which it completely seals out.

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Universal Tap Adapter (UTA)

Another powerful attachment for Source systems is the Universal Tap Adapter (UTA). By swapping this for the mouthpiece, one can easily fill the bladder directly through the hose. Fill using a water bottle, faucet, or hose without ever removing the bladder from your pack.

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Specifications

Source Tactical WXP 3-Liter Hydration Reservoir System with Storm Valve, Foliage

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  • Capacity: 2 liters
  • Access: full-length closure and hose cap
  • Liner: antibacterial, anti-odor, anti-taste “glass-like” liner
  • Seals: 100% leak proof
  • Connections: quick-disconnect, auto-shutoff, leak proof
  • Tube: insulated woven cord wrap

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Nalgene Wide-Mouth Bottle

Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, 32 oz

Overview

There are a few outdoor products that seem to never lose their value or relevance. One of those is the Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle. It can be seen everywhere, from locker room to base camp, for good reason. It’s a widely available, immensely useful, extremely high value product. For such an affordable price, it’s hard to find a product with greater utility.


Construction

Nalgene bottles are well known for their simplistic and minimalist designs. It’s these designs that make a simple plastic water bottle so inexpensive and useful. It’s ranked best in its class for questions of utility, durability, and affordability.

Nalgene Wide Mouth Opening

As its name suggests, the typical Nalgene comes with a wider than average opening allowing most hands and utensils to enter quite easily for cleaning. This may however encourage spills while drinking on the move, but its benefits seem to outweigh this issue. The screw on cap is attached to the body of the bottle so it may never be lost, and also allows it to be clipped to a pack for easy carry. The cap itself is pretty fail safe against leaks, and generally can be trusted within a pack next to food or electronics. My favorite perk of the wide mouth beside easy washing however, is being able to drop ice cubes through the huge opening.

Nalgene BPA-Free Plastic Body

As great as the Nalgene may be, it has one huge drawback in the wild: you can’t boil water in it. While this may be heartbreaking to some, a plastic body does have its benefits. Also, many filters are either directly compatible or made specifically to accommodate Nalgene products. While plastic will never rust, it may not be as bomb-proof as its metal counterparts, or allow for the boiling of water. However, the plastic used in Nalgene Bottles is almost as durable as most metal bottles, and significantly more so than other plastic designs.

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Furthermore, the BPA-free material used does not harbor unwanted scents or aftertastes where others might. There’s nothing worse than taking a cold refreshing gulp of water only for a metallic aftertaste or plastic flavor to ruin the moment.

Measured High Capacity Container

At 32 ounces, the Nalgene is one of the highest capacity plastic water bottles you can find. Its container is also suitable for both hot and cold beverages, guaranteed safe between temperatures of -40 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This also makes it top-rack dishwasher safe, although I’d recommend washing it by hand as it’s so easy to do in the first place. One of the major perks of the bottle are the incremented measurements on the side of the semi-transparent body. This allows for easily and precisely keeping track of your fluid intake and measuring cooking ingredients.


Specifications

Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, 32 oz

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  • Capacity: 34 ounces maximum
  • Weight: 6.3 ounces
  • Dimensions: 13 x 8 x 4 inches
  • Temperature Range: -40 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit

RTIC 30 Tumbler

RTIC 30 oz. Tumbler

Yeti Killer

There’s a reason Yeti tumblers have become so popular recently. That’s because they’re excellent products, but also because they have a fantastic marketing campaign. Many envision Yeti’s tumblers to be the standard in high-end performance, simply due to the fact that Yeti was one of the first to improve upon older concepts and bring a quality product to market. Combine that with extremely effective advertising and most people never realize there are other competitors. For this reason Yeti has enjoyed demanding a relatively absurd price for their products. In fact there are several other comparable brands, each with their own set of pros and cons. Since we’re talking about Yeti, let’s start with the RTIC line of tumbler cups.

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For information on a half-price alternative to Yeti’s crazy expensive coolers, head over to our write up on RTIC Coolers

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Same Product, Half the Price

Rumor has it, someone from Yeti left the firm and started their own line of nearly identical products. I can’t confirm if their origins involve any folks from Yeti, but I can confirm that their products perform just as well… perhaps even better. In fact, RTIC has been so effective that Yeti has filed a lawsuit against them in attempt to prevent losing market share. Whether this is a positive or negative in your mind, consider the average Yeti tumbler cup goes for about twenty-something dollars while an RTIC sells for less than half that.

Paying less than half for essentially the same product is so appealing that it’s pretty difficult to find any drawbacks. Yet, RTIC does fall short in a few areas. For one, Yeti products are widely available and come in a range of sizes, colors, and configurations. Not to mention accessories. RTIC on the other hand has far fewer options and extras and has ramped up so much demand that there’s a huge delay in their shipping. Consequently they can be more difficult to purchase or find parts, options, and extras.

Features

The RTIC Tumbler can hold about 30 ounces of liquid, hot or cold. Double-wall vacuum sealed insulation can keep beverages cold for up to 60 hours, or hot for 12. The cup is pretty much entirely stainless steel, making it durable and corrosion resistant. However, I wouldn’t put it in the dishwasher or subject it to extreme heat in order to preserve the vacuum seal and longevity of the cup. The base of the tumbler is contoured to comfortably fit in the hand and nearly all cupholders, making it the perfect driving companion.

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RTIC’s transparent plastic lid allows you to clearly view the contents of your cup. The lids also comes equipped with a rubber seal to prevent spills and create an air-tight, insulating barrier. Furthermore, most Yeti accessories are also compatible with RTIC. There’s a wide variety of handles, skins, koozies, lids, and more available online.

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Specifications

RTIC 30 oz. Tumbler

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  • Capacity: 30 ounces
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Material: 18/8 stainless steel
  • Insulation: double-wall vacuum seal
  • Lid: leak-proof airtight transparent plastic lid
  • Compatibility: will fit nearly all cupholders

RTIC Coolers

RTIC Cooler (RTIC 45 Tan)

Yeti Killer

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There’s a reason Yeti coolers have become so popular recently. That’s because they’re excellent products, but also because they have a fantastic marketing campaign. Many envision Yeti coolers to be the standard in high-end performance, simply due to the fact that Yeti was one of the first to improve upon older concepts and bring a quality product to market. Combine that with extremely effective advertising and most people never realize there are other competitors. For this reason Yeti has enjoyed demanding a relatively absurd price for their products. In fact there are several other comparable brands, each with their own set of pros and cons. Since we’re talking about Yeti, let’s start with the RTIC line of coolers.

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Same Product, Half the Price

Rumor has it, someone from Yeti left the firm and started their own line of nearly identical products. Enter RTIC Coolers. I can’t confirm if their origins involve any folks from Yeti, but I can confirm that their products perform just as well… perhaps even better. In fact, RTIC has been so effective that Yeti has filed a lawsuit against them in attempt to prevent losing market share. Whether this is a positive or negative in your mind, consider the average Yeti cooler goes for about four hundred dollars while an RTIC sells for less than half that.

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Paying less than half for essentially the same product is so appealing that it’s pretty difficult to find any drawbacks. Yet, RTIC does fall short in a few areas. For one, Yeti products are widely available and come in a range of sizes, colors, and configurations. Not to mention accessories. RTIC on the other hand has far fewer options and extras and has ramped up so much demand that there’s a huge delay in their shipping. Consequently they can be more difficult to purchase or find parts, options, and extras.

Size & Capacity

RTIC coolers come in most available sizes already advertised by Yeti, with a few exceptions. Yet while a Yeti 45 may claim to hold 45 quarts, this is not true. Yeti’s coolers fall short of these measurements by a few quarts, while the RTIC is spot on. This increases their value even further beyond the significant price cut. RTIC coolers are slightly heavier and bulkier because of this, but that just doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in my book.

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For a little perspective, RTIC’s average cooler, the RTIC 45 can hold a pretty impressive quantity of cold goods. 45 quarts of water, 36 cans of beer, or 40 pounds of ice. That’s quite a lot for such a small cooler. The Yeti 45? It’ll hold only 26 cans of beer.

Construction & Durability

Just like Yeti, RTIC rotomolded coolers are virtually indestructible. This allows for years of use and abuse while maintaining the same level of quality as the day it was bought. Whether you only decide to use it as a non-slip stepstool, accidentally drop it off the roof of your camper, or let it roll down a rocky slope, I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s so durable in fact, that both Yeti and RTIC coolers can be used as a bear-safe container in the wild.

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The 3″ insulated walls can hold ice for up to 10 days and are solid enough to be used as a cutting board, while the non-slip feet allow an RTIC cooler to be used as a casting platform while boating. Full length hinges ensure the top will never come loose, and the freezer style lid gasket creates the best seal possible. Water may be drained from the integrated easy-flow spout without losing ice, while the V-Drain system allows for rapid flow. Finally, RTIC coolers come with an integrated locking system in order to keep your goods safe from both bears, and humans.

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Specifications

RTIC Cooler (RTIC 45 Tan)

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  • Capacity: 45 quarts, 36 cans, 40 pounds of ice
  • Weight: 25 pounds
  • Construction: seamlessly rotationally molded plastic
  • Colors: white, tan
  • Features: molded-in and marine rope side handles, drain spout, tie down slots, integrated locking, heavy duty rubber latches

Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset

Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium

Best Backpacking Cookset

Living out a pack requires the use of a few essential tools to stay well fed. It’s certainly possible to eat dry goods like trail mix and granola bars. But, your body needs variety and a hot meal just really hits the spot sometimes. Trekking through the backcountry is extremely calorie intensive. It’s physically exhausting work, and detrimental to your health if you don’t practice proper nutrition. While granola and other dried foods can be nutritious, you need a proper balance of healthy carbs, proteins, and fat from a variety of sources.

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In order to stay well nourished on solo ventures it’s best to pack a small, lightweight cookset. Titanium is my material of choice for good reason, so I decided to browse Ti products for the best solo backpacking cookset. The clear winner was the Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium for a couple reasons.


Features

Many solo pots can be pretty restricted in their use due to their small size. Fortunately the Snow Peak is designed for use with 1-2 people in mind. This makes it ideal for eating large meals by yourself or accommodating another person.

It’s also a two piece set. The lid doubles as a skillet, which is a huge bonus. Using it as a lit works well, but I love to use both of them in conjunction as a double boiler. The thin walled construction of both pans is not ideal for frying. When the skillet is used on top of boiling water, temperature distribution is much more even. It’s hard to avoid hotspots and overheating when cooking with the skillet directly over a heat source. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of a very thin pan. I’ve had very pleasing results however using this method, and I encourage you to try it.

Although the set is thin walled, Snow Peak uses heavier gauge titanium in their products than their competitors. The added weight from this really isn’t an issue though. Snow Peak Really does produce some of the finest titanium gear available. It’s produced in Japan, not China, and therefore slightly more expensive. I’d venture to say the extra cost is definitely worth it though.


Specifications

Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset

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  • Serves: 1-2 persons
  • Pot capacity: 30 fluid ounces
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Material: titanium


Light My Fire Titanium Spork

Overview

Staying well fed while traveling through the backcountry requires a few choice tools, one of them a proper eating utensil. Although it’s possible to carve a stick into some crude instrument, it’s certainly not ideal. Whether you eat freeze dried meals out of the bag or cook your own gourmet camp feasts; sometimes your hands don’t get the job done either. This is where the mighty spork comes in. One of the most tremendous feats of human engineering to date, the spork has revolutionized backcountry nutrition. Armed with a spork, one may gorge themselves on either soup or salad with ease.

My favorite spork isn’t really a spork at all. In fact its more of a knife-spoon-fork, or knork, if you will. The Light My Fire Titanium Spork combines a hefty spoon on one end with a stout fork on the other. One edge of the fork comes equipped with a serrated edge, which happens to work surprisingly well.


Features

Campers, backpackers, hikers, and bushcrafters alike have praised titanium for its many useful qualities. Non-corrosive, non-reactive, non-magnetic, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, heat resistant, lightweight, durable, and completely biocompatible. First, titanium will not rust or tarnish like other materials. It’s also one of the strongest materials known to man. This means your titanium implements will last virtually forever with proper care. Titanium’s strength to weight ratio is extremely high, meaning added durability and lower pack weight. Because it’s both heat resistant and completely biocompatible, titanium gear is excellent for camp cooking. Heating titanium leeches no harmful chemicals, and leaves no metallic aftertaste. Many of these properties make it an excellent candidate for human prosthetics and medical instruments, for which it is used extensively.

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As for its functional characteristics, the Light My Fire Titanium Spork is designed for maximum utility. Conventional sporks often sacrifice too much in combining both utensils into one piece. Because the spoon and fork are on opposite sides; the spoon retains its capacity, and the fork keeps much of its piercing ability.

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Ergonomically, its shaped very nicely and agrees with the hand quite well. It is short and stout compared to other longer, more slender products. While this sacrifices reach, it increases resistance to warps or bends. Although it is slightly more expensive to comparable products, the few extra dollars are worth it.


Specifications

Light My Fire Titanium Spork

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  • Weight: 0.7 ounces
  • Length: 6.75 inches
  • Material: titanium