Category Archives: Tools

Why Everyone Should Have A Tenkara Fishing Rod & How To Get Started


What Is Tenkara?

Tenkara is the art, sport, science, and method of fly fishing developed in the remote mountain streams of ancient Japan. Unlike Western fly fishing, there is no reel in Tenkara. Using only a rod, line, and fly, Tenkara anglers catch fish by utilizing technique instead of modern equipment.

Using a long rod and equally long line allow one to reach surprisingly far. Because it was developed in small mountain streams, it is here that Tenkara shines. Because there are no large areas for fish to run, there is no need for a reel. The rod’s exceptional reach and intuitive casting action make precise fly placement breathtakingly simple. So simple in fact, that the average Tenkara fishing kit weighs less than half an average can of soda. Rods average about 12 feet in length, and collapse down to around 20 inches in just a few seconds. As you might expect, Tenkara is growing rapidly since being revealed to the Western world. Keep reading to find out why.


Why Tenkara?

As stated above, Tenkara set-ups are incredibly lightweight. They can be brought virtually anywhere without added weight expense, deployed in seconds, and catch fish very effectively. Tenkara fishing kits usually consist of nothing more than a collapsible rod, one line, a few feet of tippet, and a handful of flies.

Compared to Western-style anglers often seen hauling huge kits with multiple rods, reels, tools, and hundreds of flies; Tenkara is a breeze to pack with you on the trail. This makes it ideal for backpacking, bushcraft, and hiking trips. Whenever you find a spot to fish, it’s possible to be on the water catching fish in just a few minutes. When moving from place to place on the water: simply collapse your rod and wind up your line. This allows you to easily move through dense brush without fighting tangles and snags on a full-length rod.

Tenkara rod ready for travel

History & Philosophy of Tenkara

Tenkara in Japanese translates to “from heaven”. It was developed and used by subsistence fishermen, whether to feed themselves or earn a living at the fish markets. These anglers used nothing more than a bamboo rod, horse hair line, and a homemade fly likely composed of locally gathered feathers.

Fishing Tenkara is optimized to be as simple and effective as possible. Without the burden of excess gadgets and gear, Tenkara anglers focus on presentation and technique to claim their bounty. There’s no need for mending line, false casting, or switching flies.

Tenkara – Simplicity & Versatility

The average twenty to thirty foot reach is enough to reach any spot on a small stream. This allows you to delicately play currents and eddies, dropping flies right in front of trout’s nose with precision accuracy. Because Tenkara line is so light, and there’s very little excess to worry about, it’s easy to keep almost all of your line off the water; eliminating drag and enhancing presentation. This high degree of control simply catches more fish, period.

True to it’s simplicity, Tenkara only necessitates the use of a few flies. In fact, well known Japanese Tenkara masters usually only use one style: the Kebari, or reverse-hackle fly. Renowned Tenkara master Dr. Ishigaki, widely known for revealing Tenkara to the Western world, has fished the Kebari fly exclusively for over ten years. Ishigaki and other masters insist never to blame their equipment or switch flies every few casts. Instead, to read the water, discover potential lays, and focus on creating the most lifelike presentation possible.

Tenkara for Beginners

Because it’s effective enough to quickly catch fish anywhere and simple enough for any trip through the bush; Tenkara is perfect for beginners. Whether you’re thinking about taking up Western fly fishing or new to fishing altogether, Tenkara is the answer. Total beginners often catch fish on their very first outing, sometimes within their first few casts.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on Western fly fishing gear, buying lessons to learn complicated casting techniques, or studying ecology to “match the hatch”; Spend a couple hundred on a simple Tenkara kit and head straight to the water. This will have you learning as fast as possible, and quickly addicted to your practice. As they say: “The stream is the best classroom”. You’ll soon have the proper foundation to either proceed towards Western fly fishing, or continue to master Tenkara.

Harvesting Fish With Tenkara

If you plan to bring your kit along with you on an adventure; you’ll not only be easily able to catch fish for recreation, but for extra protein as well. Trout are delicious, packed with nutrients and protein, and relatively easy to prepare.

Because they naturally live in clean, cold, pristine waters; fresh wild trout are some of the highest quality fish you can eat. However, always heed local regulations and practice proper techniques whenever you plan to harvest fish.

Tenkara – Conservation Techniques

Making use of healthy fishing techniques not only preserve local populations for the future, but ensure your health as well. Thorough research has been done to establish daily bag limits no matter where you fish. These limits exist to maintain local populations under fishing pressure. They’ll tell you where and when you can fish, what size, and how many you can take.

Beyond local regulations, good conservation practices help preserve natural trout habitat as well. Whenever you plan to catch and release, it’s a good idea to never pick up a trout and remove it from the water. Trout that are excessively handled and removed from the water are proven less likely to survive. Handling trout exposes their delicate skin to your comparatively dry, rough, oily hands. This can damage the protective membrane of slime that protects them from fungal and bacterial infections.

Pursuing Tenkara

Once you’ve decided to pursue Tenkara, you’ll not only want to become familiar with conservation practices, but your gear and technique as well. Learning to set up your kit, tie knots, and cast a fly is much easier at home than on the water. Keep reading to learn how to catch your first fish.


How to Get Started With Tenkara

If you’re just starting out, we recommend you purchase an affordable pre-built kit. This means you won’t have the hassle and worry of researching the pros and cons of each option. Instead, you’ll be able to get straight out on the water and start catching fish. No matter which kit you get, the basic principles are the same. You’ll need to know how to properly extend and collapse your rod, tie your knots, and cast a fly. We’ll cover all of these points and provide a few gear recommendations below.

How To Set Up Your Tenkara Rod

Setting up your Tenkara rod is pretty easy. Feel free to watch the video provided by Tenkara Rod Co. for an easy visual walkthrough.

How To Cast With Tenkara

When casting with Tenkara, the rod performs almost like an extension of your body. Aiming is simple and intuitive, as you’ll soon find out. Join Daniel Galhardo, founder of TenkaraUSA as he demonstrates how to cast with Tenkara.

Tenkara Casting Techniques

Once you’re accustomed to a basic overhead cast you’ll be able to try out a few variations to increase your chances of a strike. Join Daniel once again for a demonstration.

Tenkara Fly Fishing Kits & Equipment

Although there is very little gear necessary to get started in Tenkara, there are a few items that may help you on your first outing or to consider in the future. We’ll go over these and a few great kits that include everything you need to get straight out on the water. As stated above, we recommend you invest in an affordable kit to avoid over complicating things and start catching fish as soon as possible.

Tenkara Fly Fishing Kits

There are several different companies producing viable Tenkara kits, but we recommend starting with two of the most reputable: Tenkara USA and the Tenkara Rod Co. While Tenkara USA and its founder Daniel Galhardo are largely credited for popularizing Tenkara in the United States, their gear is a little on the expensive side. That being said, they produce fantastic equipment and customer service that is worth every penny. While you can save a little money by choosing Tenkara Rod Co., it might be worth it to go the extra mile and get a nicer kit from Tenkara USA.

Tenkara Rod Co. Teton Package

The Teton Package by Tenkara Rod Co. is perhaps the most affordable, highest quality Tenkara kit on the market. For more information, check out our write up on it Here. Or, click the link below to view it on Amazon.

Tenkara Rod Co. – Teton Package

Tenkara USA Amago Kit

For a little extra money, the Amago kit adds tremendous value. An Amago fly rod, Tenkara USA Level Line with Tenkara USA Line Keeper and RIO Powerflex Plus Leaders, Ishigaki Kebari Flies, AvidMax Clip-On Retractor with Nippers and AvidMax 5″ Forceps are all included. It’s a pretty big step above the Teton package at a slightly higher cost. If you can afford it, you might consider going with Tenkara USA. It’s definitely worth it.

Tenkara USA Amago Fly Rod & Accessories Kit


Catching Salmon With Tenkara

Kindle Paperwhite Review | Ultimate Outdoor & Survival Resource

Kindle Paperwhite Review

Reading on the trail is an important activity for many outdoor travelers. Whether it be strictly recreational, survival and plant guides, or trail maps; books certainly have their place in the backcountry. Unfortunately, printed books are bulky and sometimes heavy. Carrying multiple is usually out of the question for obvious reasons, which is why I adopted the Kindle E-Reader for my outdoor knowledge resource.

While Google typically quenches my thirst for knowledge in and around civilization, the luxury of a reliable internet connection is not typically a part of most hikes. This is why I like to compile a vast database of useful information on a digital device. Even during a potential grid down scenario, I like the feeling of having so much useful information readily accessible anywhere, anytime.

Continue reading for more information on my ultimate survival knowledge resource, and the accessories I use to protect it.


Kindle Paperwhite Features

Kindle Paperwhite Dimensions & Capacity

For starters, let’s consider the fact that a single Kindle Paperwhite takes up the same amount of space as a very small paperback. However, this small device can hold thousands of books. I divide this space in to two sections. My own personal library ranging from Faulkner to Asimov, and resources like local trail maps, first aid manuals, or the works of Mors Kochanski.

It’s especially convenient and sometimes important to be able to access these in an emergency or simply while lounging in a hammock before bed. With the Kindle Paperwhite screen size of 6 inches, it’s the perfect size to comfortably hold with one or two hands. I’ve found the screen to be a tad on the small side, but an honest tradeoff for packability.

Kindle Paperwhite Backlight

Speaking of nighttime reading, the Kindle Paperwhite’s built in backlight allows for reading in any condition. The ambient light sensor automatically adjusts screen brightness for perfect readability whether you’re in pitch darkness or blinding sunlight.

This is useful because while it may sacrifice potential battery time on your device, it saves the life of your headlamp or torch if you plan to read before bed. Even though the Paperwhite has less battery life than unlit models it still lasts for weeks, not days.

Kindle Paperwhite Warranty Information

Fortunately Amazon backs up the Kindle Paperwhite with a 1 year limited warranty and service guarantee. There’s also an optional 2 year extended warranty available for US customers only. However Kindle Paperwhite problems are pretty uncommon as most issues stem from accidents, carelessness, or misuse.

Kindle Paperwhite Charger

The Kindle Paperwhite Charger cord is a standard micro-usb, and will deliver a full charge in about four to six hours. A fairly modest amount of time considering its six week life. In order to conserve the Kindle Paperwhite battery life, always power off or return your Kindle to sleep mode when not in use.

Kindle Paperwhite Storage Size

According to Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite memory size is 4 gigabytes. While this is enough for thousands of books, I’ve found difficulties uploading comics. Their much larger file size prohibits mass uploading of comic series, so be sure to plan ahead if you’re planning to read the Walking Dead on your trip.

Kindle Paperwhite Connectivity

In order to access the Amazon Cloud for adding content to your device, the Paperwhite comes equipped with wifi and 3G options. While the Kindle Paperwhite wifi and 3G will drain your battery faster, they also enable you to surf the web via the Kindle Paperwhite browser. While this will work better for some sites than others, it’s a fun feature that can be surprisingly convenient.


Accessories

The one critical flaw of this master plan for creating the ultimate outdoor information resource is quite straightforward. Digital devices are prone to failure. While the Paperwhite is reliable and well built, accidents do happen, and the device is inherently fragile. This is why I like to combine my Kindle with a few aftermarket accessories to ensure it survives anything the trail throws at it.

Otterbox Defender Series for Kindle Paperwhite

Otterbox is a well known and reliable manufacturer of rugged, bomb proof cases for digital devices. I’ve armored every smartphone I’ve ever had in an Otterbox Defender, and every one remains in mint condition to this day.

While not waterproof, these cases are reasonably water resistant. Splashes and spills will generally not penetrate the case, but I wouldn’t completely submerge it or abandon it during a torrential downpour. While my devices have survived these, I certainly don’t recommend trying it. That being said, violent impact with stone and concrete or high crushing force is nothing to these cases.

Otterbox Defender for Kindle Paperwhite – Materials & Construction

Otterbox created a multi layer system to protect the Paperwhite from scratches, scrapes, dust, and impact. A self adhering screen protector protects against scratches and scrapes. The two piece polycarbonate inner shell provides the first layer of impact protection, while the overmolded rubber outer cover absorbs shock.

An adjustable shield stand protects the screen while not in use, and doubles as a versatile support. Multiple viewing angles allow one to read or type easily without holding the device.

Otterbox Defender for Kindle Paperwhite – Final Thoughts

I use my Otterbox for go anywhere, do anything functionality. But for storage I’ve chosen a more comprehensive option. An Otterbox leaves the fragile screen exposed, and can succumb to moisture. While the included screen protector can mitigate these risks, the case below completely eliminates them. Best of all, they can be combined to form the ultimate fortress for your Kindle.


Pelican 1055CC Hardback Tablet Case

As stated above, the Otterbox and Pelican cases can be combined. While encased in an Otterbox Defender, your Kindle will still fit in a 1055CC Hardback Case. This combination renders your device virtually indestructible and completely waterproof. However you won’t be able to use it while stowed away in the Pelican case. I use it to store safely in my backpack while traveling.

Pelican products are widely used all over the world, and often considered the industry standard. These cases are used extensively by the military for protecting firearms, electronics, and sensitive documents.

Their HardBack line of protective cases was produced in partnership with BMW DesignWorks. Hardback cases are crush and dust proof, and rated IP67 for water and dust protection. A watertight gasket and automatic pressure equalization valve allow for submersion up to 3 meters. Stainless steel hardware ensures the durability of all joints and latches, and the molded plush shock absorbing liner further protects devices from impact. Pelican reinforces their claims with a lifetime warranty.


Kindle Paperwhite – Specifications

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader – Black, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers


  • Resolution: HD 300ppi
  • Light: Built-in adjustable backlight for reading day or night
  • Screen: No glare in any lighting conditions
  • Battery: Up to six weeks
  • Capacity: 4 Gigabytes, thousands of books
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi + 3G
  • Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″
  • Supported Content Formats: AZW3, AZW, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP
  • Warranty: 1 year


Otterbox Defender Series Kindle Paperwhite – Specifications

OtterBox Defender Series Protective Case for Kindle Paperwhite, Black


  • Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Materials: Rubber & polycarbonate
  • Protection: Scratch, scrape, impact, & dust proof, water resistant


Pelican 1055CC Hardback Tablet Case – Specifications

Pelican Products 1055CC HardBack Case with Computer Liner (1055-003-110)


  • Exterior Dimensions: 9.42 x 7.02 x 1.24 inches
  • Interior Dimensions: 8.55 x 5.52 x 0.85 inches
  • Weight: 0.82 pounds
  • Materials: Stainless steel & polycarbonate


Les Stroud’s Wetterlings Bushman Axe

Wetterlings Bushman Axe by Les Stroud

The Bushman Axe By Les Stroud

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ve probably heard of Survivorman Les Stroud. As a well respected member of the outdoor, survival, and bushcraft communities it’s safe to say he knows his stuff. That’s pretty evident in the design of the Wetterlings Bushman Axe he helped create.

According to Les:

“The Bushman by Survivorman Les Stroud is unique as it is both an axe and a hammer. The wedge shaped head ensures extreme splitting power. The long, broad blade is good for felling or carving. The neck is a distinct hammer and good for driving pegs. A notch for your fingers makes it easy to be very detailed and get nice cuts when doing precision work. The handle is long enough to be a two-hand axe for wood splitting and felling.”

In other words, Stroud created this axe to be a jack of all trades in the back country. And for that purpose, it’s probably your best bet. Keep reading to learn more.

Wetterlings

Since the late eighteen hundreds Wetterlings has been forging quality hand-made axes in Sweden. Today there are few companies still doing it, but two of them are Gransfors Bruks and S.A. Wetterlings. These are among the oldest most reputable firms around, producing some of the finest axes and hand tools money can buy. Unsurprisingly, they’re owned by the same person. Some consider Wetterlings axes to be more affordable Gransfors products. For the most part that’s true. However, the Bushman Axe pushes the boundaries of quality between these two companies.

Wetterlings Bushman Axe

Although Wetterlings may be considered a step below Gransfors, their products shouldn’t be second guessed. Wetterlings axes are every bit as durable and functional as a Gransfors axe. It’s details, features, fit, and finish that separate the two. In a Gransfors axe you’ll be paying for a tighter grain in the handle, perhaps a more luxurious wood treatment too. Comparing the two it’s fairly clear which one cost more money. Yet, they both chop wood… and they chop it well. Nevertheless Wetterlings stands behind their products with a lifetime warranty.

Head

Stroud and Wetterlings chose a rather unconventional design for the head of the axe but not without reason. In order to cover all facets of axe work in the bush, compromises must be made. The result was an axe that looks and feels different from others, but performs anything you need it to.

Profile

For the head, this necessitated a few interesting features. First and foremost the axe cheeks create a larger, wider wedge than usual for splitting tasks. A wider edge tents to force material apart rather than slicing it. This benefits splitting but not cutting. While the Bushman is a very good lightweight splitter, it’s also not bad at cutting either. The almost completely flat bit excels in cutting rounded stock, which is pretty much anything you’ll find in the woods.

Power

Weighing in at 1.6 pounds, the heft of the head is enough to keep up with most dedicated choppers when combined with the Bushman’s handle length. A significant amount of this weight can be attributed to the polished hammer poll. An uncommon feature in axes that allows you to crush and smash to your hearts content. Driving tent stakes seems to be the most common use for it, which is something it does very well. Be careful however while striking rock or steel, as these hard materials can both deform your axe, or worse send dangerous shrapnel flying through the air.

Steel

The pronounced curve of the blade where the head meets the handle allows you to choke up all the way on the axe for extreme precision. Fine carving tasks are a breeze with the Bushman… especially with a polished edge. The common misconception that an axe doesn’t need to be sharp couldn’t be further from the truth. A sharp axe is a safe axe. Dull axes are prone to dangerously ricochet and cause you to exert more effort than necessary.

Also If you plan to use your axe for carving, a quality edge is of the utmost importance. Fortunately Wetterlings uses quality Swedish high carbon steel hardened to about 57-58 HRC on the Rockwell scale. Combined with the perfect heat treatment; the Bushman will accept a beautiful edge without difficulty and keep it for a very long time.

Handle

Ergonomically the Bushman’s handle is straighter and simpler than most. It’s also balanced very far towards the head which may be confusing to some. In order to succeed at splitting the head had to be heavier than usual, causing the balance issues. Nevertheless it performs admirably regardless of the balance or handle shape. Once accustomed to it, the handle is surprisingly comfortable. At 22 inches its compact enough to fit in a pack and combined with the beefier head, powerful enough to keep up with a much larger axe.

The finish on the handle is nothing fancy, but the alignment is perfect and grain structure just above average. This ensures your axe will swing true without failing prematurely. It’s made of American Hickory for strength and comes with a lanyard hole at the bottom of the handle. In terms of length, it’s just about the maximum for effective carving without sacrificing firepower. Another example of Stroud’s intent to create a jack of all trades backcountry tool.

Final Thoughts on the Wetterlings Bushman Axe

All things considered, the Les Stroud’s Wetterlings Bushman Axe is a fantastic piece of kit. If you’re looking for an axe to accomplish anything you might encounter, this is it. However, it’s unfortunately a little on the pricier side. A fair trade off for some because of its capability. But for the money, others may choose the fancier Gransfors instead.

Ultimately it still presents a great cost to utility ratio, and even better power to size. If you’re looking around for a forest axe, I encourage you to give it a try.

Thoughts? Questions? Considerations? Concerns? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Specifications

Wetterlings Bushman Axe by Les Stroud


  • Length: 22 inches
  • Head Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Overall Weight: 37.6 ounces
  • Steel: hand-forged Swedish high carbon steel
  • Hardness: 57-58 HRC
  • Handle: Hickory

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.

source_hydration_military_stock_02


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.

source_hydration_inline_stock_04

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.

source_hydration_uta_stock_03

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.

source_hydration_uta_stock_06
source_hydration_uta_stock_04

Specifications

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

source_hydration_stock_01
  • 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

source_logo_stock_07

Benchmade Bushcrafter

Benchmade – Bushcrafter 162-1 EOD, Drop-point, Sand Handle

Benchmade Bushcrafter – Overview

Benchmades’ foray in to the bushcrafting niche, like bushcrafting itself, adds modern improvements to a traditional approach. While many in the bushcraft community prefer age old, time tested methods and natural materials… the Bushcrafter effectively demonstrates a viable alternative. A perfect middle-ground size, innovative blade grind, synthetic and intuitively contoured handle, and modern supersteel combine to form an extremely capable tool.


Benchmade Bushcrafter – Blade

Benchmade’s designer for the Bushcrafter Shane Sibert has modeled the blade after his own design, the Cascadia Bushcrafter:

Like the Cascadia, Benchmade’s knife features a “high ground drop point” blade. Similar to the revered Scandinavian grind but with a higher grind and a secondary bevel, Sibert claims this design offers superior strength to a Scandinavian while still being “super sharp”. Unlike most bushcraft blades, the Bushcrafter is not made with high-carbon or tool steel. Rather, Benchmade has used supersteel S30V. Excellent toughness and edge retention without being too difficult to sharpen are some of its best characteristics. Also, its stainless composition and ability to accept an extremely keen edge separate it from the pack of most comparable steels. As such, its a great pick for a blade like the Bushcrafter.

All of the above stated, it performs admirably in the field. It’s literally such a “bomb-proof” design that it’s used by Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams to dismantle explosives in the field. For this purpose Benchmade even made a variant of the Bushcrafter called the “EOD”.

Benchmade Bushcrafter – Handle

For the handle, Benchmade chose extremely durable G10 scales held by flared titanium tubing. According to Sibert the flared tubing helps hold the scales against the blade preventing separation under lateral pressure. Hollow tubing also adds two potential lashing points for a spear if needed. Synthetic G10 ensures that your handle will never decay even under the most corrosive or wet conditions. The textured grip also provides a comfortable positive feel. The grip contours have received criticism from some for being too extreme, however I have not found that to be the case. The upper palm swell adds comfort and control during fine carving tasks while the flared end towards the bottom allows for a secure grip while wielding the knife for hacking and chopping.


Specifications

Benchmade – Bushcrafter 162-1 EOD, Drop-point, Sand Handle


  • Steel: S30V 58-60 HRC Rockwell
  • Handle: G10
  • Blade Style: high ground drop point
  • Blade Thickness: 0.164 inches
  • Blade Length: 4.43 inches
  • Overall Length: 9.2 inches
  • Weight: 7.72 ounces

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.

nalgene_bpa-free_stock_01

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

nalgene_stock_02
  • 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.

rtic_30tumbler_stock_02

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

rtic_stock_09

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.

yeti_rambler_stock_03

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.

yeti_rambler_stock_04


Specifications

RTIC 30 oz. Tumbler

rtic_30tumbler_stock_01
  • 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

yeti_stock_05

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.

rtic_stock_02


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.

yeti_stock_04

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.

rtic_stock_08

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.

yeti_bear-resistant_stock_02

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.

yeti_bear-resistant_stock_03

Specifications

RTIC Cooler (RTIC 45 Tan)

rtic_stock_04
  • 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.

sp-900_stock_01

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

sp-900_stock_03
  • 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


Best Titanium Gear

Overview

Anyone familiar with the outdoor gear scene knows how perfect titanium implements suit our needs. One of the toughest materials known to man, titanium products boast an extremely high strength to weight ratio. Beyond being durable and lightweight compared to other materials, titanium has a few other admirable characteristics. It’s non-reactive, and therefore non-corrosive. This means it won’t rust or tarnish like other metallic products. It’s also very heat resistant and won’t release toxic chemicals when heated. Yes, it’s completely non-toxic and totally bio-compatible. For this reason it’s used extensively in prosthetics and medical instruments. Unfortunately, titanium is difficult to machine and therefore expensive. In many cases, the extra money is well worth it.


Best Titanium Gear

Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset

Living out a pack requires the use of a few essential tools to stay well fed. One of them should be the best solo backpacking cookset you can find.

1 comment

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 … Continue reading Light My Fire Titanium Spork

0 comments

Vargo Titanium Stakes

Overview If you plan on having shelter in the bush, you’re going to need tent stakes. For some, this means taking the time to harvest and process sticks for the job. But if you’re like me, it’s just too much time and effort for my taste. Depending on the terrain you’re in, there may be … Continue reading Vargo Titanium Stakes

1 comment

Vargo Titanium Water Bottle

Best Titanium Water Bottle Water carrying and storage is one of the most important aspects of the trail. Without water, there is no life. While you could carry a disposable plastic bottle, there are a few advantages of having something a little more high-tech. Titanium, one of the most amazing materials known to man is … Continue reading Vargo Titanium Water Bottle

0 comments