Category Archives: Gear

“Father Nature Outdoors” — Integrated Camping Blanket

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Most successful bushcraft is about creative problem solving and sharing of knowledge, resources, and support. I owe a lot of my current level of experience to the generosity of others, and I’d like to encourage everybody to think about how important that is.

I love the outdoors. I love the simplicity, and the isolation, and, of course, the natural setting. But we don’t live isolation on this planet, and the more people that love and respect the outdoors, the more we can all continue to appreciate the woods, whether alone or together.

I recently found out about a Kickstarter campaign by “Father Nature Outdoors” for an Integrated Camping Blanket. It’s a quilt — by all rights a hybrid sleeping bag and blanket — but they seem to be doing it right, with utility, comfort, and price point at a sweet spot if you intend to spend nights in the woods.

I like that they’ve put a priority on the comfort factor — too many new (or non-) outdoors enthusiasts think of it as a spartan, uncomfortable, cramped pastime.

A quilt is quick and easy to pack and deploy, versatile, and comfortable. I haven’t used a dedicated one like this before, mostly because I have far too many sleeping bags already, and the price point has usually been fairly high, but it should be as comfortable as a regular blanket, with technical improvements.

Gear should designed and inspired on the trail, not in a boardroom, and that’s what’s happening here (just check out their blog at fathernatureoutdoors.com). It’s something that should be supported.

I realize I’m sounding either salesy or commune/hippie-like, but I’m not at all affiliated with these guys — last week, I didn’t even know they existed. I just like the cut of their jib.

So I’ll put my money where my mouth is, and become a backer for their new endeavour (hopefully without too much trouble — I’m a Kickstarter newbie).

I encourage you to take a look and consider doing the same — with them, or with any of the many worthy projects on there that support the appreciation and respect for walks in the woods.

More info here: ”Father Nature Outdoors” — Integrated Camping Blanket

As always, do your research: Kickstarter FAQ

New Nomad products on the way

Nomad Clip

 

 

Looking forward to a couple of new products from Nomad, who have made some innovative on-the-go charging connectors.

They have a decidedly more urban focus, as you can see by their recently-announced NomadPlus battery add-on for the Apple wall lump, but the portable power option is definitely useful to many travellers.

NomadPlus

The NomadClip is something to look forward to — it has clean, stylish lines, will add the standard utility that you get from any light-duty carabiner, and the connectors are integrated in such a way that you don’t notice the extra space they take.

It’s not a climbing carabiner, of course, but I don’t think that’s a feature I’d need or care about in this case — I’ll use proper climbing carabiners when needed, thank you.

Stay tuned for a review when it hits the market this fall.

Nomad Clip dimensions

I’ve gone tripping with some of their older products and my Solio charger, which I think is a great combination to bring sustainable personal power with you in the wild.

What I’d really like to see is something with USB power-out, connection cables/ports, AND the ability to recharge itself and other cells, like those in my flashlights (AAAs and RCR123s). All in a compact package that’s light enough for a backcountry trip. Since they both seem like they’re just gaining momentum, either company could enter the market with something like this in the near future.

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Gear Review — Grand Trunk Hammock

I like camping in hammocks, and sleeping under the canopy of stars and leaves. In early summer, this isn’t possible with an open hammock design in the woods because of the bugs, but during the day, any hammock is just heaven.

I recently conducted a test of the Grand Trunk Single Hammock, and if you’re in the market for something to bring with you this Fourth of July weekend, you can’t go wrong with this simple little number.

Read the full review

Mosquitno Products in packages

Gear Review — Mosquitno Bands and Spotz

Happy (soon-to-come) Canada Day/Fourth of July/First week of summer!

Spring is officially done, and for many people that means that summer fun can begin in earnest. More active, outdoor lifestyles means more weekends at the local park, at the cottage, biking, hiking, and, of course, camping — all of which mean mosquitos.

In the buggy times for the upper USA and Southern Canada, it’s time for me to stay along the lakes, where it’s breezy and bug-free.

You can’t always choose when you’re needed in bug country or season, so you should have a good roster of deterrents, and their relative effectiveness.

Today, I look at the Mosquitno line of products, which include their flagship wristbands (“Bands“), and a secondary product called “Spotz“. Their website seems a little light, but this is a simple, straightforward family-run company, so most people’s questions would be answered in their FAQ, and, of course, reviews like this one!

Read the full review

Interview: Ryan Frayne from Windcatcher Gear

 

A Conversation in the Woods

I recently caught up with Ryan Frayne, Co-Founder of Windcatcher gear, and inventor of their flagship product, the Windcatcher Air Pad.

He was nice enough to answer some questions for your reading pleasure.

AWitW: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell the readers a bit about the inspiration and background of the company, and the Windcatcher Air Pad?

Ryan: The story behind how I identified the need for a better inflation system can be found here:

http://www.windcatchergear.com/pages/about-us

After discovering the need, I started to do a lot or research and trial-and-error prototyping. During that research, I stumbled upon the phenomenon of entrainment, which is the scientific principle the invention is based around.

AWitW: Who are your main adopters? How has the reception been so far?

Ryan: Our adopters vary from campers to home bodies that want to use the pad to lay around the house or as a quick guest bed. We’ve also found that several people bought the Windcatcher just because they’ve never seen anything like and just want to try it for themselves.

The reception has been amazing. I think the problem of having to inflate an air pad or other inflatable is something many people can relate with, so the general reaction we get is “why has no one else invented this before”.

AWitW: Do you have any interesting testing/development stories you can share with us?

Ryan: I think our Kickstarter campaign was interesting. Mainly because it looked like we were doomed. I wrote a blog post about it here.

AWitW: Many outdoor enthusiasts develop strong opinions about their sleeping systems that go beyond the specs. There are, of course, other products that are lighter, smaller, warmer, or cheaper (of course, no one system has all of these attributes). How do you feel you compare with them?

Ryan: Other air pads compete within the competitive factors that you mentioned. But I think we’re in an entirely different space. People buy our pad because they want to take it camping but also want to use it at the park, or to power nap at work, or to crash at a friend’s house. Other pads are just to inconvenient to both inflate and deflate for anyone to consider using them for activities that many only last 15 minutes. The Windcatcher’s speed really opens up whole new opportunities not possible with conventional inflatables.

AWitW: You mention on your Kickstarter page that you hope that this approach will inspire entirely new lines of products.

Ryan: The inflatable tent is something that a lot of companies have tried to bring to the market. I think with the Windcatcher, the idea of an inflatable tent is much more feasible. I’d love to see other companies or individuals use the Windcatcher tech to bring new ideas to life.

AWitW: What are the next steps for you as a company?

Ryan: Fulfilling our Kickstarter orders and obligations are still our top priority. Without them we wouldn’t have a company and I’d still be working at a job I hate.

Beyond that, we’re currently in talks with a number of companies about licensing the Windcatcher technology to use in their products.

AWitW: Do you have any closing comments?

Ryan: If you’ve got an idea for a consumer product and you’ve been thinking about doing a Kickstarter, just do it!
Do a lot of research and don’t half-ass it. Kickstarter projects are far from easy. But they’re the best way to launch a product that I know of.

 

AWitW: Again, a big thank you to Ryan for taking the time out of your schedule. Best of luck to you, and Windcatcher Gear.

Windcatcher Gear’s official site can be found at windcatchergear.com, where you can see more photos, instructional videos, and, of course, find out how to get your own Windcatcher Air Pad.