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Review: WindPouch GO Inflatable Hammock

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Lake Pukaki

Overview

The WindPouch Go inflatable hammock is a convenient and fun outdoor ‘lounge chair’ that you can bring anywhere. Great for the beach, mountains, backyard or watching a kid’s softball game at the park.

Pros

  • Super easy to inflate when there is wind
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • If there is no wind, you’ll have to run around to scoop air into the bag.

Snap Shot

  • Material – Hex-RS™ hexagonal nylon ripstop shell
  • WindLock™ Technology with buckle creates a leak resistant seal
  • Retains air for up to 6 – 8 hours
  • Water-repellant
  • Weight – 3.1 lbs.
  • Supports Weight up to 550 lbs.
  • Product Length – 96 in.
  • Price – $79.99

Field Functionality & Design Features

The WindPouch Go is a handy accessory to keep in the trunk of your car or carry in a backpack, as long as you don’t mind the 3.1 lbs.

Our backs thanked us for relaxing in the WindPouch Go, when taking a break, during long day hikes in New Zealand and kayaking around the Fijian islands. It was much nicer and more comfortable to lounge in the WindPouch than sit on the ground.

It is also way more enjoyable to watch a kid’s softball game at the local park when lounging in the hammock versus sitting on bleachers. We are pretty sure the other fans and parents were envious of our new toy.

The nylon ripstop material is durable and holds up well on sand, dirt, grass and small stones. We were careful to clear any area from possible puncturing objects, like sharp sticks and rocks.

As long as there is wind, it is super easy to inflate and takes less than 20 seconds (we timed it!). If there is little to no wind, you’ll get some exercise running back and forth, and sometimes in circles, trying to inflate it.

Much like a compression sack, once you capture the air, sealing the two opening, roll down and lock the ends together with the buckle. It holds its shape well for hours. It does slowly deflate, so if you want to maintain firmness, you will have to re-roll or re-inflate the hammock as needed. 

Company

WindPouch makes premium inflatable ground hammocks. It was founded in 2015 by George Yu with headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The product is made in China.

Review: POPTICALS’ Popstar Polarized Sunglasses

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Overview

Compactable Popticals’ Popstar Polarized Sunglasses are ideal sunglasses for outdoor adventures, traveling and active life-styles. They are durable, multi-sports functional and fashionable!

Pros

  • Super Compact
  • Easy storage
  • Protects the eyes
  • Looks great

Cons

  • If not dried properly, the metal joint connecting the lenses could rust.

Snap Shot

  • Lens material – Polarized Zeiss Nylon
  • UV Protection – 100%
  • Frames – Grilamid® TR 90 thermoplastic polyamide
  • FL2 Micro-Rail SystemTM
  • Cost – $180-$239

Field Functionality & Design Features

As ultramarathon runners, mountain climbers, backpackers and just everyday active people, we tested the heck out of Popticals’ Popstar Sunglasses.

They were accidently dropped, sat on, soaked in rain, sweat and opened and compacted into their hard-shell case hundreds of times. From climbing in New Zealand, sailing in Fiji, beach volleyball in California to running a 250km ultramarathon in Hawaii, they stood up to every test.                                                                                                             

The Hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings repels water, sweat, sand and dirt. The FL2 micro-rail system, which allows the lenses to slide in parallel to each other, ‘spooning,’ is smooth and easy. Every single time. They store readily in a compactable hard-case making them easy to pack.

Our conclusion…where have Popticals been all our adventurous lives? Definitely one of our new favorite gear accessories. These compactable sunglasses are durable, light-weight, fashionable and functional.  They are worth the price.

Company

Popticals creates innovative compactable sunglasses. Founded in 2016, by inventor David Porter, the company is based out of St. Louis, MO.

 

 

Review: Spark II Sleeping Bag by Sea-to-Summit

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Overview
The Spark II, rated for 35°F/ 1°C , is an ideal ultra-lightweight, super compressible sleeping bag for three-season camping, backpacking and self-supported ultra-marathons.

Pros

  • When compressed, it fits into the palm of your hand.
  • Warmer than expected

Cons

  • Depending on preference, how much one moves when sleeping, some may not like only being able to unzip the bag 1/3 of the way down.
  • The XXS compression sack, that comes with the Spark II, is a bit small. It takes some effort to stuff the sleeping bag inside it. Instead of fiddling with that sack, we each bought Sea-to-Summit’s waterproof XS Ultra Sil Compression Sack. The extra room make it much easier to stuff.

Snap Shot

  • Temperature Rating = 35°F/ 1°C
  • Mummy Shell – 10D UL Ripstop Nylon
  • Zipper – Left side and unzips 1/3 down length.
  • Lining – 15D Nylon/high density weave
  • Insulation – Down (850-fill)
  • Size & Weight – Long 79 in. (10.8 oz.) / Regular 72 in. (9.9 oz.)
  • Water-Resistant
  • Price – $379-$399

Field Functionality & Design Features

We tested a Spark II (sizes long and regular) over the 6.5-day, self-supported, 250km Mauna-to-Mauna ultramarathon on the Big Island of Hawaii.

If you’ve never run this type of endurance race, it’s sort of like ‘aggressive backpacking’ with cut-off times, stages and checkpoints. Competitors carry all their own food and gear and camp along the way. Ideally, you want your backpack to weigh less than 20lbs and this includes mandatory gear, like a sleeping bag with a minimum rating of 35°F.

Hence, we chose the Spark II because of its temperature rating, less than 11 ounce weight, compression and affordability – not the least expensive sleeping bag in it’s class, but it is also not the most expensive.

While running and camping across the Big Island of Hawaii, weather fluctuated from freezing rain at higher altitudes to 90F at sea-level. Hypothermia to heat exhaustion, conditions were extreme.

As a 5’9” and 155lbs. female, I tend to run cold. I was worried the Spark II wouldn’t be warm enough if temperatures dropped below freezing. They did, and I was surprised at how warm I stayed in the bag. I used a liner one time and half way through the night, got rid of it.

My partner, 6’1” and 195lbs. male stayed warm in his Spark II (long). Even on cold nights, he said he wished the zipper went all the way down because he was too hot. When temperatures rose to the 60’s and 70’s°F, he wound up using his Spark II as a pillow.

The bag is durable and easy to wash and dry. We used three tennis balls in the dryer to redistribute the down fill evenly.

Company
Founded in 1989, Sea-to-Summit Pty Ltd., is a private company based in Australia. It manufactures, distributes, and exports outdoor, land and water based travel products and accessories for outdoor adventure activities.

3 Luxury Adventures ~ Roughing it…Gently

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I’ve traveled all over the world and have slept on mountains, in trees, hammocks, tents, huts, boats and even a raft (true story!). That being said, I have also enjoyed luxury accommodations, sleeping under mosquito nets on plush king-sized beds, in private bungalows at five-star eco-resorts and safari camps.

Unique experiences are what I cherish most.

Everything in life is a balance. If you are bored and crave an exciting adventure – like in the movies – but don’t care to ‘rough it’, here are three, very cool experiences I recommend for the explorer in you!

1. Fantasy Island

Nicaragua – Jicaro Island Ecolodge story_2000

When the small boat docks, it feels like you’ve arrived on Fantasy Island. Next to the lush palm trees, like Mr. Roarke, the resort host welcomes guests at the pier (minus his sidekick, Tattoo) with a smiling server, who hands you a refreshing, iced, mango tea.

Located on a one acre, private island among the Granada Isletas of Lake Nicaragua, Jicaro Island Ecolodge is something to experience.  Remote, yet only a fifteen-minute boat ride from the colonial town of Granada, with spectacular views of Mombacho Volcano in the distance, the island is an ideal place for peace, quiet and relaxation.

jicaro-island-ecolodge-grenada-isletas-nicaragua-111394-4Built in 2010, nine private, two-story ‘casitas’ (you’ll feel like you are in a luxury tree house), gardens, an open restaurant, lounge, pool, massage and yoga area complete the island.  A staff of 14 are friendly and attentive. The food is sourced locally, fresh farm-to-table and truly a five-star culinary experience!

Go off grid and relax. There are no televisions, but don’t fret, there is Wifi, should you feel the need to reconnect…but why would you? Jicaro’s concierge can arrange excursions, from stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, zip-lining to yoga and horseback riding. (Jicaro Island Ecolodge, fullsizeoutput_a73from $440-$620/night for two adults, all-inclusive) 

Tip: Take a day trip and hike to the top of Cerro Negro Volcano and sand board down the hill!

 

2. Out of Africa

Tanzania – Kirawira Serena Camp  kiriwiraroom

If Robinson Crusoe were stranded in the middle of Africa, the Kirawira Serena Camp is what I picture he would build. Located in the Western Serengeti, 334km from Arusha, the main climbing hub for Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Kirawira is the epitome of a classic ‘Out of Africa’ luxury safari camp.

The 25 luxury, canvas tents each sit on raised timber platforms with expansive views of the plains and Acacia trees. Victorian bedroom and bathroom furnishings are styled to replicate the elegant hunting camps of such legendary ‘white hunters’ as Denys Finch Hatton and Baron Bror Blixen.The amenities include a massage area, pool and an open lounge and restaurant that look out over the Serengeti. There you can relax, converse about your adventures over a cocktail, read, play chess or just listen for the lions in the distance. Dinner is a set, five-course meal and it is wonderful! 282886

After climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, we treated ourselves to The Kirawira during our safari. It is a great place to recoup and take in the beauty of Africa. Between the climb, camp, safari and balloon ride, this was one of the most unique and amazing experiences of my life. (The Kirawira Luxury Camp, from $180-$916/night for two adults, all-inclusive)

Tip: If you have the chance, arrange to take the hot air balloon safari and bush breakfast.

Do you want have what it takes to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft), one of the seven summits and highest

mountain on the continent of Africa? Before staying at the Kirawira, add 8-9 days to your trip and go with a high-end outfitter who will take care of all the logistics and provide the very best in food, porters and deluxe tents and/or huts…all you have to do is climb…and be able to handle the altitude! ( Abercrombie & Kent $5,695 & Kensington Tours, $6,920)

3. Any John Wayne Western

USA – The Sorrel River Ranch & Spa b114a475-24d4-4f9e-af19-7261c83bda1d

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’ve walked into a John Wayne movie, go to Moab, UT. It is also the backdrop for HBO’s series WestWorld.

An ideal luxury ‘base camp’ for outdoor enthusiast, The Sorrel River Ranch & Spa is a 160 acre, riverside oasis with a rustic, western vibe. Located just outside the adventure mecca of Moab, UT, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, it is framed by picturesque red rock cliffs and tabletop mesas. The Sorrel features 55 guest rooms and suites, spa, pool, a working horse ranch and the award winning, farm-to-table River Grill Restaurant23474031

Their Adventure Concierge and/or Moab Adventure Center can arrange all your adventures, from mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, skydiving to off-road 4×4, base-jumping, and whitewater river rafting. (The Sorrel River Ranch & Spa, from $500-$2,250/night)

Tip: Take an exciting 3 or 4 day whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River and camp underneath the stars with Western River Expeditions.

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Top 5 Adventures – U.S.A.

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Looking for an epic, bucket-list worthy adventure in the United States? usa-map

You’ve come to the right place.

This country is HUGE! Fifty-states and 3.8 million square miles. The landscape is diverse: mountains, beaches, oceans, lakes and rivers to canyons, forests, deserts and salt flats. You name it, we have it!

The below list, is in no particular order and reflects only some of my favorite adventures in the United States. There are many others, but these should get you started.

Life is short. Get on it!                                                                              

LIVE. LEARN. EXPLORE.

1. New Hampshire

The Presidential Traverse – 20 miles & 3 days 

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Give yourself three days to backpack the hardest hike in the northeast. Located in the beautiful, rolling White Mountains, you’ll cover 20-miles, summit 9 peaks (all named after U.S. Presidents, hence the name), and climb up and over 8,500-feet of rocks, boulders and scree.

The highest summit is 6,288-ft. Mt. Washington. A mere hill compared to Colorado 14’ers, it is one of the deadliest mountains in the world. Over 150 people have died thanks to its unpredictable, extreme weather (fastest land wind-speed ever recorded on earth, 231 mph). Don’t let the numbers scare you, just come prepared. As the famous explorer, Ranulph Fiennes, once said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

preztammyclimb

How
Forget hammock camping. The trek is rocky, exposed and no trees grow over 4,400 ft. Treat yourself and bunk at one of the remote Appalachian Mountain huts along the trail. At $135/night per person (non-member) & $113 AMC member, may seem like a lot, but you get a comfortable bunk inside, a yummy five course dinner, hearty breakfast and fun entertainment by the staff. Plus, you won’t have to carry the extra weight of a tent!

North to South: Start at the Appalachia Trailhead in Randolph, NH and finish at the Highland Center in Carroll, NH. Stay at Madison Spring Hut and Lakes of the Clouds Hut. If going in peak season, book reservations ahead of time!

2. Utah fullsizeoutput_a4f

Cataract Canyon Rafting Adventure – 100 miles & 4 days

Moab, UT is on the edge of Arches National Park and the iconic backdrop of many John Wayne westerns. It is the start and finish for this picturesque, 100-mile whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River to Lake Powell. In between Class III-V rapids, you’ll relax and enjoy the views, breaking for hikes to explore ancient Native American ruins and camp underneath the stars on the chasm’s river banks.

How 
Western River Expeditions offers an all-inclusive ($1,475 adults/$1,095 child), 4-day adventure. 

Tips
Moab, UT is an adventure mecca, from rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding to hiking. Spend extra time in Moab, UT and do it all. Moab Adventure Center can make it happen.

Want to treat yourself? Stay at the Sorrell River Ranch & Spa.

ca-cathedrallakejmt

3. California

John Muir Trail – 221 miles & 14-21 days

I’ve backpacked all over the world and the JMT is my all-time favorite!

Located in Northern California, this breathtaking trek is 221-miles, up and over 11 mountain passes, ranging from 9,703 ft. (Cathedral) to 14,496 (Mt. Whitney – the highest mountain in the continental U.S.), for a total of 84,000 feet of elevation gains and losses.

If you’ve ever wanted to trek the Pacific Crest Trail, but thought 2,650 miles was just a bit much, do the John Muir Trail instead! A 170 of the 221 miles are on the PCT and you will trek through the most beautiful national parks in the United States. From Yosemite Valley, the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Parks and up and over Mt. Whitney to Lone Pine, CA. Enjoy remote wilderness, from rivers, blue lakes, waterfalls, forests, mountains, deer, marmots to the occasional bear – you will see it all.

How fullsizeoutput_a51
The best time to go is between June-September.  The trek is traditionally done in 14-21 days and can be section hiked. Most start in Yosemite and go south, but if you want to get the hard elevation out of the way first, start in Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney and go north.

Get permits early, pack clothes for hot to freezing weather and plan your food and resupply wisely. Be sure to spend a night at the Vermillion Valley Resort. The word ‘Resort’ is used loosely. The VVR is rustic but a welcoming oasis on Edison Lake, the (more or less) half-way point on the trek. Order their bacon cheeseburger.

Not into planning or logistics? Book with a guided, small group tour. Prices range from $3,559 with World Expeditions to $5,000 or more with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides.

Tip
Read, “The John Muir Trail: Through the Californian Sierra Nevada (Cicerone Guide),” by Alan Castle. It will be your bible.

4. Colorado PPSummitSign

Climb Pikes Peak (14,410 ft.) – 26 miles & 2 days 

Take two days and climb one of the most famous mountains in the world, Colorado 14’er, Pikes Peak (14,410 ft.). It is the most visited mountain in the United States and the second most visited mountain in the world, after Japan’s Mt. Fuji (12,388).

Located in Mantiou Springs, CO, take the 26-mile, round-trip adventure via The Barr Trail. Park at the Barr Trailhead, 7,800 feet and start the 6.8-mile trek to Barr Camp (10,200 ft.). The first couple miles are mostly switchbacks and parallel the Manitou Incline. You’ll come across day-hikers, but once you pass the Incline turn-off, it is mostly you and mother nature.

Give your legs and lungs time to acclimate and spend the night at Barr Camp. You can stay inside the hut and sleep on a bunk for $33/night per person. This includes a pancake breakfast. No electricity, heat or indoor plumbing. Camping is $12 or $20 for a lean-to-shelter with a mattress.

Get up early and push to the summit and then make your way back down.

Read my trip report: Climbing Pikes Peak Via the Barr Trail.

PPBCBunkHow
The best time to go is between June-September. If you go any earlier or later, you’ll definitely need snowshoes. Always check the latest weather and read up on trip reports.

Pikes Peak is an easy 76-mile drive, south from Denver. It is a major tourist destination in Colorado and the summit can be reached via car or railway.

Tip
If you don’t want to trek the entire 26-mile Barr Trail, break it up and take the Cog Railway or hitch a ride from the summit.

5. Alaska

Iditarod & Northern Lights – 10 daysIditarod
Take this 10-day action packed tour to experience Alaska in winter. Start in Anchorage and attend the mushers banquet and start of the famous 1,049-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Afterwards, off to Talkeetna, the famous backpacker’s hub before Denali. Learn how to dog sled at former Yukon Quest champ and Iditarod musher, Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Premier Iditarod Kennel and go snowmobiling in Trapper Creek.

Journey to Fairbanks to attend the world ice-sculpting contest and then up to Chena to take a dip in the famous Chena Hot Springs, tour the ice hotel and see the Aurora Borealis /Northern Lights. 431349_387333451278179_1388966467_n

How
Go with Planet Earth Adventures LLC.  Owner and guide, Albert Marquez is the best! The Iditarod package starts at $3,995.

 

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