Monthly Archives: December 2012

Luggable Loo

Ok…so here we are going to talk crap. This blog is not for the meek….we are going to get personal in this post. We are talking about doing your business in the woods.

When talking with people who at the most, have camped in an RV or a campground, and not taken a multi-day trip completely self-supported, the primary question I get asked (usually in a very quiet tone) is where do we do the business of doo….its an honest question, because at some point in your travel, you have to download.

This can be problematic not just for those who have not had the experience of finding a special spot to squat. Add in weather, children, lack of flora and fauna, maybe a stomach bug. Having a place near your camp that is sanitary, convienent, and private is important.

This last year during the Idaho Overland we kicked off our test of the Luggable Loo by Reliance. We already had a history of using many of their products. They build great consumer grade products that ar reasonably affordable. Because Abby is now getting to the age where she needs a bit more privacy and she was the only girl on the trip, I wanted a solution that offered her a place to do what she needed to do. I also knew that our trip was going to take us through a few barren areas that did not offer concealment. We were also not using any kind of established camp grounds, we were totaly self-supported.

The Luggable Loo was one part of this equation (a privacy shelter that I will do in another blog was the other). The portable unit is a toilet seat with a locking lid to help control odors. It is designed to be attatched to the top of a 5-gallon pickle bucket. You can either by the unit alon or with a bucket. Since I have plenty of buckets like this, I opted to use my own.

For waste collection, I used two thick trash bags that I pre-lined with cedar shavings. I pre-set six of these double-bagged sets for the trip. As we pulled into camp each night, we would set up the privacy shelter and the Luggable Loo. Each morning, it was the last item to be packed and the waste bags were tied and secured with a zip tie, and placed into a third bag, which was desposed of when we came to a dumpster or collection site on the road. Opting to not carry the waste in the Jeep, they were held for transport in a Trassharoo, which is a trash container that hooks up to the spare tire on the back.

For backside cleaning, we kept a couple roles of TP stored in coffee cans along with baby-wipes. Be sure to store your TP role in a ziplock bag when not in use, even in dry seasons, the roll will absorb any moisture in the air. We also would “flush” the bucket after the bags were removed with a squirt of vinegar as a sanitary precaution.

We were very happy with the Luggable Loo. the only downside for us in a tightly packed Jeep is the space it takes. Unlike other prtables I have used, it sits high enough from the ground and places you in the proper “buisiness position”. in fact, its comfortable enough, youo can even take a book or the morning paper with you to read….

Reliance also has a collapsable toilet it sells that we are hoping to test soon.

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SPOT GPS- Come Find Me!

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This one piece of gear is going to extend the life of my folks…

The SPOT GPS lets my folks who worry about me know where I am when out in the back country…. The SPOT GPS doesn’t tell you where you are, it tells your selected friends, family or fans know where you are, that you are okay, or you need assistance….it can also call out the calvary if needed. It is a six-ounce salalite messenger…

I get asked—what exactly is satellite messenger? Basics- it’s a lightweight, water-resistant, study transponder  that communicates with global communications satellites and a low earth orbiting satellites.  It transmits your location to others so they know where you are when you press a button to tell them.

We have tested the SPOT extensively this year and it is now a primary piece of equipment for day trips, weekend excursions, and adventures in Asia and Europe. It allows us to provide our position and that we are doing fine through a website as well as the SMS and email messeges it generates at the touch of a button.

A basic subscription of $99 per year enables the four primary features. These are two ways to ask for someone to rescue you, a third feature is called “Check-in/All-OK,” and the fourth feature is similar, called “Custom Message.” The fifth is the tracking mode and it runs around $60…this allows people like my dad or others I give access and a link, the ability to pinpoint our location. I am going to put one of these in Abby’s car when she starts driving.

The flagship feature is the the “SOS” button – that you never want to touch unless you really need to. Its like 911 on a cell phone- asume it works, don’t test it, the calvary will show up….you will likely be fined.

How it works is when you activate the SOS it notifies a third party emergency rescue coordination center that you have a life and death emergency and need help.  

This is a must have for any adventurer that you love. Makes a great gift…or perhaps the gift is the adventurer who gets it to give his parents and other loved ones piece of mind

Check out this episode

GoPro Black

We are HUGE fans of the GoPro line of cameras. strapped to a helmet, clamped to a roll bar on the Jeep, dropping from a plane….yep…we put ours through the ringer.

This was the primary rig we used on the Idaho Overland Expedition, our trips to Korea and China, and all of our adventure events.

But you don’t have to be into extreme sports to fall in love with this versatile rig. Like stop action, like diving trips, like family ski vacations? Stop action, live action, still pics?

Creative types will love the artistry of mounting them to egg-timers, using a rotisere’ skewer turned on its side with 30′ cordage and a rolling platform with a GoPro set in stop-action mode, or strapping it to a dog as he runs through the woods.

The GoPro Hero3 is 25 percent lighter than the Hero 2. It’s also 1/3rd  smaller.  However, the height and width are unchanged to maintain compatibility with the existing line of BacPac add-on modules and rear doors for the clear plastic hard-shell.

The new six-element a-spherical lens offers twice the image sharpness, while reportedly eliminating the fish-eye look of the video and photos. If this is the case this is the ONLY downside for me— but most shutterbugs will appreciate this.

The Black edition has built-in Wi-Fi, normally a feature that comes with one of the expansion model. This allows you to record directly to a computer hard drive or even broadcast to live feeds.

The front panel now has two indicator lights…one red to indicate that the rig is recording and one blue that blinks indicating that Wi-Fi is active. A huge improvement is the small red indicator lights on the top, back, and bottom panels that are visible from most angles….meaning I no longer have to put my mug into the shot to check to see if its recording.

Recommend if you get one of these you pick up a 32 GB card for lots of room for video…

Check out this episode

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Why I LOVE my iPad

In the ongoing saga of a fire and ice relationship, the reasons I love my iPad!

Yes I know it is a fire and ice relationship…kind of like some of my exes…

Right now the relationship is hot…steaming….what the great romance movies are made of…..everyday is a honeymoon and she is in the kitchen making my favorite dish…then a backrub…and a nice glass of wine….

The traveling throughout Asia – laptop free– presenting from keynote to varried audiences, the mapping it includes for my overland adventures–creating my blog–pictures- videos- off-road legends game– facebook updates–twitter- maps for my backcountry and cross-country flights- apps….more apps….AND MORE APPS!

Traveling down long beaches and posting up pics to Pintrest—listening to Dan and Derel on the 4×4 Podcast— Pandora in the Thinking Lab—- did I mention the ability to pay bills, transfer funds, and al my other on-line banking?

Facetime with my bride when I travel- skype for interviews—geo caching—Topomaps—-and it all fits in a day pack!

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Have a listen to the podcast since this text is only a spaceholder for the podcast

Check out this episode

ACR Firefly Strobe- Product Failure

I take my survival gear very serious. When I product meets our demands, we let you know. When it fails….you get that side as well.

I have been a long time fan of ACR, and I am surprised that the Firefly strobe failed….epically failed.
The device is designed to be a beacon signal should you get in trouble when out doing any number of activites such as boating, skiing, hunting, hiking, etc. It includes a lanyard ideal for securing to your gear. It has an O-ring designed to keep it water-proof and the beacon is omni-directional to improve the odds it is seen by rescuers for a rated distance of two miles. It also tested true to the ability to float. It uses easy to find AA batteries, which is what most of my lights, GPS, FSR, and other electronics use. Easy to find anywhere or I can simply scavenge from another device.

Where the Firefly Plus has failed is in construction of the battery compartment. When any of my electronic gear is not in use, I store it with out the batteries (although I do velcro a fresh set to the device so I don’t forget them). This morning as I opened up the strobe to place a couple of AA’s in the battery tray, one of the springs popped out. Thisnunit is less than a year old. (4 May 2012).

After several attempts to fix it, I have determined that it is not repairable. So here is the issue: Imagine I was depending on this unit to signal a rescue craft it would have failed me. If I had been using the strobe to attract attention, and needed to change batteries, it would have failed me. If this was in my kid’s survival pack (and there is) and she needed it if she was lost….you get the point.

Like my Spot GPS and other devices, I have carried my strobe with me in the Jeep on overlanding trips, in the kayak on river expeditions and island hopping trips, in my back country aviation trips, even carry-on luggage when flying commercial aircraft (especially third-world trips).

Again, I think ACR makes great products and still have many in my bag. Unfortunatly, until this one is rectified, this one will not be in our survival kits, nor will we present it at our seminars. At present time we do not recommend. I have attempted, but not been in contact with ACR on the issue and the retailer has recommended I contact ACR since I could not find my receipt.

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Re-Post: Polar Express (2004)

This is a repost/rewrite of a blog I wrote in 2004. At the time I was running a blog called “Tribal Courage” that specifically spoke to men. It was very early work for me in blogging. I was going through some major changes in life at the time and had found two great resources. The first was John Elredge’s book, Wild at Heart. The second was by Gordon Dalby, Healing the Masculine Soul- a book I wish somebody/anybody had shoved in my hands when I was a much younger man. I found my original blog while surfing the net the other night- and thought it would be interesting to re-post. I had started journaling, something most explorers seem to have in common with each other. Perhaps it is the desire to truly know and understand ourselves as we push through what seems to be incredible experiences to others- as we are simply living in the moment, and then simply reflecting on it. The blog I wrote in 2004 corresponds with the season, as well as a reflection of who I am, and a tiny insight to me as a person….

I’m trapped. Coming off a my expedition in the Chiuauan Desert of Northern Mexico, having a near death experience at the hands of a faulty water bladder and dehydration, a new commitment to family, fatherhood, and husband…I decided to treat my family to a night out at the “nice theatre” and not the sticky floors of the “cheap” theater…

We promise my 3-year-old to go see a movie—I vote for “The Incredibles”. A great movie about a family of superheros who put aside differences, depression, the sence of inadiquacy….who hasn’t lived that life? This speaks to my heart and its just what I need to hear at this moment.

I lose. Not to the popularity of vote for another, film, but rather to the availability of tickets. So we buy our passes for “Polar Express”

I’m trapped in another sense. I can’t go to a film these days without pulling some kind of message from it. But maybe this one is safe…or so I thought. Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Good Will Hunting…all have deep messages for me about the making of a man, the battles within, the path to becoming a stand-up guy, a warrior defending my family, my faith, my own soul.

I don’t want to get too specific at this point—I don’t want to ruin the movie for you if you haven’t seen it. I also want you to pull out your own themes—maybe we can sit down and discuss it sometime over hot chocolate—served from a more subdued staff than the movie represented.

The spiritual themes that run through “Polar Express” are themselves incredible. The theme of wanting to believe, but not coming to grasp with belief, yearning to hear there is an incredible message for each of us individually, even when others are around you who can hear it, yet no matter how hard you strain to listen-nothing. Silence. Desolation. It feels like abandonment.

Perhaps how at one time we have received something special. Something deep, something spiritual, a very special gift, like the speaking to our heart about who we are, our desires, a special name to be called… a special message-and then losing it…

Then the final scene of that desire being written on our hearts. For some its a new destiny, maybe our new name…simply scribbled onto our heart…a name that in the beginning of a journey had only a few letters.

I saw my own spiritual journey reflected in this film. I understood the frustration of not being able to hear God’s voice when others where having larger than life experiences. I could relate the “wandering” that was taking place on the train, sometimes leading to possible dangers, only to be rescued before I got seriously hurt.

In my own journey I have had the displeasure of being surrounded by those that I had to pull along, the occasional “pain in the @$$” know it all, as well as others who were on the same journey—who built my own confidence and helped me to reach my destination.

Aging with Grace

It seems like a lifetime ago….it seems like yesterday… I can no longer adventure the way I used to on bare basics and little sleep.

At one point in my life I remember leaving for motorcycle trips after working three or four 12 -hour midnight shifts. I was in the military at the time and stationed in West Texas at Dyess AFB. The bike would be packed with a sleeping bag, a rain jacket, poncho, and my ATM card. I usually had $100 stuffed in the frame and a tooth-brush and change of underwear in a backpack. I would turn in my weapon after getting off duty in the early morning hours, change clothes in my dorm room, and be on the road by 0700. I would ride my 1983 XT 250 hard for the next few hours, find a rest stop, sleep for a few hours and be back at it. That night I would stop for dinner, usually based on PB&J or an MRE I had saved from a recent deployment. I would crash at a campground, a church courtyard, ratty hotel if weather was bleak, or even in a highway reststop. My travels were never limited and I rode that little 250 into New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Mexico, and all over Texas. I would be back on base in time for my first guardmount formation and refreshed and ready for duty.

A few years later I was doing the same thing with a Suzuki Samurai, although I did start packing a tent and a fairly nice Coleman stove. Still there were nights I would sleep under the tiny SUV as I traveled throughout South Texas, Arizona, and Mexico. I even did a few trips as far as the East Coast and when it was time for me to change duty stations, I camped all the way to New Jersey. Still sleep and “a good nights rest” included a sleeping bag, hammock, and 4-5 hours of sleep.

Fast forward and this last year I have found a high intolerance for sleeping on the ground. We have spent the past few weeks looking for options including roof top tents, tents that will allow a master-bedroom size cot, hot water, privy, and other creature comforts. While on the Idaho Overland, I saw Beau and Lance snuggling in the back of their rigs, while Abby and I tried to get comfortable on our sleeping mats. Nothing is worse than after a bone jarring day in a Jeep, with hundreds of miles behind you and a few more 10 hour days ahead of you….and you are sleeping in a rock bed.

As we prep for 2013, we are looking at several options….including BIG family tents, a tent on top of an offroad trailer, and possible a teardrop designed for off-road. The years of not sleeping has caught up with me. The four hours a night for weeks at a time has transitioned to “I don’t want to get up for work mom….”

So stay tuned, we will report out all the stuff we look at….and with a little luck we will get to do some product testing…..

I am sure I will still have get-a-ways that Trigger and I crawl under the Jeep and certainly when our doing my annual survival training I will have to suck it up…..but I am really looking for more luxury as I get older….