Gibbon Slackline in action

Slacking Off: A Slacklining Story

Amateur Slacklining

On a recent family camping trip, I brought along a Gibbon Slackline I picked up from The Clymb. (Note: if you’re an adventurous type and like good deals on great gear, do yourself a favor and join The Clymb — it’s free).

I set it up between two trees, and over the course of the weekend almost everyone gave slacklining a try … kid and adult alike. Despite numerous strategies and techniques (fast, slow, sideways, tightrope-walker style), no one could really get the hang of it — except one of the kids who has mad skateboarding skills.

Professional Slacklining

So none of us could aspire to the level of  daredevil Andy Lewis who, in this GoPro video, is slacklining between two hot air balloons 4,000 feet above the Earth — with no safety line.

He does wear a parachute, though.


Tent Color - Dark vs Light

What Color is Your Tent?

In all the time I’ve spent shopping for tents, I’ve never really given much thought to tent color.

I’ve certainly questioned why a given tent was designed with a given color, but for me, it’s always come down to features (especially weight) over aesthetics.

But at, Joshua Barnes delves deeper into Why Your Tent Color Matters.

Light vs. Dark

Barnes lists many advantages to having a light-colored tent, such a lighter interior and being easier to find when returning to camp after a long day of wilderness adventure. The one downside brighter tents seem to have: potential to attract curious bears.

And while dark-colored tents tend to be darker on the interior (as one would expect), they have the advantage of blending in to the environment, taking the principles of Leave No Trace to a visual level.

The Color of My Tents

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1

Tent Color: Light (Orange & White)

I carried this with me on my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail, and it served me very well. It definitely falls into the “light tent” camp, and that helped to wake me up with the sun every morning.

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 tent in Long Meadow.

I briefly considered the Big Agnes Emerald Mountain SL1 (they don’t make it anymore, but it was a nice, deep green color). However, it weighed 3 lbs, 4 oz, while the Fly Creek only weighs 2 lbs, 1 oz. Tent color is much less important to me than tent weight, especially if I’m carrying that tent for 13 days.

MSR Hubba Hubba

Tent Color: Light (Red & Orange)

I’ve had this two-person tent since 2007. It’s pretty much retired these days, but it’s gotten me through nights camping with my daughters in the backyard to a few summits of Mt. Whitney and everything in between.

MSR Hubba Hubba

Recently, the whole Hubba line has been redesigned by MSR, and this new version has been awarded with Outside magazine’s prestigious  Gear of the Year 2014. If you’re in the market for a good tent, it’s worth checking out.

Big Agnes Big House 4

Tent Color: Light (Orange & Orange)

I bought this tent in 2010 for our family’s first camping trip with my daughter’s class. We’ve used it a few times every season for the past four years, and it’s never let us down.

Big Agnes Big House 4

It even kept us completely dry during one legendary trip where it rained pretty much non-stop all weekend.

Choosing Tent Color

I seem, by default, to choose light tents. But I think manufacturers make more light tents than dark tents. There’s no scientific rationale behind this opinion, though. Perhaps more research is needed.

Do you have a preference when it comes to choosing a tent color?


Tent icon from James Viola’s Wilderness Survival Vector Pack.


SaddleBaby Shoulder Carrier

Stuff You Don’t Need: SaddleBaby Shoulder Carrier

I’ve got two kids. I’ve logged many hours walking around stores, theme parks, zoos, and hiking trails with one of them sitting squarely on my shoulders. Sometimes this went on for hours. It’s just one of many things that dads do.

My kids are too grown up for the shoulder-riding treatment these days, but in all the time I did have a child sitting in my shoulders, neither they nor I ever needed any sort of facilitating device—and certainly not the SaddleBaby Shoulder Carrier.

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Bow Ties!

Alton Brown on How to Tie a Bow Tie

Just when I thought I was done posting about how to tie a bow tie, Alton Brown made a bow tie tutorial video. And it’s great.

This is a notable video for a few reasons.

  1. He uses a different technique than I learned when I taught myself. I tried Brown’s method and found it worked very well.
  2. He delves into the different styles of bow ties and who was known for sporting them.
  3. He discusses the the easiest and quickest methods (there are two, it turns out) to figure out how to get the length of your bow tie just right, which is good information to have (there’s a little math involved).

And if all that doesn’t pique your interest, he drops the phrase “bow curious,” which was pretty fantastic.

So check out the video above or visit Alton’s site to learn more.


Tentstile Stingray 3

Tentsile Stingray 3 Tree Tent

As anyone who’s ever listened to me talk about tents can tell you, I am quite fond of my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1.

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 tent in Long Meadow.

I’m also known to sing the praises of my Big Agnes Big House 4, which has performed flawlessly for our car camping trips for five years running.

Big Agnes Big House 4

So I’d be hard-pressed to give up my Big Agnes tents. But this Tentsile Stingray 3 Tree Tent sure looks like a lot of fun.

Tentstile Stingray 3

All you need to do is find three trees growing together in a roughly triangular formation, ratchet it up (just like you would a like a slackline), and you’ve got yourself a tent suspended in the air.

It’s probably a lot like cliff camping — though  suspect it’s a little easier to pitch a Tentsile than a portaledge.

Check out the whole Tentsile gallery on Flickr.

[Via Outside Magazine.]

The Complete John Muir Trail Gear List

The Complete John Muir Trail Gear List

Preparation is Key to the Success of Any Adventure …

… and a large part of my preparation for this adventure went into figuring out what pieces of gear I needed to carry with me for 221 miles while keeping my pack weight at or below 30 pounds. Here, then, is my complete John Muir Trail gear list, broken up into somewhat arbitrary categories.

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BioLite BaseCamp Stove on Kickstarter

Last year I reviewed the BioLite CampStove. I thought it was a great way to cook food, boil water, and charge your electronic devices in the backcountry, although it was a bit heavy to replace the trusted combo of my JetBoil and Goal Zero Nomad.

Now, the folks at BioLite are Kickstarting a new, larger strove they’re calling the BioLite BaseCamp Stove.

BioLite BaseCamp Stove
Image courtesy of BioLite via Kickstarter.

The functionality of the larger BaseCamp Stove is pretty much the same as with the CampStove. Both convert heat from burning biomass (typically dead wood already lying around the campsite) into electricity.

But where the CampStove is ideally suited for one or two people to use on a camping trip, the BaseCamp Stove provides a complete off-grid cooking and energy solution for larger groups.

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Whole Foods Sandwich Receipt

Eating a Whole Foods Sandwich: A Cautionary Tale

A Man Goes to Lunch and Nearly Gets Arrested

A True Story

I usually go home for lunch, but every so often time gets tight and that doesn’t work out. This happened the other day, so I decided to take a stroll down to the local Whole Foods and get a sandwich.

I’m typically not a sandwich guy, but the Whole Foods has a nice turkey & avocado (plus bacon) sandwich that’s pretty tasty. Not too long ago, they used to make a few of them in advance and stack them up on display with some other sandwiches. I liked this. I could step up to the counter, ask for that sandwich right there, have it wrapped up, and be on my way. Quick and easy.

They don’t make the turkey & avocado (with bacon) on spec any more, and the other pre-made sandwiches aren’t really to my taste. They’ll still make the turkey & avocado (with bacon) sandwich, but now it’s called the Mt. Lowe (after one of the local mountains) and you have to order it special.

Sure, getting a hand-made sandwich sounds nice, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass. Often, especially during the lunching hour, there’s a long line for sandwiches. Everyone’s getting custom-built creations, and the line moves slowly. Pretty much the opposite of quick and easy.

However, on this particular day, I got a little gift–there was no line for sandwiches. So I stepped up to the idle sandwich-making gent and ordered myself a Mt. Lowe. Continue reading