S.H.O.V.E.L — The Open-Source, All-Purpose Spork

Semi-Horned Oblong Versatile Eating Ladle

From the good folks at SparkFun, best known as an (excellent) online electronics shop, comes the S.H.O.V.E.L, a cool, slightly offbeat eating utensil.

The S.H.O.V.E.L is a sturdy, titanium fork/spoon combo, complete with a serrated cutting edge (that works really well) and bottle opener along with a good amount (six feet) of red paracord wrapped around the handle.

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John Muir Trail

Another Great John Muir Trail Report

On August 9, 2014 hiker Allison Nadler completed a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail.

It took her 15 days, and the trail conditions she encountered were pretty different from what I experienced when I hiked the JMT in 2012.

She’ll be posting her trail journal at Trail to Summit over the next few weeks. She just posted day one yesterday, and it’s a great read. I’m looking forward to the rest!

And while you’re there, check out the rest of her site. It’s full of great tips, recipes, and techniques for backcountry adventuring.



The Exos 58 in Action

On Pack Weight: How to Lighten Your Pack

One of the most surreal moments I had while hiking the JMT came at the very end. As I descended the trail from Mt. Whitney, many hikers were ascending, and many of these wore big, gear-stuffed packs like the Osprey Aether 70. It wasn’t a pack I’d seen too many times on my hike, and these folks wearing it looked like they were really struggling under the weight of such a heavy pack.

Every so often one of these folks and I would start up a little trail chatter. I’d ask what they were doing, and nearly every one answered they were doing an overnight to Mt. Whitney. It seemed like a pretty big pack to carry for an overnight trip.

My pack, on the other hand, which I’d had on my back for upwards of 12 hours a day for the past 13 days, was an Osprey Exos 58. It weighed no more than 30 pounds but carried everything I needed for nearly two weeks of hiking.

The Aether on the right. The Exos on the left.
The Aether on the left. The Exos on the right. Photos via Osprey.

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Taking on the World

Taking on the World

The Next Adventure

As you likely know, I really enjoyed my solo hike of the John Muir Trail in 2012. But even though I enjoyed it, I really missed my family during my two weeks on the trail.

So when I started thinking about my next adventure, I wanted to do something that I could try with the entire family. None of the regular family trips seemed grand enough, though.

After some conversations with my wife, we decided to go big. Real big. Think global proportions big.

That’s right, starting August 19, our family of four will be departing the United States to begin our year-long trip around the world.

And you are hereby invited and encouraged to follow along with us at Taking on the World.

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.

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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.]