The PowerMonkey Extreme is Better Than Your Phone Charger AND Waterproof

My phone charging from the battery.
My phone charging from the battery.

A coworker recently lent me their new PowerMonkey Extreme to try out for a camping trip. This portable solar charger and battery combo from Power Traveller is both waterproof and shockproof (waterproof for 30 minutes up to about 3 feet) making it the perfect tool for both paddlers and campers to keep electronics charged.

I have used the Goal Zero Nomad in the past and had charged my phone directly from the panels. I immediately noticed some big differences between the two, the biggest of which was the battery. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this battery is a powerhouse.

It houses a 9,000 mAh capacity Lithium Polymer battery which, in charging terms, translates to 6 iPhone charges or about 8-10 charges for my basic smartphone. I plugged my phone in on the drive home from work and found it fully charged not long after without even putting a dent in the battery’s charge. I was immediately impressed.

Swipe the pad to turn it on or off.
Swipe the pad to turn it on or off.

The battery  ‘on-off’ switch is touch operated and is best described as ‘slick’. Just swipe a finger across the friction control from left to right and up pops a neat LCD display which tells you how much charge is left in the battery. You can also activate a permanent ‘on’ feature which will negate the auto-shutoff that is programmed to occur after fully charging the device that’s connected. Ya.. this thing is smart.

 

 

So how does the battery stay charged?

The solar panel charging the battery pack.
The solar panel charging the battery pack.

To tell you the truth, for the week that I used it, I never put too large of a dent in the battery’s life. Out of the four cell phone charges, I knocked it down 2 bars out of five. I was able to return it to full charge using the solar panel after a few hours in the sun while I went out paddling. It is designed to fully charge the battery within 15 hours in optimum light conditions.

The solar panel is simple and easy to use and compared to the Goal Zero Nomad is more protected and compact, although a bit thicker as a result of the protective housing.

However, this isn’t the only way to charge the battery. It can also hook into a USB port or a universal main charger which comes standard with every kit. That’s right – the solar panel is not even close to your only option!

Charging my phone directly from the solar panels.
Charging my phone directly from the solar panels.

Solar-Ability

Let’s not forget about the solar panel after all this battery talk. The two folding panels offer 3 watts max output and can operate as a power source on it’s own as well using the same cables that are compatible with the battery.

It also comes with a Velco strap accessory that is perfect for attaching it directly to a tent or backpack which makes it perfect for hiking. Texting-addicted students might also enjoy hooking it to their backpack for portable power wherever they go…just a thought.

This video from Power Traveller demonstrates how it hooks into a hiker’s pack to charge electronics during the daylight adventures:

The many input and output ports compatible with the charger.
The many input and output ports compatible with the charger.

What Else?

The panel and battery aren’t all that the PowerMonkey includes. It comes with everything you need to get charging right out of the gate with 8 mobile device tips (I used the Micro USB to charge my cell) and four interchangeable heads for universal main charger made to fit wall outlets in the United Kingdom, USA, Europe and Australia.

It also includes a hard bodied black travel pouch which has room for all of the pieces in a nice compact size that won’t take up much room in a backpack. Yep, PowerTraveller seems to have thought of everything with their Power Monkey Extreme. It is certainly my new favorite portable charger.

Here are some more photos of me playing with it on an overnight camping trip:

 

 

5 Reasons Why You Won’t Regret Buying a Good Camp Chair

Old versus new.
Old versus new.

Despite camping once or twice a month, I never felt like it was worth investing in a quality camp chair. I had bought a pair of $5 brand-less chairs and had been using the one that hadn’t fully broken down after the first use. That was until I decided to take the plunge and buy one of the Kelty Mesh Folding Chairs.

I had been a bit scared of the price tag but was tired of my old cheap chair which continued to fall apart little by little. Well, all I can say is I don’t regret the purchase one bit and don’t think you will either. Here’s five reasons why:

The Kelty Mesh Folding Chair
The Kelty Mesh Folding Chair
  1. No more broken arm rests. Arm rests are the first thing to go on a poorly made chair because they have such little support.
  2. Hold cups, cans & bottles with confidence. Good quality camp chairs have good quality cup holders so you won’t have to worry about your drinking falling out or even breaking through the bottom.
  3. Features! A good quality camp chair will have some bells and whistles that you’ll never find in your $5 one. The Kelty Mesh Folding chair comes with adjustable arm rests, ventilated mesh & an attached bottle opener!
  4. Quality chairs are backed by quality manufacturers. If I had an issue with my Kelty chair I could call up their customer service team and ask for help. Not the case for my older one.
  5. Look like you know what you’re doing. You just don’t look camp ready when you pull out a folding chair that has trouble standing on it’s own four feet. Quality chairs show you’ve come prepared.

So there you have it, five reasons why I don’t think you’ll regret spending a little extra on your next camp chair. In addition to the Kelty Mesh Folding Chair, we also offer a number of other camp furniture options including the Wenzel Folding Banquet ChairEureka Directors Chair as well as many more.  We guarantee that any of them will beat that old $5 chair you bought.

Trail Curry in 15 Minutes

The setup.
The setup.

On my last camping trip I vowed to try something new for my camp cooking and quickly settled on the instant gourmet camping meals from Backpacker’s Pantry. What attracted me to these lightweight pouches was how easy they claimed to be – just add boiling water and eat! No heavy duty cooking gear required. So I picked up a couple & added in my Jetboil Stove and Bugaboo Camper Cookset (although I only needed the bowls & plates from it).

I decided to start with their Chicken Cashew Curry. My goal was to determine if the process was really as simple as they claimed it was, find out if I actually liked the food (duh!) and see if each package was enough to really served two people.

Adding water directly to the pouch.
Adding water directly to the pouch.

Combined with my Jetboil, the whole process was a breeze. I simply added some water to the cooking cup and turned up the burner. Two minutes later, I had boiling water ready to add to the dry mix. Too much boiling water as we would find out later.

The pouch that contains the dry food is what makes things so great. It’s more than just a plastic container meant to hold the food contents – in fact, it’s very functional! It includes a zip-lock top that keeps the heat in and a gusset bottom that makes it easy to stand up. I poured the boiling water directly into the free-standing pouch, zipped it up & let it sit for the required 13 minutes.

So a total of 15 minutes after starting (AND WITH ZERO DISHES TO CLEAN), I had ready to eat trail curry. But how did it taste?

Two bowl sized servings.
Two bowl sized servings.

As I prepared to serve the meal into our two bowls from GSI, I quickly realized that I had added a bit too much water (I should have measured more carefully). To remedy this I drained some out of the bag directly before dishing out the food. Once that was done, the food was ready to go! With close to a third of the food still left in the bag, our two 14 oz. bowls were filled almost to the top.

The final verdict on the taste? Two thumbs up! It was well spiced and had a decent amount of veggies and chicken mixed in. Next time I think I will be bringing a condiment bottle full of Sriracha and maybe some kind of fresh veggie to add to kick it up a notch.

My favorite thing about the entire experience? Only two dishes to clean AND that could’ve been avoided by eating directly out of the bag. That is certainly hard to beat! I will note that because the bag is so tall eating directly out of it would probably require a long utensil like this spoon from Optimus.

We carry a full line of Backpacker’s Pantry products and encourage you to check them out here. I know I certainly will be! See some more photos of the cooking experience below:

 

Ingeniously Designed Cooksets from GSI Outdoors

GSI LogoWhen it comes to GSI, one should expect ingenious design. Their portable, lightweight cooksets are made to fully equip campers based on their specific needs with integrated systems that pack the maximum amount of utility into the least amount of space. The most popular of these integrated systems is their Bugaboo line, which offers high performing products at a great value. Recently one ACK customer submitted a review about the Bugaboo Camper Cookset, which is designed to outfit up to four campers for backcountry eating. Here’s what he had to say:

The Bugaboo Camper Cookset
The Bugaboo Camper Cookset

“I have an older Bugaboo set. It was just OK. I purchased the new Bugaboo camper set. I just spent 18 days in the Boundary Waters with this set. The improvement to the cooking set is amazing. The pots are of heavier construction and the handles are now the best I have ever used. The cup within a cup design with measuring marks is great. The new lids for the pots is what all sets have been missing, they are fantastic. The carry bag also being a sink made clean up a breeze. I could not be happier with my new set.” – Mickeal

If you’re thinking about doing some camping this summer and need a new cooking solution, definitely give GSI a look!

 

 

Bring the Summertime Tunes Outside with Waterproof Audio Accessories

The Award Winning Eco Terra
The Award Winning Eco Terra

Get ready to enjoy summer while you take your tunes along with you. Eco X Gear has a couple of great options including the Eco Terra Waterproof Audio System and Audio Eco Extreme Speaker Case.

ACK Customer C.W. Goetz is enjoying his Eco Terra and had this review of it to share:

Plenty of colors for the Speaker Case!
Plenty of colors for the Speaker Case!

“Well built, rugged and sounds very good.  Any more volume & bass enhancements would obviously require the size of the unit to be made larger which would make it impractical to pack in a canoe for tripping.  It’s perfect as is and functions as advertised. I’ts certainly the best waterproof boombox on the market. Love it!”

Cross-Over Kayak ‘Fuses’ Touring & Whitewater Ability

Pyranha's Fusion River Tour
Pyranha’s Fusion River Tour

Meant to perform in both white-water and flat water, cross-over kayaks are popular for their versatility. One such cross-over kayak is Pyranha’s Fusion River Tour complete with a drop skeg, plenty of storage for weekend camping trips & two different outfitting options specific to your intended usage. We came across this customer review from Michael E. and just had to share! Here is what he had to say:

“This is the first kayak I’ve owned and I am very happy I found ACK to get it from. The boat arrived shipped in 4 layers of protection!!! Yesterday was my first outing with it. I was working harder…but could keep up with the touring boats in speed without breaking a sweat. You just need to use proper paddling form using your whole body not just your arms. Once I dropped the skeg it ran like a dream and though I could see it plowing the water it ran smooth and quiet. We had thunderheads move in on use leaving us paddling into the wind but at no time did the wind want to pick up the bow. Very nice ride and great workout.”

See more about the Fusion in the following video:

Versa Paddle Great Tool for Diablo Kayaks – Customer Review

The hybrid kayak/paddleboards from Diablo Paddlesports have been making a big splash here at ACK and especially among our local kayak fishing customers who like to fish calm fresh water & saltwater flats. That’s why we were very excited when we picked up Sawyer’s new 3-in-1 Versa paddle, which functions as a kayak paddle, SUP paddle & push pole. Recently, one of our Houston store customers submitted the following review of how the Versa paddle performed with his Diablo Adios kayak. Here’s what he had to say:

The Sawyer Versa Trident Paddle
The Sawyer Versa Trident Paddle

I recently added a Diablo Adios to the fleet and as a consequence, needed a SUP paddle to get around. My dream paddle would: work as a SUP, convert to a traditional kayak paddle, be a push pole in the shallows and be available as a stake out stick as well. That sounds more like a dream than realistic requirements! Tom Flemons with Diablo showed me a broad range of choices at the Houston ACK Demo Day. I settled on a high tech / high dollar choice: the Sawyer Versa Trident. Great thanks go to Dave Graves at ACK-Houston for help in ordering and tolerating my impatience prior to delivery.

So here is the review:
This is my first encounter with a carbon fiber shaft + carbon fiber paddle. The space age materials rock! Blade and shaft stiffness translate to really moving through the water. Similar with Werner, I suppose. The wood inserts in the paddle add some weight. They look pretty but I would probably trade them for less weight and increased durability in our marsh. Most of my paddling is in less than 2 feet of water along salt marshes and shorelines. I generally don’t need to paddle great distances but fight constant wind.

SUP Paddle Review: Set up as a SUP Paddle, the Trident really pushes water. The non-traditional shape worried me in pictures: would I be able to maneuver as well as with a standard “shovel” paddle? The answer is yes and no. Paddling and turning is actually a bit easier with the trident shape. When the blade is further from the board edge, it catches maximum water. This makes positioning exceptionally easy. The trade off is less raw power in a touring set up.

Versa Paddle, Kayak Ready
Versa Paddle, Kayak Ready

Kayak Paddle Review: The Trident has a quick lock system that allows you to take off handle and replace it with a second trident shaped blade. Voila! You now have a traditional sit down kayak paddle in your hands. This is a great convenience for my needs. I will often cruise flats with a wind at my back in SUP mode looking for fish. Then I need to get back to my launch site with a facing wind. Not much fun standing, to say the least. Being able to convert to a traditional kayak paddle confuguration really makes the Trident a valuable tool. As a sit down paddle, it has less cup to the blade than you would like and tends to twist a bit with strong strokes. With that said, paddling the Adios in a sitting position is a perfectly vialbe alternative wit this paddle and my speed is good.

Versa Paddle, Push Pole & SUP Ready
Versa Paddle, Push Pole & SUP Ready

Push Pole Review: Dave Graves graciously suggested that I protect the pretty wood handle on the SUP extension before using it as a push pole. Two dollars of commercial neoprene, some glue and electric tape covered the wood well. This matters for my, as there are plenty of oysters in my marsh and I dread the thought of shredding a $500 paddle with oyster rash! and WOW this is where the Versa Trident shines. I can plane my Adios across a mere inch or two of water by turning the SUP upside down and going to push pole mode. Perfect for getting into grass, across flats and positioning for the perfect fly cast. It doesn’t work as a stake out stick, so I still carry one.

Bottom Line: Like EVERYTHING in the paddle world, the Versa Trident has a number of trade offs. It is neither the best touring SUP paddle nor traditional kayak paddle on the market. But its quality and design make it a reasonable alternative for both. Where it shines is in shallow water real life fishing conditions. My real need is to slip quietly along a grassy shoreline looking for tailing reds in shallow water. I drag and whell more than cross open water. I want to be able to stop and turn easily. The Versa Trident fits that requirement perfectly. The telescoping extension makes it a good tool for big craft (i.e. Hobie Pro Anglers) in shallow water where peddling may be a challenge. It is costly but worth the investment to carry one tool for three purposes.

Tight lines,
Midcoast Mark

Bugaboo Backpacker Cookset – Employee Review

ACK Employee Colter MacKenzie took a three day weekend as part of ACK’s Go Play Day Initiative to get employees adventuring outside and he hit some campsites by the lake with some new gear. One of these items included the Bugaboo Backpacker Cookset from GSI Outdoors and he wanted to share his thoughts about the product here:

The Cookset.
The Cookset.

I really found that my Bugaboo Backpacker Cookset performed well on this trip. It has cups, mugs, plates, a boiling pot, and a frying pan, all of which fit together into a collapsible water bucket. It is compact and very lightweight. This thing is a must have for backpackers!

The Bugaboo Camper Cookset in action.
The Bugaboo Camper Cookset in action.

It does everything. I used it to boil water for dinner, then added noodles to the water and finally strained it with the built in strainer. The lid is made of rubber so it doesn’t get hot and it fits on the frying pan as well as the boiling pot. The mugs were great as well – they kept my coffee hot longer than expected and came with lids that have drinking spouts built in. It also includes a collapsible pot gripper, a sturdy handle which fits on the frying pan as well as the boiling pot. I give it a 8 out of 10, the only downside being how difficult it was to clean the mugs using the outside liner as a sink, forcing me to store it wet. Still, I definitely recommend giving it a look if you’re considering some backpacking that involves camp cooking!

Solar Photon 2 – Employee Review

ACK Employee Colter MacKenzie took a three day weekend as part of ACK’s Go Play Day Initiative to get employees adventuring outside and he hit some campsites by the lake with some new gear. One of these items included the Solar Photon 2 Tent from Terra Nova and he wanted to share his thoughts about the product here:

The Solar Photon 2
The Solar Photon 2

The Solar Photon 2 was by far my favorite tent used on the trip (the other tent being a Kelty Trail Ridge 4). This insanely lightweight, compact tent was so easy to put up and seemed to be very well thought out. The tri-pole support design was unique and it’s easy set-up impressed me. It comes with 15 micro stakes that to my surprise were incredibly effective. I found that you only need 10 of them for the tent, so there are 5 spares. Other than the fact that the stakes were so small and could be lost easily, I want this technology with all the tents I use in the future. The fabric of this tent was seriously mind blowing. It was so thin and light, yet it seemed very strong and rigid. It was easy to put up although the staking process seemed to take the longest due to the fact it has 10 points of contact with the ground. As the wind howled the tent didn’t budge, no flapping or shaking, it was solid.

Once inside this tent I quickly noticed it was a lot less spacious than our Trail Ridge 4, obviously, but it seemed ok for a two person tent but I still felt that it was difficult to move around inside once all the bedding was in place. The interior is a vibrant yellow which was amazing in the morning when the sun came up because it gave the inside of the tent a nice yellow glow. I would recommend this tent to anyone who is looking for a ultra-light backpacking tent for a winter or summer environment. The tent was warm at night and breathed very well in the morning, I never got too hot or too cold inside. There was also more than enough room for 2 people once we laid down. I give this tent a 10 out of 10 because I was so impressed with the design and technology. It truly made the camping experience a bit less stressful knowing this thing wasn’t going anywhere no matter how hard the wind blew.

See more about the Solar Photon 2 Tent in this video from Terra Nova:

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak – Customer Review

Looking for some portability in your kayak? ACK customer Chris purchased this AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements and highly recommends it for anyone interested in flatwater paddling or event overnight backpacking trips! Here’s what he had to say:

Inflated AdvancedFrame
Inflated AdvancedFrame

“Have used this for exploring small lakes and for inland marine (Puget Sound). Design and construction are excellent. The coaming is not continuous so there is a leak at front center, even if you use a spray skirt, which is probably why it is not recommended for big water. With the Backbone installed, cruises easily at 2.8 mph and without much of a push to 3.3 mph. The fastest I could get was 4.5 mph and that’s putting out quite a bow wake.

All packed away!
All packed away!

The storage space is sufficient for overnight travel if you’re into ultralight backpacking; I would not hesitate to take this boat on an overnight. Easy to assemble/inflate and deflate, about 10 mins to fully assembled and about the same to put it back into the bag. Nice boat.”