Find Some Relaxation Under The Shade of the Kelty Noah’s Tarp

Noah's Tarp on Beach - ACK
The Noah’s Tarp 9 providing some shade.

ACK Web Developer Jeremy Arntz is one of the company’s most frequent paddlers who is typically found on the water at Austin’s Lake Travis once or twice a week. Recently, he landed a new piece of gear and wanted to share his excitement about it – the Kelty Noah’s Tarp. See what he had to say:

Take Your Time And Enjoy The Outdoors With the Protection of the Kelty Noahs Tarp

It may sound weird that one of my favorite pieces of paddling gear is the Kelty Noah’s Tarp 9. However, as much as I love paddling, it’s also nice to relax near the water and to do that you need something to shelter yourself from the sun and elements. The Noah’s tarp is compact and light weight – both important factors for kayaking. When combined with a pair of Kelty Staff Poles and a cheap rubber mallet the whole kit weighs only 4 pounds and easily fits into the front hatch of my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160 with plenty room left over for the rest of my gear. As the sun shifts during the day, only minor adjustments of the tarp are needed to maximize shade. Adding a Nite Ize Figure 9 small line tightener to the mix makes line adjustments even easier.

It has plenty of loops and grommets to make different configurations possible. So far, I’ve found the “Flying Diamond” (pictured) to work best for my needs. However you choose to use it, the Noah’s Tarp provides a light weight and versatile way to escape the elements and comes in three sizes 9, 12, and 16 feet.

Some Elements Can’t Be Beat

The tarp is great, but it isn’t made to handle every condition. For example, setup is fairly easy for two people to get done in minutes but on a windy day – not so much. My wife and I had such a hard time one outing that we decided against setting it up all together. It makes me worried about trying to set it up on my own, although I am sure that with some practice it could be done. In addition, the tarp could be thicker to completely block the sun. I would compare it to the material of a tent in the fact that if you are laying under it and staring straight up, you can see the sun right through.

Still, the Noah’s tarp has quickly become my new favorite paddling accessory. There really isn’t anything more relaxing after a long paddle than pulling up to a sandy beach and relaxing in the shade. For all of you Austin area paddlers, keep an eye out for my wife and I laying under it around Lake Travis next time you go out. (Hint: Our favorite spot is Windy Point!)



It’s Getting Hot Out There! – Check Out H20 Options for Any Sized Adventure

The temperature are creeping up and it’s crucial you stay hydrated matter what you’re doing, whether it be a light run or a multi-day back country excursion.

There are a wide variety of ways for you to get the H2O you need. Check out these ACK videos as we give a break down of essential products for Hydration on Longer AdventuresHydration when Hiking & Running and Hydration at Basecamp then comment below and tell us how YOU stay hydrated outside!

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.


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:



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:


Outfit Your Expedition with Exped Equipment

Heads up, Outdoor EXPEDition-ers, you can now find a new line of products at ACK to Outfit Your Adventure from Exped, an innovative company that’s been designing products for the casual hiker to the technical climber since 1997. Swiss based, Exped has slowly been making a name for themselves in the States and we aren’t surprised if you haven’t heard of them.

Exped prides themselves in their long list of industry firsts, awards and patents and have a history in ingenious simplicity in all of their products. Need some examples? The Exped Orion Tent is one of their first creations. The Orion combines the styles of a tunnel tent with that of a dome tent into what they call a ridge tunnel tent. If you’re not familiar with the different styles of tents, what this really means is that the Orion combines usable space and freestanding capability unlike most tents. If you’re looking for a new lightweight tent with plenty of storage space for gear that can also handle some tough weather – check this one out.

And anyone can see the innovation of Exped’s DreamWalker Sleeping Bag. Ok, sure, it kind of looks like an oversized snuggie and you’re probably asking yourself why anyone would think to bring this on a real camping trip. First impressions aside, this thing is packed with function that we bet anyone can find useful out in the field. Just watch this video:

Of course, these aren’t the only two products from Exped that we have picked up, and we encourage you to familiarize yourself with our full line of tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, sleeping pads, footprints, camping pillows and more here. I hope that you’re as excited as we are to find these unique products at and be sure to comment below with any Exped experiences you’ve had in the past or questions about the new gear!

Joseph @ACK

In Focus: the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

ACK’s Steve Messana has taken quite a… shine… to the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp and wanted to show its unique features off in a new “In Focus:” video. This headlamp is pretty nifty with its different beams for different situations, its versatility and the convenient lock-out feature but the video is definitely the best way to get the whole picture so check it out and don’t hesitate to leave us a comment with your questions or general comments.

-Trent @ ACK

Trip Report: Big Bend National Park

That’s Rob!

Rob Abercrombie of our ACK Customer Relationship Team had a busy December helping customers find the perfect outdoor holiday gift. By the end of the month, he managed to find his own: a hiking trip through the South Loop of Big Bend National Park. Here is his report.

I camped out in Big Bend for a week, 12/16-12/21, something I had been wanting to do since moving here and driving through West Texas. I took 385S and drove through the small town of Marathon, and stayed the first night at the Chisos Basin camp ground. I probably saw the most wildlife camping in this populated area than I did in the backcountry. There was a gray fox that visited my site and grey tailed deer were scattered about early in the morning.

I hiked the South Rim trail and obtained a backcountry permit for a solo campsite on top of the Tule Mountains. The South Rim is about a 12 mile loop, with stunning views that go 200 miles into Mexico with out seeing any signs of pavement. Staying that night on the Tule Mountain ridge was windy, but also great for access to wake up before 5am and hike the mile and half trail to the top Emory Peak (7,800′), the highest point in the Chisos Mountains and the park. I got up and watched the sunrise over Mexico and there are not enough adjectives to describe the color change. The sunrise and sunset are the main attraction to why anyone would ever visit a desert.

The Rio Grande River.

Afterwards I stayed at the Rio Grande Village in a primitive site called the Gravel Pitt. The site was off-road and secluded and I could tell that it would be better to sleep in the car rather than the ground… scorpion country.  The site offered more stunning views over the Sierra Del Carmen mountains. I also visited the nearby hot springs, because what could be better than walking around in 90 degree weather and hoping in a natural pool of 108 degree water? You can rinse/cool off in the Rio Grande, but if you venture past the deepest part of the river, then technically you have crossed the boarder and can be fined up to 5,000 dollars and thrown in jail.  To my surprise parts of the Rio Grande are barely deep enough to cover the top of your boot.

The last couple days I bumped around the Santa Clara Canyon and walked around in Terlingua, a town full of river guides and transient hippies, and I can’t wait to do another visit. I highly recommend going at least once in your life, the stars are outstanding, the chance of running into a mountain lion are good, and if you enjoy trails that cover all types of terrain- then Big Bend is the place to be. Remember to stock up on plenty of water and bring a good camera. I took all photos using an iPhone with an HDR-pro app and instagram.

Viva La Big Bend.  

Rob @ACK

Never Fear, We’ve Got Winter Gear

Feels like Winter is well on it’s way! For us down in Texas that means some chilly 40 degree temperatures (at night), but we know our northern customers might be getting some of that cold white powdery stuff called snow that we don’t see too often. Well, just because the snow doesn’t fall on us every winter doesn’t mean we aren’t familiar with how to deal with it. Of course, paddlers will need to start layering up and eventually (yes, we hate saying this) give your watercraft some hibernation time during the coldest parts of the season. Good storage practices will allow your kayak, canoe or paddleboard to be fresh when spring finally rolls around. But for those who are looking to enjoy some outdoor, off the water, fun during the snowy season, this article is for you.

Its All About Traction

Yaktrax Pro Winter Shoe Traction Device

Warmth is always going to be your primary concern during this time of the season but once you get the right clothes, sleeping bag, tent and whatever else you need to keep the feeling in all of your appendages (might we recommend some Grabbers?), your next concern should be traction. Just because the ground is covered in snow and ice doesn’t mean you have to be slipping and sliding all over the place! Whether you’re trekking through the snow, hiking up to your favorite ski/snowboard spot, making your way to your favorite paddling destination (before the water freezes up) or headed on a winter camping adventure, we’ve got the gear that’ll keep you and your tent, standing up right.

Traverse Snow Covered Trails & Steep Slopes with Ease

MSR Lightning Axis Snowshoe

Snow shouldn’t keep you locked up all winter, and we’ve got the appropriate gear for everyone, whether you’re looking to go on a long distance expedition during a flurry or just to jog through your snow covered neighborhood. The first thing you’ll want to consider is the severity of the weather and difficulty of your activity. Deep snow can become a big hazard as feet will sink and possibly ‘post hole’ (getting stuck like a post in the snow) and it can cover dangerous objects or uneven surfaces.

For activities that require you to face deep snows, you need flotation. Much like floating on water, flotation for snow trekking refers to limiting how far your feet sink beneath the snow. Snowshoes are the way to achieve this because they distribute your weight over a larger area. Not only do they provide flotation, but they will provide the necessary traction and stability you need to keep you on your feet.

On the other hand, if you’re simply planning a hike or run after a light snow then a traction device will suffice, ranging from things like Yaktrax for casual of outings and even everyday situations to Hillsound or Kahtoola traction devices and crampons for runners and hikers. These devices will all slide over your personal footwear and add the traction you need to continue doing what you love. These won’t, however, provide the flotation you can only get from snow shoes.

ToughStake Snow Tent Stake

Anchor’s Away!

It’s a phrase winter campers should become familiar with because anchoring down your tent in the snow is a lot different than doing it in solid ground. You should start with tent stakes designed specifically for the snow and then consider if you’ll need an actual snow anchor. Again, what you need is going to be based on the severity of the weather. In most cases, a set of good snow stakes are going to to be all it takes to keep your tent standing up right through the night. Specific designs from a variety of our favorite manufacturers like MSR and ToughStake will ensure your tent preforms as it should. When camping through a severe winter storm, it might be a good idea to use the stakes in tandem with snow anchors, like the MSR picket or fluke or Mountain Hardware snow anchor. These devices will provide extra support and stability to ensure you can get a full night’s sleep.

Carry Your Toys the Right Way

We couldn’t go without reminding you that we’ve been expanding our rack inventory a lot lately and even have added some Ski and Snowboard trunk carriers and roof rack accessories. This includes stuff from customer favorites like Thule and Yakima so you know you’re getting quality products. So if your winter season involves skiing or snowboarding, we’ve got the means to transport your toys.

This winter, don’t feel forced to hibernate. Instead, load up for camping gear and strap on your snow shoes because the best time to enjoy the outdoors is all year long! - Joseph@ACK

Mother’s Day 2012 – Give the Gift of the Great Outdoors

Ahhhh Mom, no doubt she deserves it all but many would agree that simply spending quality time with her is all she really wants. This Mother’s Day, consider doing something a little different for Mom by giving her the gift of the great outdoors. We’re not just talking gear here but more so the experience of the outdoors. Even in your own backyard you can create memories which both of you will cherish forever. Need some ideas? We’ve got them. Not only from our own personal experiences but also from what our customers have shared with us.

Brunch on the River
Imagine the look on your mom’s face when you tell her that for Mother’s Day, you’ll be having brunch on a river sandbar or maybe deep within a secluded lake cove. Set her up on her own kayak for independence or make it easy for her by paddling a tandem, load up some gear for a makeshift day use base camp, food, drinks and a couple of camp chairs and take her down a river. Map out a public and easily accessible sandbar, and then have her sit back and relax while you cook up some Eggs Benedict with a side of fresh fruit. The sights, sounds and delicious food are more than enough but the quality time with you is what it’s really all about.

Take Her Wildlife Viewing
Whether on the lake, ocean or river, do some research on the best places to paddle where you may encounter wildlife you wouldn’t expect to typically see on a day to day basis. As you probably know, kayaks provide the mobility and stealthiness you need to encounter what one may never see on foot or motorboat. Bring a camera and let her click away while you maneuver the kayak or canoe.

Dine Outdoors!
Water not her thing? Instead of battling long lines and crowds at the restaurants, pack a lunch and go for a hike. Surely there’s got to be a hidden waterfall or relaxing stream she’s never seen before. Enjoy an early lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon sitting back with nothing better to do than enjoy your surroundings with one of the most special persons in your life.

Enjoy What the City Has to Offer (Outside)
So maybe Mom isn’t so adventurous or would rather stay in town. If a river runs through the city, paddle through or find a small lake or pond and let her experience the skyline from a different perspective. Paddle to an urban park for an early evening picnic and enjoy the sunset on your way back to your launch point.

One of many popular PFDs for women the Stohlquist Cruiser

Fine, Stay Home
Okay, so maybe the idea of staying home on a lazy Sunday is all she really wants. Have someone keep her distracted while you set up a hammock in her backyard or porch. Grab her favorite book, a pitcher of tea, a bouquet of flowers and neatly place it all on a small garden table next to the hammock — no need to explain any further.

This Mother’s Day, think differently with the gift of the great outdoors. Not able to spend this Mother’s Day with mom? Click here for some great gift ideas! We ship, and we ship fast but don’t forget Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away. Outdoor adventure may not be for every Mom but even then, you may be surprised. Enjoy this very special day and let us know what you did (or plan to do).

Oh, and Moms, if you are reading this, here is a hint, print or email this short article to your children, maybe they’ll get the hint — wink, wink!

Happy Mother’s Day! – Roland @ACK