3am Coffee

As a kid, I was fortunate to be exposed to the outdoors by my family. My father’s side of the family enjoyed hunting as much as Grandpa River enjoyed the coast, so hook and bullets became a way of life for me.  Those traditions growing up were some of the best I had in my life and thankfully, they continue.

The catch

A trip to the coast came about as an open weekend that offered a chance to do some coastal fishing. With any chance to hit the Texas salt, I made my way to Goose Island State Park near Rockport.  I contacted my cousin to see if he would be open to joining.  While he lives only 20 miles away, our busy schedules make it difficult to find time to meet, let alone enough time for a good fishing trip. Luckily he was able to make it work for this endeavor.  After he confirmed we invited his dad (my uncle) and made our trip a little family affair!

As with any trip to the coast, the menu is a discussion of paramount importance. From breakfast tacos to some suspect summer sausage, the one
item that would make a lasting impression to me was the coffee. For most camping trips many would think coffee is a no brainer. What made this coffee special though was not just the warmth or the bitterness, but the conversations that took place while brewing it and the time shared while drinking it. Unfortunately, that coffee did nothing to aid in our weather forecast that weekend. The Texas summer is hot, humid, and just plain nasty. With little rain, it seems the entire countryside dries up. As we all met up at the park, it was talked about that this trip would be a night fishing trip, offering us a break from the oppressive sun and unrelenting heat. This offered us the best chance to not only enjoy the trip, but also catch fish. With a few hours to kill before we headed out, we packed our coolers and readied our gear.

ForEverlast Ray Guards
Stirring up the muck…

Although the bulk of our fishing was to be done at night, the last two hours of daylight offer some prime fish catching opportunities. So for the last few moments of light, we hit a flat that was known to house good sized reds. Once at the spot, we unloaded and walked on out. Wading in the Texas salt, you need to be aware of the creatures that can end a trip in one misstep. Many fishermen who wade know that with each step the water is muddied, making it virtually impossible to see what lies on the floor and that is exactly where the most painful of all creatures, the stingray, can get you. The best protection against them and their barbs are wading guards or boots; fishing shin guards if you will. These guards offer great protection in the event you were to step on a ray and have them react violently.  To feel the power of a hit is similar to that of your buddy giving you a slug punch, provided your buddy is Mike Tyson.  So with this knowledge, I strapped on my ForEverlast Shin Protectors and headed out along the flat while the others stayed behind to enjoy the sunset and began to get the baits ready.

After returning from my solo walk, and with the sun setting, poles rigged, baits cut, and lines out, we waited. As with any gathering of relatives, the topic of family came up. Catching up is always a fun thing. What we didn’t realize was that with all the catching up we were doing was not being interrupted by fish catching. Time after time, our baits were being taken by crabs and or perch, neither of which were redfish.  This went on for a few hours, and by the time we noticed it was 11pm and still no fish. We had been on the water at this spot for a few hours and no luck!

By 1 AM each of us were showing signs of being tired and frustrated. That is when my cousin’s line started to sing!  WHAM! His pole bent over and the line began to zing from the reel. Fish on!  It turned out to be a nice red, a good keeper. Our luck had turned! With a few more fish in the box the night began to drag. It was 3am by this time and we all showed signs of a long day. That is when I thought it would be a good idea for my secret weapon. As we loaded up the boat, my uncle and cousin both commented how they wished they had filled their thermoses with coffee for the night. Well with no thermos, I brought the next best thing- hot fresh camp coffee!

I call it camp coffee because the only time I drink it is when I’m camping. Having owned my MSR Pocket Rocket Stove for a few years, it is one of those items I enjoy being able to use in the field. When I asked my uncle if he wanted a cup of hot coffee his reply was nothing short of hilarious, “How do you plan doing that?” with as smart a tone as a 70 year old fisherman could muster. As I broke out my gear he seemed impressed (and a tad bit confused) as to how this would brew up coffee. As I brewed us both cups of coffee I explained exactly how the pocket rocket worked and how to mix the instant coffee and water together. Before we both knew it we had a nice cup of joe! As he enjoyed his camp coffee and I the same,  we talked about how a good cup of coffee seems to lift the spirits of those who are enjoying it. The conversation turned to other coffee stories that involved the outdoors. We kinda had our own version of “Coffee Talk.” Being a true lover of coffee, he told me how he once had a boat rigged with a coffee percolator, the original camp coffee. Again, this was not the “best” coffee, but is was the best cup of coffee we both had ever had at 3am after a long night of fishing.

As the hours moved on we managed to box a few more fish and before dawn headed in. I’ll soon forget the number of fish we landed that night, and I may soon forget how tired I felt when got back to the camper and crashed. However I won’t forget the time I enjoyed a 3 AM camp coffee with my uncle. And this my friends, are what memories are made of.

-Brad @ 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

Gear Giveaway Sweepstakes Update: Week One Winner Announced

Packaged up and ready to go! Congrats Tony!

Congratulations to Tony Valentine from the great state of Mississippi for winning the first prize, an MSR Reactor Stove System, in the ACK 2012 Outfit Your Adventure Gear Giveaway.

The contest runs through early August. Anyone can participate by simply “liking” our Facebook page and entering via a short form. What makes the contest unique is that if you share with your friends, you can obtain an unlimited amount of multiple entries increasing your chances of winning. Additionally, all participants have multiple chances of winning regardless if they have already won or not!

Prizes being offered include a Gregory Fury 24 Backpack, an NRS Pilot Knife, a Werner Camano Paddle and a GoPro Video Camera!

Click here to enter and good luck! – Roland @ACK

Firing it Up!

A look into micro-stoves and burners for camping and paddling trips

When I take off for an overnight paddling trip this time of the year, I set aside the granola bars, beef jerky and dried fruit for a warm hearty meal at the end of a long day and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. With limited cargo space and in some cases, time, I direct my attention to what I call micro-stoves — compact, lightweight and easy to use.

MSR Reactor Stove System
My personal favorite is the MSR Reactor Stove System mainly because it is a fast starter and is fuel-efficient. I also enjoy the fact that the heat is evenly distributed through an enclosure which also aids in performance under windy conditions. The system comes with it’s own pot which is great for solo trips but can easily feed up to 2 or 3 people.
Boil Time: < 3 minutes
Burn Time: 80 minutes (8-oz. canister)

MSR Whisper Lite Internationale Stove
If you prefer something that is lighter and more compact, the MSR Whisper Lite Internationale Stove is a great option. It burns a variety of fuels (white gas, kerosene, unleaded gas) giving you the ultimate in flexibility. The Shaker Jet technology makes it easy to clean and maintain throughout the duration of your trip.
Boil Time: 3 minutes (White Gas)
Burn Time: 110 minutes (20 oz. White Gas)

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
If you need something even lighter, smaller and more affordable than the MSR Whisper Lite Internationale Stove, try the MSR Pocket Rocket Stove. Don’t be fooled by its size though, the Pocket Rocket can deliver plenty of heat with precise flame adjustment. The tri-sectional Windclip windshield protects the flame and boosts efficiency.
Boil Time: < 3.5 minutes
Burn Time: 60 minutes (8-oz. canister)

Bleuet Pocket Stove
A stove in its simplest form, this little guy, and as the name implies, really does fit in your pocket. The Bleuet Pocket Stove may not be made for a 5-course meal but can certainly bring a small pot of water to boil within 8 minutes. The fuel is in a form of a cube that produces no visible smoke or sparks and does not liquefy. Due to it’s price, size and ease of use, it can also be used as part of your emergency kit or as a backup stove.
Boil Time: 8 minutes
Burn Time: 15 minutes (Solid Fuel Cube)

So how do you know which is best for you? It really depends on a variety considerations, such as how many people you will be cooking for, what type of food (freeze dried, canned or home made) and the conditions you’ll be cooking in. If your budget allows and you don’t mind a little extra weight, the MSR Reactor Stove System complete with it’s own custom designed pot is the probably one of the best all around portable micro-stoves.

Roland @ACK