Getting Wild 4 Backcountry

Can I just take a minute to gush about how delightful it is to have Amble around again? How much more magical being outside is with my partner-in-adventure? It’s almost too much. Campfires feel warmer, sleeping bags are snugglier, and trails always seem to get a little messier.

She was born to be an outdoor pup, and as she’s getting bigger it’s always remained a top priority to make sure she’s eating right. Amble has been grain-free since she was a puppy, and gets spoiled with fresh-cooked eggs, high protein meals, and a likely excess of healthy treats. When given the opportunity to let her do some gear testing of her own, I was a little skeptical about letting her try a new food – until I did some research on Merrick Pet Food. They use freeze-dried raw meat and locally sourced produce – all grown in the USA – from family farms. Plus, everything from raw ingredients to the final packaged product are produced under the same roof. I was sold.

But how exactly do you let a dog gear-test food?photo 2

I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to tell how Amble felt about the food. Would she react differently? Would I notice anything else? Who knew. Then I opened up her Pacific Catch kibble, fished out a little bit of freeze-dried salmon, and used it as bait to get her to go through her usual commands. After the treat disappeared into her mouth, she stared at me with the most intent, borderline-crazed expression I have ever witnessed. Clearly, she wanted more.

The second clue that Merrick got the Amble stamp of approval came when I introduced wet food into the mix. Amble has always been very into food, but once I mixed a few spoonfuls of Alpine Rabbit Stew into her dinner, she totally went bananas. She spent 20 solid minutes licking her bowl clean (it was totally clean after about 45 seconds). When she was done eating, she came right over to me, sat down, and kept looking from me to the countertop where the food was.

In that moment it became very clear to me how the whole “letting your dog gear test food” concept works out.

20150607-DSC0265120150607-DSC02695 [Read more…]

The Essential Guide to Winter Camping Booze

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year, and friends are right at the top of my list. Since moving out to Colorado at the beginning of the year, I haven’t been able to spend very much time with my family – so my friends out here have become my tribe. To celebrate the holiday weekend, I’m packing up my Stanley thermos, and heading out to Shelf Road to climb with a crew of fellas from back in my Tallahassee Rock Gym days.

But winter camping isn’t always my thing.

The cold gets to me sometimes. But I know the season for camping trips is probably cooling down a bit, so I couldn’t pass up the invite to climb in perfect 60º weather only a few hours away. Aside from my climbing gear and camping equipment, I have one priority for this trip: drinks. These fellas know how to have a good time, so I put together three essential drinks everyone should bring along during winter adventures.

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Hot Chocolate with Irish Cream

This is possibly my all-time favorite winter drink. I’ve always adored hot chocolate, so the next progression was clearly to introduce liquor to the mix. I added three shots of Saint Brendan’s Irish cream liqueur (aka Bailey’s for poor people) to the Stanley one-handed thermos filled with water and three scoops of hot chocolate mix – bonus points if you add a shot of whiskey and some coffee! And of course, top it all off with an offensively large mound of heavy whipped cream for good measure.

Okay, so the whipped cream might not be practical for the outdoors – but the one-handed thermos definitely is. This thing keeps drinks hot for up to six hours, tags along easy everywhere from adventures to my morning commute, and doesn’t spill even a single drop.

 A Flask Full of WhiskeyDSC_8046

When you’re hiking around with a pack full of ropes and gear, there isn’t an abundance of space for fancy winter libations – which is where the 8 oz. Stanley Adventure flask (which is on sale right now!) comes into play. I bought a small 12 oz. bottle of my favorite whiskey, Bulleit Rye, and loaded it into my flask to keep on hand for moments when the crew needs a pick-me-up, or when I’m in need of a victory swig after a climb. A simple flask packs easy, doesn’t add a lot of weight to your load, and can add a dash of adult-enjoyment to any beverage. Perfect stocking stuffer idea, anyone? I know. 

 A Six-Pack of Seasonal Beer

The easiest drink for camping, ever, period, is beer. It’s plentiful, cheap, and always refreshing after a day of exploring. Winter is a great season for bringing beer because you know it’ll stay cold – there’s nothing worse than a hot, skunky beer when you’re camping in the summertime. For our Shelf Road adventures, my buddy Jeff decided to pick up a six-pack of New Belgium’s seasonal winter ale. He describes it as “a white IPA, so it’s not as hoppy – and it has a really clean taste with a smooth finish. Honestly it’s the perfect winter beer.”

I let Jeff borrow my Stanley vacuum-sealed pint glass, which features a built-in bottle opener on the lid! This might be my favorite Stanley product right now, since the big mouth opening and spacious 16 oz. capacity are ideal for optimized beverage size.
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Bottoms up, y’all!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Stanley as part of their Give The Gift of #Stanleyness campaign. Thoughts (and genius beverage suggestions) are 100% mine, as always. If you want to help support The Morning Fresh, click those links – Eddie Bauer is currently offering free shipping on all orders over $49!

Gear Review: SportRx Prescription Active Eyewear

I’ve never been blind – but I definitely don’t see as well as I should. In fact, my vision seems to be getting worse and worse. Throughout the years, I’ve amassed a collection of Ray-Bans eyeglasses that I wear whenever I’m going to be spending hours sitting in front of my computer meeting deadlines and writing stories.

But I never thought about expanding that to the world of sunglasses.

A shot from the top of the First Flat Iron in Boulder, CO with my SportRx Sunglasses

Admittedly, wearing prescription lenses helps quite a bit with my vision when I’m driving, but that’s mostly at night. Plus, I have about a dozen cheap-o sunglasses from Outdoor Retailer swag bags and press trips – why invest in a pair of prescription sunglasses?

As Rob from SportRx puts it: “If you had to pick a sense to lose forever, it wouldn’t be vision – but it’s the first one people choose to compromise.[Read more…]

A Guide to Climbing Balms

Here’s the thing about climbers: we have pretty gnarly hands. We spend all day grappling with slopers, shredding our skin on crimps, and cranking on underclings. From sandstone to granite (and yeah, sometimes plastic), our hands take a beating on a daily basis. Our most abused body parts also happen to be crucial for climbing – so climbers need to take proper care of our hands.

During my yearlong climbing trip, and throughout my five years spent training indoors and crushing outside, I’ve tested dozens of hand care products. My relationship with climbing balm has been through bleeding flaps of skin, fingertips cracked from the dry cold, random burns from campfires, blood blisters, you name it. This comprehensive review has been a long time in the making, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on what I consider to be the top three salve brands in the climbing industry: ClimbOn!, Joshua Tree, and Giddy.

Climbing balm review with ClimbOn!, Joshua Tree, and Giddy. [Read more…]

Bamboo Black Magic Leggings: tasc performance review

For the adventurous, sometimes dirtbagging, sometimes ladylike woman, there is one wardrobe staple that is a non-negotiable must: black leggings. It’s the one item in your closet (or dirty hamper in your van) that can effortlessly go from boulder fields to a downtown speakeasy. I’ve put holes in more pairs of cheap cotton leggings than I can count, so when tasc Performance contacted me with a challenge to test out their women’s apparel, I responded with an eager “game on!tasc Performance leggings.

Here’s the thing about tasc: Everything is made with bamboo. My NOLA crop leggings are made with fabric concocted from 55% organic cotton, 35% viscose from bamboo, and 10% elastane. In normal people terms, that translates to: insanely soft, ridiculously comfortable, and impossibly form-fitting. The design strikes a perfect balance between athletic performance and stylishness.

As a gal who often wears leggings for days (really, weeks) on end without washing them, my first priority was to see how long I could go wearing tasc leggings before the butt area fell victim to the dreaded saggy-butt syndrome. My typical leggings will last a maximum of three days before they lose their hip-hugging shape.

These. leggings. will. not. get. saggy.  Out on a hike with my tasc performance leggings.

During my first test, I wore the leggings for four days straight, then took a few days off before wearing them for two more days before they needed to be washed (because I use my pants as napkins). Then, I just started wearing them with reckless abandon – from hikes around Colorado to airport hopping in San Diego. Ten+ days of wearing these leggings and they fit as snug as they did when I first put them on.

Excerpts from my e-mails to tasc about the leggings include snippets like, “HOW DO THESE LEGGINGS NOT STRETCH OUT IN THE BUTT? It almost makes me mad that I can’t get them to get saggy.” Also, “y’all crafted up some black magic.” Ladies, it just doesn’t make sense.

What makes tasc Performance apparel seem like a voodoo trick is the bamboo technology they perfected. By ditching the usual polyester material used in athletic clothing, they solved major issues like skin irritation, breathability, odor, and that whole sagging issue I keep bringing up. The bamboo also offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun and moisture wicking.Rocking my tasc performance gear on a press trip to San Diego.

While I usually pay around $10 for leggings, the tasc leggings proved themselves worthy of the ~$50 investment. Their durability has taken me from climbing trips to city slicking without a single snag, and I am confident that I’ll have them in my closet for years.

Bonus points: tasc Performance make everything you need to stay cozy (and looking good) while adventuring. I also have the Intensity Sports Bra – which I liked, but didn’t totally love the style of, a pair of well-fitted socks that magically don’t make my feet stink, and a tank top (pictured above) that feels like I’m wrapped in a cloud every time I wear it. I’m currently coveting their grey Contour Fleece.

Disclosure: tasc Performance provided me with a complimentary package of clothing for gear-testing purposes – but as always, the opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

Review: Stonelick’s YOSE Crash Pads for Bouldering

Climbing at Moe's Valley in Utah with the Stonelick YOSE crash pad.One of the most profound and important pieces of climbing gear in my yearlong-trip arsenal is my crash pad. Tasked with keeping me from busting myself apart while popping from crimps and punting off boulders, crash pads are as vital to my bouldering as my trusty climbing shoes. Niko and I have three different crash pads provided to us by Stonelick for our yearlong trip, but my go-to pad is the Yose.

It all starts with the hinge-step system, Stonelick’s signature innovative technology. Eliminating any soft spots or creasing, the Tetris-style folding technique ensures that I have an even landing every time. Visiting new bouldering areas on a weekly basis means that I am constantly battling new elements, and frequently falling off problems, so having a crash pad set-up I can trust is crucial to helping me keep my confidence when I’m in try-hard mode. One of the most valuable things I’ve gained on this trip is confidence in topping out boulders, which I credit largely to having an awesome spotter (thanks, Niko!) and reliable crash pads.

Aside from being a generally primo landing zone, the Yose has a few features that set it apart from any other crash pad I’ve totted around a boulder field. The biggest item for me is the thickly padded waist belt. I’m a tiny gal, so when I hoist a big ‘ole crash pad full of gear on my back, it quickly becomes a top-heavy, unbalanced mess. Having a comfortable support system to help distribute and manage the weight of the pad helps me carry it around with ease – and Stonelick gets bonus points for making a waist strap system that actually accommodates my miniscule hips. But on a brutally honest note: I still totally knock myself over all the time bumping into trees and rocks. I’m the worst.

A crew of Stonelick crash pads out at Red Rocks in Las Vegas.

Another great crash pad amenity offered by the Yose is a dual-flap adjustable closure that makes my closed crash pad a perfect slotted vestibule for stuffing in my gear, snacks, extra layers, and camera gear. I never have to worry about stuff falling out while I’m hopping around in search of climbs. During the entire nine months I’ve spent lugging my gear around in my Yose thus far, I have yet to drop a single item while tromping from boulder to boulder.

With features like a ballistic cover, reinforced corners, and a hardy, multi-layer foam interior, the construction of Stonelick pads is something that has always made this brand stand out from the crowd in my opinion. Spotting one out at a climbing area is somewhat of a rarity, so it’s always great when climbers fall on my Stonelick pads and compliment their superb structure and durability. Bonus points: These beautiful pads are made in the USA – which I love.

Climbing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown in Georgia with a Stonelick crash pad.Stonelick crash pads, made in the USA!

What Would I Change? Honestly, there isn’t much I would tinker with if I was to “rebuild” the Yose. The only thing I don’t love about the crash pad is the metal hooks used to close up the pad, but I really don’t mind ‘em too much. I’d make the metal hooks a bit fatter/thicker so they’re easier to maneuver, but the current system works perfectly fine in terms of keeping my crash pad shut.  

Bottom line: I won’t lie, Stonelick crash pads can cost a tad more than other options, but the extra dollars are totally worth the investment. After nine solid months of a non-stop climbing trip, my Yose is still in excellent condition, and the quality foam has proven itself time and time again. I’ve frayed a few corners with my overuse, and have begun to pull a few stitching out from daily use, but I am truly impressed that the Yose has been able to keep up with my bouldering adventures. From what I figure, Niko and I have put in the amount of climbing days in nine months that most folks clock in a few years, so these pads will last you a long, long time.

Even better? The two folks behind Stonelick, Arone and Diana, are downright awesome people who love climbing, and have a deep passion for what they’re doing. I love supporting Stonelick because I know who is making my pads, and can climb with confidence knowing they were built with love by folks who get out there and beat up their gear as much as I do.

Want to get your hands on a sweet Stonelick Yose crash pad?
You can grab one on the Stonelick online store for $279.
Be sure to tell ‘em I sent ya!

Swoob Sports Bra Review: A Pocketed Solution to Stashing Your iPhone (and chapstick and keys!)

It’s a situation that every woman encounters: you’re clad head to toe in spandex workout gear, with no pockets – and no where to put your stuff. Leaving home without your iPhone, keys, chapstick, and a bit of cash sometimes isn’t an option, so we do what we must – we stick our stuff straight in between our boobs. And inevitably, it gets sweaty. Gross.

I always bring my iPhone out on adventures to snap shots of my climbing, hiking, etc. – and I am totally guilty of sweaty-boob-phone syndrome. It just happens.

Swoob Fit LogoSwoob stepped in to remedy the dilemma women face when we are pocket-less. Kyle Muir of Swoob designed sports bras that feature multiple discrete pockets in easily concealed, out-of-the-way places. After a few mishaps trying to get a package sent through Canadian mail customs, I received an Idona Racerback Sports Bra at Outdoor Retailer in August. First impressions? Super soft fabric, sturdy bra structure – and it’s cute. In a male-dominated industry, finding feminine and functional outdoor apparel often feels like a big victory for me.

I wore the Swoob Idona Racerback frequently for day-to-day wear, which was very comfortable, but my favorite testing ground for this sports bra was Rocky Mountain National Park. I went climbing there a few times during my monthlong Colorado adventures, and wore my Swoob sports bra every time. Best part? No more sweaty iPhone!

The pockets immediately became useful during the hour-long hike up to the Emerald Lake boulders. It’s a really scenic hike, so I love to take pictures, but there’s no way I’d carry my heavy DSLR camera during that grueling uphill battle. Being able to conveniently tuck my iPhone in my pocketed sports bra gave me easy access when I wanted to snap a quick shot without disrupting the balance of the bulky crash pad I was lugging up the mountains.

It was great to always have my iPhone on hand when I wanted to take climbing and nature photos, and I never had to worry about where it was while wandering around the boulder field. The main phone-sized pocket in the Idona Racerback it’s ideally sized, allowing for quick sliding in and out, but tight enough to keep my iPhone secure. And most importantly, the bra itself was very comfortable while climbing.Climbing in my pocketed Swoob Fit sports bra at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The only flaw I found in the Swoob sports bra was with the sizing. I got a size Small, which was almost a little too small for my tiny body. I’m fairly flat-chested, and I know a lot of gals who wear typically wear a small, but would probably be a bit squished in this brand’s “small.” Maybe offer an extra small as well instead?

Swoob Idona sports bra with pockets.Overall, the Swoob pocketed sports bra is my new go-to when I’m wearing an outfit that would otherwise render me without a place to stow away my iPhone. It has also come in handy for stashing chapstick, my van key, and cash while I’m on the trail or out and about in town.

The Idona Racerback ($45) is thicker and seems sturdier than the Luana Cross Strap ($35). I think the Idona is ideal for women who need more support, so I’d love to try the Luana instead – with thinner, sleeker straps, it seems better suited for ladies who don’t really need much support. The Idona doesn’t always blend in conspicuously with my street clothes, but I think the Luana would fit in well with any casual or on-the-go outfit.

I think this brand has a lot of potential for success amongst outdoorsy ladies. Swoob’s shop has everything from really cute racer tanks and leggings to pullover sweatshirts and organic lip balm. The bras are sold at a pretty standard price-point for quality sports bras, and everyone I’ve met from the company is really down to earth and stoked on their brand – smells like a recipe for success to me.

Want more from Swoob?
Check them out on: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

* I received a complimentary sports bra from Swoob, but all opinions expressed here are, as always, my own! 

Gear Review: Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes with Omni-Freeze Zero technology

After surviving my first backpacking trip up and down the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls wearing only last year’s Powerdrain shoes from Columbia Sportswear last summer, I feel in love with the sneakers – and wore them to death.

By the time Columbia came out with their new generation of Powerdrains, my original pair had been through the ultimate test: three months as my sole go-to hiking shoes during life on the road. The only real visible wear were two holes – two soft spots on the toe area. Fittingly, this was one of the major improvements made to the new Powerdrain Cools, making me a very happy camper.

The Powerdrain Cool is a hybrid shoe that features the epic Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated cooling technology, which earned the Gear of the Year 2013 award from National Geographic Adventure. From the moment I unwrapped mine, they have been put through a gauntlet of outdoor tests, which they passed with flying colors.

Columbia Sportswear's Powerdrain Cool shoe with OmniFreeze Zero Technology.

On our first day together, I took my new purple shoes out for a trek up a chossy hillside where I was helping build a trail across a frigid creek crossing. I was immediately smug with the product when I watched the rest of my crew struggle to delicately balance from slippery rock to slippery rock while I just stomped right in and waded across. Omni-Grip “holds tight on any terrain”? Check.

As the product description promises, the Powerdrains moved seamlessly from the water crossing to the crumbly “trail.” I dug my way up a sandy wash, tromped across rocky piles, and admired the shoes as they collected a healthy layer of outdoor dirtiness. I’ve been wearing them nearly every day since, and they continue to perform.

This new version offers a few improvements over the old design – some of which I remember actually discussing with the head of design during my trip to Sedona last year, earning Columbia bonus points for really listening to user feedback. They beefed up the ankle padding at the back of the shoe, reinforced a few hot spots where the shoes often saw quick deterioration, and slimmed down the overall design for a sleeker (and for ladies, more feminine) look. Two thumbs up all around.Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.

The only issue with the new Powerdrain Cools has been a seemingly irreversible staining of the inner Omni-Freeze Zero lining due to my latest habit of spending weeks on end playing in red sanded deserts. Oops. I also made a slight mistake in wearing the Powerdrain Cool shoes while hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park – the deep sand dunes kept relentlessly filling the drains in my shoes, leaving my feet surrounded by piles of sand. Double oops!

Want to get your hands on a pair of Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes? You can scoop all three colors on their official website, or you can head to a local retailer to get your hands on these versatile and reliable sneakers. I would highly recommend the Powerdrain Cools for folks who usually experience a variety of terrains during an adventure, or for someone who is into those wild mud races – I’ve heard nothing but good things from many users who wear them to those events.

Dirtbag Beta: 5 Essential Items for Life on the Road

I must admit, adjusting to living in a van has been a much easier process than I ever imagined. Reducing my belongings to fit within a Sprinter wasn’t nearly as painful as expected, and falling into a daily groove happened practically overnight. After nearly three months of living on the road, I’ve discovered a handful of products that have made my day-to-day van life musings much easier. From solar-powered speakers to a cozy sleeping pad, here are five items I’m currently digging, and would highly suggest for anyone planning extended adventures:

The GSI Camp Kitchen Set, provided to us by our sponsor, TheGearHouse.1. GSI Kitchen Set

When packing for my yearlong trip, I set aside many of my used kitchen utensils to sacrifice for van cooking – which seemed like a great idea until TheGearHouse sent me the GSI Camp Kitchen Set, and totally rocked my world. The hard-sided zip-case includes an expandable plastic spatula and ladle spoon, a miniature metal grater, one plastic cutting board, two travel sized containers (ideal for something like olive oil), a dual salt-and-pepper container, a felt dish towel, and a small sponge.

The retractable spatula, ladle, and small cutting boards proved to be useful tools we now use on a daily basis, which all earn bonus points for not taking up a lot of space in the van. My favorite item by far is the small grater – Niko and I have used it for everything from carrots to cheddar cheese. My only complaint about the GSI Kitchen Set is that the sponge is rather flimsy. Without ever using it, the scrubber top totally came off from the soft sponge piece – but a sponge is the kind of item you’d only use a few times before replacing anyways.

Overall, I would recommend the GSI Kitchen Set for anyone planning on spending a lot of time cooking without a kitchen. Ideal for the camper who likes to eat more than just canned spaghetti, this compact case full of practical utensils allows adventurers to whip up nearly any meal your appetite desires. We’ve made cauliflower and pepper omelets, salmon with roasted pears, steak and egg breakfast burritos, and countless other meals in our van using our GSI Kitchen Set. This specific kitchen set is no longer available from TheGearHouse, but you can check out a variety of similar camp cooking utensils here.

2. Goal Zero Rock Out Speakers

The Goal Zero Rock Out speakers, jammin' in the van.When we bought our big yellow van, there was one “small” issue that ended up being a pretty critical problem for long nights of driving: all of the speakers are blown. Fortunately, Goal Zero solved our silent drives by providing us with two Rock Out speakers – which can be tethered together for optimal sound. Our two speakers have become our primary source of entertainment while traversing the great American roads, and we’ve encountered many folks out at climbing areas who love their Rock Out speakers. Remember that these speakers are quite small, so there’s a limit on what they can do. Blasting dubstep on full blast in the woods won’t work out very well – but that’s 100% unnecessary to begin with.

I’m not a fan of the zipped style of the speaker – you have to unzip it to turn it on/off, and also to connect it to your iPod – but y’all ought to keep an eye out for Goal Zero’s upcoming new solar speaker that totally squashes that issue. I got a sneak peak of the new speakers while visiting the Goal Zero headquarters a few weeks ago, and the sound quality of the new speakers is incredible.

3. ClimbOn’s Bast Apotheke Deodorant

Let’s face it: living in a van is an undeniably stinky affair. Unless you’re shacked up in an RV with a sweet shower set-up, you’ll likely be going long stretches between proper bathing. Niko and I can get a particularly foul funk going when we’ve been out adventuring for too long, and the Old Spice deodorant we previously used just wasn’t getting the job done – but to be honest, I had doubts that the dainty-looking natural deodorant ClimbOn sent me from their Bast Apotheke line would cure my stank either. (I was so wrong.)

ClimbOn's Bast Apotheke deodorant is my FAVORITE.We received two varieties of the Bast Apotheka deodorant, jasmine and eucalyptus. Frankly, they both smell like jasmine to me, but it’s my favorite scent so I was thrilled. We slathered our pits with the creamy bar, and put it straight to the test during a week of climbing at Hueco Tanks. To my surprise, it worked – not just well, but fantastically. This stuff keeps your pits smelling like flowers all day, and it’s made from nothing but the good stuff. No worries about funky cancer-causing metals or chemicals seeping through your sweat – ClimbOn’s deodorant is climber-tested, hippie-approved perfectionNiko and I are about to run out, and we are seriously in panic mode.

4. Teton Sports Sleeping Pad

Teton Sports velcro sleeping pads.While constructing the bed in our van, we planned to simply use a big of leftover foam from our local rock gym to provide us with a good night’s sleep. However, we quickly realized that the three-inch foam was not enough to cushion our aching climber bodies. We considered splurging on Tempurpedic memory foam – but decided to try out our Teton Sports sleeping pads first. The pads served us well while camping in a tent, and became a permanent fixture of our van bedding.

I love my Teton Sports ComfortLite sleeping pad, period. They’re the perfect size for Niko and I (and come in multiple lengths for campers of all shapes), inflate relatively easily, provide plentiful support while sleeping, and stay inflated. I haven’t re-inflated mine in weeks, and it still provides me with a sturdy yet cozy sleep every night.

Whether you’re snoozing in a tent, on a cot, or in the comfort of a big yellow Sprinter van, the Teton Sports sleeping pads will keep your body warm and cushioned throughout the night.

5. Joby GorillaTorch Tripod Light

The Joby Gorilla light, a wonderful accessory for living on the road.You’ve already heard me rave about my preferred method of illuminating the van, Goal Zero’s Light-A-Life lanterns – but sometimes we find ourselves needing a more versatile light source that’s easier to move around. Niko received the Joby GorillaTorch Tripod Light as a graduation gift, and it ended up being a fantastic tool for the van. Three magnetic feet at the bottom of each leg easily stick to any metal surface on the van interior, and the light’s swivel head and adjustable dimmer enable us to get light in hard to reach places. We’ve even stuck it out on the exterior of the van while cooking or rearranging gear.

Really, I wish Goal Zero made a solar-powered version of this product, but the Joby Tripod Light uses AA batteries, so I can just power it from my Goal Zero Guide 10 battery pack anyways.

There you have it, folks. Five items I’d be a rather unsatisfied van-dweller without. Living in a van comes with a few basic requirements: facilitation for proper cooking, good jams during stretches between climbing destinations, tools for addressing our unbearable stench, and a cozy place to rest after a long day of adventuring – and these five products satisfy all of the above.

Stay tuned for next month’s gear round up,
which will spotlight five of my favorite pieces of climbing gear!

Goal Zero’s Light-A-Life Solar Accessories: The Ultimate Way to Illuminate Adventures

When Goal Zero officially became one of the Simply Adventure trip sponsors, I was beside myself with excitement about powering the van through solar equipment. It is incredibly valuable to be able to charge my laptop and camera while I’m on the road, but my favorite piece of Goal Zero gear isn’t a heavy duty generator or sweet portable solar panel: it’s a small, simple LED light.

The Goal Zero Light-A-Life is a modestly sized solar lantern that we currently power from our Extreme 350 generator. These incredible 3-watt LED lights turned my dim van into a bright home. We use it when we’re cooking, lounging in the evenings, and on those frequent occasions when we’re frantically searching for something we lost in the van.

Niko uses the Goal Zero Light-A-Life to illuminate our kitchen space in the van while cooking at night.The Goal Zero Light-A-Life powers our van cooking adventures every night.

The first time I plugged in a Light-A-Life, I was blown away by how powerful they are. We used the van’s cabin lights on the first night of the trip, and once we finally opened up the Light-A-Life, it was like entering a whole new world.

We use two linked together in the van, but a single Light-A-Life easily lights up the main interior. You can link up to eight lights together. A small carabineer located on top of the Light-A-Life makes it easy to hang up no matter where you are.

The Goal Zero Light-A-LifeAnd they’re durable. Before realizing we needed a better way of securing them to the beams along the van roof, our Light-A-Lights took many hard falls while we were bumping up and down dirt roads in Joshua Tree. One dirt road was shaky enough to eventually dislodge the LED bulb from the lantern, but it was completely fine even after taking a tumble onto the floor. According to Goal Zero, they aren’t quite waterproof, but will still work even in a steady downpour.

The only thing I would change about the Light-A-Life LED solar lantern is making them comptabile with a Guide 10 battery pack. I’m no engineer, but since the Light-A-Life takes up so little energy, it seems like it should be able to be powered by something more accessible than a big ‘ole generator. We lugged ours out to a picnic table the other night, and the Extreme 350 is so heavy that it almost made taking the lights out too much of a chore.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Light-A-Life LED laterns to anyone with a Goal Zero solar set-up – and retailing at $39.99, they’re surprisingly affordable. They’re the perfect accessory for your solar gear, and make life on the road so much more convenient. We use ours every day, and would be totally in the dark without it.