A Holiday Gift Guide for Dirtbag Climbers

So, what do you buy for that dirt-caked, vagabond person on your shopping list who responds “I want to live in a van” when you ask them what they want to do when they grow up? You could waste your money and purchase a gift that encourages them to get a real job and start planning for the future – or you could embrace their dirtbag lifestyle, which is totally what you ought to do.

These items have all been put through my yearlong adventure living in a van to climb across the country, so they’re 100% dirtbag approved. Give this guide a gander, and spoil the dirtbag in your life with a thoughtful and practical holiday gift:

Kendal Jackson BagsA Homemade, One-of-a-Kind Chalk Bag

Since the beginning of my climbing career, I’ve had one chalk bag – a Kendal Jackson Bags original, a beige canvas sack with little earth-colored mushroom fabric accents. It’s my lucky charm when I climb. Kendal Jackson is a wonderful friend of mine from Tampa, who makes beautifully crafted bags that are sold everywhere from Four Bridges Outfitters in Tennessee to Rock Ventures in New York. You can order one of his already made creations, or you can make a request for custom work. With so many generic chalk bags dangling from harnesses, climbing with a one-of-a-kind is something to be proud of – and you’re supporting a small, family-owned, made-with-love business. Win-win, all around. (And stay tuned for a Kendal Jackson Bags giveaway soon!)

Climbing at Red River Gorge with my Yellow 108 Travis Beanie.Something to Keep Your Noggin Warm

Climbers spend a lot of time exposed to the elements. We all claim to love cold weather for prime sending conditions – but life in freezing temperatures can get pretty miserable. I was gifted a Yellow 108’s Travis Beanie at the beginning of my yearlong climbing trip, and I’ve been wearing it religiously ever since. Made with 30% hemp and 70% recycled organic cotton/hemp, this beanie is as cozy as it is stylish – and when you live in a van, you need all the style points you can muster. Keep your ears warm while covering hair that hasn’t been washed in over a week? Yes, please!

Bonus points: The products made by Yellow 108 use either recycled or salvaged.

 

A Way to Stay Charged – For Free

Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar charging kit.Here’s the thing about dirtbags: We’re really cheap, and usually broke. Spending money on anything is just not on our to-do list, which makes solar power quite enticing – the sun is free! Goal Zero makes a huge selection of products that help you harness the sun’s rays and turn them into energy that can power everything from phones and laptops to blenders and electric razors (both true stories, Niko loves making fruit smoothies in the van, and our buddy Spenser from The RV Project once used our solar battery to power a haircut in Squamish). Our entire van is powered by Goal Zero products, and we absolutely adore it all. For a first-time solar user, I would highly recommend the Nomad 7 Solar Panel. Solar power is the gift that keeps on giving!

Hiking the Annie U White trail in Boulder with the Topo Designs Klettersack.A Sack for All Your Gear

Again, I’ll reiterate something about dirtbags: We don’t always look too good. We’ll wear the same tatter tank tops for years, refuse to buy new gear, and rarely even register how disheveled we often look. Topo Designs creates the perfect products to sneakily offer climbers a way to combine style with functionality. My favorite pack is the Klettersack, a sleek piece that takes aesthetic cues from vintage design while providing durable portable storage for everything from laptops and electronics to camping supplies and climbing shoes.

My favorite part about Topo Designs? The products are proudly made in the USA – right in beautiful Colorado – and the folks behind the brand are all wonderful.

 

Billabong Brady Slippers.Cozy Non-Hiking Shoes to Warm Your Toes

If you hear a climber mention “prime sending conditions,” it probably means that the temperatures are dipping far below what normal folks would consider pleasant. After jamming frozen toes into down-sized climbing shoes all day, there’s nothing like relaxing and restoring blood flow to your feet with a pair of cozy boots. Surfdome recently sent me a pair of Billabong Brady Slippers, and these comfy slippers make my toes feel like royalty. They admittedly aren’t the most durable pair of fluffy boots, but check out this collection of boots for some snug inspiration from brands like The North Face and Sorel. Bonus points if you spoil the dirtbag in your life with one of those pairs of boots that have battery-powered heaters built in!

Something to Sip by the Fire

This gift suggestion is something that won’t be accompanied by a specific product endorsement – but the overall message here is this: dirtbags love campfires, and dirtbags really love sipping booze by that fire. The most obvious choice here is whiskey, but a six-pack of quality craft beer is just as enjoyable. Bonus points if you get something brewed or distilled locally!

Stocking Stuffers:

ClimbOn Lip Balm – For the climber that already uses a hand balm, step up their game with a little lovin’ for their lips.
PROBAR – Cookie dough flavored nutrition bar that packs 20 grams of protein (and it’s organic and vegan), need I say more? Probar is currently my favorite energizing snack on the trail.
Action Wipes – No words needed. Dirtbags are, well, dirty. Help ‘em stay somewhat presentable for those rare occasions when we need to interact with the rest of society.

What are you buying for the dirtbag on your shopping list?
Dirtbags, what do YOU want for the holidays?

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.

Caught Red-Handed in a J-Tree Parking Lot: The First Simply Adventure Video

I still owe you a ton of updates from our time in Hueco Tanks and Arizona, but I couldn’t resist sharing this ridiculous video of Niko and I. Before you watch, here’s a backstory on how this little film came to be:

So after a very windy day of climbing at Joshua Tree National Park, Niko and I retreated back to van in a relatively deserted parking lot. As we were packing up, a curious chick came clamoring towards the van with all sorts of questions about who we were, what we were doing, and how we had outfitted our van. After a few quick introductions, we ended up spending over an hour cooped in the van talking about our trip.

This photo by Alexandra Klos (KlosUpPictures.com) perfectly captures the essence of my dirtbaggery.

The chick ended up being this awesome photographer who was visiting two friends in Los Angeles hoping to discover exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She had spent the entire week raving to her two friends about the idea of buying a vehicle to live in while she traveled the country to photograph the outdoors – and totally took our chance encounter as a sign. By the end of our little chat, she was convinced that fate was telling her to just do it.

Stoked on our trip, she asked if she could film a little and take some photos of the van – and this is what she ended up with:

*Warning: I look like a TOTAL dirtbag bum. It ain’t pretty, folks.

[vimeo clip_id=”60238062″]

Big thanks to Alexandra Klos for putting this sweet video together on the fly, it was definitely a much appreciated ego-boost to hear y’all tell us we were “iconic,” however untrue that may be! If you want to check out more from Klos Up Pictures, visit her Vimeo page, or head over to the Klos Up Pictures website , which is currently under construction, but I’m sure will soon be exploding with incredible photography.

But seriously. I look like such a bum. If it makes anyone feel better, the day after this photo, Niko and I rented a cheap motel room and I totally showered. I promise.

PS: Alexandra, we better see you out on the road living in your own van soon!
You’ve go the spirit and the guts to make it happen, and we hope you follow your dreams!

Simply Adventure update: Sponsorships, funding, and buying the van!

Wow. At first, Janaury 25th felt like it was a lifetime away, but as our departure date approaches, everything is beginning to feel a lot more real. And by real, I mean a truly overwhelming cacophony of excitement, terror, and pressure.

In 102 days, Niko and I will be officially beginning
the yearlong journey of Simply Adventure.

And, Simply Adventure has a lot of updates to share! So here goes:

Trip Planning: The most exciting item we’re planning to purchase for the trip (besides the van) is a giant map where we’ll start to plan out our route. We already have the first few months outlined: first, a jaunt to Houston to visit our climber friend Teresa and go climb at Reimer’s Ranch – followed by a few weeks in Hueco Tanks. Afterwards, we’ll head south of the border for what promises to be an amazing multi-pitch experience at El Potrero Chico in Mexico.

After Mexico, our plans are very vague – so we want your input! If you’ve got a local crag we must climb at, want to offer us a shower and/or place to park the van for an evening, or just want to meet up for some adventuring, let us know! We’ll be ironing out our plans more solidly over the next month.

Sponsorship: In the past few weeks, we’ve been connecting with a lot of fantastic outdoor brands that have been eager to lend a hand in supporting our mission to spread the word of conservation, outdoor recreation, and land stewardship. We’ve received wonderful gear sponsorships from Teton Sports and Columbia Sportswear, and our climbing lifestyle is being supported by Stonelick crash pads, ClimbOn! products, and Tallahassee Rock Gym. Over the weekend, we secured another sponsor:

The Simply Adventure project is officially
powered by Goal Zero solar energy!

Documenting and sharing a yearlong adventure while living out of a van is going to be no easy task – but thanks to Goal Zero, we’ll never be left in the dark. Our cameras, computers, and all our electronic gear will be kept charged for the entire journey – so you’ll always be able to connect with us! We are beside ourselves with excitement, thank you Goal Zero!

The Van: Our self-imposed deadline for getting our Sprinter is quickly approaching, so I’m headed down to Miami next week to see what I can do about turning my 2009 Scion tC into a Sprinter van. (Anyone want to buy my Scion? But really.) You can expect a huge, excited blog post once we finally have our new home. I can’t believe I’m going to be living in a van for a year – Niko always talked about it when we first started dating, and I told him he was nuts. Now here I am, selling everything I own to move into a Sprinter. Touché, Niko. [Read more…]

This week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel twitter chat recap – “Technology on the Trail”

After requesting any suggestions that the Adventure Travel Q&A chat community may have, we received a great inquiry about discussing the relationship between technology and the outdoors from Adam Nutting. The result was a great Twitter chat that generated plenty of opinions about topics like taking technology on the trail, favorite gear, and the merits of knowing how to navigate by compass when your GPS fails. We also had a few great guest appearances by awesome outdoor technology brands like Goal Zero, Pocket Ranger, and Point6 Socks.

Check out the conversation recap, and add your answers to the comments section!

Q1: What’s the role of technology in the outdoors?

[Read more…]