The Veggie Bullet Spiralizer

This is the trial shoot for a new project that we are undertaking.  The concept is called: "We use this one", where we explore the products and tools that we actually use on a day-to-day basis.  

Some things will be new-in-package while others will be reviewing stuff that we've been using for years.

We shot this weeks ago and I'm just getting to the edit now.  We plan to tighten up the formula, but this is a good look at the vision of what the series will look like.  

Klipsch Earbuds

I invested in the Klipsch X10i/X11i/X12i earbud a little over 3 years ago. I say "invested" because these babies go for over $400 after you include tax.

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It was a tough decision because of the price and I was really nervous about buying something that expensive without being able to check it out first.

I would generally assume that anyone that would spend that kind of money on earbuds to be a major audiophile who has a need for acoustic perfection. I do not fit that description at all!  

My purchase decision was based mostly on the shape of the earbuds themselves. The Klipsch X10i is the only earbud on the market that comfortably sits inside of my motorcycle helmet.  

Now that I have used these buds for a long enough period of time, I don't know how I ever lived without them!  From a sound perspective, they are far and away the best that I have ever heard, leaving both the standard and upgraded buds that are available from Apple in the dust.  They also leave my 3-year-old Shure buds behind when it comes to depth of bass.

The most impressive thing about these buds is the incredible range of individual instruments that I can now pick out. It's like listening to music again for the first time with almost my entire collection!

There are other inherent benefits to the shape as well. First, the choice to make the rubber tips oval instead of the usual round shape makes for a significantly more comfortable fit for long term use and noise elimination. Second, the lay flat design doesn't just fit a helmet, it allows for relatively comfortable use with the ear buried in a pillow. That means I can lie on my side to watch a movie on my iPhone as I'm falling asleep!

Overall, if you have the means, I highly recommend this product.

The Coolest Artwork Ever

When we got married in 2009, Susie's sisters gave us a gift in the form of a certificate entitling us to have artwork developed based on our own DNA.

The process was easy enough. The company, DNA11, sent us a swab kit.  We just swabbed the inside of our cheeks and returned the sample to them in Ottawa and they did the rest.

We decided to create a single canvas that had both of our DNA together. This single piece combines a part of each of us, much the same as the act of marriage.  It really was the perfect gift.  We've proudly showcased this piece in our living room for the past two and a half years.

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This year, we had a son.  Once again, Susie's sisters stepped up to the plate with a very generous gift in the form of DNA artwork from DNA11.  For this piece, we chose the same canvas mounting that we used for our original artwork.  We thought that the colour should be green, both to match his last name and to complement the red/blue of our existing artwork.

Susie is on the left in red while I am on the right in blue.  The green piece below is Hudson, our boy.

This company is great to deal with. They offer a wide variety of colours for your perusal but are more than happy to work with you to fulfil a vision. The red and blue that we chose are straight from their book of options.  In order to get the right green, they simply asked us to send in an image of the colours we were imagining. It took me a while to decide on the exact shade of green that we wanted, but a quick snap of the camera in my phone was all it took.

This wall is the artistic highlight of our home!

Hubba Hubba NX Tent

This time, I'm taking a look at my tent.  For Havasu, I carried a 6+ lbs two man tent.  The make and model for that tent can't even be found using web resources so I will assume that it has been discontinued or the manufacturer has rebranded.

In any case, I felt that the tent I was using was the proper size.  Big enough to fit two if needed, but perfectly comfortable for me alone.  I had originally been thinking that my ideal tent would be a one man tent, but I couldn't find an option quite big enough for a 6'3", 220lb guy.

Jon had picked up a 9lb four man tent on Kijiji so I figured that I wanted to come in around 4.5 lbs for a two man tent.  There are a few tents that fit that bill, but my height is fairly well proportioned and I need a tent that allows me to sit up straight and move around so, really I only had one option: the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.

I looked at my options locally, and the only retail shop that carries MSR gear in Toronto is Mountain Equipment Co-op.  Unfortunately, the price tag on the HP model is $445 CAN + tax, which I wasn't willing to part with.  

A few weeks of keeping my eye on eBay paid off and I won an auction for a significant discount.  

You will notice that it has a unique pole structure.  The poles are elastic joined so they snap in place very easily.  Also, it really is only one pole with a two three-way joins and a two-way join so anyone can figure out how to put it together in minutes, even with our instructions.

One major benefit to this tent is that the fly can stand independent of the tent itself so you can't use the tent alone, the tent with fly, or the fly all alone using the same set of poles.  I never thought I would have a use for the fly alone until I realized that I can use it as a light weight shade to bring with me to the park or even my balcony on hot summer days.  This afternoon, it was a perfect shelter for me, my wife, our two dogs, and our cat with plenty of room for everyone.

The floor space of the tent is almost completely available, unlike most tents where you are really only comfortable sitting in the centre and end up ducking in order to get near any of the corners.

Total weight of the entire tent is under 4 lbs so perfectly reasonable, even if it's just for me.  If there are two of us, we can actually compress the tent and fly and separate the poles and spikes and carry less than two pounds each.

It feels and looks well made.  I love it and can't wait for the next overnight to put it through it's paces.

Gear - Havasu

After months of talking about it, a crew of four of us are going on a hiking / camping trip in the Grand Canyon to see Havasu Falls.  If nothing else, the planning process has revived my passion for the outdoors.  I realize now that I haven't been on a multi-day camping trip since my brother and I went into Algonquin Park about 5 years ago.  It's been so long that I had to think back to who I've lent my gear to over the years.

Here is our planned itinerary:

  • Day 1: Travel ~ The four of us meet in Vegas and drive part way to the Grand Canyon, stopping for dinner in Kingman, AZ
  • Day 2: Hiking to Havasu Falls ~ Descending 2,400 ft over 10 Miles
  • Day 3: Bumming around the Falls ~ There are 4 waterfalls near the campgrounds
  • Day 4: Hiking back out and driving back to Vegas ~ Post trip celebration
  • Day 5: Travel ~ Back home

None of us are particularly hardcore hikers or campers so we've already had a lot of fun with the organization and trip preparation.  We even went to watch the Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk film at the Ontario Science Centre to get an idea of what we are in for.  The final frame of the film was a fade out of Havasu Falls!  

We are pretty well set for gear at this point.  Hiking shoes, tents, sleeping bags are all handled ... just a few more little details to iron out and we're on our way.

I thought I would run down my gear to give you an idea of what's in my pack.  All links are Amazon Affiliate links so purchasing through here will make a small contribution to the site.

Backpack: 

This is a solid backpack that has been on a lot of hikes over the years.  I have no idea where I bought it, but it has multiple compartments on the inside to separate your food from gear and it has loads of straps on the outside to secure things like sleeping bags or tents.  At 63L, It's way bigger than I need for this trip but it's so comfortable I will just waste the space.

Hydration System:

Leftover from my more serious mountain biking days I have this MULE that holds 3 litres of water.  This is the newest model so mine has a slightly different look, but it works great and can easily be work on front when the big pack is on my back.

Camp Stove:

The MSR Superfly is able to boil a litre of water in 3 minutes.  For our purposes, this little beast is perfect.

Sleeping Bag:

MEC Merlin -3C

I am stoked about this sleeping bag.  It is spec'd to be comfortable to -3C so the 6 degree nights ahead should be a breeze.  It weighs in at just over a pound and compresses down to the size of a large grapefruit.

Compression:

This sack gets my sleeping bag to a tiny size and also allows me to pack my clothes nice and small.  The nice added bonus is that it is waterproof so, no matter what the weather on the way in, I have a nice dry change of clothes and sleeping bag.

Air Mattress:

This is another component that has been with me on almost all of my trips over the years.  At 2 lbs this is a luxury well worth the added weight.  You simply roll it out and open the little knob and it self inflates.  Just a few breathes make the difference between a soft and hard bed for any comfort level you want.  Mine is actually the older burgundy colour, but you get the idea.

Pocket Knife:

Two if us picked these up for the trip.  At $15 this little guy packs a lot of value.  420HC stainless steel blade and a glass / resin handle make for a lightweight, yet effective, pocket knife.  It works beautifully one handed and looks pretty cool to boot.

We are using a small tent that was given to me and a larger tent that we found nearby from Kijiji.  The tent is one area that I would love to upgrade, just not for this trip.  I'm looking at doing a few solo trips this summer so I am considering buying the MSR Hubba HP as a long term solo investment.  It's a one-man tent, but it is unbelievably light and has been getting great reviews.  Unfortunately, no luck so far in finding one second hand and the $349.99 USD price tag is a little rich for my blood for a new one.

Water Purification:

Water Purifier Systems have been with me for years.  I've gone through a number of replaceable filters and I've never had any problems with this gem.  

That's it for the gear.  Of course, I will have some lightweight technical clothing and food to round out the pack weight.  My base weight right now, while carrying 3 litres of water, but without food beyond a few snacks and dry food packs is 32 lb.  It seems very comfortable to lift and wear, but may be a little heavy for the length of hike and difficulty of terrain that we are facing.  I've been told that, on a difficulty rating of 1-10, this hike is a solid 7.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are 4 of us so we will likely be able to spread some of the weight out, given that we are sharing a number of things.  I think the other guys should have slightly lower base weights as of today so, hopefully, we can all even out well under 30 lb each total weight.

Count down is on ... I don't think I'll get much sleep over the next few nights!

Cold Weather Apparel

This year I decided to upgrade my complete set of cold weather gear.  As I'm sure everyone knows, the key to being happy and warm in the coldest of conditions is layering to meet your requirements.  As a guy who occasionally walks to work in the winter and tries to get out snowboarding as much as possible, I wanted to make sure I could keep warm.

It was a tough decision because I've always wanted a Canada Goose jacket, which is by design a very warm, cold weather coat.  The issue is that it seems like everybody and their brother have a Canada Goose and I've never been one to blend in with the crowd.

Instead, I opted for a much more technical solution for my outdoor gear.  I went with a set of gear that absolutely had to be layered to be effective.

The starting point was a down sweater / mid layer that I fell in love with after being able to check out one that a friend of mine had acquired on a trip to Boston.  TheNorth Face Summit Series Thunder Jacket is a perfect mid-layer and shoulder season outdoor jacket.  This ultralight bad boy packs a lot of punch with 800 fill down.  And since it is down, it is very compressible so you can wear it or easily stow it in your pack if you know that you will be seeing temperature fluctuations.  While it is available in a variety of colours, I went for the standard winter black to draw any extra heat possible from the sun when not using my shell.  This jacket is actually the piece of gear that I got the most use of through this winter so the price tag of $300 is well worth the investment.

For my shell, I decided on the Arc'Teryx Stingray Jacket in Blue Sky colour.  I knew going in that I wanted lightweight and waterproof so I was buying GORETEX no matter which shell I chose.  After trying on a bunch of different brands and styles, the Stingray was the clear winner.  It had the best range of motion in the arms without having a bunch of extra fabric at your sides.  Then I did a little research. I've been looking at Arc'Teryx backpacks for a long time so I know the brand quite well.  One or their hallmarks is a special waterproof type of zipper.  This shell uses that zipper everywhere.  

I later learned that the shell is also great as a fringe season rain coat.  Water just seems to bead off of this thing.  And with my propensity to take some pretty impressive tumbles on the hill, I'm thrilled that I didn't have rips or scrapes in the fabric.  

On the hill or off the hill, this jacket adjusts to fit your needs.  The hood has special adjustments to fit a toque or a full helmet.  The helmet cover was a godsend while sitting in the wind at the top of the chairlift at Tremblant this year.  

I picked up a great helmet, made by the folks at Protec.  I knew that I wanted to ride with a helmet this year after taking a couple of solid smacks in the head last season.  In the off-season I got really lucky at a sample sale to find a model with built-in headphones!  The functionality is such that you have volume control and an instant mute without removing your gloves or mitts.  At first I was pretty nervous about the distraction but, on low volume, its a really nice touch.

For gloves, I went with another layered solution.  As a base, I turned, once again, to North Face for their Power Stretch glove.  This is a comfortable, moisture wicking, everyday glove that is good on it's own for down to minus five celsius or so.  It's also great for driving and going between meetings.  They are thin and easily fit into almost any pocket.

For cold weather, I opted for a set of Kombi Mitts that I picked up at Blue Mountain.  They have just enough room for the base gloves and are virtually wind-proof.  I've never been warmer on the slopes.  

I've also added a Tilley Endurables Montana winter hat.  It's a felt hat with a built-in ear warmer so it's both stylish and functional!  

Combining the Tilley hat with the Thunder Jacket with the Danner Striker II boots that I bought last year is a look that I affectionately call "The Urban Cowboy".  I think it's brilliant, but my wife absolutely hates it!

The one weakness in my system is a lighter base layer to use with the shell for days that aren't too cold, but I want to snowboard.  If anything, the Thunder Jacket is too warm on all of the greatest mountain days.  I got away with using a golf windbreaker as a base, but I need something better.  I'm considering a North Face Summit Series base layer, but need to do some more research before I decide.

Now that the end of the season has come I only wish I could have gotten out snowboarding a few more times.