Category Archives: gear review

Gear Review: SLXtreme iPhone 4/4s Case

Ok, this thing picked the perfect day to arrive. I helped fund this product on Kickstarter several months ago. This thing is a dream for outdoors folks who use technology in remote settings. Today, I was able to make weather-related decisions for our activities without fear of damaging my phone.

The SLXtreme case is waterproof (I shot video during a downpour today – it works), shock resistant, has a 2000mAh extended battery… AND it's got a solar panel on the back so you never run out of juice!

I believe retail for this cool case will be around $150.

Gear Review: Edelweiss O-Flex 10.2mm Rope

Ok, more accurately, this is a review in progress. A few ropes manufacturers have been coming out with new core designs that help the rope maintain its roundness, avoid soft spots, sheath slippage…

Could this be the answer for high usage programs?

This spring I decided to put their claims to the test. Besides my usual spool of gym line, I put an Edelweiss O-Flex rope at our climbing tower and high ropes course (approx. 7000 and 4000 participants respectively each year.) Five months into my field test, the difference is clear. My usual ropes have all been serviced to some extent – trimming off stretched sheath material, rolling and “milking” ropes to firm them up and round them…

The Edelweiss rope? Besides washing them, they're practically as firm and round as the day in April when I put them in service.

My verdict? There's still several months left in my fiscal year before I buy more rope, but I gotta say, the new Edelweiss rope is high on my list. It is more expensive on the front end, but being nearly maintenance free, plus saved labor makes up for it for me. As a bonus, it's available in bulk by the spool, or in 30m lengths, perfect when you just need to pick up one rope and don't like the waste of cutting a longer rope down to climbing wall or course length.

Gear Review: Ribz Front Pack

Ok, gear heads, here’s the newest acquisition for my gear arsenal, and I’ve got to say I’m pretty pumped about it. Kinda like my reaction to the current rescue bags we use on our high ropes course, or those cute little Petzl helmets we use on our more junior climbers…

Where have you been? Why didn’t we get these a long time ago?

That’s my reaction to the Ribz pack. On backpacking trips, I’ve been known to wear a smaller daypack backwards combined with a larger backpack. Looked goofy, but it sorta worked. The Ribz pack is like someone read my wish list and made me a bag.

The Ribz bag is made of lightweight Cordura ripstop nylon, easy to get in & out of, and has enough zippered pockets & loops to satisfy my organizational needs. Adjustment to fit is easy and smooth. All zippers function smoothly with one hand (I hate fighting with zippers!) I love this bag!

As a professional in the ropes challenge course industry, this pack is perfect in keeping tools, parts, etc. secure & readily available when working off the ground.

Again, I love this bag!

My only (and I mean ONLY) negative I can give this bag is the Velcro fastener at the top of the front main zipper. The zipper itself works very well, but under tension sometimes wants to unzip. Instead of Velcro, I’d prefer a clip, snap, or something else with a positive, bomber lock.

Bottom line? The Ribz Front Pack is quality through & through, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a serious piece of personal gear.

Available from the mfg. at MSRP $59.99


Gear Review: Grace ECO Extreme iPod/ iPhone Speaker

Time for another gear review, and what better than my REI dividend purchase of 2012 – the Grace ECO Extreme rugged portable speaker. Powered by a 3 watt amplifier, this waterproof, shock resistant speaker actually has a chance of accompanying me on some of my exploits.

Your mp3 player of choice (1/8″ headphone jack required) connects inside the clamshell design, kinda reminscent of a Pelican case. Once sealed safely inside, the only external control is power/ volume.

For such a small speaker, the sound quality is really not bad, especially the rich low end frequencies reproduced. With a battery life of around 20 hours from three easily replacable AAs, you’re good for tunes on most any trip.

Dave’s verdict – thumbs up!

Retail $30-$50

Gear Review: The “Perfect” Camp Shoe

I’ve been in a creative slump for awhile, so I thought I’d kickstart this lazy Saturday with a gear review that’s been on a back burner for some time.

For those of you who don’t already know, I’ve been involved in full time ministry at a large Christian camp & retreat center for almost 14 years. Crazy, huh? As much of my work involves being outdoors in most all kinds of weather conditions, my professional wardrobe looks like an REI store on a smaller scale. After all, how many of you when dressing for a day of work even consider that “today might be a good day to bring my gaiters along.” Welcome to my life. 🙂

Anyway… having tried many different types of gear over the years, I’ve found my favorites. This review focuses on what’s become my standard everyday piece of footwear (not to be confused with my aquatic footwear, backpacking footwear, winter footwear, etc.) – the Salomon XA Comp GTX trail running shoe. Lightweight, comfortable, aggressive tread for the various terrain around camp, plus the waterproof security of a Gore Tex membrane when teaching morning classes in dew-covered grassy fields. At $140 retail, they’re an investment, but well worth it as I got 4 years out of my last pair. Tried similar shoes from The North Face, but the seams blew after only a year… so much for trying to save $30. Go with the Salomons, ya can’t go wrong!

Gear Review: DON’T BUY THESE!!

Ok, I realize that the title of this post is a bit harsh, but over a couple year’s experience with this brand of outdoors footwear, they’ve earned it.

If you’re looking for shoes that will surely disappoint, then Merrell® makes the shoes for you. I don’t know what’s happened to them. Merrell® used to sell decent shoes & boots. I have an older pair of mid-weight Gore-Tex® hiking boots that are still going strong…then I bought my pair of polar mocs, a slip-on shoe for cooler weather. Within a few months the inner lining had worn completely through. Not much fun to wear when your heel gets jabbed by an exposed plastic shell.

Then I bought my Gore-Tex® approach shoes. Vibram® soles, waterproof, workhorse of a shoe, right?


The heel lining wore out within a couple months (anybody got some duct tape to cover the edge of that plastic heel cup?) plus the “waterproof” Gore-Tex® lining leaks like a sieve. My toes were squishing in ’em last week during heavy rain.

Bottom line: Avoid Merrell® shoes like the plague. They look nice, but the quality’s just not there anymore.

Gear Review – Crocs

Ok, so this is what I do once I get back in the office – I write reviews. To be fair, I’ve got a few minutes before lunch, and I HAVE finished repacking the kits from my caving trip, done some budgeting work, read an article related to universal access of challenge courses (i.e. participants with disabilities), and turned in a handful of receipts to the office.

Back to the review. This may seem like kind of a stretch. I mean, come on, are Crocs really gear? Aren’t they those wacky foam slippers that everybody’s wearing? If you go online, you’ll find sites created by those who absolutely love ’em, and sites with people putting Crocs in blenders. Even The Daily Show made fun of them. So, where do I stand when it comes to Crocs? Originally, I thought they were funny looking & overpriced, especially for a couple pieces of foam.

Then I bought a pair.

I had some extra money, and after hearing enough people rant & rave, I decided to put ’em to the test. I have to admit, they are very comfortable. They don’t breathe (at all!), but the abundance of ventilation holes make up for it. They fit loose, but wearing ’em with a thick pair of socks in cooler weather will make the sale for you. It’s like wearing air!

Final verdict: I wouldn’t go out & spend hundreds of dollars just so you can have one in every color, but like any other piece of gear, there’s a right “tool” for the job, and Crocs definitely fill a niche. I’m actually interested in their new line of technical apparel. Somehow they’ve integrated their material into a woven fabric that’s light & breathable. Oh well, that’s a discussion saved for a future review.

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