My circle of closest friends are outdoors buffs, and most of them (except a certain knife photographer I know) like to keep their gear to a minimum and enjoy the more primitive side of things. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I like learning primitive methods, but I also like having stuff with me that’s not only functional, but provides a bit of convenience and sometimes a little personal satisfaction as well.
Recently, Marshall at GoingGear.com sent a few items over to us to make the outdoors life a bit easier and a little more palatable. We talked about what he had available for review and we finally came up with a few items we thought might be appealing to our audience. Besides the kit containers that we reviewed a month or two ago, he also sent a couple of Rite In The Rain field books, a field book cover, a Sea To Summit Tek Towel, and a Sea To Summit collapsible bucket. While these items’ utility is specific to different facets of our outdoors adventures, each one certainly adds a bit of function and convenience.
The first item that I played around with was the Tek Towel from Sea To Summit. The main reason it got pulled out first was the incredible heat we were experiencing this summer. Being a big guy, it doesn’t take long for the perspiration to start when engaged in outdoors activities. A long time ago, I learned the benefit of having a hand towel along on my day hikes just to dry off a bit from time to time. The Tek Towel is essentially a hand towel of sorts, but it’s made of a microfiber fabric that feels a bit like terrycloth. The point of the microfiber design is that it provides more surface area for absorption, and it certainly worked well enought for me while I was out and about in the woods. The one that I received was 16 inches by 32 inches and that’s the Small size. Sizes range from XS (12X24 inches) up to XL (30×60 inches). The Tek Towels are lightweight and they dry much quicker than regular cotton towels. That’s a benefit that makes the towel reusable in rapid fashion.
The Tek Towel comes with a nylon mesh carrying case, but I ran into problems with it. After the first time I took it out of the pouch I could never get it back into the pouch. I tried folding the towel different ways, but I just couldn’t make it work. Then, I got to thinking about it a little bit. Am I really going to use the carrying case? I mean, really, I barely fold the towels I have at home. I know I’m not going to take the time to fold the Tek Towel up and put it in the case ever time I’m done using it. So, I just settled for wringing it out and hanging it on the pack to dry out. I was then able to just stuff it in the pack later on. A nice little touch that I liked about the Tek Towel was that it has a snap loop at the end of it so you can attach it to a belt or pack within easy reach, and it makes it easy to hang it from a branch to dry out after use. I reckon this is about as technical as you can get with a towel, but it is handy especially for drying. Rather than just draping the towel over a branch where both sides are touching each other, the snap loop allows for the entire towel to be exposed to the air for faster drying. So, yes, I liked the Tek Towel and it’s occasioned me to retire the old hand towel that’s seen quite a few different locales.
Another great piece of gear that I tried out is the Sea to Summit Folding Bucket. I arrived at trying out this water container via a rather convoluted route. I like to be prepared for emergencies, and there are times that I’ve been relieved that I had such preparations in order. For example, several years ago a couple of us were forced to camp overnight unexpectedly in a canyon because of weather conditions. We were just on a dayhike, but thankfully we had enough gear and food with us to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience despite the impromptu nature of our decision. The only shortcoming we had was the number of water containers. We had plenty of water available with the river that was flowing beside us, but there was a very large rock field next to the river, so we had to camp a little ways back from the water. Having only a couple of water bottles each necessitated us making several trips to the river and back. If you think about it, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take long to run through water whether it’s from drinking, washing, brushing your teeth or even cooking your meals. It would have been a little more convenient for us to have something like the Folding Bucket with us so we wouldn’t have to have made so many trips to the water.
So, over the next few years I tried out different products as my emergency water container. Of course light weight and compact size was paramount since it wouldn’t be used 99% of the time. I tried a few things including oven baking bags which are fairly tough, and I tried a couple of different folding containers but usually they were either too inflexible, hard to work with, or would break down after a bit of use. It wasn’t until this past spring that I came across what turned out to be the answer for me. At our annual PWYP gather, a buddy of mine named Chuck was using his own Sea To Summit Folding Bucket to draw water from a creek to use at his camp site. It looked like a nice little piece of kit and I was immediately jealous. I believe he had the 10 liter version, and he had nothing but great things to say about his container.
When Marshall and I were talking about what gear to review, I came across the Sea To Summit bucket on his site. I mentioned it to him and he went the extra mile and sent out the 20 Liter bucket to review, and I like this thing a lot! As you can see in the picture, it’s extremely compact when folded and stored in the case. But, don’t let the size fool you, because you can carry approximately 5.3 gallons of water in this nifty product provided you have it filled to the rim. That’s a lot of water for one person and would easily provide enough water for all your needs for at least a couple of days. The bucket itself is made of food grade 210D nylon for the sides and 400D for the bottom. The seams are welded which keeps down the weight since you don’t have to tape them, and the 400D handles are also welded as well. The entire affair certainly seems to be well built given its light weight and ability to fold up into a small form factor. Before I tried it out, I was curious as to how easy it would be to pour from the bucket since it has the flexible sides, but the company included an additional small handle on the bottom of the bucket to make pouring a simple process.
The toughness of the bucket really becomes apparent when you consider the weight of water. 5.3 gallons of water translates roughly to 44 pounds of weight. Granted, you probably won’t carry that much since you’d be hard pressed to fill the bucket to the rim and carry it without having a bit spill out of the bucket during transport. Now, Sea To Summit touts the ability of the bucket to be free standing while on a level surface. I was able to get a full bucket to stand on its own when setting it on a level concrete floor, but it didn’t take much of a bump to make it fall over and spill its contents. However, I was not able to find a spot on the ground where I could get it to stand on its own no matter how level I thought the ground was a the time. I tried about 10 different locations on the ground around my home, but I couldn’t get the bucket to stand on its own. But, that doesn’t matter to me. It’s a simple enough process to hang the bucket on a tree or other convenient location to store your water. To give yourself a little manuevering room at the top while its hanging, you can hook a couple of small carabiners to a length of paracord to loop over a branch and attach them to the handles of the folding bucket.
The last thing I’ll mention about the folding bucket is that it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of these since they are so light and compact. They’d make great all purpose buckets during emergencies. Besides water, you could use them to gather all kinds of material including food like nuts, berries, and other wild vegetation–though you should be careful about what you’re picking. Make sure you know your plants before eating any of them.
So, what about the personal satisfaction I mentioned earlier? Well, I like to fancy myself somewhat of a writer, and yes I do write more than just articles for Woods Monkey. When I’m outdoors, I like to keep a journal of some sort on hand for all kinds of reason. First, ideas come to me for articles or even stories that I write, but I have to write them down lest I forget about them when I’m back home. Also, it’s nice to have a way to keep a record of the gear that I use on trips so I can evaluate and shake down my packs to help with weight and function. I’m constantly finding things that I use a lot or things that I never use, so I make notes to myself in order to replace or remove items later. Additionally, it’s always helpful to have materials on hand to write down items during your adventure such as directions, observations you’ve made, and notes to others if you find yourself in an emergency. But, one of the problems I’ve always had is keeping journals protected enough from the elements that they will last a good amount of time. Notebooks and various journals that I’ve used in the past typically break down before I’m even halfway through them. That’s where Rite In The Rain products come into the picture.
Going Gear sent over a few different Rite In The Rain products including the olive drab All-Weather Memo Book (No. 964), the All Weather Notebook (No. 946T), a field cover for the 946T, and one of their Tactial Clicker pens. For a writer, this is a nice little kit to get started out in the field! Once I got the field cover on the 946T, it immediately went into the cargo pocket of my pants and it fit in there just about perfectly. The notebook itself uses 4 inch by 6 inch paper spiral bound at the top of the notebook. This is handy for me since I’m left-handed and am constantly aggravated by normal spiral-bound books with the wire on the left of the book. This notebook became my go to journal for various reviews that I’ve done recently and it saw a lot of use. And, since I’ve reviewed different types of gear, the notebooks have seen a variety of conditions ranging from the hot and extremely humid days to overcast days with some drizzling rain happening as well. Some of the most consistent conditions was the banging around in the pack and the pants pocket, and the field cover did a very nice job keeping the notebook in great shape while using it outside.
But, before I actually took it out for real world use, I did my own test (just messing around really) where I took a spray bottle and wet the pages to see how well I could “Rite In The Rain”. For the first test, I just did a light spray (about two pumps) to dampen the pages a bit and tried writing. I then did several more pumps closer to the paper for the second test. I then did a few more pumps and let the water absorb a little bit before I finally did the third test. You certainly got a little more ink smearing the wetter the pages got, but writing was not a problem and the words were still quite legible. Even though you can’t see much of the water in the pictures, the pages were quite wet by the second and third tests. Though you’re not getting production quality lettering for publication, the pen and the notebooks worked more than well enough for personal documention and notes out in the field. While both the ink and paper were both wet, I was able to wipe off an amount of the ink from the writing, but you could still tell what was written. However, when I sprayed a heavy amount of water on pages that I had written a week earlier, I was not able to smear or remove any of the ink that had already cured short of actually damaging the paper.
The real beauty of the Rite In The Rain paper is how well it holds up to being soaked and still retaining the data you’ve already entered. It’s more robust than normal paper and does not weaken as quickly after being exposed to the elements. Even so, you’re still able to write on the paper while it’s wet and after it dries naturally, you get the same protection even if there’s a bit of smearing during the actual writing process. It’s certainly the best alternative going right now for those people who need this type of tool out in the field. Now, I know this isn’t a a brand new product to the market and plenty of people already know about it. However, it’s new to me as far as actual usage is concerned. I’ve heard about it for years and always meant to try it out, but am just now getting around to it. So, there’s certainly others out there that haven’t tried Rite In The Rain products yet and this little part of the article is specifically for them. And, from what I can tell, there are all kinds of new notebook products coming out for all different types of professions. There’s a large variety of sizes and formats available, so you’ll have no problems finding one that will fit your needs. While larger sizes are available for serious work, I enjoy the smaller models for easy storage and transport when space and weight are primary considerations. Even when I’m not in the field, the small memo book goes with me everywhere. I probably like this one the best since I’ve got it with me at all times. It’s got everything from gear lists to review notes and even character profiles for books that I am currently writing. It’s been a great addition to my every day carry gear.
While Going Gear isn’t an official sponsor of Woods Monkey, they’ve been very helpful in providing products to review, and that’s not something you see retailers do very often. Usually it’s the manufacturers that do that. But, the folks at Going Gear are confident enough in the quality of their selection and in their prices that they go out of their way to provide items they believe will be interesting to our audience. There’s no question that the quality of products have been there since the beginning, but the number of products they are offering is growing each day and that speaks to the kind of business they are doing. If you’re looking for any of the products we’ve talked about here, I’d encourage you to take a look around at goinggear.com. Besides the products we’ve mentioned here, they’ve got a nice assortment of items that will help make your next adventure more comfortable and a lot more fun!